Daily Archive: 06/18/2013

Jun 18 2013

“Show Me What You Do”

To quote a phrase from a well known blogger at a formerly liberal, progressive web site:

Don’t tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

I give you President Barack Obama defending the Bush Administrations surveillance state.

Obama Defends Authorization of Surveillance Programs

by Peter Baker, The New York Times

“Some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney,’ ” Mr. Obama told Charlie Rose on his PBS interview show. “Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know, he took it all lock, stock and barrel.’ My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather, are we setting up a system of checks and balances?” [..]

Yet like Mr. Cheney, who appeared on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend, Mr. Obama defended the effectiveness of surveillance programs in heading off threats to the United States. “The one thing people should understand about all these programs, though, is they have disrupted plots, not just here in the United States but overseas as well,” he said. He added that while other factors were at work, “we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs.”

Partial transcript:

Barack Obama: Well, in the end, and what I’ve said, and I continue to believe, is that we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn’t the case…. And so that’s a tradeoff we make, the same way we make a tradeoff about drunk driving. We say, “Occasionally there are going to be checkpoints. They may be intrusive.” To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom. I don’t think anybody says we’re no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports.

Charlie Rose: But there is a balance here.

Barack Obama: But there is a balance, so I’m going to get to your – get to your question. The way I view it, my job is both to protect the American people and to protect the American way of life, which includes our privacy. And so every program that we engage in, what I’ve said is “Let’s examine and make sure that we’re making the right tradeoffs.” Now, with respect to the NSA, a government agency that has been in the intelligence gathering business for a very long time –

Charlie Rose: Bigger and better than everybody else.

Barack Obama: Bigger and better than everybody else, and we should take pride in that because they’re extraordinary professionals; they are dedicated to keeping the American people safe. What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails … and have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they – and usually it wouldn’t be “they,” it’d be the FBI – go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause….

So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule. There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did any of the – did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that –

Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.

Barack Obama: Well, let me – let me finish, because I don’t. So, what happens is that the FBI – if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone – it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.

Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?

Barack Obama: The – because – the – first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.

Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?

Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court…. The whole point of my concern, before I was president – because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee – but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.

Now, one last point I want to make, because what you’ll hear is people say, “Okay, we have no evidence that it has been abused so far.” And they say, “Let’s even grant that Obama’s not abusing it, that all these processes – DOJ is examining it. It’s being renewed periodically, et cetera – the very fact that there is all this data in bulk, it has the enormous potential for abuse,” because they’ll say, you know, “You can – when you start looking at metadata, even if you don’t know the names, you can match it up, if there’s a call to an oncologist, and there’s a call to a lawyer, and – you can pair that up and figure out maybe this person’s dying, and they’re writing their will, and you can yield all this information.” All of that is true. Except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that, it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that.

Charlie Rose: So, what are you going to change? Are you going to issue any kind of instructions to the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper, and say, “I want you to change it at least in this way”?

Barack Obama: Here’s what we need to do. But before I say that – and I know that we’re running out of time, but I want to make sure I get very clear on this. Because there has been a lot of mis-information out there. There is a second program called the 702 program. And what that does is that does not apply to any U.S. person. Has to be a foreign entity. It can only be narrowly related to counter-terrorism, weapons proliferation, cyber hacking or attacks, and a select number of identifiers – phone numbers, emails, et cetera. Those – and the process has all been approved by the courts – you can send to providers – the Yahoos or the Googles, what have you. And in the same way that you present essentially a warrant. And what will happen then is that you there can obtain content. But again, that does not apply to U.S. persons. And it’s only in these very narrow bands. So, you asked, what should we do? …What I’ve said is – is that what is a legitimate concern – a legitimate critique – is that because these are classified programs – even though we have all these systems of checks and balances, Congress is overseeing it, federal courts are overseeing it – despite all that, the public may not fully know. And that can make the public kind of nervous, right? Because they say, “Well, Obama says it’s okay – or Congress says it’s okay. I don’t know who this judge is. I’m nervous about it.” What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, number one. And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at because frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.

Number two. I’ve stood up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board, made up of independent citizens including some fierce civil libertarians. I’ll be meeting with them. And what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation, not only about these two programs, but also the general problem of data, big data sets, because this is not going to be restricted to government entities.

Charlie Rose: Let me just ask you this. If someone leaks all this information about NSA surveillance, as Mr. Snowden did…. Did it cause national security damage to the United States, and therefore, should he be prosecuted?

Barack Obama: I’m not going to comment on prosecution…. The case has been referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation… and possible extradition. I will leave it up to them to answer those questions.

Keep in mind that this president employs and supports two known liars, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith B. Alexander, both of whom have continuously lied to Congress about the surveillance programs. This president has approved unchecked wiretapping something he said he would end when campaigning for office.

Mr. Obama has said he does not believe he has violated the privacy of any American but this is what he does.

So what does he believe? Certainly not the Constitution and our right to protection from illegal searches.

Jun 18 2013

Life Insurance Crooks

Insurers Inflating Books, New York Regulator Says

By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, The New York Times

June 11, 2013, 8:50 pm

Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York’s superintendent of financial services, said that life insurers based in New York had alone burnished their books by $48 billion, using what he called “shadow insurance,” according to an investigation conducted by his department. He issued a report about the investigation late Tuesday.



Insurance is regulated by the states, and Mr. Lawsky said his investigators found that life insurers in New York were seeking out states with looser regulations and setting up shell companies there for the deals. They then used those states’ tight secrecy laws to avoid scrutiny by the New York State regulators.

Insurance regulation is based squarely on the concept of solvency – the idea that future claims can be predicted fairly accurately and that each insurer should track them and keep enough reserves on hand to pay all of them. The states have detailed rules for what types of assets reserves can be invested in. Companies are also expected to keep a little more than they really expect to need – called their surplus – as a buffer against unexpected events. State regulators monitor the reserves and surpluses of companies and make sure none fall short.



The transactions at issue are modeled after reinsurance, a business in which an insurance company pays another company, a reinsurer, to take over some of its obligations to pay claims. Reinsurance is widely used and is considered beneficial because it allows insurers to spread their risks and remain stable as they grow. Conventional reinsurance deals are negotiated at arm’s length by independent companies; both sides understand the risk and can agree on a fair price for covering it. The obligations drop off the original insurer’s books because the reinsurer has picked them up.

Mr. Lawsky’s investigators found, though, that life insurance groups, including some of the best known, were creating their own shell companies in other states or countries – outside the regulators’ view – and saying that these so-called captives were selling them reinsurance. The value of policies reinsured through all affiliates, including captives, rose to $5.46 trillion in 2012, from $2.82 trillion in 2007.

The chief problem with captive reinsurance, Mr. Lawsky said, is that the risk is not being transferred to an independent reinsurer. Also, the deal is not at arm’s length. And confidentiality rules make it difficult to see what secures the obligations.

The New York State investigators subpoenaed this information and discovered that some states were approving deals backed by assets that would not be allowed in New York; Mr. Lawsky referred to “hollow assets,” “naked parental guarantees” and “conditional letters of credit.”



Insurers, unlike banks, have no prepaid fund like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to make customers whole in the event of a collapse. That’s why Mr. Lawsky said he feared that taxpayers might have to be called to the rescue again.

The Next Crash And The Next Bailout Now

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

at 11:15AM Jun 13, 2013

Give them a suit with rubber pockets and they’d steal soup.

Learning from the sweet — and largely unprosecuted — techniques of their pals in the financial-services industry, it appears that the moguls, poobahs, and panjandrums in the insurance industry are finding their own special ways to game the entire system into the poorhouse.



You think any of these guys looked at what happened in 2008 and thought, “Boy, those guys really were crooks and bought the country a helluva catastrophe. We should learn from them and not do that ourselves.” Nope, I guarantee you the first thoughts among the people who thought up this scam for the insurance companies was, “Holy crap, look at the dough those guys made!” And I guarantee you those same people all got raises. The upper levels of American capitalism is so rotten with amorality, so utterly devoid of any conventional sense of ethics, let alone social responsibility, that it hardly seems worth pointing it out any more. Congratulations to America’s graduate schools of business. You have bred three generations of vampires to feed on the rest of us. It’s as though every medical school in the country adopted the basic approach to thoracic surgery of Sweeney Todd and married it to the economic philosophy of Bialystock And Bloom.

Jun 18 2013

Life Insuarance Crooks

Insurers Inflating Books, New York Regulator Says

By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, The New York Times

June 11, 2013, 8:50 pm

Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York’s superintendent of financial services, said that life insurers based in New York had alone burnished their books by $48 billion, using what he called “shadow insurance,” according to an investigation conducted by his department. He issued a report about the investigation late Tuesday.



Insurance is regulated by the states, and Mr. Lawsky said his investigators found that life insurers in New York were seeking out states with looser regulations and setting up shell companies there for the deals. They then used those states’ tight secrecy laws to avoid scrutiny by the New York State regulators.

Insurance regulation is based squarely on the concept of solvency – the idea that future claims can be predicted fairly accurately and that each insurer should track them and keep enough reserves on hand to pay all of them. The states have detailed rules for what types of assets reserves can be invested in. Companies are also expected to keep a little more than they really expect to need – called their surplus – as a buffer against unexpected events. State regulators monitor the reserves and surpluses of companies and make sure none fall short.



The transactions at issue are modeled after reinsurance, a business in which an insurance company pays another company, a reinsurer, to take over some of its obligations to pay claims. Reinsurance is widely used and is considered beneficial because it allows insurers to spread their risks and remain stable as they grow. Conventional reinsurance deals are negotiated at arm’s length by independent companies; both sides understand the risk and can agree on a fair price for covering it. The obligations drop off the original insurer’s books because the reinsurer has picked them up.

Mr. Lawsky’s investigators found, though, that life insurance groups, including some of the best known, were creating their own shell companies in other states or countries – outside the regulators’ view – and saying that these so-called captives were selling them reinsurance. The value of policies reinsured through all affiliates, including captives, rose to $5.46 trillion in 2012, from $2.82 trillion in 2007.

The chief problem with captive reinsurance, Mr. Lawsky said, is that the risk is not being transferred to an independent reinsurer. Also, the deal is not at arm’s length. And confidentiality rules make it difficult to see what secures the obligations.

The New York State investigators subpoenaed this information and discovered that some states were approving deals backed by assets that would not be allowed in New York; Mr. Lawsky referred to “hollow assets,” “naked parental guarantees” and “conditional letters of credit.”



Insurers, unlike banks, have no prepaid fund like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to make customers whole in the event of a collapse. That’s why Mr. Lawsky said he feared that taxpayers might have to be called to the rescue again.

The Next Crash And The Next Bailout Now

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

at 11:15AM Jun 13, 2013

Give them a suit with rubber pockets and they’d steal soup.

Learning from the sweet — and largely unprosecuted — techniques of their pals in the financial-services industry, it appears that the moguls, poobahs, and panjandrums in the insurance industry are finding their own special ways to game the entire system into the poorhouse.



You think any of these guys looked at what happened in 2008 and thought, “Boy, those guys really were crooks and bought the country a helluva catastrophe. We should learn from them and not do that ourselves.” Nope, I guarantee you the first thoughts among the people who thought up this scam for the insurance companies was, “Holy crap, look at the dough those guys made!” And I guarantee you those same people all got raises. The upper levels of American capitalism is so rotten with amorality, so utterly devoid of any conventional sense of ethics, let alone social responsibility, that it hardly seems worth pointing it out any more. Congratulations to America’s graduate schools of business. You have bred three generations of vampires to feed on the rest of us. It’s as though every medical school in the country adopted the basic approach to thoracic surgery of Sweeney Todd and married it to the economic philosophy of Bialystock And Bloom.

Jun 18 2013

Unaccountable

Does Robert Reich call for creation of a Third Party?

The Two Centers of Unaccountable Power in America, and Their Consequences

Robert Reich

Thursday, June 13, 2013

There are two great centers of unaccountable power in the American political-economic system today – places where decisions that significantly affect large numbers of Americans are made in secret, and are unchecked either by effective democratic oversight or by market competition.

One goes by the name of the “intelligence community” and its epicenter is the National Security Agency within the Defense Department. If we trusted that it reasonably balanced its snooping on Americans with our nation’s security needs, and that our elected representatives effectively oversaw that balance, there would be little cause for concern. We would not worry that the information so gathered might be misused to harass individuals, thereby chilling free speech or democratic debate, or that some future government might use it to intimidate critics and opponents. We would feel confident, in other words, that despite the scale and secrecy of the operation, our privacy, civil liberties, and democracy were nonetheless adequately protected.

But the NSA has so much power, and oversight of it is so thin, that we have every reason to be concerned. The fact that its technological reach is vast, its resources almost limitless, and its operations are shrouded in secrecy, make it difficult for a handful of elected representatives to effectively monitor even a tiny fraction of what it does. And every new revelation of its clandestine “requests” for companies to hand over information about our personal lives and communications further undermines our trust. To the contrary, the NSA seems to be literally out of control.

The second center of unaccountable power goes by the name of Wall Street and is centered in the largest banks there. If we trusted that market forces kept them in check and that they did not exercise inordinate influence over Congress and the executive branch, we would have no basis for concern. We wouldn’t worry that the Street’s financial power would be misused to fix markets, profit from insider information, or make irresponsible bets that imperiled the rest of us. We could be confident that despite the size and scope of the giant banks, our economy and everyone who depends on it were nonetheless adequately protected.



That neither Republicans nor Democrats have done much of anything to effectively rein in these two centers of unaccountable power suggests that, if there is ever to be a viable third party in America, it will may borne of the ill-fated consequences.

Jun 18 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Tom Shorrock: Put the Spies Back Under One Roof

For decades, the N.S.A. relied on its own computer scientists, cryptographers and mathematicians to tap, decode and analyze communications as they traversed phone lines and satellite networks. By the 1990s, however, advances in personal computing, the growth of the Internet, the advent of cellphones and the shift in telecommunications to high-speed fiber-optic lines has made it difficult for the N.S.A. to keep up.

As the commercial world began to surpass the N.S.A., some in the agency began looking to the private sector for solutions. In 2000, thanks in part to an advisory committee led by James R. Clapper Jr., now the director of national intelligence, the N.S.A. decided to shift away from its in-house development strategy and outsource on a huge scale. The N.S.A.’s headquarters began filling with contractors working for Booz Allen and hundreds of other companies. [..]

Congress must act now to re-establish a government-run intelligence service operating with proper oversight. The first step is to appoint an independent review board – with no contractors on it – to decide where the line for government work should be drawn. The best response to the Snowden affair is to reduce the size of our private intelligence army and make contract spying a thing of the past. Our democracy depends on it.

Roger Cohen: Obama’s German Storm

Germany is normally a welcoming place for American leaders. But President Barack Obama will walk into a German storm Tuesday provoked by revelations about the Prism and Boundless Informant (who comes up with these names?) surveillance programs of the U.S. National Security Agency.

No nation, after the Nazis and the Stasi, has such intense feelings about personal privacy as Germany. The very word “Datenschutz,” or data protection, is a revered one. The notion that the United States has been able to access the e-mails or Facebook accounts or Skype conversations of German citizens has been described as “monstrous” by Peter Schaar, the official responsible for enforcing Germany’s strict privacy rules. When the German bureaucracy starts talking about monstrous American behavior, take note.

Dean Baker: Celebrate the Defeat of the Granny Bashers!

It isn’t often that progressives in the United States have much to celebrate. After all, the news has swung between bad and worse for most of the last three decades. That is why we should be celebrating the victory over the Campaign to Fix the Debt and its efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. [..]

The result will be a somewhat smaller share of the pie for those on top and a larger share for everyone else. And it will almost certainly also mean a more rapidly growing economy. The latter would especially be true if we could reverse the sequester and other pointless austerity measures.

But the move to offense is not about to happen right now. And with all the money it has available, we can’t even assume the CFD effort will stay dead.

Jon Soltz and Sen. Tom Udall: President Obama Has Three Questions to Answer on Arms to Syria

In light of recent findings regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the President has decided to send arms to the rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad, but the full scope of this new intervention is unclear. There is a growing fervor for military intervention. As one of just three senators on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to vote against arming unorganized rebels, and as an Iraq War Veteran, we urge a different course.

A number of experts are warning that the options to intervene in Syria are misguided, and could prove damaging to America’s strategic interests. Despite these concerns, many who advocated for previously disastrous Middle East interventions are pushing loudly to arm groups we know little about, and declare war through air strikes on another Middle Eastern country.

This rush to judgment is dangerous. We should learn from history, not repeat it.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: We Need a New Deal For Millennials

What kind of society abandons its own young? What kind of society allows the generations in power to favor themselves over those who follow them, and then lets them claim they’re doing it out of selflessness?

Look around you.

This weekend we reviewed nine ways an extreme-right right social agenda has harmed the Millennial Generation.  But there’s a cure for that, a formula that’s rational, sane, wise, and fair. It involves time-tested techniques for jobs, growth, and education – a New Deal for Millennials.

And a New Deal starts with new values.

Mark Weisbrot: Domestic Dissent Can Change US Foreign Policy for the Better

From the Vietnam era to the Iraq war, it’s clear that the moral authority of protest has altered US government behaviour

The current revelations of a vast, secret NSA surveillance program are, of course, a continuation of what our government has been doing for the past century – the main difference being that the dragnet has gotten much larger due to change in communications technology. But there is an often-overlooked political reason for this mass intrusion on our personal communications: the government is gathering actionable intelligence in order to use it against those who oppose unpopular, unjust, and often criminal policies of that same government. And it has good reason to do so, because that opposition can be quite effective.

It is well-known that a mass protest movement, as well as its lobbying of Congres,s helped get us out of Vietnam. It is less widely known that the movement against the Central American wars in the 1980s, which involved hundreds of thousands of people, succeeded in cutting off congressional funding for the war against Nicaragua. And perhaps more historically significant, that result caused major problems for then-President Reagan, when his government turned to illegal funding and got caught, resulting in the infamous “Iran-Contra” scandal.

Jun 18 2013

On This Day In History June 18

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 18 is the 169th day of the year (170th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 196 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1812, War of 1812 begins

The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire, including those of present-day Canada. The Americans declared war in 1812 for a number of reasons, including a desire for expansion into the Northwest Territory, trade restrictions because of Britain’s ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, and the humiliation of American honour. Until 1814, the British Empire adopted a defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and destroyed Tecumseh’s dream of an Indian confederacy. In the Southwest General Andrew Jackson humbled the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend but with the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large armies along with more patrols. British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed the British to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed British invasions of New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.

The war was fought in three theaters: At sea, warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war. Both land and naval battles were fought on the frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. The South and the Gulf coast saw major land battles in which the American forces destroyed Britain’s Indian allies and defeated the main British invasion force at New Orleans. Both sides invaded each other’s territory, but these invasions were unsuccessful or temporary. At the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other’s territory, but these areas were restored by the Treaty of Ghent.

In the U.S., battles such as the Battle of New Orleans and the earlier successful defense of Baltimore (which inspired the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”) produced a sense of euphoria over a “second war of independence” against Britain. It ushered in an “Era of Good Feelings” in which the partisan animosity that had once verged on treason practically vanished. Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity. Britain regarded the war as a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe; it welcomed an era of peaceful relations and trade with the United States.

Jun 18 2013

Arming Syria Is Not a Good Idea

CNN host of GPS and editor of Newsweek International, Fareed Zacharia made this video before Pres. Barack Obama decided to send arms directly to the Al Qaeda backed rebels in Syria.

Oh Thank God–Finally, War With Syria

by Russ Baker,

Now, the Obama administration is preparing for war, in an astonishing echo of the George W. Bush administration’s misleading justifications for invading Iraq. [..]

No one is likely to demand good hard evidence for the use of chemical weapons. After all, the Bush administration and its lies for war was so…very long ago. [..]

None of these military adventures were ever about anything remotely honorable. So, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you just have to get over it. You may feel better believing the system of which you are part has noble intentions, or that the party you prefer is somehow more principled.

The truth is actually pretty simple: no matter which party is running things,  globally dominant governments do not make decisions based on humane do-goodism.  In the halls of power, decisions are based on a consensus of hard-headed “realists,” whose concerns do not extend to human rights, the safety of women and children and other civilians, or the “self-determination” of non-Americans. “Spreading democracy around world”? Um, no.

This entry into a new Middle East conflict isn’t going over very well with the American public. Only 20 percent support this action, while 70 percent oppose it. Opposing to arming the rebel is strong across party lines, as Jon Walker at FDL Action shows with this graph from Pew:

Americans Opposed to US Syrian Intervention photo 3_zpse6482096.png

Click on image to enlarge

At FDL News Desk, DSWRight makes some very salient points that this is not Rwanda and not how you get people to the table:

This is not Darfur or as Bill Clinton may infer Rwanda. This is a sectarian civil war where the Sunni majority is taking on a Shiite aligned government as part of a larger factional struggle in the region. [..]

In what world is that a way to launch peace talks? America is not neutral (and to be fair never has been) but starting off negotiations by claiming one of the parties at the talks must leave power is not going to advance the ball very far.

Getting in the middle of a regional conflict like Syria may even be dumber than Iraq, which is really saying something. And what if the rebels win? Then Al-Qaeda and friends come to power. After they are done massacring the losers and sectarian minorities they can help launch attacks against America. The Syrian intervention is all kinds of stupid.

This is not going to go well. Should anyone be surprised that Pres Obama’s approval rating is dropping?