Saturday, April 30, 2016

Meanwhile, in Baghdad

Security forces declared a state of emergency in the Iraqi capital [Saturday] after demonstrators climbed over blast walls and broke through security cordons to enter Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, also home to ministries and the U.S. embassy.


At issue now is the quota system introduced when the U.S.-led coalition put together Iraq’s first post-invasion government, which divides Iraq’s political positions according to sect and ethnicity.


U.S. officials have expressed concern that the unrest could impact the battlefield as Iraq also struggles with an extreme budget crisis caused by a plunge in oil prices.


Lawmakers fled the building in panic, with some berated and hit as they left. Others were trapped in the basement for hours, too afraid to face the crowds who complain that the country’s political class is racked by corruption.

American style.

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


(The uncropped picture shows Dan is in handcuffs.)

Our Wealth Distribution Is Not Sustainable

[T]oo much inequality is more than a moral problem. In fact, it drives economic systems towards collapse by sucking the life-blood out of real economies worldwide.

According to a recent study by Oxfam International, in 2010 the top 388 richest people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population– a whopping 3.6 billion people. By 2014, this number was down to 85 people. Oxfam claims that, if this trend continues, by the end of 2016 the top 1% will own more wealth than everyone else in the world combined.

  Capital Institute
Those are some pretty startling numbers.
At the same time, according to Oxfam, the extremely wealthy are also extremely efficient in dodging taxes, now hiding an estimated $7.6 trillion in offshore tax-havens.


In flow systems, balance is not simply a nice way to be, but a set of complementary factors – such as big and little; efficiency and resilience; flexibility and constraint – whose optimal balance is critical to maintaining circulation across scales. [...] This arrangement, which mathematicians call a fractal, is extremely common because it’s particular balance of small, medium, and large helps optimize circulation across different levels of the whole.


Of course, economies also sometimes exhibit vicious cycles, in which weaker circulation makes everything go downhill – i.e., falling wages, consumption, demand, hiring, tax revenues, government spending, etc. These are destructive flows, ones that erode system health.


[G]ross inequality indicates a system that has: 1) too much concentration and too little circulation; and 2) an imbalance of wealth and power that is likely to create ever more extraction, concentration, unaccountability, and abuse. This process accelerates until the underlying human network becomes exhausted and/or the ongoing necrosis reaches a point of collapse. When this point is reached, the society will have three choices: learn, regress, or collapse.
And we have proven ourselves to be slow learners.

I'm guessing the 1% already have multiple homes in other countries.

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

American Values

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

America in a Nutshell

A President Hillary Clinton will facilitate.

The media has made a cottage industry out of analyzing the relationship between America’s crumbling infrastructure, outsourced jobs, stagnant wages, and evaporating middle class and the rise of anti-establishment presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. [...] But the pundits are all missing the point: the Trump-Sanders phenomenon signals an American oligarchy on the brink of a civilization-threatening collapse.


Developed by British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew in 1979[2], the following “Signs of Failing Times” have played out across time in 26 distinct societies ranging from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the collapse of the Soviet Union:
Over time, human beings construct their everyday systems and practices around a set of widely held beliefs. They do this by creating a matrix of rewards and punishments that keeps everyone in line with the society’s dominant beliefs, for example, incentives to compete, and rewards for maximizing profit. Unfortunately, this matrix holds even as people begin to realize that the system is not working. What we’re now facing is a combination of: 1) people who still believe; and 2) people who doubt, but: a) would have to sacrifice their livelihood to act on it; or, b) are willing to leave the system but don’t necessarily know what comes next.


Though it may take some time, extraction eventually eviscerates the productive levels of society, and the system becomes increasingly brittle. Internal pressures and the sense of betrayal grow as desperation and despair multiply everywhere except at the top, but effective reform seems impossible because the system seems thoroughly rigged. In the final stages, a raft of upstart leaders emerge, some honest and some fascistic, all seeking to channel pent-up frustration towards their chosen ends. If we are lucky, the public will mobilize behind honest leaders and effective reforms. If we are unlucky, either the establishment will continue to “respond ineffectively” until our economy collapses, or a fascist will take over and create conditions too horrific to contemplate.

  Capital Institute

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

Honesty Should Count for Something

I was recently granted a rare glimpse behind the official façade of the EU when I met with its Trade Commissioner in her Brussels office. I was there to discuss the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the controversial treaty currently under negotiation between the EU and the USA.

You know, the one that Obama wants the election season to pass so he can get it done quietly.
[T]he European Commission is carrying on the TTIP negotiations behind closed doors without the proper involvement European governments, let alone MPs or members of the public. British civil servants have admitted to us that they have been kept in the dark throughout the TTIP talks, and that this makes their job impossible.


As Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström occupies a powerful position in the apparatus of the EU. She heads up the trade directorate of the European Commission.


In our meeting, I challenged Malmström over the huge opposition to TTIP across Europe. In the last year, a record three and a quarter million European citizens have signed the petition against it.


Malmström acknowledged that a trade deal has never inspired such passionate and widespread opposition. Yet when I asked the trade commissioner how she could continue her persistent promotion of the deal in the face of such massive public opposition, her response came back icy cold: “I do not take my mandate from the European people.


TTIP offers a glimpse of the nightmare that the European Commission has in store for each one of us. Cecilia Malmström has shown the contempt with which she and her fellow commissioners view the European people. We have been warned.
Hey, welcome to the 21st century. There are overlords, and there are peons. Guess which one you are.

You Dare Not Ridicule the Prophet Mohammed!

Or the Ronald.
News that Will Ferrell optioned Reagan as a starring vehicle — it's a spec comedy script in which a dementia-addled Ronald Reagan is led to believe he's an actor playing the president — has set off a firestorm of controversy.

The project has drawn condemnation from Reagan's children Patti Davis and Michael Reagan, who called the movie "cruel" and cautioned that "Alzheimer's isn't a joke," as well as the Alzheimer's Association, who are "appalled" at the comedy's premise.

On Friday, not 24 hours after the story broke, Ferrell announced that he had scuttled the project, with a rep saying, "While it is by no means an 'Alzheimer's comedy' as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing the project.'"

  Hollywood Reporter
OK, I'll buy that Alzheimer's is not a laughing matter. It's a debilitating and destructive disease.

So why in the world was it okay to have as president of what is touted as the most powerful nation on earth a man who is afflicted with it?

Then, again, how much difference was there between an Alzheimer's addled president with scheming handlers in charge and George W. Bush?

The one thing that makes Hillary Clinton seem like a decent choice is that SHE won't need a Dick Cheney.

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

Problem? What Problem?

John Edwards was a Democrat.  That kind of thing doesn't sit well with the Democrats (at least publicly).  Paul Ryan is a Republican.  The only thing this will do is spike the sales of Echezeaux Grand Cru.

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Just Deny It

Deny.  So what if people know better?  Why not?  It's always been my mother's approach.  She's 84 and showing no signs of changing.
The problem for Kirby was that Obama has repeated the promise [of no boots on the ground in Syria] at least 16 times since 2013.


After reporters pointed out the mistake, Kirby tried to walk back his claim by defining the phrase “boots on the ground” to exclude special forces.

“When we talk about boots on the ground, in the context that you have heard people in the administration speak to, we are talking about conventional, large-scale ground troops,” said Kirby. “I’m not disputing the fact that we have troops on the ground, and they’re wearing boots.”

  The Intercept
You just have to redefine the terms. Well, not if you're my mother, but if you're the White House spokesman, at least to date, you do.
In Iraq, when a U.S. special forces soldier was killed during a raid on an ISIS-held prison, the White House insisted that U.S. forces were only flying helicopters carrying Kurdish commandos, and that it was a “unique circumstance.” They refused to call the exchange “combat,” prompting outrage from veterans groups.

A second American soldier was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq last month, while guarding a U.S. base near Mosul. The White House called it “an enemy action,” not “combat.”


The Obama administration has company in Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. During a Democratic debate in February, Clinton said “we will not send American combat troops back to Syria or Iraq. That is off the table. But we do have special forces.”
I wonder if the special forces themselves feel like combat troops when they're being shot at. I bet they're carrying guns to shoot back.

Let me fix this reporting problem for the administration (and Hillary): relabel whole brigades "special forces".

Ann's View

The 28 Pages

Former senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the joint congressional inquiry into 9/11 supports releasing the 28 pages of their report currently being withheld by the Obama administration, and says the 9/11 invstigation needs to be re-opened.
The reason why the 28 pages are so important is that they were the conclusion of the congressional inquiry into 9/11 as to how was that plot financed. [...] And while I can't discuss the details of that chapter, they point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia.


What we do know publicly was that there were agents of the Saudi government which assisted at least two of the hijackers who ended up living in San Diego - provided them with financial support, with anonymity, with a place to live and with flight lessons, and protected them for, in one case, over a year.


[And we know] a prominent Saudi family, which had lived in Sarasota for six years - two weeks before 9/11 left under what were described as urgent conditions to return to Saudi Arabia, creating the inference that they were tipped off and decided that they would be better off someplace than in Sarasota when 9/11 occurred.


[The 9/11 Commission report] said something to the effect that there was no evidence that the senior leadership of Saudi Arabia was involved. [...] That leaves a lot of range for other representatives of the Saudi government to have played a role.


I think it's been more than a cover up. I think it's been what I call aggressive deception. There are instances in which the FBI has publicly released statements which I know from personal experience were untrue. They stated that in this Sarasota situation - that they had completed the investigation, that the investigation determined that there were no connections between the hijackers and the prominent Saudi family, and that they had turned over all of this information to both the congressional inquiry and the 9/11 Citizens Commission. I know for a fact that none of those three statements are true.


I think we need to have a general re-opening of the investigation into 9/11.

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

American "Justice"

War crime? No problem. You're an American.

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

Dear (Old) Carl

Carl Bernstein said the whistleblowing organisation [Wikileaks], which has released millions of confidential documents including military operation records, had “done some very useful things” but also acted in a “careless” way.

The former Washington Post reporter, who helped expose the political scandal that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon as US president, also insisted that the best journalism was achieved by talking to people, and not through social media.

He said: “I think that today, too many people are not interested in the best attainable version of the truth. They’re really interested in information that will buttress what they already believe. Ammunition for their political beliefs that they already hold.

I, myself, am old. But I recognize that people have always been interested in information that will buttress what they already believe. This is not a modern development.
“I think WikiLeaks has done some very useful things. I also think they’ve been reckless at times by putting information out without trying to protect individuals who work in intelligence.

“By and large I think the more information that gets out there, the better. But I do think WikiLeaks has, at times, been careless.”


“Real reporting is not easy. Real reporting, which is about the best attainable version of the truth, [is] what you see in Spotlight. It’s about knocking on doors. It’s about what you see the Guardian did in covering Murdoch in terms of hacking."

"[G]great reporting is being done is by using the old techniques of talking to people."


“You can go online and you can use Google to get some information that you once got at the public library, but you’re not going to get the story on Google, you’re not going to get it on Twitter. We did it by talking people.”
Well, Carl, "great reporting" is not the purpose of Wikileaks. "The story" isn't their aim. Their aim is to put it ALL out there. There is a faction - perhaps a very large one - that believes nothing should be secret. Reckless maybe, but that's who Wikileaks is. That's what they do. It's not "reporting" they're after. If you want to take on the lack of great reporting, take on the journalists. Wikileaks is not a journalistic endeavor.

And, why can't you get the story on Google?  I can.  I can get every publication imaginable on Google.  As long as there's net neutrality.  Come on, Carl.  You did a good thing when you were a reporter.  No one can take that away from you.  But that was then.  This is now.  The government has so many more secrets and so many more devious ways to keep them.  You and I are old, but we can keep up as best we can.  Try to keep an open mind.

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Eric Holder's Best Tricks

Eric Holder has gone back to work for his old firm, the white-collar defense heavyweight Covington & Burling.


Holder will reassume his lucrative partnership (he made $2.5 million the last year he worked there) and take his seat in an office that reportedly – this is no joke – was kept empty for him in his absence.


Holder denied there was anything weird about returning to one of Wall Street's favorite defense firms after six years of letting one banker after another skate on monstrous cases of fraud, tax evasion, market manipulation, money laundering, bribery and other offenses.


Here's a man who just spent six years handing out soft-touch settlements to practically every Too Big to Fail bank in the world. Now he returns to a firm that represents many of those same companies: Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, to name a few.

Collectively, the decisions he made while in office saved those firms a sum that is impossible to calculate with exactitude. But even going by the massive rises in share price observed after he handed out these deals, his service was certainly worth many billions of dollars to Wall Street.


Britain's HSBC bank, which admitted to massive money laundering violations, and the Swiss bank UBS, which was caught manipulating the Libor interest rate benchmark, were examples of firms that escaped vigorous prosecution because Holder and his lackeys were, ostensibly anyway, concerned about market-altering consequences.

Significantly, both banks were later caught up in even more serious scandals, leading to criticism that stiffer punishments the first time around might have prevented future damage. Holder's successor Loretta Lynch was even forced to rip up Holder's UBS deal for being insufficiently punitive. It's worth noting that Holder, before he became attorney general, represented UBS at Covington & Burling.


Britain's HSBC bank, which admitted to massive money laundering violations, and the Swiss bank UBS, which was caught manipulating the Libor interest rate benchmark, were examples of firms that escaped vigorous prosecution because Holder and his lackeys were, ostensibly anyway, concerned about market-altering consequences. Significantly, both banks were later caught up in even more serious scandals, leading to criticism that stiffer punishments the first time around might have prevented future damage. Holder's successor Loretta Lynch was even forced to rip up Holder's UBS deal for being insufficiently punitive. It's worth noting that Holder, before he became attorney general, represented UBS at Covington & Burling.


Holder also pioneered the extrajudicial settlement, striking huge deals with companies in which judges did not sign off on the agreements. [...] This essentially institutionalized the backroom deal. Everything was done in secret, and there was no longer any opportunity for judges or anyone else to check the power of the executive branch to hand out financial indulgences.


You might remember the Sinaloa cartel for their ISIS-style, unforgettably upsetting torture videos. HSBC washed their cash. They even created special teller windows to make their deposits easier. This is admitted, not alleged.

But Holder went out of his way to let them keep their U.S. charter. He gave their executives a grand total of zero days in jail, zero dollars in individual fines.


To reiterate: HSBC laundered money for guys who chop peoples' heads off with chainsaws.


When asked about this in testimony before the Senate, Holder told elected officials he was concerned harsher penalties against firms like HSBC would "have a negative impact on the national economy."

   Matt Taibbi @ Rolling Stone
Especially the CIA black ops part of it.
The most revolting [Holder invention] in my view was allowing banks like Chase the courtesy of calling their settlements "remedial payments" instead of fines for wrongdoing.

This seemingly insignificant semantic tweak allowed the bank to call $7 billion of their settlement a business expense, which meant they could claim it as a tax deduction, which in turn meant that taxpayers like you and me paid a whopping $2.45 billion of Chase's penalty.


Holder is a cynic of a type that's increasingly common in Washington.


In any civilized country, it'd be a scandal. In America, though, he's just another guy selling whatever he can to get by. It was just too bad that what Holder had to sell was the criminal justice system.


[Holder told] the National Law Journal that a big part of the reason he was going back to private practice was because he wanted to give back to the community.
Ha! What community? The community of banksters?  Hasn't he already given them enough?

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

Molly Ivins Died Too Soon

She would have been having the time of her life on every level of politics.
The Louisiana Senate unanimously approved a new requirement that cursive writing be taught in all public schools.

Senate Bill 275 mandates that cursive writing be introduced in third grade and incorporated into the school curricula through the end of high school. The Louisiana House of Representatives will now consider the proposed mandate.


It's not clear how many school districts in the state aren't teaching cursive, though several senators said they had been told it wasn't being taught in their home districts. Legislative staff also wasn't able to determine how much money -- if any -- implementing a cursive mandate might cost local school boards.

Senators said they supported the new mandate, in part, because great documents such as the Magna Carta and U.S. Constitution had been written in cursive. When the Senate passed the bill, legislators yelled "America!" and "Vive la France".

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

But Tell Us How You Really Feel

Former House Speaker John Boehner is a retired politician, so he seems to have retired from being politic. He went with radical honesty at a recent event at Stanford, according to the Stanford Daily, when he was asked about his opinion of Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
"Lucifer in the flesh," the former speaker said. "I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."
Consider how strong those words are: John Boehner was in Congress for 24 years.

Wow. I'm still considering how strong those words are under ANY circumstances.
"I never worked with John Boehner. Truth is, I don't know him that well," Cruz responded on Thursday.
You mean "Lyin' Ted"?

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

It's Not New

We already have a partial wall. We already deport undocumented immigrants. We already kill the families of terrorists. Sometimes entire wedding parties, and often times people who come to the aid of people we've just hit.

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

No Doubt

May I then suggest that he's got a lot of irrational supporters who are going to be very displeased?

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

I Think That's the Whole Point

A feature, not a bug.

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

Not American-Born

Still Bombing Hospitals

And it's still a war crime. (As if war itself isn't.)
A Syrian hospital backed by Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been destroyed in an airstrike in Aleppo, killing patients and doctors including one of the last paediatricians remaining in the rebel-held part of the city.


MSF condemned the attack in a series of tweets that said al-Quds hospital was targeted in an airstrike on Wednesday, killing 14 patients and staff members including three doctors, with the toll expected to rise.


The latest attack is part of a broader pattern of systematic targeting of hospitals by the government of Bashar al-Assad, as the humanitarian situation in the divided commercial capital of Syria grows more desperate under intense combat.

Oh, yes, because western allies never bomb hospitals.
Neither the ICRC nor MSF assigned blame for the attack, but the Syrian and Russian air forces have carried out almost all the aerial strikes on the opposition-controlled east of the city.
Oh! So we don't yet even know who did it. The blame was laid on Assad in the second paragraph of this article. Halfway through - if you've read that far - we find out that's not necessarily the case. The report also claims that hospitals don't give their coordinates to Assad's forces for fear of being bombed intentionally, which could lead one to believe that, even if it was Assad's forces, it might have been accidental, unlike the one in Afghanistan.

I'm increasingly disappointed by the Guardian's reporting. Sad to say, because they were one of the last trustworthy sources.

UPDATE:  Here's your punishment for the war crime of bombing hospitals if your American.

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

Here's Your FBI

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

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.


The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of “matches” of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.

In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same.


In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder.


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


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.

Somewhat difficult for the 14.

And, by the way, there are 2,500 "targeted cases involving an FBI hair match."
Among states, only California and Texas specifically allow appeals when experts recant or scientific advances undermine forensic evidence at trial.

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

The Grandest Potemkin Village of All

In 1977, scientists sent a record into space intended to show extraterrestrials what life is like on Earth.   They sent a player and instructions, but it was a big assumption that ETs would have the necessary physical attributes (eyes, ears, hands) to get the message.   But that's not the most troubling aspect of the exercise.  

Here are some of the pictures sent.  They're all beautiful, of course. And here is the full list:

It's interesting to note that not one of the 116 photos included depicts war or anything military.  That seems to me to be an incredibly dishonest record.  Either they were in denial about human nature, or they were trying to fool extraterrestrials.

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

True, and So Weird

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Long Wait

I think Citizenfour likely to be far and away the better film in all respects, including dramatic tension, but being this is not a documentary, at least it might be entertaining.

We're hoping the film itself isn't quite as schlocky as this trailer makes it out to be.

  The Verge
That doesn't look promising.

This Is What (American) Democracy Looks Like

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

Hooray Democracy

Republican party presidential candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich have agreed to coordinate in a last-ditch effort to deny frontrunner Donald Trump the party's nomination for US president.

Cruz plans to stop campaigning for the Oregon and New Mexico primaries to help Kasich, while the latter will give Cruz a "clear path" in Indiana.

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

See How Caring We Are?

Israeli forces have widely used the so-called knock-on-the-roof operations in Gaza attacks in recent years to try to get civilians out before they are hit.

The first public revelation of the U.S. using a "knock operation" came Tuesday at a press briefing by Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the anti-ISIS Operation Inherent Resolve.

You were warned.  It's your fault if you die.
Gersten described a strike against an ISIS financial storage center on April 5 in southern Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. had been closely watching the house of an ISIS finance operative.


"We watched him come and go from his house, we watched his supplies, we watched the security that was involved in it. And we also watched occasionally a female and her children in and out of the quarters."


"We went as far as actually to put a Hellfire on top of the building and air-burst it so it wouldn't destroy the building, simply knock on the roof to ensure that she and the children were out of the building," he recounted. "And then we proceeded with our operations."


Despite the fact that "the men that were in that building -- multiple men -- literally trampled over her to get out of that building," according to Gersten, she was able to get out herself.

He continued, "We watched her and observed her leaving the building. And she cleared the building, and we began to process the strike."

But then, he said, she ran back in the building.
It was "very difficult for us to watch [...] " Gersten recalled.
You poor, innocent, suffering souls.
There is video of the entire incident but it's unlikely to be released by the Pentagon because it shows a civilian being killed, according to a defense official.
It would be too difficult to watch.

And hey, didn't Obama end the war in Iraq?

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

Genocide Never Looked More Likely

A Michigan environmental official [Adam Rosenthal] suggested a technician collecting samples for a suburban Detroit private water system “bump ... out” a test result that found very high levels of lead by testing more homes, according to a 2008 email reviewed by the Guardian. Doing so could avert a “lead public notice”, the email reasoned, which would alert residents of dangerously high levels in their water.

The Chateaux Du Lac Condominiums, a homeowners association in Fenton, Michigan, operates on a private water system. Since its inception, records show, the association has struggled with high lead levels time and again. The system has exceeded federal lead action levels, set to trigger remediation efforts such as public education campaigns or expensive corrosion control, eight times over the past 20 years.

In early September 2008, a water laboratory technician collected samples from five of the nearly 45 homes in the association, the minimally required amount. The technician submitted the samples to the Michigan department of environmental quality for review. Of the five samples, one home registered a lead level of 115 parts per billion (ppb), nearly 10 times higher than the federal action level of 15ppb – and thereby put the Chateaux’s water system out of compliance.


Chateaux still had to publish a public lead notice in 2008, and documentation shows that only five tests were performed, including the high test discussed in the email exchange.
Apparently the technician wasn't willing to have blood on his (or her) hands.

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

Tuesdays Results



Really, Pennsylvania?

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This Young Woman Gives Us Hope

Presidential Protection Racket

Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House state dining room last week, the CEOs of the most powerful financial institutions in the world offered several explanations for paying high salaries to their employees — and, by extension, to themselves.

“These are complicated companies,” one CEO said. Offered another: “We’re competing for talent on an international market.” But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

"I'm Your Lord and Savior."
There were signs from the outset that this was a business event, not a social gathering. At each place around the table sat a single glass of water. No ice. For those who finished their glass, no refills were offered. There was no group photograph taken of the CEOs with the president, which typically happens at ceremonial White House gatherings but not at serious strategy sessions.

“The only way they could have sent a more Spartan message is if they had served bread along with the water,” says a person who attended the meeting. “The signal from Obama’s body language and demeanor was, ‘I’m the president, and you’re not.’”
That'd be great if he hadn't bailed them out with taxpayer money.

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

Elections Are a Pain

I don't have a subscription to World Trade Online, where this excerpt came from (Billmon's Twitter), so I'll just have to comment on the excerpt.

I'm actually not going to comment so much as translate:

"While Bernie Sanders, who has opposed all our rotten trade deals, is talking to the public, we can't cram this latest rotten deal through on the sly.  In the unlikely event of his nomination to the presidency, we will, however, need to get moving on it, because he won't pass it."

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

Philadelphia Town Hall

I found this somewhat encouraging. Bernie does not say he'll turn his voters to Hillary if he loses. What he says is, if he loses, he can't tell people what to do - it's Hillary Clinton's job to win his supporters by taking up their concerns.  He's still vague, though, when asked directly what his role would then be.  "I'll do everything in my power to make sure no Republican gets into the White House."  And that could be interpreted as saying he'll encourage his people to back Hillary.


And This Is What Concerns Me

It's great that young people are coming around to pro-public, socialistic stance.  What is not so great is that (presumably because Brnie Sanders is running as a Democrat) they are moving into the Democratic Party.
For the first time in the past five years of Harvard’s polls, significantly more young people called themselves Democrats than said they were independent.


Forty percent were Democrats, 22 percent were Republicans and 36 percent were independent.


[T]he Harvard Institute of Politics has released a new poll of young voters that hints at the impact Sanders might be having on our politics — and could continue to have in the future.


A narrow majority of respondents in Harvard’s poll said they did not support capitalism. While just 1 in 3 said they supported socialism, the figures are still an indicator of millennials’ frustration with the U.S. economic system

One key finding in the poll, which surveyed over 3,000 people from ages 18-29, is that these young people see a robust role for government  [...].


A plurality of these young voters agree by 48-21 that “basic health insurance is a right for all people, and if someone has no means of paying for it, the government should provide it.”


A plurality of them agree by 47-20 that “basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them.”


A majority of them, 70 percent, say the federal government should play a large (35) or moderate (35) role in “providing access to higher education,” while only 27 percent say it should play little to no role.

A majority of them, 64 percent, say the federal government should play a large (30) or moderate (34) role in “reducing income inequality,” while only 32 percent of them say it should play little to no role.


A majority of them, 67 percent say the federal government should play a “large” (30) or “moderate” (37) role in the “regulation of Wall Street,” while only 28 percent say it should play little to no role.


I think it wold be safe to say the lion's share of those polled who think the government should play no role in these things (percentages in the upper 20s) is made up mostly of the 22 percent who said they are Republican.

At any rate, the danger here is that the Democratic Party will co-opt these young voters for Hillary - likely in part thanks to Bernie, assuming he loses the Dem nomination to her - and use and abuse them just like they do Blacks.  The hope, I suppose, is that they will become the Tea Part of the left instead. Because the Democratic Party isn't going where these people are going. Especially regarding Wall Street.

And, let's not forget...the Democratic Party is a loser.  Who else would back the least likely to win candidate?

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

So You Want a Third Party?

Here's how today's corporate interests are going to placate you:

Ignore Jill Stein and replace a genuine third party with a faux third party.
Establishment America deserves disruption, but not of the Sanders or Trump type. Here’s how to do it.

  Wall Street Journal

Mark Zuckerberg? Michael Bloomberg?

Why [Biden/Bloomberg/Random General] Should Run

The Reasonable Center media needs a Reasonable Center candidate to placate some vaguely dissatisfied Reasonable Center that the current candidates aren’t addressing. Somehow exceedingly centrist Hillary Clinton is too “polarizing,” while Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders (often facilely lumped together) are too nutty and extreme.

First was the non-stop “mulling” of Joe Biden, whom TV news gave more airtime to in 2015 than Sanders and Cruz combined, despite never actually running. Then it was perennial tease Michael Bloomberg (trial-ballooned by Sanders-hating Jon Chait during Clinton’s February slump) whose uncalled for campaign involved a strategy of hiring “gig economy” workers to promote his McKinsey & Company-style candidacy. Then some GOP “elites” wanted Gen. David Petraeus, which would have been rich, considering he committed a security breach far greater and far wider than what’s being alleged against Clinton, the GOP’s favorite target.

The disinterested pundit class was searching for a pro-corporate, pro-gay marriage avatar who was a bit more liked than Clinton, despite the fact that Clinton was liked well enough to garner more votes than anyone in either party’s primary.

  Adam Johnson @ FAIR
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

As in Brazil, So in Venezuela

In light of hard economic times, opposition to the leftist governments in Brazil and Venezuela is gaining strength. Apparently, bringing people up to middle class standards turns them into upper class dupes.  It seems people everywhere fall into the same trap of turning on whatever government is in power when times are bad. But no one seems to be mentioning the catalyst to the world's economic woes: the Great American Bankster Swindle of 2008. You'd think that in those Latin American countries the national memory would be longer than the few years the leftists have been in power. It's a nice lesson in social politics and the ability of the human mind to forget. Perhaps we are, after all, descended from birds.
Venezuela's supreme court has struck down an attempt by the opposition to cut short President Nicolas Maduros' term in office, ruling that a proposed constitutional amendment to that effect cannot be applied retroactively.

Venezuela's opposition won control of the legislature last year and is seeking to remove Maduro, proposing both a recall referendum and an amendment to cut his term from six to four years. Maduro is near the mid-point of his presidency.

The constitutional amendment will be submitted to a second debate in the legislature in the coming days, but even before its final approval the court has weighed in to rule that the move would be constitutional if approved by a referendum but could not be applied to Maduro's term.


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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Democratic Delegates in a Picture


And, in another picture:

You might be able to attribute the southern states votes for Hillary to the black population, but frankly, I think it may have as much to do with the idea that southerners don't trust a Yankee.  It's also interesting to note that the old white southern Democrats are historically racists, which makes them strange bedfellows with the older generation blacks.  Or does it?  How does Hillary appeal to both?  Interesting contemplation.

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

Hope for the Future

I don't have much faith, myself.  I remember the 60s version of the millennials.  What happened to them?  Other than Bernie, of course.

It could be different this time.  We can always hope.

Oh, yeah, that was 2008.  And we know what happened to that.

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

Panama Papers in Delaware

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump [...] share an affinity for the same nondescript two-storey office building in Wilmington [Delaware]. A building that has become famous for helping tens of thousands of companies avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in tax through the so-called “Delaware loophole”.


TBoth the leading candidates for president – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – have companies registered at 1209 North Orange, and have refused to explain why.


his squat, yellow brick office building just north of Wilmington’s rundown downtown is the registered address of more than 285,000 companies

It's a yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge building.
That’s more than any other known address in the world, and 15 times more than the 18,000 registered in Ugland House, a five-storey building in the Cayman Islands that Barack Obama called “either the biggest building in the world, or the biggest tax scam on record”.


There are more than 1m companies registered in the state – more than Delaware’s population of 935,000.


Being registered in Delaware lets companies take advantage of strict corporate secrecy rules, business-friendly courts and the “Delaware loophole”, which can allow companies to legally shift earnings from other states to Delaware, where they are not taxed on non-physical incomes generated outside of the state.
Talk about your tax scams.
The loophole is said to have cost other states more than $9bn in lost taxes over the past decade and led to Delaware to be described as “one of the world’s biggest havens for tax avoidance and evasion”.


Clinton, who has repeatedly promised that as president she will crack down on “outrageous tax havens and loopholes that super-rich people across the world are exploiting in Panama and elsewhere”, collected more than $16m in public speaking fees and book royalties in 2014 through the doors of 1209, according to the Clintons’ tax return.

Just eight days after stepping down as secretary of state in February 2013, Clinton registered ZFS Holdings LLC at CTC’s offices. Bill Clinton set up WJC LLC, a vehicle to collect his consultation fees, at the same address in 2008.


Of the 515 companies on Trump’s official Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing, 378 are registered in Delaware.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Andrew Jackson - Indian Protector

Jim Webb was the Virginia Democratic U.S. senator from 2007 to 2013. Here's what he thinks of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
One would think we could celebrate the recognition that Harriet Tubman will be given on future $20 bills without demeaning former president Andrew Jackson as a “monster,” as a recent Huffington Post headline did.

  Jim Webb @ WaPo
I'll take his word for that, but I'm no finding it.
And summarizing his legendary tenure as being “known primarily for a brutal genocidal campaign against native Americans,” as reported in The Post, offers an indication of how far political correctness has invaded our educational system and skewed our national consciousness.
Well, that's an interesting take, How does Jim get there?
Any white person whose ancestral relations trace to the American South now risks being characterized as having roots based on bigotry and undeserved privilege.


Far too many of our most important discussions are being debated emotionally, without full regard for historical facts. The myth of universal white privilege and universal disadvantage among racial minorities has become a mantra.
So white privilege is a myth, is it? That will be news to every dark-skinned person on the planet.
Not unlike the recently lionized Alexander Hamilton, Jackson was himself a “brilliant orphan.” A product of the Scots-Irish migration from war-torn Ulster into the Appalachian Mountains, his father died before he was born. His mother and both brothers died in the Revolutionary War, where he himself became a wounded combat veteran by age 13. Self-made and aggressive, he found wealth in the wilds of Tennessee and, like other plantation owners such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, owned slaves.
Well, Webb hasn't refuted white privilege yet. Any person of color with that background wouldn't have found wealth in anything in the U.S. in Jackson's day.
As president, Jackson ordered the removal of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi to lands west of the river. This approach, supported by a string of presidents, including Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, was a disaster, resulting in the Trail of Tears where thousands died. But was its motivation genocidal? Robert Remini, Jackson’s most prominent biographer, wrote that his intent was to end the increasingly bloody Indian Wars and to protect the Indians from certain annihilation at the hands of an ever-expanding frontier population.
He had to kill them to protect them.
Indeed, it would be difficult to call someone genocidal when years before, after one bloody fight, he brought an orphaned Native American baby from the battlefield to his home in Tennessee and raised him as his son.
As opposed to raising him as an American Indian or placing him with a native family.

And, by the way, who orphaned the child in that "bloody fight"? Was the infant's mother a warrior?

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

After Clinton "Wins" the Nomination

What should Bernie do?  He says he'll support Hillary.  And what about all of his supporters who don't want to support her?  Are they just pawns?

That's precisely what Bernie should do.  A Stein/Sanders ticket would surely bring in enough votes to give the Green Party the chance of a serious move to chisel away at the two-party fixed political system we have now.  A notice to the duopoly that democracy might actually take hold in this country.

He won't.  But he should.  Perhaps Stein wouldn't even want him as a running mate.  But she should.

If he would run as an independent, he should tag Elizabeth Warren for his VP.  

Two possible paths to changing the sytem for the better.  
The post-campaign fate of Sanders’ list — his 2016 crown jewel, and the backbone of the Vermont senator's online fundraising juggernaut — is the topic of frequent conversation among operatives working with the Democratic Party committees, down-ballot candidates and a variety of liberal interest groups. Some have already begun strategizing about how to access the list through informal conversations with people close to the Sanders campaign.


Sanders’ recent move to share some of the love by sending three fundraising emails for House candidates in early April sparked a new rush of interest in the data.


“There’s this view among the Washington consultant class that these members are an ATM and you throw some words at them and they’ll give you money no matter what,” said Neil Sroka, a former Obama 2008 campaign aide now working as communications director of Democracy For America, which has endorsed Sanders. “Everyone in the Democratic Party is going to want Bernie Sanders’ seal of approval and a chance to share their message with the people on his email list."

What will Bernie do?

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Very Interesting - Torture Lawsuit to Go Forward

A CIVIL SUIT against the architects of the CIA’s torture program, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, will be allowed to proceed, a federal judge in Spokane, Washington, decided on Friday.


What’s so unprecedented is that this is the first time opponents of the program will have the chance to seek discovery evidence in the case unimpeded by the government.

  The Intercept
I'll believe it when I see it.
The three plaintiffs are Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman, who died at a CIA black site known as the “Salt Pit.” Each was kidnapped and subjected to extreme physical and psychological torture and experimentation, though none was ever charged with a crime.


Mitchell and Jessen’s proposed framework for “enhanced interrogation” involved trying to drive detainees to a state of “learned helplessness” through unbearable suffering, to the point they would be willing to totally comply. The theories behind the tactics were drawn from the psychologists’ experiments on dogs decades prior.
Sick bastards.

The only thing that concerns me is the name of the Judge: Justin Quackenbush.  I'll get over it.


The Democrat said restoring the rights of felons to vote and run for office will help undo the state's long history of trying to prevent African-Americans from fully participating in our democracy.

"This is the essence of our democracy and any effort to dilute that fundamental principle diminishes it, folks, for all of us," McAuliffe said on the steps of Virginia's Capitol, before a crowd of more than 100 people that included many felons. Left-leaning advocacy groups were there as well, handing out voter registration forms.


Constitutional scholar A.E. Dick Howard, who presided over the most recent rewrite of the Virginia Constitution 45 years ago, said McAuliffe has broad discretion in restoring civil rights, and has now ended one of the last remaining legacies of an earlier constitutional convention that was "committed to white supremacy."

"The last ghost of the 1902 convention was buried today," Howard said.


"Terry McAuliffe wants to ensure that convicted pedophiles, rapists, and domestic abusers can vote for Hillary Clinton," said Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan T. McDougle.

  Big Story AP
Those sound like Trump fans to me.

This is shaping up to be the most exciting November of our lives.

That, Or a Secret Government Experiment

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

Do You Trust Anyone?

The Norwegian chapter of writers’ rights organization PEN International is suing its own government in an attempt to make it safe for Edward Snowden to accept in person the prestigious Ossietzky Prize — without fear of extradition to the United States.

  Tech Crunch
I'd get on that plane only if it were a private charter from PEN. And even then...I don't know.
“A prosecution against Snowden under the US Espionage Act constitutes a political offense within the meaning of Norwegian and international law. Accordingly, the lawsuit asserts that extradition of Edward Snowden would be contrary to law, and that the court should so declare,” reads the press release.


He was also the winner of the Bjørnson prize in 2015, and despite a petition asking the Prime Minister to guarantee Snowden free passage, he ended up accepting the award via trademark Snowden video chat.
Probably gonna have to go that route again.
The Carl von Ossietzky Prize has been awarded yearly by Norsk PEN since 1994 for exceptional work promoting freedom of speech. It’s named after a famous German pacifist who exposed the country’s illegal rearmament and faced charges of high treason — so he and Snowden would have had a lot to talk about.
It probably won't be done, but just in case, Ed must know it's a risky business. I suggest he get a plane-load of well-known public figures to travel with him.  And maybe some Blackwater mercenaries.

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

Open Season on Civilians

Since last fall, the Pentagon has delegated more authority to the commander of the war, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, to approve targets when there is the risk that civilians could be killed. Previously, authority for missions with the potential to kill innocents had been made by the higher headquarters of U.S. Central Command. Seeking approval from above takes time, and targets of fleeting opportunity can be missed.

Six Defense Department officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe how Islamic State targets are selected and attacked, described a sliding scale of probable civilian casualties based on the value of the target and the location. For example, a strike with the potential to wound or kill several civilians would be permitted if it prevented ISIL fighters from causing greater harm.

Before the change, there were some limited cases in which civilian casualties were allowed, the officials said. Now, however, there are several targeting areas in which the probability of 10 civilian casualties are permitted. Those areas shift depending on the time, location of the targets and the value of destroying them, the officials said.

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

Only Three? We're Good

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is investigating what went wrong during an airborne drop that resulted in three Humvees free-falling to their destruction, as depicted in a widely-shared online video.


About 150 supply bundles, vehicles, communications equipment and indirect weapons systems were dropped, according to Army spokesman Maj. Juan Martinez. But three Humvees slipped from their rigging as their parachutes deployed. plummeting hundreds of feet to the earth. Martinez said no one was hurt.

"The specific malfunctions that occurred on this day are under investigation," Martinez said in an email to Army Times. "There were multiple rehearsals and inspections of the equipment prior to mission execution. We cannot speculate on what went wrong until the investigation is complete."

Martinez also hinted at the severity of the issue, writing in a subsequent email that "this investigation will receive the highest priority."

Video here - shows them dropping and exploding. The videographers are audible and having a great time. I'd say if anybody is going to be in trouble, it's them.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Couldn't Get a Better Deal?

The FBI paid about $1.3m for software to hack into the iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook, director James Comey told a London audience on Thursday.

Holy shit. But, let's not fool ourselves. The FBI didn't pay that much. We did. Taxpayers.
When asked Thursday how much the FBI paid for the exploit, Comey replied: “A lot.”

What’s a lot? “More than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months,” Comey said.

The FBI director makes $180,000 a year. That means the FBI paid at least $1.26m, not counting the four months.
Oh! Okay, not "about" $1.3m, but somewhere OVER that amount.
“It was, in my view, worth it,” [Comey] said.
Really?!? Then you need glasses, asshat,because word has it, you got nothing from it.
April 13: A law enforcement source tells CBS News that so far nothing of real significance has been found on the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone, which was unlocked by the FBI last month without the help of Apple.

It was stressed that the FBI continues to analyze the information on the cellphone seized in the investigation, senior investigative producer Pat Milton reports.


FBI Director James Comey said last week that the bureau has not decided whether to share details with Apple about how it hacked into Farook's iPhone 5c. "If we tell Apple, they're going to fix it and we're back where we started," Comey said. "As silly as it may sound, we may end up there. We just haven't decided yet."

  CBS News
I'll tell you what sounds silly - that you think it was worth $1.3 million.

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


This Is What Happens When You Invite Corporations to Design Public Policy

UnitedHealth Group, the largest U.S. health insurer, announced Tuesday that as of 2017 it would minimize its active participation in Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges to just a "handful" of the 34 states where it currently offers individual plans. The company warned in November that this may happen as the market ended up being smaller and financially riskier than anticipated.

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

The New 60s

[New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams] gave a great opening speech for Bernie [...] After quoting a Daily News editorial that accused Bernie of being at “war with reality,” Williams responded, “You’re goddam right!…Maybe if you’re not at war with reality, you’re not focused enough.” [...] And then Williams added, “So all we’re asking is: The people who say that it cannot be done, please move out of the way of the people who are doing it.”

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

And So It Goes

The Rhode Island Board of Elections has announced that it will open only 144 of Rhode Island’s available 419 polling locations for the upcoming April 26 presidential primary. Officials are reducing the number of sites by two-thirds in an effort to cut costs, according to WPRI.


The executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island John Marion had an alarmingly nervous way of expressing his support for this move, saying he was “cautiously optimistic” that the primaries would go smoothly.

Marion said he was mostly concerned that many voters don’t even know these cuts are happening. “I don’t think enough has been done to make sure voters know that they likely won’t be casting their ballot at the same location as they did in November of 2014,” he said.

Many are especially concerned with Cumberland, RI, which normally has thirteen polling locations in a general election. Next week it will only have three.

  US Uncut
[T]he number of voters purged equals about half of the number who got to vote. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller will now audit the Elections Board--now that the election is over.


But whether party hacks shoplifted New York or not, that’s small potatoes. Scrubbing voter rolls is not a “New York value.” It’s a nationwide epidemic, a disease eating away at the heart of our democracy.

Voting officials learned a lesson from Katherine Harris the Florida Secretary of State who purged Black voters in 2000. They learned how to repeat the purge, expand it and carefully hide it.

I’ve been traveling the nation, from Ohio to Georgia to Arizona and back—and finding the voter-roll purging machinery running at full speed.


US Civil Rights Commission statistics tell the story. The chance of a ballot “spoiled” – not counted for one reason or another – is 900% higher if you’re Black than if you’re White.


OK, we didn’t know about the New York purge beforehand. But I’m telling you this now: My team is uncovering an unjustified ethnic cleansing of voter rolls from Ohio to Florida to Texas.


As I look upon the wreckage that was the New York primary, I see the prelude, the test run, for the catastrophic failure, the well-planned failure, of the voting system in November.

  Greg Palast - author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" - to be made into a film
Why do you need to vote anyway?