Saturday, January 31, 2015

Is Your Head Spinning?

It will be.
“This is a complete change of our national security strategy of not negotiating with terrorists,” Republican Representative Mike Rogers told ABC News at the time of [apparent deserter Bowe] Bergdahl’s release. “I think it sends a terrible national security message – not just to Afghanistan, but to the rest of the world.”


Responding to a question posed by ABC’s chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, deputy press secretary Eric Schultz argued the US can swap prisoners with the Taliban because the group is not a terrorist organization but “an armed insurgency.”

They sure were a terrorist organization when we had to go take freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people.

And isn't this handy....
The US government maintains two separate lists of terrorist organizations. One is maintained by the State Department while the Treasury Department has its own list, created by a Bush-era executive order, which is responsible for economic sanctions on entities and individuals with alleged ties to terrorism.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

RIP Molly Ivins

Gone too soon.

Molly Ivins Aug 30, 1944 - Jan 31, 2007

Dear Molly - she would have brrn having a heydey had she lived.  But then, she had one while she did.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Damn the Environment! Full Steam Ahead!

The Senate on Thursday voted 62-36 to build the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, delivering Republicans the first legislative victory of their new majority.

Nine Democrats joined with Republicans in voting to approve the $8 billion project, five votes short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a promised veto from President Obama.


The bill now heads to the House, where Republicans are determined to act quickly to force Obama into taking what they believe will be a politically unpopular stand against a project that would carry oil sands from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

  The Hill
Politically unpopular? Does that even matter at this point?

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

Imagine That

The presidential advisory board on privacy that recommended a slew of domestic surveillance reforms in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations reported today that many of its suggestions have been agreed to “in principle” by the Obama administration, but in practice, very little has changed.

Most notably, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board called attention to the obvious fact that one full year after it concluded that the government’s bulk collection of metadata on domestic telephone calls is illegal and unproductive, the program continues apace.

  Dan Froomkin
Quel surprise.
And while Congress has variously debated, proposed, neutered, and failed to agree on any action, the report’s authors point the finger of blame squarely at President Obama. “It should be noted that the Administration can end the bulk telephone records program at any time, without congressional involvement,” the report says.
Oh, hell, he can’t even stop Congress from calling in Bibi Netanyahu to replace him.

You know, that little stunt should have woken the man up.  For his entire time in office, he's been appeasing the Republicans, to no avail.  I know there aren't many things where he actually disagrees with Republicans in the way of policy, but for the few that he does, if there's any way, shape or form in which he can circumvent them, he should be going night and day to do it after THaT.
The White House was recently said to be “still considering” the matter.
Wow. That will have the GOP shaking in their boots.
[O]ne recommendation in particular – that the intelligence community develop some sort of methodology to assess whether any of this stuff is actually doing any good — has been notably “not implemented.”

“Determining the efficacy and value of particular counterterrorism programs is critical,” the board says. “Without such determinations, policymakers and courts cannot effectively weigh the interests of the government in conducting a program against the intrusions on privacy and civil liberties that it may cause.”
Yes, dears. I’m sure they know that. Hence, their avoidance. If they'd taken that tack after Viet Nam, we wouldn't have been in any of the military campaigns waged since.  With the exception of Grenada.

RIP Luke Kelly

Luke Kelly Nov. 17 1940 - Jan. 30, 1984
sorely missed by so many

Tribute by Paddy Reilly:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Good Thing Is Congress Isn't a Career These Days

The bad thing is that it’s a stepping stone to corporate riches.
Between 1947 and 1979, the share of income going to the top 1 percent fell by about 27 percent. Then the effects of the corporate campaign began to kick in. Between 1980 and 2012, the share going to the top 1 percent rose by 120 percent.

The corporate campaign created a political consensus that churns out business-friendly policies no matter which party is in power. It also changed the nature of government employment. Fifty years ago, people came to Washington drawn by a sense of public service, however they defined it, and they often stayed in the public sector over much of their careers. Now working in government is a brief way station on the road to better things. Many of those who come to DC with little wealth leave in a position to become rich, and those who come rich are able to become richer.


After he went to prison for bribing public officials, lobbyist Jack Abramoff claimed in his memoir, Capitol Punishment, that he controlled around 100 members of Congress. In addition to offering them and their staff free meals at his high-end restaurant, Signatures, Abramoff handed out luxury box tickets to sporting events and junkets to the world’s most exclusive golf destinations. But his most effective tactic was simply to float the suggestion to congressional staffers that he’d hire them when they left the Hill. Abramoff would then effectively “own” the staffer, who would perhaps even unconsciously start making decisions that benefited his future employer. “His paycheck may have been signed by the Congress, but he was already working for me.”


For the political class, cashing in doesn’t require brains, hard work, dedication or talent, but merely a willingness to sell to the highest bidder the Rolodex you compiled while in government.

  The Intercept
So how come Abramoff went to prison, but the pols didn’t?

The article gives specific examples of Tom and Linda Daschle, aided and abetted by Bill Clinton, and former Louisiana representative Richard Baker, who worked to repeal Glass-Steagall while on a committee to police Wall Street and gave God the credit for cleaning up New Orleans.

It also says that financial disclosure forms required of Congress folk don’t require listing real estate. 

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

A Helpful Bill to Limit Big Government in Montana

A [Republican] Montana lawmaker is proposing a new bill that would expand surveillance protections for journalists by prohibiting government entities from requesting data on reporters through internet providers.

The state already has a media shield law, but the new bill would close a major loophole which provides no protections for journalists who use the services of electronic communications providers. For example, while a court cannot make a reporter reveal his or her email correspondence with a source, it could request a journalist’s emails from a provider such as Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo.


Par for the Course

Obama's choice for Attorney General to replace Eric Holder is reportedly on a fast track to be approved.

That will be no surprise once you get her drift.

 I think her name is probably quite apt for her new position. Loretta Lynch.

Good thing Holder dropped the charges against Jim Risen before leaving.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Torture Report on Its Way Down the Memory Hole

Well protected from the American citizens. Everyone else knows what happened. (Well, maybe not the British and Canadian - and Australian - citizens.)
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request for the full, still-classified 6,900-page torture report, government lawyers wrote that most of the executive agencies that had been copied on the transmission of the full report to the White House from then-Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) hadn’t opened their sealed copy -- and in one case, never even picked it up.


"Neither [the Department of Justice] nor [the Department of State], moreover, has even opened the package with the disc containing the full Report.


The FBI’s copy remains sealed in the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, according to the FOIA response. The bureau has yet to collect it.


"That shows a shocking disregard for their professional responsibilities, and appears to be an organized effort to cover up the truth about torture." [Sen. Ron Wyden]


The executive branch’s apparent failure thus far to delve into the behemoth study as Feinstein wished -- in the hope that its gruesome accounts would deter the nation from ever torturing again -- underscores the study's uncertain future. The committee’s new Republican leaders have made no secret of their disdain for the document. In a clear change from Feinstein's tenure, [The new Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair, Republican Richard] Burr is campaigning to snatch back copies of the report and has signaled his intention to return to the CIA the particular contested document.

Certain Democratic lawmakers, including Wyden, and human rights groups have called for the public release of the full study.

But if officials in some of the most relevant, appropriately cleared agencies haven’t laid eyes on it, does the public even have a chance?

In a word, no. And since Mark Udall declined to read the report into the Congressional record, I guess that leaves Ron Wyden to grow some, and do it himself. Fat chance. Maybe DiFi will. And, as Mike Meyers famously quipped in Wayne’s World…

More Oil for the Yellowstone River

An estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the frozen Yellowstone River, one of America’s great wildlife treasures, for a second time.


“As more than 100 emergency workers hacked at thick river ice in a frantic attempt to find and contain the spilled oil, the U.S. Senate in Washington made good on what its new Republican leaders promised would be their first order of business: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would also cross the Yellowstone River in Glendive.”

To repeat, all congressional members and senators that are supporting the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline should be made to “hack at the thick river ice” in the center of all that putrid oil.

  Truth Out
If only. If it worked like that, they’d all be on the front lines in the Middle East.
How many devastating oil warnings do US politicians need before they stop the madness? What good will their oily pay-offs be if our food and water are contaminated? How many sledgehammers of oil pipeline explosions over their heads do they need before they finally “get it”? When is enough, enough?
When one more penny can’t be squeezed out of lobbyists and the Koch brothers.

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

NOW You Can Believe It with Scientific Backing

Foreign governments are 100 times more likely to intervene in civil wars if the troubled state is home to hydrocarbon reserves, according to a new report by academics from the universities of Warwick, Portsmouth and Essex.

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

Off With Their Heads!

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded two more of its citizens and a Pakistani, continuing the strictest punishment under new King Salman.


According to an AFP tally, their executions bring to 16 the number of Saudis and foreigners put to death this year under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Four have been executed since King Salman took office last Friday after the death of his predecessor Abdullah.

Under Abdullah, the number of executions jumped from 27 in 2010 to around 80 annually, with 87 last year.

The oil-rich Gulf Arab state faces constant international criticism over its human rights record, including the use of the death penalty.

Notwithstanding the extravagant praise showered on Abdullah since his death?

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Good Great Luck to Greece

Heads Up Central East Coast

In a major shift in U.S. policy, President Obama is expected to open the door to oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Interior Department is poised to release as early as Tuesday a five-year lease plan that would allow drilling in the mid- and south-Atlantic off the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia.

  The Hill
But not Florida, of course.
The Wall Street Journal reports leases off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas are expected to make it into the plan.

The plan would not allow drilling in waters near Florida, Delaware or Maryland, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

It would also allow drilling in some Arctic waters and areas along the West Coast.
But not where people live whose money matters in elections.

And those of you in the areas that obviously don't matter, you might want to ask the people in Gulf Coast cities what it's like.

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

Irony Rules

Barack Obama challenged India’s record on religious tolerance and women’s rights on Tuesday in a parting speech to students in Delhi that contrasted with the at-times saccharin feel of a state visit designed to highlight the closeness of the two countries.

Though careful to acknowledge inequality in the US, the president devoted a substantial part of his speech to a lecture on the importance of empowering women in society.


“Every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons,” he added. “And every woman should be able to go about her day – to walk the street, or ride the bus – and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves.”


“India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.”

  The Guardian
This, after praising Saudi Arabian king Abdullah.
“He took bold steps in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative, an endeavor that will outlive him as an enduring contribution to the search for peace in the region. At home, King Abdullah’s vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.


”I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship. “

  White House

The [Saudi Arabia] law introduced last April allows authorities to also persecute people who are non-believers, who are treated as enemies of the state.

The legislation considers a terrorist anyone who "calls for atheist thought in any form, or calls into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based."


[W]omen are still forced to cover in public, they must be accompanied by a male guardian and are banned from driving.


What you say doesn't matter any more.  Only when and where you say it.

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

Israel's IDF Responds to Letter from Reservists

In [an open] letter, written in the wake of the Operation Protective Edge, [...] 10 officers and 33 [reserve soldiers of the Israeli elite army intelligence unit 8200] wrote that they “refused to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.”

After an investigation into the incident, the IDF on Monday announced that it would dismiss the authors of the critical letter, Haaretz reported.

And good on them. They were, of course, dismissed from service. And, hopefully, that is all that happens to them.
In the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and other top military officials, the reservists said they were ordered to collect far more information than was necessary for protecting Israel. The intel instead was used to harass and harm innocent civilians, they wrote.

“We must take responsibility for our part in this situation and it is our moral duty to act. We cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people,” the signatories said, calling on all Israeli soldiers and citizens “to speak out against these injustices and to take action to bring them to an end.”
Especially if you’re looking to end your military career.

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

The Times They Aren't a-Changin'

They're just getting entrenched. Jeffrey Sterling was convicted of espionage.

You will recall this is the case where the government tried for seven years to force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify against Sterling, his source.
[Obama] declared on his first full day in office [...]”Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.”


Far from rejecting the authoritarian bent of his presidential predecessor, Obama has simply adjusted it, adding his own personal touches, most notably an enthusiasm for criminally prosecuting the kinds of leaks that are essential to a free press.


Monday’s guilty verdict in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on espionage charges — for talking to a newspaper reporter — is the latest milepost.


You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you talk to a reporter and tell him something we [the USG] want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you.


By contrast, neither Obama nor Holder ever seriously contemplated any kind of prosecution or accountability for the application of torture – a heinous assault on human rights – that was rampant during the Bush era.


Looking ahead to 2016, the prospects are grim. None of the major candidates for president have said anything half as powerful about openness, transparency and accountability as Obama did. And look where that got us.

  Dan Froomkin
Prosecutors said Sterling disclosed the mission to journalist James Risen to get back at the CIA for perceived mistreatment.

Sterling was the handler for a Russian-born CIA asset nicknamed Merlin, who was at the center of an operation to funnel deliberately flawed nuclear-weapons blueprints to the Iranians.


Sterling denied leaking anything to Risen, and said it was more likely Risen learned about the mission from Senate staffers who had been briefed on it.

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Meanwhile, in Syria

Kurdish fighters in Syria claimed Tuesday to have lifted the Islamic State’s four-month siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and said the last Islamic State attackers were on the run.


If the Islamic State remains routed, the outcome would be a major victory for Syrian Kurdish forces in a town that was thought to have had negligible strategic value but became the primary focus of the U.S. aerial campaign against the Islamic State; estimates by both the Associated Press and Al Jazeera said 80 percent of U.S. airstrikes in the past four months hit targets in Kobani.

So, now that they’ve got it back, is there anything there?
“U.S. Central Command confirms that anti-ISIL forces now control approximately 90 percent of the city of Kobani,” the military command said, using the government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State. “While the fight against ISIL is far from over, ISIL’s failure in Kobani has denied them one of their strategic objectives.”


The victory, however, is unlikely to see the quick return of the estimated 200,000 Syrian Kurds who fled to Turkey during the siege. Abduljabbar al Akidi, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group that contributed fighters to defending Kobani, said he thought it would be some time before residents could return.

“Civilians can certainly come back, but the city is destroyed almost completely,” he said.
Well, I guess that answers my question.

I Thought They Were Joking!

Alas, they were not....

Apparently, up IS down; black IS white.


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

Thousands of people are protesting at Saudi embassies around the world, following the case of activist blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for advocating free speech on his blog.


Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records in the world as the country routinely imprisons and executes dozens of people labelled as "enemies of the kingdom".


”Inmates are also tortured because the Saudi Arabian legal system is based on confessions. “

"The law allows people in power to crackdown on anyone," Sara Hashash, Middle East and North Africa press officer at Amnesty International, told IBTimes UK.

"The recent crackdown in the kingdom is targeting civil and political associations and human rights organisations."


The law introduced last April allows authorities to also persecute people who are non-believers, who are treated as enemies of the state.

The legislation considers a terrorist anyone who "calls for atheist thought in any form, or calls into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based."


[W]omen are still forced to cover in public, they must be accompanied by a male guardian and are banned from driving.


And here is Billmon's proposed entry:




Greece leaves behind five years of humiliation and suffering, fear and authoritarianism, said the leader of the winning Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras. He’s moving on Monday to build a stable government and plans to get rid of Athens’ three main creditors.


Syriza won 149 seats in the 300-seat parliament election.


On Monday, Syriza managed to gain key support to form a new government after the meeting with Panos Kammenos, the head of the anti-austerity party Independent Greeks, which also opposes Greece's bailout deal. Kammenos said his party would back Tsipras to be the next prime minister.


The 40-year-old leader plans to create the first eurozone government elected to undo the conservative polices of budgetary rigor imposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Greece as a condition of the bailout back in 2010.


THAT can be added to Greece's list of problems now.  Refuse austerity imposed by the Great White West, and you're going to be labeled a terrorist haven.  Watch for drones.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Scott Walker plays Dropkick Murphys in his campaign? (Hell, in his LIFE.)  Now THAT's ironic.  And strange.  (Here's an article explaining what prompted the Tweet.)

Lyrics below*

I want to see Scott Walker at one of these shows.


*Worker's Song - Dropkick Murphys

This one's for the workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We've often been told to keep up with the times
For our skills are not needed, they've streamlined the job
And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

We're the first ones to starve, we're the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And we're always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat's about

And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
Though we've never owned one lousy handful of earth?

[Chorus x3]

All of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We've been yoked to the plough since time first began
And always expected to carry the can

Truth in Advertising

The Daily Show fixed Koch Brothers ads:

By the way, the Koch Brothers are rounding up republican presidential candidates for a seminar.  Mitt Romney is not invited.  Mitt Romney Has a Koch Problem

The Drone Operator You Will Not See on American Media

Wow. Such a Deal

US industrial interests took centre-stage at the start of Barack Obama’s visit to India as he and the prime minister, Narendra Modi, outlined a deal to limit the legal liability of US suppliers in the event of a nuclear power plant catastrophe.

Thirty years after an infamous chemical leak killed thousands at Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal, the threat of tough Indian compensation laws has frustrated US hopes of an export boom in the energy sector – despite an agreement by former US president George W Bush to share civil nuclear technology in 2005.

  The Guardian
If you want ANYTHING out of us in the future, you’ll give our corporations immunity.

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

It's Sunday

But we're going to change it to Sadday in light of the following report.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Beginning with the "Great" Ronald Reagan

It's the Least They Can Do

[A] group representing Arab-Americans says the rate of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats resulting from the Oscar-nominated war film [American Sniper] has already tripled.

Citing what an executive for the group told the Guardian was a “drastic increase” in hate speech on social media, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee wrote letters this week to actor Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood to ask them to speak out “in an effort to help reduce the hateful rhetoric”.

  The Guardian
It would no doubt be too much to ask that they also point out the fabrications and “artistic license” they’ve taken.
The film, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, depicts the story of Chris Kyle, the famed US navy Seal notorious for the highest known single kill count in US military history.
I think they should have addressed the letter to the Academy as well.
Even the actor James Woods got in on the action, tweeting: “Every time an American Armed Forces sniper pulls a trigger, those who would kill or maim an American warrior are no longer a threat.”
And to James Woods.

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finally! A Guide to Understanding Yemen

‘What the hell is exactly happening in Yemen?’ is now one of the most urgent geopolitical questions in the Middle East. Sadly, few people are qualified or knowledgeable enough to answer this pressing question. Most experts agree that most experts can’t give you a straight answer. The reality is Yemen is a complex place that is very hard to understand for outsiders, and even more so for insiders. Indeed most of the people asking what is happening in Yemen are Yemenis themselves.

Now, I am not an expert on Yemen but being Lebanese I am an expert at not knowing what is happening in my country, which gives me a valuable insight into the situation in Yemen. Not one to shy away from difficult challenges, I have compiled this essential primer on Yemen that will help you understand its politics and prepare you for what will happen there next. (Experts also agree that anything is possible there next, which narrows it down a bit.)

  Karl reMarks
Continue reading The Confused Person's Guide to Understanding Yemen.

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

Looking Forward to Jeb?

Beause a GOP win in 2016 is all but guaranteed.
In a recent New York Times article, The Bushes, as Distinct and Alike as Brothers Can Be, the author attempted to draw a distinction between W. and Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush, who is gearing up for a possible campaign for the presidency, would like Americans to know that he is not one of the Bush heads linked to his brother, George. In other words, he really hates to carry the bad luggage left behind from W.

But as we all know, a hydra is a hydra, and a Bush is a Bush, no matter how many times you cut the head off, the same Bush serpent will grow back again, the same Bush policies of profiting from oil and wars will emerge again and again.

No matter what Jeb says on the campaign trail, he will be burdened with the family’s hydra-albatross around his neck, especially W.’s albatross that carries enormous “torturous” weight, beginning with the mass destruction of Iraq that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of our own soldiers, either dead, homeless, maimed or poisoned from depleted uranium, a country, incidentally, that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks, followed by the shocking CIA Torture Report, under the Bush-Cheney administration’s orders, barbaric torture practices were used on detainees at the US illegal prison,Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As explained in a NY Times editorial, former military officers described this evil facility as a “betrayal of American values.”

  Truth Out
Methinks you are about to overestimate the American public, good sir.

And besides, Obama owns all that now.

Who even remembers Jeb’s participation in the S&L bailout? The culprit there was brother Neil, wasn’t it?
Neil Bush was the most widely targeted member of the Bush family by the press in the S&L scandal. Neil became director of Silverado Savings and Loan at the age of 30 in 1985. Three years later the institution was belly up at a cost of $1.6 billion to tax payers to bail out.


Jeb Bush defaulted on a $4.56 million loan from Broward Federal Savings in Sunrise, Florida. After federal regulators closed the S&L, the office building that Jeb used the $4.56 million to finance was reappraised by the regulators at $500,000, which Bush and his partners paid. The taxpayers had to pay back the remaining 4 million plus dollars.

  Rational Revolution
You can read more about the Bushes in this [1992] Mother Jones piece, The Bush Family Value$.
BTW, Jeb and his partner sold that office building in 1991 for $8 million.

He may, however, have some weaseling to do to keep this issue at bay:
During his first failed campaign for governor in 1994, Bush was asked in a debate what he would do to help African Americans. "Probably nothing," he replied. In 2000, his administration purged 12,000 eligible voters from the rolls because they were incorrectly identified as convicted felons. More than 40 percent of them were African Americans.


[He also] said that women on welfare "should be able to get their life together and find a husband."

  Mother Jones
And yet, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see our “democratic” offering in 2016 to be Hillary Clinton and John Ellis “Jeb” Bush. You?

They're Baaaaack

Hey, Hill, where's the Mittster?
The Iowa Freedom Summit, organized by controversial Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Citizens United, is drawing many of those hoping to become the right's standard-bearer.

“The King event is significant. It's the kickoff for the cycle for Republicans,” said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party. “It's basically a year out, and it's going to be the first real time where Iowans are going to gather, look at these candidates side by side and really start deciding who they like.”

Speakers include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Ben Carson.


“This is a really important event. You only get one chance to make a first impression,” said conservative activist Sam Clovis, who was the Iowa GOP’s 2014 nominee for state treasurer.

  The Hill
First impression? Seriously, Hill reporter. How many people on that list haven’t already been seen and heard? Ad nauseum.
While nearly every movement conservative will be in attendance, most of the establishment candidates other than Christie are staying away — possibly because of King’s reputation.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney — newly flirting with another bid — aren’t attending, citing scheduling conflicts. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who have conservative appeal, aren't attending either.

Their absence will allow them distance from King, a fiery critic of illegal immigration who has been especially vocal in recent weeks attacking President Obama’s executive actions to end deportations for many illegal immigrants.


Rubio, while refusing to criticize King directly, said on Wednesday that his party must be careful with its rhetoric.
”The Iowa Freedom Summit.”

Jesus wept.

A Diplomat in the Making

Quote of the Day

Thursday, January 22, 2015


It seems Mr. Obama has telephoned Mr. Netanyahu to tell him to butt out. I don't expect that's going to work, however. Mr. Netanyahu has an invitation from the GOP to address Congress in March. And Senator Lindsey Graham has publicly told Netanyahu that Congress "will follow your lead" as regards sanctions on Iran.


 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Further Crisis in Yemen

Didn't Yemen offer a "model" government transition in US propaganda just this past summer?

Get out your scorecards.
[Yemen's Hadi administration] resignations give unprecedented power to the Houthis, a Shiite minority from the country’s isolated northern highlands.


The political crisis also opens the door to an all-out war over control of the Yemeni capital, involving Sunni political factions and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The conflict could also draw in Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran.


Armed with AK-47s, the Houthis are primarily looking for members of AQAP.


While the U.S. government had continued to back Hadi as a close partner in the war on terror, it’s the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, who have been battling AQAP on the streets of Sanaa.


While they are bitter enemies of AQAP, the Houthis manning the checkpoints often adorn their AK-47s with stickers bearing the group’s motto: “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.”


Houthis oppose American involvement in Yemen—even to fight al Qaeda—and this helps explain why the Obama administration is unlikely to embrace the new power structure anytime soon. Another reason is that they are seen as aligned with Iran.

  The Intercept: Casey Cooms and Jeremy Scahill

I'll just have to take his word for it.  I ran out of scorecards.

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

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King

Oil prices jumped in early Asian trading on Friday as news of the death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah added to uncertainty in energy markets already facing some of the biggest shifts in decades.

Abdullah died early on Friday and his brother Salman became king, the royal court in the world's top oil exporter and birthplace of Islam said in a statement carried by state television.


Oil prices have more than halved since peaking in June last year as soaring supplies clash with slowing demand.

Booming U.S. shale production has turned the United States from the world's biggest oil importer into the biggest producer, producing more than 9 million barrel per day.

To combat soaring output and falling prices, many oil exporters, such as Venezuela, wanted the 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut output in order to support prices and revenues.

Yet, led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC announced last November it was keeping output steady at 30 million barrels per day.

That an 80-year-old with health issues of his own—he reportedly suffers from dementia—is now taking over means Abdullah’s grandsons could soon be jostling over who should be the long term successor. In the meantime, Salman is expected to maintain the kingdom’s alliance with the United States.

  The Daily Beast
The new king has dementia? Great. Apparently, so does the kingdom.
U.S. crude prices rose about 1.5 percent immediately after the kingdom announced the news Thursday evening. [...] The kingdom reportedly delayed the announcement so that his date of death would fall on a Friday, the Muslim holy day of the week.
Just because they don’t announce it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

And, that’s not all that happened in the region on Thursday…
Earlier in the day, the Yemeni government was in shambles after the president and cabinet resigned in the face of pressure from the Houthis, backed by Iran. It is unclear who will lead Yemen; the Houthis said Thursday they will form a presidential council.

In single day, two of the United States’ most important partners in the region are gone. What follows next is unclear.
So, now we turn to the ever excellent Middle East expert Jeremy Scahill….

And up next...Jeremy on the latest in Yemen...

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

Let's Poke the Bear Some More, Shall We?

American soldiers will deploy to Ukraine this spring to begin training four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard, the head of US Army Europe Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said during his first visit to Kiev on Wednesday.


Funding for the initiative is coming from the congressionally-authorized Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), which was requested by the Obama administration in the fiscal 2015 budget to help train and equip the armed forces of allies around the globe.


[T]he United States has already earmarked $19 million to help build the Ukrainian National Guard.


Derek Chollet, former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs [...] was quick to add that he doesn't anticipate that this training mission "will require significant US presence."


Chollet said Russian military incursions into the Crimea and eastern Ukraine have refocused American attention on the region after a decade of fighting two wars in the Middle East.


In addition to US trainers, Washington is beginning to provide heavier military equipment to the government in Kiev. On Monday, the United States delivered the first prototype of an armored "Kozak" vehicle for use with the Ukrainian border guard, according to the US Embassy there.


The embassy said that to date, "the United States has delivered dozens of armored pickup trucks and vans to the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The Kozak is larger and offers a higher level of protection."

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


After the foolish woman who destroyed the ancient painting in Spain,* you'd think people would be more mindful...especially in a museum holding priceless treasures!

I was fortunate to see this mask years ago when I lived in San Francisco. Seeing it in person is - or was! - awesome. Pictures don't do it justice. (Like the Grand Canyon.)

 What a shame.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Richmond Progressive Alliance Shows It CAN Be Done

I really like this story.  It's too rare, and I'm still pessimistic about the States overall, but...I really like this story.

Go, Richmond!
It’s not often that a city council race in a city of 100,000 draws national attention. It happened in Richmond, California, this fall because one big corporation was so shameless in its open attempt to buy the election.

But even more remarkable was the fact that the corporation got beat. Up against the Democratic Party establishment, plus $3 million in campaign spending by Chevron—the third-largest company in the world—a grassroots group won.


The city is now 40 percent Latino, 26 percent Black, 17 percent white, and 14 percent Asian. A fifth of the population was born outside the U.S.

Richmond was long dominated by Chevron, whose massive refinery sits on the shoreline belching oil byproducts into the atmosphere. Chevron is the town’s biggest taxpayer and largest employer—but only 7 percent of employees live in Richmond. The execs certainly do not.


How did the Davids of RPA beat the Chevron Goliath?

  Labor Notes
Go ahead and read this one yourself.

And let's hope Chevron doesn't decide to make an example of Richmond and pull out.  It can afford to.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


 (click to enlarge)

Je Suis Charlie, Boston?

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

What Happened?

Three things that simply dropped out of US news:

1) Assad MUST go;
2) Khorasan; and
3) Ebola.

Leaks That Are Acceptable

Besieged by skepticism over the pronouncement that North Korea was responsible for the Sony attacks, the USG had to once again sanction a leak of classified information.
The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth.


A classified security agency program expanded into an ambitious effort, officials said, to place malware that could track the internal workings of many of the computers and networks used by the North’s hackers.


The evidence gathered by the “early warning radar” of software painstakingly hidden to monitor North Korea’s activities proved critical in persuading President Obama to accuse the government of Kim Jong-un of ordering the Sony attack, according to the officials and experts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified N.S.A. operation.

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

Aasif Mandvi Goes to Alabama

Alabama recently hilariously overwhelming voted to pass a law prohibiting the state from ever coming under Sharia law.  So it was only fitting that Aasif Mandvi file a report.

And, as regards Jon Stewart's surprise that Fox News has apologized for anything, this is probably the reason:

h/t Bill Moyers

Cyber State of the Union

[Obama’s cyber proposals] would in theory help the government and private sector share hack data more effectively; increase penalties for the most troubling forms of hacking; and require better notification of people when their personal data has been stolen.

But if you cut through the spin, it turns out that the steps Obama is proposing would likely erode, rather than strengthen, information security for citizens and computer experts trying to protect them.

  Dan Froomkin
I’m shocked.

The explanation for the mismatch between Obama administration goals and policy is, unfortunately, a familiar one: The pull of moneyed corporate interests.

Whoa. Shocked again.

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

Enlightening and Informative Interview of Jeremy Scahill

With lots of good information on Anwar al Awlaki.

You can also read Jeremy Scahill's Intercept article on who the Paris gunmen were or weren't in terms of global terrorism, with this inclusion:
[Update: On Wednesday, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula officially claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in a statement issued by its media arm. The statement declared that the attack was in retaliation for the magazine’s depictions of the prophet Mohammed in its cartoons. It called the simultaneous assault on the Kosher grocery story by Amedy Coulibaly a coincidence because of the men’s relationships with each other and said it was not the result of AQAP’s coordination with rival group Islamic State.]

  Jeremy Scahill

More Criticism of 'American Sniper'

This time, not from a philosophical point of view:






Oh, come on dude.  We all know Saddam Hussein crashed the Twin Towers.  D'uh!  Get over it, traitor.

Important points in there I had not even come across before.  Or if I had, I've forgotten them.

 Read the whole Storify here:

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


I was trapped into going along on a week-long buying trip to the Dallas World Trade Center Market. I survived.

And now I need a week of silence. Three buildings of mall-size showrooms, with the largest building having fifteen floors of it. If it can be manufactured and sold, it's at the Dallas Market. One buyer asked me how I liked it, and when I told her that I don't like shopping and I don't like crowds, she said: "My customers always say to me, 'How fun. You get to go shopping for a living.' I tell them, 'Here's what I want you to do: go to your local mall; walk in and out of every store all day long; look at everything; do it for five days in a row; don't stop for lunch; and then bring me back something I'm going to like NEXT year.'"

Yep. Great fun.

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