The Inevitability of Impeachment

SUBHEAD: Trump’s impeachment will happen. The only question is how grave a catastrophe America faces first.

By Robert Kuttner on 29 January 2017 for Huffington Post -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-inevitability-of-impeachment_us_588e8d52e4b0b065cbbcd09f)


Image above: A caricature of Donald Trump. From (http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2016/11/08/175721/).

Trump has been trying to govern by impulse, on whim, for personal retribution, for profit, by decree ― as if he had been elected dictator. It doesn’t work, and the wheels are coming off the bus. After a week!

Impeachment is gaining ground because it is the only way to get him out, and because Republicans are already deserting this president in droves, and because the man is psychiatrically incapable of checking whether something is legal before he does it.

Impeachment is gaining ground because it’s so horribly clear that Trump is unfit for office. The grownups around Trump, even the most slavishly loyal ones, spend half their time trying to rein him in, but it can’t be done.

They spend the other half fielding frantic calls from Republican chieftains, business elites and foreign leaders. Trump did what? Poor Reince Priebus has finally attained the pinnacle of power, and it can’t be fun.

It is one thing to live in your own reality when you are a candidate and it’s just words. You can fool enough of the people enough of the time maybe even to get elected. But when you try to govern that way, there is a reality to reality—and reality pushes back.

One by one, Trump has decreed impulsive orders, un-vetted by legal, policy, or political staff, much less by serious planning. Almost immediately he is forced to walk them back by a combination of political and legal pressure—and by reality.

Unlike in the various dictatorships Trump admires, the complex skein of constitutional legal and political checks on tyranny in the United States are holding—just barely at times, but they are holding. And the more reckless Trump’s behavior, the stronger become the checks.

Only with his lunatic effort to selectively ban refugees (but not from terrorist-sending countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt where Trump has business interests) has Trump discovered that the American system has courts. It has courts. Imagine that.

The more unhinged he becomes, the less will conservative judges be the toadies to ordinary Republican policies that they too often have been. Anybody want to wager that the Supreme Court will be Trump’s whore?

In the past week, Republicans from Mitch McConnell on down have tripped over each other rejecting his view of Putin. They have ridiculed his screwball claim of massive voter fraud.

They are running for cover on how to kill ObamaCare without killing patients or Republican re-election hopes. This is actually complicated, and nuance is not Trump’s strong suit. Rep Tom McClintock of California spoke for many when he warned:
“We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created” with repeal, said Rep. Tom McClintock. (R-Calif.)

“That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, mocking Trump’s own nutty tweeting habits, sent out a tweet calling a trade war with Mexico “mucho sad.”

Trump’s own senior staff has had to pull him back from his ludicrous crusade against Mexico and Mexicans, where Trump forces the Mexican president to cancel an official visit one day, and spends an hour on the phone kissing up the next day.

Trump proposed to reinstate torture, but key Republican leaders killed that idea. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate’s third ranking Republican said Wednesday that the ban on torture was settled law and the Republicans in Congress would oppose any reinstatement. Trump’s own defense secretary holds the same view. After blustering out his new torture policy, Trump meekly agreed to defer to his defense advisers.

All this in just a week! Now capped by federal judges starting to rein him in.

Two weeks ago, in this space, just based on what we witnessed during the transition, I wrote a piece calling for a citizens impeachment panel, as a shadow House Judiciary Committee, to assemble a dossier for a Trump impeachment, and a citizens’ campaign to create a public impeachment movement.

In the two weeks since then, Free Speech for People has launched a citizens’ campaign to impeach Trump. About 400,000 people have already signed the impeachment petition.

The bipartisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, (CREW) has been conducting a detailed investigation. Senior legal scholars associated with CREW have filed a detailed legal brief in their lawsuit, documenting the several ways Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits a president from profiting from the actions of foreign governments.

There are already plenty of other grounds for impeachment, including Trump’s putting his own business interests ahead of the country’s and his weird and opportunistic alliance with Vladimir Putin bordering on treason.

A lesser-known law that goes beyond the Emoluments Clause is the STOCK Act of 2012, which explicitly prohibits the president and other officials from profiting from non-public knowledge.

Impeachment, of course, is a political as well as a legal process. The Founders designed it that way deliberately. But after just a week in office, not only has Trump been deserting the Constitution; his partisan allies are deserting him.

Despite his creepy weirdness, Republicans at first thought they could use Trump for Republican ends. But from his embrace of Putin to his sponsorship of a general trade war, this is no Republican. One can only imagine the alarm and horror being expressed by Republicans privately.

In 1984, the psychiatrist Otto Kernberg described a sickness known as Malignant Narcissism. Unlike ordinary narcissism, malignant narcissism was a severe pathology.

It was characterized by an absence of conscience, a pathological grandiosity and quest for power, and a sadistic joy in cruelty.

Given the sheer danger to the Republic as well as to the Republicans, Trump’s impeachment will happen. The only question is how grave a catastrophe America faces first.

• Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His latest book is Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.

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California threat to cutoff $ to DC

SUBHEAD: State studying suspending money to Washington after Trump threatens sanctuary cities.

By Tyler Durden on 31 January 2017 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-28/california-threatens-cut-funds-washington)


Image above: Map of USA showing net donor states to federal revenue versus subsidized states. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note:  Map at bottom of article show the final Electoral College count. It is interesting to me that the Trump support came largely from states that are net receivers of federal tax dollars and the the states that went for Clinton are large net donor state to federal coffers. The "Clinton" states actually support the "Trump" states. Somewhere in there is a strategy for the future.]


With secession threats looming, the state of California is reportedly studying ways to suspend financial transfers to Washington after the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities.

With California counties among the Top 10 who stand to lose tax-payer funding for providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants...


Image abovce: Chart of funds at risk in sanctuary cities. From original article.


KPIX5 reports that officials are looking for money that flows through Sacramento to the federal government that could be used to offset the potential loss of billions of dollars’ worth of federal funds if President Trump makes good on his threat to punish cities and states that don’t cooperate with federal agents’ requests to turn over undocumented immigrants, a senior government source in Sacramento said.

The federal funds pay for a variety of state and local programs from law enforcement to homeless shelters.
“California could very well become an organized non-payer,” said Willie Brown, Jr, a former speaker of the state Assembly in an interview recorded Friday for KPIX 5’s Sunday morning news.

“They could recommend non-compliance with the federal tax code.”
California is among a handful of so-called “donor states,” which pay more in taxes to the federal Treasury than they receive in government funding.


Image above: Map of USA showing final Electoral College results. From (http://www.businessinsider.com/final-electoral-college-map-trump-clinton-2016-11)


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World Is preparing for War

SUBHEAD: Mikhail Gorbachev says wars must be outlawed, because it cannot resolve any of the global problems we are facing.

By Andrea Germanos on 27 January 2017 for COmmon Dreams -
(http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/01/27/mikhail-gorbachev-appears-world-preparing-war)


Image above: And it won't be merely a trade war if current trends go off the rails. From (http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/25/trade-war-between-china-and-the-us-is-a-lose-lose--state-media.html).

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that it appears "as if the world is preparing for war."

'Wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war,' writes former Soviet leader.

Writing in an op-ed published Thursday at TIME magazine, Gorbachev, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War, writes that the most pressing problem facing the world is "the militarization of politics and the new arms race."

State budgets, he continues, claim austerity to sacrifice social spending, but easily back funding for weapons of war. At the same time, he writes of the buildup on Russia's borders: "NATO and Russian forces and weapons" are now in close proximity "as if to shoot point-blank." He continues:
Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.
While he and President Ronald Reagan agreed in 1985 "that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," now, "the nuclear threat once again seems real," with "advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex [...] rubbing their hands." And that, he declares, is absolutely the wrong direction to solve the world's ills. Instead, war of any kind must be abolished, he writes:
In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war—not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.
He called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution—which should be put forth by U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin—that restates that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. "

In 2014 Gorbachev warned that the world was "on the brink of a new Cold War"—a situation fueled in part by the U.S. being "tortured by triumphalism."

More recently, in 2016, he said, "The window to a nuclear weapon-free world…is being shut and sealed right before our eyes."

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used as a result either of accident or technical failure or of evil intent of man, an insane person or terrorist," Gorbachev said.

Trump, however, out of step with most of the world, used Twitter to call for an expanded U.S. nuclear arsenal—a fact that contributed to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this week moving its symbolic Doomsday Clock closer to midnight.

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Homeland Security goes rogue

SUBHEAD: Federal court order restricting Trump's ban on "Muslim" immigration being ignored by DHS.

By M. Hanrahan & P McCausland  on 29 January 2017 for NBC News -
(http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-immigration-ban-still-place-despite-court-ruling-says-dhs-n713696)


Image above: Protest in Seattle against Trump immigration ban. From original article.

Hours after a federal judge issued a stay on President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily restricting entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a senior White House adviser issued robust responses, emphasizing that the order remains in force.

In a statement issued in the early hours of Sunday, the Department said: "President Trump's Executive Orders remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety."

It added that the department will "continue to enforce all of President Trump's Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people."

In addition, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the White House, told the Associated Press that nothing in the judge's order "in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president's executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect."

The responses came just hours after federal Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York granted an emergency stay on parts of the order late Saturday. Her ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of two Iraqi refugees who had been detained at New York's John F. Kennedy airport.

The stay will prevent the government from deporting citizens from the affected countries that had already arrived in the U.S.The ACLU estimated that around 200 people would be affected by the ruling.

For travelers outside of the U.S. however, even those with valid visas, the ruling will not change the restrictions imposed on them by the order.

Who is affected by Trump's executive order?
  • Citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations - Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen will be prohibited from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
  • Green card holders from any of those countries currently outside of the U.S. will need to report to a local U.S. consulate for "extra vetting," and admitted or rejected on a case-by-case basis, according to administration officials.
  • Refugees seeking asylum in the U.S.: All refugees will be banned from entering the country for 120 days. Refugees from Syria will be banned indefinitely.
  • Anyone with U.S. citizenship will not be affected.
A DHS spokesperson on Saturday told the Associated Press that foreign-born U.S. residents who could have been barred from re-entering the United States under Trump's immigration order have been allowed back into the country.

The official said all green card holders from the seven countries who sought to enter the U.S. Saturday were granted special permission.

Not all aspiring immigrants have been so lucky, however. Since the order has been in force, stories have been emerging about families and individuals aiming to rejoin their loved ones being refused entry to the U.S.

While a dozen travelers were being held at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday after they arrived, many more across the world were told they would not be able to board connecting flights to their destination in the U.S.

Amir Rashidi, an Iranian immigrant who lives in Seattle, told NBC News that his mother — who had become an American citizen — sponsored his sister's family to come to the United States. They had all obtained green cards, a process that can take years.

All but one arrived safely in Seattle. Rashidi's niece, 27-year-old Mahsa Fazmali, was slated to arrive on Friday, but then Trump signed the executive order.

Fazmali flew without a problem from Tehran to Dubai, and she had even found her seat on her flight to the Emerald City.

"She was on the plane sitting on her seat," her uncle said.

But then her name was called over the PA system and she was ordered to deplane with her belongings. According to Rashidi, airport officials could not explain why her green card would not allow her to travel to the United States.

She and the other immigrants who were looking for answers only learned of the travel ban from a nearby television turned to the news. Fazmali then flew back to Tehran.

Related: Officials Say Visas Were Being Revoked Prior to Trump's Executive Order


By Tyler Durden on 29 January 2017 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-29/homeland-security-states-it-will-continue-enforce-trumps-travel-ban)

Following a tumultuous night, in which late on Saturday evening a Brooklyn Federal Judge issued a partial ban on Trump's immigration order, on Sunday morning the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying it planned on continuing to “enforce all of the president’s executive orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people.”

The DHS said the court order would not affect the overall implementation of the White House order and the court order affected a small number of travelers who were inconvenienced by security procedures upon their return, Fox News first reported.

“The president’s executive orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety,” the statement said.

However, the DHS also added it would "comply with judicial orders" not to deport detained travelers affected by President Donald Trump's order.

In a separate report from the NY Post, the ACLU was said to be getting “multiple reports” that federal customs agents are siding with President Trump — and willfully ignoring a Brooklyn federal judge’s demand that travelers from seven Muslim countries not be deported from the nation’s airports.

“The court’s order could not be clearer… they need to comply with the order,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights project, told The Post late Saturday. “It’s enough to be a serious concern,” Jadwat said of the reports.

Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the White House, said, "Nothing in the Brooklyn judge's order in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president's executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect."

As reported before, just before 9pm on Saturday, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from nations subject to President Donald Trump's travel ban, saying travelers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated.

The stay was ordered after lawyers for the ACLU filed a court petition on behalf of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations who were detained at airports across the country as the ban took effect.

Homeland Security said the order affects a small amount of people traveling internationally. The DHS said the order was the “first step towards reestablishing control over America's borders and national security.”

Prior to the ruling, Trump’s travel ban sparked protests around the country at several international airports. Demonstrators ranged from a few dozen people to thousands. Protests are scheduled to continue on Sunday at least seven cities: Orlando, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington and Chicago, mostly at airports.

Under Trump's order, it had appeared that an unknown number of foreign-born U.S. residents now traveling outside the U.S. could be stuck overseas for at least 90 days even though they held permanent residency "green cards" or other visas.  

However, an official with the DHS said Saturday night that no green-card holders from the seven countries cited in Trump's order had been prevented from entering the U.S. Trump also billed his sweeping executive order as a necessary step to stop "radical Islamic terrorists" from coming to the U.S.

It included a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program.

Early on Sunday, Trump in his first official statement since the Brooklyn Court ruling stayed his ground and tweeted that "our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!

The DHS said in the statement that they “will faithfully execute the immigration laws, and we will treat all of those we encounter humanely and with professionalism.” They also added that they plan to ensure the safety of the American people by making sure those entering the U.S. pose no threat.
The full DHS statement is below:
Department Of Homeland Security Response To Recent Litigation

The Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce all of President Trump’s Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people. President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety. President Trump’s Executive Order affects a minor portion of international travelers, and is a first step towards reestablishing control over America's borders and national security.

Approximately 80 million international travelers enter the United States every year. Yesterday, less than one percent of the more than 325,000 international air travelers who arrive every day were inconvenienced while enhanced security measures were implemented. These individuals went through enhanced security screenings and are being processed for entry to the United States, consistent with our immigration laws and judicial orders.

The Department of Homeland Security will faithfully execute the immigration laws, and we will treat all of those we encounter humanely and with professionalism. No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States. 

The Department of Homeland Security will comply with judicial orders; faithfully enforce our immigration laws, and implement President Trump’s Executive Orders to ensure that those entering the United States do not pose a threat to our country or the American people.

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Trump amps up war in Syria

SUBHEAD: President Trump orders military to prepare for escalating violence in Syrian conflict.

By Tom Ely on 28 January 2017 for Counter Currents -
(http://www.countercurrents.org/2017/01/28/trump-orders-military-to-prepare-for-war/)


Image above: US president Donald Trump, in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, signs an executive order on Friday witnessed by radical fundamentalist Christian Vice President Pense and war criminal Secretary of Defense retired General "Mad Dog" Mattis.  From (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-military-extreme-vetting-executive-actions/).

During a visit to the Pentagon on Friday, President Donald Trump issued an executive action calling for stepped up violence in Syria and a vast expansion of the US military, including its nuclear arsenal, to prepare for war with “near-peer competitors”—a reference to nuclear-armed China and Russia—and “regional challengers,” such as Iran.

“I’m signing an executive action to begin a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States,” Trump said during the signing of the document, entitled “Rebuilding the US Armed Forces.”

During the visit, his first to the Pentagon, Trump signed a second order, “Protecting the US from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” that freezes visa and immigration applications from predominantly Muslim countries.

The order threatens to block refugees from finding sanctuary, workers from taking jobs, students from attending school, and the unification of families (See, “White House to issue executive order on ‘safe zones’ in Syria, ban on Muslim immigrants and refugees”)

 The military order directs Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was sworn in at the ceremony, to complete a 30-day “readiness review” designed to prepare for the destruction of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, along with “other forms of Islamic terror.” Last week, Mattis was confirmed by the Senate in a 98-1 vote.

The order further instructs Mattis, in the words of the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the order prior to its formal release, “to examine how to carry out operations against unnamed ‘near-peer’ competitors, a group which US officials typically identify as China and Russia.”

And it commands the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget to develop a “military readiness emergency budget amendment” that would increase military spending in the current year and increase the budget for 2018 and thereafter—increases to be offset by cuts to social spending.

The Presidential Memorandum, only three pages in length, is the blueprint for world war.

The order unmistakably threatens the use of nuclear weapons. Section 3 calls for a nuclear force “to deter 21st century threats” and, menacingly, to “achieve Presidential objectives should deterrence fail.”

It further calls for a plan “to achieve readiness objectives” for the use of the nuclear arsenal “by 2022.”

This would include the “modernization” of the US nuclear force, a greatly expanded missile defense system, and increased emphasis on cyber warfare, which aims to cripple the retaliatory capacity of major adversaries by targeting their digital and telecommunication command structures prior to an American strike.

These actions follow on a move by the Obama administration to implement a $1 trillion upgrade in the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The executive action did not put a price tag on new military spending, but media speculation indicates that the figure could approach an additional $100 billion per year.

Trump’s military plans hew closely to a Heritage Foundation proposal that calls for the revamping of the nuclear force, the expansion of the Navy to 350 ships, the Air Force to 1,200 fighter and attack jets, the Marine Corps from 24 to 36 divisions, and the Army to more than a half a million soldiers.

The US currently spends approximately $600 billion on its military annually—excluding expenditures on the intelligence agencies and Veterans Administration— more than the next nine largest military spenders combined.

American “defense” spending accounts for, by itself, over one third of all global military spending, and it consumes the great majority of the federal discretionary budget.

Increases in military spending, coupled with Trump’s promises to drastically lower taxes on corporations and the rich, must inevitably be paid for by cuts to education, health care and infrastructure, and by plundering Social Security and Medicare.

In securing the presidency, Trump capitalized on popular hostility toward Hillary Clinton’s interventionist stance on Syria and her saber-rattling against Russia.

But his executive order’s demand for escalation in Syria increases the likelihood of war with both regional power Iran and nuclear-armed Russia.

Russia maintains its only significant foreign military base in Syria and has so far preserved the regime of Bashar al-Assad in a war for regime change orchestrated by the Obama administration.

Trump’s order for a plan to destroy ISIS and “radical Islam,” which he declared in his Inaugural Address he would “eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” will be drawn up by Mattis, responsible for numerous war crimes in the US occupation of Iraq, including the killing of untold thousands of civilians in the 2004 attack on Fallujah.

While the US now makes war on ISIS, it has funded and directed Al Qaeda affiliates in the regime change operations in Libya and Syria.

Yet in remarks made last summer, prior to his nomination to defense secretary, Mattis claimed that, in his view, ISIS was nothing more than a stalking horse for Iran to extend its influence throughout the Middle East. It is widely rumored that Mattis left command in the Obama administration because he favored a more bellicose approach toward Iran.

Even before Trump’s order became public, figures in and around the military speculated that Mattis would propose a dramatic escalation in Syria.

Scott Murray, a retired Air Force colonel involved with previous aerial bombardment of ISIS, told NPR that this could be done by lifting rules preventing the targeting of civilians.

“Commanders could … re-examine limits on the number of civilian casualties that the military risks when it hits ISIL targets,” NPR reported. “Known as the ‘non-combatant value,’ the rule restricts the number of civilians who can be put at risk in an airstrike.”

Officers who spoke with the US government’s overseas broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) complained of the Obama administration “micro-approving” actions in Syria. “Every single person had to be approved,” an unnamed Defense Department official said of a contingent of 203 Special Forces soldiers sent into Syria last year.

A high-ranking Army general, Lt. Gen. David Barno, told NPR’s Morning Edition that, in lieu of local proxies, far more US soldiers will be deployed into Syria. “I think President Trump might be looking for something with some quicker results and that could put some new options on the table,” Barno said. “He could elect to put American boots on the ground in larger numbers.”

Currently most of the 6,000 US military personnel in the region are concentrated in Iraq, where, joined by Iraqi forces, they are subjecting the city of Mosul to a massive attack. Trump’s order will likely lift the fiction that there are separate war theaters in the neighboring countries.

There was also speculation that the US could bolster the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). This would heighten tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as a proxy of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), against which it has waged a nearly four-decade counterinsurgency war to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdistan.

An escalation in Syria is also prefigured by Trump’s anti-immigrant executive order, which, with the express aim of blocking refugees from fleeing the crisis, envisages the creation of “safe zones” run by the US military—in blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.

Under the plan, Syria’s refugees would be placed in what would be, in all but name, US-administered camps, overseen by the US military.

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Ms Gabbard goes to Syria

SUBHEAD: After "secret trip", Gabbard derided as ‘Stooge,’ and praised as ‘Courageous’.

By Kristin Downey on 27 January 2017 for Civel Beat -
(http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/01/after-secret-trip-gabbard-derided-as-stooge-praised-as-courageous/)


Image above: Tulsi Gabbard explaining her journey this week to meet President Assad in Syria. From still frame from CNN video stream.

No stranger to the national stage, the Hawaii congresswoman is getting international attention after meeting with Syrian President Assad.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s secret fact-finding trip to Syria and Lebanon — and especially her meeting with a brutal dictator, Syrian President Bashar Assad — continues to garner attention here and abroad.

Gabbard, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees, has declined to share many details about the week-long visit to the war-torn nations, which has only added to the mystery and heightened the suspicions of people questioning her motives.

On Friday, her office said again that Gabbard would not discuss the trip.

In statements, Gabbard has characterized the trip as a peace-making effort aimed at trying to better understand the on-the-ground realities in the region, where horrific violence has caused millions of refugees to flee to Europe and the United States.

She said she was surprised by an invitation to meet with Assad, and acted on the opportunity, sharing no further details.

Anger And Praise Critics say that a meeting with a member of Congress enhanced Assad’s credibility and that it was na├»ve, or even treacherous, for her to go there.

Gabbard’s trip “raised alarms,” wrote The Guardian, a British news site. “Tulsi Gabbard’s Fascist Escorts to Syria,” was the headline on a piece by The Daily Beast. The Daily Kos called her a “stooge” for the Syrian president, who has killed thousands of dissidents, allegedly including by poison gas.

The secret trip angered some of her congressional colleagues, according to The Hill, a political news site.

Gabbard, a combat veteran who served in Iraq, has also been praised in some circles for making the trip. A group of Syrians posting on a website called Progressive Democrats of America called the visit “courageous.” A story about the trip on AntiWar.Blog attracted applause from people who oppose U.S. military intervention and high levels of military spending.

Gabbard, a Hindu of Samoan descent, has also been lauded by white supremacists David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and Richard B. Spencer. In a tweet, Spencer said Gabbard is “brave and the kind of person we need in the diplomatic corps.”

Syria, once a bastion of multiculturalism and religious tolerance, the home of picturesque and historic antiquities, has become a bloodbath since a civil war erupted in 2011 amid the uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

Assad’s regime is backed by Russia. His opponents, who are backed by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, include many Islamic militant groups. Some of the rebels who are viewed as more moderate have received American support.

Syrian government forces are also battling the Islamic State on Syrian soil.

Former President Barack Obama was a vocal opponent of Assad, and contemplated sending U.S. troops to Syria to help topple his regime. President Donald Trump has endorsed a more hands-off approach to military intervention in the Middle East.

His position on Syria is a work in progress, but there have been some suggestions in leaked documents that he plans to step up U.S. involvement there.

Gabbard has long opposed U.S. military intervention in Syria, saying that overthrowing Assad would allow Islamic militants to gain control of the country.

Center Of Attention — Again
This isn’t the first time the representative of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District has been a lightning rod.

She has been at odds with the Democratic Party establishment since she endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president instead of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gabbard resigned her position as vice-chair of the Democratic National Party to underscore her disapproval of what she said the party had done to undermine Sanders’ candidacy.

Gabbard went to Syria during the transition week, as Obama was departing office and Trump was being inaugurated. She said she could not reveal details of her travel plans for security reasons.

She did not inform Democratic Party officials she was going, and did not tell the Republican leaders of the Foreign Service or Armed Service committees. She said she did tell the Defense Department she was planning to make the trip, and got approval from the House Ethics Committee.

She said she did not inform Trump.

“The Trump administration was not aware or involved in the trip in any way, and the congresswoman has not been in touch with them since returning regarding this trip or anything else,” her office said in a statement.

Gabbard’s relationship with Trump has also raised eyebrows in Democratic circles. Shortly after he won the election, Gabbard visited him at his New York home in Trump Tower. She said she went to talk about her concerns about military intervention in Syria; some observers speculated she might be looking for a job in his administration.

Assad’s military alliance with Russia added to the controversy over Gabbard’s trip. Russia is widely believed to have intervened in the U.S. presidential election by hacking the email of the Democratic National Committee, exposing messages that put Clinton and her supporters in a bad light and undermined her candidacy.

Gabbard has said that the trip was sponsored by an organization called the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services, part of an organization known as ACCESS, which says on its website that it is a philanthropic group that assists Arab-Americans.

She said was accompanied by former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a progressive pacifist who ran for president in 2008.

Gabbard’s husband, Abraham Williams, also traved with her. He posted video of the trip on Gabbard’s facebook page, which has drawn 102,000 views, 2,640 shares and dozens of comments.

Most of them are complimentary, with some urging her to run for president in 2020.

.

Zuckerberg retreats some

SUBHEAD: Protesters Plotted "Border Wall" rally For at Zuckerberg's sprawling 100 million north shore Kauai property.

By Tyler Durden on 27 January 2017 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-27/zuckerberg-retreats-protesters-set-rally-border-wall-surrounding-his-hawaiian-estate)


Image above: During construction of the six foot high "Zuckerberg Zombie Wall" that blocked landscape and ocean view along a long stretch of main road that fronted Mark Zuckerberg's elitist retreat. It is as high as the County regulations permit. From (http://blogqpot.com/images/zuckerberg%20hawaii%20property%20wall).

Back in 2014 Mark Zuckerberg paid $100 million to purchase 700 acres of beachfront property on the North Shore of Kauai. The estate includes 1,000's of feet of pristine shoreline providing the perfect "safe space" for the 30-year-old Silicon Valley Billionaire and his family.

Unfortunately, there was just one little problem with the purchase...technically the sellers didn't own the title to all of that land due to the so-called Kuleana Act, a Hawaiian law established in 1850 that for the first time gave natives the right to own the land that they lived on.

So now, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the Facebook billionaire sued a few hundred Hawaiians who still have legal-ownership claims to parts of his vacation estate through their ancestors. Per Yahoo Finance:
Three holding companies controlled by Zuckerberg filed eight lawsuits in local court on December 30 against families who collectively inherited 14 parcels of land through the Kuleana Act, a Hawaiian law established in 1850 that for the first time gave natives the right to own the land that they lived on.

The 14 parcels total just 8.04 of the 700 acres Zuckerberg owns, but the law gives any direct family member of a parcel's original owner the right to enter the otherwise private compound.
And while Zuckerberg's lawyer attempted to downplay the lawsuits as a common practice in Hawaii, we suspect the idea of defending your private property rights against one of the top 10 richest people in the world is somewhat intimidating and slightly less than "normal."
The quiet-title suits filed are designed to identify all property owners and give them the ability to sell their ownership stakes at auction, according to Keoni Shultz, an attorney representing Zuckerberg.

Because the ownership stakes are passed down and divided among family descendants by the state, many people don't realize they have a claim until action is taken against them in court.

“It is common in Hawaii to have small parcels of land within the boundaries of a larger tract, and for the title to these smaller parcels to have become broken or clouded over time," Shultz told Business Insider in a statement. "In some cases, co-owners may not even be aware of their interests.

Quiet title actions are the standard and prescribed process to identify all potential co-owners, determine ownership, and ensure that, if there are other co-owners, each receives appropriate value for their ownership share.”

Of course, the pompous dismissal of property rights isn't the only thing riling up Hawaiian natives regarding Zuckerberg's estate. As The Garden Island pointed out, residents are also slightly less than ecstatic about a massive, 6 foot rock wall erected around the estate and blocking the "view that’s been available and appreciative by the community here for years."

“The feeling of it is really oppressive. It’s immense,” Hall said. “It’s really sad that somebody would come in, and buy a huge piece of land and the first thing they do is cut off this view that’s been available and appreciative by the community here for years.”

"It’s hot behind that wall. Because it’s up on a berm, there’s not a breath of air on this side from the ocean,” Chantara said. “You take a solid wall that’s 10 or more feet above the road level; the breeze can’t go through.”

Another Kilauea resident, Donna Mcmillen, calls the wall a “monstrosity.”

"I’m super unhappy about that. I know that land belongs to Zuckerberg. Money is no option for him. I’m 5’8” and when I’m walking, I see nothing but wall,” Mcmillen said. “It just doesn’t fit in with the natural beauty that we have here. There are people on the island who money can pay for anything. These kind of things that they do take away what Kauai is all about.”
Over the past couple of weeks, intense public backlash over the lawsuit and "immense, oppressive" wall has caused Zuckerberg to backtrack on his plans. Earlier today he published a note to residents in The Garden Island announcing his intentions to drop his litigation saying that "upon reflection, it's clear we made a mistake."
We've heard from many in the community and learned more about the cultural and historical significance of this land. Over the past week, we've spoken with community leaders and shared that our intention is to achieve an outcome that preserves the environment, respects local traditions, and is fair to those with kuleana lands.

To find a better path forward, we are dropping our quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach. We understand that for native Hawaiians, kuleana are sacred and the quiet title process can be difficult. We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.

Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead. Now that I understand the issues better, it's clear we made a mistake.

The right path is to sit down and discuss how to best move forward. We will continue to speak with community leaders that represent different groups, including native Hawaiians and environmentalists, to find the best path.

Beyond this process, we are also looking for more ways to support the community as neighbors. We have contributed to community organizations and will continue to do so. We work with wildlife experts to preserve endangered species. We hope to do much more in the future.

We love Kaua`i and we want to be good members of the community for the long term. Thank you for welcoming our family into your community.
But, a local farmer, Joe Hart says that Zuckerberg's retreat isn't sufficient and, as of now, vows that the mass protest planned for tomorrow will move forward as "people are furious down here with him."  Per McClatchey:
“People are furious down here with him,” Hart, a local farmer told Business Insider. “We just want to bring this issue to light. He’s made his money stealing everyone’s information, which we’ve let him do, but to come down here and start suing everyone, that’s not going to fly down here.”
Alas, in the end we're sure Zuckerberg will have his way.  After all, what fun is billions of dollars if you can't buy expansive swaths of entire states and trample on the private property rights of some little people?

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Zuckerberg sues Hawaiians 1/19/17


.

Missile launcher at Standing Rock

SUBHEAD: I woke up today to the news that the Avenger missile launchers are now out of sight.

By Ray Cook on 19 January 2017 for Truth Out -
(https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/opinions/mobile-avenger-missile-launcher-appears-standing-rock/)


Image above: At Standing Rock the US military has placed an Avenger missile platform (in black) and a supporting Humvee on a ridge aimed at the Sioux encampment.  From original article.

On Monday morning I was visiting a friend who is on the Standing Stone Camp security force. We were in my truck rolling around looking at things in and around the camp.

The night before I had been patrolling near the Turtle Island where the Morton County Sheriff deployed some of his soldiers. Bright lights, concertina wire was all in check. Nothing moved or changed. The scene had remained the same for weeks.

Nothing to see here, so I decided to cruise around near the Cannon Ball ice river and on fields well suited for pasture, no rocks or obstructions. l was charging around testing the limits of my 4-wheel
drive truck and its traction.

I plan on establishing a thruway on the river ice when I get back from D.C. Friday night. The weather out there was warming up; on the night in question, Sunday, it was a balmy 25 degrees. But, the ice remains at about 2 to 3 feet on top, more than enough to support vehicles.

On Monday, my friend and I finished our drive and ended up at the Backwater Bridge. By then half the blockade had been removed by North Dakota law enforcement.

We were talking as we were testing my new pair of Air Force military binoculars with enhanced night vision and range finder. Boo yeah. They work great. We could see the hinges on the outhouse the cops have on the hill due south-by-southeast.

We were talking and I spotted something different, something very different: An additional obstacle did I see. Darker than the desert dust-colored Humvees that have so far been commonplace.

I zeroed in on the new site and to my surprise, to my befuddlement, as clear as day there sat parked a modified Humvee. Modified how? Well, the Humvee was a platform for a Mobile Avenger Missile Launcher. We’re talking some pretty savvy laser-aimed, heat-seeking bad-to-the-bone weaponry, complete with night vision sensors and range finder and 50-caliber gun.

“What on god’s green earth is this exactly?” I exclaimed, in a voice near like to a scream.

Later, a veteran buddy looked it up to be sure, matched it up with our pictures, and based on his experience noted:
“My suspicion is that the Avenger Missile Systems deployed to Standing Rock are a cost-effective alternative to having an Apache Helo flying overhead when they need it.

The Avenger system has Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) Capabilities. The civilian plane and helicopter probably don’t have FLIR and that is when they need an Apache Helo to “monitor” situations under darkness and record for evaluation later. Instead of calling up the Apache, they can have Avengers on-site for instant intelligence day or night.

The Avenger system also has video capabilities. It costs them far less to have an Avenger system on the ground 24 hrs a day than to deploy an Apache Helo occasionally. The security ground forces have Night Vision but the Avenger has FLIR and a laser rangefinder along with video capabilities.

The FLIR will be at least a plate-sized round lense mounted on the weapon rail on the left side (driver side) if there is one. Just a suspicion. If I am correct, there should be more info to request in a FOIA. The sheriff’s Department can’t all have TS Sec clearances so if they brief them all using Avenger footage, it should be low hanging fruit that would be unclassified.”
I thought to myself, “Imagine that, a missile locking on a prayer. Ghandi would understand this image.”

Remember Barney Fife in the Andy Griffith show of the early 60s? Andy would allow Barney only one bullet for his revolver.

Well, someone on some government level (Homeland Security is my guess) gave these badged yokels not one but two Avengers, each housing 8 rounds of missiles. It would be only a matter of time before one of the Barney’s over there would come to work still buzzed from the Super Bowl festivities and while leaning over, to puke, say, accidentally put his hand up to balance himself on the FIRE button.

Or, worse, intentionally and meanly FIRE the thing.

By the way, the missile launchers were aimed at the Camp.

Wednesday afternoon, my colleagues and I had the chance to accept an invite by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to conduct an exit interview with her on all things Indian country. During the interview I took the chance to show her the pictures I had on my phone.

The expression on her face was one of horror. She maintained her composure quickly and simply said, “This looks like something out of Star Wars.” She was referring not just to the strange sight of the Avenger, but its grey brown surroundings. Frankly, it looks like death follows this launcher where-ever it goes. And, indeed it does.

I woke up today to the news that the Avenger missile launchers are now out of sight. The Daily Beast carried a statement from National Guard spokesperson William Prokopyk: “Its removal demonstrates our commitment to deescalating any tensions its presence may have caused.”

Apparently, according to this statement, my buddy’s initial reaction was correct.

The Guard insists the launcher’s role was “passive”—merely a warm place to observe the camp with high-tech vision equipment that they had quietly used for over a month in lieu of employee expensive Apache helicopters.

Oh, and they say the thing was not armed: “All munitions are strictly controlled by the United States Army.”

It appears the military has abandoned its number one rule: Don’t carry an empty gun to a fight. Doesn’t that make us all feel better?



Weaponized Law Enforcement

SUBHEAD:  They are bringing in law enforcement in full riot gear with batons and plastic masks from all over the country.

By Dahr Jamail on 24 January 2017 for Truth Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39243-missile-launchers-at-standing-rock-weaponized-law-in-action)

On Tuesday, January 24, President Donald Trump signed an order to move full steam ahead with the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The move was a blow to the thousands of people who successfully resisted the pipeline through an Indigenous-led movement in which many people put their bodies on the line, spending months at camps outside Standing Rock.

Trump's order will certainly lead to further resistance in the weeks and months to come.

As we anticipate further protest and look back on the monumental resistance of the past few months, it's important to recognize and acknowledge the draconian legal measures that have been taken by local, state, and even federal authorities at Standing Rock.

Even while most media attention has stayed away from the Water Protectors' camps, arrests have continued. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 16, three peaceful prayer walkers were arrested and charged with Trespass, Inciting Riot (felony), Preventing Arrest, Engaging in Riot (misdemeanor), and Criminal Mischief. The Morton County Sheriff's Department posted a video of these arrests.

Later that evening, another confrontation resulted in 11 arrests with several injuries reported, and at least one Water Protector being carted away in an ambulance. In the wake of this, several were charged with Trespass and Engaging in Riot.

January 18 saw 21 more arrests, most of which took place on the Backwater Bridge near the camp, during another peaceful demonstration. Charges included carrying a concealed weapon, criminal trespass, physical obstruction of a government function, and preventing arrest.

In the wake of these arrests, the Morton County Sheriff's Department released a statement saying that "field commanders authorized use of less-than-lethal munitions of direct impact sponge rounds, drag stabilizer bean bag rounds, hand deployed pepper spray canisters and smoke riot control CS canisters."

Sarah Hogarth, the Communications Coordinator for the Water Protector Legal Collective told Truthout of these arrests, "One of our local attorneys reported that the judges are considering holding people/increasing bond if they do not have a local North Dakota address and phone number."

Meanwhile, other harsh measures from law enforcement authorities include the deployment of an "Avenger missile launcher system" at camp, purportedly to observe Water Protectors, and on January 20 Morton County released a video attempting to explain why the police are wearing tactical gear.
Additionally, North Dakota Republican lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would protect drivers who "accidentally" hit and kill protesters.

The DAPL pipeline, a project of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), is slated to transport more than half a million barrels of fracked oil every day, and if ETP gets its way, will pass underneath the Missouri River a mere half mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's drinking water source. That means the pipeline would affect millions of people and at least 28 tribes.

Navajo attorney Stephanie Tsosie, who works for Earthjustice and represents the tribe at Standing Rock, has also expressed concerns about the desecration of tribal burial and sacred sites.

In September, Tsosie told Democracy Now!, "It is important to remember that this land is an area that these tribes have inhabited for time immemorial, and there are sacred sites around the entire area."

A Water Protector who was shot in the leg, face, and back of the leg by beanbags and harassed by law enforcement, a Navajo man named Marcus Mitchell, recently shared his testimony, saying, "One officer was leaning on my head … they yelled at me to stop resisting as I lay there motionless."

Mitchell was arrested and taken away in a police vehicle while a police officer pinned one of his arms behind him, making it difficult for him to breathe.

Amnesty International, which sent a team to Standing Rock to investigate human rights abuses, even stated that some of the treatment of those arrested violates the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment -- and that is not the only violation of international law that has occurred at Standing Rock.

Even the United Nations recently sent experts to Standing Rock in order to investigate human rights abuses by the pipeline company and its security henchmen.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated in its 2010 Fact Sheet on The Right To Water, "Access to safe drinking water by indigenous peoples is closely linked to their control over their ancestral lands, territories and resources. Lack of legal recognition or protection of these ancestral lands, territories or resources can, therefore, have far-reaching implications for their enjoyment of the right to water."

Meanwhile, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective, Acting Morton County States Attorney Ladd Erickson has threated Water Protectors "with bills for their court appointed attorneys and his scandalous misrepresentations of those on trial is designed to create local bias and poison the jury pool … before trial."

Ladd's efforts would mean that defendants would, whether innocent or guilty, be responsible for repaying the state for money paid to their court appointed lawyers, an action that "would only apply to Defendants charged with opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline."

"The rhetoric used by Prosecutor Erickson castigates the defendants and their attorneys for availing themselves of their most fundamental first amendment rights to speech, assembly, and meaningful protest, and to their sixth amendment right to a defense attorney in a criminal trial," the Water Protector Legal Collective wrote of Erickson's actions. "Moreover his unfounded accusations done maliciously and intentionally seek to and may have prevented them from getting an unbiased jury and a fair trial."

The Water Protector Legal Collective has even called for Mr. Erickson to step down as prosecutor, noting, "He is clearly acting more out of personal animosity than fairly representing the People of the State of North Dakota in this matter."

For nearly half a century, Jeffreyaas has been working as a criminal defense and civil rights attorney representing progressive movements and victims of police abuse. He was a founding partner of the People's Law Office in Chicago (1969-2003), was co-counsel in Hampton vs. Hanrahan, which exposed the police and FBI murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, and ran a successful campaign to expose Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge's legacy of torture. He is the author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther.

Haas is now a member of the Indigenous-led Water Protector Legal Collective. He recently spoke at length with Truthout about draconian legal measures being used against the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.

Truthout: From a legal perspective, what are some of the more extraordinary things you're seeing at Standing Rock?

Jeff Haas: There are almost 500 criminal cases pending right now. There is a history of over-charging people, and some of the judges there are saying the preliminary evidence does not support the felony charges.

There were several particular incidents that occurred on September 3rd. DAPL was bulldozing sites that the day before had been identified as historic sacred and grave sites of the Lakota Sioux.

Immediately following the archeologists' identification of these sites and their location in a court case, the very next day DAPL came out and bulldozed those sites. That was the day they [DAPL] had their own security guards there with dogs.

People were surprised this was going on, but it was just a few hundred yards from a peaceful demonstration … so the people went to the bulldozers to protest and they were attacked with dogs.

This was some of the footage on Democracy Now! Eleven people were bitten by dogs of the security guards. I witnessed this firsthand and interviewed some of the victims on site, who then had to be treated for open wounds on their arms, chest, and legs.

The DAPL security guards were actually siccing the dogs on people, and the dogs had blood in their mouths.

That was September 3. There were probably 300 people there who stopped the bulldozers. The only people charged that day were Amy Goodman, a journalist, and Cody Hall, an organizer of peaceful demonstrations and who had been recognized by law enforcement.

They were not arrested that day … they instead were charged with trespassing and the prosecutor asked that their charges be raised to riot, and the judge refused, so their cases were dismissed when they went to court. When Cody Hall got to the jail there were FBI personnel there seeking to interview him, probably in order to intimidate him since he was a spokesman.

The prosecutor has often accused the Water Protectors as appealing to social media and trying to get arrested and ignoring their claims of protecting their water and working to stop the "black snake" that is carrying the oil.

More than 200 nations have joined the Sioux nation, and there has been [the largest] coming together of Native nations … in at least 150 years, and they've set up three camps at Standing Rock.

It is a place where people are welcome, with a kitchen, clinic, a school, and cultural sensitivity training. There was an amazing spirit in the camp that swelled to as many as 10,000 over December 4 when more than 2,000 veterans joined the camp to oppose the attempt to shut it down.

What are the overall themes/strategies/tactics you see being used against the Water Protectors and their supporters?

Law enforcement response has escalated from a smaller presence to far larger. The dogs were those of the private security guards, and there's been a militarization of the law enforcement response. This means they are bringing in law enforcement in full riot gear with batons and plastic masks from all over the country.

More recently in their sweeps they've used sound cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas. On November 20, when it was freezing cold and people were on the bridge, they used water cannons. They are shooting projectiles that explode, that have injured a number of people. These explosive projectiles are thrown or shot into concentrated groups, along with a massive amount of tear gas.

Most recently, they've cordoned off the road between the camp and where the pipeline crosses the highway.

They won't even let people get to where they were protesting before, because the pipeline has proceeded right up to Lake Oahe, next to the river. DAPL now has an outpost near the river that looks something like a military Forward Operating Base in Iraq, with concertina wire, guards, spotlights, and armed guards.

A judge has said he won't open back up the protest area until the protestors leave and promise not to protest anymore. There has been a repression of free speech, and the sheriff, Kirscheimer, and the prosecutor, Erickson, have claimed the Water Protectors were violent, which is untrue, as it’s the law enforcement that have been violent.

The prosecution has attempted to vilify Protectors, saying they are dupes of radical lawyers, that they shouldn't be allowed free attorneys, and that they should have to pay the state back for the law enforcement costs for arresting them, which could easily be $1,000 a case for a misdemeanor.

With all these cases, the local bar association has been overwhelmed. Neither the local courts nor lawyers are prepared to handle this number of cases. We've asked the North Dakota Supreme Court to allow extra lawyers to come in and act without a local lawyer present, but they've thus far not allowed this.

Are you seeing any laws being broken by the authorities?

Authorities are saying they don’t have to produce the discovery the defendants are entitled to because there are so many drones being used by the Protectors and their supporters … but the defendants, under the constitution, are entitled to this.

We are seeing them overcharging people, where 120 people were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment for using fire, even though they set some hay bales on a road on fire as a symbolic act to stop the onslaught of law enforcement, and it was well away from the main demonstration. All those felony cases by fire were dismissed.

In many cases people have applied for lawyers and been turned down because they didn't fill the forms out the right way.

On October 22, hundreds of people were walking across a field to find out where the construction was going on. They were met by a phalanx of law enforcement in full riot gear, there was no warning, and they were told they were under arrest for trespassing and if they fled they'd be charged with fleeing. Trespass requires a sign or notice to be given, and none of that was done.

On November 20th, a DAPL worker was approaching protesters in a vehicle from the rear in a truck, driving fast and carrying a gun. Some of the security people with the Water Protectors stopped him, took his gun, and none of them were armed, and turned him over to the Indian police.

Later on the three people who helped disarm him and turned him over to the local authorities were charged. One of them was charged with terrorizing this person, [but] this person [who was] charged was unarmed and got the guy to put his gun down.

So the guy who had the gun was let go, yet the authorities ended up prosecuting these other guys who peacefully disarmed him and handed him over to the authorities. Then it turns out that the guy with the gun was a DAPL worker.

So this case shows collusion between law enforcement and the pipeline, as they were sharing information, and law enforcement was clearly doing the bidding of DAPL. If DAPL needed the pathway cleared, then law enforcement would show up and do that.

Law enforcement was much less concerned with the constitutional rights of the citizens and more concerned with DAPL getting their pipeline constructed.

How is the legal counterattack against the Water Protectors extending outside of North Dakota state lines?

We are discovering there is a grand jury going on. One of the Water Protectors was hit by a projectile in the arm and shoulder and has lost functioning of her arm.

It looked like it was going to be amputated, but so far it remains attached, but still has 10 more operations to keep it functioning. She was airlifted to a hospital in Minneapolis, but they have a grand jury going to show it was the Protectors or she herself who blew herself up that caused the injury, despite eyewitnesses having reported seeing her hit by both rubber bullets and an exploding projectile.

Department of Homeland Security went to the hospital where she was and took her clothing and got the fragments removed by surgery from her shoulder, and they are trying to build a case and say the fragments match petrol or some kind of igniting canisters that they say came from the Protectors.

We are finding criminal investigation departments of various state police departments that are following up with people who have been arrested, questioning them about why they went to Standing Rock, and asking them about other cases of people who went there. This happened in Indiana, when a plain-clothes cop with the Indiana State Criminal Police Intelligence showed up at an activist's house to question them.

Given your law experience in the late 1960s and early 1970s … how does what you are seeing at Standing Rock compare?

The tactics of the dogs reminded me of Birmingham, Alabama, where the dogs used there were let loose on civil rights marchers. As do the water cannons that were used in Alabama against the kids. We've not seen these tactics used in a long time.

At the same time it's a much more sophisticated surveillance methodology. In camp anytime you look up there are drones, planes, helicopters, and chemicals being sprayed on people at night that left folks with chronic respiratory symptoms. Very strange thing, and we don't know what those chemicals might have been.

They want you to be aware of their ongoing surveillance, which is ever-present.

In response, some of the people in camp had drones, which is legal as long as they are registered, in order to watch law enforcement and the pipeline. But in one case a guy's drone was following the police, and they knocked down his drone and charged him with stalking, and that is now a pending case.

Another situation when they were going to clear the roadway, the FAA declared it a no-fly zone, so water protectors couldn’t fly their drones, so there is that coordination going on between DAPL and the feds on a federal level as well.

There is a pact of sheriffs from states all over, so various sheriffs, under this pact, are sending their police there to arrest water protectors.

And now there is a lawsuit that many local landowners are suing DAPL for defrauding them to sell easement rights for too cheap, or under false information. A number of families were intimidated [in]to selling their easements under eminent domain, or offering bonuses that were never delivered, etc. … That's what the suit alleges, and that was filed in federal court.

The attitude of the courts up there is really something else. For example, the pipeline filed a "slap suit" to stop the protesting, and the judge granted them a TRO without the other side given an opportunity to respond.

The disdain some of the courts have shown the Water Protectors has been clear. They see them as outsiders, and [are] not giving them credit for protecting their water and sacred sites, and are not recognizing the legitimate claims of the tribes.

Under the Treaty of Laramie in 1871, the land the water protectors are on was given to the Sioux. So the US never took it back from them, so even though it's not technically reservation land, it belongs to the Sioux, and that's where this is all happening.

One of the most egregious and racist things about this is the pipeline was proposed to go through Bismark, but since there was so much objection as it threatened their water, as Bismark is 98 percent white, they moved it to just upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation. So the pipeline is only there because the white people didn't want it on their land.

What are your concerns with the Trump administration as to how much worse this could become, particularly after his recent executive order? 

Trump has been an investor in the pipeline. He says he's decreased his investment, which I question. He's made the construction of pipelines and general fossil fuel development a large part of his program.

I think he'll make Standing Rock a target.

Instead of the Army Corps of Engineers having a new EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] done, as it is calling for, he'll erase that, and tell the pipeline if they drill under the lake they won't be prosecuted anyway.

I fear that law enforcement will feel they have a free hand to use excessive, and possibly lethal, force on the Water Protectors.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Rock has changes us 12/9/16
Ea O Ka Aina: As Standing Rock celebrates... 12/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Army Corps denies easement 12/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: My Whole Heart is With You 12/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Loving Containment of Courage 12/1/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Beginning is Near 12/1/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Feds to shutdown NoDAPL Camp 11/25/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL people are going to die 11/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Hundreds of vets to join NoDAPL 11/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama must support Standing Rock 11/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump's pro oil stance vs NoDaPL 11/15/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai NoDAPL Demonstration 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama to Betray Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump impact on Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Ann Wright on Standing Rock 11/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Turning Point at Standing Rock 11/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jackson Browne vs DAPL owner 11/5/16
Democracy Now: Boycott of DAPL Owner's Music Festival
Ea O Ka Aina: World responds to NoDAPL protests 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL victory that was missed 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: DAPL hid discovery of Sioux artifacts 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Dakota Access Pipeline will leak 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sanders calls for stopping DAPL 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama hints at DAPL rerouting 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: New military attack on NODAPL 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How to Support NoDAPL 11/3/16
Unicorn Riot: Tweets from NoDAPL 11/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Rock & the Ballot Box 10/31/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL reclaim new frontline 10/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How far will North Dakota go? 10/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodman "riot" charge dropped 10/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodwin to face "Riot Charge" 10/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Shutdown of all tar sand pipelines 10/11/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why Standing Rock is test for Oabama 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why we are Singing for Water 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Labor's Dakota Access Pipeline Crisis 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Firm for Standing Rock 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Contact bankers behind DAPL 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL demo at Enbridge Inc 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Militarized Police raid NoDAPL 9/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop funding of Dakota Access Pipeline 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: UN experts to US, "Stop DAPL Now!" 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: No DAPL solidarity grows 9/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16
 



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Trump versus the Media

SUBHEAD: The crack-up of the U.S. global industrial, financial system has reached a new stage. 

By Richard Heinberg on 27 January 2017 for Post Carbon Institute -
(http://www.postcarbon.org/trump-versus-the-media-this-could-end-badly/)


Image above: Entrance of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. Photo by Diego Grandi. From original article.

The first week of the Trump presidency has seen an extraordinary and unprecedented confrontation between, on one hand, the new leader and his spokespeople, and on the other, mainstream American media outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN.

On Saturday January 21st, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer made an issue of the size of the previous day’s inauguration crowd, insisting that it was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

When the New York Times called this a “false claim” and other news organizations showed photos clearly demonstrating the bigger turnout for Obama’s inauguration in 2009, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded that the Trump administration was merely adhering to “alternative facts.”

Then, only a couple of days later, the new president insisted that massive voter fraud was responsible for the popular vote victory of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Again, press secretary Spicer backed him up, and again the press called the claim (for which no evidence has been produced) a “lie” and a “falsehood”—terms that news outlets named above are not in the habit of using to describe statements issuing from the government’s executive branch.

How will this tug of war play out? Don’t expect Donald Trump to back down; it’s not in his character. After all, he still hasn’t apologized for spending years promoting the “birther” fallacy, which held that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and was therefore legally unqualified to be president—even though Trump later quietly acknowledged that Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is genuine.

Rather than saying he’s sorry, Trump is far more likely to double down on his claims, counterclaims, denials, and accusations—as he is doing by insisting that all the women accusing him of sexual assault are lying. And he can draw some justification for his antagonistic feelings toward the press: he’s not alone in objecting to its unquestioning embrace of allegations of major Russian hacking in the election.

For their part, the media are hardening their own position. By focusing so much attention on symbolic issues about which the administration is clearly dissembling, they effectively shunt to the second page actual policy changes that will have major impact on the direction of the country. (Thom Hartmann argues that the media have “a higher commitment to sensationalism than to issues that impact everyday Americans.”)

So, again, how will this shooting match end? Here are two of the more easily identifiable possibilities.

First, the Trump administration will be tamed (which is highly unlikely) or discredited. As a result of media standing up to blatant falsehoods, all “serious people” will simply stop taking the administration seriously.

The president will become an object of derision among an increasing share of the general public.

Only a dwindling core of loyalists will soldier on as the Trump White House’s messaging hurls the Republican brand toward disaster.

At some point the adults in the room will find a convenient way to remove Trump from office. Already, according to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, “I am hearing from Republicans, and other reporters are as well, that there is open discussion by members of the President of the United States’ own party about his emotional maturity, stability…”

In the second possible end game, the president will find an excuse to proclaim emergency powers, then effectively shut down the mainstream media (this could mean putting them out of business or merely forcing them to toe the line).

Press censorship is standard operating procedure in authoritarian regimes, and plenty of current (China, North Korea, Vietnam, Russia) or historic (Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Japan) examples could be cited.

One bellwether of the concern that people have about this possibility is the factoid that George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984—in which the fictional-future Ministry of Truth goes about its bureaucratic business of manufacturing a daily litany of falsehoods—now sits atop the Amazon best-seller list [link].

If this is the way things go, the media could be seen as playing into Trump’s hands, as they reveal which outlets, and which reporters, are friendly and malleable, and which should be the first to shut down when the appropriate time comes.

On the other hand, a suitably severe crisis might lead the media simply to censor themselves, as largely happened in post-9/11 America.

The managers at the New York Times and CNN are no doubt keenly aware of these possibilities, but their strategic options are constrained (partly by their own inside-the-box worldviews, and partly by their for-profit business models and their deep but mostly secret ties to the U.S. intelligence establishment).

Think of the Trump team, then, as a presidency in search of an emergency. Without a suitable crisis, prospects are fairly bleak. But given a financial meltdown, an epic natural disaster, a war, or a spectacular terrorist attack, opportunities open up.

One way or another, we’re in for a big show—one that’s impossible to turn away from.

And sadly, the distraction of having to practically deal with, and mentally process, the events of the coming weeks, months, and years is inevitably going to draw energy and attention away from the long-term work of building alternatives to the industrial growth economy that seemed to work so well in the twentieth century, but is failing increasingly in the twenty-first. (Its failure, in my view, was a major contributing factor to Trump’s victory.)

Right now, many elites in the media, in politics, and even in the financial world are pining for the more stable business-as-usual of a Barack Obama or even a George W. Bush (never mind that nasty hiccup of a financial crash back in 2008). But that’s as much a denial of reality as Donald Trump’s crowd estimates or voter fraud claims.

The crack-up of the U.S.-dominated global industrial-political-financial system has proceeded to a new stage (Donald Trump is symptom and proof of that), and there is no going back.

What might be implied by “the way forward” in this context may be scary to contemplate.

Unfortunately, much of that trajectory may be out of the hands of ordinary people: giant forces are at play, including political parties, intelligence agencies, national governments, major media outlets, financial conglomerates, and more.

Most of the population will stand back and watch, petrified or thrilled but nevertheless transfixed.
Many will protest and resist.

Hopefully some who have managed to attain a big-picture understanding of the inevitable overall trajectory of the human project in this century (i.e., the end of growth and the need for resilient alternative economic arrangements) will continue the important work of building local cooperatives, of finding ways to meet human needs with less energy and material resources, and of wrapping the results in satisfying and inviting cultural experiences.

In the long run, that’s the only work that will get us through the mess that lies ahead.


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