Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's Sunday

Here's hoping that what you gave up for Lent was religion. 

And that it cured you, and you don't take it up again.  Because we don't want you being an April Fool tomorrow.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.  (I know I will.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prepare to Mutate

The biotech rider instead was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed - little wonder food activists are accusing lobbyists and Congress members of backroom dealings. The Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food are directing blame at the Senate Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. According to reports, many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the "Monsanto Protection Act" even existed within the spending bill, HR 933; they voted in order to avert a government shutdown.
I assure you. In some boardroom somewhere, three guys are slapping high-fives while two other guys cut campaign checks. It turns out those Enron dudes were pikers. This is the real stuff right here.

  Charlie Pierce
And really, for all the hoopla about sequestration and government shutdown - it's all a game of smoke and mirrors so that shit like this can take place.

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

You're In the Belly of the Beast

The United States has deployed two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over South Korea as part of a "deterrence" mission over the Korean peninsula.

The deployment of B-2 bombers on Thursday followed North Korea's decision to cut a military hotline with the South, breaking the last direct communication link between the two countries at a time of heightened military tensions.

The bombers made the 20,000km round trip from the US state of Missouri to South Korea in a single flight.

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, said the US is sending "a very clear message to North Korea".


Oh, I don't think there's a person on the planet under the age of 5 who hasn't already gotten “the message.”

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall.

A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

So that earned her a promotion. Sure. Why not.
The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for Brennan, who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.
He was a supporter of the torture program himself. I'm sure he'll figure something out. Or...if she were a man, he would.

Seen at Dependable Renegade

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Killing Your Way to a Solution"

Currently, the Pentagon has responsibility for drones in Afghanistan, Somalia and in Yemen, where the C.I.A. also runs a separate program. Because the proposal being examined by the National Security Council would most likely leave drone operations in Pakistan under the C.I.A., the practical impact of such a move in the short term would appear to be quite limited. To date, the vast majority of American drone strikes and other kinds of targeted counterterrorism strikes outside conventional wars have been carried out in Pakistan, where the C.I.A. operates on its own.


For months, President Obama and his aides have promised they will move to break down the wall of secrecy and work with Congress to create a more lasting legal framework for the drone strikes. But the only proposal to surface so far — an administration plan, not yet approved [is] to gradually move some drone operations that are now run by the C.I.A. to the military.


Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a favored adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, expressed concern in a speech here on Thursday that America’s aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism.

“We’re seeing that blowback,” General Cartwright, who is retired from the military, said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”


He said that if there are problems with the drone program, moving it “from one part of the government to another” would not necessarily solve them.


I think that's a pretty good assumption.

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

It's Getting Really Scary Out There

UPDATE: 3/6/2014 - It looks like the charges regarding linking have been dropped.  (Well over a year later.)

We often hear about "political prisoners" in "bad" countries.  And persecution of journalists in those same countries.  And when we do, we gasp and thank heaven we live in such a sterlingly free country.  (PS - click on this link to Reporters Without Borders' annual Press Freedom Index and look for the United States.)

[The] pending federal prosecution of 31-year-old Barrett Brown poses all new troubling risks. That's because Brown - who has been imprisoned since September on a 17-count indictment that could result in many years in prison - is a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.


Brown, using the documents obtained by Anonymous, was digging around - with increasing efficacy - in places which National Security and Surveillance State agencies devote considerable energy to concealing.


In March of last year, Brown's home was raided by the FBI, armed with a search warrant relating to both the HB Gary Federal and the Stratfor leaks. Brown told me they were intent on finding out what he had learned about those firms, particularly HB Gary Federal. Having apparently learned that the FBI agents were coming, Brown went to his mother's home, so the FBI broke down his door and entered his apartment. They seized various documents but could find nothing linking him to either hack, so he was not arrested.


Over the next several months, FBI agents continued to harass not only Brown but also his mother, repeatedly threatening to arrest her and indict her for obstruction of justice for harboring Brown and helping him conceal documents by letting him into her home.


In September, he posted a YouTube video detailing that the FBI and HB Gary Federal had threatened to ruin his life, and was particularly incensed about the threats against his mother. Obviously distraught, he said he intended to do the same to the FBI agent making the threats against his mother, FBI agent Robert Smith. While expressly disavowing any intent to physically harm Smith, Brown issued rambling threats to "destroy" Smith.

That was more than enough pretext to allow the FBI to do what they long wanted: arrest Brown.


In December, the DOJ filed a second indictment, which is now the heart of the government's case against him. It alleged that he "trafficked" in stolen goods, namely the Stratfor documents leaked by Anonymous and published by WikiLeaks.


[It] simply alleges that he helped "disseminate" the stolen information. He did that, claims the DOJ, when he was in a chat room and posted a link to those documents that were online.


There are countless legitimate reasons to link to those documents, particularly for a journalist. That this extremely dubious allegation now forms the crux of the DOJ's case against him reveals what a persecution this actually is.

  Glenn Greenwald

So, wouldn't that be true of any news outlet (or blogger) who receives and disseminates information from any leak? Why aren't major news publications racing to his defense? (Rhetorical)

The US government's serial prosecutorial excesses aimed at internet freedom activists, journalists, whistleblowers and the like are designed to crush meaningful efforts to challenge their power and conduct. It is, I believe, incumbent on everyone who believes in those values to do what they can to support those who are taking real risks in defense of those freedoms and in pursuit of real transparency.


A legal defense fund has been created by several young, smart and committed internet freedom activists [...]. I really hope everyone who is able to do so will donate what they can to his defense fund. You can do that at this link here, or via paypal to All donations will be used exclusively to hire private criminal defense counsel and to fund his defense.

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

PPS - Remember the Iraq War Coalition of the Willing and the joke, "Don't forget Eritrea"?  Well, when you're looking up the US in the Press Freedom Index, don't forget Eritrea.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


(I just watched Contagion, which if you don't know, has the worldwide panic-epidemic traced to a virus passed from bats, for which there is no vaccine.)

Experts on infectious diseases Thursday warned people to stay away from bats worldwide after the recent death of an eight-year-old boy bitten in Australia.

The boy last month became the third person in the country to die of Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), for which there is no effective treatment.

  Raw Story

And I just realized that the movie people got away with killing off two high-dollar actresses right away, while leaving two high-dollar actors alive for the whole movie, and there's really no cinematic reason the roles couldn't have been switched.

Americans Should Follow the UK Example. But We Won't.

More than a fifth - 22 percent - of Britons polled by YouGov this month said they believed Blair should be tried as a war criminal for his role in the conflict, which was preceded by massive anti-war demonstrations in London and other cities.

Fifty-three percent said the invasion was wrong, while half said Blair, a key international ally of US President George W Bush, had deliberately misled the British people over the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Blair's schedule these days is a closely guarded secret to avoid ambushes by the protesters who stalk his public appearances armed with eggs, shoes and banners reading: "BLIAR". Even his testimony at last year's phone-hacking inquiry was interrupted by an intruder shouting, "This man is a war criminal!"


I wish I could say, “It couldn't happen to a more deserving person.”

Blair may start thinking about taking up residence on whatever property he may own in South America. There are a number of people over here who don't lose a moment's sleep over it (although they do have property in South America), including Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld....

It was only as David Cronin saw Tony Blair and his entourage striding towards him that he finally plucked up the courage to go through with his plan to attempt to arrest the former British prime minister over his role in the invasion of Iraq and claim a bounty on his head.


Cronin [...] is one of four people to have claimed a reward from an online campaign, Arrest Blair which offers a share of a bounty pot for each attempted arrest.


Cronin, who donated his $4,200 bounty to a Gaza-based charity, said he was moved to act not just by Iraq but also in protest at Blair's appointment as Middle East envoy for the Quartet of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia.

"It's a complete joke that a guy who had helped to start two wars in the wider Middle East region is now swanning around posing as a peace envoy," Cronin said.

Yes, it is. We live in a joke world. And the joke's on us.

Moves to hold Blair accountable are also gaining momentum in Scotland, where some campaigners believe he could be tried under the country's separate legal system.

Margo MacDonald, an independent member of the Scottish parliament, told Al Jazeera that she planned to table a motion on Wednesday calling for Scottish law to be amended to make illegal "the waging of aggressive war with the intention of regime change", specifically so that Blair could be brought to trial.

"Theoretically, we believe he could face a court in Scotland," MacDonald told Al Jazeera. "We are simply adding to the pressure."

In an article published in last weekend's Sunday Herald newspaper, Alex Salmond, the leader of the ruling Scottish National Party, appeared to lend weight to MacDonald's cause, writing: "The illegal invasion and war in Iraq is a disgrace without parallel in modern times, the shame of which will echo down the ages for Blair and all of those who were complicit in sending young men and women to risk their lives on the basis of a gigantic fraud."

Good luck.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Republican Angst

I don't think the GOP is in that much trouble.

They've locked up the House for the foreseeable future. They're getting all kinds of laws past in the states that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. They've stacked the courts to the point where the DC circuit can rule against recess appointments, and where it looks like the teeth of the Voting Rights Act are about to be pulled. The entire economic debate is being fought out on ground only a smidge to the left of their own choosing. Sensible gun control turns out to be DOA, at least in part because Democratic politicians are afraid of mighty Republican ad buys in contestable states. Campaign finance is a a dead parrot, and the system in situ is vastly to their advantage. Real action on climate change is utterly stalled.

  Charlie Pierce

They don't have an opposition party. So why are all the newscasters talking about how the GOP is outdated and running scared? I don't get it either, Charlie. Unless, it's just THAT important to them to have the title of King of the World to go with their impact on it.

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


LadyBird prettied up the landscape, and for that I thank her.  Nancy Reagan probably ran the country while Ronnie wandered about bumping into handlers, but generally, first ladies are pretty useless - kind of like vice-presidents.  So, who cares?  But, really - is Michelle Obama planning to wear those ridiculous teenager 60s bangs for the whole second term?  They overpower every tasteful dress she might don, and make her look utterly bubble-headed.  Not to mention, design-wise, it's a terrible choice - leaves her with a little round face under a large dome of hair. 

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

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 2013

Speaking of Argentina...

Not so long ago Argentina topped the world for meat production, but here there was not a cow in sight. It is a picture replicated across the country. The transformation has taken little more than a decade and the vast majority of soya seed in Argentina is provided by US chemical giant Monsanto.


I bet you know where this post is going.

The company’s genetically-modified seed was designed to withstand their glyphosate-based pesticide, Round-up, which is routinely used in huge quantities across the country. But - according to numerous medical experts - in the process of using such pesticides everything else is being poisoned, including people. The doctors and scientists claim that babies are being born with crippling birth malformations and that in recent years the incidence of childhood cancer has soared. It is a phenomenon, they say, that has coincided with the introduction of Monsanto's seed.


Cristina Kirchner, the president of Argentina, is one of Monsanto’s strongest advocates.


For much of the past decade Argentina has seen a commodities-driven export boom, built largely on genetically-modified soy bean crops and the aggressive use of pesticides.

Argentina's leaders say it has turned the country's economy around.


Doctor [Maria Del Carmen] Seveso’s assertion that glyphosate based pesticide was responsible for what she referred to as ‘an epidemic of birth malformations’ is supported by Argentina’s leading embryologist, Professor Andres Carrasco, who runs the Molecular Embryology Laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires.


Monsanto completely disagrees – or at least as far as their chemicals are concerned. Although the company declined to be interviewed on camera, it did give us a written statement in which it said:

“Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides have a long history of safe use when used according to label directions in more than 100 countries around the world. Comprehensive toxicological studies have demonstrated that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® branded agricultural herbicides, does not cause birth defects or reproductive problems.”

”Comprehensive toxicological studies” for chemicals, as you may know, are conducted by the companies who manufacture them, not by any independent agency, federal or otherwise.

But, medical issues are not the only problem.

The vast amounts of money that can be made by growing soya are attracting a new breed of land-grabbers, wanting to displace villages with plantations. […C]ampesinos and Amerindians [are] being violently driven from their land.

We met torture victims, saw various stretches of farmland set ablaze and visited a small village whose only water source had been poisoned. In one community we interviewed Mirta, the mother of Cristian Ferreira who was murdered for refusing to move – shot point blank in the leg by gunmen working for a local land owner. His mother heard the news from Ferreira’s wife. "I went with her, and found my son. His leg had been severed.


"They pay private security firms who burn down huge areas, and if there are farms or houses in the way, they destroy them too. And then they sow soya, and then the planes arrive spraying agrochemicals and the cycle starts again."


Buenos Aires is hundreds of miles from the suffering in the north of the country and the national media, based in the capitol, have remained silent on the issue, for once, unquestioning of the government, whose assertion that there are no health problems arising from soya goes unchallenged.

The same relationship Obama has with the US media. Decry the “leftist” government as a threat to the good life, but support, or remain silent, when it backs corporate crime and environmental degradation.

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

It's Sunday

Pope Francis has said he wants "a poor Church, for the poor", giving his clearest indication yet that he wants a more austere Catholic Church.

The pope made his comments in an audience with journalists on Saturday, explaining why he chose to take the name Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, a symbol of peace, austerity and poverty.


Suddenly, it all becomes clearer.

Needing to rid themselves of the intense scrutiny over the child abuse scandals in which they are awash, the “Clan of the Red Beanie” (Charlie Pierce trademark) had Pope Ratzo, who was intricately tied to the scandal, step down. In his place, they positioned the image of St. Francis of Assisi to create a portrait of the church as benevolent protector of the poor, for some good press. But the important part of that deal was (is) that the new Pope Good Press be so old that his time will be long enough to garner good press, but short enough to go back to business as usual without having invested much church treasure in payment therefor.

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

And, in case you're wondering, the fact that St. Francis is also from Argentina is a big part of that same great deal of wasting only a few years appearing to be what lay people think the Catholic Church ought to be.

Oct 21 2004 (IPS) - For the Catholic church hierarchy in the Vatican, Latin America has changed from the “Continent of Hope” to the continent of concern, as followers are leaving the church in such large numbers that it could lead to the collapse of Catholicism within a decade and a half.

Although Latin America is still home to almost half of the 1.07 billion Catholics in the world today, numerous studies indicate that their numbers are declining throughout the region.


In Brazil, where there are more Catholics than in any other country in the world – roughly 100 million, out of a total population of close to 180 million – close to half a million followers are leaving the Catholic church every year.

Something similar is happening in Mexico, the country with the second largest number of Catholics. Roughly 88 percent of its 102 million inhabitants today identify themselves as Catholics, revealing a decline of almost 10 percent compared to the mid-20th century.

In Colombia, only two out of every three people profess themselves Catholics today, when almost the entire population was Catholic in the 1950s.

The phenomenon is particularly marked in Guatemala, where almost one-third of the country’s 12 million inhabitants have left the Catholic church.


“People feel alienated by a church that condemns divorce and is not willing to listen, an authoritarian church that opposes the use of condoms, and isn’t willing to adapt to the times and the real needs of people,” said [Elio Masferrer, chairman of the Latin American Religious Studies Association].

  IPS News

Also, Latin America is particularly notable for people cherishing children.

It's Sunday

The new pope is almost as old as the old pope.  But he doesn't look half as mean.  He's still the head of a criminal organization, though.  And he knows their crimes.  I'm not expecting him to turn anyone in.

Anyhow, may I introduce Pope Francis I, Argentinian (I know) Jorge Bergoglio...

Here's an article written about him earlier this month.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Remember This (Again): It's Always Worse Than You've Been Told

These documents are the final testimony that "looking forward and not backwards" is no way to run a democracy.

  Charlie Pierce

In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.


Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.

The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey.


How many people died so that Nixon could become president? And here's the kicker...Lyndon Johnson knew he did it and kept it a secret. He had the file.

And, remember the speculation and rumors that Reagan made a deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini to hold the American hostages until after the election so that Jimmy Carter would fail at getting them released? New evidence shows it's true.

Official Washington dismissed [the Reagan campaign's] “October Surprise” and other Iran-Contra-connected scandals, like Contra drug trafficking, as conspiracy theories.

As with Watergate and Nixon, Official Washington has refused to rethink its conclusions absolving President Ronald Reagan and his successor President George H.W. Bush of guilt in a range of crimes collected under the large umbrella of Iran-Contra.


The major newspapers have been equally unwilling to rethink the origins – and the significance – of the October Surprise/Iran-Contra scandal. It doesn’t matter how much new evidence accumulates. It remains much easier to continue the politically safe deification of “Gipper” Reagan and the fond remembrances of “Poppy” Bush.

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

Not for the Squeamish

Today, [Carl Levin] decided to serve up en brochette Jamie Dimon, that smug moocher of the public purse from JP Morgan. This comes on the heels of a 300-page report from Levin's subcommittee in which Dimon and the grifters who ran his bank make Bonnie And Clyde look like penny-ante stick-up kids working the strip malls. They also lied to each other, which is the kind of thing that will happen if you throw five weasels into a barrel and roll it down a hill.

The strategy forced JPMorgan Chase to reduce and restate first-quarter earnings last year. It ultimately led to a 50% cut in Dimon's 2012 pay, reducing his annual compensation to $11.5 million.
Try not to gag on that last sentence and then gaze in awe. ... This is the kind of thing that everybody said was terrible in 2008, and everybody said should never, ever, happen again, and if we only hand over a few trillion, well, everything will be all better and Daddy will get well and never loot your piggy bank again because Uncle Bookie gave him a sure thing in the fourth at Belmont. If anybody tried this crap at the track, they'd limp home with two kneecaps turned around the other way.

  Charlie Pierce

The whole story is available through that link and the links embedded therein if you care to read it.

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

A Sad Day in Sunshine Week

Two Democratic senators who spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity said that, when challenged by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., over the administration’s resistance to releasing Justice Department memos justifying the targeted killing program, the president responded, “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here.”

Again, President Obama, in defense of his targeted killing program, reportedly said, “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here.”

It’s the sort of defense Dick Cheney would probably use, were he not already Dick Cheney.


Aside from the fact that the Obama administration’s shadow drone wars are comparable to Bush-era programs of rendition and wiretapping in terms of secrecy and extrajudicial executive action, the president’s reference to the former V.P. is in itself troubling. It invokes the same race-to-the-bottom, “at least the other guy is worse” logic that saw many dejected liberals trudge reluctantly to the voting booths for Obama last November. What a sad political epoque — when not being literally the worst, not being Dick Cheney — is a defense.

Apparently This Is Sunshine Week

"The American people want to trust in our government again – we just need a government that will trust in us. And making government accountable to the people isn't just a cause of this campaign – it's been a cause of my life for two decades." – Barack Obama, September 4, 2007

  Chicago Sun Times

President Barack Obama’s defense to Democratic senators complaining about how little his administration has told Congress about the legal justifications for his drone policy: Dick Cheney was worse.


“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said.


The president noted that he would have “probably objected” over the White House’s handling of this issue if he were still a senator.


But he's a king now, so tough shit lowlifes.

“What happened over the last couple of weeks is a threat, is a threat to trust between us and you, us towards you and you towards us,” [West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay] Rockefeller told [newly seated CIA Director John] Brennan and other administration witnesses. “What basically happened was that we were given certain things which we requested, primarily because [Brennan was] up for confirmation….Had we not been given those things, some of those things which we requested, the confirmation would not have had the votes.” Rockefeller also charged that after Brennan was confirmed, the administration clammed up again and “went directly back to the way they were from 2001-2 to 2007.”


As for the legal memos shared after two years of requests, Rockefeller said there was “nothing in them which is a threat to anybody.” He also complained bitterly about the administration initially denying Senate staffers cleared to see highly classified information access to the memos and about someone sent in to watch him and an aide when they finally got to look at some of the documents in a secure room.

“There was a minder who was sent in. I was unaware that that person was going to have to be there. It was an insult to me,” Rockefeller said. “And I kicked the person out. He said, ‘My orders are I have to be here. And I said something else.’”

He apparently made his feelings known to Obama directly later. Too bad he's just a lowly senator and not a king, like Obama. Also, too bad we don't have a transcript of THAT conversation.

”Every time I asked the question of various people, the attorney general, the president and others, it’s always somebody else’s department,” [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Democrat Patrick] Leahy said.

Just this week, the Associated Press conducted a study proving that last year, the Obama administration has rejected more FOIA requests on national security grounds than in any year since Obama became president, and quoted Alexander Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney for its national security project, as follows:

"We've seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government's interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority. In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration."


Right this very minute, on the White House website, Obama is quoted this way: "My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government" because "transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing."

The White House blog on Wednesday said that "we celebrate Sunshine Week - an appropriate time to discuss the importance of open government and freedom of information"


Along with others, I've spent the last four years documenting the extreme, often unprecedented, commitment to secrecy that this president has exhibited, including his vindictive war on whistleblowers, his refusal to disclose even the legal principles underpinning his claimed war powers of assassination, and his unrelenting, Bush-copying invocation of secrecy privileges to prevent courts even from deciding the legality of his conduct.


Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler: "Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

  Glenn Greenwald

The law that directs our government’s activities should not be kept secret.


[The] White House is still bobbing and weaving on whether to share with Congress the legal opinions and memorandums governing targeted killing, which include the legal justification for killing U.S. citizens without trial.


In refusing to release to Congress the rules and justifications governing a program that has conducted nearly 400 unmanned drone strikes and killed at least three Americans in the past four years, President Obama is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days. And in keeping this information from the American people, he is undermining the nation’s ability to be a leader on the world stage and is acting in opposition to the democratic principles we hold most important.

This is why I say, respectfully: Give them up, Mr. President.

  WaPo, John Podesta, former Clinton chief of staff

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

Fox "War on Women"

All the while screaming about a war on Christmas, Fox News (Connecticut) shows its colors:

On at least two occasions on Wednesday, Fox Connecticut marked an event hosted by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women with B-roll of a woman in a low-cut top, but the shot was closely cropped to reveal only her breasts and cleavage.


In a statement, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women accused the news broadcast of objectifying women.

“We are appalled at the level of sexism this incident shows,” the statement said. It is an insult not only to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and to all who attended Women’s Day at the Capitol, which marked the PCSW’s 40-year battle against gender discrimination, but to women everywhere who are tired of being objectified.”

“Anyone who doubts the existence of the ‘war on women’ need look no further than Fox News. We invite the executives at Fox to ask about our Sexual Harassment Awareness and Prevention trainings, which would help them and their staff learn a little more about what goes on above a woman’s shoulders.”

  Raw Story

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is Somebody's Slip Showing?

I figured there would be some backlash on this particular ploy.  What I'm puzzled about is that the White House thought it would land on the Republicans.

[White House press secretary Jay] Carney at Wednesday’s press briefing sought to place responsibility for the decision [to cancel White House tours] on the White House, not the Secret Service.

“We had to cancel the tours, it’s our job to cancel the tours,” Carney explained. “[The Secret Service] cannot cancel them … this is not a tour of the Secret Service building. It’s a tour of the White House and the grounds, and we run the tours and the invitations and that process.”


Sensing a problem with the canceling of the tours, Obama backed off, saying in an interview Wednesday that the decision wasn’t made by him and that the White House is looking into setting up tours for school groups.

“What I’m asking them is, are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups who may have traveled here with some bake sales,” Obama said. “Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?”

The canceled tours prompted a pointed question to Obama from House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) during the president’s meeting with House Republicans on Wednesday. Miller asked why Obama put an end to the tours instead of just cancelling the congressional Christmas party or the congressional picnic.

When Obama said the decision was prompted by the Secret Service, some lawmakers groaned in disbelief.

“Now, now, let’s be respectful,” Obama replied.

  The Hill

Don't you just hate it when the peasants get all up in your royal face?

Dubya could have told him. Presidentin' is hard. It'd be easier if it were a dictatorship.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Remember This: It's Always Worse Than You've Been Told

Since 2007, 471 U.S. banks have failed, nearly depleting the FDIC deposit-insurance fund with $92.5 billion in losses. Rather than sue, the agency has typically preferred to settle for a fraction of the losses while helping the banks avoid bad press.


Three years ago, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. collected $54 million from Deutsche Bank in a settlement over unsound loans that contributed to a spectacular California bank failure.

The deal might have made big headlines, given that the bad loans contributed to the largest payout in FDIC history, $13 billion. But the government cut a deal with the bank's lawyers to keep it quiet: a "no press release" clause that required the FDIC never to mention the deal "except in response to a specific inquiry."

The FDIC has handled scores of settlements the same way since the mortgage meltdown.


Overall, the FDIC collected $787 million in settlements by pressing civil claims related to bank failures from 2007 through 2012 — a fraction of its total losses.


"In the old days, the regulators made it a point to embarrass everyone, to call attention to their role in bank failures," said former bank examiner Richard Newsom, who specialized in insider-abuse cases for the FDIC in the aftermath of the S&L debacle. The goal was simple: "to make other bankers scared."


The ban on secret settlements was a provision in one of the laws passed after the S&L crisis. Although the measure doesn't require the FDIC to call attention to settlements, nondisclosure agreements like that with Deutsche Bank violate "the spirit of the law," said Sausalito, Calif., attorney Bart Dzivi, a former Senate Banking Committee aide who drafted the provision.

  LA Times

Go get 'em, Liz. It's time to scare some banksters.  And some government agencies. 

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

And Good Luck

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) on Tuesday introduced the Democracy is for People Amendment, which seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling.

“What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, ‘You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies,” Sanders said in a statement. “Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government.’ “

  Raw Story

Well, they already do. Citizens United just made it legal and openly acknowledged. Easier to direct the money without going through back channels.  It's not an extra "small percentage" of their wealth.  It's just a percentage that doesn't have to be secreted any more.

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

I Am So Far Behind

Raw Story article:

I thought Viagra was for something else entirely.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ellsberg on the Manning Case

Critics have alleged that a major difference between my case and Manning's is that I was discriminating in what I leaked, while Manning wasn't. He just dumped some material that doesn't need to be out, they say. This is simply false.

First, it's important to point out most of the material he put out was unclassified. The rest was classified 'secret,' which is relatively low level. All of the Pentagon Papers was classified top secret.

But in a fact no one seems to observe from his statement, Manning was working within a "SCIF," which stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. To get into a SCIF, a soldier needs a clearance higher than top secret. This means he had access to the highest classified material, such as communications and signals intelligence. This means he could've put out information top secret and higher, and purposely chose not to do so.


Manning, in saying he took responsibility for the leaks and describing in great detail how he did it, was able to say Julian Assange and Wikileaks had nothing to do with his decision to leak. WikiLeaks had not giving him any special means beyond what a normal newspaper would do.

Now, there's really now excuse for the grand jury chasing Julian Assange for conspiracy to commit espionage to continue. If they're not going to indict the New York Times [which printed the Wikileaks leaks] --and there is no constitutional basis for them to do so--there's no reason for them to investigate or indict Assange or WikiLeaks.


Whoever made this recording, and I don't know who the person is, has done the American public a great service. This marks the first time the American public can hear Bradley Manning, in his own voice explain what he did and how he did it.

After listening to this recording and reading his testimony, I believe Bradley Manning is the personification of the word whistleblower.


Such criminal, dangerous, and deceptive behavior by the government can only be changed if Congress and the public are informed of them. And when official secrecy allows the government to cover these facts up, the only way to bring them to the public is to break secrecy regulations.


For the third straight year, Manning has been nominated for the Noble Peace Prize by, among others, Tunisian parliamentarians. Given the role the WikiLeaks cables played in the Arab Spring, and their role in speeding up the end of the Iraq War, I can think of no one more deserving who is deserving of the peace prize.

  Daniel Ellsberg

Yes, but look who got one. I think we can safely say that the Nobel Peace Prize is worthless these days.

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

Brad Manning's Testimony

We have a leaky ship indeed. Someone has chanced taping Bradley Manning's court statement in defiance of a military judicial order that no video, audio or photographs be published.

The US government and its military has carefully ensured that people hear about Manning from the government, but do not hear from Manning himself. It is way past time for Manning's voice to be heard:

  Glenn Greenwald

I've tried to visit the website that released these videos, but at present, I get this error:

I have a feeling they've been taken offline by the government. At this time, there are some expcerpts on Greenwald's Guardian page.  I can't pull up the audio segments, but there are transcripts along with them.

UPDATE from Greenwald:
Extreme amounts of traffic has taken down the FPF site and may be causing problems with the embedded players I've posted. If you're having problems listening to them here (or seeing them), just wait a bit and they should be working shortly.

Well, It's About Time

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is leading a small group of House Democrats in calling on President Barack Obama to release information regarding the Administration’s use of drone strikes. In a letter sent Monday, Lee said a leaked Department of Justice memo showed an “increasing devolution of accountability, transparency, and Constitutional protections in U.S. counterterrorism operations.” The 16-page memo provided an outline of the Obama’s administration legal justification of targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens.

The letter was signed by Democratic Reps. John Conyers (MI), Keith Ellison (MN), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Donna Edwards (MD), Mike Honda (CA), Rush Holt (NJ), and James McGovern (MA).

  Raw Story

Rush Holt is someone you don't often hear about in the national media, but every time I do, I am impressed positively. I tend to forget about him when I think that after Russ Feingold was defeated and Barney Frank quit, Bernie Sanders is the only congressMAN with a conscience left. Perhaps there are a few others who aren't national news.

I wonder - could they have found even one senator to sign had they asked?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The 29-year-old engineering student was standing outside his classroom here on Saturday morning when he said two pickup trucks full of armed men pulled up. The men, said to be members of a C.I.A.-backed Afghan strike force, grabbed him, tied his hands behind his back, draped a black hood over his head and drove him to an undisclosed location.


Mr. Qayum, who lives in a village that the Taliban frequently visit, said he was interrogated for hours at what Mr. Karzai called an American prison. The captors asked if he knew any Taliban commanders. They asked specifically about his neighbor, a farmer, and whether he could bring the man to them.

“I told them that just because the Taliban are coming in our village, seeking food and shelter and sitting with people, it doesn’t mean I am working for them,” Mr. Qayum said. “I told them if they find any sort of evidence that I am involved in any activities, big or small, then you are allowed to punish me.”

 They punished him anyway, he said, punching him repeatedly and whipping his legs and back with a cable. He said they placed a blanket over his head and sat on him, making him feel like he was suffocating.


The American-led military coalition here said it had no involvement in any such event. The C.I.A. could not be reached for comment.


The episode seems to have struck a nerve with Mr. Karzai, a Kandahar native. He told a crowd of journalists at the presidential palace on Sunday that “something horrible happened,” adding that he worked until midnight to free Mr. Qayum.


The student’s daylong detention was cited by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at a news conference in Kabul, the capital, on Sunday as part of his justification for a ban announced later in the day on foreign forces from entering any Afghan school or university. He said other students had also been detained at the behest of American-controlled Afghan forces.


Later, his spokesman said Mr. Karzai had asked that the C.I.A. hand over the Afghan forces that carried out the arrest and interrogation.


Among Mr. Karzai’s critical comments on Sunday, which came at an early-morning news conference in honor of women’s day in Afghanistan, he charged that the American government and the Taliban, while using different means, had in effect colluded to keep Afghanistan unstable to justify a continued American military presence.


In recent days, Mr. Karzai has been the most critical about some of the policies that American officials have described as most important to their mission here, including the widespread use of Special Operations forces and a continuing say in how battlefield detainees are vetted and released. He has seized on both as violations of Afghan sovereignty, barring American commandos from Wardak Province and bristling at critical terms in a negotiated agreement on Bagram Prison.

A result was a last-minute refusal by American officials on Saturday to hand the Afghan government full control of the prison.


“His prestige as president was degraded in the eyes of the public by the Americans’ refusal to hand over responsibility of the prison to the Afghans,” said Atiqullah Amarkhel, a former Afghan Army general and a military analyst. “I think it drives him crazy when he sees it’s not happening.”

Mr. Amarkhel added: “It also shows a deep sense of distrust between two onetime allies. To the public, it means all the power is with foreigners.”



If He Wants Her, He'll Have Her

So there. Perhaps this is why Rice and the administration backed off so easily on her nomination to State.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is lined up to become President Barack Obama’s national security adviser after the disappointment of being forced out of contention for secretary of state, it was reported on Sunday.

According to the Washington Post, Rice has emerged as the “far and away” favourite to replace incumbent national security adviser Thomas Donilon later this year.

  Raw Story

Win-win for Obama. Republicans have no say, and she gets a spot in the administration anyway. And after criticism for a second term surrounded by white men, Obama gets a dark face and a woman all in one, saving another space for a white man.

And why wouldn't he want Rice?  She's a corporate/government shill all the way.  What's not to love? She put her neck on the line to be the one who tried to foist the crazy rabid Islamist angle on the Benghazi story, she has proven to be a loyal US interventionist defender, and she has ties to Big Oil.  And not just Big Oil, but specifically, to the Canadian tar sands environmental fight, as she owns big stock in TransCanada.  (You think there's a snowball's chance in Hell that pipeline isn't going through?)

Already with the 2016 Talk

And what I'm wondering is whether there's another Democrat in the grooming or are we going to be stuck with the "choice" between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

I thought at the time that the Benghazi debacle ruined Hillary's chances, but now I'm being more realistic.  Four years later - heck, four months later - who cares?  We don't judge prospective presidential candidates on their actual record, do we?

Saturday, March 9, 2013


The relevant portion of the bill says that the no-drone-killing inside the US rule “shall not apply to an individual who poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to another individual.”

But since the Obama administration refuses to release the Office of Legal Counsel kill program memos or any official interpretation of the phrase “imminent threat,” we don't know what this bill would actually do were it enacted.


[The] same murkiness [...] applies to the phrase “engaged in combat,” the words Eric Holder used in his brief letter to Senator Rand Paul yesterday on the question of domestic targeted killings.


Could it mean “riding in a car to a place where the CIA has intelligence that a suspect is going to build a bomb”? Could it mean “is a member of al Qaeda”?


Maybe, maybe not. But the crucial point is that, until the Obama administration comes clean and releases its kill memos to the public, we have no idea what “engaged in combat” means. 

  Privacy SOS

[S]ince Holder conspicuously omitted the word “actively,” it isn’t clear that this is what he means. The public hasn’t seen the detailed legal memoranda underlying the CIA’s overseas drone program, and so we can’t really know what to make of Holder’s statement without knowing what the government thinks it means to be “engaged in combat” in this non-traditional conflict.


[T]he Bush Justice Department argued in 2004 that a “little old lady in Switzerland” who “gave money to a charity for an Afghan orphanage, and the money was passed to al Qaeda” might meet their definition of an “enemy combatant.”


Such definitional game-playing would not exactly be a novelty for this administration, which has apparently expanded the definition of “imminent threat” to cover people believed to be senior leaders of hostile groups, whether or not there is any evidence that they are actively engaged in planning some impending attack. […] So if this kind of hyperliteral close parsing of a few sentences seems like paranoid hairsplitting, it’s only because such word games appear to be par for the course when it comes to classified counterterrorism programs.

  Cato Institute

Friday, March 8, 2013

Turn Up the Pressure

The United States has reportedly killed 4,700 people in "war on terror" operations outside of declared war zones. On Wednesday, the European Parliament heard a special briefing on the US kill programs from the ACLU's Hina Shamsi and the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ben Emmerson. Following the briefing, the parliamentarians issued a statement calling into question the legality (and morality) of US strikes. The United States cannot hide its legal justification for these operations from the world any longer .


The members announced that the European Parliament will hold hearings next month to look further into the US program.


On Wednesday, Attorney General Holder told the Senate judiciary committee that we would "hear from the president in a relatively short period of time" about how the government's kill programs are done "reluctantly", and "in conformity with international law, with domestic law, and with our values as of the American people".

  Kade Crockford – UK Guardian

That should satisfy everyone.

Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont), who ultimately opposed confirming Brennan, explained his vote: "

I have worked with John Brennan, and I respect his record, his experience, and his dedication to public service. But the administration has stonewalled me and the judiciary committee for too long on a reasonable request to review the legal justification for the use of drones in the targeted killing of American citizens. The administration made the relevant OLC memorandum available to the Senate select committee on intelligence in order to advance this nomination. I expect the judiciary committee, which has oversight of the Office of Legal Counsel, to be afforded the same access. For that reason, I reluctantly opposed Mr Brennan's nomination."

The chairs of both the House and Senate judiciary committees have said they may subpoena the Department of Justice to get them. Wednesday, Senator Leahy told Holder: "I realize the decision is not entirely in your hands, but [the issue] may be brought to a head with a subpoena from this office, from this committee."


Congressman Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia), chair of the House judiciary committee, has said there is "bipartisan interest" in subpoenaing the executive branch to force it to divulge not only the "targeted" killing memos, but also those that describe the broader powers to kill in "signature strikes".

In a letter to the president (pdf) dated 8 February 2013, he and five colleagues wrote:
"We are disappointed that three prior requests to review these memoranda by members of the committee have gone unanswered. We hope that you will affirm your commitment to transparency and openness by accommodating our request to review these documents. We respectfully request that you direct the Justice Department to provide the requested documents to the committee by close of business on Tuesday, 12 February 2013."
The administration did not respond.


The last couple of weeks have been a wake-up call for the United States, and the whole world, on the breathtakingly broad lethal authorities that the Obama administration appears to claim. At the same time, the incredible efforts required to get the Obama administration to disclose, even just to Congress, any of its legal claims should make clear that getting the president to come clean on his legal justifications will require even greater energy and tenacity.

  UK Guardian

I'd like to see the administration's definition of “transparency” since that was an Obama campaign promise.  I don't think it's going to be what we think it means.

Droning On

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) knocked her colleague Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday night for warning of hyperbolic scenarios during his 13-hour filibuster.

“No drone is going to be used in the United States against an American citizen walking down a street or sitting in a cafe and, you know, and then there was a stupid example of a drone being used against Jane Fonda,” Feinstein remarked on MSNBC. “I mean, I don’t think this is befitting the Senate floor.”

  Raw Story

I didn't listen to any of Paul's filibuster, and I imagine there was some stupidity, but the Fonda example is NOT stupid. Under today's standards, Jane would have been at high risk for being targeted.

She noted that Attorney General Eric Holder told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the government could not kill an American citizen with a drone strike unless the person was an extraordinary and imminent threat.

On Tuesday, [Attorney General Eric] Holder had said that, while Obama had “no intention” of ordering drone strikes on US soil, the scenario could be possible if there was an “extraordinary circumstance” such as an attack similar to 9/11.


Holder made clear on Thursday that a US president does not have the power to order a drone strike against a “non combatant” American inside the United States.

Holder’s clarifying comment came in a short letter to Senator Rand Paul, who mounted a 13-hour, non-stop filibuster in the Senate demanding answers from the administration on the scope of drone policy.

“Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” Holder asked in a letter to Paul. “The answer to that question is ‘no.’”

  Raw Story

So tell me, why wouldn't he give that answer to the people who have been asking it for months? It took 14 hours of Rand Paul to get that answer? Maybe we need filibustering more often.

And, P.S., I think Paul should spend another 14 hours demanding to see the actual law, because I'm having a little bit of trouble taking Holder's “no” to heart at this point. For instance, what does “engaged in combat” mean under the law? Their definitions involving terrorism and their right to execute people are pretty elastic.

Paul said after he received the letter that it showed his battle was worthwhile.

“The reason this is important is often drones are used overseas (against) people who are not actively engaged in combat,” he told reporters.

“I’m not saying they’re not bad people or they might have previously been in combat, but the thing is, we have to have a higher standard in our country.”

Okay, there's your stupid.  (Why do they hate us?)

And here's Whitehouse Spokesliar Jay Carney:

“The issue here isn’t the technology. The method does not change the law. The president’s sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, and he is bound by the law.

“Whether the lethal force in question is a drone strike or a gunshot, the law and the Constitution apply in the same way.”

Indeed. I have no doubt that's the way they look at it. What difference does it make which tool is used?  And Carney's statement shouldn't be reassuring. We don't have to dig deep to find that our government has no problem gunning down American citizens on American soil.

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

She Probably Doesn't Get Invited to Many Beltway Parties

Appearing at a Senate Banking Committee hearing Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grilled officials from the Treasury Department over why criminal charges were not filed against officials at HSBC who helped launder hundreds of millions of dollars for drug cartels.


“So, what I’d like is, you’re the experts on money laundering. I’d like an opinion: What does it take — how many billions do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate — before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”


“You know, if you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail,” Warren said. “If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night, every single individual associated with this. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

  Raw Story

Further drawing lawmakers' ire were comments made by Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday.

Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was concerned that the size of some banks had made prosecuting them difficult because their downfall could damage the financial system and economy.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) contended that this claim suggested that "we have a prosecution-free zone for large banks in America."

  The Hill

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Iraq Report

Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.

In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.


Hans Blix was right. Paul Wolfowitz was wrong. Robert Fisk was right. David Frum was wrong. The McClatchy guys were right. The late Tim Russert was wrong. Eric Shinseki was right, and Anthony Zinni was right, and Joe Wilson was right, and George Packer, Michael O'Hanlon, and Richard Perle were all wrong. George H.W. Bush was right (in 1989) and his useless son was stupid and wrong. There is no absolution available to any of the people who helped the country down into this epic political and military disaster no matter how lachrymose their apologies or how slick their arguments.

George W. Bush should spend the rest of his days dogged by regiments of wounded veterans. Richard Cheney should be afflicted at all hours by the howls of widows and of mothers who have lost sons and daughters.

  Charlie Pierce


Although, actually, I think they should spend the rest of their days in prison.

Prepare the Ice Floe for Grandma

Senate Republicans are more optimistic about the prospect of a grand bargain on the deficit after an intimate dinner with President Obama Wednesday evening in downtown Washington.

  The Hill

This Could Be Interesting

Apparently someone in Grand Rapids is hosting a “First Ladies Conversation” luncheon with Barbara and Laura Bush. It's on the occasion of the 95th birthday of Betty Ford, and it will cost $50 for a ticket.

Now, “First Ladies Conversation” sounds a little arrogant if it's only the two Bushes, but perhaps they are including Betty, in which case, I assume it is being sponsored by the local mediums association.

At any rate, Water Tiger says:

I would rather gouge out my eyes with #50 knitting needles that had been soaked for a week in lemur urine than spend $50 to attend this:

  Dependable Renegade

I'm thinking it could be quite entertaining. Given a glass of wine or seven, who knows what Pickles will be saying? and Babs? She was a bitch on wheels when she was young. Imagine the vitriolic barbs that shoot from the beast now that it is so advanced in age. Hopefully there will be a transcript. A "first ladies" conversation with Babs and Pickles? Imagine what resentments Pickles must be harboring toward the old hag. Really, make the drinks strong. Grand Rapids could be in for a treat. And somebody, post a video.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Of Course He Can

Charlie Pierce discusses the President's "right" to use drones against US citizens on native soil.

What I'm wondering is, like the innocent bystanders in other countries, will innocent US bystanders be considered enemy combatants if they are merely in the drone's kill zone?

And, of course, as Charlie points out, refuting the official caveat that the whole idea of the possibility of ever having reason to make a strike on US soil is absurd ("entirely hypothetical")...

Do we really have to go down the list of things that were "entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur" and ones we hoped no president would ever have to confront on September 10, 2001 that are now merely business as usual?

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

I do, however, disagree with Charlie's suggestion that Obama is a sucker.  I don't think he's bargaining from a sucker's position.  He's simply a Republican calling himself a Democrat.  It will be up to Democrats to reconcile how two Democratic presidents dismantled the country's social safety net.  I'm sure they'll have no trouble, though.


I'm not a huge fan of Hugo Chavez, although, technically, that would depend upon which Hugo Chavez we're talking about - the Chavez of the 90s or the Chavez of the new century. There's a pretty good series of short video essays currently running on alJazeera's website about the "fiery" Venezuelan president and his passing under the "In Video" section. "Fiery" - ok. But people need to stop using the term "anti-American" to label the man. The man was never anti-American. He was always anti-American-government-policies and neoliberalism as he (rightly) saw them as detrimental to the entire globe. He was never anti-American. (Don't forget that when the US government was allowing energy companies to screw old people to death, Chavez sent winter aid to northern US cities.) Calling him anti-American is like calling those of us who object strongly to Israel's policies toward Palestinians anti-Semite. Wrong.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Business As Usual

These are the two main attractions in your American Economic Virtual Menagerie. Over here, we have the financial-services sector, represented by a large basket of writhing cobras. And over here we have your Walmart, represented by a tiny iron cage filled with rabid vampire bats. Now, if you're watching this at home on Animal Planet, you will note that Jack Lew, who used to be the director of the Office Of Management And Budget, and who now is likely to become the Secretary Of The Treasury, with a stop as White House chief-of staff along the way, comes from the first of these deadly assemblages. The new nominee to head OMB comes from the second one.


[W]hen is someone going to point out that, in an age of widening income inequality and continuing wage-stagnation, with the game obviously rigged in Washington towards more of the same, the administration's "optics" on its economic team have been uniformly lousy almost from jump? Bob Rubin on the transition team? Geithner at Treasury? "Looking forward, and not back"? Jack Lew, and now someone hired in from Walmart, an entry that ought to get any resume 86'd  by any putatively Democratic administration? It seems, alas, to be a feature, and not a bug.

  Charlie Pierce

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

And What More Do They Want From Us?

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two boys out collecting firewood with their donkeys were killed by weapons fired from a NATO helicopter, Afghan and American military officials announced Saturday.


The episode was the second airstrike to kill civilians since General [Joseph F.] Dunford assumed command in February. In Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan, up to 11 civilians were killed, including 5 children, when airstrikes were used to destroy two homes.


The victims, Toor Jan, 11, and Andul Wodood, 12, were brothers and had been walking behind their donkeys in the Shahed-e-Hasas district of Oruzgan Province when the helicopter fired on them, according to Afghan officials in the district.


Fareed Ayal, the spokesman for the provincial police chief, said the helicopter was hunting for Taliban by tracking their radio signals when the killings took place. “There wasn’t any engagement with the Taliban, it was just a mistake that they have killed the two boys at an area where they thought they detected a Taliban radio signal,” he said.


[General Dunford] promptly issued an apology and said the killings were an accident.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

You Can't Win, You Can't Break Even....

...and you can't get out of the game.

Virginia hybrid car owners are being required to pay a $100 registration fee for driving a hybrid, because they aren't paying enough in gas tax.

Aother confirmation that no matter how much we peon civilians think we can gain, the government will make sure we don't have any extra.  It's all a complex and intricate plan to keep an underclass for the overlords.

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

It's Sunday

It's Sunday

It's becoming generally apparent that, in terms of moral credibility, the Church would do better to hand the decision of choosing the next pope over to 100 randomly selected punters from the clubhouse turn at Aqueduct than to the current Clan Of The Red Beanie. [...]
They include cardinals from Belgium, Chile and Italy. They include the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, who is accused of taking large monetary gifts from a religious order, the Legion of Christ, and halting an investigation into its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel - who was later exposed as a pathological abuser and liar. They also include cardinals reviled by many in their own countries, like Cardinal Sean Brady, the primate of All Ireland, who survived an uproar after government investigations uncovered endemic cover-ups of the sexual and physical abuse of minors. "There's so many of them," said Justice Anne Burke, a judge in Illinois who served on the American bishops' first advisory board 10 years ago. "They all have participated in one way or another in having actual information about criminal conduct, and not doing anything about it. What are you going to do? They're all not going to participate in the conclave?"  
      [...]The only possible Christian answer is, "Yes. They should all be run out of any office of spiritual authority and sent to an island somewhere on which they can turn to cannibalism."

  Charlie Pierce

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

It's Sunday

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Sad Demise of Bob Woodward

He's come undone.

This story should be deader than Kim Jong-Il. Bob said something silly about something Gene Sperling said to him. He got a couple of suckers from Tiger Beat On The Potomac to listen to his accounts of the tiny black helicopters now circling his skull. He released a full rack of e-mails that made him look even sillier. But, hey, he's Bob Fking Woodward, and you're not, and maybe the profession owes him a couple, so the whole matter likely would have faded from his public profile the way that his ludicrous account of a deathbed Iran-Contra confession from William Casey apparently has.

Except that he won't...shut...up. On Thursday night, he went on TV without a HazMat suit to plead his case to Sean Hannity.


Moreover, Woodward [...] argued that, because he never specifically used the word "threat" to describe Sterling's caution that Woodward would "regret" saying that the Sequestration was the president's idea, that he hasn't been all over the public prints and the public airwaves saying he'd been threatened with retaliation by the White House. (Which brings up the obvious question — what can they possibly do to Bob Fking Woodward?) OK, now even I'm starting to think Nixon was framed.


His whole problem is that the e-mails do speak for themselves, and they disagree with the interpretation that Woodward has placed on them, and, because he's a meathead, and because he's not a deft enough thinker to extricate himself from this wholly unnecessary comedy, he keeps explaining how Sperling threatened him in a way that was not a threat. An intervention is sorely needed here, or a stun gun.

  Charlie Pierce

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

Ain't It the Truth?

Icelandic meat inspector Kjartan Hreinsson says his team did not find any horse meat, but one brand of locally produced beef pie left it stumped. It contained no meat at all. "That was the peculiar thing," Hreinsson said in a telephone interview Friday. "It was labeled as beef pie, so it should be beef pie."
This being Iceland, the people responsible will be punished and go to jail, just like all those Icelandic bankers did. By that measure, if you pulled that scam in the United States, you could wind up Secretary Of Agriculture.

  Charlie Pierce

I Am Not a Crook

"I am not a dictator," President Obama said Friday while defending his efforts to stop the sequester. "I'm the president."

  The Hill

With the power to kill anyone anywhere whenever. That's better than being a dictator.

The president was responding to a question about why he hadn't locked the leaders into a room to get a deal. "So ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say, 'I have to catch a plane,' I can't have Secret Service block the doorway," he said.

No, but you could send in drones. In the interest of national security.

Business, As Usual

A range of mainstream American publications printed paid propaganda for the government of Malaysia, much of it focused on the campaign against a pro-democracy figure there.

The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.

Trevino lost his column at the Guardian last year after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn't being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia.


Trevino acknowledged that he shouldn't have lied to BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith, then at Politico, when this first came up in 2011.

"When Ben Smith contacted me in July 2011, I ought to have come clean with him at the time," he said.

As for why he waited until five years after the fact to register with FARA, Trevino said he didn't know he was supposed to have registered until recently.


Trevino terminated his relationship with Malaysian interests when he joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation, he said.


Oh, hell, yeah. We'll take him. This is Texas.

What's at Stake in the Manning Case

This article is well worth reading to the finish. Eye-opening information in virtually every paragraph.

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

A tangential point that doesn't get much play (if any) is that the traditional press has a stake in seeing Manning prosecuted and Wikileaks ruined, since Wikileaks was becoming a big competitor.  For the traditional press, it's not that Manning leaked information - for them, it's that he leaked it to Wikileaks.  They should be very careful going down that road, for reasons set out in this article.  Although, the traditional press being a propaganda arm of the US government in this era, maybe they don't worry, since the likelihood of them publishing anything with a large negative impact on the government is growing slimmer and slimmer. 

Politics at Its Finest

The US State Department suggested Friday that a $7 billion Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline would have no major impact on the environment, but stopped short of recommending it be approved.

  Raw Story

Nicely played, John.  Nicely played.

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