Showing posts with label neoconservatism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label neoconservatism. Show all posts

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Your American Freedoms Only Exist On Paper

The original intent of the Anti-Aggression League blog wasn't just to debunk Uncle Sam's propaganda and expose his corruption. It was in a much larger sense meant to be a counter narrative to American exceptionalism. I find this single sentiment more contemptible than any other ideology that has ever been thought up, for at the moment it is the most dangerous sentiment anyone can hold. It breeds content with the status quo. It implies that there is no room for improvement; if you are already the best, in every conceivable way, there is no getting better. The most common refrain I here to this effect is that America is the freest country in the world, which implies that our government completely respects our rights (obviously not true as I have pointed out hundreds of times). Another common refrain is that America is the land of opportunity; the land of milk and honey. The regulatory burdens that the federal, state and city governments have placed on small business owners tells a different story. Another common myth is that America is a democracy and politicians are accountable to the people, which implies that we are safeguarded against corruption. As a result of the widespread belief in American exceptionalism most Americans take their rights and freedom for granted. Yet, despite taking their rights for granted, ironically, most Americans don’t even know what rights they have, in the same way that they don’t know how much money they spend or how many possessions they have, hence consumerism. For this reason, it might be helpful to show that the rights Americans have under U.S. constitutional law and moral law have all but been obliterated under the pretense of national security and public safety.

Freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and the press

The right to film public officials in public places is freedom of the press, as determined in Glik v. Cunniffe, and yet police officers constantly violate the first amendment by arresting civilians simply for filming them.

Rochester Police Arrest Man For Filming Them

Syracuse NY Man Arrested For Filming The Police

1st amendment audit Greer police department South Carolina

Video Shows Cop Attack And Arrest Innocent Pregnant Woman for Filming Him

NY Man Has Gun Pointed At Him and Home Illegally Raided For Filming The Police

NYPD Arrests 5 Activists In 3 Days For Filming Their Attack on A 74-yo Man

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. A vigilant citizenry has never been more critical in this day in age in which so called law enforcement, and their neoconservative lackeys (tried and true jack boot licking pro-cop simps) believe there should be no restraints on what the police can do at either the federal, state or local level. It’s funny how the same people who defend dragnet surveillance techniques like cell site simulators object to sousveillance of public officials under circumstances where, unlike the former, there is no expectation of privacy. Allowing people to film the police on the job should be a no brainer given the fact that there is an entire TV series dedicated to filming police on the job. Pro-cop simps are never short in supply.

The right to desecrate and ‘disrespect’ the American flag is symbolic freedom of speech, and yet 40 states still have anti - flag desecration laws on the books, which are sometimes enforced, though it is important to note that none of the people who have been charged with this imaginary crime, equivalent to anti-blasphemy laws in Saudi Arabia, have been put on trial.

Illinois Man Arrested After Burning U.S. Flag

I don’t know what’s sadder, the fact that the Illinois legislature passed an anti-flag desecration law as recently as 2013, or the fact that police arrested him just to protect him from crazed lunatics who think burning a certain piece of colored fabric should cost you your life.

Iowan Accused of Desecrating U.S. Flag In Pipeline Protest

I covered this story back in August. This army veteran wasn’t even technically desecrating the banner; flying the flag upside down down signals distress not disrespect.

Why a Penn. man arrested for flag desecration was awarded 55,000

There are even earlier cases then this one. The fact that criminalizing flag desecration would even be taken into consideration, to the extent that it would warrant an act of congress (see Flag Protection Act) shows just how far we have slipped into a police state.

The right to protest grievances is freedom of speech, expression and assembly, yet the FBI has taken it upon themselves to harass and intimidate those on the political fringe by spying on them, blacklisting them, and harassing them at their residents without suspicion of criminal activity, just as they did in the 60’s and 70’s during the conintelpro days in Colorado and other states in the summer of 2004. A three-page report discusses the events of July 22, 2004, when two teams of JTTF agents, accompanied by Denver police officers in SWAT gear, appeared at two Denver residences on Lipan Street that are home to a number of young political activists, including Bardwell. Bardwell explained at the time that the JTTF agents demanded to know if she and her housemates were planning to commit crimes at the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions and whether they knew anyone who was planning such crimes. They also threatened that failing to provide information to the FBI was a criminal offense.’ The harassment ranges from showing up to the houses of activists with a paramilitary force to conduct frivolous searches of residence for evidence of ‘material support for terrorism.’

New documents confirm FBI's joint-terrorism task force targets peaceful activists for harassment and political surveillance

FBI targets peace activists for alleged terrorism support

FBI watched activist groups new files show

You see a terrorist is an American citizen who visits certain websites and participates in certain political causes. Animal rights activists, environmentalists (called ‘eco-terrorists’ by the FBI), anti -war groups, and people who generally hold anti-government views are considered domestic terrorist threats by the FBI. Washington funded salafist militias like Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al-Fatah, and the FSA that burn down churches, massacre religious/ethnic minorities, and engage in extortion are not terrorists but ‘moderate rebels’ and ‘freedom fighters.’

As Benjamin Franklin once said “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.” We cannot have a free and democratic society if law enforcement is allowed to censor their critics and anyone who doesn’t fall in line with popular sentiment as prescribed by public schools and corporate media outlets.

Freedom from warrantless searches, surveillance, and seizures of property or any unreasonable searches and seizures of property

"the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

It should be well recognized that the Bill of rights are not an exhaustive list of our rights but rather a list of limitations on the government’s power at both the federal, state, and local level, but especially at the federal level. The 4th amendment is not only a matter of constitutional law, but also moral law. The gradual erosion of our 4th amendment protections has been particularly devastating because the gatekeepers in msm don’t talk about it except for the controversial NSA prism program. What they don’t tell you is that this is done at the local and state level as well with stingray surveillance which, indiscriminately collects cellphone data. They don’t tell you that FBI field offices basically have subpoena power through National Security Letters, which allows them to demand personal information, including phone records and browsing history, from any citizen’s telecommunications providers. They won’t tell you that the NSA can share the information they incidentally gather on citizens with domestic law enforcement with CISA, the latest congressional assault against the 4th amendment, which not only gives Tech companies immunity to share your personal information with the DHS and requires the DHS to further share your personal information with the NSA, DOD, and Director of National intelligence. Even the Supreme Court has joined the butchered ruling in Utah v. Strieff that the police can use evidence illegally obtained in court against a defendant, through parallel construction, if they weren’t aware that they have breached the 4th amendment at the time of a search or seizure: basically just an extension of ‘qualified immunity.’ The 4th amendment has not fared much better at the state level either. The Wisconsin Supreme Court completely nullified the 4th amendment, under their jurisdiction, in a recent ruling that officers may search homes and seize evidence without a warrant if they are exercising their ‘community caretaker’ function. The fifth circuit court appeals in Texas also decided to nullify the 4th amendment when they ruled that having religious memorabilia and air freshener in one’s vehicle constitutes probable cause of a crime. In New York and other major cities, the police departments have ‘stop and frisk’ policies that allow their officers to stop passing civilians and search their person with only reasonable suspicion, which only justifies temporarily detaining someone and questioning them; reasonable cause is required to justify a search.

Freedom from extrajudicial killings, arbitrary seizures of property, and eminent domain seizures of property by private companies

‘No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without DUE PROCESS OF LAW; nor shall private property be taken for PUBLIC USE, without just compensation.’ is the pertinent part of the 5th amendment that has been curtailed and the instances are numerous. Under the Obama admin, four American citizens, suspected of terrorist activities, were executed by drone strikes without a jury trial and grand jury indictment. It was the same admin that signed indefinite detention into law using the annual NDAA as a Trojan horse.

We should not expect to lose our freedom or property without a criminal or civil proceeding and recourse to appeal such decisions, but this is not the case in the USSA. The terrorist watch list and no - fly lists allows the DHS to deprive any American of their freedom to travel and leave the country without a criminal proceeding and there is no way to appeal their decision. These watch lists have become so commonplace that some people want to use it to deny anyone on these lists the right to buy a gun.

In the U.S. law enforcement have become the highwaymen of old, stealing more from Americans than common criminals through civil asset forfeiture, which allows LEOs to seize property without charging the victim with a crime much less waiting for a criminal conviction; they just have to claim that the property resulted from a crime or is linked to a crime. The stolen property is usually used for their personal benefit and the spoils of robbery are shared with the feds.

Eminent Domain was always explicitly restricted to taking private property for public uses (e.g. roads, bridges, canals, utilities etc), but this changed after the Kelo v. New London decision which gave private corporations like the New London Development Corporation and Pfizer the power to seize the property of private individuals for their own (rent-seeking) profit. The Supreme court justified this ruling using the typical neoliberal talking points about ‘job creation’ and ‘trickle down wealth.’ It’s important to note that exactly zero jobs were created in the years following New London Development Corporation’s eminent domain seizure of people’s homes.


There are also many more frivolous laws that breach our natural rights, such as the anti-structuring laws that prohibit people from making frequent deposits of less than $10,000 from their own bank accounts. Of course, anti-structuring laws and civil asset forfeiture are the spawns of a much greater monstrosity called the war on drugs, a denial of self-ownership. If the government can decide what you can and cannot put in your own body, then you do not legally own your own body: the government does. Though to speak frankly, the federal government is simply a tool in this regards; a means to further the ends of the pharmaceutical industry and the private prison industry. Millions have died and over a trillion dollars have been wasted to protect the cartelized pharmaceutical industry from non-patented substances, and if the DEA's latest ban on Kratom is any indication of current progress towards drug decriminalization, then there is no end in sight.

Drug prohibition is not the only remnant from the 1970's. Draft registration is still compelled under penalty of law and was just recently expanded to include women. Although the draft hasn't been used in the past four decades, to even entertain the notion that a government should force its young adults to die for the profits of defense contractors is morally repulsive. To make a long story short, the U.S. is becoming a police state, and that is just part of the problem. This in itself should be a cause to protest It might not be a North Korea or PRC, yet, but it is by far one of the most authoritarian developed nations in the world, ranked 20th on the Human Freedom Index. When people fume over Kaepernick's national anthem protest the old adage strain at a gnat and swallow a camel comes to mind. If Kaepernick's refusal to stand during the anthem upset you, ask yourself what freedoms are you celebrating? Americans are always so boastful about their supposed freedoms, yet they stay silent when these freedoms are taken away. The selective outrage is really a reflection of poor national character.

Occupational Freedom

Legend has it that the U.S. is the land of opportunity; the land of milk and honey where anyone can live the 'American dream' (you have to be asleep to believe it) with enough hard work and dedication. And you'd think that a country that prides itself on freedom and work ethic would be friendly to entrepreneurs. The reality is starkly different. In the USSA, there doesn't seem to be any gig that you can do without needing a team of bureaucrats to sign off on it, however trivial it may be in the grand scheme of 'public safety.' For instance, to install home entertainment systems in Connecticut you have to earn a high school diploma, pay a $185 application fee, pass a test, and work as an apprentice for one year. To legally sell flowers in Louisiana, one has to pay a $189 application fee and pass a florist exam. All 50 states require a license to become a barber. On average, a prospective barber must pay $154 in fees, sit out a year for education, and pass two exams just to legally cut other peoples' hair. Even something as mundane as cutting grass for pay, something teenagers often do for recreational money, requires a business license in a growing number of cities. The absurdity of occupational licensing laws knows no bounds. As I have reported in previous Red Tape Times posts, people have been threatened with fines and sometimes prison for offering dietary advice without the government's permission, teaching makeup without the government's permission, critiquing traffic lights without the government's permission, playing music in a bar without the government's permission, selling teeth whitening products without the government's permission, and selling home cooked meals to neighbors without the government's permission (also here). Aside from Occupational licensing, entrepreneurs must also contend with certificates of public convenience and necessity. These laws demand that start ups prove there is a 'public need' for their goods or services and they won't harm their competitors. They're also required to obtain permission from incumbent businesses before they start taking customers. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the courts always assume these regulations are constitutional until proven otherwise. If you thought they had a low standard for civil liberties, they have an even lower standard for economic freedom.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Remember This When the Police Apologists Tell You - He Was Armed, Most Cops Are Ex Forces

Disclaimer: This video brought to you courtesy of Studio New Network. I am not the creator of this video.

It makes you wonder how many people police have murdered and then planted a gun on to make it look like justifiable homicide. We are already familiar with police sometimes planting drugs on suspects to embellish their own record and meet quotas, so planting guns on people isn't too much of a long shot (no pun intended), but it's one of those things the government will never tell us.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

You Cannot Be Fiscally Conservative And Support Perpetual Warfare Abroad

This point is obvious to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together. If you have any basic understanding of history and economics you know that governments go into debt when they wage war; usually borrowing the funds by issuing treasury bonds. This is why the United States has had a public debt for the vast majority of its history; it has always been at war. Of course, the advent of the welfare state in the 1930's and 40's, which was in part a byproduct of war (as well as the great depression) made it worse. As of now the national debt has surpassed $20 trillion, or about 104% of GDP, with interest exceeding $268B, about 7% of the budget, and a budget deficit nearing $700B. This resulted from the combined efforts of big government democrats and 'small government' republicans. Remember that next time you go in a polling booth. As of 2016, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost a total of $5 trillion, and by now are probably near $6 trillion with interest. That would be about 30% of the national debt. With the Trump admin escalating the war in Afghanistan, sending more troops into Iraq, Syria, and Yemen and eyeing Venezuela, the war debt will likely grow larger as a proportion of the national debt. And with the Trump admin looking to increase the DOD budget to more than $700B, perhaps it will even eclipse medicare in total cost.

The national debt in itself is not what should concern us. There will never be a time when the federal government's creditors, mostly wall street banks and foreign governments, will go door to door asking citizens to cough up their share of the national debt. There will also never be a time when the federal government defaults on its debt, regardless of how large that number grows. Unlike a private business that goes into debt, there is no fear of defaulting because your labor is their collateral. As long as you can be forced to toil on their behalf and pay for expenses they incurred, they have nothing to lose; they have no skin in the game. It's a win-win for the politicians, the defense contractors, the Wall Street Bankers, and the rest of the pyschopathic plutocrats that live at the expense of the common man. The growing debt is profitable for them, but not so much for you John Doe. You see serfdom was never abolished; it just became more efficient.

'As long as mankind continue to pay "national debts," so-called -- that is, so long as they are such dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered -- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with that money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers, and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.'

-Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority VII

Friday, August 11, 2017

Political Superstitions (part 7): The Divine Right Of Presidents

Trump's 'spiritual advisor' believes God has given him the authority to start a war on his own. The original article is DALLAS PASTOR: TRUMP HAS MORAL AUTHORITY TO KILL NORTH KOREAN DICTATOR. It's straight foward and doesn't go into any analysis which I plan to do here.

This sentiment certainly has an emotional appeal and I can see why simple minded folk would find it agreeable, but morality must be derived through the use of logic and rationality not feels and dubious claims of divine inspiration. Firstly, governments and their many offices have no moral authority for the same reason they have no mathematical authority or biological authority. Mathematical facts, moral facts, and biological facts are true whether the government sanctions them or not. The government cannot make a triangle have four sides anymore than they can make murder, theft and enslavement morally permissible when it suits their objectives. The government, and all other institutions people create, must be subordinate to moral law just as much as they are subordinate to mathematical laws, not the other way around. The reverse would lead to a moral subjectivism where morals are contingent upon who holds the nuclear codes and would envitably result in contradictory truths. Secondly, the Constitution, with its origins in the English constitutional tradition that goes back to the middle ages, enumerates a very short list of powers delegated to the excutive office; starting a war isn't one of them. Only congress has the power to declare war, and for a very good reason; they also have the power of the purse. Wars cost money, trillions to be exact, and the president cannot initiate any public spending, otherwise he would just be a dictator.

Using God to justify any act of government is always a dangerous ploy. This pastor has implied much more in his statement than he is willing to let on. The inescapable conclusion of such a premise is that the president is infallible (basically papalism for the federal government). What the pastor describes is reminiscent of an ancient superstition called the divine right of kings, the central doctrine of absolute monarchy. It is fitting that the pastor would impute divine authority in Trump during an era where the powers of executive office have been expaned beyond their constitutional restrictions and the federal government has inched closer to totalitarianism every year.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump Administration Escalates Illegal War In Syria

Sources: 21st Century Wire, Army Times

Five days ago, the 3rd Ranger Battalion was spotted heading towards the city of Manbij. The U.S. rangers were presumably deployed to join the SDF, a coalition of Kurdish militias operating in Northern Syria, in their siege against the ISIS occupied city of Raqqa. At around the same time, the Pentagon deployed 400 marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to also join the Kurdish forces fighting to push ISIS out of Raqqa. 6,000 U.S. troops are currently operating between Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon plans to deploy an additional 2,500 troops to Kuwait as backup for the forces in Iraq and Syria.

The invasion was started by the Obama administration in December of 2015. By the end of his last term, Obama had deployed a total of 500 Special forces into Syria to assist the SDF. The recent deployments are thus not a change in policy, but simply an expansion of an Obama era policy. Obama also sent special forces to three other countries (i.e. Yemen, Iraq, and Libya).

Article I Section 8 Clause 11 of the Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war; being the commander and chief does not give the executive office the prerogative to start wars on a whim because the president does not have the power of the purse (for obvious reasons). Furthermore, the War Powers Resolution statute requires the president to notify congress within 48 hours of deploying troops and to remove all troops within 60 days if the commitment does not receive formal congressional approval. In this capacity, both president Obama and Trump have violated the law.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Amnesty Internation Publishes Shoddy Propaganda Piece on Syrian Prisons

Source: Moon of Alabama

A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction style writing from its title "Human Slaughterhouse" down to the last paragraph.

But the Amnesty report is still not propagandish enough for the anti-Syrian media. Inevitably only the highest number in the range Amnesty claims is quoted. For some even that is not yet enough. The Associate Press agency, copied by many outlets, headlines: Report: At least 13,000 hanged in Syrian prison since 2011:
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian authorities have killed at least 13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at a prison north of Damascus known to detainees as "the slaughterhouse," Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday.

How does "at least 13,000" conforms to an already questionable report which claims "13,000" as the top number of a very wide range?

Here is a link to the report.

Before we look into some details this from the "Executive Summary":
From December 2015 to December 2016, Amnesty International researched the patterns, sequence and scale of violations carried out at Saydnaya Military Prison (Saydnaya). In the course of this investigation, the organization interviewed 31 men who were detained at Saydnaya, four prison officials or guards who previously worked at Saydnaya, three former Syrian judges, three doctors who worked at Tishreen Military Hospital, four Syrian lawyers, 17 international and national experts on detention in Syria and 22 family members of people who were or still are detained at Saydnaya.
On the basis of evidence from people who worked within the prison authorities at Saydnaya and witness testimony from detainees, Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.

There are several difficulties with this report.

1. Most of the witnesses are identified as opposition figures and "former" officials who do not live in Syria. Some are said to have been remotely interviewed in Syria but it is not clear if those were living in government or insurgent held areas. Page 9:
The majority of these interviews took place in person in southern Turkey. The remaining interviews were conducted by telephone or through other remote means with interviewees still in Syria, or with individuals based in Lebanon, Jordan, European countries and the USA.

It is well known that the Syrian insurgency is financed with several billion dollars per years from foreign state governments. It runs sophisticated propaganda operations. These witnesses all seem to have interests in condemning the Syrian government. Not once is an attempt made to provide a possibly divergent view. Amnesty found the persons it questioned by contacting international NGOs like itself and known foreign financed opposition (propaganda) groups:
These groups include Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability.

2. The numbers Amnesty provides are in a very wide range. None are documented in lists or similar exhibits. They are solely based on hearsay and guesstimates of two witnesses:
People who worked within the prison authorities at Saydnaya told Amnesty International that extrajudicial executions related to the crisis in Syria first began in September 2011. Since that time, the frequency with which they have been carried out has varied and increased. For the first four months, it was usual for between seven and 20 people to be executed every 10-15 days. For the following 11 months, between 20 and 50 people were executed once a week, usually on Monday nights. For the subsequent six months, groups of between 20 and 50 people were executed once or twice a week, usually on Monday and/or Wednesday nights. Witness testimony from detainees suggests that the executions were conducted at a similar – or even higher – rate at least until December 2015. Assuming that the death rate remained the same as the preceding period, Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.

From "between x and y", "once or twice a week", "suggests" and "assuming" the headline numbers are simply extrapolated in footnote 40 in a back-of-the-envelope calculation; "If A were true then B would be X":
These estimates were based on the following calculations. If between seven and 20 were killed every 10-15 days from September to December 2011, the total figure would be between 56 people and 240 people for that period. If between 20 and 50 were killed every week between January and November 2012, the total figure would be between 880 and 2,200 for that period. If between 20 and 50 people were killed in 222 execution sessions (assuming the executions were carried out twice a week twice a month and once a week once a month) between December 2012 and December 2015, the total figure would be between 4,400 and 11,100 for that period. These calculations produce a minimum figure of 5,336, rounded down to the nearest thousand as 5,000, and 13,540, rounded down to the nearest thousand as 13,000.

2. I will not go into the details of witness statements on which the report is build. They seem at least exaggerated and are not verifiable at all. In the end it is pure hearsay on which Amnesty sets it conclusions. One example from page 25:
“Hamid”, a former military officer when he was arrested in 2012, recalled the sounds he heard at night during an execution:
"There was a sound of something being pulled out – like a piece of wood, I’m not sure – and then you would hear the sound of them being strangled… If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of a kind of gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes… We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then."

A court might accept 'sound of "I'm not sure" "kind of gurgling" noise through concrete' as proof that a shower was running somewhere. But as proof of executions?

Of all the witnesses Amnesty says it interviewed only two, a former prison official and a former judge, who describe actual executions (page 25). From the wording of their statements it is unclear if they have witnessed any hangings themselves or just describe something they have been told of.

3. The numbers of people Amnesty claims were executed are - at best - a wild ass guess. How come that Amnesty can name only very few of those? On page 30 of its report it says:
Former detainees from the red building at Saydnaya provided Amnesty International with the names of 59 individuals who they witnessed being taken from their cells in the afternoon, being told that they were being transferred to civilian prisons in Syria. The evidence contained in this report strongly suggests that in fact, these individuals were extrajudicially executed.

Former prison guards and a former prison official from Saydnaya also provided Amnesty International with the names of 36 detainees who had been extrajudicially executed in Saydnaya since 2011.

Those 95, some of whom may have been "executed" - or not, are the only ones Amnesty claims to be able to name. That is less than 1-2% of the reports central claim of 5,000 to 13,000 executed. All those witnesses could provide no more details of persons allegedly killed?

Amnesty acknowledges that its numbers are bogus. Under the headline "Documented Deaths" on page 40 it then adds additional names and numbers to those above but these are not from executions:
the exact number of deaths in Saydnaya is impossible to specify. However, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has verified and shared with Amnesty International the names of 375 individuals who have died in Saydnaya as a result of torture and other ill-treatment between March 2011 and October 2016. Of these, 317 were civilians at the time of their arrest, 39 were members of the Syrian military and 19 were members of non-state armed groups. In the course of the research for this report, Amnesty International obtained the names of 36 additional individuals who died as a result of torture and other ill-treatment in Saydnaya. These names were provided to Amnesty International by former detainees who witnessed the deaths in their cells

The "Syrian Network for Human Rights" (SNHR) is a group in the UK probably connected to British foreign intelligence and with dubious monetary sources. It only says:
SNHR funds its work and activities through unconditional grants and donations from individuals and institutions.

Now that is true transparency.

SNHR is known for rather ridiculous claims about casualties caused by various sides of the conflict. It is not know what SNHR qualifies as civilians - do these include armed civil militia? But note that none of the mostly civilians SNHR claims to have died in the prison are said to have been executed. How is it possible that a organization frequently quoted in the media as detailed source of casualties in Syria has no record of the 5,000 to 13,000 Amnesty claims were executed?

4. The report is padded up with before/after satellite pictures of enlarged graveyards in Syria. It claims that these expansions are a sign of mass graves of government opponents. But there is zero evidence for that. Many people have died in Syria throughout the war on all sides of the conflict. The enlargement, for example, of the Martyrs Cemetery south of Damascus (p.29/30) is hardly a sign of mass killing of anti-government insurgents. Would those be honored as martyrs by the government side?

5. The report talks of "extrajudicially executed" prisoners but then describes (military) court procedures and a necessary higher up approval of the judgement. One may not like the laws that govern the Syrian state but the courts and the procedures Amnesty describes seem to follow Syrian laws and legal processes. They are thereby - by definition - not extrajudicial.

6. In its Executive Summary the Amnesty report says that "Death sentences are approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria and ...". But there is no evidence provided of "approval" by the Grand Mufti in the details of the report. On page 19 it claims, based on two former prison and court officials:
The judgement is sent by military post to the Grand Mufti of Syria and to either the Minister of Defence or the Chief of Staff of the Army, who are deputized to sign for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and who specify the date of the execution.

It is very doubtful that the Syrian government would "deputize" or even inform the Grand Mufti in cases of military or criminal legal proceedings. Amnesty International may dislike the fact but Syria is a secular state. The Grand Mufti in Syria is a civil legal authority for some followers of the Sunni Muslim religion in Syria but he has no official judiciary role. From the 2010 Swiss dissertation Models of Religious Freedom: Switzerland, the United States, and Syria quoted here:
In Syria a mufti is a legal and religious expert (faqih and ‘alim) who has the power to give legally non-binding recommendations (sing. fatwa, pl. fatawa) in matters of Islamic law. ...
Queries which are either sought by a shari‘a judge or private individuals regard the personal status laws of the Muslim community only. In the Arab Republic fatawa are given neither to public authorities nor to individual civil servants, ..

Neither the Syrian constitution nor any Syrian law I can find refers to a role of the Grand Mufti in any military or civil criminal court proceding. The Amnesty claim "approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria"is not recorded anywhere else. It is very likely false. The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, is a moderate, recognized and accomplished scholar. He should sue Amnesty for this slander.

Syrian law includes a death penalty for certain severe and violent crimes. Before 2011 actual executions in Syria were very rare, most death sentences were commuted. Allegedly the laws were amended in late 2011, after the war in Syria had started, to include the death penalty as possible punishment for directly arming terrorists.

It is quite likely that the Syrian military and/or civil judiciary hand out some death penalties against captured foreign and domestic "rebels" it finds them guilty of very severe crimes. It is fighting the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other extreme groups well known for mass murder and other extreme atrocities. It is likely that some of those sentences are applied. But the Syrian government has also provided amnesty to ten-thousands of "rebels" who fought the government but have laid down their arms.

The claims in the Amnesty report are based on spurious and biased opposition accounts from outside of the country. The headline numbers of 5,000 to 13,000 are calculated on the base of unfounded hypotheticals. The report itself states that only 36 names of allegedly executed persons are known to Amnesty, less than the number of "witnesses" Amnesty claims to have interviewed. The high number of claimed execution together with the very low number of names is not plausible.

The report does not even meet the lowest mark of scientific or legal veracity. It is pure biased propaganda.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Concerning Corporate Propaganda About the Invasion of Syria

Previous post on invasion of Syria

The video above is testimony from a Syrian women who lived in 'moderate rebel' occupied East Aleppo, which has now been liberated thanks to 'Russian aggression.' The atrocities this woman describes being inflicted by the 'moderate rebels', particularly the Washington funded Free Syrian Army, are unimaginable and pale in comparison to the corporate media's false narrative. I hope viewers are aware that since Obama repealed the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act in 2013 your government and corporate media has no legal obligation to tell you the truth; domestic propaganda is legal. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that there was an East Aleppo (held by the terrorists) and a West Aleppo (held by Assad) and not a unified Aleppo. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that the so called 'moderate rebels' murdered civilians that attempted to flee to the government side. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that the so called moderate rebels indiscriminately shelled civilians on the government side. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that the so called moderate rebels were a coalition called Jaish al-Islam (the Islamic Army of Conquest) that mainly consisted of Al Nusra fighters and Ahrar al-Sham, another group documented committing acts of terrorism such as the ethnic cleansing of Alawites in Zara'a. If you listened to corporate media you probably didn't know that the so called moderate rebels denied civilians medical treatment, as the women above explained, and thus when Russian jets bombed hospitals they were killing the terrorists groups using them for their wounded, not civilians. If you listened to corporate media you were probably unaware that most of the 'moderate rebels' were foreign fighters, hence why I call it an invasion.

None of this is meant to imply that Assad and Putin are the good guys. Hollywood tropes don't exist in the real world and I am a realist. And as a realist I recognize that there are no good guys and bad guys in the real world; there are only greater and lesser evils. The majority of Syrians regard Assad as the lesser evil, the NATO backed Salafi terrorists the greater evil, and our criminal government as the root of evil (81% blame the U.S. for ISIS) .

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Repercussions of Pipeline Approvals on Property Rights

Free market proponents often exempt pipeline construction from scrutiny and tend to assume that erring on the side of economic freedom means always supporting approval for pipeline construction. Protests are met with shallow platitudes about 'energy independence', 'job creation', and 'growth', all of which are tentative at best. These platitudes are countered by different platitudes about 'global warming', 'climate change', and 'clean energy.' What is left unexamined in this ruckus are the unintended effects, not on the environment or GDP growth rates, but on one of the very pillars of civilization: property rights. This is why the false dilemma of U.S. politics is called a false dilemma: it assumes only the extremities and omits the intermediates. Under the original 5th amendment, which has been gutted by our criminal government, eminent domain could only be used to seize private property for public use, which is a position I still disagree with because it does not exclude confiscating peoples' homes or businesses. This was changed in Kelo v. City of New London, which gave private corporations eminent domain power and expanded the doctrine of public use to ambiguously mean any development that may result in economic growth. On paper, anyone's property rights can be usurped if someone else comes along and claims they can make better use of the land. The precedent set by this ruling has had a number of implications in recent years, most notably, pipeline companies have used it to seize land from family farms and ranchers, that have held tenure for several generations, under the vague and now worthless public use doctrine.

Back in early 2015 when the KeyStone XL pipeline was the proposed panacea for unemployment, few pundits on either side of the aisle took into consideration the destruction of property rights that would have occurred if Obama had approved the pipeline (this was one of the few times I agreed with him). In Texas alone, 102 landowners, most of them farmers and ranchers, would have been forced to allow a foreign corporation to build a pipeline on their land. They attempted to do the same thing against 90 unwilling landowners in Nebraska without success.

Energy Transfer Partners, the same company tied up in the Dakota Access Pipeline, seized land from ranchers in the Big Bend region of Texas so they could ship gas to Mexico through the Trans-Pesco pipeline. More, recently they used eminent domain against landowners in Iowa and South Dakota to build the pending Dakota Access Pipeline.

The end does not justify the means. Every assault against property rights on the basis of expediency sets a precedent for the further erosion of property rights and draws us a step closer to despotism. This is clear when past assaults against property rights are taken into account; a disturbing trend emerges when the concession of a corporate prerogative to seize private property is taken into consideration with other aggressions against property rights e.g. civil asset forfeiture, anti-structuring laws, warrantless wiretapping, and ever increasing occupational licensing laws. Every aggression builds up political momentum towards an absolutist state, reversing its function from a system that was meant to protect property rights from criminal trespass to a criminal syndicate that destroys property rights.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Obama's Fascist Legacy

Obama's Police State
I am more relieved than ever that the Obama presidency is over, not because I think anything will improve under a Trump presidency, now complacency towards the march of tyranny will finally die. Every leftist crying that the inevitable Trump presidency will bring fascism here has apparently been asleep for the past eight years because they have failed to grasp that the Obama Administration has set the precedent for fascism. He didn't just continue the Bush era police state; he expanded it and made it much worse. The fourth and fifth amendments have been obliterated under his administration; he not only extend the Patriot Act twice and left the PRISM program in place, he broadened it by allowing the NSA to share the private information of American citizens with federal law enforcement if they come across evidence of a crime, giving way to the use of parallel construction in prosecutions. It was also not too long ago that he signed the amendments to Rule 41, allowing judges to issue search warrants for computers outside of their jurisdiction. It was under his administration that the subpoena power of FBI field offices were expanded to include email data and browsing history and the Cybersecurity Internet Surveillance Act was passed, eliminating liability for tech companies that share Americans' data with the DHS and requiring the DHS to, in turn, share this data with the NSA, DOD, and Director of National Intelligence. Lets not forget that it was this administration that signed indefinite detention into law through a provision in the 2011 NDAA. The same administration assassinated four American citizens, through drone strikes, without a jury trial, around the same time. Now that the dictatorial powers to indefinitely detain American citizens accused of abetting terrorism, without a criminal trial, and executing them via drone strikes has been handed over to Trump, I am sure the left will start paying attention to the exponentially growing executive powers. Under his administration, civil asset forfeiture revenue ballooned from 1.5B in 2008 to a peak of 4.5B in 2014, exceeding the aggregate value of property stolen by common thieves (3.9B). The same administration brokered more weapons sales than any other since World War II, and lifted the arms embargo on the totalitarian socialist regime of Vietnam. On his watch, local and state police received more surplus military weapons than under previous administrations, and non-military federal spending on guns and ammunition jumped from 55M in 2006 to 112M in 2011. Even administrative agencies such as the FDA,  the EPA, the United States Mint, and the VA bought 335M in military gear and weapons. The EPA, for instance spent 3.1M on guns and ammunition from 2006 to 2014.

Obama's Imperialism 

The Obama admin destabilized three near east countries through three illegal wars, conducted without congressional authorization, in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Libya has been turned into a wasteland overrun by warlords and Salafists; Yemen has been bombed into oblivion and starved by the Washington backed Saudi coalition, and Syria might have shared the same fate as Libya were it not for 'Russian aggression.' You would think that out of anyone, a noble prize winner would be repulsed by the usual excuses of collateral damage and cheap appeals to expediency, which is best exemplified by his arming of 'moderate rebels' i.e. Salafi terrorists who invaded Syria from the surrounding Gulf states and coopted the early protests.

Authoritarian domestic policies tend to be correlates of perpetual warfare either at home or abroad; historically, there is a high degree of comorbidity between the two. At present the Obama admin has deployed special forces in four different countries (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq) and is conducting the CIA drone program, that has killed hundreds of civilians during Obama's tenure, in seven different countries. It is no wonder that he has ramped up the war on terror propaganda and ramped down our constitutional rights.

Side Note: A popular misconception is that Obama ended the war in Iraq, which is false on two grounds: the agreement with the Iraqi parliament to withdraw all troops by 2011 was negotiated under the Bush admin and there are at present still a couple hundred special forces in Iraq.

The Trans Pacific Partnership 

The so called 'free trade' agreement that Obama tried to push through congress, but failed, would have had the same effect as his foreign policy, which is the consolidation of corporate power on a global scale (i.e. globalism). Had Obama been successful in this endeavor, the Trans Pacific Partnership would have dealt a single death blow to our national sovereignty. Even though it died with Clinton's loss, it still had a significant impact on our laws; the Country of Origins Labeling Act was repealed, the DARK Act was signed into law, and the executive office was given fast track authority on future trade agreements.

Final Note

I do not believe that the election of Trump has saved our republic, but it has, for the time being, slowed the political momentum towards despotism by sowing discord between the press and the executive office. Perhaps a hostile press will unwittingly bring the Obama administration's abuses to light when Trump inevitably capitalizes on them for his own agenda.