Tuesday, March 31, 2015

American vs. European Model

Here are [three] things Americans can learn from the rest of the world.

1. Universal Healthcare Is Great for Free Enterprise and Great for Small Businesses

In 2009, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a study on small businesses around the world and found that “by every measure of small-business employment, the United States has among the world’s smallest small-business sectors.” People in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and other European countries are more likely to be self-employed—and the study concluded that universal healthcare is a key factor.


2. Comprehensive Sex Education Decreases Sexual Problems

Public schools in the Netherlands have aggressive sex education programs that America’s Christian Right would despise. Yet in 2009, the Netherlands had (according to the United Nations) a teen birth rate of only 5.3 per 1,000 compared to 39.1 per 1,000 in the U.S. That same year, the U.S. had three times as many adults living with HIV or AIDS as the Netherlands.

Switzerland, France, Germany and many other European countries also have intensive sex-ed programs and much lower teen pregnancy rates than the U.S.


3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense in 2015

The U.S. is not exceptional when it comes to civil liberties (no country in the world incarcerates, per capita, more of its people than the U.S.) [...]

OK. Hold it right there. Technically, that IS exceptional.
[...] or healthcare (WHO ranks the U.S. #37 in terms of healthcare). Nor is the U.S. a leader in terms of life expectancy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

He's Not Stupid

Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia

[Cluster bombs] are used for killing large groups of people, destroying thinly-skinned vehicles and dispensing landmines or poison gas. Some of the Soviet-made incendiary cluster bombs used by Assad’s forces during Syria’s civil war are even designed to light buildings on fire and then explode after sitting on the ground for a while — thereby killing anyone who gets close enough to try to extinguish the flames.


The little ball-shaped bomblets dispersed by cluster munitions don’t always detonate on first impact. Often, they will just sit there on the ground until someone, often a child, picks them up.


So far, 112 countries have signed an international treaty banning cluster bombs, with 83 ratifying it. Guess who isn’t part of that club? China, Russia, most of the former USSR, Syria… and the United States .


The world recoiled in horror when it learned that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s forces have killed children with such weapons.

But that isn’t stopping the U.S. military from selling $640 million worth of American-made cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

  Foreign Policy
What’s the problem? When the US itself banned DDT, we allowed it to be sold to Mexico. You want us to throw that stuff away and take a loss?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

They Made It Themselves

Maybe they could just pull their weight before they bitch about blue states and welfare.

Hillary's Email

March 5
Hillary Clinton responded to intense scrutiny over her email practices on Wednesday, saying she has asked the State Department to make available her private email during her tenure as secretary of state.

"I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible," Clinton wrote in a tweet posted late Wednesday evening.

  Huffington Post
March 29
Members of the US House of Representatives hoping to get a look at Hillary Clinton's personal email server just got a big disappointment. Clinton's attorney has confirmed to a House committee on Benghazi that, after handing over work-related email to the State Department, the politician both "chose not to keep" personal messages and set a 60-day limit on what the server retains. In short, she effectively wiped it clean. There's no going back to mail from her Secretary of State days beyond the 30,490 messages on the record, or roughly half of what the server held during the period.

She wants the public to see here emails - just not the ones she deleted.

And, may I ask, doesn't the NSA have copies?

Blame It on the Marijuana

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recently published a study, the first of its kind, in the PLOS journal.


California's current drought has been caused by the demand for water needed to cultivate cannabis, which, under state law, is illegal for recreational use. Streams are running dry, fish are dying, and it’s just the beginning, US scientists warn.

For the love of Pete, California agriculture is huuuuuuuge.  But they're blaming the water shortage on marijuana growers.

It's Sunday

And God is on a roll.

There's more.  Much  more.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

The TSA Is Onto You

The Intercept has obtained a document called the “Spot Referral Report,” which guides special TSA officers in the "Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT" program. Here are some of the behaviors listed in that document to help these officers discover terrorists at the airport.

Who in the world whistles while approaching the screening area?  Is this a Marx Brothers movie?  Will the whistler dash around the scanning machine, feint to the left, and make a run for the plane while clumsy agents lunge and fall down?
The checklist ranges from the mind-numbingly obvious, like “appears to be in disguise,” which is worth three points, to the downright dubious, like a bobbing Adam’s apple. Many indicators, like “trembling” and “arriving late for flight,” appear to confirm allegations that the program picks out signs and emotions that are common to many people who fly.


Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points.


In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

  The Intercept
Apparently, TSA is undaunted by science.
Despite those concerns, TSA has trained and deployed thousands of Behavior Detection Officers, and the program has cost more than $900 million since it began in 2007.
The 92-point checklist listed in the “Spot Referral Report” is divided into various categories with a point score for each. Those categories include a preliminary “observation and behavior analysis.”
Arriving late for a flight is on the list, too, and if the agents – sorry, “Behavior Detection Officers” - have to go through 92 behaviors, the late-arriving terrorist will be on the plane and in the air before the list is completed.
Points can also be deducted from someone’s score based on observations about the traveler that make him or her less likely, in TSA’s eyes, to be a terrorist. For example, “apparent” married couples, if both people are over 55, have two points deducted off their score. Women over the age of 55 have one pointed deducted; for men, the point deduction doesn’t come until they reach 65.
Oh, lord. How many points deducted for being white? How many added for dusky skin?

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

FBI Instigation of Violent Acts/Murder

The FBI isn't the only government agency that infiltrates groups and, in the process of investigations, commits illegal acts, including murder. But, in light of its ongoing shady "terror attack prevention", this story from the Civil Rights movement reminds us that it's only business as usual. So what if some innocent people die?

It is the story of Gary Rowe, an FBI informant who was present when the KKK murdered Viola Liuzzo, while she was driving alone at night.  It's notable for several reasons, among them the fact that FBI Director Hoover was alerted to the planned attack on the freedom bus riders and withheld that information from AG Robert Kennedy.

Read the article.  Very interesting.

And here's a very interesting story about Viola Liuzzo's murder and its aftermath.

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

Bergdahl Charged

The U.S. military has charged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was held in Taliban captivity for five years after leaving his Army base in Afghanistan in 2009. An earlier military report found Bergdahl likely walked away of his own free will, but stopped short of finding that he planned to permanently desert American forces. In Taliban captivity, Bergdahl has said he was beaten, tortured and locked in a cage after trying to escape some 12 times. He was freed last year in exchange for five Taliban militants. He now faces life in prison if convicted.

  Democracy Now!


Police have found a torn sick leave note for the date of the crashed Germanwings flight in the home of Andreas Lubitz, suspected of voluntarily bringing the plane down.


It was not specified what medical condition exactly prompted Lubutz’s doctor to issue him a medical certificate.


German daily Bild reported earlier on Friday that Lubitz had spent 18 months overall under psychiatric treatment. The newspaper also claimed it got access to Lubitz’s profile, indicating the pilot had “psychological problems” and required a "special, exemplary regular medical examination".

Bild also cited sources familiar with the investigation, saying that Lubitz was suffering from a "personal life crisis," following a recent breakup with a girlfriend.

Unlike many flights in the US, airlines in Europe are not obliged to operate the “rule of two” that requires a flight attendant to be in the cockpit if one of the pilots decides to step outside temporarily.

  The Guardian
Well, they will now, won’t they?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another Obama First

“An anti-Iranian group calling itself “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI)” launched a smear – or “name and shame” – campaign against Grek billionaire Victor Restis, claiming his hipping company trades with Iran. Restis denied the charge and sued, claiming that UANI destroyed his reputation. And then a strange thing happened…
This group of neocon extremists [UANI] was literally just immunized by a federal court from the rule of law. That was based on the claim — advocated by the Obama DOJ and accepted by Judge Ramos — that subjecting them to litigation for their actions would risk disclosure of vital “state secrets.” The court’s ruling was based on assertions made through completely secret proceedings between the court and the U.S. government, with everyone else — including the lawyers for the parties — kept in the dark.


Usually, when the U.S. government asserts the “state secrets privilege,” it is because they are a party to the lawsuit, being sued for their own allegedly illegal acts (such as torture or warrantless surveillance), and they claim that national security would be harmed if they are forced to defend themselves. In rare cases, they do intervene and assert the privilege in lawsuits between private parties, but only where the subject of the litigation is a government program and one of the parties is a government contractor involved in that program — such as when torture victims sued a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen, for its role in providing airplanes for the rendition program and the Obama DOJ insisted (successfully) that the case not go forward, and the victim of U.S. torture was thus told that he could not even have a day in court.

But in this case, there is no apparent U.S. government conduct at issue in the lawsuit. [...] [B]ased on what they claim about themselves, UANI is just “a not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group” that seeks to “educate” the public about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. Why would such a group like this even possess “state secrets”? It would be illegal to give them such material. Or could it be that the CIA or some other U.S. government agency has created and controls the group, which would be a form of government-disseminated propaganda, which happens to be illegal?

  Glenn Greenwald
Gasp! Surely not.
We don’t know the answers to those questions, nor do the lawyers for the plaintiffs whose lawsuit the DOJ wants dismissed. That’s because, beyond the bizarre DOJ intervention itself, the extreme secrecy that shaped the judicial proceedings is hard to overstate.


[V]irtually everything has been hidden, even from the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Not only did the U.S. government provide no clue as to what the supposedly endangered “state secrets” are, but they concealed even the identity of the agency making the claim: was it the CIA, the Treasury Department, the State Department, some combination? Nothing is known about any of this, not even who is making the secrecy claim.


This sham worked. This week, Judge Ramos issued his ruling dismissing the entire lawsuit. [...] As a result of the DOJ’s protection, UANI cannot be sued. Among other things, it means this group of neocon extremists now has a license to defame anyone they want. They can destroy your reputation with false accusations in a highly public campaign, and when you sue them for it, the DOJ will come in and whisper in the judge’s ear that national security will be damaged if — like everyone else in the world — UANI must answer in a court of law for their conduct.


What kind of “justice system” allows a neocon “advocacy” group to be immunized from the law, because the U.S. government waltzed into court, met privately with the judge, and whispered in secret that he had better dismiss all claims against that group lest he harm national security?
The American kind.
The Bush Justice Department used this weapon to prevent its torture, detention, rendition and surveillance victims — even those everyone acknowledged were completely innocent — from having a day in court. They would simply say that the treatment of the plaintiffs was classified, and that disclosure would risk harm to national security, and subservient U.S. federal judges (an almost redundant term) would dutifully dismiss the lawsuits before they even began. It literally removed high U.S. government officials from the rule of law.


But in some important respects, this latest abuse is a step beyond that. It’s certainly true that legally immunizing brutal violations of human rights on secrecy grounds (as both the Bush and Obama DOJs have done) is worse than preventing a Greek billionaire from prosecuting a lawsuit. But to intervene in a private lawsuit in order to shield an extremist neocon group from the consequences of their actions — through secret meetings with the judge in which unaccountable “secrecy” assertions are made — is even more offensive to basic legal rights than what has preceded it.


Why they are so eager to prevent discovery and investigation into this Iran-obsessed neocon group — who funds it, who controls it, what are its objectives? — should be of great interest to everyone.

TPP Leak

WikiLeaks just released the full text of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) chapter on “Investor State Dispute Settlement.”1 It’s terrifying. The TPP is even worse than we thought. The leaked chapter shows how the TPP would set up a shadowy international “court system” that would have no accountability to the public.

  Fight for the Future email
WikiLeaks releases today the "Investment Chapter" from the secret negotiations of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement. The document adds to the previous WikiLeaks publications of the chapters for Intellectual Property Rights (November 2013) and the Environment (January 2014).

The TPP Investment Chapter, published today, is dated 20 January 2015. The document is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor said: "The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies."

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. The TPP is the largest economic treaty in history, including countries that represent more than 40 per cent of the world´s GDP.

Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment Chapter
An ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obamawould allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to aclassified document.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.


The sensitivity of the issue is reflected in the fact that the cover mandates that the chapter not be declassified until four years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force or trade negotiations end, should the agreement fail.


“This is really troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”


The United States is party to 51, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. Administration officials say they level the playing field for American companies doing business abroad, protect property from government seizure and ensure access to international justice.

But the limited use of trade tribunals, critics argue, is because companies in those countries do not have the size, legal budgets and market power to come after governments in the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership could change all that, they say.


But as long as a government treats foreign and domestic companies in the same way, defenders say, it should not run afoul of the trade provisions. “A government that conducts itself in an unbiased and nondiscriminatory fashion has nothing to worry about,” said Scott Miller, an international business expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

And what government would THAT be? None that we have on the planet to date. The old “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” argument applied to governments.
People have pointed out how KORUS -- the "free trade" agreement that the US signed with South Korea a few years ago, which included draconian intellectual property rules, is "the model" for "modern free trade agreements." It was used as the basis for ACTA, and now it's often pointed to as the model for the TPP as well. When KORUS was first being debated, we wondered why a "free trade" agreement would include rules for stricter monopolies, as that seemed like the exact opposite of free trade. Free trade is about knocking down the walls to protectionism, not building more monopoly power. And yet, that's exactly what it did -- creating tremendous problems to the point that South Korea is now looking for ways to get out of the intellectual property requirements of the agreement.

And yet, defenders of the TPP still point to KORUS as the "model" for TPP and talk it up as if it's been a wonderful and successful agreement. However, it seems that others are noticing that there doesn't appear to be any "free trade" in this "free trade agreement." Instead, it's purely mercantilist cronyism, designed to limit economic growth and public welfare, to benefit a few large legacy companies.

As we pointed out just recently, the USTR relies heavily on Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs), which are deeply involved in these things. Members get access to the documents -- much more access than even Congress, and certainly a lot more access than the public which gets none at all. The IP ITAC is almost entirely made up of legacy industry players who come from a different era, and who know little about today's innovation. In fact, they tend to fight against innovation. As Lee notes, the USTR used to work mostly with exporters -- companies who ship stuff to foreign countries, and their general outlook on everything is from that perspective. But that makes no sense when you're talking about information.


USTR flat out rejected a recent attempt to put copyright law expert Andrew Bridges on the IP ITAC. Bridges is the person you should thank for having music in your pocket, because he defended the legality of the first MP3 player when the RIAA tried to sue it out of existence. He's also worked closely with a ton of internet companies and knows better than just about anyone I know how innovation works these days.


But the really concerning part is the insane revolving door between IP maximalist industry players and the USTR.


The USTR may claim it's trying to help promote American jobs, but it really looks like it's their own jobs that are most important to them.

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

Get Those Oil Prices Back Up

WTI shot up more than 6.43 percent to $52.38 per barrel, and Brent climbed to $59.71, a 5.72 percent increase at 11:00 am Moscow time [after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a military operation in Yemen]. Saudi Arabia and nine allied countries began airstrikes at 11 pm GMT, deploying a total of 70 fighter jets.


The Saudi ambassador to the US said the airstrikes were launched to “defend the legitimate government” of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who fled Aden by boat on Wednesday after a massive attack by Iranian-backed Shia rebels. Hadi relocated to Aden from Sanaa after the capital city was overran by the Shia Houthi rebels in September.

An all-out conflict in the Middle East with the US backing one side and Iran the other, has oil traders very bullish on crude prices.


German Airline Crash Intentional

And now, the question is, why?

According to a report of the recovered voice recorder:
For the last 20 minutes the conversation was normal, courteous, nothing abnormal.

Then we heard the captain talk and the copilot's response appeared laconic.

We heard the captain ask the copilot to take control, then we hear the noise of a seat that goes back and a door open, we can assume he went to relieve himself.

The co-pilot was alone. It is it this moment that the copilot manipulates the buttons of flight monitoring system to action the descent of the plane.

The action of this selectioner of altitude can only be deliberate.

We hear the captain then speaks via an interphone to speak to the copilot, no response of copilot, he taps on door, no response of copilot, all we can hear is the sound of breathing, until impact suggesting the co-pilot was alive until impact.

  UK Telegraph
Possibilities range from a medical emergency to something more nefarious, such as a suicide mission, CNN aviation analysts said before the prosecutor's news conference.

Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of airlineratings.com, said the cockpit door has three positions, citing A320 captains and the aircraft manual -- unlocked, normal and locked.

The door would usually be in the "normal" position, but if the Times report is true, it would appear that after one of the pilots left the cockpit, it was switched to the "locked" position. This prevents the other pilot from using a keypad and emergency code to get in from the outside, he said.

The chances of this happening accidentally if the [co]pilot became incapacitated, at the same time as him knocking the side stick to put the plane into a dive, would appear to be "beyond the realms of mathematical possibility," Thomas said.

Officials previously said they hadn't ruled out terrorism, but that it seems unlikely.

Why? Because the co-pilot’s name was Lubitz and not Mahmud?
According to NBC, Lubitz possessed a United States-issued private pilot’s license.


British Dupe Acquitted

A law student in London, convicted of being in possession of a bomb-making manual last year was retried on a charge of plotting a terrorist attack. Of course, there had to be secrets.
Erol Incedal, 27, was cleared of preparation of acts of terrorism after a four-week retrial in which large parts of the evidence were heard inside a locked courtroom.


He [told the court] that that although he had been carrying a memory card with the bomb-making manual stored on it at the time of his arrest, he believed he had a “reasonable excuse” for having it in his possession.

However, such is the secrecy surrounding the case that it is not currently possible to report on the basis for that belief. Nor is it possible to report on other significant parts of the evidence that Incedal put forward in his defence.

Nonetheless, the jury, who did hear all the evidence, was clearly not satisfied that the prosecution had made out its case beyond reasonable doubt, and acquitted Incedal of the charge.

A small number of journalists were permitted to attend some of the sessions held in secret, but they have been warned they will be committing an offence if they disclose what they heard, unless the trial judge, Sir Andrew Nicol, lifts the extensive reporting restrictions.


When police stopped him in Ealing, west London, in September 2013, and searched his E-Class Mercedes, a piece of paper bearing the address of the London home of Tony and Cherie Blair was found inside his Versace glasses case.

Over the next two hours, while he was being held at a police station in west London and questioned about a number of motoring offences, a listening device was wired into the vehicle, and an investigation codenamed Operation Vendible was launched.


Thirteen days [later], Incedal and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar were travelling in the Mercedes when armed police forced the car to a halt [...] and shot out the tyres to prevent any escape.

The two men were arrested and were found to be in possession of almost-identical SD memory cards wrapped in masking tape and concealed inside their iPhone cases. Stored on each of the cards were[containing] a number of documents concerning explosives, including the five-page bomb-making manual.

Ministry of Defence forensic explosives experts dismissed some of those instructions as farcical.


The examination also showed that Incedal had been communicating with another person, thought to be in the Middle East, who was using an email account in the name of Zaynab Alawi.

The pair exchanged a number of messages referring to “straps” – slang for firearms. One exchange referred to [...] Kalashnikovs, and [...] a reference to an attack on a hotel, such as that carried out in Mumbai in November 2008.

The jury was able to consider Incedal’s explanation for these communicatons, but due to the secrecy surrounding the case, that explanation cannot be reported.


Despite his limited income, the jury has heard evidence that Incedal was enjoying a free-spending lifestyle.


As with so much about the case, other sources of Incedal’s money must, for the time being, remain a mystery: following his acquittal, the small group of reporters who have heard some of the secret evidence cannot disclose whether they have learned where it was coming from.

Let me guess. The British equivalent of the FBI.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just in Case You Need to Know

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

Mainstream Reporters

Even at this late date, with a record number of at least eight individuals charged by the Obama administration under the 1917 Espionage Act (compared to three such prosecutions for all of Obama’s predecessors combined), many prominent journalists can’t see, or won’t admit, or don’t believe, that an attack on whistleblowers is also an attack on the press and on the First Amendment.

They appear either not to care or to have scant awareness of the chilling effect on the symbiotic relationship between investigative reporters and their sources every time whistleblowers are charged or convicted for crimes that could land them in prison for decades, if not a lifetime.

They also appear to accept at face value the stories spun by the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon or other members of the vast U.S. national security state apparatus. It matters not to them the number of times those agencies have been shown to be liars, whether it be over non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the extent of the vast surveillance operations directed at American citizens and people worldwide.

Why do these stars of the news media so readily brush off concerns about our dangerous warfare/surveillance state revealed by Snowden, Manning and the others? Why do they cheer on the government’s crackdown on unauthorized leaks and tell us surveillance and the diminishment of our civil liberties is really for our own good in a scary world – rather than side with the Bill of Rights and the handful of other journalists and whistleblowers who expose secrets that people in a free society should have the right to know? Why do they sound as if they are angling for a position on the National Security Council or membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, rather than aspiring to be another I.F. Stone (who lived by the tenet, “all governments lie”) or Edward R. Murrow or Seymour Hersh?

Money? Prestige in D.C.? Access to government officials? Well, the latter would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Access to more lies isn’t much of a prize.

I'll have to guess it's money and career maintenance that turns reporters into government shills.  Corporate news organizations which are a part of the massive money machine controlling Washington are probably not going to keep independent reporters on the payroll.

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

And, by the way, whatever happened to the "second leaker" from the Snowden documentary?  The last I can find anything about that person is reports from October 2014 which said the FBI raided his/her home.  The person has gone unnamed and, as far as I can tell, unreported, since then.  Where's Jeremy Scahill, to whom the leaks were made, and his supposedly independent and corporate-free news organization, The Intercept, (also Glenn Greenwald's employer) on this?  Silent.  Why?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

There Will Be No End

President Obama will slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as requested by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is visiting Washington, D.C., this week.

Instead of drawing down the 10,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of this year, Obama will allow most of those troops to remain through 2015, according to a defense official.

In addition, two air bases that were previously slated to be closed — Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan and Jalalabad Airfield in eastern Afghanistan — will remain open through 2015, the official said.

The slower drawdown is in response to instability in Afghanistan

  The HIll
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2015

And They Sleep at Night, Too

Having the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force direct Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group is complicating the U.S. mission against terrorism and contributing to destabilization in Iraq, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency said Sunday.

But, surely he is willing to give SOME of the credit for destabilizing Iraq to the US?
Brennan said he did not believe the presence of Soleimani and his advisers pointed to Iran having a larger role in Iraq and its future. However, he acknowledged it's not for lack of trying. Baghdad's Shiite-led government has forged closer ties with Iran.

"We're not letting them play that role. I think they're working with the Iraqis to play that role," the CIA head said. "We're working with the Iraqis, as well."
Was that it?
"I think the fault really lies with a number of the Iraqis who wasted and squandered the opportunity they had after the government was reconstituted not to put at rest some of these sectarian tensions and not to be more inclusive as far as bringing the Sunni community in," Brennan said.
Yeah, no. WE did all we could. THEY broke it.

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

The GMO Question

Seedy Business,” (PDF), a report released earlier this year by U.S. Right To Know, a non-profit organization that counters food industry disinformation, is an eye-opener. It’s introduction opens with this:

“Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them.” The report lists 15 things that “big food is hiding with its slick PR campaign on GMOs.” Maybe the most controversial of these: “GMO science is for sale.” Others can be used to counter your well-meaning friends who’ve heard the media say that the FDA has determined these foods are safe: The FDA does not test whether GMOs are safe. It merely reviews information submitted by the agrichemical companies.

  Planet Natural
There is no consensus in the science. A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed GMO animal feeding studies found roughly an equal number of research groups raising concerns about genetically engineered foods and those suggesting GMOs were as safe and nutritious as conventional foods. The review also found that most studies finding GMOs foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.

There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential health effects of GMO food on human health. With no epidemiological studies, claims that “trillions of GMO meals” have been eaten with no ill effects have no scientific basis. Without such studies, which have been used to determine the effects of factors from fats to smoking, it is not possible to know whether GMOs are causing harm such as increases in known diseases, especially over the long term.

GMO studies are frequently mischaracterized as showing safety. For example, the EU Research Project, which has been internationally cited as providing evidence of GMO safety, was not designed to test safety and provides no reliable evidence of safety. Another example is the false claim that “hundreds of studies” listed on the biotechnology website Biofortified demonstrate GMO safety; in fact, many of the studies on that list do not address safety concerns at all, and several of the studies raise serious concerns.

International agreements show widespread recognition of risks posed by GMO foods and crops. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UN’s Codex Alimentarius share a precautionary approach to GMO crops and foods, in that they agree that genetic engineering differs from conventional breeding and that safety assessments should be required before GM organisms are used in food or released into the environment.

Claims that government and scientific organizations endorse safety are often exaggerated or inaccurate. For example, an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada said it is “scientifically unjustifiable” to presume that GM foods are safe without rigorous scientific testing. A report by the British Medical Association concluded that “many unanswered questions remain” about the long-term effects of GMOs on human health and the environment, and that “safety concerns cannot, as yet, be dismissed completely on the basis of information currently available.” Moreoever, the positions of some prominent scientific organizations have been misrepresented or opposed by members, further highlighting the lack of consensus among scientists.

  Right to Know
My own objection to GMO food is not so much that it is unsafe to eat. I don’t know that it is or isn’t. Long-term studies have not yet been possible. My objection encompasses that fact and the economics.

We know from many instances of attempts to thwart nature to our advantage, such as importing exotic plants and animals for pest control, and from accidental importation of pests, that introducing a foreign actor into an ecosystem whose components have evolved together for millennia disrupts the system and produces unforeseen and often disastrous results. (Kudzu in Missouri anyone?) What happens next is a rash of chemical attempts to rebalance. The winners in this game are the chemical companies, not the consumers. The consumers MAY not be any less healthy for eating GMO foods, but their wallets are certainly lighter, and their ecosystem full of chemicals that may be harmful to them directly and impossible to predict for the future.

If we need more food and can’t get it without GMOs (which I am not stipulating), why not just manufacture chemical food and leave the environment to take care of itself as it has done since the beginning of time?

Or, hey, my favorite solution: Soylent Green.

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

Does This Mean We've Lost the War Against Terror in Yemen?

The U.S. military is working to evacuate about 100 special operations forces members out of the Al Anad air base in Yemen due to the crumbling security at the base.

The troops being evacuated are the last American forces stationed in Yemen.

  Washington Times
There has been mounting violence by rival armed groups in Yemen, including Houthi rebels, al-Qaeda and IS.


Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who fled to the southern port city of Aden after the capital was taken over by Houthis last month [requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council].


The US military personnel at the base, including some special forces, had been training Yemeni fighters to support their fight against al-Qaeda.


Late on Saturday, US state department spokesman Jeff Rathke said: "Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the US government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen."

He said the US would continue to support Yemen's "political transition" and monitor terrorist threats emanating from the country. but he added: "There is no military solution to Yemen's current crisis."


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yet Another Child Sex Abuser at State

A State Department Diplomatic Security employee with high-level access to government IT and security resources was arrested in Broward County, Florida on a federal charges of possessing child pornography.

FBI agents took Peter Meyers, 53, pictured, into custody. Law enforcement officials stated they found 50 video files and eight image files depicting child pornography on Meyers’ computers and laptops. Meyers was making the videos and images available to pedophiles worldwide via file-sharing networks.

  Peter Van Buren
The sickness is deep, and I can only assume that it has been allowed to fester and spread by decades of coverups and silence, giving the Catholic priesthood heavy competition.
Some of the files were named “Bedtime Rape” and “Camping Tent Incest” and showed girls and boys, including toddlers and children as young six and nine years old, being sexually abused. Meyers said the computers were for personal use, agents said.
Which makes it okay? Fewer charges, at least, if he can sell that excuse.

The FBI could take the money it's spending on creating terrorist plots to foil and put it toward rooting out predators of children.

Friday, March 20, 2015

When Corporations Rule the World

AFL-CIO says it will withhold contributions to congressional Democrats to pressure them to vote no on fast-track authority.


LORI WALLACH, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: Well, fast-tracking the TPP would make it easier to offshore our jobs and would put downward pressure, enormous downward pressure, on Americans’ wages, because it would throw American workers into competition with workers in Vietnam who are paid less than 60 cents an hour and have no labor rights to organize, to better their situation. Plus, the TPP would empower another 25,000 foreign corporations to use the investor state tribunals, the corporate tribunals, to attack our laws. And then there would be another 25,000 U.S. corporations in the other TPP countries who could use investor state to attack their environmental and health and labor and safety laws. And if all that weren’t enough, Big Pharma would get new monopoly patent rights that would jack up medicine prices, cutting off affordable access. And there’s rollback of financial regulations put in place after the global financial crisis. And there’s a ban on "Buy Local," "buy domestic" policies. And it would undermine the policy space that we have to deal with the climate crisis—energy policies are covered. Basically, almost any progressive policy or goal would be undermined, rolled back.


AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain why President Obama is pushing TPP forward and TPA, the fast-track authority, which means, again, that you can’t amend this agreement, you can only vote up or down?

LORI WALLACH: Well, I want to—actually, I want to take one step back before guessing why, because it’s hard to imagine. If you go to our website, TradeWatch.org, we’ve literally done a side-by-side of Obama’s policy goals as a president and everything fast-tracking the TPP would do to basically undermine everything that he has fought for, from lower medicine prices to re-regulating Wall Street, to more energy-efficient climate crisis-combating policies, to allegedly this middle-class economics agenda. The TPP and fast track are the antithesis.


And it’s the government employee unions, it’s the service sector unions—all the unions that are affected by what happens when all of our good jobs are taken away and the tax base crashes. And you’ve got groups that have never been involved in a trade fight before, all the Internet freedom groups who realize the agreement would undermine the basic rights to an accessible, free Internet. There are issues about net neutrality that could be rolled back. It’s just overarchingly a delivery mechanism for a huge, broad corporate agenda.


But one other thing about fast track folks need to know, which is—and this gets to the weird politics—you’ve got the president basically doing the bidding of all the big corporations and commercial interests that spent millions of dollars to make sure he wasn’t elected the first time and to try and not elect him the second time.


Buy America and Buy American, two laws, the first one from 1934, requires you give a preference to a domestic company, so that when we’re spending our tax dollars, instead of offshoring our tax dollars, we’re reinvesting them in our communities to create jobs and also, by the way, to create innovation. So, like the CAFE standards, that are now normal, the fuel efficiency standards for cars, that was first a procurement condition; so the Renewable Portfolio Standards, the renewable energy standards that are now part of government procurement—that’s how you create a market using the government funds for a behavior you want the private sector to shift to.

Great policy tool, great job creator, super—except, under TPP, we’d have to give a waiver to that preference. Any company in any TPP country, so even ones that aren’t from those countries—Chinese state-owned enterprise firms in Vietnam—would have to be treated the same as a U.S. company and get all of those government contracts. [...] [And not just the US government. F]or instance, a lot of school districts have done rules that say, "Let’s buy local food from local farmers. Let’s not have a big multinational company ship our vegetables a thousand miles away when we have the ability from right here to produce and procure." Those would also be violations.


Folks, if you have not called your representative and both of your senators and gotten them to commit to you in writing that they oppose fast track, if and when it comes for a vote, which could be as soon as the third week of April, if you have not done that, you must do that. Please do that. Write them snail mail, email, call. The switchboard at the Capitol can connect you. If you’re not sure who your representative is, all you need is your ZIP code. The Capitol switchboard—you should write this down and stick it on a yellow sticky on your fridge for all purposes—202-225-3121, 202-225-3121.

  Democracy Now!
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

How Charming

If President Barack Obama could go back to his first day in office, he told a crowd in Cleveland, he would close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

On his second full day in office, Obama did sign an executive order that was cast as a directive to close Guantanamo within a year. But it actually created a task force charged with creating a plan to close the detention facility. By the time the group released its plan on Jan. 22, 2010, the bipartisan consensus around closing Gitmo had dissipated and the administration had other priorities for spending its political capital.

So, scores of innocent men have been imprisoned for lack of convenience on the President’s part?

He lost bipartisan support.  No other reason.  This is a textbook description of a political prisoner.
After opposition grew, Obama acknowledged Wednesday, “the path of least resistance was to just keep it open even though it’s not who we are as a country.”
That’s what I call a real leader. Taking the “path of least resistance.”
Obama said he also had some regrets about delaying a new approach to personal grooming.

“I was thinking maybe I should’ve told myself to start dying my hair now, before people noticed, because by a year in it was too late,” he said. “Michelle thinks I look distinguished.”
Har, har, har. Guantánamo is equal in importance to the color of his hair. Both are apparently more important than the drone-killing of thousands of innocent people and the stealing of millions from Americans’ retirements.

Putting Lives in Danger

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (above) said this week in Homburg that the U.S. Government threatened to cease sharing intelligence with Germany if Berlin offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden or otherwise arranged for him to travel to that country. “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” Gabriel said.


That would mean, if the threat were carried out, that the Americans would literally allow the German population to remain vulnerable to a brewing attack discovered by the Americans by withholding that information from their government.


The Vice Chancellor delivered a speech in which he praised the journalists who worked on the Snowden archive, and then lamented the fact that Snowden was forced to seek refuge in “Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Russia” because no other nation was willing and able to protect him from threats of imprisonment by the U.S. Government.

  Glenn Greenwald

It appears only the Latinos are brave enough to stand up to us.
[O]ne of two things is true: 1) the U.S. actually threatened Germany that it would refrain from notifying them of terrorist plots against German citizens and thus deliberately leave them vulnerable to violent attacks, or 2) some combination of high officials from the U.S. and/or German governments are invoking such fictitious threats in order to manipulate and scare the German public into believing that asylum for Snowden will endanger their lives. Both are obviously noteworthy, though it’s hard to say which is worse.

Left Behind

The FBI has increased its reward for information on missing American Robert Levinson from $1 million to $5 million, it announced Monday.

Levinson, a retired FBI agent, vanished after traveling to the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007 and is one of the longest-held U.S. citizens in history.


It's unclear exactly who is holding him, but U.S. officials have said they believe he is somewhere in southwest Asia.


Iran's government repeatedly has said it is not holding Levinson and does not know his whereabouts. The FBI says he was in Iran as a private investigator.

But news reports in 2013 said he was working as an independent CIA contractor when he disappeared.

That prompted his family to speak out, saying they kept it quiet for years that Levinson was working for the CIA, because the U.S. government had warned them that revealing it would put him in more jeopardy.

Another family buffaloed. It’s not like whoever took him in Iran didn’t know he was CIA. The US government don’t like to acknowledge when one of theirs is captured. Code of the CIA: we will disavow any knowledge, etc.
The FBI, White House and CIA have not publicly acknowledged any connection between the CIA and Levinson.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Will the Onion Stay in Business When Serious News Sources Get Stories Like This?

(h/t Roger)
The American Secret Service made a proposal to build a White House replica for training purpose as part of beefing up security to President Barack Obama and his family.

The proposal was put forward by US Secret Service Director Joseph P Clancy while testifying before a congressional committee Tuesday.

The agency's budget request includes $8 million to build a White House replica to train its agents and officers.

  RTT News
Will they have to build a replica of every building Obama ever enters so they can train to protect him in each of them?
The Secret Service chief was questioned by the House Appropriations Committee about a series of recent security lapses.

He told the House Committee that the agency is seeking a replica of one of the world's tightest security buildings because his agents who currently train on a parking lot don't get "a realistic look at the White House " while training.

"Right now, we put up a makeshift fence and walk off the distance between the fence at the White House and the actual house itself. We don't have the bushes, we don't have the fountains," Clancy said.
Or the barricades, I suppose. They do already have the prostitutes.
After multiple slip-ups, the Secret Service has been under fire that it cannot adequately protect the official residence of the US President.
Yeah, I don’t think the problems the SS has been under fire for have anything to do with where they’re trained. They seem to be more about whether they’re trainable.

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

The Dick Is Still Out There

China Blocks Certain Internet Sites

How terrible. Let's see who else might be doing that.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Give Thanks Every Day for the ACLU

[T]he American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will file a disclosure lawsuit for secret Obama administration documents specifying, among other things, the criteria for placement on the so-called “kill list” for drone strikes and other deadly force.

Information sought by the ACLU includes long-secret analyses establishing the legal basis for what the administration terms its “targeted killing program” and the process by which the administration determines that civilians are unlikely to be killed before launching a strike, as well as verification mechanisms afterward to establish if the strike in fact has caused civilian deaths.


“Over the last few years, the US government has used armed drones to kill thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians. The public should know who the government is killing, and why it’s killing them,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU, told the Guardian.

   The Guardian
I’ll just point out two things: 1) the American public doesn’t care; 2) this is the new Amerika – it wouldn’t matter if they did.

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

Happy Paddy's Day from YWA

Now go out there and have brilliant craic.

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Harboring Criminals

Daniel Rosen, a senior State Department counterterrorism official already facing a charge of soliciting a minor girl for sex, was arrested again in Washington, DC, on Sunday, this time accused of secretly videotaping two dozen women while they undressed in their homes.

Police say they found evidence of 40 separate incidents over the past six months when Rosen used his cellphone to film the women, including through pulled curtains or shades. They wouldn’t say whether Rosen had specially modified his phone’s camera or had stepped close to the windows to take the footage.

  Daily Beast
Perhaps it was advised by his lawyers: It will go better for you if we can claim you can’t help yourself; it’s a clinical condition.
[Police] said they had no information that Rosen’s alleged acts were in any way connected to his work at the State Department, where he is the director of counterterrorism programs and policy.
Oh, hey! Another possible defense: national security.
Public records and reports reviewed by The Daily Beast show that at least 22 current and former local, state, and federal employees have been convicted of crimes ranging from distributing child pornography to conscience-shocking acts of violence against infants. The crimes have occurred over the past decade, with many of the cases coming in the past four years. Experts say the numbers are likely far higher and may not be thoroughly documented by law enforcement agencies across the United States.


Cases of violent child abuse in the United States have mirrored recent revelations from an organized abuse ring in the United Kingdom featuring senior members of the British government. Shocking cases of crimes against children went unreported or covered up for decades. As The Daily Beast reported Friday, the potential key witness in the ring, who was himself allegedly a victim as a schoolboy, fled Britain and now lives in the United States.

  Daily Beast
If you want the sordid accounting in the State Department, CIA ,Homeland Security, and others, read the article. Most of it seems to be crimes against children. Big men, securing the nation against its enemies. Caveat lector: it includes examples like this, and worse:
Also in 2014, the former acting director of cyber security at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was convicted for his participation in a child porn ring that included images so violent and disturbing that even veteran investigators said they were shocked by what they saw.
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

The Secret TPP

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman will meet with House Democrats on Wednesday in a classified briefing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Members will be allowed to attend the briefing on the proposed trade pact with 12 Latin American and Asian countries with one staff member who possesses an “active Secret-level or high clearance” compliant with House security rules. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told The Hill that the administration is being “needlessly secretive.”

  The Hill
National security, dude.
“Even now, when they are finally beginning to share details of the proposed deal with members of Congress, they are denying us the ability to consult with our staff or discuss details of the agreement with experts,” DeLauro told The Hill.
In which case, one has to wonder why they are sharing anything at all.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) condemned the classified briefing.


What is USTR working so hard to hide? What is the specific legal basis for all this senseless secrecy?” Doggett said to The Hill.

“Open trade should begin with open access,” Doggett said. “Members expected to vote on trade deals should be able to read the unredacted negotiating text.”
You would think. And if you vote on it without having all the information, shame on you.

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

Creating and Foiling Terrorist Plots

[T]he FBI isn’t always nabbing would-be terrorists so much as setting up mentally ill or economically desperate people to commit crimes they could never have accomplished on their own.

At least in [mentally disturbed, destitute Sami] Osmakac’s [martyrdom video] case, FBI agents seem to agree with that criticism, though they never intended for that admission to become public. In the Osmakac sting, the undercover FBI agent went by the pseudonym “Amir Jones.” He’s the guy behind the camera in Osmakac’s martyrdom video. Amir, posing as a dealer who could provide weapons, wore a hidden recording device throughout the sting.

The device picked up conversations, including, apparently, back at the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, a gated compound beneath the flight path of Tampa International Airport, among agents and employees who assumed their words were private and protected.

  The Intercept
Well, now they know. Thank you Edward Snowden.
In other recorded conservations, Richard Worms, the FBI squad supervisor, describes Osmakac as a “retarded fool” who doesn’t have “a pot to piss in.” The agents talk about the prosecutors’ eagerness for a “Hollywood ending” for their sting. They refer to Osmakac’s targets as “wishy-washy,” and his terrorist ambitions as a “pipe-dream scenario.” The transcripts show FBI agents struggled to put $500 in Osmakac’s hands so he could make a down payment on the weapons — something the Justice Department insisted on to demonstrate Osmakac’s capacity for and commitment to terrorism.

“The money represents he’s willing to do it, because if we can’t show him killing, we can show him giving money,” FBI Special Agent Taylor Reed explains in one conversation.


Neither the FBI Tampa Field Office nor FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. responded to requests from The Intercept for comment on the Osmakac case or the remarks made by FBI agents and employees about the sting.
The Intercept article goes into detail about how the FBI set up Sami Osmakac, something that cost the FBI many, many man hours over several months, and tens of thousands of dollars.
Informant-led sting operations are central to the FBI’s counterterrorism program. Of 508 defendants prosecuted in federal terrorism-related cases in the decade after 9/11, 243 were involved with an FBI informant, while 158 were the targets of sting operations. Of those cases, an informant or FBI undercover operative led 49 defendants in their terrorism plots, similar to the way Osmakac was led in his.
Maybe that money could have been better spent elsewhere on real, viable targets?

And, if they’re also actually foiling real plots, why do they need to create fake ones? Budget considerations? If we don’t spend this year’s budget, next year we’ll be given less – is that the problem? Or, are the real ones not giving them their “Hollywood ending”?

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

2014 report from Human Rights Watch:  Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions
According to multiple studies, nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot. In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

  HRW Report

So, if you add together all the non-Islamic extremists, the Islamic extremists fall to the very bottom of the list.  Put all the whites together, and the Islamic extremists are only higher than the black power groups.  People of color are dangerous, huh?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Right to Work"

Scott Walker proves that pranks don’t work. Four years ago, when Walker first waged right-wing jihad on Wisconsin’s public sector workers, an old comrade of mine, “Buffalo” Ian Murphy, pulled off the single greatest phone prank ever. Posing as billionaire David Koch’s voice, Murphy managed to swagger his way past Gov. Walker’s aides and into the governor’s handset for a long 20 minute call, which revealed Walker as a grotesquely slavish Koch towelboy. Four years later: Walker is a top presidential contender, the Kochs are worth over $100 billion, Koch-backed groups passed “Right To Work” in Wisconsin…and “Buffalo” Murphy is an ex-con, jailed in 2013 for brandishing an unconcealed, fully loaded dildo at a mob of homophobic religious fanatics. As the saying goes, “The Koch is mightier than the prank.”


A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for NSFWCORP (since acquired by Pando) exposing the ugly, racist roots of the whole “Right To Work” movement, tracing it back to the brains behind “Right To Work”: Vance Muse, the loonie anti-Semitic, anti-black Texan who coined “Right To Work” in the early 1940s, and worked Karl Rove-like to push through the first “Right To Work” laws in the South in the 40s and early 50s. Since a lot of people these days are not in tune with labor union struggles and what “right to work” laws even mean, my article exposing the KKK racist who started “Right To Work” created a bit of a PR headache for the union-busting movement.


In the 1920s and 30s, before Muse invented “Right To Work,” he was notorious for lobbying against women’s suffrage, against outlawing child labor, against the 8-hour workday, and for “Americanization of the Supreme Court” to remove Austrian-born Jewish Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Muse and his groups were investigated by numerous committees and the FBI, but he always landed on his feet thanks to his wealthy sponsors, ranging from Texas oil and cotton magnates, to northern petrochemicals titans like the DuPonts and the Pews.


Today most of us, including liberals and progressives, couldn’t tell you what Right To Work is or why it’s bad. But Silicon Valley’s favorite politician, Rand Paul, is the Right To Work candidate for president. Rand Paul’s senate staff is led by people from Stan Greer’s National Right To Work Committee — including Doug Stafford, executive director of RAND PAC and Paul’s former chief of staff, previously vice president of the National Right To Work Committee.

No surprise then that Senator Rand Paul has been pushing for a federal “Right To Work” law covering all states, whether they like it or not. With all the Silicon Valley money pouring into his 2016 campaign coffers, a President Paul may just get his Right To Work wish.


More Bin Laden Papers

In the spring of 2010, Afghan officials struck a deal to free an Afghan diplomat held hostage by Al Qaeda. But the price was steep — $5 million — and senior security officials were scrambling to come up with the money.

They first turned to a secret fund that the Central Intelligence Agency bankrolled with monthly cash deliveries to the presidential palace in Kabul, according to several Afghan officials involved in the episode. The Afghan government, they said, had already squirreled away about $1 million from that fund. Within weeks, that money and $4 million more provided from other countries was handed over to Al Qaeda, replenishing its coffers after a relentless C.I.A. campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan had decimated the militant network’s upper ranks.

“God blessed us with a good amount of money this month,” Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the group’s general manager, wrote in a letter to Osama bin Laden in June 2010.

God. Is that what we’re calling the CIA now?

We pay them. We blow them up. We pay them. Good for the weapons manufacturers at least.
Bin Laden urged caution, fearing the Americans knew about the payment and had laced the cash with radiation or poison, or were tracking it. “There is a possibility — not a very strong one — that the Americans are aware of the money delivery,” he wrote back, “and that they accepted the arrangement of the payment on the basis that the money will be moving under air surveillance.”
Too bad we’re not that smart.
The C.I.A.’s contribution to Qaeda’s bottom line, though, was no well-laid trap. It was just another in a long list of examples of how the United States, largely because of poor oversight and loose financial controls, has sometimes inadvertently financed the very militants it is fighting.
Cal l me a conspiracy theorist if you must, but it happens more often than “sometimes” would lead us to believe. And more than once is often enough to warrant some critical consideration.

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

What a Stunningly Appropriate Name, Though

Jack London famously called him John Barleycorn.  Seriously, he doesn't really need a name - "Pal" will do beautifully.  Now, he comes in powdered form.  But don't get too excited...

Earlier this week, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the sale of 'Palcohol' in vodka, rum, cosmopolitan, and “powderita” flavors, with lemon drop still pending. In response, the Utah state legislature adopted a bill banning the product, while New York Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer introduced a law that would ban it at the federal level.

What’s the problem?
“Underage alcohol abuse is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences and powdered alcohol could exacerbate this,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Seriously? Because it’s easier to steal?
“Since the product isn’t even on the market yet, there is not one shred of evidence that it will be used or abused any differently than liquid alcohol,” Palcohol maker Lipsmark LLC said on its website. “Every concern we’ve heard is unfounded speculation and that is no basis to outlaw a product.”
I think Schumer is just annoyed he doesn’t have stock.

In related news…or maybe it’s not new - I don’t know. I hadn’t heard it, but then, I hadn’t heard of powdered caffeine, so you can see how up-to-date I am in the commercial market.
The FDA also lacks authority to ban powdered caffeine, linked to at least two overdose deaths last year, since it is technically a food supplement. However, the agency has urged the public to refrain from using caffeine powder, since it is virtually impossible to determine the correct dosage by using common household measuring tools.
So, stay away from the powdered caffeine. The powdered alcohol - go for it. If they put it in PixieStix, you won't even need water. And the paper is biodegradable. Win-win.

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

(Why don't they package powdered caffeine in pre-measured portions?)

Serendipitous Headlines on the RT Front Page Today?


This Is What Advanced International Studies Teaches?

Joshua Muravchik is a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [told] Congress this month [...] that we could secure a “good deal” by calling Iran’s bluff and imposing tougher sanctions. [However, t]he Iranian regime that Netanyahu described so vividly — violent, rapacious, devious and redolent with hatred for Israel and the United States — is bound to continue its quest for nuclear weapons by refusing any “good deal” or by cheating.


National security adviser Susan Rice declared at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference before Netanyahu’s speech that “a bad deal is worse than no deal.” So if Iran will accept only a “bad deal,” what is President Obama’s alternative? War?


What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality.


Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons. Nor would the stiffer sanctions that Netanyahu advocates bring a different result.


Sanctions have never stopped a nuclear drive anywhere.

Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes, although an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does.

  WaPo – Joshua Muravchik
I have to stop here. This may be trivial, but the practice of asking oneself a question and then answering it is a pet peeve of mine. Actually, I hate it. Just say what you have to say. In my recollection, that practice came in vogue with Donald Rumsfeld. Does this mean there wasn’t anyone before him who did it? No.

See what I mean? I could have said, “This doesn’t mean there wasn’t anyone before him who did it.” And sounded a lot less infantile or condescending doing it. It’s done so often in political speech, it’s practically de riguer. And it’s bleeding over into other areas. Just stop it before it goes the way of Valley Girl inflection. Whatever. Like, you know. Everybody talks that way.

Okay. I’m done. Just don’t do it. You’re about to get a huuuuuuge dose here.
Wouldn’t an attack cause ordinary Iranians to rally behind the regime? Perhaps, but military losses have also served to undermine regimes.”


Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary.
”As often as necessary”? Perhaps we should just calendar them in for an annual bombing.
Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.
How old is the author, do you think?
Much the same may be said in reply to objections that airstrikes might not reach all the important facilities and that Iran would then proceed unconstrained by inspections and agreements. The United States would have to make clear that it will hit wherever and whenever necessary to stop Iran’s program.
So, okay, maybe we have to calendar biannual strikes.
And finally, wouldn’t Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity? Probably.

Thank God for “finally”. And I’m sure we could do something as amazingly vague as simply “besting Iran in a technological race” to prevent retaliation.,,
We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities.
Oh, we could “attempt” deterrence with a “warning”. That should work. I mean, considering Iran is “violent, rapacious, devious and redolent with hatred for Israel and the United States” and “is bound to continue its quest for nuclear weapons by refusing any ‘good deal’ or by cheating,” a warning sounds a little mild.  Iran cheats. Surely a warning would not be sufficient. I think perhaps we should just include all military and infrastructure facilities in our biannual bombing. In fact, why don’t we just carpet bomb the whole country twice a year – make it three times.
Nonetheless, we might absorb some strikes. Wrenchingly, that might be the price of averting the heavier losses that we and others would suffer in the larger Middle Eastern conflagration that is the likely outcome of Iran’s drive to the bomb.
Well, if we get on that tri-annual bombing campaign quickly enough, we shouldn’t have to worry about that.
Were Iran, which is already embroiled in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza, further emboldened by becoming a “nuclear threshold state,” it would probably overreach, kindling bigger wars — with Israel, Arab states or both. The United States would probably be drawn in, just as we have been in many other wars from which we had hoped to remain aloof.
The “probably” just flies around here, and since all policy should be made according to what we imagine might be probable in our minds, clearly we need to do something, because God forbid we should be drawn into a war. We sure hate it when that happens. We're not in any now, and we don’t ever go looking for one ourselves. We are the most war-reticent country in the history of the world.

(P.S. I just looked. Joshua Muravchik is 67 years old. For the love of God, Joshua, pull your head out before it’s too late.)

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