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Scalia's Supreme Clowning

Making a Joke of the Supreme Court
by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

Sometimes you really don’t need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.
Scalia just weighed in on the CIA torture issue in an interview for a Swiss broadcast network, saying that he didn’t think there was anything in the US Constitution that would prohibit torture under all circumstances, and positing a situation — a suspect with knowledge about a hidden nuke to be detonated in Los Angeles — that he suggested would make torture an acceptable tactic.
First of all, if Scalia can say “I don’t know what article of the Constitution” would “contravene” harsh treatment of suspected terrorists, he is either terminally ignorant, or has figured out some talmudic-like gymnastic reasoning to allow him to argue that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment doesn’t apply to torture.

Perhaps he thinks that punishment can only refer to what is meted out to a person after conviction, but as he surely knows, for literally centuries the court has been clear that the treatment of suspects is also covered by that ban.

The CBC Nato Nexus

NATO's General Breedlove about the long war
by Jim Miles - Palestine Chronicle
Evan Solomon, of CBC’s The House, recently had an interview with NATO’s current leading figure, four star General Philip Mark Breedlove, the seventeenth Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
It was a fairly benign interview with no hard questions posed to the most powerful person in Europe.

Unimpressed with Solomon's biased
leading language and intent. 

The answers were much more rational than someone from the Republican right domestically may have provided, but they demonstrate the understandable bias of the ‘western’ views vis a vis NATO, ISIS, and Russia/Ukraine.

Breedlove does not come across as someone who is itching for a fight with Russia, nor for the aerial bombing of Syria, perhaps cognizant of his audience which may not be quite as patriotically or geopolitically committed to having NATO contain and dismantle Russia and Syria.

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The Coming War for Kaliningrad

Is Kaliningrad NATO’s Real Target?
by Diana Johnstone - CounterPunch
Rick Rozoff’s vitally informative site, Stop NATO, just forwarded a Stars and Stripes report on “NATO’s largest training exercise since the end of the Cold War”.

The forces that took part in the exercise, called “Trident Lance”, mostly came from the Joint Multinational Training Center in Grafenwöhr, Germany. Command elements from Poland, Greece and Turkey also took part, while U.S. Army in Europe provided a hefty logistical contribution, the Army newspaper said.

NATO land forces commander Lt. Gen. John Nicholson said that the exercise showed that NATO’s Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) has finally reached full operational capacity.

Ready to go!

To go where?

“One aim of the exercise, Trident Lance, was to test how well a fully operational LANDCOM — which is charged with improving the effectiveness and reaction time of the alliance’s land forces — could respond to an international crisis. In this case, the scenario dealt with the hypothetical invasion of NATO member Estonia,” Stars and Stripes reported.

How Obama's Pledge to Ban Nukes Fueled Their Renewal

The Abolition of Abolition: How the President Who Pledged to Banish Nuclear Weapons Is Enabling Their Renewal
by James Carroll  - TomDispatch
Mark these days. A long-dreaded transformation from hope to doom is taking place as the United States of America ushers the world onto the no-turning-back road of nuclear perdition.
Once, we could believe there was another way to go. Indeed, we were invited to take that path by the man who is, even today, overseeing the blocking of it, probably forever.

It was one of the most stirring speeches an American president had ever given. The place was Prague; the year was 2009; the president was the recently sworn in Barack Obama.

The promise made that day is worth recalling at length, especially since, by now, it is largely forgotten:
“As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act... So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now, we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can...’”

Getting to the Heart of the COP 20 Matter

At the Heart of COP20: Loss and Damage
by Bianca Jagger - Human Rights Foundation
I am writing from Lima, Peru, where the 20th Conference of Parties (COP) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was supposed to be coming to a close.

There has been wrangling all night, the closing plenary of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) has finished without a concrete result.
The COP President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal was meeting with countries and country blocs to see if agreement can be reached before decision-makers return home.

Bianca Jagger at COP20, at the
Ministry of Defence, Lima Peru

The name of the outcome document that will result at Lima has been discussed. In the past we have had the Kyoto Protocol, the Copenhagen Accord, the Cancun Agreement, the Durban Platform and the Warsaw Framework. The name 'Lima Action Platform is being suggested, or LAP.' 'LAP' may end up standing for 'Lack of Action and Progress.'

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Canada's (Nearly) Forgotten Complicity in the US Torture Program

The Villains Who Torture and Their Canadian Friends
by John McNamer - Media with Conscience

The information about "brutal" CIA torture programs just "revealed" by a U.S. Senate committee has been widely known and well documented over much of the past decade and this information has been provided many times to responsible Canadian officials, who chose to ignore.

These responsible officials include the Governor General/Commander-in-Chief; Attorney General/Justice Minister; Prime Minister, and opposition party leaders; Minister of Defence; Minister of Foreign Affairs; Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Privy Council; Military Police Complaints Commission; Provost Marshall; Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

All have remained silent, failing to exercise their various unique legal responsibilities under terms of the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, and related Canadian law. In large part due to this dark blanket of repressed denial which somehow covers all of Ottawa -- and by extension the rest of Canada -- Canadians will likely not be hearing much about the CIA torture report, even though it is a blockbuster worldwide story with large legal implications for many governments and individuals.

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A Propaganda War over Crimea

The Propaganda War over Crimea's Break from Ukraine
by Roger Annis - New Cold War
(first published on Truthout, Dec. 10, 2014 )
In the propaganda campaign being waged by the NATO countries and the government of Ukraine against Russia and in support of Kiev’s war in the east of the country, the events in Crimea of the past nine months occupy a pivotal place.
The secession from Ukraine that followed the March 16 referendum vote in Crimea is the number one pretext to justify the war as well as NATO’s rising aggression in Eastern Europe.
NATO began an eastward expansion 25 years ago at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has incorporated 11 new member countries (including eastern Germany) – 13 if Croatia and Albania are counted.
NATO might be upsetting the entire military and political balance of Europe by continuing to push eastward today in Ukraine, but the drumbeat of Western government and media propaganda claims the heightened tensions of this past year are all Russia’s fault. Russia’s supposed annexation of Crimea in March is the example par excellence that a new “Russian aggression,” harkening back to Soviet Union times, is afoot. It must be stopped at all costs before Ukraine falls, too.
In this made-up world, Kiev’s murderous, illegal war against its own population disappears.

Watching Barrett Brown: Delayed Sentencing Hearing Scheduled Next Week

In advance of sentencing, government blocks the public's right to know
Ahead of the sentencing of Barrett Brown, which is due to happen next Tuesday, December 16th, the government is opposing the public's right to know about a case with extraordinary implications for the public and for the practice of journalists.
On November 19th, Brown's defense attorneys filed their final sentencing memorandum, which is a thorough legal argument in favor of time served for the defendant, including many letters submitted by friends, family and supporters on his behalf.

Because the government's pleadings arguing for a 8 ½ year sentence were made under seal, the defense's filing in response was also sealed, like much of the case.

Arbitrary and inexplicable secrecy, including protective orders and gag orders have abounded in USA v. Barrett Lancaster Brown from the very start.

Undermining China's Mineral Ambitions in the South China Sea

From “Assuring Freedom of Navigation” to “Drill, Baby, Drill” in the SCS
by Peter Lee - China Matters
As I predicted a while back, the United States has quietly ditched its old, underperforming pretext for confrontation in the South China Sea and is sidestepping into a new justification.

I do not care deeply about America’s stake in the South China Sea. So I have little interest in slogging through recent US & PRC contributions to the controversy du jour: the viability or lack thereof of the notorious nine dash line or 9DL under international law. The only people who should give a sh*t about the South China Sea are the Chinese.
Much of the PRC’s trade and Middle East energy pass through the SCS; and the determined US rapprochement with Myanmar (and anti-Chinese activism by the PRC's domestic Myanmar opponents) has threatened one of the PRC’s important energy security countermoves: the Rakhine to Kunming oil and gas pipeline originating beyond the western end of the Malacca Straits.

But the PRC’s conflicts with its SCS neighbors—and the ridiculous burden of the nine-dash line—are China’s key areas of strategic & diplomatic vulnerability. The United States has been working assiduously to exploit the PRC’s difficulties and foreclose the logical trajectory for conflict resolution since 2010, when Hillary Clinton declared the United States had a strategic interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, a sea I might point out, which is of overwhelming strategic importance to only one major power, the PRC.

Impunity Is the First Weapon of Choice: Torture, police killings and the militarization of America

Torture, police killings and the militarization of America
by Bill Van Auken - WSWS
The fact that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report exposing CIA torture has been released in the United States as the country is being swept by angry protests over a series of vicious and unpunished police killings has been little noted by the American mass media.
What are treated as unrelated stories are, in fact, two facets of the same phenomenon: the growth of a massive and criminal police state apparatus that enjoys absolute impunity. The crimes carried out abroad and the crimes carried out at home have a common source in an economic and social system that is in deep crisis and whose overriding features are social inequality, militarism and a relentless assault on basic democratic rights.
The cops who shot down unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, strangled to death Eric Garner in Staten Island and killed defenseless individuals in Cleveland, Phoenix and elsewhere go unpunished as prosecutors employ a deliberate system of exoneration by grand jury to prevent them from ever being called to account for their crimes.

American Justice Sentences Pacifists for Drone Protests

Missouri Judge Convicts and Sentences Two Peace Activists for Protesting Drone Warfare
Jefferson City, MO - On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of Kansas City, MO and Chicagoan Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB.

In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden.
“I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly.
 “The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people. In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.”

Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly (above)
to three months in prison and Walker to
one year of supervised probation.
During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base. Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri.

Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.

Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul. She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard.

At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians.

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