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    Obama Administration Reverses Bush Policy, Says U.S. Torture Ban Applies Abroad

    The Intercept - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 08:59

    As Charlie Savage of the New York Times reported last month, President Obama’s legal team was debating whether to reaffirm a Bush administration position that the United Nations Convention Against Torture imposes no legal obligation on the U.S. to bar cruelty outside its borders.

    The debate is over. And the good guys won — this time. See the following statement issued by the White House this morning, even as State Department officials were answering questions about the administration’s position in Geneva before the United Nations Committee Against Torture. Emphasis added.
    Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the U.S. Presentation to the Committee Against Torture

    Today in Geneva, the United States began its periodic presentation to the Committee Against Torture, a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by States that are party to it. The Administration embraces the universal values enshrined in the Convention Against Torture—which the United States signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994—and affirms the U.S. government’s deep commitment to meeting its obligations under the Convention.

    During the course of the two-day review, the U.S. delegation will underscore that all U.S. personnel are legally prohibited under international and domestic law from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment at all times, and in all places. There are no gaps, either in the legal prohibitions against these acts by U.S. personnel, or in the United States’ commitment to the values enshrined in the Convention, and the United States pledges to continue working with our partners in the international community toward the achievement of the Convention’s ultimate objective: a world without torture.

    In preparation for this week’s presentation, senior lawyers from across the U.S. government have considered questions posed by the Committee about important U.S. legal positions with respect to the Convention, and the delegation will be articulating a number of changes and clarifications agreed upon in the course of that review process:

    · In contrast to positions previously taken by the U.S. government, the delegation will affirm that U.S. obligations under Article 16, which prohibits cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, do not apply exclusively inside the territorial United States. The delegation in Geneva will make clear, consistent with the text, negotiating history, and the Senate ratification process, that U.S. obligations under Article 16 (as well as under other provisions of the Convention with the same jurisdictional language) apply in places outside the United States that the U.S. government controls as a governmental authority. The delegation will also make clear our conclusion that the United States currently exercises such control at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and over all proceedings conducted there, and with respect to U.S.-registered ships and aircraft.

    · The U.S. delegation will affirm the United States’ obligation to abide by the exclusionary rule set forth in Article 15 of the Convention in the Periodic Review Board process for law of war detainees at Guantanamo, as well as in military commissions.

    · The delegation will also clarify the United States’ view that a time of war does not suspend the operation of the Convention, which continues to apply even when a State is engaged in armed conflict. Although the more specialized laws of war—which contain parallel categorical bans on torture and other inhumane treatment in situations of armed conflict—take precedence over the Convention where the two conflict, the laws of war do not generally displace the Convention’s application.

    Also see: Opening Statement Mary E. McLeod Acting Legal Adviser U.S. Department of State and Assistant Secretary Malinowski: Torture is forbidden in all places, at all times, with no exceptions.

    Despite concerns from some civil libertarians that the statements today still allowed for some exclusions — such as U.S. government sites in other countries — Yale Law Professor Harold Hongju Koh praised the move.

    Koh, fairly fresh off his stint as legal adviser to the State Department, went public last week with a plea to Obama to unequivocally say “yes” to the torture ban.

    He issued the following statement to the Intercept today:

    When asked if the torture treaty applies without exception, the Bush Administration answered “no.” The Obama Administration said, “There should be no doubt: the U.S. affirms that torture and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment are prohibited at all times and in all places and we remain resolute in our adherence to these prohibitions.” That unequivocal statement explicitly changed the USG’s official position, and took a significant step forward in recognizing application of the treaty extraterritorially and in armed conflict. In so doing, they placed critical distance between them and the Bush administration.

    Updated at 3:13 p.m. ET to add response from Koh.

    Updated at 9:46 a.m. ET to add link to additional statements.

    Photo of U.N. Committee Against Torture Chairman Claudio Grossman: Evan Schneider/U.N.

    The post Obama Administration Reverses Bush Policy, Says U.S. Torture Ban Applies Abroad appeared first on The Intercept.

    AIG Bailout Trial Revelation: Morgan Stanley Told Geithner it Would File for Bankruptcy the Weekend it Became a Bank

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 08:50
    I'm still hugely behind on the AIG bailout trial, and hope to show a ton more progress in the next week. I'm posting the transcript for days three the trial; you can find the first two days here and other key documents here. The first week was consumed with the testimony of the painfully uncooperative Scott Alvarez, the general counsel of the Board of Governors, who Matt Stoller argued needs to be fired, and the cagier-seeming general counsel of the New York Fed, Tom Baxter. Unlike Alvarez, Baxter at least in text seemed to be far more forthcoming than Alvarez and more strategic in where he dug in his heels. But the revelations about the Morgan Stanley rescue alone are juicy. The main actors have sold a carefully concocted story for years.
    Categories: political economy

    Links 11/12/14

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 07:55
    Categories: political economy

    Joe Firestone: Elizabeth Warren – Better, But Not There Yet

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 06:32
    Yves here. As Elizabeth Warren inches to the left on overall economic policy, one wonders if she's actually shifting her views or responding to Hillary Clinton trying to rebrand herself as a populist. In fairness to Warren, it's difficult not to be deeply inculcated in flawed economic thinking and thus hostage to false ideas like "We depend on China and Japan to finance our federal spending." I look at my pre-crisis coverage and am embarrassed to see that sort of idea treated as obviously true. But if nothing else, the shift in Warren's stance may be a sign that the Overton window is moving a smidge away from the right. After all, a big reason the Republicans so badly trounced the Dems in the midterms wasn't just Democratic party fecklessness, but also that the Republicans kept their Tea Party extremists well out of the limelight and toned down the anti-women, anti-gay (and outside the border states) the anti-immigrant rhetoric. That actually amounts to a shift to the center, even if more for show than for real.
    Categories: political economy

    Russia to Launch New Payments System to Circumvent SWIFT Network

    Naked Capitalism - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 04:53
    Many observers have become unduly excited about what they depict as efforts to break the dollar hegeomony, such as the joint effort by the so-called BRICS nations to form a development bank. While having a suite of internationals funding entities, particularly ones focused on activities that in theory increase the collective benefits of relying on a reserve currency, are seen to be important, it does not follow that launching useful new funding institutions will break dollar dominance. As much as US abuse of its position as issuer of the reserve currency is correctly resented, there isn't a competitor waiting in the wings. The Eurozone has blown it with its failure to clean up even sicker banks than the US has, and by compounding a bad situation with its adherence to destructive austerity policies. China clearly has the potential to displace the US longer-term, but it is unwilling to run the requisite trade deficits, since that means exporting demand and hence jobs. And no country had made the transition from being a major exporter to being consumer-driven smoothly; a crisis or protracted malaise would also delay China displacing the US as currency top dog. But not being able to get rid of the dollar any time soon does not mean that countries that the US is trying to punish by using its influence over international payments system won't find nearer-term escape routes.
    Categories: political economy

    Was Convicted Palestinian-American Rasmea Yousef Odeh Allowed a Fair Defense?

    The Real News Network - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 02:11
    Independent journalist Charlotte Silver discusses how the defense was blocked from including the role of torture and PTSD in her case

    Tens of Thousands March to End Impunity for the Mexican Narco-State

    The Real News Network - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 02:11
    Prof. John Ackerman argues that outrage over the 43 recently disappeared college students has the potential to unite social forces to challenge the US-backed Mexican narco-state

    In Guatemala, Indigenous Communities Prevail Against Monsanto

    Truthout - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 01:00

    In Sololá, hundreds of campesinos mobilized to oppose the "Monsanto Law," which would have opened Guatemala to the privatization of seed. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

    Late in the afternoon of September 4, after nearly 10 days of protests by a coalition of labor, indigenous rights groups and farmers, the indigenous peoples and campesinos of Guatemala won a rare victory. Under the pressure of massive mobilizations, the Guatemala legislature repealed Decree 19-2014, commonly referred to as the “Monsanto Law,” which would have given the transnational chemical and seed producer a foot hold into the country’s seed market.

    “The law would have affected all indigenous people of Guatemala,” said Edgar René Cojtín Acetún of the indigenous municipality of the department of Sololá. “The law would have privatized the seed to benefit only the multinational corporations. If we didn’t do anything now, then our children and grandchildren would suffer the consequences.”

    Originally passed on June 26, the Monsanto Law was written to protect the intellectual property rights of multinational companies in their investments within Guatemala. The law also allowed Monsanto an entrance into the Guatemalan seed market and set in place stiff penalties for any farmer that was caught selling seed to another farmer without the proper permits. The response was a massive mobilization of a coalition of labor, indigenous groups and campesinos.

    For 10 days, the streets in front of the legislature of the capital Guatemala City were clogged with thousands of protesters demanding the repeal of the law. Demonstrators also gathered in the rural departments of Guatemala to protest the law and the congressmen who had voted in favor of the law.

    The changes to the seed market would have heavily hit the campesinos of the department of Sololá, which is a major production area for seed corn for the rest of the country. On September 2, 25,000 to 30,000 people from the around the communities of the department of Sololá shut down the Inter-American Highway in protest of the Monsanto Law. Protesters set up blockades along the highway in three places and shut down all traffic for nearly nine hours.

    “The communities are organized against any law that privatizes their seed,” said Griselda Pocop of the Association of Women Moving Sololá. “They are also demanding the respect of the traditions and of their livelihoods.”

    Sacred Crops

    Sololá is one of the agriculture centers of Guatemala, with a majority of the population relying on the growing of maize, beans, coffee and other crops. The department also has one of the highest indigenous populations in the country, with 96 percent of the population identifying as Kaqchikel, T’zutujil, or Kiche Maya. Maize is sacred to the Maya; their cultures and societies revolve around it. According to the Kiche Maya creation story, the Popol Vuh, the gods made humans by grinding the different colors of maize.

    As is written in the Popol Vuh, “There was a consensus (among the gods), and it was decided what would come of the red, yellow, black, and white maize; it is from these that they made our bones, our blood, and our flesh.”

    The protection of seed is thus of the utmost importance for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala and across Mesoamerica. “We cannot live without our corn,” said Acetún of the indigenous municipality. “It makes up all of our lives. We consume it for our food, we sell it, it is us.”

    Rafael, a campesino from the Kaqchikel Maya community of Pixabaj, Sololá, explained, “The people here are Maize … We are not French. We are not anything else. We are Maize; we are Maya.”

    As the protests mounted, women took the lead in organizing for the defense of maize. In Sololá, women created a seed bank to archive and protect the various varieties of heirloom corn for future generations. “The women of Sololá have taken the lead in organizing to save and protect our heirloom seeds,” said Pocop. “It is our responsibility to preserve our traditional seed, and to pass along the traditional ways of doing things.”

    Transnational Interests

    Decree 19-2014 was written to comply with the requirements of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Like the North American Fair Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, the agreement opens up the economies of Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to cheap imports from the United States.

    From the moment the trade agreement was proposed, the indigenous and farmer communities protested the law. They argued that since NAFTA had ravaged rural Mexico, CAFTA would have the same affect in the Central American countries. Despite the protests, CAFTA was ratified by Guatemala in 2006.

    These trade agreements have opened up the Guatemala corn market to the importation of corn from the United States and tied the internal market to the global pricing. The results have been devastating. In the years since the agreement was signed, the price of corn has steadily increased. For years, one quetzal (roughly 12 cents) could purchase eight large tortillas. But today, for the same price, one can only purchase four smaller tortillas.

    Many farmers have not been able to benefit from the increased prices of corn, because they have had to compete with cheaper imports from El Salvador, Mexico and the United States. “The trade agreement opened up Guatemala to the importation of corn and the prices went up,” said Pocop. “But the imported corn is still cheaper than that produced here.”

    On the heels of this trade agreement, Decree 19-2014 would have opened up the Guatemala seed market to allow Monsanto’s modified and proprietary seeds into the country. Guatemala is not alone in the region in having to combat the privatization of seed by multinationals; campesinos in El Salvador too have had to defend their livelihoods from the privatizing effects of the trade agreement.

    A Rare Victory

    A week prior to the protest against the Monsanto law the Guatemalan Constitutional Court declared that articles 46 and 50 of the legislation, the two that most violated the rights of farmers, were unconstitutional.

    Then, in a landslide vote of 117 in favor, 3 against, and 38 abstaining, the Guatemala legislature repealed Decree 19-2014. Soon after learning about the repeal, communities rejoiced. In Sololá alone, more than 5,000 people celebrated the elimination of the law.

    Yet, just because the law has been repealed does not mean that the indigenous communities and campesinos of Guatemala are in the clear. According to Congressman Amlicar Pop, one of the few indigenous members of the legislature, legal loopholes exist in the bill that allow similar legislation to resurface under a different name.

    “For the moment, there are legal loopholes that need to be resolved,” Pop told to the Guatemalan newspaper La Hora.

    Meanwhile, the US State Department declined to comment on any steps that might be taken to bring Guatemala in line with requirements of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

    Air Pollution Linked to Children's Attention Problems

    Truthout - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 01:00

    (Photo: Kris Krüg)

    New York City children exposed in the womb to high levels of pollutants in vehicle exhaust had a five times higher risk of attention problems at age 9, according to research by Columbia University scientists published Wednesday.

    The study adds to earlier evidence that mothers' exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are emitted by the burning of fossil fuels and other organic materials, are linked to children's behavioral problems associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

    “Our research suggests that environmental factors may be contributing to attention problems in a significant way,” said Frederica Perera, an environmental health scientist at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health who was the study's lead author.

    About one in 10 US kids is diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children with ADHD are at greater risk of poor academic performance, risky behaviors and lower earnings in adulthood, the researchers wrote.

    “Air pollution has been linked to adverse effects on attention span, behavior and cognitive functioning in research from around the globe. There is little question that air pollutants may pose a variety of potential health risks to children of all ages, possibly beginning in the womb,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. He did not participate in the new study.

    Previous studies by the Columbia University researchers linked prenatal PAHs to reduced IQs, anxiety and depression, attention problems and developmental delays in younger children, between the ages of 3 and 7.

    In addition to PAHs, a variety of other pollutants have been linked to ADHD or ADHD-like behaviors. Included are organophosphate pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates and perfluorinated compounds.

    For the new study, the researchers followed the children of 233 African-American and Dominican women in New York City. They measured the amount of benzo[a]pyrene bound to DNA – a biological marker for PAHs – in the mothers' blood at the time of birth. Forty-two percent had detectable levels in their blood.

    When the children were about 9 years old, parents filled out a questionnaire commonly used to screen for ADHD behavior problems. The researchers found that children whose mothers had the highest amounts of the PAH at the time of birth were five times more likely to show more behaviors associated with inattention than children whose mothers had the lowest levels. They were three times more likely to exhibit more total behaviors (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) associated with ADHD.

    The levels of PAHs were “quite typical of other urban areas that have been monitored,” Perera said.

    It’s not known how many of the children had an ADHD diagnosis.

    The questionnaires indicated some behaviors involved in ADHD, but they do not mean that the child necessarily has ADHD, said David Bellinger, a Harvard professor of neurology who studies effects of environmental exposures on kids’ developing brains.

    “The diagnosis of ADHD involves much more extensive information-gathering and ruling out of other diagnoses,” he said.

    The researchers were the first to measure PAHs directly in people’s bodies rather than using air pollution levels as a proxy for their exposures.

    “Having these individual measures of exposure reinforces the possibility that there is a causal connection,” said Jonathan Chevrier, an environmental health scientist at McGill University in Montreal.

    The scientists tested the children’s urine samples to distinguish prenatal from postnatal air pollution exposures. They also controlled for other factors in the child’s genetics and early life experiences, such as tobacco smoke and stress, that could contribute to ADHD-like symptoms.

    The researchers, however, did not account for children’s exposures to lead or mercury, two contaminants that also have been linked to attention problems. “It’s possible that exposure to one of these substances is highly correlated with PAH exposure,” Bellinger said.

    It’s not clear how PAHs might affect developing brains. “We know that these chemicals damage DNA. They also mimic natural hormones and may interfere with placental growth,” which could deplete oxygen and nutrients for the developing fetus, Perera said.

    Since the Columbia team started tracking air pollution levels in 1998, PAHs have declined, which Perera attributes to stricter anti-idling laws and phaseout of older diesel buses in New York City.

    “Air pollution knows no boundaries. These involuntary exposures are largely the provenance of policy makers,” Perera said.

    ALEC Corporate Board Chair Quits Over Climate Change, Renewables and Voting Rights

    Truthout - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 01:00

    (Photo: Richard Seymour)

    The corporate board chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the software company SAP America, has quit the group, telling CMD that it has made the decision to "immediately disassociate itself from ALEC" because of the group's position on climate change, opposition to renewable energy, its position on gun safety and its attacks on voter rights.

    Facing increased criticism of its role opposing action to tackle climate change and for teaching climate change denial, ALEC has lost numerous major corporate funders in recent months, with tech firms Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp all leaving. Most high profile was Google, with Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt telling the Diane Rehm show on NPR that it made a mistake in funding ALEC. "We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying," Schmidt said in reference to ALEC's teaching climate change denial. "The company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on fact," said Schmidt.

    The news on SAP leaving ALEC was first reported on Wednesday in the German magazine, Manager Magazin, which quoted as spokesperson in Germany that the decision was based on ALEC's "strange policies" on climate change and renewable energy. A SAP America spokesperson confirmed this to CMD, and said that other ALEC policies were also a reason including its position on gun safety and voting rights.

    SAP is a particularly big loss for ALEC, because its representative at ALEC, lobbyist Steve Searle, is the Chair of ALEC's corporate board, and the former corporate chair of ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. As a leader within ALEC, Searle would have helped drive the ALEC agenda, and would have had inside knowledge of what ALEC has planned for 2015 to continue to stonewall to tackle climate change.

    The corporate board chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the software company SAP America, has quit the group, telling CMD that it has made the decision to "immediately disassociate itself from ALEC" because of the group's position on climate change, opposition to renewable energy, its position on gun safety and its attacks on voter rights.

    Facing increased criticism of its role opposing action to tackle climate change and for teaching climate change denial, ALEC has lost numerous major corporate funders in recent months, with tech firms Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp all leaving. Most high profile was Google, with Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt telling the Diane Rehm show on NPR that it made a mistake in funding ALEC. "We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying," Schmidt said in reference to ALEC's teaching climate change denial. "The company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on fact," said Schmidt.

    The news on SAP leaving ALEC was first reported on Wednesday in the German magazine, Manager Magazin, which quoted as spokesperson in Germany that the decision was based on ALEC's "strange policies" on climate change and renewable energy. A SAP America spokesperson confirmed this to CMD, and said that other ALEC policies were also a reason including its position on gun safety and voting rights.

    SAP is a particularly big loss for ALEC, because its representative at ALEC, lobbyist Steve Searle, is the Chair of ALEC's corporate board, and the former corporate chair of ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. As a leader within ALEC, Searle would have helped drive the ALEC agenda, and would have had inside knowledge of what ALEC has planned for 2015 to continue to stonewall to tackle climate change.

    - See more at: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2014/11/12660/alec-corporate-board-chair-quits-over-groups-agenda-climate-change-renewables-and#sthash.lARaKyYQ.dpuf

    With Thumbs-Up From Obama, Net Neutrality Advocates See Victory in Sight

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 16:23

    President Obama's statement in support of net neutrality brought cheers from progressives and internet freedom advocates, who have organized a massive movement to pressure the FCC to reclassify the internet as a Title II "common carrier" service and prevent paid prioritization deals.

    (Photo: Free Press)

    After staying mum on specific policies for months, President Obama waded into the debate over net neutrality on Monday and announced that he supports regulating the internet as a public utility that is as essential to the public as phone service and electricity.

    Obama released the statement and a detailed video explaining his position one month before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote on a new set of rules for enforcing net neutrality, the concept that internet service providers should treat all legal web traffic equally.

    Just hours before Obama made his announcement, Popular Resistance activists blockaded FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's driveway to demand that the agency issue tough regulations to protect the internet from profit-hungry telecom companies. Activists held pro-net neutrality demonstrations across the country in the past week, including one right in front of the White House.

    Obama's statement brought cheers from progressives and internet freedom advocates, who have organized a massive movement, both online and off, to pressure the FCC to reclassify the internet as a Title II "common carrier" service, which they say is the only way to establish net neutrality rules with teeth.

    Obama made it clear that he agrees.

    "So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do," the president said in a statement. "To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act - while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services."

    Obama is a longstanding supporter of net neutrality, but has refrained from directing the FCC toward specific policies until now.

    Since a federal court struck down the FCC's latest batch of net neutrality rules in January, the agency has considered several proposals for reestablishing regulations to keep broadband companies from blocking or slowing some websites and services while giving preferential treatment to others. FCC Chairmen Tom Wheeler, who was appointed by Obama last year, originally proposed classifying the internet under a different federal statute instead of Title II.

    Wheeler also proposed allowing so-called paid prioritization, or "fast lane" deals, that would allow broadband companies to charge companies like Netflix fees for faster speeds to reach consumers, as long as the FCC deemed the deals commercially reasonable.

    Protests against Wheeler's original proposal erupted outside and even inside FCC meetings while online organizers gathered thousands of signatures and millions of public comments. Under mounting public pressure, Wheeler later revised the proposal and made it clear that he would consider full Title II reclassification if necessary.

    "The president's statement of support for Title II is the result of an unprecedented public outcry," said Craig Aaron, CEO of the pro-net neutrality group Free Press. "More than 4 million Americans have contacted the FCC on the issue, with the overwhelming majority of comments urging the agency to create real net neutrality protections. And the phones have been ringing off the hook at the White House for weeks."

    The broadband industry is rigidly opposed to Title II reclassification and has threatened to take the FCC back to court if it approves tough regulations.

    "Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation," Verizon said in a statement. "That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court."

    A legal challenge from Verizon doomed the FCC's last batch of net neutrality rules, which were thrown out by a federal court last year.

    Recent media reports based on leaked information indicated that Wheeler is now considering a hybrid proposal that would classify only part of the internet under Title II so the FCC would have the power to block "fast lane" deals that the agency deems anticompetitive while preserving the internet as a retail information service, not a public utility, for everyday customers.

    The proposal was generally seen as a compromise to appease both sides of the net neutrality debate, but Obama has refused to throw his support behind the proposal, saying instead that the entire internet should be placed under Title II and paid prioritization should be banned outright.

    "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners now must abandon convoluted proposals and make clear rules that will protect internet users and stand up in court," Aaron said. "As the president made very clear, the only sure way to do that is under Title II."

    Obama also called on the FCC to extend net neutrality protections to mobile devices like smartphones.

    In a statement, Wheeler said he welcomed the president's input and would add it to the public record.

    "We both oppose internet fast lanes," Wheeler said.

    He also confirmed that the FCC had been exploring hybrid proposals that would involve only partial Title II reclassification, a move that critics argue would not put the FCC on the kind of firm legal footing needed to stand up to legal challenges from the industry.

    Wheeler stated that the FCC "would need more time" to examine how different approaches to regulating the internet would hold up in court, which suggests the FCC may delay its vote until after a scheduled meeting on December 11.

    "Those are stalling tactics," said the internet freedom group Fight for the Future in an email to supporters. "The FCC has had plenty of time to discuss the various options available to them. We need to refocus our campaign on the FCC to make sure that Wheeler - a former cable lobbyist - doesn't delay the vote in a last ditch attempt to sneak through rules that his buddies at Comcast and Verizon can live with. Time is of the essence."

    While Obama has taken a strong stance on Title II reclassification, he made it clear in his statement that the FCC is an independent agency and the final decision will be left up to Wheeler and his fellow commissioners.

    With Thumbs-Up From Obama, Net Neutrality Advocates See Victory in Sight

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 16:23

    President Obama's statement in support of net neutrality brought cheers from progressives and internet freedom advocates, who have organized a massive movement to pressure the FCC to reclassify the internet as a Title II "common carrier" service and prevent paid prioritization deals.

    (Photo: Free Press)

    After staying mum on specific policies for months, President Obama waded into the debate over net neutrality on Monday and announced that he supports regulating the internet as a public utility that is as essential to the public as phone service and electricity.

    Obama released the statement and a detailed video explaining his position one month before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote on a new set of rules for enforcing net neutrality, the concept that internet service providers should treat all legal web traffic equally.

    Just hours before Obama made his announcement, Popular Resistance activists blockaded FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's driveway to demand that the agency issue tough regulations to protect the internet from profit-hungry telecom companies. Activists held pro-net neutrality demonstrations across the country in the past week, including one right in front of the White House.

    Obama's statement brought cheers from progressives and internet freedom advocates, who have organized a massive movement, both online and off, to pressure the FCC to reclassify the internet as a Title II "common carrier" service, which they say is the only way to establish net neutrality rules with teeth.

    Obama made it clear that he agrees.

    "So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do," the president said in a statement. "To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act - while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services."

    Obama is a longstanding supporter of net neutrality, but has refrained from directing the FCC toward specific policies until now.

    Since a federal court struck down the FCC's latest batch of net neutrality rules in January, the agency has considered several proposals for reestablishing regulations to keep broadband companies from blocking or slowing some websites and services while giving preferential treatment to others. FCC Chairmen Tom Wheeler, who was appointed by Obama last year, originally proposed classifying the internet under a different federal statute instead of Title II.

    Wheeler also proposed allowing so-called paid prioritization, or "fast lane" deals, that would allow broadband companies to charge companies like Netflix fees for faster speeds to reach consumers, as long as the FCC deemed the deals commercially reasonable.

    Protests against Wheeler's original proposal erupted outside and even inside FCC meetings while online organizers gathered thousands of signatures and millions of public comments. Under mounting public pressure, Wheeler later revised the proposal and made it clear that he would consider full Title II reclassification if necessary.

    "The president's statement of support for Title II is the result of an unprecedented public outcry," said Craig Aaron, CEO of the pro-net neutrality group Free Press. "More than 4 million Americans have contacted the FCC on the issue, with the overwhelming majority of comments urging the agency to create real net neutrality protections. And the phones have been ringing off the hook at the White House for weeks."

    The broadband industry is rigidly opposed to Title II reclassification and has threatened to take the FCC back to court if it approves tough regulations.

    "Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation," Verizon said in a statement. "That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court."

    A legal challenge from Verizon doomed the FCC's last batch of net neutrality rules, which were thrown out by a federal court last year.

    Recent media reports based on leaked information indicated that Wheeler is now considering a hybrid proposal that would classify only part of the internet under Title II so the FCC would have the power to block "fast lane" deals that the agency deems anticompetitive while preserving the internet as a retail information service, not a public utility, for everyday customers.

    The proposal was generally seen as a compromise to appease both sides of the net neutrality debate, but Obama has refused to throw his support behind the proposal, saying instead that the entire internet should be placed under Title II and paid prioritization should be banned outright.

    "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners now must abandon convoluted proposals and make clear rules that will protect internet users and stand up in court," Aaron said. "As the president made very clear, the only sure way to do that is under Title II."

    Obama also called on the FCC to extend net neutrality protections to mobile devices like smartphones.

    In a statement, Wheeler said he welcomed the president's input and would add it to the public record.

    "We both oppose internet fast lanes," Wheeler said.

    He also confirmed that the FCC had been exploring hybrid proposals that would involve only partial Title II reclassification, a move that critics argue would not put the FCC on the kind of firm legal footing needed to stand up to legal challenges from the industry.

    Wheeler stated that the FCC "would need more time" to examine how different approaches to regulating the internet would hold up in court, which suggests the FCC may delay its vote until after a scheduled meeting on December 11.

    "Those are stalling tactics," said the internet freedom group Fight for the Future in an email to supporters. "The FCC has had plenty of time to discuss the various options available to them. We need to refocus our campaign on the FCC to make sure that Wheeler - a former cable lobbyist - doesn't delay the vote in a last ditch attempt to sneak through rules that his buddies at Comcast and Verizon can live with. Time is of the essence."

    While Obama has taken a strong stance on Title II reclassification, he made it clear in his statement that the FCC is an independent agency and the final decision will be left up to Wheeler and his fellow commissioners.

    CBS Covers Liberia's Ebola Crisis–Without Liberian Voices

    FAIR blog - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 16:10
    CBS presented a very moving and dramatic account of the fight against ebola in Liberia. But no Liberians spoke in the piece.

    Veterans, We're Sorry for How Our Country Treated You

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 15:57

    (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

    It's time to stop saying thank you, and start saying sorry.

    Today is Veterans Day, a day when people in the US give thanks for the service of the men and women of our armed forces, who have bravely served our country, and in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice.

    Veterans Day aside, our society teaches us to thank veterans for their service, but in reality, particularly for Republicans, that thanks is a big slap in the face.

    We're flooded with television ads and YouTube videos thanking veterans for their service. It's become an obligatory thing to say: "Thank you for your service."

    Instead, we should be saying we're sorry to the nearly 23 million surviving veterans in the US, and we're sorry to those who are no longer with us.

    We should be saying we're sorry to them for destroying their lives, and for forgetting about them when they come home from the battlefields.

    But the apologies don't stop there.

    We should be saying sorry to the millions of veterans who fought in unjust wars that our lawmakers lied us into, and sorry to the families who lost their loved ones in those violent, deadly and completely unnecessary wars.

    And, we should be saying sorry for having Republican lawmakers in Washington who have repeatedly shot down bills and filibustered legislation meant to help US veterans.

    From the day President Obama was first sworn into office to May of 2012, Republicans have blocked no fewer than seven major pieces of legislation that would have helped veterans.

    They blocked the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, which would have provided job security for veterans who are receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered.

    They blocked the Veterans Retraining Act, which would have provided assistance to help unemployed veterans with their expenses while getting job training and looking for a job.

    And Republicans also blocked the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization, which would have reauthorized programs to support homeless veterans, and would have assisted them with job training, counseling and placement services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Meanwhile, earlier this year, Republicans in the Senate blocked yet another bill that would have expanded health-care and education programs for veterans.

    Just months later, they blocked a $21 billion plan to build new VA clinics, because they said it was "too expensive."

    And last year, Republicans blocked legislation that would have expanded mental health screening for veterans.

    Not surprisingly, Republicans have also refused to support legislation aimed at curbing homelessness in the US, something that, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at least 49,333 veterans experience on any given night.

    Aside from the apologies we need to make to veterans for the actions of Republicans in Washington, we also need to say "sorry" for Bush and Cheney exposing US troops in Iraq to chemical weapons, and then lying about it and not giving them the proper medical treatment.

    Finally, we need to say sorry for George W. Bush not allowing pictures to be taken of soldiers' homecomings from the Iraq War, and for having so little respect for the men and women he sent off to die in war.

    Lost in all the hubbub of Veterans Day is the fact that our country really does a terrible job at taking care of the men and women who have risked their lives to save others

    And, to make matters worse, "We the People" have become desensitized to the struggles our veterans face.

    Instead, we say thank you, and feel like we've done our part and fulfilled our obligation.

    In her famous Mother's Day proclamation, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, said that:

    "From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
    Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
    The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
    Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
    Nor violence indicate possession."

    On the battlefields, our veterans have gone to hell and back. On the home-front, they're still struggling to survive.

    We need to recognize those struggles, apologize for putting our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines into them, and most importantly, fight against the ongoing Republican efforts to screw our veterans.

    Veterans, We're Sorry for How Our Country Treated You

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 15:57

    (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

    It's time to stop saying thank you, and start saying sorry.

    Today is Veterans Day, a day when people in the US give thanks for the service of the men and women of our armed forces, who have bravely served our country, and in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice.

    Veterans Day aside, our society teaches us to thank veterans for their service, but in reality, particularly for Republicans, that thanks is a big slap in the face.

    We're flooded with television ads and YouTube videos thanking veterans for their service. It's become an obligatory thing to say: "Thank you for your service."

    Instead, we should be saying we're sorry to the nearly 23 million surviving veterans in the US, and we're sorry to those who are no longer with us.

    We should be saying we're sorry to them for destroying their lives, and for forgetting about them when they come home from the battlefields.

    But the apologies don't stop there.

    We should be saying sorry to the millions of veterans who fought in unjust wars that our lawmakers lied us into, and sorry to the families who lost their loved ones in those violent, deadly and completely unnecessary wars.

    And, we should be saying sorry for having Republican lawmakers in Washington who have repeatedly shot down bills and filibustered legislation meant to help US veterans.

    From the day President Obama was first sworn into office to May of 2012, Republicans have blocked no fewer than seven major pieces of legislation that would have helped veterans.

    They blocked the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, which would have provided job security for veterans who are receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered.

    They blocked the Veterans Retraining Act, which would have provided assistance to help unemployed veterans with their expenses while getting job training and looking for a job.

    And Republicans also blocked the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization, which would have reauthorized programs to support homeless veterans, and would have assisted them with job training, counseling and placement services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Meanwhile, earlier this year, Republicans in the Senate blocked yet another bill that would have expanded health-care and education programs for veterans.

    Just months later, they blocked a $21 billion plan to build new VA clinics, because they said it was "too expensive."

    And last year, Republicans blocked legislation that would have expanded mental health screening for veterans.

    Not surprisingly, Republicans have also refused to support legislation aimed at curbing homelessness in the US, something that, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at least 49,333 veterans experience on any given night.

    Aside from the apologies we need to make to veterans for the actions of Republicans in Washington, we also need to say "sorry" for Bush and Cheney exposing US troops in Iraq to chemical weapons, and then lying about it and not giving them the proper medical treatment.

    Finally, we need to say sorry for George W. Bush not allowing pictures to be taken of soldiers' homecomings from the Iraq War, and for having so little respect for the men and women he sent off to die in war.

    Lost in all the hubbub of Veterans Day is the fact that our country really does a terrible job at taking care of the men and women who have risked their lives to save others

    And, to make matters worse, "We the People" have become desensitized to the struggles our veterans face.

    Instead, we say thank you, and feel like we've done our part and fulfilled our obligation.

    In her famous Mother's Day proclamation, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, said that:

    "From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
    Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
    The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
    Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
    Nor violence indicate possession."

    On the battlefields, our veterans have gone to hell and back. On the home-front, they're still struggling to survive.

    We need to recognize those struggles, apologize for putting our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines into them, and most importantly, fight against the ongoing Republican efforts to screw our veterans.

    Never Too Late to Tell Old Iraq Lies

    FAIR blog - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 15:46
    Perhaps it is fitting that George W. Bush would say, "When you say something as president, you better mean it"--and then say something so demonstrably false.

    Veterans Day, 2014: Propaganda for Militarism

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 15:24

    (Photo: UK Ministry of Defense)

    I always liked the original name for this holiday, Armistice Day, and the idea behind it—celebrating the last war this country would ever fight, a lot better than its current iteration as Veterans Day, honoring all the veterans who “served” this country in peace or war.  The Great War (1914-18) certainly wasn’t our or anyone else’s last war, sadly.  The hope and optimism that it would be is now entirely gone and to our present ears seems quaint if not downright silly.  Even worse, the deep gut antipathy toward war that most had in the days after 11-11-18 is also gone.  Hollywood came along and its romantic, sanitized, and infantile notions of the hard cruel mess that wars always are have sunk deep into our subconscious and shaped our view of war much for the worse.

    With America’s never ending vile and failed wars ongoing, the “served” in quotation marks is entirely appropriate, as the efforts and results of the US military in these wars is nothing for anyone decent to be proud of.  No good will come to us from our current wars, nor to the peoples in those lands we invaded.  The same was also true for our last big war, Vietnam, and the smaller ones too, like Panama and Grenada since, but the American people just aren’t grown up enough to see it.

    What we have nowadays is Veterans Day as just yet another official opportunity by the ruling elites in this country to propagandize further for thoughtless military worship and obedience to (their) authority.  Our prints and airwaves stink with pronouncements of how we all need to thank our veterans today and how everything good we have in this country is due to them.  It is deliberate deep propaganda for militarism, and for our ongoing foreign wars, and lays the groundwork for more of them to come, and the indecency and obscenity of it galls.

    As a kid in Europe in the 1960s, I was impressed at how well the Germans kept their mouths shut about what they had done in the big war twenty or so years earlier.  I thought it right and appropriate then and I think the same today.  There weren’t any military celebration days that I saw when I was there and I am sure that was the case for the rest of central Europe (the USSR excepted) where the real (and horrendous) part of WWII happened.  Not only were the ugly memories of the war still raw to them, but the central/east European countries lacked the politically clean hands to grab the righteous victor’s laurels the way the U.S. did.

    I’ve maintained for a good while that we in this country would be wise to emulate them in this regard, but we aren’t going to.  We’ve internalized too much of our own propaganda about how right and good we are for that to happen.  We don’t have eyes enough to see how dirty our hands are.  Too much of Veterans Day is a deliberate distraction from that ugly fact.

    Poland was a central European country that had clean hands politically in the war.  The Polish army soldiers who surrendered to the USSR (which had lent Hitler a hand with his invasion in 1939 with an invasion of their own) were after Barbarossa in 1941 allowed out of the USSR and formed the Free Polish Army in England and went off to fight the Nazis in Italy.  They were universally regarded as the best and bravest infantry in all the Allied armies.  They were tasked to take the key German defensive position south of Rome, Monte Cassino, in 1944, and they (and the French colonials) succeeded where the British, Indians, Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders had all failed.  That’s the historical backstory to the below poem, written by John Martin, a British cardiologist and poet.

    The Second Polish Corps

    from The Origins of Loneliness:  Poems and Short Stories in Five Moods

    by John Martin

    My patient lay in the hospital bed
    Unshaven, smelling of urine,
    And bitten by lice,
    Of no fixed abode,
    Living in the street,
    And unemployed,
    Without family or friends.

    In his Slavic accent
    He declared
    ‘I fought at Monte Cassino.’
    And my junior doctors in their ignorance
    Remained unmoved by man or by history.

    And I turned to them
    With my hand on the shoulder
    Of my patient,
    To address them on the greatness
    Of the Second Polish Corps
    And the infinite value
    Of all human beings.

    So on this Veterans Day of 2014, we should ignore the usual patriotic hokum about thanking American veterans for their “service,” and instead reflect on the infinite value, and vast potential for greatness, of all human beings.  And remember how infinitely little war contributes to any of that.

    Veterans Day, 2014: Propaganda for Militarism

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 15:24

    (Photo: UK Ministry of Defense)

    I always liked the original name for this holiday, Armistice Day, and the idea behind it—celebrating the last war this country would ever fight, a lot better than its current iteration as Veterans Day, honoring all the veterans who “served” this country in peace or war.  The Great War (1914-18) certainly wasn’t our or anyone else’s last war, sadly.  The hope and optimism that it would be is now entirely gone and to our present ears seems quaint if not downright silly.  Even worse, the deep gut antipathy toward war that most had in the days after 11-11-18 is also gone.  Hollywood came along and its romantic, sanitized, and infantile notions of the hard cruel mess that wars always are have sunk deep into our subconscious and shaped our view of war much for the worse.

    With America’s never ending vile and failed wars ongoing, the “served” in quotation marks is entirely appropriate, as the efforts and results of the US military in these wars is nothing for anyone decent to be proud of.  No good will come to us from our current wars, nor to the peoples in those lands we invaded.  The same was also true for our last big war, Vietnam, and the smaller ones too, like Panama and Grenada since, but the American people just aren’t grown up enough to see it.

    What we have nowadays is Veterans Day as just yet another official opportunity by the ruling elites in this country to propagandize further for thoughtless military worship and obedience to (their) authority.  Our prints and airwaves stink with pronouncements of how we all need to thank our veterans today and how everything good we have in this country is due to them.  It is deliberate deep propaganda for militarism, and for our ongoing foreign wars, and lays the groundwork for more of them to come, and the indecency and obscenity of it galls.

    As a kid in Europe in the 1960s, I was impressed at how well the Germans kept their mouths shut about what they had done in the big war twenty or so years earlier.  I thought it right and appropriate then and I think the same today.  There weren’t any military celebration days that I saw when I was there and I am sure that was the case for the rest of central Europe (the USSR excepted) where the real (and horrendous) part of WWII happened.  Not only were the ugly memories of the war still raw to them, but the central/east European countries lacked the politically clean hands to grab the righteous victor’s laurels the way the U.S. did.

    I’ve maintained for a good while that we in this country would be wise to emulate them in this regard, but we aren’t going to.  We’ve internalized too much of our own propaganda about how right and good we are for that to happen.  We don’t have eyes enough to see how dirty our hands are.  Too much of Veterans Day is a deliberate distraction from that ugly fact.

    Poland was a central European country that had clean hands politically in the war.  The Polish army soldiers who surrendered to the USSR (which had lent Hitler a hand with his invasion in 1939 with an invasion of their own) were after Barbarossa in 1941 allowed out of the USSR and formed the Free Polish Army in England and went off to fight the Nazis in Italy.  They were universally regarded as the best and bravest infantry in all the Allied armies.  They were tasked to take the key German defensive position south of Rome, Monte Cassino, in 1944, and they (and the French colonials) succeeded where the British, Indians, Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders had all failed.  That’s the historical backstory to the below poem, written by John Martin, a British cardiologist and poet.

    The Second Polish Corps

    from The Origins of Loneliness:  Poems and Short Stories in Five Moods

    by John Martin

    My patient lay in the hospital bed
    Unshaven, smelling of urine,
    And bitten by lice,
    Of no fixed abode,
    Living in the street,
    And unemployed,
    Without family or friends.

    In his Slavic accent
    He declared
    ‘I fought at Monte Cassino.’
    And my junior doctors in their ignorance
    Remained unmoved by man or by history.

    And I turned to them
    With my hand on the shoulder
    Of my patient,
    To address them on the greatness
    Of the Second Polish Corps
    And the infinite value
    Of all human beings.

    So on this Veterans Day of 2014, we should ignore the usual patriotic hokum about thanking American veterans for their “service,” and instead reflect on the infinite value, and vast potential for greatness, of all human beings.  And remember how infinitely little war contributes to any of that.

    2:00PM Water Cooler 11/11/14

    Naked Capitalism - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 14:58
    Today's Water Cooler: 2016 beckons, Mexico and the 43 students, Hong Kong, Ferguson, class warfare, and Veteran's Day.
    Categories: political economy

    Shrinking the Empire: A Session on the Imperial Couch

    Truthout - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 13:52

    [What follows is a transcript of a therapy session between the American Empire and a psychiatrist whose name we at TomDispatch have agreed not to disclose. Normally, even in an age in which privacy means ever less to anyone, we wouldn’t consider publishing such a private encounter, but the probative news value of the exchange is so obvious that we decided to make an exception. The transcript has been edited only for obvious repetitions and the usual set of “ums” and “uhs.” Tom]

    Doctor: Would you like to tell me why you’re here?

    American Empire: Well, Doc, I’m feeling a little off.  To tell you the truth, I’m kind of confused, even a little dizzy some of the time. 

    Doctor: When did you first experience symptoms of dizziness?

    AE: I think it was all the pivoting that did it. First I was pivoting out of Iraq. Then I was pivoting out of Afghanistan. Then I was pivoting to Asia. Then I was secretly pivoting to Africa. Then all of a sudden I was pivoting into Iraq again, and Syria, and Afghanistan, and... well, you get the picture. 

    Doctor: And this left you...?

    AE: Depressed.  But Doc, there’s a little background you need to know about the dizzying nature of my life.  For almost 50 years -- this was in the last century -- I was in the marriage from hell.  My partner, the Soviet Union, was a nightmare.  I mean, we had a brief sunny courtship when we were more or less in love, but that only lasted the length of World War II.  The minute I got home from the front, it was hell, and I’m hardly exaggerating if I tell you that, when we got to fighting, it was scorched Earth all the way.  We regularly threatened to annihilate each other.  It was one of those stormy relationships you could never predict in advance where this planet just isn’t big enough for the two of you.

    In our worst moments, I used to fantasize about the Soviet Union being obliterated, simply disappearing from the face of the Earth, but it was a fantasy, nothing more.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be free.  Not in my lifetime.  Then one day as 1990 ended, like some unexpected miracle, it happened.  Poof!  The Soviet Union was gone.  I was alone and the Earth was my playground -- or so it seemed.

    Doctor: Do you feel that it went to your head?

    AE: It would have gone to anybody’s head.  I mean, people were saying the most complimentary things about me all the time.  They were calling me the “sole superpower,” or the planet’s only “hyperpower,” or its “global policeman,” or... well, I don’t want to go on about it, but sure, it went to my head.  How would you feel if you overheard people saying that there had never been an empire like yours in all of history, that the Romans and the Brits were pikers by comparison?

    And when I looked around the planet, it seemed true.  There weren’t any enemies worthy of me.  I mean, North Korea, Iraq, and later scattered groups of jihadis?  Can you blame me if it went to my head?  I suppose I should have left well enough alone.  After all, I was already a "superpower."  You’d think I might have been satisfied, but that isn’t imperial nature, is it?

    And to make matters worse, along came George W. (“bring ‘em on”) Bush, Dick (“the dark side”) Cheney, Donald (“sweep it all up”) Rumsfeld, Condi (“mushroom cloud”) Rice, and the rest of that crew.  It was like being in Rome and hearing the announcer call out, “Batting cleanup, number four, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.”  I should have felt a shiver of fear.  But when they explained their plans to me, they seemed so damn convincing.  Loosing the U.S. military to create a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East, and then globally -- how could any of it have gone wrong?

    If you don’t think I feel bitter lying here on this couch, you’re no shrink.  You wouldn’t wish what’s happened to me on some two-bit rogue state.

    Doctor: It might be worth exploring that feeling of bitterness.

    AE: Explore it?  That’s a no-brainer.  One day you’re on top of the world.  You’ve just created the sort of surveillance state that would have left Joe Stalin drooling in his grave.  You can listen in on a bunch of jihadis in the backlands of Yemen or the German Chancellor (which, by the way, isn’t as thrilling you might imagine) or any American you want.  You can send your drones anywhere and there’s no one to stop you. You can rewrite the laws to suit yourself.  You’re this town’s only sheriff, numero uno, the Big Dog.

    And ten minutes later, nothing you do -- I mean nothing, nada, zilch -- works, not an invasion, not an intervention, not an occupation, not even the simplest of helping hands, and suddenly you realize that you’re down in the dumps and feeling kinda nostalgic for the old days when it was just you and the Soviet Union growling at each other.

    Doctor: I’d like you to try to be more specific.  Sometimes generalized complaints about one’s state of mind aren’t as useful as they should be.  Give me an example and describe your feelings around it.

    AE: You want an example?  Gee, that’s a tough one.  I mean, let me think about that for minus one second.  How about Iraq, for specifics?  If I had told you, back in the two-superpower days, that I was going to fight three wars in less than a quarter of a century in one country or that four presidents in a row would bomb one land, not a single American would have picked Iraq.  If it were 1980 and I made that prediction, you would have had me institutionalized.  But here we are.  And I just did it again.  I sent in the bombers and drones and advisers and I’m about to train up another Iraqi army.  At least the other two times, I thought victory was a given. This time...

    In 1991, I crushed them.  The greatest military power on the planet was up against a third-rate army and obliterated it in no time flat.  You’re of an age.  You must remember the victory parades.  They were spectacular.  And there was George H.W. Bush exclaiming that we’d kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.  Who could forget it?  But when the dust cleared, Saddam Hussein was still there.  In 2003, no more messing around, we took Baghdad in about three seconds and sent Saddam into that spider hole in hell.  And then, it only got worse.

    I mean, bitter? That’s not the half of it. I know it’s dangerous to self-diagnose, but I’ve been wondering whether I might be an addict.  I just can’t seem to stop.  I know better now, but it never seems to matter.

    I have to admit something, Doc.  Before I came to you, I called Empires Anonymous.  But their phone’s been disconnected and emails bounce back.

    Doctor: Yes, it’s been a while since EA could muster the bodies for an imperial support group.  But tell me more about what your addiction, as you call it, feels like.   

    AE: Here’s the bottom line: it wasn't supposed to be this way.  I’ve read the history books and Great Powers don't pussyfoot when it comes to pacifying the natives and winning wars.  Not unless they’re really on the skids.  Look around this planet.  I’m still the only unipolar power.  So why is it that whenever I send in the special ops guys or the drones, it’s like whacking a beehive with a stick?  I mean, I’ve bombed seven Muslim countries -- just under Obama, mind you -- and what’s it got me?  More jihadis by the tens of thousands and now a jihadi mini-state in the middle of the Middle East!

    Doctor: I find it slightly strange that you should come see me after last week’s election. Shouldn’t you feel more upbeat?

    AE: I take your point, Doc. And you can’t imagine the phone messages and emails I’ve been getting since last Tuesday night.  John McCain, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, John Boehner, William Kristol, Jodi Ernst, Buck McKeon, the well known and the barely known of the incoming Republican Congress.  I feel like the most popular guy on Earth again.  And they’re promising me the works.

    So, sure, given what I’ve been through, I feel like I'm being offered the best years of my life back.  A brand-new Cold War against Russia?  After the last 13 years, the thought of Cold War 2.0 gives me an instant endorphin high.  We’re talking war hawks to the horizon in Washington for years to come, hot to arm the Ukrainians, take down ISIS, nuke Iran, and crank it up against China in the South China Sea!

    I should be high as a kite.  Instead, I’m an empire on the couch getting shrunk.  I've got the shakes.  I'm consumed with fear that I’m going to do it all over again.  You’ve got to give me a hand, Doc.

    Doctor: I want to point out that our time today is winding down. So let me just offer you a few initial suggestions for...

    [The recording of the session suddenly ends here.]

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