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7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization There were signs that President Barack Obama might rein in the mass militarization of America's police forces after he won the White House. Policing is primarily a local issue, overseen by local authorities. But beginning in the late 1960s with President Richard Nixon, the federal government began instituting policies that gave federal authorities more power to fight the drug trade, and to lure state and local policymakers into the anti-crime agenda of the administration in charge. These policies got a boost during Ronald Reagan's presidency, and then another during President Bill Clinton's years. Under President George W. Bush, all of those anti-drug policies continued, but were supplemented by new war on terrorism endeavors -- yet more efforts to make America's cops look, act and fight like soldiers.
But Obama might have been different. This, after all, was the man who, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, declared the war on drugs an utter failure. As Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum wrote in a 2011 critique of Obama's drug policy:
Obama stood apart from hard-line prohibitionists even when he began running for president. In 2007 and 2008, he bemoaned America’s high incarceration rate, warned that the racially disproportionate impact of drug prohibition undermines legal equality, advocated a “public health” approach to drugs emphasizing treatment and training instead of prison, repeatedly indicated that he would take a more tolerant position regarding medical marijuana than George W. Bush, and criticized the Bush administration for twisting science to support policy -- a tendency that is nowhere more blatant than in the government’s arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances.
Indeed, in his first interview after taking office, Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said that the administration would be toning down the martial rhetoric that had dominated federal drug policy since the Nixon years. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," Kerlikowske told The Wall Street Journal. "We're not at war with people in this country."
This was an notable break from previous administrations. Rhetoric does matter, and for a generation in the U.S., cops had incessantly been told that they were in a war with drug offenders -- this, in a country where about half the adult population admits to having smoked marijuana.
Unfortunately, while not insignificant, the change in rhetoric has largely been only that. The Obama administration may no longer call it a "war," but there's no question that the White House is continuing to fight one. Here's a quick rundown of where and how Obama's policies have perpetuated the garrison state: (Huffington Post)
GAO Report Shows Problems with TSA SPP Program Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Screening Partnership Program (SPP), a program in which airports can opt-out of having federalized screeners in favor of privatized ones. The report is entitled "Screening Partnership Program: TSA Should Issue More Guidance to Airports and Monitor Private versus Federal Screener Performance" (GAO-13-208). (US Congress)
High-Speed Passenger Rail, Preliminary Assessment of California's Cost Estimates and Other Challenges, GAO-13-163T Based on an initial evaluation of the California High Speed Rail Authority's (Authority) cost estimates, GAO found that they exhibit certain strengths and weaknesses when compared to best practices in GAO's Cost Guide. Adherence with the Cost Guide reduces the risk of cost overruns and missed deadlines. GAO's preliminary evaluation indicates that the cost estimates are comprehensive in that they include major components of construction and operating costs. However, they are not based on a complete set of assumptions, such as how the Authority expects to adapt existing high-speed rail technology to the project in California. The cost estimates are accurate in that they are based on the most recent project scope, include an inflation adjustment, and contain few mathematical errors. And while the cost estimates' methodologies are generally documented, in some cases GAO was unable to trace the final cost estimate back to its source documentation and could not verify how certain cost components, such as stations and trains, were calculated. - "...insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions of improved performance under SPP (Screening Partnership Program) when compared to federal screening services." (Government Accountability Office)
The Fed Audit The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. "As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."
Among the investigation's key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. "No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president," Sanders said. (Bernie Sanders)
Al Qaeda Could Try to Replicate Fukushima-type Meltdowns A May 5 "intelligence brief" prepared by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official at the Pacific Regional Information Clearinghouse (PacClear) in Hawaii, warned Al Qaeda might try to cause the meltdown of certain vulnerable nuclear power plants in the US and Europe by replicating the failure of the electric supply that pumped cooling water to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The plant's primary and backup power supplies were knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, resulting in partial meltdowns of the plant's reactors.
Only a week after the intelligence brief was circulated, federal officials dispatched a security alert notifying US power plant operators to raise the level of their security awareness.
According to the analysis in the “for official use only” intelligence brief, which was obtained by Homeland Security Today, “the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were ‘acts of nature,’ but a catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdown could potentially be engineered by Al Qaeda” by replicating the cascading loss of electric power that knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s ability to cool its reactors’ fuel rods, which led to the partial meltdowns of the reactors, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. (Homeland Security Today)
America's two-class tax system: Records bear out that corporations and the wealthy live by a different set of U.S. rules from everyone else. Eric Cantor, who has represented a section of Richmond, Va., in Congress since 2001 and now is the House majority leader, appears to want to craft a permanent U.S. tax system that caters exclusively to those at the top. So does Michele Bachmann, the Republican representative from Minnesota, a onetime tax lawyer who hopes to make a run for the White House. Likewise, Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota, who also sees himself sitting in the Oval Office. Needless to say, none state their proposals like that. But that's the way their numbers and provisions add up.
Like others in Congress and the media, Cantor, Bachmann, and Pawlenty insist that American businesses are paying too much in corporate income tax. They claim the onerous tax burden is killing jobs and forcing companies to move abroad. To reverse the nation's fortunes, they say, all Washington need do is slash the corporate tax rate, thereby reducing the amount of taxes these businesses are forced to pay. What's scary is a growing number of citizens believe them.
That means a forecast made years ago by William J. Casey, a wily Republican from another era who liked to dabble in the intelligence world's black arts inside and outside the country, and who helped craft the election of Ronald Reagan, is coming true. After taking office, President Reagan installed Casey as head of the CIA in 1981. After his first staff meeting at the agency, Casey was quoted as saying:
"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."
One of the more egregious falsehoods being peddled by the corporate tax cutters is that companies doing business in the United States are taxed at an exorbitant rate. Not so. Though the United States has one of the highest statutory rates on the books at 35 percent, the only fair way to measure what companies actually pay is their effective rate - what they ultimately pay after deductions, credits, and assorted write-offs. By that yardstick, companies in the United States consistently pay taxes at rates lower than corporations in Japan and many nations in Europe. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Airport `Naked Image' Scanners May Get Privacy Upgrades Holli Powell, a Phoenix medical- software consultant who flies every week, says she avoids getting into airport security lines that end at what she calls a humiliating full-body scanner.
“Those scanners, I feel, are above and beyond,” Powell, 35, said in an interview. They generate “nearly naked images.”
The concerns of travelers such as Powell, which led privacy advocates to sue the government, may soon be eased. L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and OSI Systems Inc.’s Rapiscan, makers of the scanners for U.S. airports, are delivering software upgrades that show a generic figure rather than an actual image of a passenger’s body parts. The new display would mark sections of a person’s body that need to be checked. (Bloomberg)
Audit the Fed Amendment Modified – Allows Fed To Keep Secrets Ron Paul: “Bernie Sanders has sold out and sided with Chris Dodd to gut Audit the Fed in the Senate. His “compromise” is what the Administration and banking interests want: they’ll allow the TARP and TALF to be audited, but no transparency of the FOMC, discount window operations or agreement with foreign central banks. We need to take action and stop this!” (Ron Paul)
Synergy in Security: The Rise of the National Security Complex In his January 17, 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Five decades later, this complex, which Eisenhower defined as the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry,” is no longer new. And while Eisenhower’s warning is still pertinent, the scale, scope, and substance of the complex have changed in alarming ways. It has morphed into a new type of public-private partnership—one that spans military, intelligence, and homeland-security contracting, and might be better called a “national security complex.” (Dollars and Sense)
Travelers file complaints over TSA body scanners The letters belie the TSA's claims about the disclosure policies related to the use of the technology and of the general level of concern related to its use, said Ginger McCall, staff counsel at EPIC. "The TSA has been reassuring people that travelers will be made aware of what these machines are and of the alternatives that are available," McCall said. The complaints suggest otherwise and appear to show less support for the technology than the TSA has let on, she said. (Bloomberg)
Mercenaries training US local police a new trend There are many police and law enforcement officials who are concerned with the growing trend of using military-experienced mercenaries to train and work with local police officers in the United States, but there are many who believe the events of September 11, 2001 dictate the need for this new paradigm (Examiner)
Bernanke Reflects on Fed's Actions in Forum In a forum on the Fed's role in the handling of the economic crisis and recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reflected on his desire not to be the Fed chief who "presided over the second Great Depression." (PBS)
The Great American Bubble Machine From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression — and they're about to do it again - But then, any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy. (Rolling Stone)
GAO: Major Security Flaws at Federal Buildings In the past year, investigators successfully smuggled bomb-making materials into ten high-security federal buildings, constructed bombs and walked around the buildings undetected, exposing weaknesses in security provided by the Federal Protective Service (Washington Post)
Taliban buy American -- to Elude Attacks Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have managed to escape U.S. and NATO attacks and carry out painful assaults against foreign forces, thanks to an American state-of-the-art military technology that has reached their hands (Military.com)
On Terrorist Watch List, but Allowed to Buy Guns People on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report (New York Times)
Fed Up: Audit the Federal Reserve, by Ron Paul A common misconception is that the Fed is completely independent of political pressures. While the Fed has far too much authority to make agreements with foreign governments and central banks, or create temporary liquidity facilities, the governors and--more important--the chairman, are appointed by the president. (Forbes)
Terrorist watch list hits 1 million Federal data show the rise comes despite the removal of 33,000 entries last year by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center in an effort to purge the list of outdated information and remove people cleared in investigations (USA Today)
Most firms pay no income taxes -Congress: Study finds that the majority of domestic and foreign corporations in the United States avoid paying federal income taxes. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies and 68% of foreign corporations do not pay federal income taxes, according to a congressional report released Tuesday.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined samples of corporate tax returns filed between 1998 and 2005. In that time period, an annual average of 1.3 million U.S. companies and 39,000 foreign companies doing business in the United States paid no income taxes - despite having a combined $2.5 trillion in revenue.
The study showed that 28% of foreign companies and 25% of U.S. corporations with more than $250 million in assets or $50 million in sales paid no federal income taxes in 2005. Those companies totaled a combined $372 billion in sales for the largest foreign companies and $1.1 trillion in revenue for the biggest U.S. companies. (CNN)
A Record Year for the Pharmaceutical Lobby in '07 Washington's largest lobby racks up another banner year on Capitol Hill - Washington's largest lobby, the pharmaceutical industry, racked up another banner year on Capitol Hill in 2007, backed by a record $168 million lobbying effort, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal lobbying data (Center for Public Integrity)
Homeland Security revives supersnoop Homeland Security officials are testing a supersnoop computer system that sifts through personal information on U.S. citizens to detect possible terrorist attacks, prompting concerns from lawmakers who have called for investigations.
The system uses the same data-mining process that was developed by the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project that was banned by Congress in 2003 because of vast privacy violations.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of the project called ADVISE -- Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement -- was requested by Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The investigation focuses on whether the program violates privacy laws, and the findings will be released after completion of the Iraq war supplemental spending bill, possibly as early as this week, a panel aide said. (Washington Times)
Fake News Gets White House OK Press Secretary Scott McClellan officially confirmed that the White House is blowing off the Government Accountability Office's finding that prepackaged administration video news releases constitute illegal covert propaganda (Washington Post)
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