09/23/2014 archive

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”.

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Dave Johnson: Who Gets Rich Harvesting Burger King and the American Economy?

As fast-food workers across the country strike for decent pay, Burger King is still preparing to abandon the U.S. as its home country. How does a burger company get flipped like this and who gets rich when it happens? [..]

The company has been stripped, financialized and any remaining value is ultimately being moved across the border. The story of what is happening with Burger King is the story of what American capitalism and its financial speculation has been and is doing to the American economy. It is being done to the company and to us by the financiers. In this case it is names like Goldman Sachs, TGP Capital, Bain Capital, 3G Capital — all playing games with Burger King, other companies the American economy and our lives. And the latest plunderer, Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital Management, is a financial manipulator who when he sees a company’s carcass worth plundering, goes after it — even if it involves betting on a company’s stock going down and then working to drive the company into the ground.

Nathan Schneider: Climate change is war – and Wall Street is winning

We shouldn™’t reward polluters with profit

Among the most iconic images to emerge from Hurricane Sandy’s assault on the Eastern Seaboard in 2012 were those of the Goldman Sachs building lit up like a torch by its own generator while a blackout left the rest of lower Manhattan in the dark. This proved a sign of things to come: Within days, the financial district was back to work, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed far slower to notice what had befallen other areas of the city. He sought to go through with the annual New York Marathon just a week after the storm, until residents and runners rallied to inform him that coastal neighborhoods of his city had been devastated.

The images stuck in my mind from that period are of the devastation: Whole blocks burned down by electrical fire, overturned cars in the streets, sick people trapped in pitch-black buildings without medication, ruined furniture stacked in the front yards of uninhabitable homes, neighbors uniting around makeshift supply depots in church halls.

I no longer saw the warming oceans that exacerbate storms such as Sandy as abstractions or a matter of merely the environment or nature. Climate change is a crisis of justice among human beings. We all depend on this planet, but some are more insulated from its undoing than others. Some will be bailed out, but most won’t. Some will find a way to profit as the waters rise, but many more will drown. The challenge of stemming climate change is not just a matter of raising consciousness and spreading awareness; it is a struggle for democracy and survival.

Rich Benjamin: Ferguson versus Whitopia

Focus on police bias obscures meaningful debate on structural racism that perpetuates racial injustice and inequality

In the wake of the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, the public has heard quite a bit about the town, its residents and their supposed violence.

But about half an hour drive west of Ferguson, along a highway straddling the Missouri River, you will come to what may seem a planet away: St. Charles County.

St. Charles is a “Whitopia” – a predominantly white county that has posted 6 percent population growth since 2000 and exhibits an ineffable charisma, as well as a pleasant look and feel. An outer-ring suburb of St. Louis, St. Charles is 91 percent non-Hispanic white, visibly whiter than its surroundings. Its metropolitan region is 77 percent non-Hispanic white in a state that is 81 percent Caucasian. Home to about 76,000 residents, St. Charles is the wealthiest and one of the fastest growing counties in Missouri.

Its quiet invisibility stands in stark contrast to the dramatic images we saw during the protests after Brown’s death. As the nation and world gawk at Ferguson, we need to train our eyes on St. Charles County too, for St. Charles’ economic and political realities contextualize the plight of Ferguson. It embodies the severe economic and racial segregation that harmed Brown long before Wilson ever fired a shot.

Robert Reich: Why Ordinary People Bear Economic Risks and Donald Trump Doesn’t

Thirty years ago, on its opening day in 1984, Donald Trump stood in a dark topcoat on the casino floor at Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza, celebrating his new investment as the finest building in Atlantic City and possibly the nation.

Last week, the Trump Plaza folded and the Trump Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy, leaving some 1,000 employees without jobs.

Trump, meanwhile, was on Twitter claiming he had “nothing to do with Atlantic City,” and praising himself for his “great timing” in getting out of the investment.

In America, people with lots of money can easily avoid the consequences of bad bets and big losses by cashing out at the first sign of trouble.

The laws protect them through limited liability and bankruptcy.

But workers who move to a place like Atlantic City for a job, invest in a home there, and build their skills, have no such protection. Jobs vanish, skills are suddenly irrelevant, and home values plummet.

They’re stuck with the mess.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The Mystifying Election

There is something deeply satisfying about the troubles punditry is having in nailing down exactly what’s happening in the 2014 elections.

The careful statistical models keep gyrating on the question of whether Republicans will win control of the Senate this November. The prognosticators who rely on their reporting and their guts as well as the numbers are sometimes at odds with the statisticians.

The obvious reason for the uncertainty is that many of the key Senate races are still very close in the polls. This should encourage a degree of humility among those of us who love to offer opinions about politics. Humility is a useful virtue not always on display in our business. The unsettled nature of the election also sends a salutary signal to the electorate. As Howard Dean might put it: You have the power. Voting will matter this year.

It is not my habit to agree with Karl Rove, but he was on to something in his Wall Street Journal column last Thursday when he wrote that “each passing day provides evidence as to why a GOP Senate majority is still in doubt.”

Joe Conason: American Amnesia: Why the GOP Leads on National Security

If the latest polls are accurate, most voters believe that Republican politicians deserve greater trust on matters of national security. At a moment when Americans feel threatened by rising terrorist movements and authoritarian regimes, that finding is politically salient-and proves that amnesia is the most durable affliction of our democracy.

Every year around this time, ever since 2001, we promise never to forget the victims of 9/11, the courage of the first responders and the sacrifice of the troops sent to avenge them all. Our poignant recollections seem to be faulty, however, obliterating the hardest truths about that terrible event, as well as the long aftermath that continues to this day. The result, attested to by those polls, is that Republicans escape responsibility for the derelictions and bad decisions of their party’s leaders at crucial moments in the recent past.

The Breakfast Club (Autumn in the North)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Richard Nixon gives his ‘Checkers’ speech; Rome’s Augustus Caesar born; Lewis and Clark finish trek to America’s West; Psychologist Sigmund Freud dies; Musicians Ray Charles and Bruce Springsteen born.

Autumn arrived in the Northern Hemisphere last night at 10:29 PM EDT.

During both the vernal and autumnal equinox, day and night are balanced to nearly 12 hours each all over the world.

Instead of a tilt away from or toward the sun, the Earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun during an equinox.

Daylight in the Northern Hemisphere continues to gradually diminish until the winter solstice, which occurs on Dec. 21, 2014. The opposite occurs in the Southern Hemisphere, where daylight continues to grow longer.

How King Arthur Pendragon will be Celebrating at Stonehenge

Druid leader King Arthur Uther Pendragon is preparing to celebrate one of his favorite events of the year at Stonehenge – the autumn equinox.

Arthur, the leader of the druids and self-declared reincarnation of King Arthur, explained the rituals and meaning behind the equinoxes – the lesser known dates in the druid calendar after the summer and winter solstices. [..]

“We’ll be leading the festivities and ceremonies at Stonehenge. English Heritage will allow us in just before dawn and we’ll get into the centre circle, then myself and one of the arch druids will be leading the ceremony in the centre circle.

“After the centre circle I’ll be doing my own ceremony over by the heel stone where we’ll have drummers and pipers and poetry, dance, and so on. One of the things about the Druid tradition is it’s a celebration. What we tend to do at Stonehenge is to celebrate whatever we’ve set up for, which is the turning of the wheel.”

Druids celebrating the equinox have a similar prayer for all major events. They will call to the four quarters to ask for peace: “We’ll say ‘is there peace in the east?’ and the response would be ‘there is peace in the east’. Then we’ll go around to the south, west and north, then we’ll turn inwards and say is there peace or let there be peace throughout the whole world.”

The group will then have a celebration, with poetry, dance and music. In ancient times, the equinox would signify the start of winter. People would begin stocking up on food.

Fall Begins Monday: Equinox Myth Debunked

Referring to the equinox as being a time of equal day and night is a convenient oversimplification. For one thing, it treats night as simply the time the sun is beneath the horizon, and completely ignores twilight. If the sun were nothing more than a point of light in the sky, and if the Earth lacked an atmosphere, then at the time of an equinox, the sun would indeed spend one half of its path above the horizon and one half below.

But in reality, atmospheric refraction raises the sun’s disc by more than its own apparent diameter while it is rising or setting. Thus, when the sun looks like a reddish-orange ball just sitting on the horizon, it’s really an optical illusion. It is actually completely below the horizon.

In addition to refraction hastening sunrise and delaying sunset, there is another factor that makes daylight longer than night at an equinox: Sunrise and sunset are defined as the times when the first or last speck of the sun’s upper or lower limbs – not the center of the disc – are visible above the horizon. [..]

Certain astronomical myths die hard. One of these is that the entire Arctic region experiences six months of daylight and six months of darkness. Often, “night” is simply defined by the moment when the sun is beneath the horizon, as if twilight didn’t exist. This fallacy is repeated in innumerable geography textbooks, as well as travel articles and guides.

But twilight illuminates the sky to some extent whenever the sun’s upper rim is less than 18 degrees below the horizon. This marks the limit of astronomical twilight, when the sky is indeed totally dark from horizon to horizon.

The gifts of the autumnal equinox

Most of us have very mixed feelings about the autumnal equinox. We all understand the way it can (quite literally) darken one’s spirits. That’s especially true in a place like Vermont, where summers are breathtakingly beautiful and dispiritingly short. Everywhere, however, the autumnal equinox reminds us that another summer has past, the natural world is growing quiescent (or dying), and we are older. There is less sunlight. Less warmth. No blueberries.

Soon that ultimate bacchanal of death will be here, Halloween.

And what follows Halloween? The gray morass we call November. That’s usually the month when I finally get around to raking the trillions of leaves that have swooned (starving) to their death in my yard. Some are still phantasmagorically beautiful. All are annoying when they stick to the tines of my rake.

For the next three months, the days will continue to shrink and the nights will grow very, very long. There will be days in the not too distant future when it will feel here in Lincoln that the sun is falling behind the ridgeline to the west a little after lunch.

Have I depressed you enough?

But here’s the strange and wonderful reality that marks this time of the year: It actually feeds the soul’s need to cocoon. To nest. To hunker down after the zeal and sheer busyness of summer. I love those first fires I build in the woodstove – the aroma, the warmth, the luminescent little blaze through the palladium glass windows. I love collapsing on the floor in the den in the waning light of a Sunday afternoon and reading – often with a cat on my back. (Occasionally, as a matter of fact, with a 17-pound cat on my back.) I love the permission that short days and long nights give me to watch DVDs of two-decade old episodes of “Seinfeld.” [..]

The truth is, I really don’t mind the autumn. For the first time in months, we can savor the sluggishness that all of us, once in a while, crave. After all, in a mere 90 days – 13 weeks – the days once more will begin growing longer.

Breakfast Tunes

Polly Bergen 1930 – 2014

On This Day In History September 23

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.

September 23 is the 266th day of the year (267th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 99 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1964, the Paris Opera, Palais Garnier, unveils a stunning new ceiling painted as a gift by Belorussian-born artist Marc Chagall, who spent much of his life in France. The ceiling was typical of Chagall’s masterpieces–childlike in its apparent simplicity yet luminous with color and evocative of the world of dreams and the subconscious. . . .

. . . . Andre Malraux, the French minister of culture, commissioned him to design a new ceiling for the Paris Opera after seeing Chagall’s work in Daphnis et Chloe. Working with a surface of 560 square meters, Chagall divided the ceiling into color zones that he filled with landscapes and figures representing the luminaries of opera and ballet. The ceiling was unveiled on September 23, 1964, during a performance of the same Daphnis et Chloe. As usual, a few detractors condemned Chagall’s work as overly primitive, but this criticism was drowned out in the general acclaim for the work. In 1966, as a gift to the city that had sheltered him during World War II, he painted two vast murals for New York’s Metropolitan Opera House (1966).

In 1977, France honored Chagall with a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. He continued to work vigorously until his death in 1985 at the age of 97.

The unveiling of the ceiling coincided with the publication of The Phantom of the Opera (“Le Fantôme de l’Opéra”) by Gaston Leroux.

It was first published as a serialization in “Le Gaulois” from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910. Initially, the story sold very poorly upon publication in book form and was even out of print several times during the twentieth century, despite the success of its various film and stage adaptations. The most notable of these were the 1925 film depiction and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical. The Phantom of the Opera musical is now the longest running Broadway show in history, and one of the most lucrative entertainment enterprises of all time.

Here We Go Again: US Strikes Syria

US launches air strikes against Isis targets in Syria

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

  • US and allies have deployed jets and missiles against militants
  • Isis stronghold of Raqqa is among targets, says US official
  • ‘Dozens’ of fighters are killed, says monitoring group
  • Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan involved

The United States stepped up its war against the Islamic State militant group, launching air strikes on targets in Syria for the first time.

The Pentagon press secretary, rear admiral John Kirby, confirmed that the US and allied nations sent fighter jets, bomber aircraft and Tomahawk missiles in an operation against Isis that he described as “ongoing”.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that Raqqa, a Syrian stronghold of Isis, was among the targets of the operation, which began in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time.

The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later at around 10pm EDT (2am GMT), but the operation was expected to continue for several more hours. [..]

The US was joined in the Syria operation by Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, an official said.

The strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft, while the Tomahawk missiles were launched from US ships in the northern Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush is in the Gulf.

Kirby said the strikes were ordered by army general Lloyd Austin, the commander of US forces in the Middle East and South Asia “under authorisation granted to him by the commander in chief”. [..]

Syria’s foreign ministry says the US informed Damascus’ envoy to the United Nations before launching the raids.

As Doc Maddow would say, “watch this space.”

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, host of “The Last Word.” spoke with several MSNBC contributors and observors.

The Crisis of the Elites

I know this is a drum I keep banging, but I think that a visceral understanding of this issue is critical to effective political action.

We are governed by morons.

I mean no disrespect to the mentally challenged, moron is a clinical term for people who (assuming they are over 18 years of age which is the cap in these calculations) function with the intellegence of children between 9 and 15.  They are perfectly capable of working under supervised conditions.

The problem is that like a pack of spoiled brats indulged in every fantastic whim and self-indulgent desire by parents who wish for nothing so much as to ignore them and evade responsibility for their disruptive, destructive, and bullying behavior, there is no effective supervision.

Just as you would not trust a 9 year old to make nutritious and wholesome dietary choices (Broccoli yuck!  Oooh, candy!) or a 15 year old behind the wheel of a 4,000 pound death machine, you can’t expect people with limited capabilities like this to behave in a co-operative and productive way without regulation and discipline.

It is our job as voters, and that of our elected representatives as our surrogates, to provide it.  If they do not, then we must replace them, otherwise we are the shirkers who are not doing our duty and fulfilling our obligations to the community.

A couple of pieces have come to my attention that explore this, and to the extent that they despair of democratic action I think they are misguided.  We have reached a tipping point, a place where a critical mass of perfectly ordinary citizens have come to realize that the disconnect between the aspirational lies we’ve been promised and the dismal results we’ve been delivered by the institutions of elitism (looking at you Ivys) are insupportable.

There are many, many more of us than there are of them and if history teaches us anything it’s that disparities this deep are always resolved, either by reform or revolution.  Now one would think that a reasonable accomodation is preferable to pitchforks and torches but remember-

Umm…  we’re not exactly dealing with the brightest bulbs on the tree here.

A Bottom-Up Solution to the Global Democracy Crisis

by Joe Firestone, New Economic Perspectives

Posted on September 21, 2014

Before the “no” vote on Scotland’s independence, The New York Times, carried a post by Neil Irwin in the Upshot making the point that the then upcoming vote “shows a global crisis of the elites.” He argues that the independence drive reflects “. . . a conviction – one not ungrounded in reality – that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades.” He also thinks that this applies to the Eurozone and the United States to varying degrees, and is “. . . a defining feature of our time.”

Irwin then updated his first post last night, expanding it and recognizing the victory of the “no” votes in the referendum. His new post did not add anything essential to his “global crisis of the elites” diagnosis, so the references and quotations below come solely from his pre-vote post. But the points made apply equally well to his update.

Prior to continuing, a few points I found significant from Neil Irwin’s pieces-

Scotland’s Independence Vote Shows a Global Crisis of the Elites

by Neil Irwin, The New York Times

SEPT. 18, 2014

When you get past the details of the Scottish independence referendum Thursday, there is a broader story underway, one that is also playing out in other advanced nations.

It is a crisis of the elites. Scotland’s push for independence is driven by a conviction – one not ungrounded in reality – that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time.

The rise of Catalan would-be secessionists in Spain, the rise of parties of the far right in European countries as diverse as Greece and Sweden, and the Tea Party in the United States are all rooted in a sense that, having been granted vast control over the levers of power, the political elite across the advanced world have made a mess of things.

What distinguishes the current moment is that discontent with the way things have been going is so high as to test many people’s tolerance for the governing institutions as they currently exist.

It is in continental Europe that the consequences of bungling by mainstream elites are perhaps the most damaging. The decades-long march toward a united continent, led by the parties of the center-right and center-left, created a Western Europe in which there was a single currency and monetary authority but without the political, fiscal and banking union that would make it possible for imbalances between those countries to work themselves out without the benefit of currency fluctuations. When it all came to a head from 2008 to 2012, national leaders were sufficiently alarmed by the risks of budget deficits that they responded by cutting spending and raising taxes.

As such, the imbalances that built up over the years in Europe are now working themselves out through astronomical unemployment and falling wages in countries including Spain and Greece. Even the northern European economies, including Germany, are experiencing little or no growth. As Paul Krugman noted this week, while the Great Depression of the 1930s was a sharper contraction in economic activity initially, the European economy is performing worse six years after the 2008 crisis than it was at the comparable point in the 1930s.

The details of the policy mistakes are different, as are the political movements that have arisen in protest. But together they are a reminder that no matter how entrenched our government institutions may seem, they rest on a bedrock assumption: that the leaders entrusted with power will deliver the goods.

Power is not a right; it is a responsibility. The choice that the Scots are making on Thursday is about whether the men and women who rule Britain messed things up so badly that they would rather go it alone. And so the results will ripple through world capitals from Athens to Washington: People don’t think the way things are going is good enough, and voters are getting angry enough to want to do something about it.

In Scotland and Beyond, a Crisis of Faith in the Global Elite

by Neil Irwin, The New York Times

SEPT. 20, 2014

There has been an implicit agreement in modern democracies: It is fine for the wealthy and powerful to enjoy private jets and outlandishly expensive homes so long as the mass of people also see steadily rising standards of living. Only the first part of that bargain has been met, and voters are expressing their frustration in ways that vary depending on the country but that have in common a sense that the established order isn’t serving them.

But there are always people who have disagreements with the direction of policy in their nation; the whole point of a state is to have an apparatus that channels disparate preferences into one sound set of policy choices. What distinguishes the current moment is that discontent with the way things are going is so high as to test many people’s tolerance for governing institutions as they now exist.

There is simple economic math behind it. Consider the United States, which has had stronger growth than Britain, Japan or Continental Europe since the financial crisis and the deep recession it spawned. The United States economy is now 6.7 percent bigger than it was at the end of 2007.

But that masks what has been a miserable last several years for most working Americans. The Census Bureau said last week that the inflation-adjusted median household income – pay for people at the exact midpoint of the income distribution – was $51,939 in 2013, up just $180 from 2012 and still 8 percent below 2007 levels.

It gets worse. The 2007 peak in real median household income was slightly below the 1999 peak. In other words, a middle-class American family is worse off financially today than it was 15 years ago.

The sense that the system isn’t working for most American workers pervades public opinion polling, including a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll. Seventy percent of respondents disapproved of congressional Republicans, but congressional Democrats fared barely better, with 61 percent disapproval. Fifty-three percent disapproved of President Obama’s handling of the economy; similar numbers disapproved of President George W. Bush at this point in his presidency.

Or, instead of polls, you can look at results, where every election seems to have the potential to be a wave election, in which one side makes major gains. The idea of overwhelmingly electing President Obama and congressional Democrats in 2008 and turning around and overwhelmingly favoring Tea Party Republicans in 2010 may not seem consistent, but it’s what you might expect in a world where the political mainstream has delivered consistently mediocre results.

Now to continue with Joe Firestone (op. cit.)

To summarize his argument, for decades now, the elites in major modern, industrial nations have committed leadership blunders and created great discontent among the citizens of their nations, to the point where their polices have contributed to damaging their economies seriously, and the rise of popular resistance embodied in extremist parties and independence movements. Elites have had vast power, but have not lived up to their responsibilities to serve the people of their nations. Discontent with their actions and results is so high that many are questioning the legitimacy of the very governing institutions that claim to serve them, and are exhibiting a greater and greater willingness to do something about these institutions and the policies that they and the elites are generating. Scotland is but one example of that, and his implication is that more examples are in the offing.

It’s significant, some might say even remarkable, that Irwin’s article appeared in The New York Times, since it is a flat out criticism of elite leadership over a number of decades and a warning to elites to improve their performance or deal with the consequences. But I think it still misses the most important question. That question is whether there is a global crisis of elites or a global crisis of democracies? I’m afraid I think that the crisis of elite leadership is only a symptom of the underlying cause of a broader global crisis of democracy.

Think about it. Irwin is describing a situation in which the elites have been failing their citizens for decades now, following neoliberal economic policies that have resulted in increasing inequality and the renewed appearance of extreme economic instability, and doing this while they continuously mislead the public about their poor performance, using the power of the money that supports them and permeates the mass media.

And the overwhelming popular discontent with both the political elites and political institutions has not yet served to generate movements that are powerful enough to dislodge them at the polls; even though the claimed signal advantage of democracy over other forms of government is the ability of people in democracies to replace political elites who won’t serve the people’s interests with leaders who will – without bloodshed and in an orderly fashion.

The failure of democratic institutions is the reason why we have elites that commit blunder after blunder, but are never replaced by more competent leaders who do respect the popular will. It’s the reason for Irwin’s global elite crisis. There would be no such crisis if badly performing elites could be easily replaced. But they can’t. Top leaders may come and go in modern nations, but slightly lower level officials, advisers, and consultants, still at the commanding heights of power, remain the same.

Deliver the government to one party or another and leadership at the top changes, but the same or people with very similar views are still called upon to staff the government or advise it. They survive government after government. They move to the non-profits. They move to the international organizations. They go into large corporations for awhile. But they are never retired from the elite circles of governance, even when it seems that they appear to be near senility.

And regardless of past failures, they keep getting appointed to serve new governments on grounds that they have valuable experience or have learned lessons from their previous bad experiences. In present day democracies, past failures provide the qualifications they need for future failures. And yesterday’s failed leader is preferred to today’s new leader with new ideas.

So, the inescapable conclusion is that there is something wrong with modern democracies: namely, that their institutions are no longer effective at performing their essential function of replacing “bad or incompetent rulers” bloodlessly, when that needs to be done.

Firestone thinks democracy needs to be re-invented.  I don’t think we are yet at that point provided we use it.  In any event as Einstein is reputed to have said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  We have 40 years of failure.  How much evidence do you need?

I’m a liar, A Liar, A LIAR!

CIA’s John Brennan Refuses To Tell Senate Who Okayed Spying On The Senate

by Mike Masnick, TechDirt

Mon, Sep 15th 2014

As you may recall, over the past few months, there’s been a rather big story brewing, concerning how the CIA spied on Senate staffers. Specifically, after having explicitly promised not to do so, the CIA snooped on a private network of Senate staffers who were putting together the giant $40 million report on the CIA’s torture program. The CIA tried to spin the story, claiming that they only spied on that network after realizing that those staffers had a document that the CIA thought it had not handed over to the staffers (they had), believing that perhaps there had been a security breach. However, when read carefully, the CIA’s spin actually confirmed the original story: the CIA, against basically all of its mandates and the basic concept of the Constitutional separation of powers, had spied on the Senate. While both the Senate and the CIA asked the DOJ to investigate, eventually the DOJ said the matter was closed and there would be no prosecutions.

At the end of July, the CIA finally came out and admitted that it had spied on the Senate, and effectively admitted that CIA boss John Brennan had flat out lied about it back in March. The CIA’s inspector general then revealed that the spying went even further than people had originally believed. This raised even more questions, but with Brennan “apologizing” and Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that she was satisfied with the apology, it seemed like this unfortunate incident may have been over and done with.

Apparently not. Last week, in the latest meeting concerning the torture report redactions, apparently some Senators asked Brennan to reveal who authorized the spying on the Senate staffers, and Brennan refused to tell them, leading to a bunch of very angry Senators — which may create some further issues, given that the Senators are supposed to oversee the CIA.

The McClatchy report suggests that in the meeting, Brennan “raised his voice at Feinstein.” Senator Levin noted that the CIA’s response to this whole thing is bogus, because even if there is an independent investigation (set up by the CIA) going on, it doesn’t mean that Brennan himself gets to shirk his responsibility to answer questions coming from the Senate committees that oversee his activities.

Of course, the big question is, what will the Senate do about this other than make a lot of noise? Brennan seems to be banking on “absolutely nothing,” and he may be right.

Clapper changes his story on false statements to Congress on bulk collection

By Meredith Clark, NBC News

09/18/14 11:33 AM

It’s a problem when the director of National Intelligence can’t seem to get his story straight.

Speaking Thursday at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, D.C., James Clapper said that the intelligence community has not willfully violated the law, an assertion which documents and information from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden contradict.

But last year, in an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, Clapper took a different approach to his tense March 2013 exchange with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. When Wyden, a Democrat, asked if the NSA gathers “any type of data at all on millions of Americans,” Clapper responded “No,” and “not wittingly.” After a Guardian report contradicted that statement, Clapper said he gave the “least untruthful” response to a complicated question.

Wyden’s office confirmed that not only had Clapper received Wyden’s questions in advance, but that he had been offered the chance to amend his answer after the public hearing, but did not do so. Wyden has been a leader in legislative efforts to reign in NSA spying.

Clapper Denies Lying, Announces New Ethics Policy

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept


An unapologetic James Clapper bristled at accusations of misconduct in front of a trade group today, announced that he intends to continue serving as national intelligence director through the rest of the Obama presidency, and released a new “National Intelligence Strategy” (.PDF) that includes a “Code of Ethics” that seems disconnected from the reality of intelligence collection as revealed by Edward Snowden.

Speaking in public, but in a friendly setting, Clapper mocked the notion of intelligence collection without risk, the potential for embarrassment or invasion of privacy. He snidely called it “Immaculate Collection.” (see NBC video.)

“While we’ve made mistakes, to be clear, the IC [intelligence community] never willfully violated the law,” he insisted.

And he complained bitterly of being “accused of lying to Congress.”

Clapper flat-out lied to Sen. Ron Wyden during a Senate hearing in March when he said the NSA does not wittingly “collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

Clapper has previously said he “responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.”

On Thursday, he said he had been falsely accused of lying “because of a mistake and trying to answer on the spot a question about a specific classified program in an unclassified setting.”

His audience was made up mostly of contractors who do, or want to do, business with the intelligence community. One question from the audience: “You have a very supportive private sector in front of you. What is your most pressing need?”

Clapper said his people have failed to come up with ways to continue accessing critical intelligence without the sort of bulk data collection that was disclosed by Snowden.

“If you have ideas of how we can find the needles without having the haystacks, I’m all ears,” he said.

And I’ll lie again.

TDS/TCR (Verklempt)


Farewell.  We hardly used you.

Who needs therapy?

The real news, as well as the 4 (!) part web exclusive extended interview with the Big Dog and this week’s guests below.

Livestream – #FloodWallStreet Protest

Flood Wall Street Protesters Assemble In New York

A day after the People’s Climate March filled the streets of New York, a smaller group of protesters are engaging in non-violent, direct action against climate change. By conducting a sit-in on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange and blocking lower Broadway, organizers say they are confronting “the system that both causes and profits from the crisis that is threatening humanity.”

The protest does not have a permit, and some participants have pledged to risk arrest during the sit-in.