Category Archives: US Congress

Americans Need a Congress that Represents Americans

US Senator Marco Rubio poses as a representative of Florida Republicans, but in truth he represents the interests of Israel. He is sponsor of legislation that punishes Americans who boycott Israel as their way of protesting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. That Rubio is doing his best to dismantle what little is left of the First Amendment doesn’t seem to bother Florida voters or the presstitute media, who are no longer protective of the First Amendment.

Yesterday (January 9, 2019) the legislation failed to pass the Senate, because Democrats blocked it. But not really. The Democrats are not opposed to the bill. Indeed, the senators of both parties are too well paid in campaign contributions by the Israel Lobby to vote against anything that Israel wants. Moreover, they know that if they do, the money and the media support in their next election will flow to their opponent. The reason the Democrats blocked the passage of the bill is that they are making a point that no legislation will pass until President Trump gives in on the issue of The Wall and signs the necessary money bill to reopen the government.

Every 18 months the US government hands over to Israel enough money to build Trump’s wall. Israel had no hesitation in using Americans’ money to build its wall, which keeps Palestinians out of Palestine. It is OK with the US Congress for Americans to finance Israel’s construction of a wall that keeps a people out of their own country, but it is not OK for Trump to use American money to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States.

How much more plain can it be? The US Congress represents Israel, not Americans. The US Congress will even destroy the US Constitution for Israel. And the United States is called a democracy?

Admiring Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg goes before Congress

This is a dance of confused ends and mistrustful glances, mixed with occasional moments of misplaced adoration. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame has never been an empathetic sort and his testifying before the US Congress has done nothing to dispel that assessment.  That stands to reason: the least sociable of types, the most awkward of individuals in engaging with beings, creates the most networked social creation on the planet. In doing so, he becomes the president and promoter of surveillance capitalism, its chief priest and sovereign.

Across the spectrum, from the banal views of everyday citizenry, to information hungry political groups keen to mobilise through the forum, Facebook has been, in various ways, tolerated, even celebrated.

There has been a treasured obliviousness, a deep ignorance and refusal to consider the implications of surrendered privacy in the market of surveillance capitalism. Over the corpse of privacy, the technological charge initiated by Facebook has been feted and embraced by alibis and accessories comprised of one huge body of users.

Much of this latest data trauma and insistence has occurred because people have suddenly fallen out of love with the FB.  Warnings by the noisy technocrati (Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange) that this surveillance machine ought to be boycotted have gained some traction.  That this has links with Russia, the victory of President Donald Trump in 2016, and the selling and passing on of consumer data that might, however improbably, have influenced that result, is all important.  It is impossible to have imagined this level of interest had the White House found itself ensnared by the Clinton junta.

This week’s Congressional hearings, ostensibly to tease through the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving the collection of personal, identifiable data of up to 87 million registered Facebook users, have yielded a certain bounty of confusion and indignation. Rather than suggesting attention to detail, genuine concern, and tangible responses, the proceedings have demonstrated a counterfeit interest.  Keeping apace of this judicious lack of awareness about the technology company is a certain creepy adulation that has afflicted the Zuckerberg-Congress show.

True, there were moments of reflective discomfort for Facebook’s founder before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was promising heat and rigour in a statement prior to proceedings. “I’m glad Mr. Zuckerberg has agreed to face the music.  His company has shamelessly shredded the privacy rights of users.”

There were moments of such promise.  “Mr. Zuckerberg,” shot Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), “would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”  A pause followed. “No.”  Senator Durbin was unrelenting. “If you’ve messaged anyone this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?”  Zuckerberg’s response was cautious.  “No, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here.”

Other senators seemed indifferent to the reasons they were there, avoiding their brief altogether. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to squeeze a confession about of the Facebook CEO that his company was somehow biased against conservatives.  He also wondered whether the firing of Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, was occasioned by a clash of political views.  On neither point would Zuckerberg budge.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) revealed his cursory knowledge of Facebook’s hoovering qualities in one striking question: “So, how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”  Such situated ignorance gave Zuckerberg some breathing space, wriggle room for smug relief.  “Senator, we run ads.”  The response from Hatch was hardly one of disapproval. “I see.  That’s great.”  Capitalism, digital or otherwise, is good.

While there was the mandatory, rehearsed indignation and concern, Zuckerberg soon realised that he had something of a fan base amongst his interrogators.  Hardly a reason to be surprised: Facebook has become indispensable as a political bridge to constituents.  “I’ve got 4,900 friends on my Facebook page,” Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) bored Zuckerberg with.  “I delete the haters and save room for family members and true friends on my personal page.”  He professed to be “a proud member of Facebook, just got a post from my sister on this being National Sibling Day.”

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) was crawling with admiration, the sort induced by starlets of their drooling admirers.  “My son Charlie, who’s 13, is dedicated to Instagram, so he’d want to be sure I mention him while I was here with you.”  Move over privacy, the love-in between Facebook and Congress is a pact of indestructible steel.

At stages, members of Congress quite forgot what the fuss was all about.  Before them was a demigod, a superlative American statement of innovation, supporter of STEM, warrior against disease.  This was a chance for them to bask in some reflected glory, not to mention pitching in for projects that might lure Facebook to various electorates.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) cast out a fishing hook with hope.  “I hope you might commit to returning to Westchester County [place of Zuckerberg’s early days] perhaps to do a forum on this or other things. I hope you’ll consider that.  We’ll be in touch with you but I know that Ardsley High School is very proud of you.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) was angling for more infrastructure from the Lord God Zuckerberg. “My state, I’m from West Virginia, and thank you for visiting and next time you visit, if you would please bring some fiber because we don’t have connectivity in – in our rural areas like we really need, and Facebook could really help us with that.”

Rep. Kevin Kramer (R-ND) suggested a prospective pool of future employees for the tech giant.  The company’s base could thereby be diversified.  “Maybe even your next big investment of capital could be in some place like, let’s say Bismarck, North Dakota.”

The coup de grâce, the confession that seemed to implicate founder, company and interrogator, was the admission by Zuckerberg that his own data has been the subject of appropriation and use.  Everyone had found the “malicious third party”, those shady geniuses creating apps sporting personality quizzes.  (Aleksandr Kogan and Cambridge University researchers, no less!)  The irony of this went begging out the door, as did much credibility over the process of hauling Facebook’s founder before a body that long ago descended into murmurs, formalities and school child admiration.

Hidden Dangers Lurking Behind the Scenes at Congressional Hearings on Cloud Seeding

OMG! Congress held hearings recently on geo-engineering techniques to stop the evils of global warming. Whew! The irony is absolutely fantastically mind-boggling, a real knee-slapper.

Think about the paradox as Dr. James Hansen, the top climate scientist of NASA at the time warned Congress of the dangers of anthropogenic global warming way back in 1988, and it resulted in a major New York Times headline “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate.”

So, Congress has had 30 years to ruminate the global warming warning, never seriously addressing possible fixes, like conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy as a nationwide program, kinda like the Marshall Plan, which if started back then, we’d be closer to out of the woods today and closer to 100% renewable energy. But, back in the day Congress could only see their way to make the Space Station 100% solar-powered, hmm.

However, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, meaning global warming/climate change is so real as to be the prevailing narrative, they’ve belatedly decided to hold hearings on how to put toothpaste back into a tube. Dr. James Hansen must be chuckling, maybe crying, maybe on his hands and knees in a rage of demonic laughter, who knows?

This story is full of irony like the most-absurdity award of all time. It’s also somewhat of an insult to the intelligence of serious scientist that worked on the global warming quagmire ever since the Great Anthropogenic Warming Warning of 1988. After all, Congress has flipped the bird at science all these years, denialism at its most potent. Even worse yet, nowadays science is totally demonized. Are we back in the Middle Ages?

Here’s the scoop: The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently held hearings on the potential for geo-engineering, or human-induced influence over the atmosphere to cool things down a bit, or maybe try to pull carbon out of the atmosphere instead of emitting it into the atmosphere like a house afire.

Of course, it almost goes without saying, how in the world is it possible, even remotely possible, to hold hearings about combating global warming by a Congress that has so steadfastly failed to recognize it in the first instance. They’re deniers! Aren’t they? Why are they worried about climate change all of a sudden? From an outside observer’s viewpoint, it’s kinda like watching the worst episode of The Twilight Zone, over and over, again and again, until a migraine splits one’s head wide open.

As one might suspect, there’s a hook: According to the NYT article “We Can Brighten Clouds to Reflect Heat and Reduce Global Warming. But Should We?” McClatchy DC Bureau, d/d November 8, 2017, here’s what Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the house committee, claims: “As climate continues to change, geo-engineering could be a tool to curb resulting impacts… Instead of forcing unworkable and costly government mandates on the American people, we should look to technology and innovation to lead the way to address climate change.” (Notice the careful wording, never a mention of global warming, especially anthropogenic.)

As a consequence of those hearings, just imagine the activity in the halls of Congress: Representatives slapping each other on the back and teething big fat unlit cigars soaked wet drooling down chins, as a solution to public criticism of their pathetic denialism is at hand. Long live fossil fuels! If the committee can somehow demonstrate man-made solutions to curb the curses of global warming, which they’ve never recognized in the first place, then Congress has reason to continue, forever and forever more, their massive fossil fuel subsidy giveaways, and lots of payola along the way (oops, probably shouldn’t have mentioned that last item).

On second thought, maybe the cynicism of this article is too heavy-handed, but on the other hand, the big question mark remains: Why are climate deniers, meaning members of Congress, suddenly entertaining geo-engineering techniques to offset the dangers of global warming? What’s Up? Time and again over the past three decades, they’ve claimed no belief in anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming.

Of course, the answer is found in the cynicism that motivated this article in the first place, which is: It’s a dream come true for congressional climate deniers. Now they have an excuse for the administration pulling out of the Paris climate accords and a rationale, even though paltry, for abject failure to address the issue over the past three decades. Who needs international accords or national policies to fix something when there is no risk to using fossil fuels till the cows come home? Answer: Fix “climate change” with geo-engineering. If this rationale seems too far out in left field, it pales in comparison to how far out of touch Congress has been to the global warming threat for endless decades.

Well, there is an unfortunate twist to the geo-engineering solution, as geo-engineering is still experimental. And, it’s a massive undertaking, literally as large as the planet itself, and nobody can say with certainty that it works, that it does not have nasty unintended consequences, that it solves the underlying problem of spewing too much CO2 into the atmosphere. In that regard, in all likelihood, it may be no more than a gigantic Band-Aid at best. The thing is, nobody really knows the outcome, nobody, absolutely nobody. It’s an experiment, period.

The experts that appeared before the congressional committee talked about cloud brightening by adding particles to clouds to reflect sunlight back into outer space, which, of course, is exactly what the icy Arctic itself has done for eons, until global warming melted its icy cap down to toddler size. The geo-engineering proposal utilizes high-powered nozzles to spray “saltwater droplets” onto the clouds, but the initial testing of that methodology proved difficult, if not impossible, because of corrosive properties burning through titanium and even burning through diamond. And, the experimentation continues.

They also talked about stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering putting reflective particles in the upper atmosphere, maybe using “calcium carbonate,” which is non-toxic. However, accomplishing such a major feat remains a very big unsolved puzzle. And, there are plenty of critics who fear unintended consequences, whatever those may be, and how could anyone know ahead of time?

Still, the very fact that a congressional committee entertained the idea of combating global warming is a real mind-blow, like coming off an acid trip, reconnecting with reality, everything seems kinda fuzzy. As the world slowly comes back into focus, it’s discovered that Congress is actively looking into geo-engineering techniques that hopefully stop the planet from runaway over-heating thereby spoiling the big party of record stock prices and neoliberal growth, ad-infinitum.

Meanwhile, the big picture event swirling around the global warming nexus continues: From Tokyo to Paris to Silicon Valley scientists and engineers in private settings are investigating solutions to the global warming threat, and geo-engineering is the preferred course of action. It’s believed that human intelligence is truly boundless, almost deific, in pursuit of technological miracles, similar to registered successes with the Internet and the Moonshot and maybe Mars.

But, whether the global warming quandary is bigger than all knowledge of science and engineering remains a very big question mark. Indeed, it is the biggest question mark of all time as well as the biggest threat since T-Rex bit the dust.

Along the way, wouldn’t it be truly wonderful if Congress really truly cared, even though belatedly and delinquently late to the upcoming World’s Biggest Weenie Roast of all time? Don’t count on it.

Trump’s Immanent Withdrawal from the Iran Deal Will Endanger the World

President Trump is about to take action that will withdraw the United States from the “Iran Nuclear Deal”. On October 15, Trump will reportedly “decertify” American participation in this historical agreement. This action is dangerous. This action will endanger the world. It will erode American credibility with both allies and enemies, and will destabilize the Middle East by worsening relations with Iran.

Moreover, Trump will throw the dirty work of withdrawing to Congress.

The “(de-)certification process” has nothing to do with the 2014 “Iran Nuclear Deal,” more formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump’s incipient withdrawal action rather stems from an American legislative act, House Resolution 1191—The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. This act was forced on President Obama by an overwhelming vote in the GOP-led Congress. He reluctantly signed this Act to avoid the embarrassment of a veto override, which would definitely have occurred. It is possible that he anticipated that Hilary Clinton would be elected President, thus making the possibility of decertification unlikely.

There is no factual justification for Trump’s “decertification.” The JCPOA was a clearly drawn agreement in which economic sanctions against Iran would be withdrawn in return for Iran’s curtailment of its nuclear energy program. It has worked remarkably well. Every governmental body both in the United States and among the other five nations who were party to the treaty—Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China—has repeatedly declared that Iran has adhered scrupulously to their responsibilities under the JCPOA. However, Trump appears not to care that Iran is in compliance, because the Congressional Act gives him a free hand to ignore Iran’s compliance.

H.R. 1191 requires the President to certify that the JCPOA is in the United States’ “national interest.” This certification has nothing to do with the JCPOA itself. The perfidious nature of H.R. 1191 is that it allows the President to utterly ignore the JCPOA’s provisions. The Congressional act allows him to justify decertification by citing issues that have nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program. These consist of Iran’s testing of conventional missiles, Iran’s human rights record, and a host of things that Iran detractors such as Bush-era neoconservatives and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been harping on for years.

One of Trump’s “concerns” has to do with the inspection of Iran’s non-nuclear military facilities. The JCPOA is based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which the United States, Iran and approximately every other nation in the world are signatories (but not Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, and South Sudan).

Under the NPT the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is charged with inspecting Iran’s (and every other nation’s) NUCLEAR facilities, or facilities that will contain fissile material within 180 days. Under the JCPOA the IAEA can only inspect non-nuclear facilities if they are suspected of harboring nuclear activities.

U.S. United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley, met with the IAEA officials on August 23 to review Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA provisions. At that time, she was unable to identify a single military site for IAEA inspection. In fact, Iranian officials have allowed inspection of every identified site. The charge that they have not is false.

After Trump’s decertification the responsibility for re-imposition of sanctions against Iran would then fall to the U.S. Congress. It would have to decide whether to do this within sixty days. The chances that Congress would do this are very great given the overwhelming vote for H.R. 1191. In this way, President Trump can claim that he has not personally actually withdrawn from the JCPOA. Americans who are concerned about this need to contact their Congressional representatives.

Nevertheless, Iran will not see it this way. Iran’s President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have already announced that this Congressional action would be an abrogation of the JCPOA—as indeed it is.