"What Trump Said: He explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance, the Times reported.
What Elites Think: What a disaster! Does Trump not know that 20th-century alliances have prevented a third World War? Russia would take advantage of a weakened NATO to expand its control. President Trump would make the nation weaker, less relevant, and more exposed to threats abroad.
What Populists Think: If these countries want our help, they’ve got to pay their bills. We’re not asking for the world—only what they promised to pay under a treaty that obliges the United States to defend them. Fair is fair. What makes us weak is defending and extending one-way alliances. As for the post-World War II order that Trump threatens to upend, this is now a post-9/11 world; it can’t hurt to pressure-test the old institutions." Fournier in The Atlantic
Trump thinks all deals are subject to re-negotiation. Treaties are deals. These deals are ratified by the US Senate. In Trumps mind we have the US Senate as the equivalent of a stockholder's meeting. Therefore, he thinks, treaty deals are subject to re-negotiation. This is a typical entrepreneurial business attitude.
Is there some reason why we should think that treaties are not re-negotiable? In fact the French withdrew their forces from the control of Allied Command Europe (ACE) while not leaving the alliance. Was this not a de facto re-negotiation of the treaty?
Borgists like Ron Fournier automatically shrink from Trump's desire to return America to an attitude regarding "foreign entanglements" that prevailed before WW2. This was an attitude that strictly put narrowly defined US interests first and regarded all else as "to be determined." Trump does not accept the internationalist view that the world is one and that the US should be its guardian. This spirit of guardianship seem to me to originate in the notion that the rest of the world is a very imperfect place that the God of the New England Puritans gave unto the protection and regulation of the "city on the hill." This is amusing since so many of the Borgians are now godless heathen.
I watched again the recent re-make of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." This is the version in which the splendid actor Gary Oldman plays George Smiley. In the film, the Circus holds a Christmas party sometime at the height of the Cold War. In the midst of the sad revelry, Father Christmas enters stage right with his bag of goodies and wearing a Joe Stalin mask. the crowd stands and he leads the British spooks in a spirited rendition of the Soviet national anthem. I saw much the same thing happen after the fall of the USSR when American military spooks specialized in the USSR sang "I'm dreaming of a red Christmas, just like the ones I used to know." They knew their rice bowl was broken and they would all be fired or repurposed soon. The same was true of Iran specialists at the State Department after the Shah was gone.
Pitt the Younger said that the map of Europe should be rolled up for twenty years when Bonaparte's power was at its zenith. For the Borg (foreign policy establishment) world-wide, Trump World would be the end of them as a cadre. Cui bono? pl
Corte Madera, CA – A major lawsuit is on the precipice of being filed by the Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity, the implications of which could dramatically alter the landscape of the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
The group claims that in about eleven states, there has been noted a significant difference between the exit polls and the electronic vote totals presented on the morning after the primaries. These differences show votes appear to be shifted from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton. The chances of this kind of shift happening are considered to be statistically impossible between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in these eleven states. See the chart below.
“We are going to be filing a racketeering lawsuit under the Ohio Racketeering law, the strongest in the country and we can bring in every state, our RICO statute is coextensive with the federal RICO statute… So they’re nailed,” said Cliff Arnebeck.
Arnebeck, an election lawyer, got his J.D. from Harvard and is the chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of Common Cause Ohio and a national co-chair and attorney for the Alliance of Democracy. He will be joined by Bob Fitrakis, an election lawyer and political science professor, as co-counsel.
Computer security expert Stephen Spoonamore, who worked with Arnebeck on exposing GOP election fraud in Ohio has noted that when exit poll data varies more than 2% from electronic vote totals, the electronic vote totals are questionable.
In fact, 2% is the boundary by the US government when determining whether an election in another country has possibly been stolen. Please notice the exit poll differences in the 2016 DNC primaries listed above are significantly more than 2%. These differences point to questionable results for the electronic vote totals and likely electronic vote switching. (The Free Thought Project.com)
This isn’t the rigged system that Crazy Bernie and Deadbeat Donald railed against. That’s the system established by private political parties to further their own interests while giving the appearance of democracy in action. They’re well within their rights to use computer modeling, ouija board and/or a smoke filled room to pick their nominees. All they have to do is sell it to the public as a legitimate process. This is about voting and vote counting using public voting procedures, machines and officials... and some possibly nefarious IT contractors.
The lawsuit is delayed in order to incorporate data from the 7 June California Democratic primary. I don’t know if they’re concerned about the Republican primary. These primaries use 100% paper ballots so the final count and certification will take a while. In light of a pending lawsuit, I’m curious if any significant discrepancies will be found.
This lawsuit may come to nothing, but it may also further taint the HRC juggernaut. If nothing else, it will further erode the public's trust in our whole election process. Drip. Drip. Drip.
"Barrack Obama's spokesman described the FBI's probe into Hillary Clinton's classified email scandal as a 'criminal investigation' on Thursday, less than an hour after the president endorsed his embattled former secretary of state to succeed him.
Josh Earnest told reporters during a White House press briefing that Obama was committed to keeping his hands off the investigation, trusting career investigators and prosecutors to follow evidence wherever it leads.
'That's what their responsibility is,' Earnest said. 'And that's why the president, when discussing this issue in each stage, has reiterated his commitment to this principle that any criminal investigation should be conducted independent of any sort of political interference.'" Daily Mail
It appears that the civilian commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States thinks that it is proper for him to endorse a candidate to succeed him while she is under scrutiny in a "criminal investigation" conducted by the FBI and DoJ. Both these agencies are, of course, fully under his command.
His press secretary, Josh Earnest, insisted yesterday that Obama's stated desire that Hillary Clinton become the next "commander" of these two Executive Branch agencies and his intention to campaign on her behalf will have no effect on the willingness of career civil service investigators and prosecutors to impartially do their jobs in this case. Ridiculous!
"Near the beginning of a recent interview, an FBI investigator broached a topic with longtime Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills that her lawyer and the Justice Department had agreed would be off limits, according to several people familiar with the matter.
Mills and her lawyer left the room — though both returned a short time later — and prosecutors were somewhat taken aback that their FBI colleague had ventured beyond what was anticipated, the people said.
Investigators consider Mills — who served as chief of staff while Clinton was secretary of state — to be a cooperative witness. But the episode demonstrates some of the tension surrounding the criminal probe into possible mishandling of classified information involving the leading Democratic presidential candidate. In the coming weeks, prosecutors and FBI agents hope to be able to interview Clinton herself as they work to bring the case to a close." Washpost
For people who have nothing to hide they seem quite "jumpy." pl
"The State Department has lost all archived copies of the emails sent to and from the man believed to have set up and maintained Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the four years she served as secretary, it said on Monday.
However, the department has recovered some of IT specialist Bryan Pagliano’s messages, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, in apparent contradiction of a Republican National Committee (RNC) court filing earlier in the day.
“The department has searched for Mr. Pagliano’s email pst file and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton’s tenure,” Trudeau said in a statement early on Monday evening. A pst file is a format for preserving email messages.
“The absence of this email file, however, does not indicate that the department has no emails sent or received by him,” she added. “In fact, we have previously produced through [the Freedom of Information Act] and to Congress emails sent and received by Mr. Pagliano during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.”
The State Department had previously told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that it could not find any backups of Pagliano’s email as part of a congressional probe in December, but its acknowledgment of the missing files on Monday nonetheless inflamed criticism of the agency’s recordkeeping practices.
Trudeau declined to comment on how or whether Pagliano stored his emails, or whether he might have decided to delete them after a certain period of time." The Hill
"The dog ate my homework?" Really? Well, why not?
It seems that complete cooperation with the courts and FOIA requests is not occurring. Are we expected to believe that the State Department AND the FBI cannot find this man's pst file in any of their computers to include HC's home server AND the back up contract servers that were in Denver? Really? We are expected to believe that?
Obama wants HC for a successor. He thinks that he can keep her in line and proceeding with his "revolution." Bibi and company also think she is "pushable." Why would they not? Her statement that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic must be music to many ears in Israel. It would be easy to believe that the word has gone forth from the Obama/Rhodes apparat with a message indicating that a certain "restraint" would be appropriate in investigating Mailgate. The press of course is compliant but, as the NY Times magazine hit piece on Rhodes teaches us they are basically an extension of Obama/Rhodes memetics operations. As some here have mentioned the author of that piece is an ardent Zionist so the motivation for writing the piece should be questioned. Was this literary effort payback for the effectiveness of Rhodes in promoting the Iran nuclear deal?
Interesting times indeed!
Obama is going to visit Hiroshima. IMO he will long to apologize for the US nuclear attack on the city. He knows he must not. To do so would be political folly. We will see what he does. pl
"The profile of one Ben Rhodes running in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is not unsympathetic, which makes it all the more devastating.
Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.”" Hicks
"Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought? I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry. I guess the answer can only be that those two are puppets, and (as in Biden’s case) are given losing propositions like Iraq to handle.
Fact check: Obama’s hasn’t been an original foreign policy as much as it has been a politicized foreign policy. And this Rhodes guy reminds me of the Kennedy smart guys who helped get us into the Vietnam War. Does he know how awful he sounds? Kind of like McGeorge Bundy meets Lee Atwater." Ricks
I had a conversation with an old, old college friend a few days ago in which he more or less asserted that there is really no place in the MODERN WORLD for English majors. He did qualify that by assuring me that for someone as wonderful as I there would always be a place, somewhere.
Well, pilgrims, on 9/11 this Rhodes fellow was a graduate student in creative writing who hoped someday to be a novelist. Somehow he conceived the idea of writing about international relations. A few years later he had become Obama's soul mate and alter ego in the foreign policy world. Say what? How could that be? I don't know but it clearly happened and the juxtaposition of the Obama/Rhodes deadly duo operating within the boundaries of Borgist (Blobist) Washington and New York City explains a lot. Do they really see "hacks" like Biden and Kerry as tools for their scheming? Do they feel much the same way about the R2P ladies (of both genders)?
What emerges from the NY Times piece and Ricks' savage critique of Rhodes and by implication Obama is a picture of two "artists" who believe that they can re-write the narrative of America and therefore of the world and that their fictional narrative will become reality. No wonder things are so f----d up. pl
"In an unusually blunt column published Sunday in the Tampa Tribune, William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral, former Navy SEAL and former commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, blasted members of Congress for a “disturbing trend in how politicians abuse and denigrate military leadership, particularly the officer corps, to advance their political agendas.”
Although McRaven did not single out lawmakers by name, he made clear that he was angry at the Senate for its treatment of Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the commander in charge of the Navy’s elite SEAL teams and other commando units. Losey, who formerly served under McRaven, was denied promotion last month and is being forced to retire after several senators from both parties pressured the Navy to hold him accountable for retaliating against multiple whistleblowers." Washpost
There are quite a few flag officers in the US armed forces who do not seem to understand their relationship to the Republic as expressed in the US Constitution. A lot of these have spent their lives as military technicians of one sort or another, are poorly read, and largely ignorant of or indifferent to the niceties of the limits of their positions. These attitudes persist into retirement.
A retired US Army lieutenant general for whom I had once worked told me on one occasion that he did not think he had any responsibility to treat the legislative or judicial branches of the federal government as anything other than competitors of the president in the "struggle for power" and obstacles to the execution of the commander in chief's plans. He said that to think otherwise would be "just too difficult."
On another occasion an active duty Army major general once commented to me and others present that the action of the US Senate in refusing to promote a particular officer was outrageous. The officer in question was at the time under investigation for misconduct. "What right do they have to block his promotion?" the major general general said loudly in the Pentagon corridor outside the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room (the Tank). When told that it was the senate's constitutional responsibility to approve or disapprove all commissioned officer promotions, his response was that he had always assumed that they approved whatever list they were sent.
In this present instance of palpable and public insubordination, Admiral McRaven implicitly challenges the right and authority of the US Senate to promote whom it pleases. He does not know his place. pl
"The election of the President and Vice President of the United States is an indirect vote in which citizens cast ballots for a set of members of the U.S. Electoral College. These electors then cast direct votes for the President and Vice President. If both votes result in an absolute majority, the election is over. If a majority of electors do not vote for President, the House of Representatives chooses the President; if a majority of electors do not vote for Vice President, the Senate votes." wiki
The 50 states run the popular elections that more or less guide the state governments in selecting members of the US Electoral College. This is a very indirect system of elections and IMO it reflects the distrust felt by the framers of the US Constitution for what they would have thought of as the "mob." Every four years there are arguments for amendment of the constitution to make the presidential and vice-presidential elections more direct. Such arguments never go anywhere.
If no candidate has a majority of electoral college votes the election goes to the congress to decide the outcome. In 1824 and 1876 the presidential election process arrived in the House of Representatives. John Quincy Adams (1824) and Rutherford B Hayes. (1876) were then elected in a politically "bloody" process.
Could we end up with something like that again?
Consider a scenario in which Cruz wins the republication nomination, Trump then runs an independent campaign, HC gains the Democratic nomination and Bernie's Children's Crusade runs a massive country-wide write-in effort.
Could we be sure that one of these would be given enough electors by the states to have a majority in the real Electoral College election?
This could be a very, very interesting year. pl
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (from a Winston Churchill House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)
I was asked by one of our SST readers why I thought the Borg (the foreign policy establishment) was not identical with the US political system. I quote below from my response.
"Many people yearn for a simple explanation lodged in a massive world wide conspiracy that seeks to control all aspects of life, something like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or the Protocols of..., or maybe the Illuminati. Well, it is not that simple. There is NOT one giant conspiracy and the foreign policy establishment has many parts none of which is altogether dominant. It is really a giant consensus among those who can punish or reward in terms of media exposure, degree awards, fellowships, jobs in the government, ridicule or praise, hostility or friendliness, etc. American politics contains some of the same people that are in the Borg (i.e., the foreign policy establishment) but although the two circles overlap they are not the same. The US government was created on the basis of the idea that power should be limited and divided to prevent easy domination of the system by individuals and factions. It was never intended that the system should be efficient. It was built to be inefficient. Today there has emerged a political consultant class that exists to subvert the built in limitations of the US governmental system. They make a fine living by renting themselves to people who want to beat the system and achieve more power than was ever intended by the founders and framers in their constitutional experiment. To do this the consultants describe the political system as merely another form of "marketing" as in the business world where; market share, PR and "branding" are all and content is a very secondary matter. If you listen carefully you will hear unending talk on TV of political and individual "brands" and "media markets.". The "juice" to make this system work is massive contributor money donations, especially from the rich. Contributor money buys access and favors. This totally corrupts the system in favor of the selfish and fanatical. Trump and Sanders do not play by the present rule. they have or raise their own money and appeal directly to the citizenry who believe correctly that the political class abandoned them in the search for personal advancement. Because of that they threaten the existence of the present electoral "industry," and for that they are seen correctly as a threat to political life as an occupation." pl
"While carcass candidates dance around life-and-death issues, the familiar flock of war vultures circle coolly overhead. Campaign promises notwithstanding, those who whisper in the ears of America’s front-runners are overwhelmingly united in further destabilizing and exploiting the Middle East.
Nation-states seeking sovereignty, independence, and equitable relationships with their neighbors may need to look to themselves for the leadership, strategy, and means to effectively resist a militaristic global tyranny. When looking to the US, it is prudent to consider what an unidentified Irishman purportedly observed decades ago: “…You can depend on Americans to do the right thing when they have exhausted every other possibility.” South Front
As I suspected, indeed knew in some cases, the neocons have once again succeeded in infiltrating major US institutions in pursuit of their goal of control through universal presence in the ante-rooms of power. In this case the institutions are the campaign staffs of ALL the remaining candidates. (Sanders maybe not?)
I would be curious as to whether Rand Paul's staff was similarly controlled. Perhaps it was not...
My guestimate just now, subject to future judgment as events roll out, is that Clinton's campaign will implode at some point and that Trump is likely to be the 45th president of the United States.
Will he prove biddable once in office? Only time will tell. pl
The Australian ABC has allegedly obtained video (link below) of an ISIS recruiter; cleric Syamsudin Uba, peddling his wares at a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, to what is believed to be potential ISIS recruits:
"They declare that territory as Islamic State where God's law is upheld fully and where there isn't any intimidation from foreign countries……….
…….And based on their sacrifice of their blood and wealth they declare an Islamic State…...
…...Even though the infidels wouldn't acknowledge it (an Islamic state), even though the United Nations wouldn't acknowledge it……..
…………………….Muslims don't need that, Muslims only want the blessing from God, in a state where the laws of God are implemented fully. Even when the infidels don't like it……………..
……...When you get there soon, God willing, you won't have to pay rent, you don't have electricity and water bills," he said.
Comment: Indonesia is the most populous (about 200 milllion) Muslim state in the world. Its stated national philosophy is "pankasila"the five principles:
Belief in the one and only God .
Just and civilised humanity.
The unity of Indonesia.
Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives.
Social justice for all of the people of Indonesia.
As a general rule Indonesia is a pretty, relaxed, place. There are important nationalist considerations, but there is no direct linkage between Islam and a national agenda. The "one God" principle requires that Christians, Muslims and Jews, Animists, etc. co - exist. As you can no doubt imagine Saudi Wahabists have been trying to gain a larger foothold in the country for at least Thirty years via the usual route of charities and schools. I am not privy to the counter efforts made by the West, if any.
Indonesia controls the Straits of Malacca as well as the deep water channels between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea so its radicalisation, let alone possible tolerance of ISIS operations) would not be just a regional nightmare.
One hopes that the Indonesian Government, perhaps assisted by its many Western friends, pushes back against Wahabist ideology wherever it is found and ensures that ISIS does not get a hold in the region
As for potential Indonesian recruits to ISIS, I guess the best message we could send is some graphics of what is in store for them at the hands of the R+6.
"The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence knew—or more importantly didn’t know—about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Its assessment was blunt: “We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. ... We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”
Myers already knew about the report. The Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it, but Rumsfeld’s urgent tone said a great deal about how seriously the head of the Defense Department viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war. But he never shared the eight-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.
While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration's case for war, the JCS report conceded: “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”" Politico
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/iraq-war-wmds-donald-rumsfeld-new-report-213530#ixzz40pNX4o5G
I missed this in Politico last month, but a kindly friend who likes to be known as "Bigfoot Six" brought it to my attention. A .pdf of a scan of the document can be found at the links below.
The J-2 section of the JCS staff is a bit of a bureaucratic fiction. There are a few officers on the Joint Staff who are called the "J-2 Section" (intelligence directorate - including the USAF two star who signed this report) but DIA manages the function and does all the real work.
The basic story here is that Rumsfeld asked the J-2 in September 2002 what we (the US) did not know about Iraqi WMD programs. DIA labored and produced the enclosed report that said clearly that although they (J-2/DIA) had many assumptions about Iraqi WMD, the authors knew precious little about the actual programs.
This was not a desired response and Rummy sent the paper to General Richard Myers, USAF (then chairman of the JCS) covered by a rather panicky sounding note.
So, pilgrims, the BS about the "go to war decision" having been based on bad intelligence is just that, BS.
I don't think Bush 43 lied to the American people. I think he was bull-dozed by the neocons like most Americans.
Interestingly, this document was released and declassified in 2011 and was at some point in the "Rumsfeld Archive." That is Rummy's "how great I am" archive. The funny little running horse stamp is from the Rumsfeld Archive.
Seems like there ought to be a criminal conspiracy charge available for what Rumsfeld and Myers did and also did not do about this.
Once again the brave boys and girls at DIA deserved our gratitude for the risk they took in writing this document. pl
"No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States." US Constitution
It is not a legal bar for office as president of the US for someone to be a dual, triple, or even quadruple citizen of various countries. The possession of passports from other countries is also not a legal bar to office.
To be a dual, etc. citizen would undoubtedly cause many nationalist Americans to abstain from voting for a particular candidate. IMO that is why Cruz dumped his Canadian citizenship 18th months ago.
IMO the US Constitution should be amended to remove the "natural born citizen" language. This language bars naturalized Americans from the presidency no matter how long they have been citizens and no matter what their service to the country may have been. Two examples of such people would be Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan (brought to the US as a baby), and Arnie Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California.
This restriction on the office was understandable in the beginning of the Republic when the possibility of counter-revolution led from abroad was real but the restriction no longer is sensible. pl
"... even in victory, roughly 30 percent of Ramadi remains under ISIS control, the officials said.
The Iraqi Security Forces “aren’t doing house cleaning. I don’t think they have the depth, experience, or numbers to be able to consistently conduct clearance operations in contested, urban areas,” said Christopher Harmer, a naval analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “It appears that they are approaching the fight, and when it exceeds their capabilities calling in American airstrikes. It takes a long time and there are severe limitations with that kind of warfare.”
The early figures provided by the Pentagon also suggest that conventional Iraqi forces were not engaged in prolonged fighting. Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told reporters Tuesday that the Iraqi Security Forces took less than 50 casualties; that there was no indication of ISIS fighters being captured; and that the airstrikes were 80 percent of the reason the city fell." Daily Beast
Well, well, I have seen troops act like this before. Units that do not have any real confidence in themselves or their leaders act like this. They advance to contact and when it is made halt in place, hunker down and call in enough air to remove the contact with the enemy. They then move cautiously, very cautiously forward to see if the opposition has left. I would rate units that behave like that as combat ineffective. Three men with a radio and a laser designator can do the same thing. This does not require 10,000 men. This is the number that Iraq employed at Ramadi to "defeat" a 300 to 500 man IS rear guard. Ready for prime time? Hell no!
At the same time the panoply of varied ISF, police troops, Shia militias and Sunni Arab tribal fighters led by their sheikhs all seem to be hostile to each other and politically unable to cooperate with each other.
This is quite different from the situation in Syria where the R+6 forces fighting the rebels and IS seem well coordinated.
It should be pointed out that the statements being made by various spokesweasels in the Pentagon do not correspond to reality and they must know that. These officers are waging "Mind War" against the American people seeking to hold support for the BHO Administration's policy by propagandizing the American people.
We have fallen a long way since the days when Marshall was the guardian of the flame of honor. For shame! pl
In six years of campaigning for the presidency, he has managed to leave such a hazy and sour impression in the minds of the mass of American voters that he is barely regarded as a human being. In the days and hours leading up to Romney's big moment, delegate after delegate at the convention told me, with a glint of panicked hope in their eyes, that in Romney's speech he would finally have a chance to introduce himself -- to seem real, to be understood." The Atlantic
I didn't watch any of the convention and will not watch the infomercial in NC either. In my distant youth, national political conventions were fun. The issues were settled in lovely smoke filled rooms. Demonstrations marched about the hall and journalists of high reputation presided over black and white images that they clearly did not take seriously. Now..... Sigh.... The commercializtion of America is nearly complete, as is the momification, the political cleansing, etc. As part of that, the idea has taken hold that politics is merely a sub-division of marketing. People prattle of "market shares," "media markets," TV "buys," and above all "branding," as though we are engaged in buying f-----g toothpaste. The old guys on Mt. Rushmore would not be pleased.
Included in this mess is the notion, seemingly accepted by all that the president is the "commander in chief" of the United States. He is not. He is commander in chief of the armed forces. He has no more right outside civilian law to command civilians than does Alfred E. Newman. (Look it up)
An even more egregious folly is the notion that the president of the US is CEO of the USA. The United States of America is nothing like a business corporation. I have been in government as a civilian and I have been in business as a corporate officer of a large international company and I assure you that business and government are not alike at the top in the USA.
The CEO of a large corporation has freedom of action within the guidance of the board of directors of the company. He/she is hired to make money for the company. Other than going to jail, the only thing the board of directors is concerned with is the bottom line on the balance sheet that represents the only reason for the company's existence. This is MONEY. How much money (profit) did we make this year and how much are we likely to make next year? Those are the only really important questions for a business. General Motors does not exist to make vehicles. It exists to make PROFITS. If that does not occur then the board and/or the stockholders get a new CEO. Until that happens the CEO has a free hand to make money for the owners doing pretty much what he/she wants to do.
The president of the US exists within a very different system. He does not have a free hand, except perhaps within the bounds of certain foreign policy and war making features that originated in the Cold War. The constitution of the US created a system designed to limit power, not to enable it. The assumption was that the power of those who have the money and guns is unlimited unless it is restrained by law. In the president's world, the board (Congress) sits every day properly watching to insure that the non-CEO president does not exceed the standing and ever changing authorizations of power and money that the Congress grants or has granted. In BHO's case the Republicans in Congress began to limit his freedom of action within weeks of the inaugural. They have never ceased to do so and will continue if he is re-elected. In Romney's case, his cretin business friends seem to believe, as does he, that he would arrive in Washington with the discretionary power of a corporate CEO. He would not. Unless the Republicans win the presidency and control of both houses of Congress, Romney will be in the same position that BHO has been in for four years. "Payback is a bitch." What do they think Romney is going to do, stage a coup against the Congress?
Government does not have a "bottom line" in the business sense. The US Government is not like a third world government. Individuals can measure how much they made from government contracts, but the government itself is a "cost center" (business speak) not a "profit center." It is a non-profit entity that provides services without earning money to pay for them other than fees at parks and similar trivialities. It gets its money by a levee on the consumers of the services. It also borrows money and has the ability, along wth banks, to create money by simply putting the right numbers on paper.
In this set up, how would Romney and the Republicans measure their "success?" Would it be by any growth that occurred in GDP? Would it be by reduction in expenditure for social services? Great! Let's see them do it! pl
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Thursday that he is opening all jobs in combat units to women, a landmark decision that ends a three-year period of research with a number of firsts for female service members and bitter debate at times about how women should be integrated.
The decision opens the military’s most elite units to women who can meet the rigorous requirements for the positions for the first time, including the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other Special Operations Units. It also opens the Marine Corps infantry, a battle-hardened force that many service officials had openly advocated keeping closed to female service members.
“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that, as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.” Carter said that the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force all recommended that all jobs be opened to women. The Marine Corps recommended that certain jobs such as machine gunner be kept closed, but the secretary said that the military is a joint force, and his decision will apply to all services. (Washington Post)
This news shocked me, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. The decision was probably make months ago by the culture warriors in the Administration. What does this mean? Our very own Fred made a comment that “the goal here is solely to have a woman be chief of staff or chairman of the JCS.” Fred’s right. Now I am pretty damned sure that there is or will be a woman or two out there who can be a competent chief of staff or chairman of the JCS. I’ve known a very good commander of an aviation element and another very good medical company commander who were female. Anything’s possible. But those were not combat outfits.
I have two problems with this decision. First, the way this decision was made is a slap in the face to the Services and those officers who were studying this question. The Army and the Marines spent a lot of time, money and effort and were about to recommend keeping some positions closed to females. Knowing the way the political winds were blowing, those combat officers had to feel quite strongly about their recommendations. Not to wait for the Services to present and defend their case before issuing this decision was an act of gross disrespect.
The second problem I have with the decision is the effect it will have on the platoon, company and battalion level of our combat units. Our combat units will become social experiments... experiments were the data will be skewed to fit the desired results. Sure females have passed the Ranger Course. Those women are probably fine officers, but the process corroded the Army. They were not treated as equals. They were given many more chances to succeed than their male counterparts were afforded. A general officer came to the field and walked lanes in order for the female students to pass their final patrols. Do the Washington bureaucrats think the troops would not notice? Clearly the bureaucrats have no respect for those troops. Females in combat units will be cut slack whether they want it or not. That’s the nature of command influence. The final test for this social experiment will be administered by our enemies in combat. They will not skew the data.
Finally, this process will be unfair to the very female soldiers and officers that this decision is supposed to help. One or two might make it on their merits and will become legends. Most will be tainted by the effects of command influence and the ensuing corrosive command climate. Their careers and perhaps their souls will inevitably suffer.
(This was posted on 21 November, 2015 on Sic Semper Tyrannis)
There is a lot of "bleeding heart silliness" being spouted in the media as US networks try to convince themselves that IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE! Well, IMO that is incorrect and it probably will happen here.
The US and Saudi Arabia, are, I think the two most important target areas for IS. The US because it represents the new Rome, the great Satan and Saudi Arabia because IS sees the royal family as sinners who should not be in charge of the Haramayn.
We have pretty solid police in the US and robust external border controls at crossing points, but, in fact we have a large and potentially recruitable disaffected segment in our population among racial minorities, resident Muslim youth and the like. Remember. It only takes a few people to pull off such attacks. Weapons are easy to obtain in the US and the materials with which to make explosives are everywhere.
Four of the Paris attack group had entered Europe in the last few months, two on Syrian passports as part of the migration and two on Turkish passports simply traveling within the Schengen area without much trouble. You never know what you don't know and we don't know how many others IS has sent toward targets in Europe and North America, especially before the Paris attacks.
PM Trudeau and his political colleagues are going to admit at least 25,000 "Syrian" migrants to Canada in the next few months. There is no possibility that the Canadian authorities will be able to adequately screen that number of people for identity or prior associations. It will anger Canadians here for me to say so but the US/Canada border is a joke. You can walk across it in thousands of places outside the ken of authorities on either side.
The pattern is clear, IS sends in fighters to reinforce local adherents.
IS has announced its intention to attack New York City and Washington, DC.
We should take this statement of intention very seriously. pl
This was written in the autumn and winter 0f 2003/2004 and published in The summer number of "Middle East Policy" after "Harper's" who had commissioned me to write the piece refused to do so. pl
(Now, in 2015 another band of manipulators is seeking to take the US to war in Syria. Americans - Beware! pl)
In the context of the new biography of Bush 41 it is being said that the US had to invade Iraq because the "Iraqis would not comply with the UN inspection regime," but they did comply, and complied fully. The "inevitability" argument is being advanced in an attempt to justify the actions of Bush 43 and his advisers. This is a false narrative and that is recorded in my article.. pl
I see that Josh Earnest, the pretty man who is now press rep at the WH, said yesterday that Russia is a "regional power with an economy slightly larger than that of Spain." Earnest does not speak for himself. That is not in the nature of the job. This was clearly a declaration of imperial supremacy and a demand for subordination in all things. At the same time Ash Carter, SECDEF, re-stated the US doctrinal position that Assad himself must be a target of Russian military and diplomatic action as much as the jihadi enemies of us all, including Muslims. Such statements tell me that the United States is still hopelessly mired in a sink of hubris and imperial dreams. pl
There us a lot of drivel in the media today about Dr. Carson's statement that he did not think a Muslim (no Z in the word) should be elected president of the United States of America.
I have been at pains on SST to try to say clearly that the principal function of the constitution of the United States is to limit the power of the federal and state governments, not to enable them.
The framers assumed that government is naturally greedy for power from the citizens' point of view and that government will seek endlessly to expand its power if not checked from the beginning.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prevents all governments in the USA establishing governmentally empowered national or regional religion. The framers had many examples of such establishments at the time and were wise to block such an enactment. The early theocracies in New England were surely something they remembered as well as the established church in England and in so many other places abroad.
The constitution does not generally limit the actions of individuals. It limits the action of governments. The principal exception to that is the description of treason as a crime of individuals.
Ben Carson has a right to say that he does not think a Muslim should be president. I do not agree with his blanket opinion, but that does not invalidate his right to hold such an opinion or express it.
IMO the opinions of individuals have nothing to do with our treasured separation of church and state. Ben Carson is not a "state." pl
Yesterday, our very own Ishmael Zechariah provided a link to an "Ars Technica" article with the above title. The article focused on the heads of several IC agencies speaking at the Intelligence & National Security Summit, an event described as an industry event largely attended by beltway bandits and government toadies trying to stop “the poisoning of the public debate around their missions, and especially around the issue of encryption, by unreasonable haters.”
Wow. This unreasonable hater had to read on.
The opening statements from Comey and others were focused on that "venom," as the intelligence chiefs—many of whom had just testified that morning with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on cybersecurity threats before the House Select Intelligence Committee—sought to make it clear that they were speaking largely to help shift the direction of public discourse about the Intelligence Community. Specifically, they want to find ways to end what they perceive as irrational hostility against their agendas. (TTG note - Can't you just see him scowling as he claims, "And I would have gotten away with it if not for you meddlesome kids.")
"I have something on my mind that affects all the work we do as an intelligence community," Comey said in his opening remarks. "I think that citizens should be skeptical of government power. But I fear it's bled over to cynicism. It is something that is getting in the way of reasoned discussion, and I'm very concerned about how to change that trend of cynicism." He sees that cynicism directed toward everyone from law enforcement officers on the beat to the intelligence community at large.
In particular, Comey said, he feels that his push for some way to gain backdoor access to encryption was "met with venom and deep cynicism."
"How do we get to a healthier place in talking about authority?" he asked.
NSA head Rogers said that "we have got to engender a better dialogue" on security issues. "In the end, we serve the citizens of the nation... all the revelations [a reference to Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks] have made life more difficult for us." (Ars Technica)
Well bless their hearts. So they wonder how to cut through all the venom and deep cynicism engendered by the ungrateful rabble. For starters, Comey could reach over to that lying, Ming the Merciless looking POS Clapper and slap his mouth dry for lying so blatantly to Congress and the American people. Then he can slam his own head on the table, repeatedly, for insisting on having complete, unencrypted access to all our digital records and communications. Ubiquitous encryption is the answer, not the problem.
On a more serious note, they can embrace their complete and utter failure in defending our digital lives. I have yet to see an acknowledgement of the true seriousness of the most recent series of failures to protect databases at OPM. Comey lamented about someone now reading his SF-86 security questionnaire. That’s small stuff. With the depth and breath of the information collected by China, they can construct an accurate model of how our government works. For years China has been doing a lot of work in AI using geometric algebra and other things I don’t understand. I do know someone who not only understands but creates this stuff for a living. It’s present capabilities and future promise are science fiction scary. With the data China now has on our government (and associated contractors) and the right AI, a predictive model of frightening accuracy of our government’s innermost workings is not just possible, but probable. Think of the Mycroft supercomputer in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” on a far grander scale. I think this is going to bite us in the ass for decades to come. And the people responsible for letting this happen continue to sit on panels like this, revel in their bureaucratic power, collect their fat paychecks and waltz through the revolving doors with impunity. If they had any honor or sense of shame (which they clearly do not) they’d resign and move to the Everglades never to be heard from again. They'll feel right at home among the gators and pythons.
I keep hearing the Republican Gang of 17 talk about "building up the armed forces." What the hell do they mean? We already spend over 600 billion dollars a year on the armed forces and even more on overseas military operations. We have close to a million people in the US Army, the USMC and their reserve components. We have all manner of "goodies" in high tech equipment, aircraft and ships. What are they talking about?
We now live in a society that is so oriented toward the self-conscious welfare of the individual that therapists describe such antique concepts as "duty" to be mere obstacle to self-fulfillment. This not the kind of society from which our soldiers once emerged.
IMO the ground forces are at or near their limits in voluntary recruitment. There was a certain enthusiasm after 9/11. That eased recruiting problems for a while but it also brought us such sterling "sojers" as the former sergeant Bales, Chelsea Manning and Bergdahl. That fit of enthusiasm has passed.
Now recruits have to be actively sought, one person at a time. Standards are high. Recruits must be physically and mentally qualified and must be American citizens or legal residents of the US or its possessions and this is checked.
Where would they get a lot more people for the ground forces? Women? The LGBT "community?" Minorities? Blacks seem to prefer non-shooting occupations in the military. Foreign mercenaries under new law? (the Oaxaca Legion?)
What the hell are the elephants talking about? Do they have any idea at all? pl
I confess to finding the Trump phenomenon to be immensely entertaining. Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, a very conservative newspaper, has said that Trump's supporters are people who would have held season tickets for the Gladiatorial Games at the Coliseum. I think that is about right but, guess what, pilgrims, there are a lot of such folk.
"The people" are mighty tired of Washington's fumbling, Washington's inept warfighting, job flight under trade agreements, etc. The list is long. In my opinion, Trumpism and Sanderism are, in fact, two sides of the same coin, minted from the same metal of discontent. I really like Bernie, my fellow antique curmudgeon. I don't like a lot of his desired outcomes, but I like the way he voices them. But, I don't think he has a chance of obtaining the nomination so his policy positions don't matter a lot. The Democrats are likely to nominate Biden or even Webb as a black horse rather than Sanders.
The Donald is a different horse. Perhaps "hobby horse" would be a better term with which to describe him. There really are enough wildly unhappy people in flyover America to make the notion of a Trump Republican Party nomination plausible. Failing that, the idea that his ego might fuel an independent candidacy with three major candidates is also plausible. Something like that might end in the House of Representatives where the outcome is beyond reasonable speculation.
For the sake of argument, let us accept the notion that Trump might be president of the United States. IMO he has no solid comprehension of the limits of presidential power. He may vaguely perceive the idea but only that. As a "bidness" man and entrepreneur he has virtually absolute control over the actions of the corporations, partnerships, LLCs, etc., that are parts of his financial empire. Boards of directors, stockholders meetings and the like are just "speed bumps" for him to race across with the energy of which he boasts. He is accustomed to negotiations with business entities both at home and in foreign countries in which any kind of guile, deception, threats and bluff are fair game. He evidently thinks he can deal with American government branches in the same way
I do not think he fully grasps how different the US federal government is from what he is used to dealing with. The three branches of the federal government REALLY ARE separate and equal. The Framers divided power for the specific purpose of preventing someone like Trump achieving the kind of undiluted power that he says he will wield over Defense, Immigration, Foreign Trade, Lobbying, etc. To be blunt, the presidency lacks the independent power to do many of the things Trump wants to do. To achieve these policy goals ANY president would need the cooperation of Congress and the federal courts. Obama has been trying to close the detention camp at Gitmo for six and a half years and Congress has simply blocked him by passing laws against his program.
What would happen when Congress or the courts similarly blocked Trump? IMO he would try to ignore the constitutional limits of his power and that would be the end of him. Don't think for a moment that the US military would do anything to support him against the rest of the government. That would not happen. pl
Turkey - The Turkish foreign minister yesterday announced on Turkish TV that no Turkish soldiers will be sent into the "buffer zone" to defend it. Well, then who will defend it? "Turkmen Volunteers?" This would be a transparent ploy, something like the Chinese "volunteering" to fight the US in Korea. The first time a Turkish soldier or jandarm para-military bitches to the media about being "volunteered" Erdogan will have a lot of trouble. Perhaps the unicorn army of non-jihadi anti-Assad resistants? Their leading wave of conquest was just handed its hat, ass and overcoat by the Nusra Front. The effort to train such people is revealed to be totally ineffective. I ask again - Who and what is defending Incerlik Air Base in turkey? IS has demonstrated its ability to operate within Turkey. Air base defense is not an idle question.
HC - News on the jungle telegraph in Washington holds that contrary to any expectation of Clintonian sanity in the e-mailgate caper, HC's staff transmitted information over her non-government e-mail account that they knew had previously been judged to be classified. If that is true, she is in a lot of trouble both politically and legally as are people who were in her former staff. This behavior would be vastly different from transmitting information that had not yet been classified by State or some other government department.
IS chemical weapon use - There is some evidence that IS has repeatedly used chlorine gas or mustard gas against Kurdiah fighters. The Borg's immediate knee-jerk reaction is to suggest that perhaps IS obtained these munitions from the Assad government. Well, pilgrims, these chemical agents are not all that hard to make.
Ramadi - The US and Iraq tell us that Ramadi is about to fall to the forces of light. Well, we are waiting...
Odierno's parting shot - The departing US Army Chief of Staff, Ray Odierno, affectionately known as "The Desert Ox," announced at a final presser that it might be necessary to partition Iraq. Abadi's government reacted in fury to that, and why not. The Shia Arabs want to rule Iraq as it was and in one piece. It will be interesting to see what the new CoS is like. He is a Princeton grad rather than WP.
Political projection for 2016 - A Republican ticket made up of Kasich/Fiorino or Kasich/Rubio. pl
"In the war between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama that is being waged at the whim of a single compulsive Israeli leader who is endangering the country’s population of eight million – the voices of those in charge of intelligence assessment have fallen silent.
The head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevy, and the chief of his research division, Brig. Gen. Eli Ben-Meir, are lying low like carp who don’t relish a future on a plate as gefilte fish. They are hushing up the voices of those in the Intelligence Corps, whose opinions the populace whom they have sworn to serve – and not the prime minister – must hear.
Halevy and Ben-Meir’s predecessors, Aviv Kochavi and Itai Brun, dared make their assessments public, but Halevy and Ben-Meir don’t want to get tripped up, don’t want to be proven wrong, making fools of themselves publicly or riling Benjamin Netanyahu.
The eternal catch phrase – about how Israel will never be caught unprepared as it was in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and how IDF personnel will no longer blindly follow their higher-ups – has suddenly fallen by the wayside.
These people are falling into line toward the right. Eating with their mouths closed, in unison. Hiding any disturbing thoughts.
They are emptying of any substance the pretensions of the Agranat Commission that investigated the failings of the Yom Kippur War, which put most of the responsibility on the shoulders of the intelligence services, to be redeemed by the top brass – as if they and not the people at the command and policy levels have been given the authority to decide and act — and then they disseminate the assessments and warnings so that in addition to the IDF, the Mossad espionage agency and the Foreign Ministry will also speak out." Haaretz
"... it is appropriate to suggest that America’s Jewish population and the organizations representing it look inward and do some serious reflection. Even if we attribute only the best of intentions to them, these intentions again lead to a well-known place.
It’s hard to overstate Netanyahu’s insolence. In a Web speech given from his office and with the Israeli flag behind him, he called on American Jews to unite against the accord, “regardless of your political affiliation.” It’s even harder to understand how the leaders representing these Jews didn’t recognize the trap Netanyahu was leading them into – regardless of their political affiliation. The apex was the surreal meeting between 20 U.S.-Jewish leaders and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. I can’t recall a meeting between a U.S. president and vice president with U.S.-German leaders in order to discuss American relations with Europe. Or a conversation with U.S.-Japanese businessmen prior to the signing of a trade agreement between the United States and Japan." Haaretz
IMO Natanyahu, in his rejection of a life for Jews outside Israel is actually fostering ant-Semitism in the world and most especially in the United States, a country that had freed itself of this historic incubus.
Bibi has created a situation in which those who oppose the Iran agreement are almost invariably referred to in the media as Jewish this or Jewish that. This is not unnoticed by the other 98% of Americans.
For this to occur is to signal to all the existence of a bloc of Jewish Americans who obey a foreign leader on the basis of their shared ethno-religious identity. I am Catholic. We remember well the cry throughout the 19th and into the 20th Centuries that Catholics were disloyal servants of the pope in Rome.
As for the muzzling of IDF Intelligence, it should be remembered that Aman (IDF intelligence) is the senior service in Israel and the national estimator, not Mossad. pl
Adam L. Silverman
The National Security Archive has just this past week posted the all of the recently/newly declassified Ford Administration documents pertaining to the Church Committee's inquiry into the behavior of the Central Intelligence Agency (h/t: Booman Tribune). It should surprise no one that the Ford Administration official at the heart of trying to hinder the Church Committee's inquiry was none other than a young Dick Cheney. Not only did the future Vice President have his fingers all over that administration's response, he made sure that everything was routed through him. So he was able to see and shape everything before it was ever presented to President Ford. This is very interesting because it has been reported that he did the same thing to promote his preferred policy preferences and to stymie those of other officials in the first term of the Bush 43 Administration. Basically, VP Cheney was a ruthlessly efficient gatekeeper in both the Ford and Bush 43 Administrations. This allowed him to advance his preferred policies and strategies and frustrate his rivals - a hallmark of a very effective bureaucratic infighter. His gatekeeping expertise, has, unfortunately, now done incalculable damage to the civilian intelligence community and US foreign and defense policy in two different administrations.
* Picture of President Ford meeting with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld was found here.
"... the American-aligned unit, known as Division 30, in fighting off the assault, according to an American military spokesman and combatants on both sides. The strikes were the first known use of coalition air power in direct battlefield support of fighters in Syria who were trained by the Pentagon.
The attack on Friday was mounted by the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. It came a day after the Nusra Front captured two leaders and at least six fighters of Division 30, which supplied the first trainees to graduate from the Pentagon’s anti-Islamic State training program.
In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure." NY Times
"a significant intelligence failure?" No! No! Based on my 34 years experience in government in the war-fighting, policy and intelligence fields I would bet you a month's pay that the intelligence community told the policy people (elected and appointed) that the Nusra Front are inherently and permanently enemies of the United States and the west in general.
What has happened in this is that the policy people, unable to find tools with which to bring down the Syrian government, (at Israel's behest) have been working for the last several months at the considerable task of convincing themselves that not all Nusra jihadis are "bad people." Some are now said to be "misguided" by policy people in the hope that the Nusra Front can be made into useful idiots willing to serve the interests of what they would call the Crusader and Zionist foe.
Well, pilgrims, if someone or some group of someones in the IC contradicted that idea I am quite sure that the response from the policy side would be to tell them to go play amongst themselves quietly whilst the grown-ups talk.
Contributing to this catastrophe visited upon the hapless 60 members of Division 30 (the Unicorn Army) is the willingness of Israel to support the rebels fighting the Syrian Government south of Damascus. Guess what! These rebels include Nusra Front elements. Israel is treating their wounded in Israeli hospitals and providing them close air support.
Well, pilgrims, if Israel thinks they are all right...
Hillary's "classified" e-mails
" To be properly classified, a classification authority (an individual charged by the U.S. government with the right and responsibility to properly determine the level of classification and the reason for classification) must determine the appropriate classification level, as well as the reason information is to be classified. A determination must be made as to how and when the document will be declassified, and the document marked accordingly. Executive Order 13526 describes the reasons and requirements for information to be classified and declassified (Part 1). Individual agencies within the government develop guidelines for what information is classified and at what level" Wiki on classification in the US.
God himself does not personally "classify" information, not even in the US Government. He leaves that task to mere mortals. People who have security clearances and who are given access to documents marked with some jumble of letters indicating a degree of secrecy usually assume that there is something inherent in the information or the document that made it "classified." That is not the case. Information does not become "classified" until a "classification authority" says it is classified. In each department of the Executive Branch of the federal government the ultimate "classification authority" is the cabinet officer who heads that department, i.e., the Secretary of --------.
In the case of the State Department, that "classification authority" was Hillary Clinton whilst (I been watchin;' Brit TV again) she was Secretary of State, Sooo, unless she ruled that something circulating within State was "classified," it was not.
In the case of something from another department that came to her already "classified" that would be a more complex "call," but not a simple "call." Normally, information coming to a departmental secretary has more than one source. Who can say what information came from where? Sooo, let up, people. pl
How well is "containing IS" doing?
The answer is--- not very well. Absent a US national desire to fight a major war in Iraq and Syria, the only way to get rid of IS is to wall it up in the territory it has managed to capture and keep it walled up until it evolves into something other than the monstrous version of Sunni Islam that it now is. That happens with revolutions. It ALWAYS happens. I challenge you to name a revolution in which it did not happen.
The needed cordon sanitaire is looking shaky.
On the north, IS inspired terrorism inside Turkey has apparently caused that country to suspend its flirtation with IS, but not evidently Nusra and other anti-Syrian government groups. At the same time Turkey has begun bombing PKK associated Kurdish groups that it hates for nationalist reasons. To what extent the other Kurdish fighters, YPG, Pesh Merga, etc. will accept this is not clear to me. After all, the US has been engaged in combat support of these groups with US air. We are their de facto allies.
On the east, Iraq, in spite of all the happy talk declarations from the Obama Administration is still looking mighty weak. The ISF and friends re-captured Ramadi, right? No? The ISF and friends re-captured Baiji, right? No? IS is newly and expansively active in Diyala Province? Yes. A greater alignment of the US with Iran in combating IS seems inevitable if Iraq is to be "saved."
On the west, the US, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and the Saudis are still intent on destroying the present Syrian Government and armed forces as well as the Hizbullah allies of the Syrian Government. The common threads in this determination are; the childlike belief in the Borg that a secular, liberal government would arise from the rubble, Israeli desire to screw Hizbullah and Iran which are seen in Israel as "the main enemy," Saudi and Islamist Turk desire for absolute Sunni domination of, well, everything.
On the south, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are insignificant militarily. They have a lot of equipment but little ability to use it other than at the operator level. War is a social process in the service of political goals. If you want to include economics as a sub-set of politics, that is fine by me. The Saudis and Kuwaitis have no real understanding of the military social process. If you don't understand that statement, keep reading SST. Someone will eventually succeed in explaining it. IMO the only viable solution for building up the south flank of the containment zone would be for the Saudis/Kuwaitis to hire some other country's forces to do the job for them. They have done this before. Saudi/Pakistani agreements stationed large numbers of active duty Pakistan service people in Saudi Arabia for many years. These Pakistanis were situated in combat units as well as support and staff jobs. This kind of augmentation could free up Saudi security services for internal security, a job they are fit for. Failing this kind of strategy Saudi/Kuwait will remain very vulnerable to internal jihadi subversion.
A cordon sanitaire strategy will not, of course, obviate jihadi terrorism outside the contained zone. That would remain the field of competence of; police, intelligence work, SOF and the like. pl
Obama as worldwide community organizer
"Hope and Change" was the watchword of Obama's election in 2008. I voted for him twice for lack of someone acceptable to me on the other side, but there was no enthusiasm in my support. I thought there might be hope for this man when I watched him mock himself on late night TV as "the goat boy messiah," and "arrogant," but alas, he is revealed as someone who thinks there is value in wandering the world lecturing alien peoples with regard to their sometimes abhorrent folkways. Female genital mutilation is an abomination and is all too frequent in Black Africa and Egypt, but does he really think he can "jaw-bone" them out of this custom? Really? Perhaps that kind of delusion explains his fantasy policy in Syria. pl
The Sanders/Trump phenomenon
IMO both these men are expressing widespread discontent in the part of the electorate that I would describe as culturally White. This is the part of the electorate that identifies with the historic majority culture of the United States. Race has nothing to do with whether or not you are culturally White. Asian Americans, some Black Americans, Latino Americans and three toed sloth Americans all can be culturally White. These people feel deeply threatened by the "goat boy messiah," and his cultural brethren in the Borg and are looking for their own messiah. pl
Yesterday COL Lang requested that everyone in ear (and eye) shot write their member of Congress. While letters will get logged in and eventually read by someone, email is basically ignored. The quickest and most direct way to get your views registered with your member of Congress and Senator is to call. Congressional offices log the calls, the subjects of the calls, and the position/view of the caller regarding the subject of the call. The good folks at Balloon Juice regularly put up these instructions when someone mentions contacting their Congressperson or Senator, so I'm going to link and then adapt their instructions:
If you're not sure who your member of Congress is, click over to this page, put in your zip code, and push the red button.
The Congressional Switchboard's number is (202) 224-3121. Here are the links with the direct numbers to Senator's and Congressperson's offices. While every so often you might get to speak to your actual Senator or Congressperson, it is much more likely you're going to wind up speaking to a staffer in their office. When you call, please remember to:
1) Be polite!
2) Identify who you are and your zip code.
3) Politely state the issue you are calling about.
4) Politely tell them how strongly you feel about it.
5) Politely tell them that you and your fellow like minded constituents in your district or state will take their vote on this issue into consideration when they next come up for reelection.
6) Politely thank the staffer for his or her time.
7) Hang up and go about your normal daily routine.
"During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison rejected it, saying, “A union of the states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”
In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain their sovereignty — in a word, secede." Walter Williams
I strongly support the agreement with Iran with regard to nuclear energy programs. I do not think it is a perfect agreement but I think it is good enough to be a prophylactic against yet another war in the ME. IMO the deal is in the best interest of; the United States, Israel and all others.
There is a major political project underway to exert pressure on members of the US Congress in both houses to vote against the deal.
I entreat all Americans within the sound of my voice to contact their two senators and member of the House to express support for the agreement. pl
"You seem ... to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.... Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves." Thomas Jefferson writing as president of the United States. Wiki on the US Constitution
"Roberts invokes the founders of the US, writing, "Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority's conception of the judicial role ... They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges."
Notably, though, when seeming to address people who would celebrate Friday's decision, Roberts is clear that he does not have a personal problem with the outcome, just the process of getting there:
Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration ...
If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."
Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent in Business Insider
"Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court," Scalia said.
"This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."
The conservative justice railed against his fellow justices, calling the majority opinion "egotistical" and pointing out that the justices were a homogeneous group that didn't represent the people. As proof, Scalia pointed out that many went to the same law schools, and none were evangelical or protestant Christians." Scalia in his dissent in Business Insider
Jefferson wrote the first quotation above as an apology for his failure to act to stop Chief Justice John Marshall's successful grab for the power of judicial review for constitutionality of government actions or laws.
There is nothing in the constitution that grants the federal courts the power of judicial review, nothing. Jefferson's own view was that the three branches of the federal government were completely equal and that each was responsible for judging the constitutionality of its actions.
But, at the very end of the John Adams administration, Adams appointed a man named Marbury to be a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. This is a minor office. James Madison, Jefferson's new Secretary of state declined to carry out the appointment and Marbury sued before the Supreme Court on the basis that Madison lacked the constitutional power to negate Adams' appointment.
John Marshall ruled in favor of Marbury (a fellow member of the defeated Federalist Party) and Jefferson, distracted by the business of his initial days in office as President, let Marshall's ruling go unchallenged and Marbury got the job.
This is how the federal courts came to be the "oligarchy" of which Jefferson complains.
I should make it clear that I am completely indifferent to the outcome in the same sex marriage case.
What bothers me is the assumption of this much power by the "five unelected lawyers." pl
Outsourcing is the rage these days and the US businesses, chasing cheaper labour in perpetual pursuit of efficiency/savings/greater profits, are at the head of the field. US government agencies have followed suit, trying to make do with the limited budgets they have, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is no exception.
The OPM is a somewhat obscure US federal agency which, among other things, conducts 90+% of background checks for personnel applying for sensitive jobs in the military and security agencies. Just as with large corporations, the cost and staff requirements of maintaining their IT infrastructure led them to seek savings by hiring outside talent for the job. What OPM did was't any different than what many US corporations do.
As it goes, outsourcing functions one can easily end up outsourcing the related know-how and the judgement acquired by experience (all the stuff you can't put into an SLA). Which savings just were not worth it usually becomes apparent only in hindsight. Given that there are things that are irreversible, lack of foresight results in a self-inflicted wound.
Obviously, with outsourcing knowledge retention becomes a real problem. Staff tends to run away when they see the writing on the wall and the best leave quickly in pursuit of more rewarding employment and to escape the terminal boredom administering to Whatnot in Mumbai or worse, having to train their replacement before being given the boot. That is to say, those who remain are usually not the creme de la creme.
I'm guessing, but perhaps that was why the OPM hired the wrong people. That they did so is clear. I wonder whether the OPM will heed the sage advice Dr. Watson dispensed to the hapless pawn shop owner in the Jermey Brett adaptation of the The Red-Headed League: "Next time you engage an assistant, pay him the proper wage!" ... but I digress.
As it went, OPM came to hire apparently chinese hackers - and gave them root access. This would have been bad for a company, but became something else entirely when it came to government data. Here, the hackers were able to steal the senstitive personnel records of federal employees working in military and security agencies. Businessinsider reports (links below):
"Specifically, the hackers reportedly acquired SF86 forms, which detail sensitive background information."Security-wise, this may be the worst breach of personally identifying information ever," Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday.
"[The] OPM is responsible for administering the SF 86, which is one of the most extensive national security questionnaires that exists."
"Federal employees and contractors who want government-security clearance have to disclose virtually every aspect of their lives via an SF 86 questionnaire, which is then stored on OPM's largely unencrypted database. ..."
"In fact, the breach was unprecedented in its breadth and scope: "Security-wise, this may be the worst breach of personally identifying information ever," Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday."
The time the hackers had to sift through all that data likewise was unprecedented:
"The average time Chinese hackers have access to a compromised system is 356 days and the longest recorded was 4 years and 10 months"
This has a potential to severely compromise US personnel and more, and here I hand over to TTG who is better able to explain what it means:
"When I heard of this data breach, my first thought was that here was another reason to watch my credit card and bank accounts very closely. What more could I lose after the news of the Anthem Blue Cross data breach discovered back in February. Then when the loss of the security files of up to 14 million Federal employees, retirees and contractors was announced, I knew this was a lot worse than the temporary loss of a credit card or two.
I have seen opinions that the information lost in this data breach poses a danger to U.S. personnel operating overseas in sensitive and covered positions. Fortunately, most people operating in those kinds of positions do not have records stored at OPM. I didn’t have contact with OPM until I retired from DIA. However, a lot of people who work with those in sensitive positions do go through the OPM for their security clearances. That includes a slew of support personnel and contractors. Those working under cover could be discovered through their associations with those support personnel and contractors.
The loss of the information contained in the SF86s and background investigations of these people is a treasure trove to China or whoever has this information. Filling out an SF86 is a laborious and time consuming task for anyone. It can take weeks to gather the detailed information requested in the form. The information in the OPM’s database of SF86s represents decades of man-years of detective work.
With that information and a halfway decent data mining tool, one can easily construct an accurate and detailed model of the vast national security structure of the USG. This model would include all the myriad government and contractor offices, the leadership structure along with detailed contact information, what they think of each other, and everyone’s dirty laundry. This model would also show how this national security structure evolved over time, at least since 9/11. With additional inputs, this model may even be predictive. This is indeed a serious data breech."
The legal authority for U.S. spy agencies' collection of Americans' phone records and other data was set to expire at midnight on Sunday after the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation extending the controversial powers.
After debate pitting Americans' distrust of intrusive government against fears of terrorist attacks, the Senate voted to move ahead with reform legislation that would replace the bulk phone records program revealed two years ago by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
But final Senate passage of the bill was delayed until at least Tuesday morning by objections from Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican presidential hopeful who has fulminated against the NSA program as illegal and unconstitutional. As a result, the government's collection and search of phone records was set to terminate at midnight (0400 GMT on Monday) when provisions of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law known as the USA Patriot Act expire. (Reuters)
Well, Rand Paul did all he could short of whipping out a roscoe and lighting up the joint. Section 215 will expire tonight and will probably be replaced by the USA Freedom Act later this week. Rand realizes both this and the probability of getting some amendments passed to tighten up the Act is slim to none. He made some good speeches (and some political points). I’m hoping he further galvanized the political and public opposition to unwarranted government surveillance. Maybe it will become more of an issue between now and November 2016.
The Administration, including Obama in his weekly address, and every surveillance hawk in the country have been stirring up the fear all week. According to them we can expect the 3rd Osama Bin Laden Shock Army to roll across our amber waving plains in a few hours and, because the NSA and FBI can’t collect bulk metadata , we are defenseless to stop them. They all disgust me.
This ain’t over. I can hear the strains of “The Rising of the Moon” in the distance.
Death to every foe and traitor, forward strike the marching tune
And hurrah, me boys, for freedom, 'tis the rising of the moon
So began Senator Rand Paul early this afternoon as he began his filibuster against renewal of the Patriot Act. He has now been speaking on the Senate floor for over eight hours. The Senate has until this Friday to extend Section 215 of the Patriot Act, or pass the USA Freedom Act, which would end the bulk surveillance as it now stands, but leaves the door open for it to continue in some newly devised form. Without passing either of these options, Section 215 will expire at the end of the month and government mass surveillance programs must end. This last option is what Rand Paul is pushing. He is not alone tonight. Senator Wyden (D-Oregon) has already spoken as part of Paul’s filibuster. Senators Cris Coons (D-Delaware), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are on the Senate floor in support of Senator Paul. There are others. They are all patriots.
I strongly support Senator Paul in this effort. The unwarranted mass surveillance of the American people is unconstitutional, illegal, largely useless, a waste of scarce intelligence resources and a dangerous distraction from the performance of needed intelligence collection. End it now.
You can watch and listen to Senator Rand Paul as he speaks on the Senate floor at the first link below. You may be watching history as it is being made. I could well imagine our founding fathers would be proud of him. - TTG
I hear from competent reporters on the ground in Iraq that a great panic has set in within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Abadi, like his Shia co-religionist Maliki, has been engaged in a thorough effort to disadvantage all the Sunni populations of Iraq. This would include; the Kurds (90% Sunni), the Sunni Arabs, the Sunni Turkomans, etc. To accomplish this, Sunni majority areas have been systematically deprived of weaponry and funding for years. Alternatively, Shia manned army and police units were stationd in Sunni areas like Mosul for the purpose of keeping the Sunnis under control
Now, to quote that notable American of the '60s and 70s.. H. Rap Brown, "the chickens has come home to roost." Shia units have collapsed and fled wherever they have met IS on Sunni populated ground and under resourced Sunni units have been defeated in Sunni majority areas like Anbar Province. Is Tikrit an exception to that? No. The IS withdrawal from the city was, IMO, a calculated IS ploy successfully executed for the purpose of fixing government forces in place while IS mobile forces moved to Anbar.
The Shia government in Baghdad has run out of cards. Their "army" has lost so much US supplied equipment that the remaining units are an isolated remnant and the government is reduced to relying on former Shia murder squads in the militias. Not surprisingly the Shia bigwigs are thinking of exile.
At the same time, the US government is suffering the effects of a cognitive dissonance that has prevailed since the First Gulf War and which became all controlling with the accession to power of GW Bush and the Svengalis of the neocon cabal.
The snake oil sold by the neocons contains the basic ingredients of disrespect for local cultures and a belief that the Muslims have no culture worth living by or respecting. This attitude has permeated the US government leading to an unjustified expectation that in the end the natives would be "reasonable" and would accept US tutelage in becoming "modern" and will remain attached to their former beliefs only so far as they are decorative.
We now see the result of this attitude and its resulting policy all over the Middle East and North Africa. The only US responses have been; more BS hurled at the governments, US military trainers exposed to unreasonable risks and bombing, lots of bombing.
I wrote earlier this week of the US policy collective or "Borg." That Borg is so densely structured and inflexible that it is incapable of adapting to the rejection that reality has visited on its dreams.
As a result the Borg is falling to bits internally, incapable of dealing with unfolding disaster. Names like Bataan and the Chosin Reservoir come increasingly to mind. pl
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian official, said Tehran was ready to help confront Islamic State, and he was certain the city would be "liberated".
Islamic State, which emerged as an offshoot of al Qaeda, controls large parts of Iraq and Syria in a self-proclaimed caliphate where it has carried out mass killings of members of religious minorities and beheaded hostages." Reuters
"Resistance is futile," proclaimed the Borg in an endless, mindless repetition of the ultimate in group-think. Today we have the policy Borg speaking with one voice. John Kerry in South Korea and USMC BG Weidly in Baghdad have the same talking points, exactly the same talking points.
Thought control became a priority for the US military after US policy (not the military) was defeated in VN. After much soul searching and rummaging about in the farther reaches of pseudo spirituality and science, the armed forces leadership stopped looking at such things as; spoon bending, fire walking and psycho-kinesis as expressions of non-material power and an explanation for defeat in VN and decided that we had simply been defeated at home in the media and because of that among the people. Clausewitz would have appreciated that thought.
An infamous essay called "Mind War" was authored in that time by Paul Vallely (Fox News consultant) and a strange fellow named Michael Aquino. Aquino was later notorious as the High Priest of the Temple of Set, a Satanist cult in California (where else?). This paper, written by this pair of half baked psychological operations reservists, somehow insinuated itself into the thinking of the US Army, then into all of the Defense Department until it came to be an article of faith that "Information Operations," (propaganda- IO) and "Kinetic Operations" (shooting people as necessary) were equally effective ways to wage war. This belief led to an exaggerated faith in the IO side of COIN (hearts and minds) and repeated attempts to change through persuasion the basic beliefs of the many different peoples of the earth who simply do not want to be changed by foreigners. As a result of this kind of thinking we have done all kinds of foolish things. Among them; we attempted to persuade the hard core Dawa Shia activist al-Maliki that he should be politically "inclusive" with Sunnis whom he regarded as the enemies of God and of his blood. We also situated outposts in totally hostile parts of Afghanistan next to villages from which our men would never be able to defend themselves. We were trying to be persuasively nice.
Worst of all it came to be consensual thought in the US government and among their co-opted media "friends" that it was normal to propagandize the American electorate in order to block political action intended to prevent or stop a war. This was an odd development for a country in which the United States Information Agency (USIA) was forbidden by law to direct its propaganda at US audiences.
That kind of approach took us into war in Iraq. The Republican Party is now trying to deal with the truth of that crime and their tribe of midget candidates is having a hard time justifying what their party did. Good! At the moment 76% of registered Republicans are shown by polling to think that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Good! Unfortunately it took a very long time for the Koolaid and BS to lose its potency.
We are still captives of the IO internal propaganda mindset and dogma. In Iraq, Syria and Yemen the US government in all its many parts continues to lie to us in order to control us. The government narrative is that all goes well. Defeat at Ramadi is nothing, "a momentary setback" is the theme propagated by the government while a minor raid in Syria is trumpeted as a distraction from the catastrophe that is now so clear to see in Iraq.
The most hurtful thing of all is to see an officer of the US Marine Corps, sworn to protect The Republic, stoop to lie to us from Baghdad in the service of WH talking points. Ah, but perhaps he believes the BS. When you are part of the Borg you eventually come to believe that the talking points are the only reality and that defeat is evidence of impending victory.
Locutas said that resistance is futile. Perhaps it is. pl
"So how on earth will this big tough guy execute the delicate kabuki dance of policy in Washington, DC? “General Smith comes to Washington” might make a good movie, pitting Pattonesque guts and glory against slimy politicos and greasy bureaucrats. But straight-shooting soldiers haven’t always served the Army well as chief of staff. Eric Shinseki’s honesty on how many troops were needed to occupy Iraq only brought him grief under Donald Rumsfeld, as did his politically tone-deaf push for wheeled vehicles and black berets. Peter Schoomaker, his successor, was a special operations soldier — much like Milley — who struggled to adjust to the “Big Army.”" Breaking Defense
So, how on earth did this happen? This not one of the "perfumed princes." All reports are favorable but he will need a lot of luck and a lot of help in the snake pit that is Washington these days.
"... the old pillars of the liberal unionist establishment: Church, law, education, have long ceased to have the power and status they once had.
Way beyond the appeal of the SNP, Scotland has grown increasingly impatient at the foibles of Westminster, more confident as a nation and society, and more assertive and calm in wanting more self-government.
The SNP wave carries with it the weight of high expectations. A powerful nationwide alliance of west and east coast, Highland and Lowland, town, city and rural areas has emerged and swung behind the SNP. This cannot be characterised as entirely centre-left or social democratic, but as a cross-class national alliance.
Irrespective of how Scotland voted, the UK was always going to get a Tory or Labour government. No-one imagined a majority Conservative government under David Cameron. This is now the reality that Scotland and the rest of the UK face – one that will face questions about its legitimacy and whether it does or doesn’t have a mandate north of the border. Irish Times
IMO there is a special irony that this article is in a leading Irish newspaper. I wonder what Michael Collins or De Valera would say if they were around.
Can anyone doubt that the Bloc Quebecois is looking at this result and considering the odds? Immigrant, essentially un-French, voters were the margin of defeat last time there was a referendum on "sovereignty." The thought must be that surely something clever could be done about that next time. The Anglo power establishment in Canada used to say that my French-Canadian ancestors were racists. This was largely because the French did not want to be Anglophones and Protestants. Perhaps the barons in Montreal were right.
I listened to all the usual Sunday morning news drivel today. There was very little discussion of Scotland. It was almost as though the Scots had already left. There was a lot of talk of the EU membership referendum in 2017, but no discussion of what the reaction of the Scots' would be if England votes itself out of the EU. Actually, what IS the point of UK membership in the EU? Without participation in a common currency, what is the point?
The most amusing of these discussion was a chat between Fareed Z. (the Great) and the woman who is now editor of The Economist on the subject of the election. They spoke with considerable chumminess for ten minutes and never mentioned Scotland once. pl
Adam L Silverman,
In a few weeks US Special Forces will conduct an exercise in the US southwest called Jade Helm. This is neither out of the ordinary for the US military or really even news. What is out of the ordinary and really news is that a vocal number of Texas citizens, fueled by far too much time on the Internet and listening to talk radio, are convinced that Jade Helm 15 is really cover for the President to declare martial law* by colluding with Wal-Mart to use secret tunnels under the five stores they have recently closed (for either a labor dispute or a plumbing problem depending on who you want to believe) - several of which aren't anywhere near the exercise areas - to move Special Forces around to round up Texans, place them in FEMA concentration camps, seize their private property, and import ISIS fighters across the Southern Border so that Muslims can conquer America. Someone even dispatched a Public Affairs Officer to go to town hall meetings to dispel the rumors. Click over to watch the video and see for yourself how far down the rabbit hole this whole thing has gone. If you like to play conspiracy theory bingo someone just won and won big! Also, if the allegations about Jade Helm turn out to be true, then our friend Tyler is going to be very, very busy down on the border this Summer - so be prepared to send care packages!
In response to this imminent threat to the Homeland, and Texas, and our precious bodily fluids (insert your preferred Dr. Strangelove reference here _______), Texas Governor Abbott has called out the Texas State Guard** to monitor the exercise, coordinate with the US military, and report back to him. This is either a smart move to diffuse unwarranted fears by engaging with those who have them and making them feel that their concerns are noted or a bad move as it will confirm the unfounded paranoia and reinforce these beliefs in those who have them because the governor is taking it seriously.
* The Gawker article includes the complete informational/briefing slide deck pertaining to Jade Helm. Its marked UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO, but I wanted to warn anyone with a clearance in case you click over there you'll find (a soft level of) spillage.
** The Texas State Guard is the descendant of the state militia set up by Steven Austin in the 19th Century. It does report to the Adjutant General. Twenty-two states have state level militias, either state guards or state defense forces, that are distinct from their National Guards. From the Texas State Guard website:
"The Texas Military Forces is composed of the three branches of the military in the state of Texas. These branches are the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, and the Texas State Guard. All three branches are administered by the state Adjutant General, an appointee of the Governor of Texas, and fall under the command of the Governor.
The mission of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) is to provide mission-ready military forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities; and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required."
Adam L. Silverman
About three weeks ago Confused Ponder in his response to Walrus about the events in Ukraine excerpted a block quote that referred to the events in Ukraine as a "botched up color revolution". What I found interesting about that reference is that none of the color revolutions have led to significant consolidation. In fact many led to follow on revolutions. This is certainly the case in Ukraine - the 2004 Orange Revolution failed, leading to several follow on state and societal crises that eventually blew up - for internal and external reasons - in the 2014 Maidan events. What happens is that expectations for change get raised, the post revolutionary government cannot meet them, and the cycle that leads to revolution starts all over again. The US has seen this phenomena too. There were several small rebellions and uprisings between the first founding and the acceptance of the Articles of Confederation and the second founding and the ratification of the Constitution. Things didn't end there with regional rebellions in the 19th Century punctuated by the Civil War, which was originally called The Great Rebellion. These were interwoven with smaller riots and uprisings. While many of these were race riots or labor riots - as in either minorities or labor fighting back against institutionalized authority or institutionalized authority violently targeting minorities or labor - there have been over 200 rebellions and uprisings since the American Revolution! They also include several sports related riots - both because some community's team won or lost. In many of these cases, including some of the sports riots, the rebellion, uprising, and/or riot occurred because expectations were raised and not met. In many ways the events we are witnessing in Baltimore this week are the result of the frustration that arises and boils over when social, political, and economic expectations are not met. While the immediate driver may have been the death of a Baltimorean in police custody, the real drivers are much, much deeper.
John Angelos, the COO of the Baltimore Orioles has made a statement about the real drivers of unrest in Baltimore this week (h/t John Cole at Balloon Juice) that provides a very easy to follow explanation of the effects of the dashed expectations that lead to revolutions, rebellions, and uprisings:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
The real question is how much longer things can continue on continuing on before this becomes more widespread than it is and moves from communities of color to the larger cross section of Americans that John Angelos references in his remarks. And perhaps the real question is whether we, as Americans, have the social, political, and economic will to make the changes necessary to bring about positive changes. And if we have leaders that can recognize opportunities for real, positive improvements rather than opportunistically exploiting the reality Angelos so clearly describes for their own and their patrons limited self interests.
Adam L Silverman
Lost amid all the sound and fury around The Cotton Letter are several really substantial issues that significantly impact American government and governance. Sure it is fun, to some extent, to focus on Senator Cotton and his forty-six colleagues inability to correctly describe Congress's actual constitutional role to the Iranians in a letter to the Iranian leadership that was written to explain Congress's actual constitutional role. It is also amusing to watch people speculate about Logan Act violations and the possibility for prosecution, though the actual political problems such a prosecution would create is largely left unexplored. Basically, the next time a Democrat did something that a Republican didn't like on foreign policy during a GOP administration the Logan Act would be utilized as a political weapon. And a recounting of then candidate Nixon working through Henry Kissinger, then on the LBJ Administration's payroll as a negotiator, and Anna Chennault to stymie the Paris Peace Talks in the service of the Nixon for President Campaign is always tons of fun and an actual example of treason.
While this is all amusing, including different members of the GOP distancing themselves or claiming that it was all just an attempt to inject a little levity into the serious negotiations with Iran, it ignores a major, and largely unspoken reality: no one really knows the details of what is being negotiated. Yes, there have been some strategic leaks, such as those about a potential, initial ten year time limit to the agreement. And it is definite that both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress - the Speaker, Majority and Minority Leaders of both chambers and the chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees - have been briefed on some/all of the details. This information is to satisfy the Congressional oversight role, is highly classified, and not for disclosure. We also know that US allies have been briefed with the understanding that they will be discreet with the information and hold it closely. Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to use the information that he claims he was briefed on is part of the ongoing deterioration of his relationship with President Obama. No matter what leaks about the negotiations get published, there is simply no way for Americans to know if these are accurate or being finessed for political gain.
Adam L. Silverman
I've waited about a week to write up my reaction to Netanyahu's speech to Congress because every time I'd sit down to start writing I was worried it would turn into a rant. My initial response was a combination of disgust, anger, and embarrassment. I also knew that I didn't want to simply cover many points that have been covered here and elsewhere: that Netanyahu has been predicting that Iran is anywhere from 1 to 2 to 3 to 5 years away from achieving a nuclear weapon for going on twenty-five to thirty years; that much of what he said was an echo of what he stated about Iraq when he addressed Congress in the early 00s; that the Congressional GOP leadership had reached a new low (which the Senatorial GOP surpassed yesterday and I'll write about later today); as I covered before the speech - something similar was pulled on President Reagan by Menachem Begin, and the unmitigated gall of Netanyahu to claim to speak on behalf of all members of a religion.
Instead I want to focus on two distinct themes that Prime Minister Netanyahu kept hammering: fear and victimization. These themes in his remarks were really about the fear that Israel has of its neighbors, especially Iran. And the historic victimization of the Jews, which Israel will not allow to happen ever again. Despite the Israeli/Jewish wrapper of his remarks, Netanyahu was also hitting on two themes that play very well with Americans; especially after 9-11. When I was a college student one of my professors stated something that makes a lot of sense post 9-11: "there is nothing as dangerous as a democracy when its scared." In many ways I think this is a good way to understand a lot of American behavior post 9-11. Even more so many of our elected and appointed officials, as well as the professional pundits and commentators. We allowed al Qaeda, through our over reaction and the over reaction of politicians and pundits to an unusually and unexpectedly successful terrorist attack on three targets, to be transformed in our imaginations from a terrorist group to an existential and civilizational threat. This, by the way, was what bin Laden wanted.
Netanyahu's focus on fear and victimization was no accident. He understands how we've tuned our strings and simply plucked them accordingly. My disgust and embarrassment, however, went beyond his attempts to simply play America - or at least Congress and the punditocracy - to his remarks about Judaism, fear, and victimization. There is no doubt that Jews have repeatedly faced being the societal other, discriminated against, having the force of what we now call the state directed against them, and being victimized. However, this is not the totality of the Jewish experience. While it definitely accounts for the majority of Jewish life in Europe from the fall of Rome through to World War II and the Holocaust, it fails to account for other Jewish experiences. For instance, the Golden Age of Spain, which saw a high amount of societal and political integration between the Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Spain. It ignores the completely different experiences of the Jewish communities of India and China, the latter of which was so successfully integrated into China that it essentially assimilated fully into Han Chinese culture. And it definitely doesn't account for the modern Jewish American experience.
There is no doubt that Jews in Europe were often and repeatedly attacked for being Jewish or for bizarre accusations of what Jews do ritually, such as the blood libel. This was, of course, topped off by the Holocaust. However, some Jews did try to fight back. For instance, during the Holocaust there were significant numbers of Jews who fled ahead of the NAZIs to join with the various partisan movements and fight back. There were others, like Moe Berg a Jewish American professional baseball player who undertook a number of clandestine operations against the NAZIs. Or Hannah Senesh who undertook paratrooper operations against the NAZIs until caught and eventually executed. This doesn't even account for the Jewish American and Jewish British Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who fought against the NAZIs in Europe or against their AXIS partners/the Japanese in the Pacific. While Jewish resistance, whether to the NAZIs or to the anti-Semitism of their Christian neighbors, was not uniform, Netanyahu's equating the Jewish experience with victimization obscures a number of overtly heroic actions to counter the victimization. But it does something even worse. It fails to recognize the even harder form of resistance, the attempt to remain free within one's self when there is no immediate opportunity for external/physical resistance. By focusing on victimization and fear, Netanyahu missed the more important flip side of the coin: the mental resilience and resistance that are the basis for survival. It was to the perceived lack of this resistance among Americans that Netanyahu was playing and it demonstrates how little he thinks of his Congressional hosts, America's elected and appointed officials, and Americans in general. The only outstanding question is if we are going to prove him wrong.
"... Syria is not just a civil war, but a propaganda war being fought for competing geopolitical interests. The end-result of this tug of war between pro-interventionist and anti-interventionist narratives has been the victory of neither, and thus, the entrenchment of violence amidst a Syrian stalemate.
Unfortunately, some parties see this stalemate as a strategic boon. Noting “the synergy between the Israeli and American positions”, the New York Times recently reported that: “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.” In this context, the threat of “limited” military strikes is more about sending a message to Iran and Syria, rather than about decisively defeating Assad — which may be because “the West needs more time to prop up opposition forces it finds more palatable.” Le Monde
The government/academic/media/thinktank world decided several years back that the Syrian Government was altogether responsible for the death and destruction of the Syrian civil war. In pursuit of that view ALL casualties are said to be the SAG's responsibility because it did not surrender to the various kinds of rebels early on. There does not seem to be any possibility of withdrawal from that lofty consensus (group think) now prevalent among the "cognoscenti." At numerous meetings in the capital (Washington) swamp and the other capital swamp (New York) I have heard all the informational "players" sound off on the wisdom of their judgments about the viability of the SAG, its weakness, the opposition of the "Syrian People" to the SAG, etc. When interlocutors are asked why the Alawis, Shia, Christians, etc and many sophisticated, westernized Sunnis support the SAG, eyes roll upward in frustration. One young man actually told me that "he knew what he was doing." He had served three or four years in the army, had left as a captain and currently held a position as the Syria analyst at a major think tank.
I have made it a habit to challenge the epistemology of their data. "How do you know that?" This would be a typical challenge. This kind of question ALWAYS elicits the same kind of response. The response is hostility to the question followed by a grudging admission that the sources of data that are taken as probably true are all on the rebel sides,. The favorite is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK based rebel propaganda organ.The SAG's statements and reporting is simply dismissed as beneath contempt.
An example of that would be the interview that Bashar Assad gave to the BBC this week. The Beeb had pursued Assad for several years seeking this interview. He finally granted the interview and sat with Bowman, the ME editor of BBC, for an exclusive talk. BBC asked in advance if there were any areas of questioning that were "off limits." The answer was that there were none and Assad answered every question within the limits of expression of someone who does not speak English every day. The on-air reaction of Bowman reporting later from the safety of Beirut was completely dismissive. The attitude was that Assad's willingness to participate in the interview was an unaccountable irrelevance since he was obviously lying about every topic of discussion.
Bowman made a great deal of the subject of "barrel bombs," and their bestiality as evidence of a demonic Nazi-like hatred for the Syrian people. Assad asserted that the Syrian Air Force does not use barrel bombs. He said they had lots of ordinary bombs. Why use barrel bombs? This statement was taken as evidence of Assad's perfidy. "Barrel Bombs" are 55 gallon drums filled with explosives and fragmentation junk that are dropped as sling loads under helicopters. I have no idea if the SAG uses barrel bombs, but it seems to me that the difference in effect between that and common 250 or 500 lb. aerial fragmentation bombs cannot be very great. US air power uses large, destructive bombs all the time as do all air forces across the world. Would it not have been a normal reaction to Assad's position for Bowman to ask for access to Syrian Air Force operations in order to confirm or deny Assad's statements? It seems that Bowman did not do that. Why? Was it because he could not afford to learn something that would be outside the consensus? Actually, why not ask for "embedding" throughout the Syrian Armed Forces for the same purpose?
We should face the truth about the media's statements about the Syrian Civil War. They are something less than objective truth. Why is that? pl
"A sunset clause precommits Congress and the President to revisit the nature and scope of the very diffuse war against Islamic terrorists on a regular basis. It pressures the President on a regular basis to explain the nature of the conflict and the reasons why it must continue (and how), and it pressures Congress to exercise its constitutional and democratic responsibilities to deliberate about and vote on (or at least face) the issue. A sunset clause poses risks. The President could argue after three years that he can continue to fight the Islamic State under Article II without Congress’s imprimatur. But while this argument might be available, it is more of a legal stretch, and certainly politically riskier, for the president to justify the entire conflict on the basis of Article II than it is for him to use Article II to extend the war a bit beyond what Congress authorized (either geographically or in terms of ground troops). There is also the danger that Congress will not renew the authorization, or not renew it to the President’s liking, thus forcing the President into an awkward Article II posture or into narrowing the conflict further than he would like. I doubt any of these outcomes will occur, as it should not be hard for the next President to make the case for renewing authorizations for war if such authorizations are plausibly warranted. But in any event, as a nation we should not shy away from these possible consequences of democratic deliberation on a vital question like war.
In short, a sunset clause is the one provision that a Congress seeking to reassert its constitutional prerogatives should insist on in a new AUMF." Goldsmith in Lawfare
The great danger that we face in the US is that of an unending war against any or all forces that a president can describe as being of hostile intent and capable of carrying out kinetic attacks on the US or powers friendly to the US.
The AUMFs have become the functional equivalents of declarations of war. Under their authority the president and commander in chief can wage war with little restriction on his Second Amendment powers as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.
Unless these powers are limited in some meaningful way we are watching a transformation from Republic to Principate. pl
ACLU, Cuccinelli oppose unwarranted searches and seizures by Victoria Zawitkowski / Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Tea party hero Ken Cuccinelli, the head of the Virginia ACLU and others across the political spectrum called Thursday for an amendment to the state Constitution to protect citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures. They supported a provision similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure. Advocates of the idea want to extend that protection to electronic devices and information given to a third party, such as a cellphone company or a website.
Two resolutions before the General Assembly would start the process of amending the Constitution: HJ 578, sponsored by Del. Richard Anderson, R–Woodbridge, and SJ 302, introduced by Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford. The resolutions’ sponsors and supporters held a press conference to discuss the issue. Anderson called attention to the diverse groups working together on it. “Just think, the Virginia ACLU and the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots,” Anderson said. “This knows support across theological lines simply because it’s the right thing. It returns us to what our founders intended.” Stuart said the amendment would modernize protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. “I think it goes a long way in helping us to ensure those protections into the 21st century,” Stuart said. “Obviously, there are things that our Founding Fathers couldn’t contemplate at the time that this was done.”
Cuccinelli and Anderson said the amendment would protect Virginians against surveillance by organizations such as the National Security Agency and the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Share Network, a database of personal telephone data compiled by police in southeast Virginia. The proposed state amendment would go beyond the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens only in or immediately outside of their home, said Cuccinelli, a former state attorney general. “This would take it to your property line,” he said. (Read the full article at the Free Lance-Star.)
I'm no fan of Cuccinelli, but I'll stand right by his side on this one. Good on him! The entire federal government, including the Supreme Court, has been eroding our fourth amendment rights for the last fifteen years. I've written about this before... many times. Others have fought this fight in their own ways, from Senator Ron Wyden's and Representative Justin Amash's legislative proposals, to the technical evangelism of Bruce Schneier and Jacob Appelbaum, the whistleblowing of Thomas Drake and others, and the shocking revelations of Edward Snowden.
This effort is different. If successful, this legislation will pit the people and Constitution of Virginia against the federal acolytes of the national security state. This will be a frontal assault on on the weasel words concocted by NSA lawyers to justify mass surveillance and retention of all our personal information. It will be a punch in the gut of any federal official trying to serve a national security letter on a Virginian. It will tell the rest of the nation that Virginians would rather stand for our freedom than cower for our safety.
Is the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest legislative body in the New World, up to this? Will Governor McAuliffe embrace this in the face of the inevitable backlash of the Obama Administration? Are we up for this fight? I intend to do what I can to support this legislation. Writing a few letters is the least I can do if I want to claim the title of Virginian like Washington, Jefferson, Lee and Jackson.
"Studies have shown that up to a quarter of the river’s brown bullheads, a type of catfish that feeds on the toxin-clogged sediment at the bottom of the Anacostia, have skin tumors, and as many as half have liver tumors.
A lot of waste has been dumped into the waterway. The Navy Yard, once the world’s largest producer of naval ordnance, sits on the Anacostia and has been accused of leaking carcinogenic PCBs into the water for decades. The riverbanks have hosted a coal gasification plant, a rail yard, power and gas facilities and other heavy industry, all of which used chemicals that could pollute the water." Washpost
"S--t Creek" is the local nickname for this stream. The Anacostia River should have been cleaned up long ago. Inaction in this matter is a monument to the collossal ineptitude of the autonomous District of Columbia government, a government plagued by federal graft investigations and an obvious inability to govern effectively.
The high end estimated cost for cleaning up this welter of sewage and industrial pollution is $500 million. Let's think about that number in the context of what we have been throwing away in the Forever Wars.
The Potomac River into which the Anacostia flows has been greatly improved in water quality in the last fifty years. Fishing in the Potomac is now a normal activity as is the presence of a lot of waterfowl.
The City of Alexandria, Virginia, ten miles from Washington, DC has a population of 140,000. I am an Alexandrian. We recently finished construction of a new version of TC Williams High School. That cost the city around $150 million. There are numerous other projects recently done or underway around town; the African American cultural center, etc. When you add them all together the numbers involved will closely resemble the estimated costs of an Anacostia River clean up. We meet our obligations in Alexandria.
Maryland, the District of Columbia government and the US Navy should "pony up" and clean up the filth in the river. pl