Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The near-complete economic abandonment of urban America since the U.S. unconditionally surrendered in "the War on Poverty"...The labeling of every social program as "welfare" (and the racialization of that word) -- the criminal justice system didn't do these things. The cops, courts and prisons were given the job of controlling & containing what the other elements of the system refused to deal with.


Problem with focusing solely on police violence (like: …) is it glides over the economic violence that conditions it. Libertarian [...] focus on cops is understandable, and it is what #BlackLivesMatter is proximately about, but the cops did not destroy the black industrial working class, or finance the slumlords, or redline poor neighborhoods.

  Billmon Twitter

An Unlikely Bill

H.R. 1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act  [...] would completely repeal the 2001 PATRIOT Act (which the NSA cites as the legal basis for its bulk phone metadata collection), repeal the FISA Amendments Act (which ostensibly legitimizes Internet spying) and otherwise protect people’s privacy.

It’s a bipartisan but dark-horse legislative gambit that Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., have thrown into the mix as Congress debates over the next few weeks what to do before three key provisions of the PATRIOT Act expire — including the one used for bulk metadata.


Other legislative proposals, coming nearly two years after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden informed the world about the extent of NSA surveillance, call for considerably more minor reforms – if any at all.

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

The Freddy Gray Murder & Media Coverage

From Glenn Greenwald. Read it here.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Transformative Drones

This “uncomfortable truth” has been obvious for so long. So often, the U.S. government shoots missiles at buildings, cars and homes outside of “battlefields” without having any idea who it will kill. Despite this fact — that not even the government itself knows who it is killing — the U.S. media routinely and reflexively describes victims of U.S. drone strikes as “militants.”


How can people killed by the U.S. government regularly be described as “militants” or “terrorists” when nobody has any idea who they are?


Foreign Muslims are so dehumanized, so invisible, that they are just equated with Evil Threats even when nothing is known about them. Indeed, Obama officially re-defined the term “combatant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone.” In other words, as The New York Times reported in 2011, all males between 18 and (roughly) 54 killed by U.S. drones are presumed to be combatants — terrorists — “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” That mentality is the ultimate in dehumanization.

  Glenn Greenwald

Fast Track to Banana Republic

In a move that elicited a collective groan from virtually all of progressive America, the Obama administration and congressional Republicans reached a deal on April 16 on so-called “fast track” trade authority. This is the legislation needed to ram new trade agreements through the U.S. Congress with limited debate and no amendments.


The bill lays out trade policy objectives that elevate the narrow interests of large corporations and undercut efforts to support good jobs, the environment, and financial stability.

Nowhere is this corporate bias more explicit than in the “investor-state” dispute settlement mechanism. In fact it would be hard to find in any U.S. policy a stronger example of excessive power granted to large corporations. Under this mechanism, private foreign investors are allowed to sue governments in international tribunals over actions—including public interest regulations— that reduce the value of their investments.


You would think the proliferation of such “investor-state” suits in recent years would give policymakers pause. Here we are, for example, in the middle of the climate crisis, and yet investors are allowed to sue governments over policies to encourage renewable energy. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, we have a case against Germany over their decision to phase out nuclear power. And at a time when tobacco-related health costs total about half a trillion dollars per year, Philip Morris is suing the governments of Australia and Uruguay over anti-smoking laws.

What I find particularly galling is that in the wake of the financial crisis, we still have trade agreements that allow private investors to sue governments if they use policies called capital controls to deal with destabilizing hot money flows. Good grief, it was back in the aftermath of the 1990s global financial crisis that reasonable people started pointing out the foolishness of such policies.

  War Times
But “people” don’t run things.
On a conference call with a small group of reporters, President Obama significantly intensified his criticism of Elizabeth Warren and other opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, accusing them of being “dishonest” about the secrecy around the TPP process, suggesting they were playing to their “fundraising” lists, and arguing flatly that they were using “misinformation that stirs up the base but doesn’t serve them well.”


“The one that gets on my nerves the most is the notion that this is a ‘secret’ deal,” Obama said. “Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement. There’s nothing secret about it.”


Obama allowed that some parts of the deal cannot currently be read, but argued that allowing those portions that have not yet been finalized to receive public exposure could undermine ongoing negotiations.

  Greg Sargent
But that’s not secret. I wonder what secret means.
Obama actually said that there are “brackets” for parts of it that are not finalized, meaning that those parts don’t actually exist yet.
TBA. After it’s done.
How can anyone with even a pretense of being "progressive" look at economic issues we face -- most of them tied to raging plutocracy - and say, "you know, what we REALLY need to do now is push a corporate agenda of fast tracking "free" trade deals"?

The fact that Obama has made TPP his key 2nd term economic priority says one (or both) of two things -- and I don't know which is worse.
Either Obama and his administration never had the slightest intention of doing anything other than push a corporate economic agenda, or they've gotten behind TPP because they think it's a get, a doable deal -- something to add to list of presidential accomplishments.

Either motive would be depressing, but in some ways 2nd one would almost be worse: Careerism as Obama's only real authentic ideology.

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

(And I think that's a fair assessment of what Obama is all about.)

The Annual White House Whores' Respondent Dinner

President Obama has chosen to operate his drone war in such unprecedented, absurd and arguably illegal secrecy that even in a rare burst of compelled transparency yesterday, neither he nor his press secretary could actually bring themselves to say the word “drone.”

Over and over again, Obama called the drone strike that killed two al Qaeda hostages a “counterterrorism operation.”

  Dan Froomkin
I don’t think it’s the secrecy as much as it is the embarrassment. At the previous correspondents’ dinner, he was all jock about it. Got laughs. Has had a good deal of bad press about the program since then. Especially recently, after killing two “white” hostages.  Eg...

The use of drones and cyberattacks mean you can have secret wars now. But secret wars and democracy don’t go together. One has to go.
Guess which.

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oopsie (Again)

This morning, the White House disclosed that a January 2015 drone strike, conducted in Pakistan by the CIA with the intention of taking out an al Qaeda compound, resulted in the deaths of two al Qaeda hostages who were not known to have been in the line of fire at the time of the attack. "The killing of American development expert Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto is the first known instance in which the U.S. has accidentally killed a hostage in a drone strike," Wall Street Journal's Adam Entous reported Thursday.

Really? The first? I’m feeling skeptical, but not energetic enough to research. I do think my skepticism is warranted, however, since more often than not (approaching always), we don’t even know WHO was in range of our drones when they landed.
President Barack Obama held a brief press conference Thursday morning following a statement released by the White House, which described the incident as a "uniquely tragic situation."
Well, now, that IS bullshit. There’s nothing unique about the tragedy of THIS drone strike.
Obama told reporters that he was taking "full responsibility" for what happened, and offered his "profound regrets" and "deepest apologies" to the families of Weinstein and Lo Porto.
More bullshit, but typical of American politicos…”I’m taking full responsibility” means “I said I was sorry, what more do you want?”
This particular mission, greenlit by the CIA without the president "directly sign[ing] off on the strike beforehand," according to reports, will be declassified. During the press conference, Obama signaled his commitment to "identify[ing] the lessons that can be learned from this tragedy."
We’ve been told that Obama personally signs off on all strikes to kill. Now, when one could be a national media disaster for him, it seems he doesn’t.
It's not that a perfect program finally slipped up. Rather, a program that has killed somewhere between 400 and 1000 civilians in Pakistan alone finally killed an American civilian, to whom no wrongdoing can be even tangentially attributed.


And this "signature" strike, carried out on January 23, 2009, was actually the successful one of two that occurred on the same day. As Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman reported, here's what happened a little later:
Weinstein and Lo Porta won't be the last innocent people to meet their untimely end in this fashion, but the next innocent people to die probably won't end up meriting a special press conference and investigation into what went wrong.
Nor did the last who knows how many.
According to the U.S. theory, insurgents can be identified from above merely by the nature of their movements. A convoy of Toyotas with guys in the beds carrying guns presents a certain signature on the ground, tipping off a drone operator that bad guys are coalescing. We strike them without knowing their names, their affiliations, their motives, or sometimes anything more than where they were walking or driving.

That helps explain why we see so many wedding convoys and parties accidentally bombed. Pro-tip for the CIA: Insurgents operating in areas known to be under the eye of U.S. drones tend not to travel in long convoys, because being a fundamentalist militant does not always mean you're an idiot, too.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The First Same-Sex Marriage Licenses: 1975, Boulder, Colorado

In 1975, Boulder County, Colo., clerk Clela Rorex issued the first same-sex marriage licenses in the United States. In this excerpt from the documentary "Limited Partnership," Rorex describes what led her to make the decision and reunites decades later with one of the couples, Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan. The full documentary airs on PBS's "Independent Lens" on June 15, 2015. (Independent Television Service)


[One] license shows that Anthony Corbett Sullivan and Richard Frank Adams were married April 21, 1975, in Boulder, Colo., years before others thought two men should be allowed to wed and decades before a majority of Americans would say it was okay with them, too.

Mr. Sullivan, now 73 years old, also has a letter from the US immigration service…
... the official response from the U.S. government after Adams informed officials of his nuptials and asked that his new husband, an Australian citizen facing deportation, be extended a spouse’s visa.

Denied, the immigration service said, for the following reason:
You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.

The denial sparked a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, and the eventual “exile” of the two men.[...]

The judge who wrote the final word on whether Sullivan and Adams could stay together in the United States or be forced to strike out in search of a country that would take them was Anthony M. Kennedy, then a circuit judge and now the Supreme Court’s pivotal justice on gay rights.

 An interesting story – remarkable people. Read it here. ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

We Don't Concern Ourselves with Laws - Domestic Version

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.


The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison.


The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.


In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”

Because they have a proven record of commitment to justice, right?

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

Welcome to Parma

Voters in Parma, Missouri voted in their first African-American female mayor.

Tyrus Byrd will be sworn in as mayor on Tuesday evening, April 14 at the Parma Community Building.

According to Mayor Randall Ramsey, five out of six police officers resigned this week, effectively immediately.

Mayor Ramsey said the city's attorney, the clerk and the waste water treatment plant supervisor also turned in resignation letters citing "safety concerns."

Good luck, Ms. Byrd.
She said her first order of business will be to help clean up the city.
Literally, whether she meant it or not.

Who Says We Don't Manufacture Anything?

To wage war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16 to bomb both Yemen and Syria. Soon, the Emirates are expected to complete a deal with General Atomics for a fleet of Predator drones to run spying missions in their neighborhood.

As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets.

Foreign business in the most volatile region on the planet.  Simply brilliant.

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

Siphoning Taxpayer Dollars

[P]ublic worker pension fees [are] being paid annually by taxpayers to Wall Street firms, and they have kicked off an intensifying debate over whether such expenses are necessary. Now, a report from an industry-friendly source says those huge levies [that are reported] represent only a fraction of the true amounts being raked in by Wall Street firms from state and local governments.


Currently, about 9 percent -- or $270 billion -- of America’s $3 trillion public pension fund assets are invested in private equity firms. Assuming the industry standard 2 percent management fee, that quarter-trillion dollars generates roughly $5.4 billion in annual management fees for the private equity industry -- and that’s not including additional “performance” fees paid on investment returns. But even the $5.4 billion number could be drastically understated, according to CEM.

If CEM’s calculations are applied uniformly, it could mean taxpayers and retirees may actually be paying double that $5.4 billion number -- or more than $10 billion a year. Public officials are overseeing this massive payout to Wall Street at the very moment many of those same officials are demanding big cuts to retirees' promised pension benefits.


“With billions of public worker and taxpayer dollars put at risk in the highest-cost, most opaque investment schemes ever devised by Wall Street for a decade now, investigations that hold Wall Street profiteers accountable are long, long overdue,” said former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Ted Siedle, who has criticized state and local governments for keeping the terms of their deals with Wall Street firms secret.


In a 2014 speech, the SEC’s top examiner, Andrew Bowden, sounded the alarm about undisclosed fees in the private equity industry, saying the agency had discovered “violations of law or material weaknesses in controls over 50 percent of the time” at firms it had evaluated. Bowden cited secret agreements between private equity firms and institutional investors like pension funds that allow the firms “to charge fees and pass along expenses that are not reasonably contemplated by investors.”

And this will surprise you…
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have been pushing to roll back rules that subject private equity firms to more scrutiny.
And do you suppose those investment firms are donating to any campaign coffers, hmmmm? Sooner or later, all the money in the country will be on Wall Street.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

We Don't Concern Ourselves with Laws

On Aug. 31, 2012, a top-secret U.S. intelligence report noted that “possible bystanders” had been killed alongside militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a drone strike in eastern Yemen two days earlier.


As The Intercept reported [Saturday], the U.S. military sees Ramstein [Germany] as an essential node in the technical infrastructure for its armed and unarmed drone operations. A budget request for the Ramstein station stated that without the facility, “weapon strikes cannot be supported.”


The previously unreported intelligence report, viewed by The Intercept, indicates that the U.S. government knew soon after the strike that it had killed two civilians. It could add fire to a lawsuit that Faisal bin Ali Jaber has launched in Germany, as further evidence that U.S. strikes put innocent Yemenis at risk.

Jaber will testify next month in front of a German court, alleging that Germany is violating a constitutionally enshrined duty to protect the right to life by allowing the United States to use Ramstein Air Base as part of its lethal drone operations.

It is the first time a victim of a U.S. drone strike will air his grievances in court, lawyers for the case told The Intercept. The lawsuit could put Germany in the awkward position of having to publicly defend its role in the U.S. drone program.

  The Intercept
Seems like we put Germany in an awkward position rather often lately. But, they seem to be taking it. The outcome of this particular lawsuit may be interesting. But I doubt it will change anything.
Extending the constitutional right to life to a non-German citizen outside of Germany is untested legal ground. That Jaber will be allowed to testify is “quite remarkable,” said Craig, and shows “the court is taking it seriously.”

The German government has tried to get the suit tossed, arguing in a court filing that Ramstein’s role in the U.S. drone program is unproven, and that Jaber can’t tie Germany to his specific case.


The German government also wrote that the U.S. has provided assurances that no drones are commanded or controlled from Germany, echoing what a Pentagon spokesperson told The Intercept: that the United States does not “directly fly or control any manned or remotely piloted aircraft” from Ramstein. As The Intercept explained, that language carefully evades the important technical role played by the base.

Because, as any lawyer knows, words matter.
Letta Tayler, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch who conducted an in-depth investigation into U.S. drones strikes in Yemen, questioned the underlying policy that allows for so many civilian deaths. “It’s as if the hundreds of Yemenis and thousands of Pakistanis killed in drone strikes simply do not exist,” she said.
Yes, well, technically they don’t. You see?  Nothing to worry about now.

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

It's Sunday

It's Sunday

It's Sunday

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

No More Whistling While You Work

Yes, the Transportation Security Administration’s embattled $900 million behavior detection program, called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, is not just used at airports. It’s also used at theme parks.

TSA has trained security teams from SeaWorld, Disney World and Busch Gardens to use the same checklist of behavior indicators, which includes “wearing a disguise,” “whistling,” “exaggerated yawning” and “excessive laughter,” according to interviews and documents obtained by The Intercept.

  Unofficial Sources
Does that mean the Seven Dwarves are wearing Gitmo orange now? Oh, if only I could PhotoShop.

Friday, April 17, 2015

No Big Deal, It's Just an Airport

The capital city of the largest province in Iraq, a city of 500,000 people, and just 60 miles west of Baghdad. Each of those things sounds pretty important, and with ISIS on the verge of taking over Ramadi outright, you’d think there’d be more concern.

No so, however, as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey is dismissing the talk of Ramadi’s fall would be no big deal, and adding that the city is “not central to the future of Iraq.”

The reality, however, is that the US was making a big deal about the need to make inroads in the Anbar Province just last week, and now instead is facing the loss of the Anbar capital to ISIS, and another big setback for Iraqi troops.

When you’re losing, pretend it doesn’t matter.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Such a Deal

The Office of the United States Trade Representative, the agency responsible for negotiating two massive upcoming trade deals, is being led by former lobbyists for corporations that stand to benefit from the deals, according to disclosure forms obtained by The Intercept.

  Unofficial Sources
I know; you’re shocked.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade accord between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries; the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a similar agreement between the U.S. and the E.U.


Critics say the deals will provide corporate interests with sweeping powers to challenge banking and environmental regulations.


Many of the former clients of the trade officials now negotiating these agreements stand to gain immensely.

Sharon Bomer Lauritsen and Christopher Wilson both represented biotech companies. As economist Joseph Stiglitz has argued, the TPP could restrict competition in the pharmaceutical industry by undermining government regulation of drug prices and by creating new rules to obstruct the introduction of generic drugs.

Robert Holleyman represented software companies. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the TPP “contains DRM [Digital Rights Management] anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any number of digital files and devices that you own.”
Of course, it’s hard to discuss these deals, because the people formulating them are meeting in secret.
The contents of the trade deals are secret and therefore still veiled from scrutiny by the public and even most members of Congress. Only trade officials and select corporate representatives have been able to review them.
And Obama wants to fast track the deals so that Congress doesn’t have time to review them properly when it comes time to vote.

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

It's All in the Wording

Washington and its allies blocked a UN resolution to add [IS] to the sanctions list, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday.

The ministry stated that the United States, among others, blocked Syria's resolution to add IS to the sanctions list in the UN Security Council. Currently the group is listed as one of the names for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Washington insists that AQI should be renamed to the Islamic State in the sanctions list, the foreign ministry said.

"The political implications of a such position are clear – to absolve itself of the responsibility for the expansion of activities of the Islamic State and to prove it is not a new organization created as a result of the implementation of plans to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, but the same al-Qaeda in Iraq."

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

Waging War with Propaganda

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel is re-reporting a key detail of his December 2012 kidnapping in Syria after new information surfaced suggesting he may have been misled about the identities of his captors, according to sources familiar with the matter.


Engel identified his captors as the shabiha, a shadowy Shia militia acting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He is now investigating whether the men were actually Sunni, and if so, whether they were motivated by money or posing as Shia militiamen as part of an anti-Assad propaganda ploy.


Some observers had indicated skepticism early on about the identity of Engel's captors. The same day Engel surfaced from captivity, California State University professor As'ad AbuKhalil, who blogs at a site called the Angry Arab News Service [], expressed doubts that the captors were pro-Assad agents linked to the Iranian government and Hezbollah.


After The New York Times began inquiring about details of the kidnapping, according to sources, Engel revisited the ordeal twenty-eight months later to determine who exactly was responsible for the kidnapping .


AbuKhalil, who expressed doubts in his initial blog post that the captors were, in fact, tied to Iran and Hezbollah, examined the graffiti [in a video posted by the captors] in a second post. “I looked at the video and it is so clearly a set up and the slogans are so clearly fake and they intend to show that they were clearly Shi’ites and that they are savages,” he wrote. “If this one is believable, I am posing as a dentist.”

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

It's Just Politics

Hillary Clinton sounded like a woman on a mission after her long drive into the heartland: “There’s something wrong,” she told Iowans on Tuesday, when “hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80 when I was driving here over the last two days.”

But back in Manhattan, the hedge fund managers who’ve long been part of her political and fundraising networks aren’t sweating the putdown and aren’t worrying about their take-home pay just yet.

It’s “just politics,” said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street, explaining that some of her Wall Street supporters doubt she would push hard for closing the carried interest loophole as president, a policy she promoted when she last ran in 2008.


“The question is how do you solve the problem of inequality. Nobody takes it like she is going after them personally.”


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Survey Says

Keeping in mind that “The survey of 1,008 adults, conducted April 6-8, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups is higher, including +/- 5.6 percentage points for Democrats, +/- 6 percentage points for Republicans, and +/- 5 percentage points for independents.”…

I have a feeling that if we had a Republican president who did NOT support Netanyahu, the poll results would look a lot different.  But if they separated out the "born against", those votes would stay the same: in support of Netanyahu.

Republicans say they feel more sympathetic to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than to their own president, 67 percent to 16 percent.


Religion appears to play an important role in shaping the numbers. Born-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of U.S. interests. Americans with no religious affiliation were the least likely to feel this way, at 26 percent.


One likely Republican presidential candidate, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, is visiting Israel next month and told the Associated Press that he “absolutely” plans to meet with Netanyahu. Texas Senator Ted Cruz embraced Israel in his presidential announcement, calling on students at a Christian college to “imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel.”

Remember when the yokels screamed at the anti-Iraqi-invasion minority to just go live in Iraq if you hate America? How about they go live in Israel?

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

Left Behind, or Russia to the Rescue

The US government has thanked the Russian authorities for their help in evacuating Americans from Yemen, after the US State Department said it had no plans to evacuate its citizens from the war-torn country, leaving hundreds stranded.

US Secretary of State John Kerry "expressed gratitude for assistance in the evacuation of American citizens," from Yemen in a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday, after 18 US citizens were evacuated aboard a Russian ship taking 308 people, including 45 Russians from the port of Aden to Djibouti.

Two airplanes carrying 366 people of varying nationalities fleeing the Yemeni capital Sanaa landed in Moscow on Sunday, where one American traveling on the plane told RT, "We feel like we’re left behind. No support. I called every Embassy – all the embassies in Riyadh, in Cairo, in Djibouti – to help me and my family, but they always apologize. They said 'help is coming' – but it never came. People now think that Yemeni American are like second-class Americans."

  Sputnik News
They aren’t?
The US State Department evacuated its American Embassy staff from Yemen in February, having suspended Embassy operations due to the deteriorating security situation in the country, but maintains it has "no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time."


The British Foreign Office likewise thanked Russia for assistance in evacuating its citizens from the country on Monday, having advised that "the British government can’t provide any form of assisted departure to British nationals in Yemen."


Last week 41 American citizens stranded in Yemen filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department and Defense Department for their refusal to evacuate them from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition, with the backing of the US government, has been carrying out air strikes on Houthi-controlled targets since March 26.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blackwater Sentencing

Four former Blackwater employees were given long sentences yesterday for killing 14 unarmed Iraqis [...] and wounding many others, when in 2007 they shot at a crowd in Baghdad’s Nisour Square with machine guns and grenade launchers.


Nicholas Slatten, who fired the first shot and was convicted of murder, received a life sentence. Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty, who were convicted of voluntary manslaughter, received 30 years each.

One other guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, testified for the prosecution and pleaded guilty to lesser charges. He has not yet been sentenced.


In handing down the sentences, the judge called the defendants “fine young men” who “panicked,” but rejected claims that they were acting in self-defense in a war zone. “The overall, wild, thing that went on here can just not be condoned by a court,” said Royce Lamberth, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

  The Intercept
Fine young men I’m sorry. They give me the willies. All four of them.  (Pictures below.)
The defendants all maintain their innocence and have vowed to appeal, which will likely drag out an already protracted case. The long prosecution was derailed several times by the Justice Department’s mistakes, and dismissed once over accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. Last year, prosecutors missed a deadline for statute of limitations for certain charges against Slatten.
Intentionally mishandled?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.  (Especially you four.)

It's Only Going to Get Worse

RIP Percy Sledge

Pick your favorite. Most people are probably going to pick "When a Man Loves a Woman" and who would argue? But for myself, I think I may have to go with this one:


 ...or maybe this one. Especially if you're counting the visual. ;-)


Monday, April 13, 2015

Hillary's Campaign Logo

Taking you further to the right?  Seems honest anyway.

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

Sunday, April 12, 2015

For God's Sake

It just goes on and on and on.
It was a mistake.

That’s the blasé explanation Oklahoma officials gave after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white deputy who accidentally pulled his gun when he meant to use his Taser.

The botched encounter was captured on a disturbing video released by police on Friday — nine days after the fatal Tulsa shooting.

“He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath,” Eric Harris says as he struggles on the ground following the April 2 shooting, which flew under the radar until video emerged a week later.

“F--- your breath,” a callous officer can be heard saying. “Shut the f--- up!”

  NY Daily News
But seriously, black people, unless you're looking at life in prison, and would rather die, do not run. I know your chances are bad if you stay put, but you cannot outrun a bullet.

Wo, Is Missouri the New "Wild West"?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Staggering Statistic

U.S. police are killing 3+ people per day.
[Phillip] White died after being punched and kicked by the officers, and bitten multiple times by a police dog, during his arrest on March 31.

Calling the actions of the officers “absolutely grotesque,” Anonymous threatened to release the names and personal information of the officers, as well as other local officials, unless the Vineland Police Department suspended the officers involved and released their names and the dash-cam footage to the public.


White was the 290th person to be killed by police in America in the first 90 days of 2015, according to the website,

At this rate, we are going to far outstrip our latest stats by the end of the year.

How Dare They?!

“On the morning of April 7, a US RC-135U, flying a routine route in international airspace, was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” the Washington Free Beacon (WFB) cited Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez as saying.

“The United States is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate diplomatic and official channels,” she added.

The official said that a Russian Su-27 (NATO designation – Flanker) passed within a half-dozen meters of the unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, whereas the Sukhoi’s wingspan is 14.7 meters. The Pentagon spokeswoman dubbed the behavior of Russian pilot “reckless” and endangering the safety of the RC-135 crew.

”A half-dozen meters.” 14.7 divided by 2 = 7.35. A half-dozen minus 7.35 = negative 1.35 meters. Either that “whereas” about the wingspan of the Russian plane is extraneous, or there should have been a collision.

I take it there was no collision. So the other possible way to report this is that the Russians are excellent flyers. Or the Americans are excellent defensive flyers and dodged out of range by a narrow margin of “a half-dozen meters”.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that the interception was launched after “Russian air defense radars spotted an unidentified air target over the Baltic Sea making steady progress toward the national border.” The aircraft had its transponder turned off, Konashenkov said.
So, naturally, they would want to know WTF, wouldn't they? Apparently, they identified the plane as a US spy plane and took it from there.
After the Su-27 made several fly-bys around the spy plane, the RC-135U altered course and moved away from Russian border.
And we’re damned insulted.
NATO has recently been engaged in a massive military buildup along Russia’s western borders as part of its Operation Atlantic Resolve.


“In connection with the incident over the Baltic one should keep in mind that Russia is a Baltic country, whereas the US is not,” [head of Russia’s Upper House Committee for Foreign Relations, Konstantin] Kosachev said.
And as Dick Cheney would say, “So?”

Four MILLION - Part 2

Not Stormfront neo-Nazi Hitler worshipping fascists, but all-American, corn-fed, church-going fascists. And they've been fairly carefully indoctinated by the RW media complex to see Muslims as the new untermenschen.

So when they see photos like that, they don't see a terrified little girl [sole survivor of US soliders firing on Iraqi family in car [...] covered in her parent's blood] who could be their own daughter. They see a terrorist who will grow up to kill them in their beds. "Nits make lice" -- Col. John Chivington at Sand Creek Massacre



When we get to 6 million, let me know.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Terrorist Trial Ends

The guilty verdict will not surprise you.
A federal jury has found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 charges for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds two years ago this month. Tsarnaev was also convicted in the murder of a police officer in the ensuing days.

  Democracy Now!
He was tried in Massachusetts, which does not have the death penalty.

Hacking Israel

Hackers have struck Israeli websites, authorities said. The attack comes days after Anonymous hacktivists threatened Israel with “the electronic holocaust” which, the group vowed, would “erase it from cyberspace” on April 7 for “crimes” in Palestine.

It is alleged that Anonymous have targeted dozens of websites belonging to Israeli musicians and non-profit organizations, Israel's Computer Emergency Response Team said, adding that the governmental websites were not affected.


In its March 4 video, Anonymous threatened Israel with “the electronic holocaust” which, the group vowed, would “erase it from cyberspace” back for “crimes” in Palestine.

In the video, a masked figure addresses the Israeli government, saying that it has not “stopped...endless human right violations” and “illegal settlements.”


“As we did many times, we'll take down your servers, government websites, Israeli military websites, banks, and public institutions. We’ll erase you from cyber-space as we have every year, 7 April 2015, will be an electronic holocaust,” it adds.


Hacking experts told Arutz Sheva, an Israeli media network, that the hack was carried out mainly by hackers in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Attacking musicians and NPOs is like the US going all over the world sanctioning countries, devastating populations, to force regime change.

Oh, what is that? The Israeli Computer Emergency Response Team is lying?
According to the Middle East Eye news portal, several government websites were hacked, including that of the country’s parliament, the Knesset, the court system and the Education Ministry.
Still, lay off the musicians and NPOs.

Oh, yeah…if you did in fact hack them.

I’ve jumbled up the order of the statements in the article, as I often do. Shame on RT for putting the Israeli government’s claims at the beginning of the report and the Anonymous and Middle East Eye claims further down where we might have gotten tired of reading and never learned.

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

Amazing and Creepy At the Same Time

Doctors seem to be a step closer to performing a breakthrough surgery: transplanting a human head onto another body. A Russian man with a rare genetic muscle-wasting disorder has volunteered to be the first to try the procedure.


He said that his disease is getting worse every year, and usually people with Werdnig-Hoffman disorder – a disease that wastes muscles – don’t live longer than 20 years, so it would be a chance to prolong his life and help scientific research in the process.

I hope they have a plan for the possibility that it “takes” but something goes terribly wrong.

Cue the fundamentalists: those evil, Godless Russians.
The operation is set to be conducted by renowned Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero, who sees the procedure as comparable to space exploration.
Oh. Sorry. Those Godless Eyetalians.
An ultra-sharp scalpel will be used to cut through the spinal cord, and a special biological glue will be used to connect the head to the new body.
Five years ago, another groundbreaking procedure took place, when a Spanish man underwent a full face transplant.
Now THAT has to be mind-blowing. I once got bitten by a mosquito on the bridge of my nose, and the slight swelling gave me a very different look. I think I liked it better, actually. Hope the new face was pretty.  Would it change your personality eventually if you looked different?  I think it might.

Hold out for a good body, dude.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Apparently, Ameicans Are a Criminal Lot

And not just petty criminals.  Criminals worth killing.

We're number one!

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

Foreign Policy Absurdities

As part of my self-appointed effort to ventilate the stale discourse of contemporary foreign policy, I offer up my list of Top 10 Truly Absurd Features of Contemporary Foreign Affairs. To make it a challenge, I’m excluding any mention of John McCain.

No. 1: It is absurd that the United States still has thousands of powerful nuclear weapons on constant alert or in strategic reserve.


Inflicting unacceptable damage requires remarkably few weapons [...] and it no longer makes any sense for the United States to keep thousands of them in its arsenal. It’s expensive, it undermines the broader effort to slow proliferation, and it increases the risks of nuclear accidents or even nuclear theft. [...]It’s easy to get confused about this subject if you spend too much time reading the arcane writings of nuclear strategists — who can come up with all sorts of bizarre warfighting scenarios where numbers might make some purely theoretical difference — but once you pull your head out of the fog and think about the issue like a normal person, our present posture looks rather silly.

No. 2: The current composition of the U.N. Security Council makes no sense. In other words, it’s absurd.

  Stephen Walt: Foreign Policy
Continue reading.

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

Monday, April 6, 2015

More Surprises About the American People

Or maybe not. John Oliver visited Moscow. Try to make it through this segment of Last Week


 (If you can't, get through the whole thing, jump in at 13:40.)

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

An Annenberg Public Policy Center poll from last September found that only 36% of Americans can name the three branches of government, and only 38% know the GOP controls the House.

  Glenn Greenwald
But they know that President Obama is a Kenyan!
The Center’s 2011 poll “found just 15 percent of Americans could correctly identify the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts.


A 2010 poll found that almost 2/3 of Americans – 65% – were incapable of naming even a single member of the U.S. Supreme Court. A 2010 Pew poll discovered that 41% of Americans are unable to name the current Vice President of the U.S.


It’s difficult to maintain mythologies about the glories of American democracy if most of the population believes it has so little value that it merits literally none of their time and mental attention.
Yes, so maybe the next time someone starts pounding his (or her) chest about American exceptionalism and freedom, we should just ask him (or her) to name the three branches of government.
Propagandizing 70% of the population is not easy to do, and obviously requires active deceit or pervasive acquiescence by the country’s news media.
Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not that hard.

I'm Sure It Was Just a Mistake

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who is considering running for president, identified himself as Hispanic on a voter registration form in 2009, The New York Times reported on Monday.

When asked for his race or ethnicity, he marked the box labeled “Hispanic” on the voter registration application — which the Times posted along with its story.

Under Florida law, voter registration applications must be submitted in hard copy and require a signature.

A Bush spokesperson could not explain why the form had been filled out the way it was, the Times reported.

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

The Pusher

The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion.


[O]ver 60 percent–have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia topping the list at $46 billion in new agreements.


The Saudis have used U.S.-supplied weaponry to help put down the democracy movement in Bahrain, and now to expand the conflict in Yemen to the point that it may spark a region-wide war. In addition, over $500 million in U.S weaponry destined for Yemeni security forces has gone missing, and may have found its way to Houthi forces or even to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The faction of the Yemeni army that has joined hands with the Houthi rebellion has ample U.S.-supplied armaments as well. It’s hard to imagine a clearer example of the negative consequences of aggressive arms dealing than the current situation in Yemen.

I’d suggest it might be intentional, but I suspect it is simply a matter of money.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 combat aircraft program—the largest weapons initiative ever undertaken by the Pentagon—depends in part on billions in sales to a dozen foreign partner nations, ranging from NATO members like the United Kingdom, Italy, and Turkey to non-NATO allies like Australia, South Korea, and Israel.


The United States has made nearly $5 billion in arms sales to India in the past five years, most notably for Boeing C-17 transport planes but also including torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and howitzers. And a new U.S.-India defense cooperation agreement that Obama announced during his January 2015 visit to India includes promises to help India develop aircraft carriers and a new generation of jet engines.
Who says the United States is not an exporter? We export death.
[T]he Obama administration supported the [Arms Trade Treaty], albeit not in as strong a version as some arms control advocates would have liked. Although the treaty has no hope of being ratified by the current, Republican-controlled Senate, the Obama administration has signed it and publicly pledged to live up to the standards on human rights, anti-corruption, and other key criteria set out in the ATT. The key question now is what this commitment will mean in practice.
Seriously. Signing an arms trade treaty while exporting billions of dollars worth of arms is either naïve in the extreme or militantly cynical.  And if it has "no hope of being ratified," WTF?
[Obama's program] calls for the approval of drone exports “on a case-by-case basis.” It also requires recipients to pledge not to use U.S.-supplied systems to illegally attack neighboring states or engage in “unlawful surveillance” or “unlawful force” against their own populations.
Awwww…a pledge. How sweet. Like fraternities.
The most important element of the administration’s multifaceted arms-export reform initiative was the decision to remove thousands of items from the State Department-monitored U.S. Munitions List (USML) and place them on the Commerce Control List administered by the Commerce Department. The Commerce Department has historically been more closely associated with arms-export promotion than arms-export control, and its regulations are considerably looser than the State Department’s.


The Obama administration has defended its new arms export control policy as an effort to put “higher fences around fewer items” so that scarce enforcement resources can be concentrated on high-end weapons and weapons components whose transfer could undermine U.S. military superiority. [...] On balance, the Obama administration’s arms export licensing reforms are a step backwards.


The absence of a strict licensing requirement will make it harder to keep track of the ultimate destination of military and military-related items exported by U.S. companies.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

It's Sunday

The White House’s annual Passover seder will take on an added significance this year, with President Obama presiding over the most tense U.S.-Israeli relations in decades.

Obama, the first president to hold a seder at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., has spoken publicly about how the ritual speaks to his personal beliefs, and the White House has billed the event as non-political.

But the Passover celebration, which commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, comes one day after the U.S. and Iran announced the framework of a deal to roll back Tehran's nuclear program. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have repeatedly clashed over the ongoing negotiations, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state.

  The Hill
I don’t care when it comes. Or whether or not it’s political. The president should be doing his religious celebrating with his family privately, not making a public display of any religious event, Christmas or Passover, or anything else. Any Kwanzaa celebrations going on? Any Beltane? How about Eid Al-Fitr?  Changó?

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

It's Sunday

By 2050, followers of Islam will match those following Christianity, with the number of Muslims surpassing Christians globally by 2070, the Pew Research Center projects, citing current differences in fertility rates, youth populations and conversions.

Okay, Christians, here's your three-point plan:  1) have more babies; 2) pray harder and more often for the  rapture; 3) more bombs.

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

It's Sunday

It's Sunday

Yoga taught in a public school is not a gateway to Hinduism and does not violate the religious rights of students or their parents, a California appeals court has ruled.

In case you are an ignorant Christian fundamentalist who thinks it is.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their two children had brought the lawsuit claiming yoga promoted Hinduism and inhibited Christianity.


“No other court in the past 50 years has allowed public school officials to lead children in formal religious rituals like the Hindu liturgy of praying to, bowing to, and worshipping the sun god,” attorney Dean Broyles said in a statement.
And, neither did this one, dufus.
The district said the practice was taught in a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance.

Yoga is now taught at schools across the US, but the district is believed to be the first with full-time yoga teachers at all schools.


About 30 families opted out of the classes begun in 2011.
We don’t want our kids being strong, flexible, OR balanced.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

And What About the Back Doors Already There?

[ Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis] is sponsoring the Surveillance State Repeal Act with Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. The bill includes a provision that the federal government cannot require electronics or software manufacturers to build in a mechanism to allow the government to bypass privacy technology.

The issue, which will come up this spring as part of the debate over whether to reauthorize the Patriot Act, underscores a growing struggle between federal law enforcement agencies and the tech industry over data encryption.

The bill's sponsors plan to push for the legislation after Congress returns from its two-week recess.

  USA Today
Good luck. They'll be squabbling about Iran for weeks. Maybe months. And there's still Benghazi to scrutinize.
FBI Director James Comey has publicly chastised tech companies for installing automatic encryption into their devices and has urged Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit it. Attorney General Eric Holder also has weighed in, saying that quick access to phone data can help law enforcement officers find victims snatched by kidnappers and child molesters.

"Encryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place," Comey said during a public appearance at the Brookings Institution in October. "Have we become so mistrustful of government and law enforcement in particular that we are willing to let bad guys walk away, willing to leave victims in search of justice?"


At Least One More Should Probably Be Fired for Stupidity

In Ferguson, Missouri, racist emails amongst a court clerk and police officials (all of whom have either been fired or resigned after the publication of some of the emails) have been slowly coming out. Some are reprinted here.

 In addition,
Some 50,000 emails also reviewed by the DOJ remain unavailable to the public. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted an estimate of $43,750 by the city clerk to redact private information from the emails in compliance with the state’s public record laws. Ferguson’s city attorney, Stephanie Karr, would have to redact an estimated 200 emails an hour, at the hourly rate of $175, plus a deposit and copy fee.

That’s a pretty good hourly wage.
Karr herself was named in the DOJ report for dismissing a traffic ticket issued to Ferguson municipal court judge Ronald Brockmeyer, who has since resigned his position in Ferguson and four other jurisdictions.


“I don’t think the taxpayers of the city of Ferguson should bear the financial burden,” of the FOIA request, Karr said. Asked whether she would consider doing the redactions pro bono, Karr replied, “I don’t know what you mean.”
Did she get her law degree in Missouri? We need to up the standards.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

He Can't Have Been Too Surprised

After all, he went into prison with this announcement: "Good news!—The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex."
American journalist Barrett Brown, who is serving over five years in prison for his links to the hacktivist collective Anonymous, had his email suspended for a year after he contacted a journalist about potential wrongdoing by the Bureau of Prisons.


According to its own policy, the Bureau of Prisons allows inmates access to the TRULINCS prisoner e-mail system with certain restrictions.

“Inmates may send electronic messages to securely, efficiently and economically maintain contact with persons in the community. … [but] the CEO prohibits or discontinues its operation, or individual inmates' participation, whenever it is determined to jeopardize the safety, security, or orderly operation of the correctional facility, or the protection of the public and staff.”

Or tell on us.

Brown was in contact with Glenn Greenwald when his access was cut off.
According to his support group, Brown still has telephone privileges.
Let’s see how long before he loses those.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Caveat to California's Water Restrictions

Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered residents and non-agricultural businesses to cut water use by 25 percent in the first mandatory statewide reduction in the state’s history. One group not facing restrictions under the new rules is big agriculture, which uses about 80 percent of California’s water.

  Democracy Now!
But of course. Let’s ask: how much of big agriculture’s production goes overseas?

Also, no cap on oil extraction industries....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Too Skinny

The French parliament has voted to ban ultra-thin catwalk models, despite protests from modelling agencies in the world’s fashion capital.

Anyone whose body mass index is below a certain level will not be able to work as a catwalk model, according to the amendment voted in by the national assembly.

Agencies found to employ models considered too thin could face a fine of up to €75,000 (£55,000) and six months in prison.

  The Guardian
How do you jail an agency?

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

First Time?

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is ordering the state’s first mandatory water use restrictions in an effort to cut consumption by 25 percent.

Brown’s executive order, issued Wednesday, restricts watering grass lawns, cemeteries, golf courses and grass in street medians while implementing new pricing models at water utilities designed to discourage overuse.

It’s the latest effort by California officials to cope with the state’s historic drought, which is in its fourth year and shows few signs of receding.

Brown announced the new restrictions Wednesday in a grassy area of the Sierra Nevada mountains that is usually covered with feet of snow at this time of year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

  The Hill
If this is the first time, what were those water restrictions when I lived in San Francisco in the 70s where we were fined if we used more than a personal water use allotment?


Presumably a Firing Offense

[An] accidental email went to organizers of the Asian Cup soccer tournament. It had the details of all top leaders that had attended the G-20 summit, an annual global policy meeting.


[T]he mistaken email exposed the personal details of 31 world leaders, including President Obama.


“[Redacted] failed to check that the autofill function in Microsoft Outlook had entered the correct person’s details into the email ‘To’ field,” the email continued. “This led to the email being sent to the wrong person.”

The exposed data included not only names and dates of birth, but passport numbers and visa details as well.

On Monday, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters the administration is “looking into [the reports], and we’ll take all appropriate steps necessary to ensure the privacy and security of the president’s personal information.”

  The Hill
A little late, would you say?

...but hey, it could happen to anyone, right [Redacted]?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015