2010 - Political Insights of the Year

2010 has been a year of incredible political activity, surprise insights and far more. I'll only be scratching the surface here. Before covering "the bad", let's at least count the victories:

#1 - The Zadroga Bill, meant to provide health care for hundreds of 9/11 first responders, finally passed in the senate. If you've heard about the bill, it's likely that you didn't hear about it until recently... yet it's more than two-months old. The media was almost entirely quiet when it came to the bill. It wasn't until the comedian Jon Stewart dedicated an entire episode to the first responders that it blew up in the media... and it was passed just a week later. This is one of the true heroic stories of the year, and well worth celebrating. I highly suggest the main article and associated videos on here on Stewart's site.

#2 - The voiceless have been given a voice. We finally have a way to act and to stand up against a government that has continually proven itself tyrannical. The infowar, centering on WikiLeaks, has given people around the world a way to speak up just by clicking a button... or blogging... or all the way up to transmitting encrypted files. The entire world is on fire. Some are trying to silence the truth, others are fighting to keep it alive... but there is finally a way for anyone to actually get involved in something that works! Just for mentioning the name WikiLeaks, this entire blog has already been blocked in multiple countries... China included. Regulators in America are trying to pass legislation at this very moment to create this same censorship here in the States. The fight continues, but at least it's a fight for something worthwhile.

#3 - A glimpse of sanity has returned to the Netherlands. I was in Amsterdam just weeks before the Netherlands banned the sell of hallucinogenic mushrooms [link]. Soon after, they began cracking down on the Red Light District and on the Cannabis Coffee Bars. The final nail was when they enacted tobacco smoking bans... despite the fact that Europeans smoke marijuana and tobacco together. I've never before heard of a place so blatantly committing economic suicide... and I'd given up on the idea of ever returning. I don't know who talked sense into them, but they passed legislation allowing smaller pubs to allow people to smoke inside again [link]. I'm not getting my hopes up yet, as I don't know if it is enough to stop the chain-reaction. In England alone, more than 6,000 pubs have closed since the smoking ban was passed there in late 2007. But Amsterdam didn't just ban smoking, it shot itself in the head multiple times. That doesn't change the fact that it is good news, and that it may lead to larger reforms in the end.

#4 - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was finally repealed. This ancient doctrine, founded on a compromise between racism and necessity, has finally been overturned to allow homosexuals to openly serve in the armed forces. It's sad that we're celebrating something that should have been taken into action more than a hundred years ago... but we celebrate what we can. And that's about it for the good news.

The bad news can be easily summarized:
* British Petroleum decided that the gulf needed a few more gallons of oil in its waters. The government wasn't having it, so they called in the coast guard... but, as it turns out, the coast guard was just there to keep reporters away from reporting on the spill and to arrest anyone that wouldn't hand over recordings of the catastrophe.
* An international corporation, with decades of toxic dumping, bribery, child labor and false advertising under its belt, was handed the reigns of the FDA by the president... then the FDA was given complete control over the nation's agriculture. Shortly thereafter, the FDA returned to its war on raw and organic markets with renewed vigor. Joy!
* The FCC finally passed Net Neutrality laws, calling the outcome "a compromise". Netizens were more quick to call it what it was: "a sellout". The laws allow wireless carriers to proceed with erecting toll-gates on their users, as well as tolls on companies that want their customers to have access to them.
* A leak to a news station in Pennsylvania revealed that the Department of Homeland Security has been spying on peaceful activists, as well as actively tagging and creating a database of environmentalists, rights activists and even tax activists.
* The US Department of Justice published a book titled "Investigating Terrorism and Criminal Extremism Terms and Concepts" that allows the classification of activists, economists and third-party supporters to be designated as "domestic threats". This is the same book detailing Al-Queda and other actual terrorist groups.
* Following a rather weak "terrorist" attack, the TSA pushed thru a program to install full-body scanners in airports. These have been rightfully dubbed "nudie scanners". They literally strip a person down to their skin. It's absurd enough to where it's become an Internet meme, relegating any invasion of privacy to the TSA.
* North Korea decided that they needed to throw a few bombs at South Korea. Everyone started making threats. It's as much "not good" as the world can muster, as the bombing served absolutely no one and may end in all-out world war if it doesn't settle down.
* The US passed legislation banning trade with Iran. That's understandable. Then the US declared that they would raise trade sanctions against any country who DID trade with Iran. Those are full trade sanctions. Every single time they have been raised throughout history, they have led to war. It's quite clear that there will be no more peace talks with Iran and that war will soon be on the country's doorstep.
* The Obama administration has denied more Freedom of Information requests than any other administration, silenced more leaks than any other administration and played an active part in silencing the press during the BP Oil Spill. As WikiLeaks gathered steam over the year, that came to a head with Cablegate. The administration is now taking steps to tear up the first amendment and has already proven, by their actions, that America lives under an illusion of freedom. While this is both a good and a bad thing, in the end, I easily side with WikiLeaks: "Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime." Period.

If you want more than the summaries, then I can be much more verbose. I'm also including references, although those are more for myself should I need to come back to them.

The FCC's Net Neutrality Sellout: Before getting into this, let me get my politics out in the open. I'm not a right-wing corporatist, nor am I a left-wing statist. I am a laissez faire capitalist. When a company accepts subsidies from the government, they leave the free market and enter the realm of governmental regulation. That applies to almost all cellular communication companies and many of the cable and network companies on land. For me, it is a simple line, and I am for Net Neutrality regulations (to the fullest extent)... and believe they should be applied to all carriers who have accepted government subsidies.

Before the FCC's Net Neutrality "compromise" passed, this slide [below] leaked to the Internet. It shows how wireless carriers are considering charging each person for specific sites they access online. When the bill was passed, it allowed for exactly this sort of "toll road" mentality with wireless carriers. It also allows for these carriers to toll the companies online if those companies want their customers to have access to them. Obama's campaign promise of Net Neutrality has come to an end. When he appointed Julius Genachowski to the FCC, it was in order to fulfill the promise of Net Neutrality... yet we find just another compromise and a sellout. For more on this slide, check out this article. For more on the flaws in the new Net Neutrality laws, check out this article. For info on the idea behind "rebooting the FCC", check out this article.

Homeland Security's Spying Campaign Against Activists: Although many have talked about being "tagged, photographed and cataloged" by Homeland Security, a recent leak in Pennsylvania finally gave a glimpse into the scope and targets of this operation.

James F Powers, director of Penn's Homeland Security, accidentally included the wrong person on an email sent out to energy companies, federal employees and a private intelligence firm that he had hired using $125,000 Pennsylvanian tax dollars. The email leaked, revealing that the firm he'd contracted were paid to spy on: environmentalists, anti-tax protesters, gay rights activists, ralliers for increased education funding, anti-war demonstrators, deportation protesters, animal rights protesters and ralliers attending "End-the-Fed" gatherings.

Furthermore, these groups were targeted as potential threats to infrastructure and would be labeled as terrorists if need be. Names had already been gathered from peaceful candlelight vigils... even movie screenings. Because of the Bush administration's removal of habeas corpus, any of these deemed to be terrorists could be held, interrogated and tortured without any further cause and without communication with the outside world [link]. Because of the Obama administration's win in the supreme court, any of these who were held but proven innocent cannot even take legal recourse against their torturers [link].

It should be noted that this leak came via Pennsylvania, a state notoriously sloppy for hiding its view on citizens' rights and for its embracing of the Big Brother philosophy. If you haven't seen this commercial, it's definitely worth the quick watch:

The private company hired by Homeland Security is called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response. Their site states: "the pre-eminent Israeli/American security firm providing training, intelligence and education to clients across the globe." This comes as a jolt, since 2010 has revealed huge amounts of information regarding Israel's manipulation of the U.S. [link] [link], as well as its ongoing spying campaigns on U.S. soil [link]. The fact that almost all stories on the Pennsylvania leak have not mentioned any Israeli connection at all is disturbing as well.

The ACLU is trying to get full disclosure on the scope of the spying and what names were on the list, but have not made any progress so far. The only thing that has been offered was an apology on behalf of Penn Governor Rendell and to cancel the contract with the private firm. No actions have been taken to remove Powers from office and no legal actions have been taken for rights violations.

We only know of this because of a single mistake and a leak that took advantage of that mistake. All the other attacks on human rights and against those defending these rights remain "off-the-record"... despite the evidence mounted against them.

The Classification of Activists as "Domestic Extremists": The U.S. Department of Justice published a book called "Investigating Terrorism and Criminal Extremism Terms and Concepts" that has come to public attention. Alongside Al-Queda and militant extremist groups, it also lists peaceful movements (including people collecting silver). Here are a few examples:

[Pg.8] American Liberty Currency (ALC ): An alternative currency promoted by NORFED. Ostensibly, each $10 in ALC currency is essentially a certificate of ownership of 1 ounce of silver held in a NORFED vault.

[Pg.22] Constitution Party: A minor, right-wing extremist political party, formerly known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party (USTP), which is one of the primary parties that specifically try to appeal to the "patriot" movement.

[Pg.23] Constitutionalists: A generic term for members of the "patriot" movement. It is now often used to refer to members of the sovereign citizen or common law court movement. Sometimes the word "constitutionist" is also used.

The Monsanto Coup: Because of movies like "Food, Inc.", the name Monsanto is entering the public knowledge... and it's not pretty. They have a legacy of toxic dumping that has lasted decades [link]. They've been caught bribing government officials in order to hide he environmental impact of their operations [link] and they've built a history on the foundation of false advertising [link]. They run factories using child labor, with the children exposed daily to open pesticides and other toxins [DOC file]. In America, farmers refer to Monsanto using the terms "mafia" and "gestapo" interchangeably... and with good reason [link]. They donate to political candidates from both sides of the spectrum, and in almost equal amounts of funding.

Then, in July of '09, Obama appointed Michael Taylor (a former Monsanto lobbyist) to Senior Adviser to the FDA. This, btw, is just the most recent political position to be filled by former Monsanto employees... but it is the most pertinent when it comes to policy that was passed this year. Senate Bill HR 2751 (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act) extends the power of the FDA to regulate and monitor food production throughout the nation, despite the track record they have of attacking organic and raw markets, of corrupt and criminal employees and their blatant siding with factory farming. Even before this bill, raw and organic markets have been coming under attack for years from state and federal law enforcement, as well as regulations from the FDA itself. This video is only a collection of some recent attacks along these lines:

The BP Oil Spill: What started out as an environmental disaster quickly became political. While the government insulted and attacked British Petroleum on television, they worked behind the scenes to cut off the press from reporting on the actual damages, hid important information from the public and are, even to this day, trying to get companies and contractors to sign off on sheets to get them to promise not to talk. The arrests served and threats made were only a small insight into how far the government would go, alongside B.P., to attack the freedom of the press and the rights of millions of gulf residents. As the year rolled on, the government's attacks on free speech and on transparency were made even more evident when battling WikiLeaks. Here is some of the coverage on the oil spill and the cover-up.

TSA: If it wasn't a health risk and completely invasive, this "joke of the year" would be great for laughs. But it has terrible side-effects. It also does not work. There are no scanners on flights coming into America, where the greatest risk is, nor do ground-crews have to go thru scanners (or anyone who can fake a ground-crew's set of IDs and uniforms). Also, a lot of luggage does not go thru scanning and is another vulnerability. In war zones, American forces have been using trained dogs much like the Russians do. They're never wrong, and can sniff out a bomb anywhere in an airport despite incredible attempts to trick them. But, instead, we get the joke of the year with the TSA's "nudie scanners" and an illusion of safety with more loopholes in it than the tax laws.

Korea: No comment.

Sanctions Against Iran: Anything I would write at this point would only be repeating what has already been said by Ron Paul. Here he is:

Cablegate: Cablegate was such an important event that I have written an entirely separate entry on it. It's right here on Mall of Me.

In summary, there is no longer a left-wing party... no longer a right-wing party. The differences at this point are so small that they borders on the comical. Now, there is only the Lie of the State... and the Truth that netizens from around the world are fighting for alongside WikiLeaks. I believe this wouldn't be complete without a reminder from Douglas Adams on just how funny this joke really is...

...from "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish"

Preface: A spaceship has just landed, rather rudely, on the soil of England. The craft opens, and an extraterrestrial robot steps out to meet the surprised citizens of earth.

"I come in peace," it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, "take me to your Lizard."

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

"It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like that straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said Ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"


"I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"

"I'll look. Tell me about the lizards."

Ford shrugged again.

"Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."

Truth by Gamekiller48

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