Posted: January 7, 2017 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: CIA, Donald Trump, intelligence community, Russian cyberattacks, Vladimir Putin
This apt visual analogy has been going around Twitter for a couple of days.
It’s just under two weeks until President Obama steps down and the Kremlin controls our government. Congressional Republicans are salivating–dreaming of taking away health care from millions of people and finally destroying Medicare and Social Security. They just can’t wait to destroy everything President Obama has accomplished, crash the economy again, and destroy as many jobs as they possibly can–all while claiming they are doing good work.
The New York Times: Erasing Obama, by Timothy Egan.
And Obama? He bequeaths the incoming president “the longest economic expansion and monthly job creation in history,” as my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin noted. Trump, the pumpkin-haired rooster taking credit for the dawn, has already tried to seize a bit of that achievement as his own. Thanks, Obama. But he’s also likely to screw it up, perhaps by a trade war, or a budget-busting tax cut.
Already, Trump has flirted with treason, flouted conflict-of-interest rules, bullied dissidents and blown off the advice of seasoned public servants. He has yet to hold a news conference since winning the election. And did another day just pass without a word of the promise to “reveal things that other people don’t know” about Russian interference with our election? Maybe he’s waiting for more whispers in his ear from the Kremlin
n advance of his farewell adIdress next week, the president has tried to Trump-proof a climate pact that commits the world’s second leading producer of earth-warming pollutants — the United States — to making this little orb of ours a less perilous place for Sasha’s and Malia’s and Ivanka’s kids. Trump has promised to go rogue on the planet, as quickly as he can.
Until Day 1, Trump is just a 70-year-old man with a twitchy Twitter account. But on Jan. 20, he becomes what Grover Norquist wished for in a pliantly conservative president: “A Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen.”
With that pen, the new president can take health care from 20 million Americans, free Wall Street to once again wildly speculate and smash things up for the rest of us, and require schools to let people carry guns into classrooms — all campaign promises.
Please read the whole thing at the NYT.
Fortunately, the intelligence community has stated conclusively that Vladimir Putin ordered his cyberspies to interfere with the election. At this point, tRump can only be seen as an illegitimate POTUS. Unfortunately, tRump is threatening to neuter the intelligence community. He doesn’t need their help, because he gets his orders from Russia. If you think I’m just joking, look what intelligence expert Malcolm Nance had to say about it.
If that doesn’t scare every sane American, nothing will.
Nance published a book months ago about the Russian attack on our democracy, and it’s very similar to the report the intelligence community just issued. It’s fascinating reading, with lots of historical background on Russia’s spying activities.
This is from an ad at Yahoo News, but it’s a good summary of the book: Malcolm Nance, US intelligence expert, delivered Russian hacking details months before the CIA’s report.
In The Plot to Hack America, published one month before the election, New York Times bestselling author and MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance not only identifies the hackers as Russian but digs deep into the biggest political scandal since Watergate.
In April of 2016, computer technicians at the Democratic National Committee discovered that someone had accessed the organization’s computer servers. In the days and weeks that followed, they learned that the cyberthieves had helped themselves to everything: sensitive documents, emails, donor information, even voicemails. Nance’s investigations led him to none other than Russia’s spy service. Their method: A new hybrid cyber warfare called Kompromat.
In The Plot to Hack America, we learn how technicians discovered that Russia’s spy agency was responsible for the hack, how the Russians have devastated individuals, political groups, and entire nations with their cybercrimes, and how they may have cultivated Donald Trump as an unwitting “asset” to facilitate their ultimate foreign policy goals: disband NATO, dominate Eastern Europe, and replace America as the world’s superpower.
But why would Vladimir Putin want to tip the scales of an American election? Nance follows the fascinating real-life spy story through a labyrinth of cyber espionage, the history of Russia’s spy services, and Vladimir Putin’s rise through the KGB from junior officer to spy-in-chief. And he details Donald Trump’s many disturbing personal associations with Putin and Russia’s oligarchy, as well as Trump’s loose affiliation of advisors nicknamed “the Kremlin Crew.”
The Plot to Hack America reads like a spy thriller, but it’s all too real.
I highly recommend it.
Fortunately, the intelligence community has stated conclusively that Vladimir Putin ordered his cyberspies to interfere with the election. Unfortunately tRump is threatening to neuter the intelligence community. He doesn’t need their help, because he gets his orders from Russia. If you think I’m just joking, look what intelligence expert Malcolm Nance had to say about it.
Now check this out from WaPo conservative columnist Kathleen Parker: If Obama is a Muslim, is Trump a Russian spy?
No, I don’t really think he’s a spy because, unlike the man himself, I’m not given to crazy ideas. But what’s with this double standard? Under similar circumstances, how long do you think it would have taken for Obama to be called a traitor for defending a country that tried to thwart our democratic electoral process?
How surreal to realize that the man who soon will become president was long committed to a rumor soaked in paranoia and propagated by conspiracy theorists whose pursuit of truth stops at the point where facts and willful ignorance collide.
How perfectly terrifying.
And now? What is so obviously a conspiracy of Russian leadership, hackers and spies, Trump has repeatedly dismissed as lousy intelligence. Why would he do such a thing? Is it that he’s so thin-skinned he can’t tolerate anyone thinking that he might have benefited from the cyberattack? Or is it that he knew about it in advance and doesn’t want to be found out? This is how conspiracy theories get started. Then again, sometimes a conspiracy is just a conspiracy — and a fool is just a fool.
Actually, there’s little doubt that tRump is at least an unwitting tool of Putin; and if you look at his top advisers and cabinet choices, it seems quite likely that there was collusion between Russian spies and the tRump campaign.
David Remnick: Trump, Putin and the Big Hack.
Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s foreign minister, once remarked while on a trip to Berlin in the early days of the Cold War, “The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they will turn out.”
On the morning of November 9th, Molotov’s grandson, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian Duma’s foreign-affairs committee, announced to the parliament, “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the American Presidential elections. And just this second Donald Trump began his speech as President-elect.” The Duma members cheered and applauded.
In the days to come, there were more declarations of acid satisfaction among the Russian élite. Dmitri Kiselyov, the host of “News of the Week,” a popular current-affairs show on state-controlled television, gloated over Trump’s victory and Barack Obama’s inability to prevent it. Obama, he said, was a “eunuch.” Trump was an “alpha male”—and one who showed mercy to his vanquished rival. “Trump could have put the blonde in prison, as he’d threatened in the televised debates,” Kiselyov said on his show. “On the other hand, it’s nothing new. Trump has left blond women satisfied all his life.” Kiselyov further praised Trump because the concepts of democracy and human rights “are not in his lexicon.” In India, Turkey, Europe, and now the United States, he declared, “the liberal idea is in ruins.”
Vladimir Putin did not showboat, but he, too, made his satisfaction plain. His spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters that the similarity between Trump and Putin’s “conceptual approach to foreign policy” was “phenomenal.” Trump’s victory was the basis for Russia’s “moderate optimism”; now both sides could discuss how “to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations.”
All of this is all the more alarming to recall now, in the light of the latest news: according to U.S. intelligence reports, Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to undermine Clinton and work with “a clear preference” to enhance Trump’s prospects.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Finally, Former CIA Director Michael Morell at The New York Times: Trump’s Dangerous Anti-C.I.A. Crusade.
WHEN I wrote in August 2016, in this newspaper, that Donald J. Trump’s character traits posed a national security threat, I didn’t imagine that the first manifestation of that dynamic could play out with the very organization where I spent the first 33 years of my career, the Central Intelligence Agency.
President-elect Trump’s public rejection of the C.I.A., and by extension the rest of the country’s intelligence community, over the assessment that Russia interfered in our presidential election is not only an unprecedented political challenge for our national security establishment — it is a danger to the nation.
While Mr. Trump’s statement on Friday that he had a constructive meeting with senior intelligence officials on the Russian hacking issue was a step in the right direction, his disparagement of American intelligence officers over the last few months is likely to cause significant damage to the C.I.A.
Mr. Trump has questioned the agency’s competence — repeatedly asking, often via Twitter, how we can trust the organization that incorrectly judged that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (criticism that, in my mind, is unfair for an agency that has changed dramatically in the last 15 years). But he has also accused the agency of being biased and political, implying, in comments to The Times, that the C.I.A. manufactured its Russia analysis to undercut him. Mr. Trump, in essence, said that the agency’s officers were dishonorable. To the men and women of the C.I.A., sworn to protect the nation, this was a gut punch.
Mr. Trump’s behavior will weaken the agency, an organization that has never been more relevant to our nation’s security. The key national security issues of the day — terrorism; proliferation; cyberespionage, crime and war; and the challenges to the global order posed by Russia, Iran and China — all require first-rate intelligence for a commander in chief to understand them, settle on a policy and carry it out.
Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
More News, Links Only
NBC News: U.S. Ethics Office Struggled to Gain Access to Trump Team, Emails Show.
Joe Conason: Investigate The Hackers — And Ignore Trump’s Chaff.
Newsweek: JORDAN TELLS TRUMP: MOVING U.S. EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM A ‘RED LINE.’
Washington Post: Hill Republicans embrace building of border wall, despite cost.
NewJersey.com: N.J. aunt of Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting suspect: ‘He lost his mind’ in Iraq.
New York Times: Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal.
Now I have to get back to packing for my move. Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!
Posted: December 12, 2016 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: CIA, Paul Krugman, Russia Hack, Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump, Van Jones
Just practicing my rusty college Russian which I’ve mostly forgotten so I’ll be able to keep up when they send me to the gulag for the intelligentsia. My selection of paintings today are from Archibald Motley who painted Black Americans during the jazz age. I’m celebrating uniquely American creativity while I can too … none of this derivative crap like the likes of Kid Rock who delivers ripped off riffs to his meth-headed mofos.
Motley was like many other Louisiana Black folks who moved up the river to Chicago with their families to find a better life. His father was a Pullman porter which was one of the better paying jobs that a black man could get during that period of time.
Though Motley received a full scholarship to study architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) and though his father had hoped that he would pursue a career in architecture, he applied to and was accepted at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied painting. In 1917, while still a student, Motley showed his work in the exhibition Paintings by Negro Artists held at a Chicago YMCA. That year he also worked with his father on the railroads and managed to fit in sketching while they traveled cross-country.
Upon graduating from the Art Institute in 1918, Motley took odd jobs to support himself while he made art. An idealist, he was influenced by the writings of black reformer and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois and Harlem Renaissance leader Alain Locke and believed that art could help to end racial prejudice. At the same time, he recognized that African American artists were overlooked and undersupported, and he was compelled to write “
The Negro in Art,” an essay on the limitations placed on black artists that was printed in the July 6, 1918, edition of the influential Chicago Defender, a newspaper by and for African Americans. The long and violent Chicago race riot of 1919, though it postdated his article, likely strengthened his convictions.
Motley was a WPA painter during the Great Depression. One of his murals hangs in the post office of Wood River Illinois. Wood River is part of the Greater St. Louis area. It’s painted in a distinctly different style from the beautiful, brightly colored paintings with so much energy that I’ve posted here.
Here are some links you may want to read.
A bipartisan group of electors led by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Christine has asked for a briefing from the CIA on Russia’s interference in the election in support of Orangeholio. There is concern about how deep the connections go between the Trump Campaign and the country hostile to US interests.
The letter is signed by electors from five states and the District of Columbia. In addition to Christine Pelosi — a California elector — it includes a signature from one former members of Congress: New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter.
Shea-Porter’s three other New Hampshire colleagues — Terie Norelli, Bev Hollingsworth and Dudley Dudley — also signed the letter. D.C. Councilwoman Anita Bonds, former Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell and Maryland activist Courtney Watson round out the nine Democratic signatories. Colorado Democratic elector Micheal Baca, leader of an effort to turn the Electoral College against Trump, is also on the list. Texas’ Chris Suprun, an emergency responder who has been a vocal critic of Trump, is the only Republican elector to sign on.
“Yes, we the Electors should have temporary security clearance to perform our constitutional duty in reviewing the facts regarding outside interference in the US election and the intelligence agencies should declassify as much data as possible while protecting sources and methods so that the American people can learn the truth about our election,” said Pelosi.
Though the letter doesn’t explicitly endorse a separate effort by electors in Colorado, Washington and California to stop Trump from winning the presidency, it represents the latest effort by Democratic electors to look to the Electoral College as a possible bulwark against a Trump presidency. The letter follows on the heels of two Democratic congressmen — David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jim Himes of Connecticut — who suggested this weekend that the Electoral College should consider whether to block Trump’s election.
Hillary Clinton, her top advisers and former President Bill Clinton, who’s an elector from New York, have remained notably silent on the various Electoral College machinations.
Van Jones is launching an “army” to go after electors to stop Orangeholio.
Van Jones is now running a PR firm that is dead set on defeating Trump in the Electoral College. That’s right, Van Jones is actively courting Republican electors to vote against Trump on December 19th.
The firm, called Megaphone Strategies, is currently handling all media inquiries for the first official anti-Trump elector Chris Suprun. But the firm is also in working with other Republican electors, so while Trump has been helping his billionaire friends Van Jones has been raising an anti-Trump “army.”
“Tight around Trump is a little hate army — not every Trump voter — but tight around him is a little hate army of very cynical, nasty people who took over our government,” Jones said. “We have to build a massive Love Army that can take the country and the government back in a better direction.”
While Senator John McCain considers the Russian hacking to be an “form of warfare”, Mitch McConnell refuses to convene a Senate panel saying the Senate Intelligence Committee can handle any investigation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-Ky.) on Monday said recent findings by the CIA that the Russian government tied to influence the U.S. presidential election should be investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Calling the allegations of Russian meddling “disturbing,” McConnell said the intelligence panel should take the lead, dismissing calls by Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) and others for a special select committee to review the matter.
He said the Intelligence Committee is “more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter.”
“We’re going to follow the regular order. It’s an important subject and we intend to review it on a bipartisan basis,” he said.
McConnell noted that he sits on the panel as an ex officio member and that incoming Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer
(N.Y.) will soon join it in the same capacity.
He also said that McCain will be conducting his own review of cybersecurity threats facing the nation as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
“Sen. McCain and Sen. Burr will both be looking at this issue and doing it on a bipartisan basis,” he said, referring to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr
Jason Miller, a spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump
, said he was unsure of the last time Trump and McConnell spoke, but dismissed efforts to investigate Russian interference in the election as coming from “people who are bitter their candidate lost.”
This entire story and the weird conspiracy theories are unfolding minute by minute. Paul Krugman’s Op ed on the “Tainted Election” is a must read.
The C.I.A., according to The Washington Post, has now determined that hackers working for the Russian government worked to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump. This has actually been obvious for months, but the agency was reluctant to state that conclusion before the election out of fear that it would be seen as taking a political role.
Meanwhile, the F.B.I. went public 10 days before the election, dominating headlines and TV coverage across the country with a letter strongly implying that it might be about to find damning new evidence against Hillary Clinton — when it turned out, literally, to have found nothing at all.
Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?
And it wouldn’t have been seen as a marginal victory, either. Even as it was, Mrs. Clinton received almost three million more votes than her opponent, giving her a popular margin close to that of George W. Bush in 2004.
So this was a tainted election. It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement.
This is getting interesting. Electors meet on the 19th. That’s not a lot of time. Whose hair is on fire? I do know this. We may be asking this question for some time: “Why Didn’t Obama Reveal Intel About Russia’s Influence on the Election? His decision may have cost Clinton the presidency.”
The CIA only shared its latest findings with top senators last week, the Postreported, but it’s not clear when the agency made the determination. In an interview with MSNBC on Saturday, however, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid—who is known for making bold accusations—said FBI Director Jim Comey has known about Russia’s ambitions “for a long time,” but didn’t release that information.
If that’s true, why didn’t the Obama administration push to release it earlier?
For one, the White House was probably afraid of looking like it was tipping the scale in Hillary Clinton’s favor, especially in an election that her opponent repeatedly described as rigged. Though Obama stumped for Clinton around the country, the administration didn’t want to open him up to attacks that he unfairly used intelligence to undermine Trump’s campaign, the Post reported.
Instead, top White House officials gathered key lawmakers—leadership from the House and Senate, plus the top Democrats and Republicans from both houses’ intelligence and homeland security committees—to ask for a bipartisan condemnation of Russia’s meddling. The effort was stymied by several Republicans who weren’t willing to cooperate, including, reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (On Sunday morning, a bipartisan statement condemning the hacks came from incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Jack Reed, a Democrat, and Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham.)
It’s also possible that the administration, like most pollsters and pundits, was overconfident in its assessment that Clinton would win the election. Officials may have been more willing to lob incendiary accusations—and risk setting off a serious political or cyber conflict with Russia—if they had thought Trump had a good chance to win.
The silence from the White House and the CIA was a stark contrast to the Comey’s announcement just weeks before the election that it was examining new documents related to its investigation into Clinton’s emails.
I’m still really upset and I’m just going moment by moment and day by day. How can this being happening to us?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: December 1, 2016 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: anxiety and depression, CIA, Donald Trump, India, Iran deal, John Brennan, magic mushrooms, Pakistan, psilocybin, Russia, Tennessee wildfires, US Office of Government Ethics
Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke
Today is my birthday. I don’t feel much like celebrating, but I’m being lazy so I don’t know when this post will go up.
The wildfires in Tennessee are a real disaster. I’m hoping our beloved ANonOMouse and her family are still safe.
NBC News: Seven Deaths Confirmed as Smokies Wildfires Spread in Tennessee.
Officials were continuing to assess the damage Thursday from a ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than a week ago, killing at least seven people and gutting over 700 structures.
Drenching rain on Wednesday helped firefighters beat back the massive blaze, which still burned more than 15,650 acres and was about 10 percent contained, according to the Southern Area Incident Management Team, which assumed command of the fire.
Rescue operations have been slowed by mud and rockslides caused by the wet weather.
“The rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there,” the team said.
While large swaths of the national park were ravaged, the wind-whipped flames also reached the neighboring Appalachian tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha
Efforts to pinpoint the cause of deadly wildfires that engulfed two popular tourist towns outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions focused Thursday on their devastating path through East Tennessee, where officials said at least seven people were dead and hundreds of buildings have burned.
Several people remained missing Thursday, and at least 53 people have been treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known.
The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses throughout Sevier County — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres have burned in the most-visited national park in America.
Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said that the first fires, spotted last week, were “likely to be human-caused.”
As people throughout Sevier County tried to return to their routines Thursday, some schools were still closed and access to Gatlinburg remained limited.
The story doesn’t give anymore information about the suspected causes of the fires.
Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy
The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.
It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.
The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn).
But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.
Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say….
Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.
Griffiths said it’s not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.
Have you heard about the conversation #tRump had with the prime minster of Pakistan? Yes, the president-elect is still talkingto foreign leaders on his personal phone without benefit of intelligence briefings or background information from the State Department.
Chair Car, Edward Hopper
Time Magazine: Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre.
There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”
The hilarity of his hyperbole aside, Trump’s intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.
Do you suppose #tRump knows that both Pakistan and India have nukes and they hate each others’ guts? Anyway, read the rest at the link. Here’s the full readout of the call from Pakistan’s press information site. The Trump people don’t bother to provide any information about the god-emperor’s phone calls.
Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro
Yesterday the CIA head John Brennan tried to give #tRump some foreign policy suggestions via an interview with the BBC. The New York Times reports: C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal.
LONDON — The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear dealwould be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”
During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.
Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John O. Brennan as head of the C.I.A., wrote in mid-November on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.
“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” Mr. Brennan said in the BBC interview, which the broadcaster said was the first by a C.I.A. director with the British news media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”
Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming administration needed to be skeptical about the Kremlin.
“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.
More at the link. #tRump supposedly reads the NYT; will he pay attention? Probably not.
Women reading, Robert Breyer
Some analysis from Vox: CIA Director John Brennan tells the BBC that Trump’s ideas are terrible.
On Wednesday morning, the BBC published excerpts from an interview with CIA Director John Brennan, the first time a serving head of America’s best-known spy agency has sat down with the British media, according to the BBC. Brennan’s comments are, unmistakably, a shot at Donald Trump. He calls Trump’s proposal to scrap the Iran deal “disastrous,” warns that “the overwhelming majority of CIA officers” oppose Trump’s call to bring back torture of suspected terrorists, and says the famously Putin-sympathetic Trump should “beware Russian promises.”
Brennan is stepping down from the CIA leadership on January 20, so he’ll never have to deal with President Trump directly. That means he’s free to do something as brazen as trash the incoming president on one of the world’s most-watched TV channels.
If you take a deeper look at Brennan’s comments, you start to realize that he’s expressing criticisms of Trump policies that are widely held in the foreign policy community.
Take his attack on Trump’s approach to the Iran deal, which Brennan calls “the height of folly.” He warns that doing so would allow Iran to simply restart its nuclear program.
This, as my colleague Zeeshan Aleem explains, is the consensus among even anti-deal experts and policymakers. That’s because of the way the deal is structured: Iran has already gotten the sanctions relief it was promised, but has yet to fully comply with the terms of the deal that dismantle its nuclear program. If Trump were to scrap the deal on day one, Iran would have everything it wanted without having to give up too much. It would have billions of new dollars as well, and a free hand to build a nuke without pesky international inspectors.
Brennan’s position on Russia is another good example. His argument is that the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia have mostly failed to alter Moscow’s worst behavior — for example, its slaughtering of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and bombing of the moderate opposition looking to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
Intelligence officials have been reduced to trying to communicate with a madman through the media. Please go over to Vox and read the rest.
Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt
You probably heard that #tRump drove someone at the Office of Government Ethics Office to nervous breakdown yesterday. Slate: Federal Ethics Agency Spent the Afternoon Sarcastically Praising Donald Trump.
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, as its name suggests, interprets and advises federal officials on the ethics laws and rules designed to help keep them honest. “When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” its mission statement admirably declares. Given what likely awaits the agency in less than two months’ time, it understandably had some, um, thoughts on Donald Trump’s vague, predawn Twitter announcement that he will be “leaving his great business” to focus on the presidency….
Remarkably, those exclamation-filled tweets from a normally staid Twitter account don’t appear to be the result of a hack. “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating he wants to be free of conflicts of interest,” agency spokesman Seth Jaffe said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. He added: “We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”
A few of the tweets (see the rest at Slate):
That’s it for me today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!
Posted: December 19, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: "Team America, "The Interview", Andrew Pietrowski, Art Acevedo, Austin PD, CIA, cuba, cyber attacks, cyber warfare, FBI, Hillary Clinton, Hollywood cowardice, Joy Diaz, kim jong il, Kim Jong Un, North Korea, Secret Service, Sexism, Sony Pictures, World Police", Zero Dark Thirty
I’m quite a bit behind schedule this morning. I’m still in Indiana with my Mom, and we had to have some workmen come by this morning. I’m also trying to get organized for my drive back to Boston over the weekend, so I’m somewhat tired and stressed out.
Anyway, I’m working on a post that I will put up either later today or when I get back home. For now, here’s a TGIF link dump/open thread.
Today’s top stories
The Sony Hack is getting lots of attention.
NYT editorial, Sony and Mr. Kim’s Thugs. Here’s the gist:
Corporations, even large ones like Sony, cannot stand up to a rogue state and shadowy hacker armies all by themselves. That’s why the Obama administration needs to take a strong stand on this and future attacks. Officials said on Thursday that they were considering a “proportional response.”
Retaliation by the Obama administration over this attack would risk escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and between North Korea and Japan, where Sony’s corporate parent is based. However, there are things the United States can do. Although there are already heavy sanctions on North Korea, there may be ways to inflict more economic pain.
Washington could seek an international panel to investigate the attack and demand condemnation by the United Nations Security Council. The United States also needs to work with Japan and South Korea, two other regular targets of North Korean hacking, to improve their defenses and develop common responses like imposing sanctions.
China, North Korea’s main ally and benefactor, remains the best check on the Kim regime; experts say most North Korean hackers are based in China. But China has its own history of hacking American government and industry computers and has resisted Washington’s requests for talks on how to handle hacking attacks and their aftermath.
The international community needs to speed up work on norms on what constitutes a cyberattack and what the response should be. If China and the United States are unable to work together in this critical area, the Internet will become a free-for-all and everyone will pay the price.
CNN, Watch out world: North Korea deep into cyber warfare, defector says.
Jang Se-yul, who defected from North Korea seven years ago, told CNN that he thinks there are 1,800 cyberwarriors in the agency stationed around the world. But he says even the agents themselves don’t know how many others work for the secretive group, called Bureau 121, whose mission is to “conduct cyberattacks against overseas and enemy states.”
The South Korean government thinks Bureau 121 is the agency at the heart of numerous cyberattacks from North Korea against elements in foreign countries, a government official who requested to be anonymous told CNN on Thursday.
North Korea’s hacking capabilities have become a global talking point recently, after a massive hack of Sony Pictures — the studio behind “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un. That was followed by warnings that the movie not be shown in theaters…
CNN, Washington outraged over Sony decision.
From Hollywood to Washington, the outrage is spreading over Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel a movie release following a cyber attack and threats from a group of North Korea-backed hackers.
Politicians urged Sony not to back down in the face of threats tied to the release of the controversial comedy “The Interview,” and then began lashing out when the studio made it clear it has no further plans to release the film, which depicts an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un….
FBI investigators tracked the hackers who broke into Sony’s servers, published private information and threatened moviegoers back to the North Korean regime, U.S. law enforcement officials told CNN on Wednesday. The North Korean regime slammed the movie this summer as “terrorism and a war action.”
And despite the hackers’ threat to attack movie theaters, the Department of Homeland Security has said “there is no credible intelligence” supporting an active plot against movie theaters.
Deadline Hollywood, Hollywood Cowardice: George Clooney Explains Why Sony Stood Alone In North Korean Cyberterror Attack.
EXCLUSIVE: As it begins to dawn on everyone in Hollywood the reality that Sony Pictures was the victim of a cyberterrorist act perpetrated by a hostile foreign nationon American soil, questions will be asked about how and why it happened, ending with Sony cancelling the theatrical release of the satirical comedy The Interviewbecause of its depiction of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. One of those issues will be this: Why didn’t anybody speak out while Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton were embarrassed by emails served up by the media, bolstering the credibility of hackers for when they attached as a cover letter to Lynton’s emails a threat to blow up theaters if The Interview was released?
Read the interview with Clooney at the link.
The Daily Beast, Paramount Bans Showing ‘Team America’.
Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures surrendered to cyberterrorists and pulled The Interview. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview, but Paramount has ordered them to stop. (No reason was apparently given and Paramount hasn’t spoken.)Team America of course features Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, as a singing marionette.
Apparently, both Team America: World Police and The Interview are chock full of racist memes about Asians.
North Korea Is Not Funny. Let’s be clear: The Interview isn’t a courageous act of defiance against a dictator, by Adrien Hong at The Atlantic.
In recent months, the uproar over The Interview, a comedy about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has triggered an escalating set of reactions: retaliatory threats from North Korean officials; a sophisticated cyberattack on Sony Pictures, reportedly orchestrated by North Korea; a pledge by the hackers to physically attack theaters showing the film; and now, on Wednesday, Sony’s decision to cancel the movie’s December 25 release altogether, as movie-theater chains began backing out of screenings. The latest development is an act of craven self-censorship and appeasement—a troubling precedent by the Free World’s leading culture-makers. But rightful calls to defend freedom of expression and go ahead with the movie are also mixing with a far more dubious strain of thinking: that the film itself is a form of defiance against a dictatorial regime. It is not.
Kim Jong Il puppet from “Team America World Police.”
In The Interview, directed by the Canadian comics Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, a celebrity journalist (James Franco) and his producer (Rogen), tired of producing meaningless content, score a major scoop: an interview with Kim Jong Un (Randall Park). The CIA learns about the trip and recruits the two to kill the leader—a task that, judging from reports and leaked footage, someone eventually succeeds in doing.
This film is not an act of courage. It is not a stand against totalitarianism, concentration camps, mass starvation, or state-sponsored terror. It is, based on what we know of the movie so far, simply a comedy, made by a group of talented actors, writers, and directors, and intended, like most comedies, to make money and earn laughs. The movie would perhaps have been better off with a fictitious dictator and regime; instead, it appears to serve up the latest in a long line of cheap and sometimes racism-tinged jokes, stretching from Team America: World Police to ongoing sketches on Saturday Night Live.
It’s a thoughtful article. I need to go back and give it a careful read.
In other news . . .
Bloomberg View, Hillary Clinton Secretly Pushed Cuba Deal for Years, by Josh Rogin.
Although President Barack Obama is taking the credit for Wednesday’s historic deal to reverse decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was the main architect of the new policy and pushed far harder for a deal than the Obama White House.
From 2009 until her departure in early 2013, Clinton and her top aides took the lead on the sometimes public, often private interactions with the Cuban government. According to current and former White House and State Department officials and several Cuba policy experts who were involved in the discussions, Clinton was also the top advocate inside the government for ending travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and reversing 50 years of U.S. policy to isolate the Communist island nation. Repeatedly, she pressed the White House to move faster and faced opposition from cautious high-ranking White House officials.
After Obama announced the deal Wednesday, which included the release of aid contractor Alan Gross, Clinton issued a supportive statement distributed by the National Security Council press team. “As Secretary of State, I pushed for his release, stayed in touch with Alan’s wife Judy and their daughters, and called for a new direction in Cuba,” she said. “Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power.”
But according to the progs, Hillary is a triangulating warmonger. Hmmmmm . . .
ABC News, 5 Sweeping Changes Recommended for Secret Service After Fence Jumper Enters WH.
A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House is recommending sweeping changes at the agency.
The Secret Service’s “paramount mission” of protecting the president and other high-ranking officials “allows no tolerance for error,” and a “single miscue, or even a split-second delay, could have disastrous consequences for the nation and the world,” warns the panel’s final report, commissioned by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson after the September breach.
Read the recommendations at the link.
The New Yorker, The Unidentified Queen of Torture, by Jane Mayer.
The NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole has pieced together a remarkable story revealing that a single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.—a woman who he does not name—appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment, with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.
Had the Senate Intelligence Committee been permitted to use pseudonyms for the central characters in its report, as all previous congressional studies of intelligence failures, including the widely heralded Church Committee report in 1975, have done, it might not have taken a painstaking, and still somewhat cryptic, investigation after the fact in order for the American public to hold this senior official accountable. Many people who have worked with her over the years expressed shock to NBC that she has been entrusted with so much power. A former intelligence officer who worked directly with her is quoted by NBC, on background, as saying that she bears so much responsibility for so many intelligence failures that “she should be put on trial and put in jail for what she has done.”
Instead, however, she has been promoted to the rank of a general in the military, most recently working as the head of the C.I.A.’s global-jihad unit. In that perch, she oversees the targeting of terror suspects around the world. (She was also, in part, the model for the lead character in “Zero Dark Thirty.”)
According to sources in the law-enforcement community who I have interviewed over the years, and who I spoke to again this week, this woman—whose name the C.I.A. has asked the news media to withhold—had supervision over an underling at the agency who failed to share with the F.B.I. the news that two of the future 9/11 hijackers had entered the United States prior to the terrorist attacks. As I recount in my book “The Dark Side,” the C.I.A. got wind that one of these Al Qaeda operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar, had obtained a multiple-entry visa into the United States eighteen months before 9/11. The agency also learned, months before the attacks, that another Al Qaeda operative, Nawaf al-Hazmi, had flown into Los Angeles. Yet the C.I.A. appears to have done nothing. It never alerted the F.B.I., which had the principle domestic authority for protecting the U.S. from terror attacks. Its agents had, in fact, been on the trail of at least one of the hijackers previously, but had no way of knowing that he had entered the United States. Nor did the C.I.A. alert the State Department, which kept a “TIPOFF” watch list for terror suspects.
KUT.org, Austin TX, Sexist Comment by Austin Police Officer: Isolated Incident or Part of Broader Culture?
Police Chief Art Acevedo suspended two officers in November for making jokes about rape victims. The Austin Police Association said at the time that the respective three-day and five-day suspensions were “fair and appropriate.” The incident took place after a local attorney had released a video in which the two Austin police officers are laughing and one of the officers comments: “Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t un-rape you.”
Recently, offensive comments were made to KUT’s reporter Joy Diaz, while she was covering a police-related story….
Just to set the scene, this reporter was at the police union’s building waiting to interview the head of the union. That’s when veteran officer [Andrew] Pietrowski approached me and started talking about the media fall-out over the video tape of NFL running back Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancé in a hotel elevator. Rice was suspended by the NFL and was released by his team.
Pietrowski says the event was blown out of proportion by the media. That’s when he explained.
“Now, stop and think about this. I don’t care who you are. You think about the women’s movement today, [women say] ‘Oh, we want to go [into] combat,’ and then, ‘We want equal pay, and we want this.’ You want to go fight in combat and sit in a foxhole? You go right ahead, but a man can’t hit you in public here? Bulls–t! You act like a whore, you get treated like one!”
Pietrowski retired from the force after learning that KUT planned to reveal his comments on the air.
S0 . . . . what else is happening? Please post links to the stories that interested you in the comment thread, and Happy Friday!
Posted: December 14, 2013 Filed under: Austerity, Barack Obama, Crime, Foreign Affairs, Gun Control, Iran, morning reads, Politics as Usual, Psychopaths in charge, U.S. Politics | Tags: CIA, gun violence, media, Newtown, polygamy and privacy, Robert Levinson, school shootings, second amendment, Sister Wives, snow, weather, winter storms
I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.
I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.
So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.
Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:
Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.
The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:
A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.
On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.
A whole year after the slaughter of 20 first-graders and 6 adults, and our do-nothing Congress has done exactly nothing to control the purchase of weapons of war for everyday use. CBS News reports:
Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.
Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama – promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda – had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.
Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.
The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.
Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.
And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.
Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.
A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.
A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.
The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.
Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.
A little more from USA Today:
The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.
A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….
The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.
The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.
The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.
Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:
Reuters: Obama marks Newtown school shooting anniversary with call for gun control
Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders
Mother Jones: Portraits of the Hundreds of Children Killed by Guns Since Newtown
Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated
New York Daily News: Another year of the gun
Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)
In other news,
Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah
It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah. The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause. The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists. The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.
I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:
Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional
The Telegraph: ‘Sister Wives’ reality star wins legal fight against Utah anti-polygamy law
I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:
NYT: A Disappearing Spy, and a Scandal at the C.I.A.
ABC News: Family of Robert Levinson, American Held In Iran, Says He Was Spying for the CIA
The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties
Gawker: ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson
Liberty Voice: Robert Levinson: Used by CIA, Forgotten by USA, Burned by Media, Left in Iran
WaPo: Sen. Bill Nelson: I told AP not to run Robert Levinson story
Those are my offerings today. What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!
Posted: October 11, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: CIA, clandestine services, cocoa shortage, U.S women and longevity
I think most of us that have lived awhile can attest to the fall in lifestyle and standards of living in the country. I think it’s been rather obvious that it’s much more difficult to “get ahead” more than at any other time in recent U.S. history. I ran across some interesting articles that sort’ve validated my gut feeling so I thought I’d share them with you. I hope you don’t find them too depressing. The first one indicates that the longevity of U.S. women just isn’t what it used to be. Why are U.S. women dying younger than their mothers?
Whether you think the Affordable Care Act is the right solution or a dangerous step toward tyranny, it’s hard to dispute that the U.S. health-care system is broken. More than 48 million people lack health insurance, and despite having the world’s highest levels of health-care spending per capita, the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes among developed nations, lagging behind in key metrics like life expectancy, premature death rates, and death by treatable diseases, according to a July study in theJournal of the American Medicine Association.
For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.
“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”
Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.
I’ve always thought that the American Lifestyle that you find touted on TV and at most restaurants and stores is really at odds with living well. Here’s an interesting list of items that also reminds me why I always wanted to just stay in Europe whenever I visited there. Are Europeans better at just living life? Here’s one of the statistics that makes me realize how overworked the U.S. worker is and why we all just sort’ve wear out at some point in time.
The top seven nations in the world, in terms of time off? All European. Austrians get 35 (35!) paid days off per year. Nobody criticizes them for being lazy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is the sole developed nation that requires no paid vacation time or holidays by law.
There’s a lot of fun comparisons there including cars, cheese, and sports. The link is good for a few smiles.
So, I lot of people subscribe to the idea of peak oil. I’ve always thought I’d really rather go solar or some alternative for energy in the future since fossil fuels have such incredible problems. I’m not all that concerned about an oil shortage, but a cocoa bean shortage? That’s a completely different matter!!!
The world will officially run out on October 2, 2020.
Industry experts met in London last week to discuss the impending meltdown.
Confectionery giants revealed there are just not enough cocoa plantations across the globe to feed the demand.
They warned we would need the equivalent of another planet Earth to fill the gap needed to keep the chocolate industry going.
Prices are set to soar over the next few years as chocolate becomes harder to get hold of.
As a result many big-name companies are expected to fill bars that are smaller in size with more nuts and fruit because they are cheaper to produce.
Chocolate taster and expert Angus Kennedy said: “There will be a chocolate shortage and there isn’t a solution to the problem. Seven years is what we think we have left.
“Experts have worked out we need 2.3 globes to accommodate man’s needs for chocolate in terms of forestry and space.
“We need another Earth basically if we carry on at this rate. We are destroying the whole thing.
“The problem we’ve got is that much of the space that was used for cocoa plantations is no longer there.
“The Chinese love their cars and they have found that rubber makes more money than cocoa and at a much quicker pace.
“Cocoa farms are being chopped down and turned into rubber plantations because they get a better yield.
“If you plant a cocoa plant you get cocoa beans in four years, which means the farmers are waiting four years for a profit so obviously they think ‘What is the point?’”
Manufacturers from all over the world including Iran, Belgium, Lebanon, Germany and Switzerland met at the British Library last week for the annual Chocolate Industry Network Conference where they heard the worrying news.
At all curious about real US CIA agents in clandestine service? Try reading this article at Newsweek.
After a stint in the Marines, Archibald began his CIA career as a weapons man in the agency’s special activities division – the “knuckle-draggers,” as they’re known around headquarters – during the Bosnian civil war. From there, he made it into the agency’s elite spy corps, rising to the rank equivalent of general in Pakistan.
How Archibald got his new job remains a mystery to everyone Newsweektalked to. One source thought he’d caught the eye of David Petraeus, whose brief tenure as CIA chief was short-circuited in 2012 by an extramarital affair. Other agency veterans think current CIA director John Brennan liked the former Marine’s non-confrontational style. Bonus points: There was not a whiff of scandal in his background, unlike that of the acting chief, who was closely identified with harsh interrogations and passed over in favor of Archibald. She stayed on as his deputy.
One agency veteran has a more nuanced take on the appointment: “Brennan is his own clandestine ops chief.” Another added, “[Brennan] doesn’t like anyone to argue with him much.”
But there are plenty of things to argue over, insiders say, starting with the layers upon layers of assistants to deputy assistants that clog the agency’s chains of command. Many agency old-timers are also dismayed that the CIA’s core mission of spying on major adversaries seems to have been eclipsed by constant commando raids and drone strikes against terrorist targets. All that, they contend, diverts the agency’s finite resources, time and attention from finding out what’s really going on inside Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, China’s weapons labs or Iran’s nuclear program.
What does Frank Archibald think? Sorry. We can’t ask him.
Today is payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers. What will they get?
The paycheck federal workers have been dreading hit bank accounts across the region Friday, representing salaries cut in half for most idled employees. The next payday will be all zeros, and with furloughs dragging on, civil servants are settling into a financial crouch, slashing expenses, canceling vacations, tapping retirement savings and taking second jobs.
“We have no income coming into the house right now, but the bills haven’t stopped,” said John Ferris of Falls Church. He is in a two-furlough marriage; both he and his wife, Lena, are locked out of jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency. With both of their paychecks dwindling, the family of six has put a scalpel to the household budget.
They’ve cut out restaurants and expensive groceries. Gone are the motel stays at their kids travel softball tournaments; instead, they drive all night. But the most painful cut has been a furlough of their own, laying off their autistic son’s longtime reading specialist.
“He’s been with our family for years, and I love him to death, but I thought, ‘Wow, how am I going to pay him if we don’t have paychecks coming,’ ” Lena Ferris said. She worries that one of the shutdown’s lasting aftershocks could be her son’s having to adjust to a new tutor. “He needs money, too,” she said of the tutor. “I’m worried he’s going to start working for another family.”
Federal workers say they were hugely relieved by last week’s House vote toguarantee the missed pay after the furlough’s over. But that hasn’t eased their anxiety over the bills stacking up in the meantime. Some parents are stretching to pay for day care they don’t need just so they don’t lose their slots while waiting to go back to work. All around the region, the furloughed are looking for money to satisfy their creditors or begging them for more time to pay their bills.
“A lot of our members have been asking to skip a payment,” said Pamela Hout, chief executive of the Census Federal a Credit Union. Her staff has been working a few hours a week at the nearly deserted Census Bureau headquarters in Prince George’s County to meet the demand. “We’ve been accommodating them; all they have to do is show us their [furlough] letter.”
I need to add one more thing before I sign off this morning. This is the month that we need to renew our domain and our ability to customize things here. The bill is about $100 per year so just a bit of a donation to the blog would be much appreciated. The specialized font comes due in about a month after that so any thing above that will be held until that comes due!!! Thanks so much!!!
So, that’s my little bit of this and that on a Friday. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: June 13, 2013 Filed under: corruption, Crime, Criminal Justice System, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Arthur "Bucky" Barrett, Boston Bruins, Brian Kelley, Chicago Blackhawks, CIA, double rainbow in Boston, FBI, James "Whitey" Bulger, Jay Carney, John Martorano, Kevin Weeks, Stephen Flemmi, trials
Double rainbow over Boston, evening of June 12, 2013
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? There was a double rainbow over Boston last night, and quite a few people took photos and videos of it. Here’s another shot of it over the harbor and seaport.
You can see more views of it here.
Some people said the rainbow must be a positive sign for the Boston Bruins, who are in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t work out that way though. The Blackhawks ended up winning game one, after what seemed like an endless triple-overtime hockey game.
In other local news, yesterday was the first day of the trial of 83-year-old Irish gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Opening statements were apparently riveting. It’s a shame the federal courts won’t allow TV cameras, because this trial is going to be an incredible show. Yesterday both sides gave their opening statements. From The Washington Post:
BOSTON — The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mob boss who allegedly helped scratch out 19 lives and ran this city’s underworld aided by corrupt FBI agents, got underway Wednesday morning almost 20 years after he fled the city on the eve of his indictment.
Now 83 and with just a bit of white hair left, Bulger wore a long-sleeve green shirt and jeans and listened without displaying any reaction as prosecutors laid out their 32 charges against him in a packed South Boston federal courtroom near the gangster’s old hangouts.
“It’s a case about organized crime, public corruption and all types of illegal activities,” federal prosecutor Brian Kelly said during opening statements. “He was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself. He was a hands-on killer.”
Kelly told the story of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims, Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, who prayed for his life before he was led to a cellar stairwell. “Barrett’s going downstairs to lie down for a while,” Bulger told an accomplice. Barrett walked down the stairs, and Bulger shot him the back, Kelly said.
Bulger’s rise as the city’s brutal organized crime leader was aided and abetted by corrupt FBI agents, who brushed off Bulger’s racketeering and violence in exchange for his help as an informant to bring down the local mafia, according to a lengthy ruling by a federal judge and other investigations.
On the defense side, (Hartford Courant)
Bulger lawyer Jay Carney made it clear in his remarks to the jury that much of the crime boss’s defense will be spent trying to discredit the government’s three chief witnesses. They are close former Bulger associates who agreed to turn on him for leniency or other considerations.
Carney argued to the jury that the three — John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks — will say whatever they think the government wants in order to protect their cooperation agreements. Among other things, he said, they are accusing Bulger of their crimes.
Martorano was sentenced to 14 years in prison for 20 murders. Weeks, once a Bulger protégé, got a shorter sentence for less serious offenses. Flemmi, Bulger’s long-time partner, got a life sentence, but was not exposed to possible death sentences for crimes in Florida and Oklahoma related to the gang’s attempt to takeover World Jai Alai, once one of the country’s largest pari-mutuel businesses.
Carney compared the federal prosecutors to chefs and the three witnesses to elaborately prepared meals.
‘What [we] are going to try to do is show you what happens in the prosecutors’ kitchen before the witness comes out,” Carney said.
I guess I’ve bored you with enough Boston news for today. Let’s see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »