Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Is Your Country

[N]ew documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.


The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

  UK Guardian

Here's a Surprise (sarcasm font wanted)

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doomsday for Spiderman

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Spiderman
Sacrilege. Off with his head!

Spider-Man’s amazing web dries up this week when Marvel Comics publishes the final issue of its long-running “Amazing Spider-Man” series, killing off alias Peter Parker.


...hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, December 28, 2012

They're Jealous of our Freedom

Critically, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 did much more than shield lawbreaking telecoms from all forms of legal accountability. Jointly written by Dick Cheney and then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, it also legalized vast new, sweeping and almost certainly unconstitutional forms of warrantless government eavesdropping.


[W]hen seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster "any bill" that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.

But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that - the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 - and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself.
"I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. . . .

I do so [vote for the FISA bill] with the firm intention - once I'm sworn in as president - to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future."


The 2008 FISA law provided that it would expire in four years unless renewed. Yesterday, the Senate debated its renewal. Several Senators - Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon along with Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul - each attempted to attach amendments to the law simply to provide some modest amounts of transparency and oversight to ensure that the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers were constrained and checked from abuse.

Just consider how modest these amendments were.


Wyden yesterday had two amendments: one that would simply require the NSA to give a general estimate of how many Americans are having their communications intercepted under this law (information the NSA has steadfastly refused to provide), and another which would state that the NSA is barred from eavesdropping on Americans on US soil without a warrant. Merkley's amendment would compel the public release of secret judicial rulings from the FISA court which purport to interpret the scope of the eavesdropping law on the ground that "secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance"; the Obama administration has refused to release a single such opinion even though the court, "on at least one occasion", found that the government was violating the Fourth Amendment in how it was using the law to eavesdrop on Americans.

But the Obama White House opposed all amendments, demanding a "clean" renewal of the law without any oversight or transparency reforms.


As it turns out, Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin had it exactly right in mid-2008 when explaining - in the face of lots of progressive confusion and even anger - why Obama decided to support a FISA bill that vested the executive with massive unchecked eavesdroppoing power: namely, Obama "plans to be the executive", so "from Obama's perspective, what's not to like?"


The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took the lead in attacking Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul with the most foul Cheneyite accusations, and demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms. And then predictably, in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative-Democratic comrades joined with virtually the entire GOP caucus (except for three Senators: Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller) to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded: reform-free renewal of the law.


As Michelle Richardson, the ACLU's legislative counsel, put it to the Huffington Post: "I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off."

  Glenn Greenwald

Not intellectual enough. He'd be laughing at people he could cause pain. It's Dick Cheney who's laughing his ass off over the FISA rules. No, not laughing. Cackling.

Indeed, when it came time last year to vote on renewal of the Patriot Act - remember how Democrats used to pretend during the Bush years to find the Patriot Act so alarming? - the Obama administration also demanded its renewal without a single reform. When a handful of Senators led by Rand Paul nonetheless proposed modest amendments to eliminate some of the documented abuses of the Patriot Act, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid did his best Dick Cheney impression by accusing these disobedient lawmakers of risking a Terrorist attack by delaying renewal.


Yesterday, [Dianne] Feinstein stood up on the Senate floor and began by heaping praise on her GOP comrade, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, for leading his caucus to join her in renewing the FISA act without any reforms. She then unleashed a vile attack on her Democratic colleagues - Wyden, Merkley, and Udall, along with Paul - in which she repeatedly accused them of trying to make the nation vulnerable to a Terrorist attack.


Having learned so well from Rudy Giuliani (and Harry Reid), she basically just screamed "Terrorist!" and "9/11" over and over until her time ran out, and then proudly sat down as though she had mounted rational arguments against the transparency and oversight amendments advocated by Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul.


Even more notably, Feinstein repeatedly argued that requiring even basic disclosure about the eavesdropping program - such as telling Americans how many of them are targeted by it - would, as she put it, "destroy the program".


Feinstein is one of the Senate's richest plutocrats, whose husband, Richard Blum, has coincidentally been quite enriched by military and other government contracts during her Senate career. During this time, Feinstein has acted as the most faithful servant in the Senate of the National Security State's unchecked, authoritarian power.


"I've never seen a Congressional member argue so strongly against Executive Branch oversight as Sen. Feinstein did today re the FISA law," said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. Referring to Feinstein's alternating denials and justifications for warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer observed: "This FISA debate reminds of the torture debate circa 2004: We don't torture! And anyway, we have to torture, we don't have any choice."


And thus does a core guarantee of the founding - the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment - blissfully disappear into nothingness.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

For Your Own Good

Federal regulators are proposing that new automobiles sold in the United States after September 2014 come equipped with black boxes, so-called “event data recorders” that chronicle everything from how fast a vehicle was traveling, the number of passengers and even a car’s location.

While many automakers have voluntarily installed the devices already, the National Transportation Safety Agency wants to hear your comments by February 11 on its proposal mandating them in all vehicles. Congress has empowered the agency to set motor-vehicle-safety rules.

Clearly, regulators’ intentions are about safety, as the devices would trigger — for about 30 seconds — during so-called “events” such as during sudden breaking, acceleration, swerving or other types of driving that might lead to an accident. The data, which can either be downloaded remotely or by a physical connection, depending upon a vehicle’s model, is to be used by manufacturers and regulators “primarily for the purpose of post-crash assessment of vehicle safety system performance,” according to an announcement in the Federal Register. (.pdf)


Oh, sure.

They'll be used in lawsuits by auto manufacturers, and that's what they're designed for. Why else volunteer to install them?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And While I'm on the Subject

How many, many times during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq did we endure a spitefully sneered, "America. Love it or leave it" - or, "If you don't like it, why don't you move to France?" 

I have a suggestion for many of those same people regarding their claims of a war on Christmas:  This is America.  And this is the American Christmas.  It's about toys and presents that you can exchange for something you really want and super doses of stress.  If you want a Christmas about the "virgin birth" go to central Mexico. 

I was in Periban, Michoacan, Mexico, for a Christmas not too long ago and experienced a Christmas totally different than our American experience.  Hundreds of people in the town went on a night-time stroll through the streets where they were greeted at doorways with tableaux performed by children with real live animals depicting the manger scene or the trek to Bethlehem by Joseph and a pregnant Mary and later by the magi.  (No camels, I'm disappointed to say.  But there were donkeys.)  The procession ended at a palm-leaf and pine needle-strewn street at the end of which was erected a large alter to Mary and the babe. 

They also had a night for neighborhood posadas where other processions were enacted commemorating the trek to Bethlehem with a young couple at the head of the procession dressed as Mary and Joseph.  As they passed by houses, people would join the parade which ended at a particular house in the neighborhood where a singing exchange occurred representing the request of the couple for a place at the inn. 

So, if you aren't happy with our American Christmas, why don't you move to Mexico?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

PS - NPR has an article about an Israeli archeologist having found what is believd to be the actual little town of Bethlehem (in Galilee) where Jesus was born, which is a 7 kilometer trek for the pregnant Mary, and not a 150 trek to the Bethlehem of Judea, where it has been celebrated for 2000 years.

War on Christmas

I intended to offer you proof of the war on Christmas, but all I found in the news was a story about the US ordering drone strikes on Christmas eve in Yemen and an attack on a US-run base in Afghanistan the morning after Christmas.

So, maybe there really is no war on Christmas after all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

At the Cliffs of Insanity

[John Boehner] couldn't get the votes to pass a truly horrid plutocrat's wet dream. He couldn't get the votes to gut Obamacare or Wall Street reform. He couldn't get the votes to throw children off food stamps and he couldn't get the votes to throw the elderly off meals-on-wheels. He couldn't get the votes for a simple, vicious stunt. He couldn't get the votes because he couldn't budge enough Republicans to support a tax increase in the upper .01 percent of taxpayers. He couldn't do it because he had nothing with which to threaten people who look on governing the country as though they are running an evening-drive talk-radio program in Bugtussle. He couldn't do it because he is a Republican pretending to be a fanatic who went hat in hand to a bunch of fanatics pretending to be Republicans.

  Charlie Pierce

[John Boehner:] "There was a perception created that this vote was a vote to raise taxes. I disagree. But there's a number of our members who didn't want to be perceived as raising taxes...The perception was out there and our members didn't want to deal with it."


Left unsaid, and unasked:

- Who "created" the scary "perception"?
- If it's just a "perception," why did so many of his members act on it, and why was he unable to make them "deal" with it?
- Why is the country being held hostage by a "perception" that so terrifies a rump faction in one house of Congress? And...
- Who's running this rodeo anyway?

The fact is Boehner knows he has no power any more.

  Charlie Pierce

The inmates are running the assylum. [Spelling intentional.]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Think We KNOW Where He's Been

By now, you've probably seen this:

I would have liked to have heard a little more humility when Jake Tapper of ABC asked the president why he took such a dive on gun violence in his first term. "I was too busy saving the economy" doesn't cut it, because, while the president was busy saving the economy, he managed to find time to sign bills allowing concealed weapons in the national parks and on Amtrak trains. It would have been nice to hear that he is rethinking the decision behind those two abject surrenders, or at least that he's too chastened to brag about them any more. He owes the Brady campaign something of an apology. We will have to see what recommendations come out, how hard the White House will push, and exactly how good this president, at the height of his popularity, is at working the levers.

  Charlie Pierce

Oh, call me jaded, but I think I already know.

He just offered to allow the Bush tax cuts extension to include income of $400,000, up from his long-held public claim of $250,000. He drives a hard bargain.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Benghazi Fallout - Sate Resignations

Three US State Department officials have resigned after a damning investigation into the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi in on 11 September found “systematic failures” of leadership and “grossly inadequate” security.

The report said that US personnel on the ground acted with “courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation” during two sustained attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi and a nearby annex that killed Stevens and three other American officials.

But it also described confusion, lack of transparency and inadequate leadership at senior levels, and strongly criticised the use of a Libyan armed militia as security for the Benghazi consulate.

Those who resigned included the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Eric Boswell; the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, Charlene Lamb; and a third official who was not named.

  Raw Story

And it wasn't Hillary Clinton. In fact, Hillary called in sick to the Congressional hearing that's going on today.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Giving to Charity

The Salvation Army is not simply a charity: it is a religious sect.


Salvation Army Captain Mike Parker, of Mankato, MN, told a reporter that the organization doesn’t discriminate, either in hiring or helping. But some evidence shows otherwise. Stories about their stance on and treatment of LGBT individuals have driven donations down from last year. The kettle campaign has attracted some notes rather than donations, explaining that the group’s stance on homosexuality is to blame.


One man tells of how he and his partner were turned away from a shelter unless they would  agree to break up and “leave the ‘sinful homosexual lifestyle’ behind.”  They refused and ended up sleeping on the streets.


While the Salvation Army says that it is not their policy to discriminate in such a way, they do acknowledge that some “isolated incidents” may have occurred. The SA is a huge operation, they say, and it’s difficult to police all 60,000 employees and 3.5 million volunteers. But up until last year the SA website had a position statement on homosexuality reading, in part, that gay Christians should “embrace celibacy as a way of life.” Salvation Army Maj. George Hood, the organization’s national community relations secretary, said it was “… a theological statement not meant for an external audience and it was creating a lot of confusion.” He continues, “A relationship between same-sex individuals is a personal choice that people have the right to make but from a church viewpoint, we see that going against the will of God.”


The Salvation Army has claimed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification will not be allowed in determining who can benefit from their services, non-clergy employment and volunteerism. It has required any incidents that break this edict be reported immediately. The reaction from the LGBT community is a wait-and-see attitude, as they continue their campaign against donations to the Salvation Army.

  Addicting Info

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gun Control

An 11-year-old boy in Utah reportedly told classmates that his parents recommended that he take a gun to school for defense after the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

According to KSTU, students at West Kearns Elementary School notified teachers after the sixth grader pulled a .22 caliber pistol out of his backpack on Monday morning. “At recess, he pointed a gun to my head and said he was going to kill me,” fellow classmate Isabel Rios recalled.

  Raw Story

Randall White, 49, was in line waiting for his pizza on Sunday when he began complaining that he wasn’t being served fast enough. According to the Tampa Bay Times, 52-year-old Michael Jock was also in line and scolded White for whining. The two began arguing and it eventually “became a shoving match,” police spokesperson Mike Puetz said.

After White allegedly raised his fist, Jock pulled out a .38 Taurus Ultralight Special Revolver and fired a shot into the man’s torso. A second shot also hit White in the torso. One round became lodged in the restaurant wall.

When police arrived, Jock told them that the shooting had been justified under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which says that gun owners do not have a “duty to retreat.”

  Raw Story

Although, come to think of it...if we know that people might be carrying, perhaps we'll try to be a little nicer.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Report on Benghazi

Perhaps you read about the big stink over the possibility of Susan Rice, ambassador to Libya, being named the next Secretary of State. Perhaps you read that recently she penned a letter to the president saying she wanted her name withdrawn from consideration because the stink was a distraction from what he and she were really trying to do – protect the United States in these terrorist times. I suspect she was asked to pen that letter just like she was asked to step out front after the Benghazi attack and be the one to say the attack was over an insulting B movie. Being an Obama loyalist, or maybe just being a loyal ambassador, she did both. And the noble letter so very surprisingly, came just in time. Just before she would have gotten knocked out of the water by the report.  "Mr. President, this is what the report is going to say.  It's time to call Ambassador Rice."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she accepts the findings of an independent panel that faulted the State Department over the deadly September attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya.

An inquiry into the attack on the US mission, which saw the US ambassador and three other US citizens killed, found that the State Department security arrangements there were "grossly inadequate".


When Susan Rice pens her autobiography, after her retirement from State, I wonder if she'll stay the loyalist, or “tell all.” I know which would make more money.

Clinton also ordered widespread changes to bolster US diplomatic security overseas.


The US would send hundreds of additional Marine guards to overseas posts, ask for more money for security improvements and name a new State Department official to oversee "high threat posts," she said.

Because, apparently, Hillary wasn't up to that task after all. And if she plans to run for president in 2016, this is going to be a big hammer in the hands of her rivals.

Citing the report, [Al Jazeera's Washington reporter Rosiland] Jordan said "there wasn't that sense of urgency" at the State Department to secure the diplomatic facilities particularly in countries undergoing political upheavals and revolutions.

The report found that there were "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department [that] resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."

So long, Hill.  Enjoy your retirement party.  Don't stutter during the mutual admiration speeches.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some Ideas Are Better Than Others

“It wouldn’t have happened if the schools allowed the employees to carry firearms,” she told me or words to that effect, but absolutely parroting the NRA talking points. It set me off.

To which –as a sonofalawyer–I could only reply, “Let’s think this through. What calibre do you suggest? What model? Automatic or manual? Rifle, hand gun, something else? If you are going to propose this, you need to have a standard gun issued, so what will it be?”

Do the staff shoot to kill or just to wound? What if the target is one of the students, does that change things? Will teachers have immunity from prosecution for shooting their students or other people on the campus?

You want to train Teacher Union members how to shoot guns? (I swear she flinched at that point, it was pretty funny.) What will be the certification process to prove that they’re good shots. What about the substitute teachers? Will teachers get better guns as they go up the pay scale? What happens if a good teacher is a poor shot? What if the teacher doesn’t want to shoot anyone? Do you fire him or her? What happens when the teachers go on strike? Do you train the scabs?

Who is going to pay for the guns, the ammo, the training? What’s the insurance policy going to cost to cover accidents, or stolen guns being used in other crimes? How often do you replace the ammo to keep it fresh? How do you budget yearly ammo? How do you account for it at the end of the year? What happens if some ammo goes missing?

How much ammo should schools have on hand? Where will these weapons be stored? How will they be stored? Where will the ammo be stored? Where will this stuff go during the summer and when school in not in session?

I don’t know if it changed her mind (I doubt it), but I think she will be careful about saying stuff like this around me again.

  Mock, Paper, Scissors

Excellent points. To which we could also add: now the student killer doesn’t have to bring his own weapon to school. He just has to knock a teacher on the head. Or arm-wrestle an old one.

Too Sensitive to Try

Pentagon investigators concluded that a senior Defense Department official who’s been mentioned as a possible candidate to be the next CIA director leaked restricted information to the makers of an acclaimed film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and referred the case to the Justice Department, according to knowledgeable U.S. officials.


The Justice Department received the case involving Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers in September, but so far it’s declined to launch a criminal prosecution, said two senior U.S. officials who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.


Obama’s Justice Department has prosecuted a record number of U.S. officials for leaking secret information to the news media that critics contend shouldn’t have been classified or did no harm to national security. The most prominent case involves the ongoing prosecution of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who’s accused of providing thousands of secret and confidential diplomatic and military documents to WikiLeaks, the online whistle-blowing organization.


The Justice Department received the case involving Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers in September, but so far it’s declined to launch a criminal prosecution, said two senior U.S. officials who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.


...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Anonymous Takes on Westborough Baptist

Members of the hacker collective “Anonymous” published a trove of information over the weekend purporting to be the individual names, email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of every adult member of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church after the group announced plans to picket Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.


The church said on Twitter that it would be picketing the school where 26 people, 20 of them children, were killed by a heavily armed gunman on Friday. The anti-gay hate group blamed the tragedy on same sex marriage equality. The hate group tends to pick highly controversial sites to protest — like soldiers’ funerals and areas affected by natural disasters


The Twitter account of Westboro spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper was hijacked on Monday morning by a hacker claiming to be “Cosmo the God,” a 16-year-old who allegedly orchestrated several major hacks against companies like CloudFlare, AT&T, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix.

It’s not clear if this hacker actually is the notorious Cosmo, who was arrested recently and ordered not to access the Internet as a part of his parole.

[...], the Westboro Baptist Church’s home on the Internet, was taken offline Monday by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack ostensibly launched by hackers with Anonymous. The hackers vowed via Twitter to keep the church’s website offline for as long as possible, or potentially take it over completely.

  Raw Story

Apple v. Samsung - Latest Round

A US federal judge has rejected Apple's plea to ban sales of Samsung smartphones that violate its patents.

The decision, made on Monday, is part of a series of rulings that US Judge Lucy Koh says she is releasing over a period of several weeks to address the many legal issues raised in the case.

Apple had requested for the ban after a jury ruled in August that some Samsung products had infringed Apple's patents.

A jury found Samsung had copied critical features of the iPhone and iPad.

Samsung was ordered to pay $1.05bn in damages, a ruling the South Korean firm has since challenged.

Apple had urged the judge to permanently ban the US sales of eight Samsung smartphone models, while also seeking to add millions more to the award.

"The phones at issue in this case contain a broad range of features, only a small fraction of which are covered by Apple's patents," Koh wrote in her ruling.


From Apple, you might expect appeal. (Sorry, just couldn't stop myself.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Madness Unleashed

Gunfire shattered the calm on Sunday night around 9:30 p.m. at the Mayan Palace Theatre, NBC affiliate WOAI-TV in San Antonio reported.

The alleged shooter was 19-year-old Jesus Manuel Garcia, who burst out of the nearby Chinese restaurant where he worked and begin firing at the theater next door. Police also told WOAI-TV that he fired at a patrol car as he was heading toward the theater.

Before Garcia could walk through the entrance, however, he was shot four times by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working at the theater. The officer’s name was not released.


Garcia remains in stable condition at a nearby hospital. He faces aggravated assault charges.

  Raw Story

I once read a novel whose premise was that violence is a virus.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Will at Least Pass This Along...

Obama reacts to the old story repeated in Newtown: “each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would -- as a parent.” Well, it’s certainly true that he has yet to actually react as a president, which I believe is his fucking job.



Yet Another "Defense" Industry Boondoggle

In October 2001 Lockheed-Martin signed a production contract, having prevailed over a competing bid by Boeing's X-32, to produce 2,866 aircraft for $233 billion in three versions: F-35A conventional-takeoff aircraft, F-35B short-takeoff and vertical-landing aircraft, and F-35C carrier-based aircraft.

The F-35 program has had a troubled history. In 2010 the Pentagon disclosed that delays and cost overruns had resulted in a cost per aircraft that exceeded the original contract by 50 percent.

  Salt Lake Tribune

Now, I know that surprises you, because that just has never happened before in our defense contracting.

A 2011 Pentagon study cited 13 major problems. The F-35 integrated power package was described as unreliable and difficult to service. There were safety concerns about lightning protection and thermal management, as well as possible fire hazards in the fuel dump system. The study also revealed that the airframe was unlikely to last through the lifespan of the aircraft.

American built. Built to not last.

A Foreign Policy magazine survey of 76 top military experts in 2012 revealed that 26 of them rated the F-35 program as the top candidate for immediate elimination.


These experts listed global warming, pandemics, cyber-warfare, terrorism, political instability, weapons of mass destruction and economic crises as the top security threats. However one rank-orders these threats, the F-35 does not increase our ability to address them. The F-22 Raptor produced by Lockheed-Martin until 2009 is faster, more maneuverable, capable of flying at a higher altitude, and is less visible on radar. Although the F-22 has experienced problems of delivering oxygen to the pilot, an Air Force Association study judged it to be much preferable to the F-35.

Not if you're the pilot!


What is the probability that the F-35 program will be terminated? None.

Defense contractors typically disperse subcontracts to as many congressional districts as possible. In a rare example of bipartisan cooperation in Congress, a caucus of 49 members led by Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Norm Dicks, D-Wash., pledged to protect the F-35. Lockheed-Martin has distributed $1.3 million in campaign contributions, including $120,000 to Granger, $97,000 to Dicks, $144,250 to Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., and $129,950 to Joe Barton, R-Texas. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is a member of the caucus.


Whereas the original contract called for $233 billion for 2,866 F-35s, it now calls for a smaller fleet for $385 billion, with lifetime costs exceeding $1.51 trillion.

So, that's okay then.  And - what a bargain: less for more.

And, if you can sucker some other government into buying them...hey! That's a winner.

Wednesday, Canadians learned that the purchase of 65 of these aircraft – the number announced by the Harper government in 2010 – will cost in the order of $46-billion over the 42 year projected life cycle of the aircraft. If Ottawa still goes ahead with the purchase it will be the most expensive military procurement in Canadian history.


The United States still plans to purchase 2,443 of the aircraft at a total cost (purchase and operations) of well over a trillion dollars. But virtually all of the nations that have signed on to the F-35 consortium are seriously questioning their commitment to the jet.


[W]hen the F-35 was first conceived, there was (and is) no real “enemy” out there that it could possibly be used against. State to state conventional war among major powers – the only kind which can afford jets like these – is simply inconceivable today.


Canada and other nations that joined the F-35 consortium (Canada first committed itself in 2002), believed that the technical barriers to the F-35’s projected capabilities would be overcome at reasonable cost and that developing the aircraft together, as it were, would lead to substantial savings and lucrative production contracts distributed among the consortium nations.

  The Globe and Mail

I think what that's saying is, the Canadian government was not so stupid as to buy something it didn't need, but that it was looking at the consortium as a way to spread military-industrial contracts around and make money. Unfortunately for Canada and the other countries in the consortium, the spreading doesn't seem to have gotten too far beyond Lockheed-Martin and some US congressmen.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Moving Along, Having Seen Nothing

I'm going to forego any more posting about the massacre in Connecticut (I think - and boy, that other shooting in Oregon earlier this week is just background for this now, eh?), because if not, all I'm going to be saying is: Tears and grief from our national leaders and international friends are about as useful as tits on a boar; our litanized thoughts and prayers for the fallen and their families have about the same value; our days (or hours) of news running down the particulars of each incident and refusal to seriously investigate just WTF is going on in this country that has made massacres almost commonplace is more "senseless" than the killings; the terrorizing of our school children by our own people takes a back seat to our irrational fear of some America-hating turbaned suicide bomber, and so we put all our money and resources into a ridiculously overblown anti-terror industry while leaving our shamefully underpaid teachers and our supposedly precious children to fend for themselves against a growing contagion of mentally fragile people out on the streets with assault weapons instead of health care....

Well, I've got nothing. hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For the Love of Pete

Another school massacre this week.

Poor Steve; Still Tossing

Apple's iPhone has returned Google Maps, the world's most popular online mapping system, to its phones after its own navigation system failed to please customers.

Google Maps was returned late on Wednesday to the mobile telephones with the release of the Google Maps' iPhone app.

The release comes nearly three months after Apple Inc. replaced Google Maps as the device's built-in navigation system and inserted its own maps into the latest version of its mobile operating system.

Google Inc. said its new iPhone app is a major improvement from Apple's mobile application.

"We started from scratch,'' said Daniel Graf, mobile director of Google Maps. Google engineers started working on the new app before Apple's September 19 ouster, Graf said, though he declined to be more specific.

The additional tools in the free iPhone mapping app include turn-by-turn directions.



The U.S. will send two batteries of Patriot missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a NATO force meant to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian missile attack, the Pentagon said Friday.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Too Big to Jail

[We] are constantly told that immunizing those with the greatest power [against legal process] is not for their good, but for our good, for our collective good: because it's better for all of us if society is free of the disruptions that come from trying to punish the most powerful, if we're free of the deprivations that we would collectively experience if we lose their extraordinary value and contributions by prosecuting them.

This rationale was popularized in 1974 when Gerald Ford explained why Richard Nixon - who built his career as a "law-and-order" politician demanding harsh punishments and unforgiving prosecutions for ordinary criminals - would never see the inside of a courtroom after being caught committing multiple felonies; his pardon was for the good not of Nixon, but of all of us. That was the same reasoning hauled out to justify immunity for officials of the National Security State who tortured and telecom giants who illegally spied on Americans (we need them to keep us safe and can't disrupt them with prosecutions), as well as the refusal to prosecute any Wall Street criminals for their fraud (prosecutions for these financial crimes would disrupt our collective economic recovery).

A new episode unveiled on Tuesday is one of the most vivid examples yet of this mentality. Over the last year, federal investigators found that one of the world's largest banks, HSBC, spent years committing serious crimes, involving money laundering for terrorists; "facilitat[ing] money laundering by Mexican drug cartels"; and "mov[ing] tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups". Those investigations uncovered substantial evidence "that senior bank officials were complicit in the illegal activity."


If you're Muslim and your conduct gets anywhere near helping a terrorist group, even by accident, you're going to prison for a long, long time. In fact, powerless, obscure, low-level employees are routinely sentenced to long prison terms for engaging in relatively petty money laundering schemes, unrelated to terrorism, and on a scale that is a tiny fraction of what HSBC and its senior officials are alleged to have done.


On Tuesday, not only did the US Justice Department announce that HSBC would not be criminally prosecuted, but outright claimed that the reason is that they are too important, too instrumental to subject them to such disruptions.

US authorities defended their decision not to prosecute HSBC for accepting the tainted money of rogue states and drug lords on Tuesday, insisting that a $1.9bn fine for a litany of offences was preferable to the 'collateral consequences' of taking the bank to court. . . .


"HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, said it was 'profoundly sorry' for what it called 'past mistakes' that allowed terrorists and narcotics traffickers to move billions around the financial system and circumvent US banking laws. . . . "As part of the deal, HSBC has undertaken a five-year agreement with the US department of justice under which it will install an independent monitor to assess reformed internal controls. The bank's top executives will defer part of their bonuses for the whole of the five-year period.

  UK Guardian

DOJ officials touted the $1.9 billion fine HSBC would pay, the largest ever for such a case. As the Guardian's Nils Pratley noted, "the sum represents about four weeks' earnings given the bank's pre-tax profits of $21.9bn last year.


The New York Times Editors this morning announced: "It is a dark day for the rule of law." There is, said the NYT editors, "no doubt that the wrongdoing at HSBC was serious and pervasive." But the bank is simply too big, too powerful, too important to prosecute.

That's not merely a dark day for the rule of law. It's a wholesale repudiation of it.

  Glenn Greenwald

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

More "Spree" Killing - The New Great American Passtime

At least two people were killed when a masked gunman opened fire at a mall in the western US state of Oregon, sparking panic before apparently turning the gun on himself, police said.

At least one person was also injured in Clackamas, south of Portland, a sheriff’s spokesman said, after local media reported a gunman wearing body armor opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle near a Macy’s department store.

  Raw Story

Of course, having all these mass murder incidents is nothing like having suicide bombers in our midst. So we're okay.

Temporary Texas Reprieve in the Tar Sands Pipeline

A Texas landowner in Nacogdoches County secured a temporary restraining order on Tuesday against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline by arguing that tar sands is not actually a type of oil.

Judge Jack Sinz granted the order without first notifying TransCanada, the company behind the ambitious pipeline that aims to transport Canadian tar sands to the Texas gulf coast for further refinement. In his ruling, Judge Sinz noted that the order was granted immediately because construction had already begun on the plaintiff’s property and any delay could potentially result in further damages. A hearing on the matter is set for Wednesday, December 19.


Tar sands is more commonly known as a synthetic crude because it is heavier and less [viscous] than traditional light, sweet crude. It has to be heated with a proprietary chemical solvent in order to flow through pipes like light crude, and carries with it additional grit that tends to corrode pipe casing faster than other types of oil. That solvent and the heavier tar can begin to seep into water tables almost immediately upon spillage, taking an unknown toll on the environment thanks to how secretive companies are with the actual makeup of their unique chemical mixtures.


A spill of tar sands oil on the Yellowstone River in 2011 caused the state of Montana to cite Exxon for failure to disclose that it was tar sands and caustic chemicals running through the pipes, instead of traditional crude. Public Citizen Texas’ Wilson added that activists in Texas have had similar difficulties forcing TransCanada to disclose what toxic materials they plan on using.

“[The Railroad Commission] just rubber stamped the operator’s permit for the pipeline, but state code mandates they have prove this is indeed crude oil,” she said. “[This lawsuit] intends to prove they have not done their due diligence.”


Bishop, a retired chemist, insisted that crude oil, by state and federal definitions, is fundamentally different than bitumen, which produces tar sands. “You have to physically mine it; it is a solid material,” he explained. “If it looks like crap, if it smells like crap, the chances are pretty good that it’s crap.”

  Raw Story

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


...but hey, do what you will anyway.

h/t Marty via Being Liberal

Opening the Aperture: Children With Potential Hostile Intent

Under the [relatively new] US definition, all fighting-age males killed in drone strikes are regarded as combatants and not civilians, unless there is explicit evidence to the contrary. This has the effect of significantly reducing the official tally of civilian deaths.


"Under the rules of law you can only target civilians if they are directly participating in hostilities. So, here, this standard of presuming any military aged males in the vicinity of a war zone are militants, already goes beyond what the law allows.”


Children in conflict zones have additional protections under the law.


In comments which legal experts and campaigners described as "deeply troubling", army Lt Col Marion Carrington told the Marine Corp Times that [Afghan] children, as well as "military-age males", had been identified as a potential threat because some were being used by the Taliban to assist in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

"It kind of opens our aperture," said Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. "In addition to looking for military-age males, it's looking for children with potential hostile intent."


Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah specialising in counter-terrorism, said Carrington's remarks reflected the shifting definitions of legitimate military targets within the Obama administration.

Guiora, who spent years in the Israel Defence Forces, including time as a legal adviser in the Gaza Strip, said: "I have great respect for people who put themselves in harm's way. Carrington is probably a great guy, but he is articulating a deeply troubling policy adopted by the Obama administration.

"The decision about who you consider a legitimate target is less defined by your conduct than the conduct of the people or category of people which you are assigned to belong to … That is beyond troubling. It is also illegal and immoral."

  UK Guardian

Aside from the obvious immorality of fabricating an official excuse for killing children, I wonder how many children are left in Afghanistan who do not have some potential hostile intent.
"When considering lethal force we ask ourselves whether the individual poses a significant threat to US interests.” ~ White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan, April 2012
Now, there's a statement and a precedent the entire world should probably pay attention to.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Ooops. Damned Consequences, Again.

When [Texas] state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.


The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone.


“I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session,” said Representative Donna Howard, Democrat of Austin.


Damn! Thinking things through is hard.

Last legislative session, while lawmakers debated the cuts, the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board estimated that they would lead 284,000 women to lose family planning services, resulting in 20,000 additional unplanned births at a cost to taxpayers of $231 million.


[The bulk of the expense] is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

Ahead of the next legislative session, during which lawmakers will grapple with an existing Medicaid financing shortfall, a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.   

No! No! No! There's a better Republican way to deal with this. You know where I'm going here....Halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Medicaid.

Asked whether Gov. Rick Perry would support returning money to family planning programs, his spokeswoman Lucy Nashed left the door open. “Last session the Legislature had to prioritize,” she said, speaking of the state’s budget woes.

“Every two years we take a fresh look at our resources and our needs.”

So...that's a 'yes'?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

'Tis the Season

For Conservative Christians to wail about being persecuted and forced to keep quiet about their beliefs.

On the conservative Liberty Counsel radio show Faith and Freedom, hosts Mat Staver and Matt Barber discuss the fact that an elementary school in Jackson County, Fla., removed a nativity scene while allowing Santa Clause and Frosty the Snowman to remain.


Then Barber argued that as “people who are engaged in all form of aberrant sexual behavior” come out of the closet, “Christians are being forced into the closet .”

  Raw Story

Because you never hear Christians expounding their views publicly any more, right?

Stay tuned. On Christmas, I will show you the war on Christmas. ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Live by the Dollar, Die by the Dollar

Rove and Morris on the wrong side of the money.

Fox News Channel (FNC) is trying to reinvent itself in the wake of the 2012 election, and, according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, phase one of the network’s makeover plan has already gone into effect. Chief of programming Bill Shine, acting on orders from network head Roger Ailes, has issued an edict to the network’s bookers and producers that no one is to book Republican author and pundit Dick Morris or former GOP kingmaker Karl Rove without his permission.

“The election’s over,” a Fox spokesperson told Sherman, and the biggest losers of all, apparently, are pundits like Rove and Morris, who believed their own PR spin about “skewed” polls and the size and enthusiasm of the crowds in Ohio, and who were honestly taken aback by the results on election night.


Karl Rove’s on-air tantrum when the network called Ohio for President Barack Obama may have made for riveting, historic television, but Ailes, who Sherman describes as “a canny marketer and protector of his network’s brand,” apparently would prefer to avoid such scenes in the future.

  Raw Story

Slightly less satisfying than a frog march, but if Rove isn't even welcome at Fox, he's probably in his last throes, to coin a phrase from arch-villain Dick Cheney. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

War on Christmas

It's that time of year, folks, when all your favorite "conservatives" start in: "Yak, yak, yak, War on Christmas! Yak, yak, yak."

When Christmas arrives, I will point out to you the war on Christmas, and you can see for yourselves that it is real.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Photography: Human Flowers


Noam Chomsky on the Latest Israeli-Palestinian Episode

With a little history.

Ignoring immediate Hamas offers of a truce after the 2006 election in which Hamas won control of Palestinian leadership], Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, mostly civilians, one-third minors.  The escalation of attacks in 2007 killed 816 Palestinians, 360 civilians and 152 minors.  The UN reports that 2879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza. A truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November.  Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.  So matters have continued, while the US and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement in accord with the international consensus on a two-state settlement that the US has blocked since 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.


The reasons Washington frankly offered for its opposition to the [recent resolution admitting Palestine as an observer state of the UN] were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court on Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes, which cannot be permitted judicial review for reasons that are all too obvious.  A second concern, the New York Times reported, was that “the Palestinians might use the vote to seek membership in specialized agencies of the United Nations,” which could lead Washington to defund these international organizations, as it cut off financing to UNESCO in 2011 when it dared to admit Palestine as a member.  The Master does not tolerate disobedience.


And indeed, hours after the UN vote Israel announced its decision to carry forward settlement in Area E1 that connects the vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem that it annexed illegally to the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, greatly expanded under Clinton after the Oslo Accords, with lands extending virtually to Jericho, effectively bisecting the West Bank if the Area E1 corridor is closed by settlement.


[O]ne element of the unremitting torture of its people is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza from which Gazans are barred entry, almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land according to Sara Roy, the leading academic scholar of Gaza.


Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air.  On the eve of the latest attack, the UN reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock.


The massive destruction [by Israeli attacks last month] was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced US military equipment for the slaughter and destruction, and relied on US diplomatic support, including the usual US intervention to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire.


The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.” There is no sign of steps in this direction.  Nor is there any indication of US-Israeli willingness to rescind their policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.

  Israeli Occupation Archive

Catholicism Is All A-Twitter

The Pope is gonna tweet.

Pope Benedict XVI is not due to send out his first tweet until next week, but his official Twitter account has already broken the 90,000 follower mark.

The Vatican announced on Monday that the 85-year-old pontiff will send out his first 140-character message on December 12, the feast of Madonna of Guadalupe.

"The Twitter handle is @pontifex. It's a good name I think. It means 'pope' and it means 'bridge builder' at the same time. It suggests unity, the pope united not only with Catholics but also with all men and women of good will," said Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican.


"How often will the pope tweet? The answer to that is as often as the pope wants.”


Ay! He's da pope.

Let's see if we can't think of a better, more appropriate name for Ratzinger's tweety identity.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Visual

Corporate profits (red) vs. wages and salaries (blue)

In the Den of Thieves

Sen. Ron Wyden [D-Oregon] insists he doesn’t have a grudge against fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. What he does have, though, is a hold on her two legislative priorities of the lame-duck session — and he has, in fact, placed a hold on every major bill coming out of her Intelligence Committee in the past two years.

Wyden’s moves to block the two latest bills — a spy agency reauthorization measure (S 3454) aimed at cracking down on leaks and an extension of expiring surveillance provisions from a 2008 law — are the newest demonstrations of how the Oregon Democrat has become the Senate’s hardest line to cross on civil liberties issues in the national security arena.

  Roll Call

Virtually its only line.

Previous Wyden post.

Looks Good in Headlines

The U.S. Senate approved an amendment on Thursday that strips a controversial provision from the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that allows the “indefinite detention” of American citizens within the U.S. by the military.

The amendment passed by a vote of 67 to 29. All but four of the Senators who voted against civilian trials for Americans were Republicans. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) crossed over to oppose the amendment, and they were joined by Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

The amendment reads: “An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

  Raw Story

Ah, the loophole.

A similar amendment put forward by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2011 failed to clear the Senate by a vote of 45 to 55. In that vote, 11 Democrats crossed over to oppose civilian trials for American citizens.

Leaving us to ponder what changed. Not that many Senate seats changed hands. Changes of heart? Conscience? Money? Favors? Or just the erratic flight of unprincipled men (and women: Claire McCaskill, Mary Landrieu and Debbie Stabenow) chasing a shiny object?   Perhaps it was the loophole.  Was that in the 2011 proposal?  If you don't know, that's more work for me, you realize?  I understood it to allow the Supreme Court to make the decision, not Congress.  I could be wrong.  So you might want to try to figure that one out yourself if you don't already have a good understanding of the bullshit as it was thrown back then.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The 2011 Feinstein proposal Nays:

The Value of a Scoundrel's Pledge

“Political source: Netanyahu decided to build 3,000 new housing units in east Jerusalem and in settlements in the West Bank in response to the Palestinian action at the UN,” said a Hebrew tweet by Barak Ravid.

“Despite the commitments he gave to (US) President (Barack) Obama, PM Netanyahu gave the order to advance construction in the E1 area between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem which will cut off the northern part of the West Bank from the south,” he said.

Israel had pledged to freeze the E1 project as part of its commitments under the international roadmap for peace which was launched in 2003.

  Raw Story

The bully's bride. Pure evil. What will the bully have to say?

The White House  and the State Department said on Friday a new Israeli settlement expansion plan was "counterproductive" and could make it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.


"Direct negotiations remain our goal and we encourage all parties to take steps to make that easier to achieve."


By all means. Encourage away.

And, back to pledging:

Four big-name Republicans have broken with Grover Norquist in recent days, saying they won’t be bound by their Norquist-sponsored pledges to oppose any and all tax increases.

The moves by Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) represent the opening steps of a delicate dance for the GOP.


...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Iconic American City in the Toilet

The City of Detroit has left whole areas without street lighting and even proposed allowing buildings to burn rather than spend the money on fire fighters. However, the city is now facing a $1.1 million default judgment in a civil rights suit after its attorneys failed to respond to the lawsuit.

  Jonathan Turley

And I have to guess that they figure they'll be bankrupt when the lawsuits start coming in from crime and accidents occuring on dark streets and buildings burning down because no one came to put them out, so – no worries.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.