Ten Questions for John Brennan, and his Senatorial Confirmers.

Ten Questions for John Brennan, and his Senatorial Confirmers.

1.  How effective has congressional oversight functioned with the CIA? <br>
2. The Church Commission required an FBI Director be confirmed every decade, and this was not done with FBI Director Mueller.  Why?  Is periodic confirmation of ANY spy/surveillance/investigative agency a good idea in light of the Church Commission findings? <br>
3.According to Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and Wm Arkin in their Top Secret America report, there are 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies engaged in security work similar or associated with the CIA.   Who has oversight?  Who confirms their directors and directions and budgets, and how frequently?   What is the aggregate cost… and why is this budget “black”?
4. Senator Ron Wyden’s question as I roughly recall:  If our government decides to kill a citizen, does it supply a courtesy call as to why?   And who, apart from the President and those in his chain of command selects and approves these assassinations?
5. Is there concern about assassinations in other countries by US agents without the constitutionally required letter of Marque and Reprisal granted by the Congress (not the executive branch)?  If not, why?
6.Who, if anyone in government, is concerned about going to war without a declaration, as required by the constitution?   What is the significance of the oath or affirmation that office holders and service personnel take to preserve and protect the constitution?    Does that refer to the physical object, or the  meaning of the words contained in it?  (trying to keep my questions light, like Sn. Wyden.)
7. What has been the cost to the United States of fighting famous CIA alumnus such as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Manuel Noriega, in lives and money, not to mention opportunity cost?   What has been the cost of conflicts with lesser known alums.   Any idea of ongoing and future costs?   Who monitors the fallout of the 1,271 government, and 1,931 private agencies?…. or is this as I fear, divided between numerous Congressional committees fighting for turf.  Who gains by this disorganization?
8. The drone boom is currently a lucrative area of development when there are few opportunities in this post crash economy.   How long before drones will, as all inventions do, return upon the United States, both government and civil society.   How long will these new threats harm our country?     Is our collective investment in this in the long term security interest of the US, or like the H bomb, a moral albatross which will fester in time?   Is this the security job equivalent to a self licking ice cream cone?
9. If a declaration of war were to be written,  to  provide an outline of what victory might look like, is short, what we want….. what would it say?
10. Since this is the intelligence committee, and while great expense is proffered surveilling the wide world, and yet because of our disjointed economy, banks and hedge funds are selling great swaths of America overseas.    Is this intelligent?  In the national interest?

The King Clause

Bravely,  Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and some folks back home gave the world a new and remarkable form of government:  A constitutional democratic republic.   The constitution replaced the King, and all that was required was a revolution and that the people of the United States honor their word.

Actually, this constitution took a lot of defending from threats on many levels.  There was the war of 1812, and the crash and panic 1792 and the collapse of the first United States Bank that Hamilton championed.  The panic of 1819 and the collapse of the second United States Bank.  The panic of 1857 and the civil war that followed within the decade, not to speak of political upheavals like the whisky rebellion and disenfranchisement of various political parties, parties you never learned about in your civics courses,  now long forgotten.   All these actions were to save us from the torture and executions that a King could order at will.   Kings of old would initiate wars or seize an enemies property, or execute a citizen on his own authority.    A constitution protected the people of the United States against such acts of whimsy.   At least till now.

Some say the Magna Carta saved English subjects from such whimsy.  Tell that to Henry the VIII.   Tell that to Chief Justice John Roberts; who orchestrated the People’s United decision that says money is speech and corporations are persons.

To note the watershed, the difference between kings ordering by fiat, and free men (and women) living under their own law, the framers inserted the king clause into the constitution which reads (Only)” Congress shall have the power…. to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, or make rules concerning captures on land and water.”

The King Clause of the constitution has three parts: authorizing war, authorizing private contractors to kill and seize, and controlling rules of military capture.

This clear language makes a significant break with the previous royal form of government.  The Congress (whose etymology means ‘stands upright’) not an individual, has the power to engage the country in a war.   The president is not a king, in fact the title is derived from the verb: “preside” meaning guidance and literally meaning to sit in front, sedere: sit;  pre, in front.  It was understood that war was not an informal thing, but needed a reason, and a demand….. thus it could be drawn to conclusion when the demand was met.    The founders had watched such inanities as the 30 years war, and the hundred years war because of such a lack of focus.   The United States has seen the same with its decadal wars in  Viet Nam and Afghanistan….  where no reason was given, and no demand proffered that the People of the United States stood behind.   With no goal, it is impossible to find the victory of achieving it.

This was the reason for the first part, the declaration of war has two functions a) to announce a clear set of demands, and b) to see that the American people are behind those demands.     It must be noted that whenever these conditions have been met, the United States has been victorious; and these conditions have not transpired in the last 65 years.

Actually war is still not an informal thing… people do not say to themselves: “Dang, I wonder who is dropping bombs on us today?”   As accustomed as we are to having murder brought into our living rooms nightly by the TV, and we are all conditioned to accept it a normal… the question “Who is shooting at me?” is not of the same emotional caliber as in watching a whodunit.

The second part of the King Clause makes Congress responsible for “granting letters of Marque and Reprisal,” or  what was considered at the time of writing: A pirate’s license.    A pirate was someone sailing a private vessel who seized property of a foreign vessel and likely killed people in so doing.   Once granted a letter of Marque  and Reprisal, the captain in possession of such could attack, seize and in the process, kill persons of the country or counties listed in the letter.   (Such a letter would not allow the killing of an American citizen.)  In short, such a letter was grant of limited power to violate the sovereignty of the nation listed within it.

The third portion of the King Clause, makes it clear that it is the American people that will subjugate any foreign people, and will themselves determine the conditions of that.   This was seen as a power so grave as not to be allowed to be deferred to a mere administrator.

It is worth pointing out that of the founders who created this ‘new’ form of government, many were familiar with the classics, and more than a few read Greek.   While the Greeks did have slaves, they brought their slaves to the theater, and indeed treated them well.  For the Greeks lived in a city-state environment, where there were periodic wars and border skirmishes, and while  your city  may have won this year,  the city next door may win the next, and who won took slaves.   Thus it was wise to treat the slaves with some respect,  for there was a live possibility that the next slave holder would be the very slave you had held, and you in turn would be in captivity.    This trained the populous in the evenhandedness that is such a requirement for democracy to flourish.     A point profoundly forgotten in today’s ‘winner take all’ politics.

Thus the King Clause was made part of the constitution to prohibit a King from whimsically taking rule, and killing whatever opposition arose.   It is the Law.

If only people could honor their own oath;  their word.

The Administration and the CIA versus the Constitution

As John Brennan is considered for confirmation by the US Senate, Eleven senators including both Oregon senators have raised the simple question: “If the United States targets a US citizen to be killed, does that person merit being notified as to why?”

Bizarre! In a country ruled by a constitution which states that a person cannot be deprived of life liberty or property without due process of law. ….. this question is asked by a Senator to a drone assassination champion who has supported or overseen over 2,700 people killed in three countries in which we are not at war, including 200 children. These are the minimum numbers as reported by the British: Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

If this were Kabuki, what masks would they be wearing in this senate hearing… The supporters, the CIA ‘leader’, the questioners?

“We are at war with terror.” says the drone champion Brennan.  ” I support rendition and now banned interrogation techniques. I have strongly advocated public discussion of thresholds and limitations of CIA authority in this. (really ?) A trust deficit with this committee is wholly unacceptable to me.

The CIA will do all it can to protect Americas secrets, Americas classified information. The CIA indicates 103 deaths of CIA agents. ”

The above was my ragged shorthand from the confirmation hearing today.

According the Federation of American Scientists there are somewhere between 4.2 and 4.8  million Americans with security clearances.

According to Dana Priest and the Top Secret America project of the Washington Post: “(1) Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. (2) An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. ”

“(4) Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks. (5) Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.”

I ask the discriminating reader this question:  If the congress  usually has very little oversight of the CIA ,  as Senator Murkowski said, and its only power to influence it is Now, during a confirmation hearing….. what oversight does the American People have over the ” 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies ” listed above?   Who cuts their checks?,  who directs their directors? *

In short, and you can quote me….. “You are being protected by a genuine self-breeding cluster fuck.” …. suffering from too many resources and resulting in too much overlapping confusion. ___ David Bean.   Many duplications are seeking to solve the problem and none are looking to find the source of it if you ask me. (hint: it is not a personality… second hint: ask Pogo.^)  As stated elsewhere, a war on a tactic can never find its end.

The world has changed.   We have got what we worked for these many years…. magnificent productivity.  Yet we are stuck thinking we are in the old world and people want our stuff.  We are locked in the past in our own minds.   Like peoples through the centuries, all people do not want to me messed with. As we screw them more and more with our “security” procedures and assassination drones is there any wonder they fight back? Isn’t ten years fighting goatherds on the other side of the planet in stark mountains with a population with an illiteracy rate of 70% an indication of misspent resources? ” We have the technology…. why not use it?” say the consultants. They are paid well… as are the drone makers. America has been captured by our own tools.

Well, from my observation of the hearing, Brennan is a shoe in. Yes Sir, Gumby. A shoo in.

Here is my concern. Leon Panetta, a budget wizard, has been the head of the CIA and Defense,  and he is stepping down. He has not, nor has the President, in my humble opinion, been in charge of either. They grow exponentially as exemplified by the drone boom.  It is a pathology that  I believe will come home to bite us, and perhaps destroy our civilization. I have no opinion about  what motivates the current President who now operates a kill list. I do not believe he is a good administrator, as evinced by the burgeoning security state, the  consequent budget hole it, the military and the militarized CIA create. That the press and the parties can only discuss social security and cutting entitlements  without addressing this mammoth fiscal hemorrhage is an example inability to prioritize.

NOW is the time for congress, and the people telling congress….. Get a Grip! Rare it is to have a handle to comment on our national secret police. We are captives of our own technology and it will impoverish us. … in security and in health. We have to say No to ourselves, to the technological equivalent to “I believe I want to investigate myself.”… and we cannot seem to say “no” to technology.   How about cutting our spook agencies to a mere thousand, and top secret spooks to a mere hundred thousand. Even that may be too many to keep track of.

Thus my plea to you to write your senator, your congressman. Do not confirm Brennan for CIA Director. To do so would implicitly support drone assassinations, which are lawless.   Tell your congressman to get a grip on self breeding security agencies.

* constitutional note: Letters of Marque and Reprisal.  Readers of this blog may recall my emphasis on the King Clause of the constitution.   It reads:” (only) The Congress shall have the power to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water. ”  (It is called the King Clause because if not observed, we have a king with fiat rule over all of us.)   Not well taught in school is what is that danged letter of marque and reprisal.   Here is the scoop:  It is a Pirate’s License.

Today we would call it a Private Contractor’s License, a license to kill on the authority of the People of the United States.   That power is only granted to the congress….. and is not granted to either the executive branch (the President, CIA,   FBI, NSA et all) nor the judicial branch.

This King Clause makes it explicit that only representatives of our people can kill and really piss off their people.   Not agents of the President on his own initiative. Thus saving us, in theory,  from the innumerable idiotic wars that our founders observed being started by irascible kings.

Whatever say the eloquent and well endowed constitutional lawyers, including the one that currently runs a kill list in our name… the words of the constitution are written for you, citizen, to grasp and understand.   The King Clause can be found in Article I, Section 8, clause 11.      Let your own intelligence decide, for together we stand,  if we defer to the experts (who inevitably quote statute and not the constitution) we will find ourselves divided and sold off to the highest bidder.

^ the cartoon character Pogo in the midst of the Viet Nam War famously said :  “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”  (The Gulf of Tonkin incident which gravely escalated that war was consequence of a ‘radar shadow’, i. e. electronic feedback from our own equipment.)

Myths… True or False?

There is a foolishness within the human being.  Either it is played out in drama as in myths of those so imperfect gods like those of the Greeks, or it plays out in our parodies of myth,   political myth,  which we find manifested as untruths that citizens  choke down grave-faced.    The first can lead to a great belly laugh.   The latter in time, to war.

Gary Hart recently wrote:

Myths play a central role as metaphor in many world religions, according to Joseph Campbell. In The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth he studied the world mythologies, found common themes in a wide variety of cultures, and reached a startling conclusion: myths, he said, come from dreams and, therefore, people around the world have common dreams. It is a profound and still controversial insight for religion, psychology, and human culture. Students in all these fields continue to consider the power of myth.

Myths in politics, however, play a much different role. “Widely held but false idea” is one dictionary definition of myth in common usage. For reasons that are still unclear, myths abound in recent American political history. Perhaps the most glaring and consequential was the myth that Iraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

There are other cases in point. Barack Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya and therefore not an American citizen. These are myths, yet they are widely believed in certain circles. Poor people are poor by choice. A classic myth. A rising tide lifts all boats. Much more true when we were an industrial society and manufacturing products created jobs. Much less true when the economic tide is one of finance and money manipulation which lifts the gilded yachts but not the rowboats of the rest of us. Jobs are not created when crackpot financial schemes make hedge fund managers rich. Thus, a myth.

Myths in politics are dangerous. In an important speech at Yale University during the Cold War, John Kennedy said:

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

He was speaking of the myths on both sides that perpetuated a Cold War in a dangerous way.

Exactly 50 years later, no assessment comes closer to describing much of our current political world. Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth.

If this strange world were the product of mere laziness it might be understandable. But today’s political myths are more perverse. They are a conscious hiding place from a changing, challenging, and often uncomfortable new world. Globalization, immigration, cultural and racial diversity are threatening and frightening to many who wish to freeze the former comfortable world in time and prevent any change.

Myths which have no basis in truth, or which do not operate as metaphors for religious truth, eventually fade away with the passing of those who perpetuate them and in the face of reality and fact. But the most dangerous myths create demons where none exist, the demons being anyone who disagrees with the myth-makers. In the meantime, however, they serve not only to delude the deniers but to frustrate our Founders’ belief in the progress of the human mind.

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David adds,  Citizens who expect to be informed for free, on the largesse of the commercial interests are bound to find themselves in a pool of opinion and unsubstantiated so called facts.  A society that cannot agree on facts, or whose facts do not correspond with reality is indication of being within political myth. Only by funding and protecting reporters with the citizen’s interest in mind, will the ‘freedom of the press’ guaranteed by the constitution be more than a vacant promise.   Freedom of the commercial press is what we have today, and as any schoolboy can see, that does not result in freedom, but ongoing war.

I am developing a list of political myths…   please send me your ideas.
both those that go down, nice and smooth,  and those that stick in your craw.
Thanks

Civilized Breakdown

The examples below indicate the breakdown in communication in the western world.   We cannot agree on the Facts of how many US Troops died in Afghanistan.   These facts are concrete.   Our service men and women dying are nameable and countable.  And in that reporting… 2,000 died as of Sept, 30, 2012; but No! that was Aug 21, 2012 according to the New York Times, and yet another date provided by icaualties.org .   None of these 2,000 count articles noted the truly alarming rates of serviceman & veteran suicides that eclipse the battle deaths by 18 times.

Look at the reporting:

US military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 after 11 years of war

By Patrick Quinn, The Associated Press | Associated Press – Sun, Sep 30, 2012

According to Brookings, hostile fire was the second most common cause of death, accounting for nearly 31 per cent of Americans killed.

In Toll of 2,000, New Portrait of Afghan War    ….  August 12th, not Sept 30th

By JAMES DAO and ANDREW W. LEHREN

Published: August 21, 2012  New York Times

Suicides Outpacing War Deaths for Troops

By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS

Published: June 8, 2012  New York Times

The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago, the Pentagon said Friday.

A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame

better:

Veterans Death at own Hand, the Nation’s Shame

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Published: April 14, 2012

HERE’S a window into a tragedy within the American military: For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands.

An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.

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News

American Forces Press Service       (a product of the Department of Defense)

Battaglia Calls Reducing Suicides a Top Priority

By Karen Parrish

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2011 – Military leaders are committed to reducing suicides in the ranks, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the Defense Department’s top enlisted leader, said here Dec. 9.

Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters after the recent release of a report on military suicides by the Center for a New American Security.

The report concludes that suicide among service members and veterans challenges the health of America’s all-volunteer force. From 2005 to 2010, service members took their own lives at a rate of about one every 36 hours, according to the report. It also states that while only 1 percent of Americans have served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 18 veterans die by suicide each day.

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Put another way, while 3 million of our men and women serve in the armed forces, out of our total population of 310 million,  they commit suicide at a rate equal to that of 60 million civilians.

While roughly one soldier dies in battle a day in Afghanistan, on that same day 18 veterans kill themselves.  A day.   Are we aware of this? …. is this worthy of comment by presidential candidates, none of which have served?   And where is the Press?    This information is available from DoD sources.

In short, these are potent and concrete facts.   And we cannot get them reported straight.   Without the straight truth, is there any wonder that our politics is dysfunctional.   Could it be otherwise?

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The conclusion by reading these pithy headlines, noting the differences in dates and omissions leads me to surmise that the democracy that we have fought to preserve for 236 years cannot remain if we cannot agree on simple facts.    The AP and New York Times cannot seem to agree.  Isn’t that obvious?   Bloody Obvious.    Without a unity and veracity in facts, our opinions shall never knit.

This is the heart of my communication on the eve of presidential debates where the candidates are each willing to spend a Billion dollars  (One thousand million dollars) to advertise that their opponent is an idiot.     Admittedly, so far, a down-beat message.

So, let me leave you with an antidote:   Our press system has failed because its funding model of display advertising has been eclipsed by Google’s intentional advertising.  Newspapers are dying and broadcasting is become vapid.  The press is strangled without funds.   Google’s motto is “Do no Evil”.    Killing the funding of the press so it can no longer provide the function of Saying Truth to Power, and staying on the point, might be considered evil.    Thus, given the corrupt condition of money, politics and corporate lobbying let me suggest this tonic:     To have Google, and and all who agree with this challenge to continued existence of our country lobby for having a portion (for example one half) of Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) revenue be applied to content.   i.e. Creatives and Reporters be paid for what they provide in some proportional way that allows reporters to be protected and culture makers to be paid for providing sources of social inspiration.

Give it a think.

yours,   David Bean………..      and please at least, pass this along.

Health Care Law: Supreme Court Decision Looming


Wowee. Lotta comments on a No Story story. Here is the deal. If the 9 justices read the 10th amendment they will all vote: no go. But wait. Even if we did vote in single payer in a magic moment we would still have a fortune producing/extracting sickness care system that would leave our greying baby boomers strung out on meds and plumbing projects till dead. Dean Baker points out that we could save $270 Billion a Year by removing patent premiums from Big Pharma. That is a billion dollar saving for every working day of the week. That would still leave $30 billion for the real costs, less than a billion a week.

If you live in a small state that means your education budget is covered in one weeks worth of savings. With 51 more weeks of similar savings to go.

Seems to me that a lotta folks are getting their attention jerked like yo-yos. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Health Care Law: Supreme Court Decision Looming


I voted for Obama and know the constitution and by my lights compelling US residents to make private purchases is a Brand New power. It is a new world if it passes. It would be good for jobs, they could, under the same power compel us to buy stuff until we all have jobs. Except for the folks who go bankrupt doing so.

But that is why the constitution limits the conferring of new powers. Those powers not conferred upon the (federal) government, or the states are reserved for the people… is what it states. Take a gander at yourconstitution.org for details. See: The Law in Plain English, The Tenth Amendment and Obama’s Health Care Case
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost