Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It Was Only a Movie

Update: The Frontline program
In the days leading up to the nationwide release of Zero Dark Thirty, the 2012 blockbuster movie about the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Sen. Dianne Feinstein was given an advanced screening. How did the then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose investigators were working on their own story about the hunt for bin Laden and the role that torture may have played, react to Hollywood’s depiction?

“I walked out of Zero Dark Thirty, candidly,” Feinstein says. “We were having a showing and I got into it about 15, 20 minutes and left. I couldn’t handle it. Because it’s so false.”

False, in Feinstein’s estimation, because she says the film inaccurately portrays torture as a key tool in obtaining information about bin Laden’s whereabouts. Feinstein recounts her revulsion in a new documentary from Frontline, airing Tuesday night on PBS, about the CIA’s torture program and whether brutal interrogations of detainees helped surface intelligence that led to bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, where U.S. special operations forces killed him in 2011.

  Daily Beast
I am no Feinstein fan, by a long shot. But good on her for this.  Even if she is just cashing in on the turning tide.

And of course, there's this:
Investigative journalist Michael Isikoff told Frontline that many more people will see Zero Dark Thirty than will read the countless newspaper articles about the CIA’s interrogation techniques. The movie, he thinks, will stand as the dominant narrative for what really happened in the search for bin Laden.

Wacko, Texas ... Another Shootout

WACO (May 18, 2015) About 170 suspects arrested after a shootout between rival biker gangs and police Sunday at Waco’s Twin Peaks restaurant that left nine dead and 18 injured were ordered held in lieu of $1 million bonds Monday while investigators continued the painstaking process of gathering evidence at the crime scene.


Social Issues as Military Propaganda

Before the invasion of Afghanistan, Americans were inundated with stories about the Taliban’s oppression of women: as though feminism was part of the cause of that war. To help justify the invasion of that country, the Bush State Department suddenly discovered its profound concern for the plight of “Afghan women and girls.”


What Good Progressive could oppose a war like that? The fact that the U.S. not only refrained from invading, but lavishly supported, all sorts of regimes that were at least as repressive to women as the Taliban went unmentioned. That might suggest that liberation of women was merely a propagandistic pretext for that war rather than an actual desired outcome — just as Saddam Hussein’s “gassing of his own people” and other human rights abuses (committed when he was a close U.S. ally) had exactly zero to do with that war other than providing a feel-good means for liberals to support it.

These days, animosity toward leading U.S. adversaries — Vladimir Putin and Iranian mullahs — is bolstered through a sustained focus on their maltreatment of their LGBT citizens. The most war-craving neocons endlessly focus on the plight of gay Iranians — as though that’s what motivates their hostility, as though neocons care about any of that in the slightest — while completely ignoring brutal LGBT suppression by regimes that are highly deferential to the U.S. and Israel. All of this, though blatantly manipulative, is also a remarkably effective tactic: Obama-aligned gay groups in the U.S. such as Human Rights Campaign regularly churn out anti-Russia screeds, and do the same for Iran.

Like any effective propaganda, all of this is grounded in some semblance of truth. The Taliban really are grotesquely oppressive to women; Saddam really was a severe human rights violator; Iran really does punish and sometimes even executes its gay citizens, while Putin has cultivated an anti-gay climate for domestic political benefits.

But none of that has the even the remotest connection to U.S. foreign policy or to the reasons these countries are deemed American adversaries. [...] The U.S. government doesn’t mind in the slightest if a government is oppressive to its gay or female citizens: quite the contrary, as a look at its closest allies proves. It just exploits those social issues as a means of propagandizing the public into hating the regimes that oppose its dictates, and well-intentioned people then dutifully march into line.


This is human rights concerns as a cynical propaganda tactic, not anything remotely approaching an actual belief.


Militarism and aggression don’t become any more palatable because the institutions that perpetrate them let women and gays participate in those abuses, nor do American wars become less criminal or destructive because their targets share the same primitive social issue stances as America’s closest allies.
  Glenn Greenwald
And, who can not notice the timing of gay exploitation for militarization when it is within the past several months only that gay rights, in the form of marriage, have taken hold in this country.

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Oh My

I haven't been following the presidential candidate coverage, but apparently Jeb Bush isn't an improvement over W.

And, apparently, he said he would have invaded Iraq had he been president when W was, but now is saying he wouldn't have gone into Iraq.

Which they will, no doubt.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

(Contentious) Sy Hersh Interview

In case anyone reading is too young to know, Sy Hersh is the journalist who broke the My Lai massacre story during the Vietnam war.  He also had sources who told him about the criminality and torture at Abu Ghraib, but his claims were roundly dismissed. The U.S. Government and its media shills do not like Mr. Hersh.
[Seymour] Hersh’s piece claims that Bin Laden was being held prisoner by the Pakistani military and intelligence service (the ISI), who were using him as a means to control Taliban and al-Qaida elements, and hoping to use him as leverage in their relationship with the United States. According to Hersh, who relied largely on an anonymous intelligence source, the Obama administration found out that Pakistan had Bin Laden, and eventually convinced Pakistani military leaders to allow a raid on the compound where Bin Laden was being held. The plan, Hersh writes, was to say publicly that Bin Laden was killed not in the raid but in a drone strike. The White House, however, supposedly broke this deal because of the political value of making the details of the raid public.

Hersh’s story has been much debated over the past several days, with many calling it into question and (a comparable few) others applauding its willingness to undercut the official narrative. NBC News and the AFP have both backed up small elements of Hersh’s story, although both outlets have also called other elements of his piece into question (and NBC later backed away from its original reporting). And no news source has supported Hersh’s largest claim—that the president lied about the raid.

I spoke to Hersh by phone this week. Here is a transcript of our conversation….

   Isaac Chotiner: Slate

"I just said what I said. I don’t want to hear what the upshot is. If you have another question then ask it. This is going on too long. I am too old and too cranky and too tired. I have been doing this fucking thing for a day. I told you, I warned you, that I am really irritable."

Thanks Only to Edward Snowden

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill that would end spy agencies' bulk collections of Americans' telephone data, setting up a potential showdown with the U.S. Senate over the program that expires on June 1.

As voting continued, the House overwhelmingly backed the USA Freedom Act, which would end the bulk collection program and instead give intelligence agencies access to telephone data and other records only when a court finds there is reasonable suspicion about a link to international terrorism.

  Huffington Post
Of course, just because there's a law against it doesn't mean they won't do it.
The bill's fate is much less certain in the Senate, where many key lawmakers would rather reauthorize the existing bulk data collection program than approve the Freedom Act.
And, there’s that.

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

Where Is This Going?

May I just say...Holy Shit.

And we thought Tony Blair was bad.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dick Cheney Is Not Happy

In the immediate aftermath of Seymour Hersh’s winding narrative on the killing of Osama bin Laden and an alleged cover-up by the U.S. government, officials, spies and even other journalists have been quick to label the story a sham.

But now, multiple news sources are backing up at least one aspect of Hersh’s controversial account on the 2011 raid: It was a Pakistani tipster who ultimately led U.S. special forces to the fugitive’s Abbottabad compound, not the courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, whose identity was supposedly revealed by CIA detainees.

Which, if true, would mean the key to bin Laden’s location was not, as the agency tells it, torture.

  Huffington Post

Speaking of a Topsy Turvy World

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

TPP Fast Track in This Topsy Turvy World

This was Obama’s “transparent” attempt to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today blasted the secrecy shrouding the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

“They said, well, it’s very transparent. Go down and look at it,” said Boxer on the floor of the Senate. “Let me tell you what you have to do to read this agreement. Follow this: you can only take a few of your staffers who happen to have a security clearance — because, God knows why, this is secure, this is classified. It has nothing to do with defense. It has nothing to do with going after ISIS.”


“The guard says, ‘you can’t take notes.’ I said, ‘I can’t take notes?’” Boxer recalled. “‘Well, you can take notes, but have to give them back to me, and I’ll put them in a file.’

  The Intercept
But there’s an exception: if you’re part of one of 28 U.S. government-appointed trade advisory committees providing advice to the U.S. negotiators. The committees with the most access to what’s going on in the negotiations are 16 “Industry Trade Advisory Committees,” whose members include AT&T, General Electric, Apple, Dow Chemical, Nike, Walmart and the American Petroleum Institute.

  The Intercept
Yesterday, the fast track option failed to pass the Senate. Who could have guessed? They must be feeling public pressure.
Senate Democrats Tuesday successfully blocked a Republican move to start the formal debate on a law that would give President Barack Obama the power to unilaterally make international trade deals. The Trade Promotion Authority bill would also let Obama “fast-track” the huge and complex Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact with 10 other Pacific Rim nations. The TPA the president wants would give Congress only an up-or-down vote on the whole package, without the ability to amend it. The Senate voted 45-52 against it.

  International Business times
Get that. Republicans were backing Obama. Democrats voted it down.

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

Sy Hersh Reporting on bin Laden Kill

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Or We Could Just Stop After the First Four Words

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

Sy Hersh Story on bin Laden Kill Is "Old News" from Different Sources

R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times, made the same main assertions in 2011 about the death of Osama bin Laden as Seymour Hersh’s new story in the London Review of Books — apparently based on different sources than those used by Hersh.

Bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Three months later, on August 7, Hillhouse posted a story on her blog “The Spy Who Billed Me” stating that (1) the U.S. did not learn about bin Laden’s location from tracking an al Qaeda courier, but from a member of the Pakistani intelligence service who wanted to collect the $25 million reward the U.S. had offered for bin Laden; (2) Saudi Arabia was paying Pakistan to keep bin Laden under the equivalent of house arrest; (3) Pakistan was pressured by the U.S. to stand down its military to allow the U.S. raid to proceed unhindered; and (4) the U.S. had planned to claim that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but was forced to abandon this when one of the Navy SEAL helicopters crashed.


Hillhouse wrote another post on August 11, 2011 with more detail, and her story was picked up by numerous papers outside the U.S., such as the New Zealand Herald.

At that point, according to Hillhouse, “my understanding was there was great concern with the security guys … Everything that I’ve written on national intelligence, [that] was the first time I ever had a [former] senior member of the intelligence community signal me to basically go black … I’ve never been waved off like I was signaled to [then].” Because of this, Hillhouse says, she destroyed her notes from her conversations with her sources.

  The Intercept
And, why were we not shown evidence of the body they supposedly threw into the sea?
Hillhouse also claims that one of her sources told her a particular detail that she did not include in 2011 because she could not confirm it: that the Navy SEALs threw bin Laden’s body out of the helicopter while traveling over the Hindu Kush mountains from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Hersh’s story includes an assertion from his main source that “during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains.” While this seems bizarre in retrospect, it would be plausible if the SEALs had believed at the time that the Obama administration planned to say publicly that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike.
Sounds more than plausible to me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Real Story of Osama bin Laden Kill

 And you want me to believe that if the Pakistani government knew it, the US government did not?

OK, let me modify that...the CIA did not?

 Sy Hersh, once again, comes up with the story.

 Read it; it's quite interesting.

 According to his source, Pakistan had captured bin Laden, and the Sauds paid them to keep him alive and away from the Americans. He also says that the US was cutting back aid to Pakistan, and in return for several millions of dollars, the Pakistanis allowed the US to go in and take bin Laden out. Not in the way the movie line went, or the SEAL story, however, as he was reportedly ailing badly. ‘The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,’ the retired official said. ‘“You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?”’

There's still plenty of fishy angles, but the media excitement is the fact that Washington has been lying. Really? It would be more exciting to find out Washington wasn't lying.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Poking the Bear

As of mid-April, when a Pentagon flack announced it in Kiev, and as barely reported in American media, U.S. troops are now operating openly in Ukraine.


The project is plain: Advance NATO the rest of the way through Eastern Europe, probably with the intent of eventually destabilizing Moscow. The stooges now installed in Kiev are getting everything ready for the corporations eager to exploit Ukrainian resources and labor.


I am getting on to apoplectic as to the American media’s abject irresponsibility in not covering this stuff adequately. To leave these events unreported is outright lying by omission. Nobody’s news judgment can be so bad as to argue this is not a story.

Last December, John Pilger, the noted Australian journalist now in London, said in a speech that the Ukraine crisis had become the most extreme news blackout he had seen his entire career.


[The New York Times, on April 23, wrote:] “Last week, Russia charged that a modest program to train Ukraine’s national guard that 300 American troops are carrying out in western Ukraine could ‘destabilize the situation.’”

Apoplectically speaking: Goddamn it, there is nothing modest about U.S. troops operating on Ukrainian soil, and it is self-evidently destabilizing. It is an obvious provocation, a point the policy cliques in Washington cannot have missed.


Have you read much about the wave of political assassinations that erupted in Kiev in mid-April? Worry not. No one else has either—not in American media. Not a word in the Times.

The number my sources give me, and I cannot confirm it, is a dozen so far—12 to 13 to be precise. On the record, we have 10 who can be named and identified as political allies of Viktor Yanukovych, the president ousted last year.


These were all highly visible politicians, parliamentarians and journalists. They have been murdered by small groups of these extremists, according to reports readily available in non-American media. In my read, the killers may have the same semi-official ties to government that the paramilitary death squads in 1970s Argentina—famously recognizable in their Ford Falcons—had with Videla and the colonels.


And our media must be silent, of course.

Because these are our new buddies.  US troops training Neo-Nazis on the Russian border.  What could go wrong?

If Only This Came from the Onion

Washington (CNN)Jeb Bush cited his brother, former President George W. Bush, as one of his main advisers on the Middle East in a private meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday, according to three people who attended the off-the-record event.


One of the people in the room jotted down Jeb's comment as such: "What you need to know is that who I listen to when I need advice on the Middle East is George W. Bush."

I guess Jeb is actually dumber than he looks.
Two sources who the Bush staff put in touch with CNN said they understood Bush's comments to be specifically regarding Israel.
Damage control, I guess. Still. Even if it’s only Israel – not smart.

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

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Go Ahead, Poke the Bear

Two armed men who opened fire on a security officer outside of a provocative contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have been killed, authorities in the Dallas suburb of Garland said Sunday night.


The security officer's injuries were not life-threatening, the city said.

The gunmen's vehicle may contain an "incendiary device," according to the statement. A bomb squad was on the scene, and nearby businesses were evacuated.


The New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative had been hosting a contest at the center that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

And what a brilliant thing to do. Freedom Defense Initiative, my ass. I’m guessing it’s a bunch of right wing “Christians” – because that’s What Jesus Would Do.
Pamela Geller, president of the AFDI, said that the shooting showed how "needed our event really was."
Nut job. And this will surprise you…
Geller's group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.
Like I said, Freedom Defense Initiative, my ass. ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

We'll Take Syria Yet

US-led strikes targeting the Islamic State group killed at least 52 civilians in northern Syria, a monitor said Saturday, but the Pentagon said it could not confirm the report.


[Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman] said seven children were among the dead but that the toll could rise as rescuers were battling to save 13 people trapped under rubble.


"Not a single IS fighter" was killed in the strikes on Birmahle, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the village is inhabited by civilians only with no IS presence.

US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder told AFP there was "no information to corroborate allegations that coalition air strikes resulted in civilian casualties".

"Regardless, we take all allegations seriously and will look into them further," he added.

Do they just have that on a recorder now?

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

It's Sunday

In December 1940, as America was emerging from the Great Depression, more than 5,000 industrialists from across the nation made their yearly pilgrimage to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, convening for the annual meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers. The program promised an impressive slate of speakers: titans at General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Mutual Life, and Sears, Roebuck; popular lecturers such as etiquette expert Emily Post and renowned philosopher-historian Will Durant; even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Tucked away near the end of the program was a name few knew initially, but one everyone would be talking about by the convention’s end: Reverend James W. Fifield Jr.


Fifield’s audience of executives was stunned. Over the preceding decade, as America first descended into and then crawled its way out of the Great Depression, the these titans of industry had been told, time and time again, that they were to blame for the nation’s downfall. Fifield, in contrast, insisted that they were the source of its salvation.

They just needed to do one thing: Get religion.


It was a watershed moment—the beginning of a movement that would advance over the 1940s and early 1950s a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Fifield and like-minded ministers saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined, and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other. The two systems had been linked before, of course, but always in terms of their shared social characteristics. Fifield’s innovation was his insistence that Christianity and capitalism were political soul mates, first and foremost.


Before the New Deal, the government had never loomed quite so large over business and, as a result, it had never loomed large in Americans’ thinking about the relationship between Christianity and capitalism. But in Fifield’s vision, it now cast a long and ominous shadow.He and his colleagues devoted themselves to fighting the government forces they believed were threatening capitalism and, by extension, Christianity. And their activities helped build a foundation for a new vision of America in which businessmen would no longer suffer under the rule of Roosevelt but instead thrive—in a phrase they popularized—in a nation “under God.”

How Corporate America Invented Christian America

By the way, when did the words “under God” appear in the Pledge of Allegiance? It’s not original. It was inserted during the anti-communist frenzy of the McCarthy era. 1954 was the year.

It's Sunday

Here's the headline of the Hill article he's referencing:  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

With Apologies...

Had I but known, I would have given you more notice.


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

World Naked Gardening Day

Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy May Day

Workers of the world unite!

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

*Worker's Song - Dropkick Murphys

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

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

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

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

[Chorus x3]

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