Daily Archive: 02/05/2015

Feb 05 2015

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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Trevor Timm: Obama still argues that we can’t have transparency or the terrorists will win

The Obama administration, self-described Most Transparent Administration in History™, is currently engaged in a multi-pronged legal battle to prevent an iota more transparency related to illegal torture. If there was any lingering hopes that the President might use the last two years of his final term in office to bring some accountability to the despicable actions of the CIA or the US military, it appears that he will instead continue to use the power of the office to fight to keep them hidden.

Later today, the government will showcase its latest suppression effort, as the Justice Department will urge a federal judge in New York to keep secret hundreds of photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison from almost a decade ago. President Obama once promised to release the photos, only to reverse himself months after coming into office – and he’s since been fighting for years to keep them secret.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, wrote recently about how US officials issued a “defiant message” after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the hacking of Sony Pictures that “terrorists shouldn’t get to decide the boundaries of our political debate.”

Jeremy Hammand: The government’s cyberterrorism ‘concerns’ are a pretext for their own hacking operations

The US has always been the world leader of cyberwar, hacking damn near everyone without any repercussions. And, for years, US intelligence officials and private contractors have been milking hacks to secure billions in cyber security programs: all you need is an enemy, and they will sell you the cure.

Their blatant hypocrisy, threat inflation and militaristic rhetoric must be challenged if we are to have a free and equal internet.

That familiar formula is playing out again with the recent Sony hack. We are supposed to be shocked that these “cyber-terrorists” – purportedly from North Korea – would attack our critical infrastructure and, clearly swift retaliation is in order. But, despite the apocalyptic hype, the Sony hack was not fundamentally different from any other high-profile breach in recent years: personal information was stolen, embarrassing private emails were published and silly political rhetoric and threats were posted on Pastebin. In many ways, it’s similar to an Anonymous operation except that, this time, the FBI accused North Korea. That accusation was based on supposed forensic analysis which they have not publicly produced after refusing to participate in joint inquiries.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Needed: A Bold Left to Defend Government

Has the American left lost sight of the big picture? While liberals have been fighting line-item battles against the Republican right, government itself has been changing — and slowly disappearing.

Are we winning some battles (not so many, come to think of it) but losing the war?

Discretionary spending has fallen dramatically — too dramatically — in recent decades, primarily as the result of lower, post-Cold War military budgets. But the promised post-Cold War “peace dividend” has failed to materialize. We’ve seen neither better public services nor wider prosperity. The military budget is still bloated, and only the wealthy and corporations are better off than they were four or five decades ago.

We need an active, independent left willing to challenge the push for smaller government. A well-managed government can revitalize the economy even as it makes our world a better place to live. Many Americans seem to understand

Ed Kilgore: Our Economic Problems Keep Changing, But The GOP’s Answers Stay The Same

The legend of Gertrude Stein’s final words is that her partner Alice B. Toklas despairingly asked her on her deathbed: “What is the answer?” And Gertrude responded: “What is the question?”

Ironic as it may seem that an expat Jewish lesbian avant-garde writer famous in the 1920s could articulate the operating principle of the Republican Party nearly a century later, it sort of does sum it all up. For today’s ideologically rigid GOP, the “answers” to national challenges are clear; the trick is to adapt them to different “questions.” [..]

What’s fascinating, though, is how these policies are offered again and again as an agenda for all seasons and all circumstances-good times (like the late 1990s), bad times (like the last few years), budget surpluses (in 2001, when George W. Bush marketed his huge package of tax cuts as a “rebate”), budget deficits (the 1980s through the early 1990s, and again since 2009), and just about every climate in between the extremes.

Lately we’re getting a slightly remixed version of the same old, same old as the “answer” to wage stagnation and income equality-essential topics for a number of reasons, notably the growth and unemployment indices making it tougher to attack Obama for a slow or nonexistent recovery from the Great Recession.

Jessica Valenti: Your feelings about vaccines don’t trump another child’s medical reality

This weekend, I heard a noise in the hallway in the middle of the night and I just knew something was wrong. Before the terrible idea in my head had time to completely form – before even checking my daughter’s small bed beside my own – I ran into the hallway and snatched up Layla, who was sleepily stumbling near the top of the second floor staircase in my parents’ house. I was terrified, but grateful that I had listened to my gut. Like every mother, I can list a dozen other moments like this with my daughter – when a doctor missed something, or when I realized her safety was at risk and no one else did.

There are things we know about our children that no one else ever will, and there is no doctor or nurse who will be closer to our children than we are. So when I hear parents who don’t vaccinate their children claiming that they “just know” that it’s the right decision, or when some say it was a mother’s instinct that told them their child was “vaccine injured”, I almost want to sympathize. The intensity of parental love combined with the medical establishment’s poor history of listening to and trusting women’s voices can make it easy to believe that we are the ones who know best. But quite simply: we’re not.

William Pfaff: It’s Time for U.S. and European Allies to Step Back From Ukrainian Conflict

President Obama is being very cautious, so far refraining from supplying the Ukrainians with offensive weapons (despite insistent demands in Congress and among Washington right-wing commentators).

The Russians seem to have no such scruples. They seem to feel themselves under assault by the West, and indeed there are many in Washington who want to see Putin and his government overthrown, convinced that Americanizing the world is the next step in the nation’s destiny.

Nuclear war is considered a possibility by both sides, for the first time since 1990. But why? The U.S. and its European allies have been the aggressors in this whole unnecessary confrontation. They are the ones who can call it off. There is zero gain in it.

Certainly, the Germans and other Europeans are aware of this. As in the old days of the Cold War, the calculations of deterrence and first-strike advantage are relevant. The U.S. seems motivated by the determination to stay Top Dog. The Russians may be motivated by fear.

Feb 05 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 2.5.15

I have 3 articles for your amusement disgust perusal this morning:

First up, apparently some US Generals are not happy with Boehner and Bibi:

Netanyahu’s Congress invitation raises eyebrows among some US generals

The uniformed leaders of the U.S. military have had a testy relationship with President Barack Obama since he took office in 2009, with a number of relatively public spats revealing discord over how his administration has approached the use of military force. So it might be assumed that when a politician confronts Obama, portraying his policies on threats overseas as naive, many in the senior uniformed ranks would nod in silent affirmation. But that’s not what has happened since House Speaker John Boehner invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Obama’s Iran policy in Congress. Instead the speech, planned for next month, has rallied senior military figures behind the president, with some warning that there’s a limit to what U.S. military officers consider acceptable criticism of the commander in chief.

(snip)

Serving uniformed officers are loath to comment on an inflammatory political question – “You’re inviting me to end my career,” one senior Pentagon officer told me when asked to comment on Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu, “but, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not.” But a senior Joint Chiefs of Staff officer who regularly briefs the U.S. high command was willing to speak bluntly in exchange for anonymity. “There’s always been a lot of support for Israel in the military,” the officer said, “but that’s significantly eroded over the last few years. This caps it. It’s one thing for Americans to criticize their president and another entirely for a foreign leader to do it. Netanyahu doesn’t get it. We’re not going to side with him against the commander in chief. Not ever.”

Jump!

Feb 05 2015

On This Day In History February

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.

February 5 is the 36th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 329 days remaining until the end of the year (330 in leap years).

On this day in 1917, with more than a two-thirds majority, Congress overrides President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the previous week and passes the Immigration Act.. The law required a literacy test for immigrants and barred Asiatic laborers, except for those from countries with special treaties or agreements with the United States, such as the Philippines.

The Immigration Act of 1917, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, added to the number of undesirables banned from entering the country, including but not limited to “idiots”, “feeble-minded persons”, “criminals”, “epileptics”, “insane persons”, alcoholics, “professional beggars”, all persons “mentally or physically defective”, polygamists, and anarchists. Furthermore, it barred all immigrants over the age of sixteen who were illiterate. The most controversial part of the law was the section that designated an “Asiatic Barred Zone”, a region that included much of eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands from which people could not immigrate. Previously, only the Chinese had been excluded from admission to the country. Attempts at introducing literacy tests had been vetoed by Grover Cleveland in 1897 and William Taft in 1913. Wilson also objected to this clause in the Immigration Act but it was still passed by Congress on the fourth attempt.

Anxiety in the United States about immigration has often been directed toward immigrants from China and Japan. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred Chinese from entering the U.S. The Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 was made with Japan to regulate Japanese immigration to the U.S. The Immigration Act of 1917 is one of many immigration acts during this time period which arose from nativist and xenophobic sentiment. These immigration laws were intentional efforts to control the composition of immigrant flow into the United States.

Feb 05 2015

Park City: Dodging Digital Pedestrians

Bridgeport PD eyes driving simulators

by Brian Lockhart, CT Post February 1, 2015



Police Chief Joseph Gaudett is hoping a roughly $125,000 investment in a driving simulator can reduce those costs and the risks the men and women under his command face when on the road.

“If it helps prevent one serious accident that injures an officer or member of the community, then it is money well spent,” Gaudett said.



The day after he mentioned the idea to council members earlier this month, the chief appeared in court. He is being sued by a Bridgeport couple who claim that in 2010 Gaudett crashed his city-owned Cadillac Escalade into their car while he was on his cellphone.


Feb 05 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Not Just Cos)

For years now I’ve been kinda pissed off at Bill Cosby, not because of the rapes (I simply didn’t know about them, celebrity gossip is of very little interest to me even if true) but because I felt he was unduly critical of, and set unrealistic expectations for, black fathers.

If you listen to his early work you’ll realized that his relationship with Big Russell (his dad) was dysfunctional and violent and even the warm and fuzzy stories he told about his interactions with his wife and children were abusive power struggles, at least in the mental and emotional sense.

And then he spent 8 years as TVs favorite Dad, a loveable curmudgeon straight out of the 50s, tough but fair.  Not just that, but rich too.  He a Doctor, his wife an Attorney, they owned their own Brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.

1%ers.

Needless to say this is not the life experience of most U.S. citizens, let alone African-American ones.

The pont of the show in Cosby’s mind was to show how to raise successful children with the measure of that success being college graduation.  After that you were on your own as he frequently proclaimed and demonstrated in his later treatment of Sondra and Elvin.  When Denise started becoming independent she pretty much got exiled and finally disappeared altogether.

So that’s your TV view of the epitome of black fatherhood.

What I will call the myth of black fathers being irresponsible arises I think partly from the abuse of slavery where slave owners considered their property cattle and bred and sold them as such.  Before the Civil War there was an entire vein of Abolitionist literature about loving families broken by evil masters and fathers escaping and struggling to reunite with their loved ones and liberate them, most often ending in Romantic Tragedy as all perished.  Afterwards there arose the fiction of the nobility of ‘The Lost Cause’ and the excuse making for the horrific practices of slavery and propoganda of the happy, inferior African-American, content with field work and incapable of anything else- first because we are ‘Exceptional’ and nothing we do is ever wrong, and second because it helped justify continued and pervasive Jim Crow discrimination both North and South.

And narratives of the irresponsible underclass, whatever race or ethnicity, were always popular with the elites who used them to validate and rationalize their continued oppression.

Another expression of this in modern times is 1965’s The Negro Family: The Case For National Action by every racist conservative’s favorite “Liberal”, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  While there are many flaws and entirely valid criticisms I propose two for your consideration- the first is that the Report focuses only on ‘out of wedlock’ births as a symptom of family dysfunction and doesn’t properly correct for class bias (including all poor families as a group) or recognize other symptoms of dysfunction which vary by culture (inbreeding and domestic violence and child abuse for example).

The second is simply- who gives a rat’s ass about getting married now anyway?  Certainly not 1%er White folk.

Oh, gays.

So my question for Larry is-

Why are you buying into this?

Continuity

Every Day Is Exactly The Same

This week’s guests-

The Daily Show

Wes Moore is the next Colin Powell.  He was a Captain in the 82nd Airborne, served as assistant to Condoleezza Rice, and worked at Citigroup.  He currently hosts his own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.  If he’s not pitching the show he’ll be whoring his newest book, The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters.

Bonus video and the real news below.

Feb 05 2015

And You’re Telling Us This Why?

Leaks of sensitive information by the administration are apparently quite acceptable, even if it might jeopardize other covert operations or lives, just so long as it makes the administration look good in the press.

MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow reviews the details of a CIA-involved assassination from 2008, reported for the first time in The Washington Post over the weekend, and wonders about the reason and timing of such sensitive, secret story being reported in the press.

CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing

By By Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima, January 30, 2015, Washington Post

On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.

As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.

The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.

The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage. [..]

The United States has never acknowledged participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Until now, there has been little detail about the joint operation by the CIA and Mossad to kill him, how the car bombing was planned or the exact U.S. role. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.

U.S. involvement in the killing, which was confirmed by five former U.S. intelligence officials, also pushed American legal boundaries.

Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran

Daid Sanger, June 1, 2012, The New York Times

From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks – begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games – even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.

At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.

John McCain demands leak investigation

By Austin Wright, June 5, 2012, Politico

Arizona Sen. John McCain on Tuesday demanded an investigation into the recent leaks of classified information on U.S. intelligence operations.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, accused the White House of leaking sensitive details on covert missions to The New York Times in order to “paint a portrait of the president of the United States as a strong leader on national security issues.”

McCain also said the Obama administration might have been responsible for blowing the cover of a Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. commandos locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has been sentenced by a Pakistani court to 33 years in prison.

“This is not a proud day for the United States of America,” McCain said in a fiery speech on the Senate floor. “Our friends are not the only ones who read The New York Times. Our enemies do too.”

McCain said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had agreed hold hearings on the issue. “Regardless of how politically useful they might have been to the president, they have to stop – the leaks have to stop,” McCain demanded.

The New York Times: These were not leaks

By Dylan Byers, June 7, 2012, Politico

Caught in the crosshairs of a contentious dispute between the White House and Congress, The New York Times is vowing to charge ahead with its coverage of developments in U.S. national security – and denying that the paper is on the receiving end of silver-platter leaks from the Obama administration.

“These are some of the most significant developments in national security in a generation,” Times managing editor Dean Baquet told POLITICO on Thursday, referring to his paper’s recent reports on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes and cyberattacks. “We’re going to keep doing these stories.”

Following Sen. John McCain’s demand for an independent investigation into White House security leaks, Republicans and Democrats on both the House and Senate intelligence committees issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on the Obama administration “to fully, fairly and impartially investigate” whether or not administration officials were responsible for leaking information that appeared in the recent Times’ articles.

But the fact that the White House has not raised complaints about the Times’ reports further stokes congressional concern that the administration was somehow involved in leaking the stories.

Condoleezza Rice Testifies on Urging The Times to Not Run Article

By Matt Apuzzo, January 15, 2015, New York Times

White House officials favor two primary tactics when they want to kill a news article, Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, testified Thursday: They can essentially confirm the report by arguing that it is too important to national security to be published, or they can say that the reporter has it wrong.

Sitting across from a reporter and editor from The New York Times in early 2003, Ms. Rice said, she tried both.

Testifying in the leak trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, Ms. Rice described how the White House successfully persuaded Times editors not to publish an article about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. James Risen, a Times reporter, ultimately revealed the program in his 2006 book, “State of War,” and said that the C.I.A. had botched the operation. Prosecutors used Ms. Rice’s testimony to bolster their case that the leak to Mr. Risen had harmed national security.

“This was very closely held,” Ms. Rice said. “It was one of the most closely held programs in my tenure as national security adviser.”

Ms. Rice’s account also threw a light on how the government pressures journalists to avoid publishing details about United States security affairs. It is a common practice that is seldom discussed.

C.I.A. Officer Is Found Guilty in Leak Tied to Times Reporter

By Matt Apuzzo, January 26, 2015, New York Times

Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has conducted an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration’s approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.

The case revolved around a C.I.A. operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.

One can only surmise the reason for the need to release the Mossad/CIA assassination plot at this time.