Friday, July 31, 2015

Cecil Outrage


Only technically true since Ed Snowden is not currently in the US.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Black Lives Matter

You could have easily guessed.



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

This picture made me think of something else.  When I was working at the library in Galveston, Texas, a city with a large black population, a co-worker once complained that the blacks, not willing to work, wanted food stamps and government assistance (I believe the term used was "hand-outs"), but they all managed to have expensive smart phones.

I didn't say it at the time, and I should have, that smart phones aren't necessarily expensive.  But what I didn't even think, and I should have, is that to a black person, a smart phone is not a luxury, but a necessity.  Without the ability to record what's happening to them, there wouldn't even be the current  "conversation" about how they're treated in the "law enforcement" system.

Friday, July 24, 2015

And Another One

Mother Jones has another mass killing to add to their chart.

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

Lafayette Shooting - Further

Later it emerged that two teachers who had been in the theatre had raised the alarm and one had even thrown herself in front of the shooter to save her friend.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal told a press conference he had talked to the teachers, whom he described as heroes.

“Even though she was shot in the leg, she had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm to help save other lives,” he said.

“Now, I think as we learn more about the details tonight, we are going to hear about other acts of selfless heroism of people trying to help each other and trying to save other lives.”

Jindal commended the first respondents, who he said “ran towards the shots fired, towards danger”.

“This is a time for us to come together,” said Jindal. “What we can do now is pray.”

  The Guardian
Pray? That's your answer? "Selfless heroism" and prayer?

Looks like this Onion faux-report from last year pegged it:
ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

  The Onion

Something Is Terribly Wrong with Us

Remember this just a day or two ago?


I don't know about the mall, but it's getting risky to go to a movie.
As the previews ended and the lights dimmed for the screening of the comedy "Trainwreck," a man stood up inside a Louisiana movie theater, pulled out a handgun and began firing indiscriminately.

The shooter, a 58-year-old man, killed two people and wounded nine others at the Lafayette multiplex Thursday night before he turned his gun on himself and took his own life, police said. The shooting comes within days of the guilty verdict in the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre.

  CNN
All they've reported at this time about the man's identity is that he was a “lone white male.” (So you know it wasn't an act of terrorism.)

Our politicians want us to be afraid of an attack by foreign radicals.  Your chances of being attacked by a member of ISIS, or any other foreign radical organization, are infinitesimally small.  By the nutjob in your neighborhood, or a cop if you're black...getting higher and higher.

Mother Jones doesn't have this one in Lafayette up yet, but they are keeping a tally of US Mass Shootings from 1982.  (In spreadsheet format here.)

Is there any other country in the world where this kind of madness goes on so regularly that they have to keep a tally card?

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

Passing Out the Rewards

An Obama campaign bundler and prominent Washington, D.C., attorney has been tapped as the new general counsel for the National Security Agency, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

[...]

[Glenn] Gerstell was a managing partner in the firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. But his résumé shows no deep experience working with intelligence and national security issues that the NSA’s counsel contends with on a regular basis.

  The Daily Beast
I don't see the problem. The job clearly calls for a campaign fundraiser.

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

Try to Keep Up

Thursday, July 23, 2015

So What Else Is New?

At the top, they're ALL friends.

What I want to know is, what happened to George's hair?


In a Nutshell

During a discussion yesterday in Aspen with even-more-sycophantic-than-usual CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, FBI Director James Comey somberly warned that ISIS now officially poses a bigger threat to the “U.S. homeland” than the one posed by former title-holder Al Qaeda – because, of course, the Latest Threat must always be the Greatest Threat. Comey also said that the previous bigger-than-Al-Qaeda contender, “The Khorasan Group,” has been “diminished” by “the work done by our great military” – because the War on Terror narrative requires that it must always be somehow simultaneously true that (1) the Terror Threat facing Americans is Greater Than Ever™ and (2) U.S. military actions against Terrorism are succeeding.

  Glenn Greenwald
But wait!  There's more.
[T]o dramatize ISIS as The New Greatest Threat to the Homeland, FBI Director Comey first summoned the TV-actor-who-plays-the-journalist-character-called-Wolf-Blitzer to Aspen, and then NBC News posted to the top of its news article a slick, scary, music-and-graphic-driven video using all of Hollywood’s horror film staples to provide the visceral kick (that video has now been replaced on the NBC page with a video of this morning’s Matt Lauer/TODAY show “breaking news!” segment hyping Comey’s warning). I’m really grateful that because Americans have a free press, we’re not subject to state propaganda the way people in those bad, unfortunate countries are.
You are welcome to watch it here. I'll pass.

This Is the Bottom Line for Us, Isn't It?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sure, Now You Do It



Isn't it interesting how they have eight years to do something but wait until the end to actually do it?  Hey, if it gets done, it goes on his resume.  No matter if he can do it now, he should have been able to do it six years ago.

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

Flashback to Reality

On Christmas Eve in 2009, intelligence officials anxiously monitored dozens of al-Qaida members as they gathered for a meeting in southern Yemen. The U.S. and Yemen had stepped up airstrikes and raids the week before, and al-Qaida was regrouping under one roof to figure out how to retaliate.

With the right timing and a little luck, the U.S. could kill the group's leadership in a single blow.

The predawn missile strike killed scores of suspected terrorists but missed Naser Al-Wahishi, the country's top al-Qaida leader, as well as his deputy, Saeed Al-Shihri, and the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

It was a close call, and its significance wasn't lost on the terrorists. Their e-mails had been compromised. Their cell phone conversations no longer were secure.
[...] 
Suddenly al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was up against the National Security Agency and the Predator drones that can hover out of sight and intercept phone calls.

So it adapted.

It went underground, enduring a monthslong U.S. led bombing campaign. It emerged as a more disciplined and professional organization. It ditched cell phones in favor of walkie-talkies and coded names. Information was passed through intermediaries. If someone needed to send an email, it was shielded by highly sophisticated encryption software.

  Huffington Post April 16, 2011
Wait. What? It wasn't the Snowden leaks in 2013 that made them change their tactics???!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

For Pete's Sake

Have they no shame?

Muhsin al-Fadhli, 33, the leader of the Khorasan group, was believed previously to have been killed by a U.S. airstrike in Syria, and at least one post on Twitter appears to confirm his death.

  International Business Times


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

Getting Out Ahead of the Pack


Monday, July 20, 2015

A Bit of Progress

One bitter holdover of the Cold War slipped into the history books at 12:01 a.m. Monday, when the United States and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations. For the first time since severing ties in 1961, they reopened embassies in each other's capitals.

  CNN
Baby steps, people. We're just crawling out of our cave.
A Cuban delegation of diplomats, artists and veterans of the revolution were to commemorate the breakthrough with about 500 guests and more than likely down a few celebratory mojitos and shots of Havana Club rum.
Really CNN? Was that necessary? What will the American diplomats be drinking to celebrate in Havana?
Restrictions on Americans wanting to travel to Cuba remain in place, as does the wider US trade embargo banning most American companies from doing business in Cuba.

  BBC
CNN didn't see fit to tell us that. It was more important to run down Cuba.
Without ceremony in the pre-dawn hours, maintenance workers were to hang the Cuban flag in the lobby of the State Department alongside those of other nations with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations. The historic shift will be publicly memorialized later Monday when Cuban officials formally inaugurate their embassy in Washington and Cuba's blue, red and white-starred flag will fly for the first time since the countries severed ties in 1961.

[...]

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana plans to announce its upgrade to embassy status in a written statement on Monday, but the Stars and Stripes will not fly at the mission until Kerry visits in August for a ceremonial flag-raising.

[...]

Some U.S. lawmakers, including several prominent Republican presidential candidates, have vowed not to repeal the embargo and pledged to roll back Obama's moves on Cuba.
  CBC (Canada)
Of course they have.
Cuba's ceremony at the stately 16th Street mansion in Washington that has been operating as an interests section under the auspices of the Swiss embassy will be attended by some 500 guests, including a 30-member delegation of diplomatic, cultural and other leaders from the Caribbean nation, headed by Foreign Minister Rodriguez.

The U.S. will be represented at the event by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, who led U.S. negotiators in six months of talks leading to the July 1 announcement, and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana who will now become charge d'affaires.
Will they be drinking?

And THAT's What's Killing Him



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

Do Brits Have Right of Impeachment?

If not, get ready for the roundup.


Sorry. This is not new. I missed it when it happened in February. It is, however, extremely important, and, well, extreme.
[T]he UK Independent describes the quote [...] as “the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

  Washington's Blog
Creepy? Creepy would be saying he likes to look in Queen Elizabeth's underwear drawer. This is frightening. The man is the Prime Minister, for gods' sake.
This isn’t how the leader of a major civilized Western so-called “democracy” speaks to the citizenry. It is how a master talks to his slaves. How a ruler addresses his subjects.
Yes, yes. OK. True. But did you not notice that he's saying it's not enough to obey the law?!  And it's not just David Cameron.  There is a bill currently going through British Parliament to codify anti-democratic government authority.  (Here in the US, we do these things covertly.  At least so far.)

Let's back up a minute. Here's excerpts from an RT February article:
Theresa May’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill received royal assent on Thursday, meaning tough new measures to prevent suspected terrorists from traveling to Iraq or Syria will come into force within the next 24 hours.

[...]

They include bolstering existing powers for passport removal, and will allow police to “disrupt” individuals who are suspected of leaving the country to join terror cells abroad and prevent them leaving the country while investigations are carried out.
Rounding up dissidents. Wasn't that what we warned could happen if we didn't go to war with Communism? Wasn't that what we pointed to in our warnings of the terrors of Stalin?
A consultation paper published before Christmas said that universities “must take seriously their responsibility to exclude those promoting extremist views that support or are conducive to terrorism,” and that staff will be expected to refer suspected students to anti-radicalization programs.

[...]

Last week MPs and peers told the Home Secretary that universities should be exempt from these new measures, as they would seriously impede academic freedom of speech.

  RT
So, it's OK if you're at university? "Academic" freedom of speech is ok.  Regular freedom of speech, not so much.  I suspect university enrollment will go up.  Oh, wait.  Er...they should exclude those people.  I guess you already have to be there.  This is kind of complicated, isn't it?

Jump forward to May:
The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.

[...]

[The measures] would include a ban on [extremist] broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

  Guardian
Holy Toledo. The government will now control all information. Let's just say it plainly.

Hatred is OK, though. Because, hell, that's the basis of the government's position.  You can't use hate speech (in public - I guess you're still safe in your own home, but not with neighbors), but not because it provokes hate.
It will also contain new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others. The powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened.

Cameron will tell the NSC: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

“Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

“We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”
Follow that, if you can. Cameron is defining British society by a code of laws that he is advocating turning on its head – permitting only certain values and closing religious organizations that hold others.

"As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together."  By kicking out or rounding up anyone who lobbies for a different government.

It seems less like "actively promoting certain values" than actively discouraging other values.  Freedom of speech is a first casualty - as it has been in all tyrannies.

On June 19, Owen Jones posted this at The Guardian:
[W]e need to challenge and confront perverse ideologies. That means working in partnership with Muslim organisations and communities, not employing a rhetoric of collective blame that does nothing but play into the hands of extremism. And yes, there are a number of factors driving radicalisation, but we should examine all of them, including factors within our control, such as (but not exclusively) western foreign policy and support for dictatorships complicit in the rise of jihadi terrorism. I fear, though, that currently, we are doing exactly what our opponents will us to do.

  Guardian
Which makes your wonder if there was an intentional plan all along. Things couldn't have gone more smoothly toward building a world fascist super block if there had been. To quote Mark Twain (or a quote that is attributed to him, anyway): “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”  Although, I'm leaning toward the latter.

And, now, forward to the current time:


In a speech to be delivered [ed: currently being delivered] to an audience of Muslim men and women in Birmingham, David Cameron is expected to announce that only those in the Muslim community willing to take a stand against jihadist violence will be supported and those who “walk up to the border of illegality” will be denounced.

  UK Independent
”Denounced” is the least of what he has in mind.
“There are Muslims who say they are not advocating violence,” said the source, but who still deny the Holocaust, question Israel’s right to exist, and whether men and women and Jews and Muslims should mix.
Now we're getting to the nib. Israel.
“We have to attack directly this Islamist extremist ideology that is poisoning young minds, including young minds in Britain and America,” he said. The “narrative of extremism” must be defeated, he added.
Ah, yes. Include America.

He sounds rather extremist himself. The irony escapes him, I suppose.
“People who say, ‘Well, of course I don’t support terrorism. But a caliphate, is that such a bad idea?’ Or people who say, ‘Do you know what? Christians and Muslims, we can’t really live together. And suicide bombing [is] alright in Israel, even if it’s not alright in America.’

“These are unacceptable views. We’ve got to call them out and confront them,” said Mr Cameron. “We’ve got to defeat the narrative of extremism, even when it’s not connected to the violence. ”
No caliphates for Britain.

Unacceptable “views”. We are no longer just concerned with violence. We have to root out certain views.

 Round 'em up, boys. Guantánamo is nearly empty.
The Prime Minister’s comments run the risk of alienating British Muslims.
Ya think?

A thorough breakdown of the proposed legislation is set out at the World Socialist web site.

The bill itself and its progress can be found at the UK Parliament website: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/counterterrorismandsecurity.html.

Coming soon to a theater near you.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Seven?!

Seven people who worked in the maximum-security prison that held Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman have been charged in connection with his escape, Mexico's attorney general said Friday in a statement.

The prison workers will be jailed in the state of Guanajuato and the investigation continues, the statement said.

  CNN
It was thirteen years before they caught El Chapo after his first prison break.  Let the countdown begin for this one.

Regarding Chattanooga

Another actual attack that the NSA, nor the FBI, nor the CIA, nor any other "protective" agency managed to see coming or thwart, even with unlimited access to US citizens' private lives.

However, there are still plenty of FBI-aided, entrapped and mentally retarded terrorists they've saved us from.

And, the question is:  although media reporters have christened the killings in Chattanooga so, is it really terrorism?

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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Remind Me of This When I Think Wesley Clark Is OK

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

Calling It Terrorism

According to local and federal officials, Thursday’s bloody assault in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was ruthless and deranged. The U.S. attorney says investigators are treating the attacks, committed by a lone gunman at a military recruiting station and a Navy and Marine Corps Reserve center, as a possible “act of terrorism.” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter calls it a “senseless act of violence.” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the attacks were out of bounds: “While we expect our Sailors and Marines to go into harm's way, and they do so without hesitation, an attack at home, in our community, is insidious and unfathomable.”

Senseless? Unfathomable? Terrorism? I doubt it. If this incident was inspired by Islamic jihad, as many investigators suspect, then it probably wasn’t senseless. Nor was it terrorism. It was a rational, horrific act of war.

[...]

According to the Pentagon’s latest published data, our coalition in Syria and Iraq has struck more than 2,000 enemy “buildings” and nearly 500 “staging areas.” A “staging area” can be almost anything—according to the U.S. military glossary, it’s “a general locality established for the concentration of troop units.” Scan the Pentagon’s daily reports on the campaign, and you’ll see accounts of strikes against “barracks,” “compounds,” “structures,” “manufacturing workshops,” and “logistics hubs.” If you’re an ISIS foot soldier, it hardly matters where you are or what you’re doing. You’re a target.

[...]

Recruiters are standard fare. In February, we sent a drone to kill an ISIS recruiter in Afghanistan .

[...]

Training facilities aren’t just fair game. They’re prized targets. President Obama has repeatedly bragged about hitting them. In February, White House spokesman Josh Earnest proudly informed reporters that coalition airstrikes had “succeeded in taking out at least 20 training camps.”

[...]

Last month in the Daily Beast, David Axe reported that according to U.S. military officials, during the past year, drones have conducted nearly 900 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria—and even when they’re not firing the missiles, they’re “involved in pretty much every engagement.” The drones are being piloted from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, with help from other stateside bases. If you want to kill the people who are firing those missiles in Iraq, you have to come here.

  Wm Saletan @ Slate

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Can He Say That?

Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in a forthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

  The Intercept
Can his retirement package be taken away?
Flynn [...] has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.
Geez. On the one hand...and then, on the other...
Earlier this year, Flynn commended the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, saying that torture had eroded American values and that in time, the U.S. “will look back on it, and it won’t be a pretty picture.”
It's not a pretty picture NOW.
“History is not going to look kind on those actions … and we will be held, we should be held accountable for many, many years to come.”
Yeah. When do we start?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules

Isn't that the "Golden Rule"?
“Too Big to Fail” has morphed into “Too Big to Jail” — and then again, into “Bank Lives Matter.”

[...]

Three top Democrats are accusing the Department of Housing and Urban Development of quietly removing a key clause in its requirements for taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage insurance in order to spare two banks recently convicted of federal crimes from being frozen out of the lucrative market..

[...]

Sens. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Maxine Waters fired off a letter to HUD on Tuesday, saying they believe that the timing of the change was designed to clear the way for two banks recently convicted of federal crimes — JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup — to continue to make Federal Housing Administration-insured loans.

[...]

On May 20 of this year, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup both entered a guilty plea on one felony count of conspiring to rig foreign currency exchange trades, the largest market on the globe.

Five days earlier, on May 15, HUD slipped a notice into the Federal Register, seeking to alter its standard loan-level certification form, known as HUD-92900-A. This form must be filled out for lenders to receive FHA insurance, which reimburses them if the homeowner falls into foreclosure.

[...]

The notice in the Federal Register did not even mention the removal, making it impossible to discover without comparing the old form and the proposed form side by side. The Wall Street Journal ran a story about the certification changes in May, but failed to notice that the new language would let law-breaking banks off scot-free.

  The Intercept
I wonder who actually discovered this little trick. I am highly doubtful any congress person was paying attention. I could be jaded.

I also wonder who works at HUD that used to work for a big corporate financial operation.  Or which of Obama's appointees who previously worked (and plan to return to work) for big corporate financial operations suggested the change to HUD.

Guzmán on the Loose

The brutal Sinaloa Drug Cartel boss escaped prison - again.

El Chapo was cool as a cucumber as he escaped from his jail cell and then tunneled to freedom, and it was all caught on surveillance video.

Check it out. At 8:51 PM Saturday, El Chapo checks out the shower, then walks to a bench where he sits for a short time, and then breezes back to the shower where he escapes down a hole that was cut in the floor.

It's closed-circuit video for prison guards to see. The question ... were they looking? 

   TMZ
Are you kidding? They've got El Chapo behind bars. They're not gonna have someone watching him? Not to mention, it's not his first escape from prison.

What surprises me is that they didn't destroy the tape. The accomplice who was supposed to be watching must not have had keys to the video room.

Mexico's most notorious drug lord now has one more nefarious title: serial prison escapee. Authorities are scrambling to find Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after his stunning escape from a maximum-security prison west of Mexico City.

[...]

The leader of the Sinaloa cartel stepped into a shower Saturday night, crawled through a hole and vanished through a mile-long tunnel apparently built just for him.

Mexico's government is offering a reward of up to 60 million pesos ($3.8 million) for information leading to his capture.

  CNN
Yeah. They should have been paying the guards better, it wouldn't have cost them so much.  Although, come to think of it, if the price for stopping him meant the loss of limb, life or family, which it could well have, maybe no amount of pay would have been enough.
[Guzman] was inside a cell with 24-hour hour closed circuit video surveillance and a bracelet that monitored his every move. The video system, he said, had two blind spots that Guzman exploited. And he left the bracelet behind before he crawled into the tunnel and made his getaway.
He could just take the bracelet off? WTF?
Mexico's interior minister said Monday that he'd fired the prison's director, and he vowed the government won't stop until Guzman is behind bars again.
Yeah, whatever. Guzman could be paying the prison director more than he would have made for the rest of his life. And the next one, too.
"If he went out that tunnel, it was with an armed escort, most likely a mix of prison guards and his own people, if the past is prologue," said Don Winslow, who's tracked Guzman's career for 15 years. […] "My bet is that he went out the front gate, and the tunnel was a tissue-thin face-saving device for Mexican officials .”
I'm with you, Don.

How Rich

Bullied and forced by Germany, the Greeks have to dance faster to stay in the Eurozone.
Greece's parliament will have to formally approve the following measures Wednesday:

--Streamline the VAT system and broaden the tax base to increase revenue. This will likely include raising sales taxes on restaurant meals and other items to 23%. And could include raising the corporate tax rate to 28%, from 26%.

--Overhaul the pension system, which would include setting the standard retirement age at 67 and discouraging people from retiring early.

--Safeguard the independence of the nation's statistics agency

--Implement rules to meet budget targets, which could require spending cuts

  CNN Money
”Streamline the VAT system and broaden the tax base to increase revenue.”

Or maybe just get German corporations to pay their taxes.
A German company was found to be the biggest tax evader in Greece. A court in Athens found that Hochtief, the German company that was running the “Eleftherios Venizelos” Athens International airport was not paying VAT for 20 years. It is estimated that Hochtief, will have to pay more than 500 million Euros for VAT arrears. Together with other outstanding payments, like those to social security funds, it might have to pay more than 1 billion Euros.

It must be noted that under the “Troika” austerity programme Greek employees lost around 400 million Euros from cuts to their salaries.

  Greek Reporter

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Boycott Germany?

Not likely in this country.  Too many people with German ancestry.  Also, we've learned to associate quality products with German design and manufacturing.  On the other hand, not many Walmart products are made in Germany, so much of America is in on the boycott by default.

So, if you're game...



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

Putin's Remarks on Iran Nuclear Agreement

Russia welcomes the agreement reached today in Vienna on a settlement of the situation concerning Iran’s nuclear programme and the joint comprehensive plan of action approved by the six countries and Iran. We are certain that the world heaved a sigh of relief today.

  Vladimir Putin
Well, not if the world includes US citizens. I don't think we were paying much attention.
Iran gets the opportunity to develop this programme, including uranium enrichment, under IAEA control and with the gradual lifting of sanctions imposed against Tehran, something we have long called for. This is also important for the implementation of large-scale plans of peaceful nuclear cooperation between Russia and Iran that got support in the documents approved today.

[...]

The comprehensive agreement rests on the solid foundation of international law...
“I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” — George W. Bush, September 11, 2001.

[...]

”I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words ‘international law’ again. We are not concerned with international law.” — unidentifed Air Force colonel, President, Combatant Status Review Tribunal, Guantánamo, October 7, 2004

[...]

“I don’t give a shit about international law. I made a commitment to the president that I’d privatize Iraq’s businesses.” — Thomas Foley, aide to CPA Administrator J. Paul Bremer III, 2003

[...]

“International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn’t bring that up to me.” George W. Bush, 12 December 2003

  US War Crimes
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

I Absolutely Forbid It


Of all the aspects of Monday’s bailout deal that Greeks found humiliating, nothing drilled into their sense of pride quite like their government’s promise to sell off “valuable Greek assets” to the tune of 50 billion euros. The seven-page agreement, which European leaders thrashed out over the weekend, made no mention of where Greece is supposed to find that much property to sell. But as they scrambled for options, officials in Athens saw no way around the blood-curdling prospect of auctioning off Greek islands, nature preserves or even ancient ruins.

  Time
No.

“Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors,” Josef Schlarmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, said at the time. Since publishing those remarks, the Bild newspaper, Germany’s most popular tabloid, has continued to irritate Greeks by asking why the Acropolis cannot be sold to repay debts to Germany.

[...]

The idea of locking up Greek assets in a special fund emerged on Saturday from Germany, the biggest and one of the least forgiving of the creditor-nations involved in the talks.

Yes, and isn't that remarkable?
The battleground over these reforms will now shift to Athens, where [Greek Prime Minister Alex] Tsipras will have to push them through parliament in spite of fierce resistance from members of his own government and party. Known as the Coalition of the Radical Left, the party was elected in January on a promise to avoid exactly the types of austerity measures Tsipras agreed to undertake during this weekend’s negotiations.
There's democracy for you in the land that invented democracy. Of the American style.  Elect a man on his promises and watch him turn.


Ahem



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

Monday, July 13, 2015

German Economic Commentator's Two Cents' Worth on What Just Happened

[D]o you really think that an economic reform programme, for which a government has no political mandate, which has been explicitly rejected in a referendum, that has been forced through by sheer political blackmail, can conceivably work?

[...]

By forcing Alexis Tsipras into a humiliating defeat, Greece’s creditors have done a lot more than bring about regime change in Greece or endanger its relations with the eurozone. They have destroyed the eurozone as we know it and demolished the idea of a monetary union as a step towards a democratic political union.

In doing so they reverted to the nationalist European power struggles of the 19th and early 20th century. They demoted the eurozone into a toxic fixed exchange-rate system, with a shared single currency, run in the interests of Germany, held together by the threat of absolute destitution for those who challenge the prevailing order.

[...]

But it was not just the brutality that stood out, nor even the total capitulation of Greece. The material shift is that Germany has formally proposed an exit mechanism. On Saturday, Wolfgang Schäuble, finance minister, insisted on a time-limited exit — a “timeout” as he called it.

I have heard quite a few crazy proposals in my time, and this one is right up there. A member state pushed for the expulsion of another. This was the real coup over the weekend: not only regime change in Greece, but also regime change in the eurozone.

[...]

This brings us back to a more toxic version of the old exchange-rate mechanism of the 1990s that left countries trapped in a system run primarily for the benefit of Germany, which led to the exit of the British pound and the temporary departure of the Italian lira. What was left was a coalition of countries willing to adjust their economies to Germany’s. Britain had to leave because it was not.

[...]

Any other country that in future might challenge German economic orthodoxy will face similar problems.

[...]

We will soon be asking ourselves whether this new eurozone, in which the strong push around the weak, can be sustainable.

  Wolfgang Münchau
Well, actually, the whole planet works that way on behalf of the U.S. So, why shouldn't Germany expect it to work that way in Europe?

Greece Update: a Twitter Story
















As you are no doubt aware, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned. Here is a very interesting post-resignation interview. Excerpts:
Look, my suggestion from the beginning was this: This is a country that has run aground, that ran aground a long time ago. … Surely we need to reform this country – we are in agreement on this. Because time is of the essence, and because during negotiations the central bank was squeezing liquidity [on Greek banks] in order pressurise us, in order to succumb, my constant proposal to the Troika was very simple: let us agree on three or four important reforms that we agree upon, like the tax system, like VAT, and let’s implement them immediately. And you relax the restrictions on liqiuidity from the ECB. You want a comprehensive agreement – let’s carry on negotiating – and in the meantime let us introduce these reforms in parliament by agreement between us and you.

And they said “No, no, no, this has to be a comprehensive review. Nothing will be implemented if you dare introduce any legislation. It will be considered unilateral action inimical to the process of reaching an agreement.” And then of course a few months later they would leak to the media that we had not reformed the country and that we were wasting time! And so… [chuckles] we were set up, in a sense, in an important sense.

So by the time the liquidity almost ran out completely, and we were in default, or quasi-default, to the IMF, they introduced their proposals, which were absolutely impossible… totally non-viable and toxic. So they delayed and then came up with the kind of proposal you present to another side when you don’t want an agreement.

[...]

There was a moment when the President of the Eurogroup decided to move against us and effectively shut us out, and made it known that Greece was essentially on its way out of the Eurozone. … There is a convention that communiqués must be unanimous, and the President can’t just convene a meeting of the Eurozone and exclude a member state. And he said, “Oh I’m sure I can do that.” So I asked for a legal opinion. It created a bit of a kerfuffle. For about 5-10 minutes the meeting stopped, clerks, officials were talking to one another, on their phone, and eventually some official, some legal expert addressed me, and said the following words, that “Well, the Eurogroup does not exist in law, there is no treaty which has convened this group.”

So what we have is a non-existent group that has the greatest power to determine the lives of Europeans. It’s not answerable to anyone, given it doesn’t exist in law; no minutes are kept; and it’s confidential. So no citizen ever knows what is said within. … These are decisions of almost life and death, and no member has to answer to anybody.

[...]

[And the Eurogroup is controlled] by the finance minister of Germany.

[...]

 Only the French finance minister has made noises that were different from the German line, and those noises were very subtle. You could sense he had to use very judicious language, to be seen not to oppose. And in the final analysis, when Doc Schäuble responded and effectively determined the official line, the French FM in the end would always fold and accept.

  New Statesman
Ze Chermans are baaaaaaaaaack.

 If you are interested in background on Varoufakis, here's a TED talk he gave in 2011 about where the EU was headed.  His summary :  "It offers us a chance to usher in a new era in which Europeans, Northern and Southern, Western and Eastern, can stare into each others' eyes and see and recognize a partner.  If we miss this chance, then Europe is going to be dragging the whole planet into a despicable mire for a third time in a century.  It is our duty and overarching obligation to prevent this."

We may be headed there.

 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

USG Ordered - Again - to Release Force-Feeding Videos

Pentagon video editors are on the clock now that a federal judge has ordered that several hours of “disturbing” force-feeding videos from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay are to be redacted and prepared for public release before the end of next month. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued the ruling on Friday, ordering the government to complete the redaction process that she initially ordered more than 10 months ago.

She set an August 31 deadline to prepare eight of the 32 tapes for release.

Kessler also ordered the government to redact an additional two compilation tapes before the end of September: one tape created by the government and one by attorneys representing Abu Wa’el Dhiab (pictured above) — a former Guantanamo detainee whose legal struggle has served as the catalyst for the pending disclosures.

That puts roughly five hours of footage on track for release, pending a final appeal by the government once the redactions are completed.

  The Intercept
So look for them some time in 2025.

 Maybe.

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

Barrett Brown Reviews Jail

It's really quite amusing.  (He'll soon be writing for The Intercept.)

I didn't realize he's been in so long.  My how time flies.  I wonder if it's flying for Barrett.

Anyway, here's a sample of his writing from prison for you to enjoy this Sunday morning.

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

Iran Nuclear Negotiations



Really?  Russia has more than we do?  We better get with it.

Dear Donald


Hahahahaha.

I have a hard time believing that Donald Trump is ever really serious about running for president.  Unless he's even dumber than he looks (and that would be extremely difficult to be).  I think he must just be putting his show on the largest audience scale he can think of.  

P.S.  for grins I'd like to SEE Joe Biden in a wig and ass-less chaps.  



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

Must Have Been a Slow News Day at Yahoo

In an interview with Yahoo News, [former AG Eric] Holder said “we are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures” and that “his actions spurred a necessary debate” that prompted President Obama and Congress to change policies on the bulk collection of phone records of American citizens.

Asked if that meant the Justice Department might now be open to a plea bargain that allows Snowden to return from his self-imposed exile in Moscow, Holder replied: “I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists.”

[...]

Holder declined to discuss what the outlines of a possible deal might consist of, saying that as the former attorney general, it would not be “appropriate” for him to discuss it.

  Yahoo News
I'm pretty sure Holder's “everybody” doesn't include me, and do I need to remind ANYone that the US government's law enforcement agencies cannot be trusted?

Not to mention, Holder has gone through the revolving door back into megabucks bankster lobby lawyering and no longer has any say whatsoever in the decisions of the DOJ. “Not appropriate” for him to discuss it, indeed.

Why did Yahoo not pose this question to the CURRENT Attorney General? They did? Oh, well, let's see what she had to say...
Melanie Newman, chief spokeswoman for Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Holder’s successor, immediately shot down the idea that the Justice Department was softening its stance on Snowden.

“This is an ongoing case so I am not going to get into specific details but I can say our position regarding bringing Edward Snowden back to the United States to face charges has not changed,” she said in an email.

Bernie Sanders Is Running for President

 The Nation [to Bernie Sanders]: Your campaign for the presidency has surprised people. The crowds are big; the poll numbers are stronger than the pundits predicted. You’re a student of political history. Put what’s happening now in perspective. Are we at one of those pivot points—as we saw in the 1930s—where our politics could open up and take the country in a much more progressive direction?
  
Read Sanders' response here.

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Greece Update

Scotland buckled on their turn - Greece, however, would appear to be the real heir to Scotsman William Wallace's cry of defiance.
As celebrants gathered in Athens’s central Syntagma Square, the Interior Ministry reported that with almost 90 percent of the vote tallied, 61 percent of the voters had said no to a deal that would have imposed greater austerity measures on the beleaguered country.

The no votes carried virtually every district in the country, handing a sweeping victory to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a leftist who came to power in January vowing to reject new austerity measures, which he called an injustice and economically self-defeating.

[...]

The vote took place under what some analysts called a financial carpet bombing. The European Central Bank severely limited financial assistance to Greek banks, forcing them to close a week before the referendum, making it hard for retirees to get their money and raising widespread fear here that people would lose their deposits.

The news media, dominated by Greek oligarchs, saturated the airwaves and the newspapers with stories about losing gasoline and medicines, while the plight of elderly pensioners was afforded far more attention than in the past, media experts said.

Nonetheless, many voters, tired of more than five years of soaring unemployment and a collapsing economy, said they could not accept the terms of the European offer, which imposed yet more pension cuts and tax increases, without any hint of debt relief.

[...]

After five years in which unemployment soared beyond 20 percent and the country’s economy contracted by 25 percent, many said that a no vote was at least a vote for hope, the possibility of a new deal, rather than following the mandates of creditors who had failed to set Greece on a course to recovery.

  NYT
[W]e have just witnessed Greece stand up to a truly vile campaign of bullying and intimidation, an attempt to scare the Greek public, not just into accepting creditor demands, but into getting rid of their government. It was a shameful moment in modern European history, and would have set a truly ugly precedent if it had succeeded.

But it didn’t. You don’t have to love Syriza, or believe that they know what they’re doing — it’s not clear that they do, although the troika has been even worse — to believe that European institutions have just been saved from their own worst instincts.

[...]

And if Greece ends up exiting the euro? There’s actually a pretty good case for Grexit now — and in any case, democracy matters more than any currency arrangement.

  Paul Krugman

Saturday, July 4, 2015

UN Report on Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza

On the whole, the report is an archive of the incredible brutality of the Israel state. Consider the following cases examined therein:  the seven children, including one baby, killed at the al-Sayam family home; the five children under 12 killed at the home of the al-Farra family; the three children under 12 in the Shuheibar family who were killed.

The UNHRC notes that all of these children were outside and thus visible to the technologically sophisticated Israeli military and that “precision weapons appear to have been used, which indicates that specific objectives were targeted”. In short, the report shows that the Israeli military killed children on purpose.

In the Shujaya neighbourhood, Israel’s army killed 55 civilians in a two-day period and razed the area. The report finds that “the length of the intensive shelling (more than six hours), together with the observation and intelligence means that the [Israeli military] had at its disposal in Gaza, would have allowed those responsible for the attack to receive opportune information as to the dire impact of the shelling on civilians and civilian objects”. In other words, the Israeli army knew how much harm it was inflicting on civilians in Shujaya and did not stop.

Similarly, the Israeli military attacked the roads into and out of Khuzaa and “nobody was allowed to move in or out of the village. It became a zone of active fighting, everything in it was turned into a target”. Furthermore, “the electricity was cut and reports indicate that many water tanks on the rooftops of homes were attacked and destroyed by the [Israeli army].”

[...]

Key talking points employed by pro-Israel propagandists during the war are also debunked in the report. When Israel sent ground troops into Gaza, it claimed it was necessary to do so to protect Israeli civilians from attacks carried out through tunnels from Gaza.

The commission that authored the report, however, “observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at [Israeli military] positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets”. Whereas apologists for Israel boast that the country’s military notifies civilians of impending attacks, the UNHRC describes many cases in which no such warnings were provided and many Palestinian civilians were killed.

In these senses, the UNHRC’s report is a testament to the Israeli state’s appalling treatment of Palestinians. While aspects of the document are presented in ways that obscure who is to blame for the war and that occlude the enormous disparity in the scale of the pain inflicted, this framing is undercut by the report’s own findings. Fair-minded readers will have no difficulty identifying the oppressor and the oppressed.

  Middle East Eye
Fair-minded readers never have.

But Isn't That the General Purpose of the IMF?


Greek governments — not the current, much maligned Syriza, but decades of its predecessors — treated the state like a teat from which clients and friends of electoral victors might suck. The Greek state has been a shady, opportunistic borrower, no doubt, the kind of character no one would lend money to with any great expectation of seeing it back.

And yet, that’s precisely what bankers in the relatively not-fucked-up Eurozone countries did! These people were not naïfs. They knew the Greek state was sketchy. But precisely because it was sketchy, prior to the financial crisis its debt paid slightly higher interest rates than that of safer Eurozone sovereigns.

  Interfluidity
Chris Hayes has compared the situation to that of the mortgage lenders in the US.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Technological Problem

Yesterday and today, my "smart" phone thinks my location is Shiraz, Iran.  Hope that doesn't set me up for a signature drone strike.

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

Altering History

Sometimes they get away with it...in these photos, they didn't. (Click to look at the exhibit.)

 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Get Scared & Stay Scared

A casual search reveals the FBI and DHS are a pitiful 0 for 40 warning of terror attacks—some of which were specifically about 4th of July threats, none of which materialized in any way.

[...]

The actual terror attacks carried out on US soil—the Times Square bomber, “Underwear bomber,” Boston bombing and Garland attacks—were accompanied by no such warnings. (Nor were the often deadlier terrorist attacks by right-wing white terrorists–but terrorism in this category is rarely if ever the subject of FBI warnings.)

[...]

The problem is three fold:

  1. The FBI has all the incentive in the world to issue warnings and no incentive whatsoever to not issue warnings. Issuing warnings has no downside, while not doing so is all downside.
  2. The FBI, like all agencies of the government, does not operate in a political vacuum. Emphasizing the “ISIS threat” at home necessarily helps prop up the broader war effort the FBI’s boss, the president of the United States, must sell to a war-weary public. The incentive is to therefore highlight the smallest threats. This was a feature that did not go unnoticed during the Bush years, but has since fallen out of fashion.
  3. It has no actual utility. What does it mean to be “more vigilant”? It’s a vague call to alertness that officials, aside from “beefing up security” by local police, never quite explain what it means. If the FBI wanted to tell local police departments to up their security of the 4th of July weekend, surely they could do so quietly, without the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security having to go on all major networks talking over b-roll of ISIS in apocalyptic terms.


  Adam Johnson at FAIR
One might think so. Apparently, however, we need to be reminded periodically that our government needs those extra powers of domestic surveillance in order to keep us “safe”

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

Big Pharma Rules!

No, really.



Not Coming Up with Anything Either





Remember....



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

seen at Glenn Greenwald

UPDATE:


:-D  :-D


The South Gets a Flag

History of the Confederate flag via Tom the Dancing Bug. (click the graphic below)




Church Burnings

Perhaps you've heard of the six black church burnings recently in the South.  Or perhaps not.  But imagine if ISIS - or any Muslim - had burned one instead of the KKK.

On Tuesday, another one burned.

An African-American church in South Carolina that was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan 20 years ago was the scene of another blaze on Tuesday, officials and a newspaper said, though the cause was not immediately clear.

The fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city of Greeleyville comes amid a rash of fires that have erupted at black churches across the U.S. south, at least two of which have already been declared as deliberate.

[...]

Federal investigators have said they have so far found no link between the fires at predominantly black churches across the southern United States since the shooting, and none have been labeled hate crimes.

Tuesday's fire would be at least the seventh blaze since the shooting [of nine blacks in a Charleston, South Carolina , church on June 17.]

  Reuters
"No link."

Historically black churches in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia have been damaged or destroyed in fires that began last Monday. In two cases, the fires may have resulted from natural causes, while three were determined to be arson, and one is still being investigated.

  RT


Well, we know it's NOT terrorism.  How could it be?  No Muslims were involved.