Dec 2, 2016
Julian Assange, founder of the transparency advocacy group WikiLeaks, has provided a detailed commentary to the organization’s release of more than a half-million diplomatic cables dating back to 1979. The essay is a concise history of the role played by Washington in creating contemporary radical Islamism – which led to the creation of ISIS.
At the center of these developments, writes Assange, is “Zbigniew `Zbig’ Brzezinski ,” Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser and founder of the Trilateral Commission. “He would become the architect of the destabilization of Soviet-backed Afghanistan through the use of Islamic militants, elements of which would later become known as al-Qaeda. Brzezinski continues to affect US policy as an advisor to Obama. He has been especially visible in the recent conflict between Russia and the Ukraine.”
“If any year could be said to be the `year zero’ of our modern era, 1979 is it,” asserts Assange. “The invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR would see Saudi Arabia and the CIA push billions of dollars to Mujahideen fighters as part of Operation Cyclone, fomenting the rise of al-Qaeda and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union,” he continues, hewing closely to the familiar narrative that the USSR collapsed, rather than mutating into a somewhat different version of the same state.
Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in early 1989, elements of the Afghan Mujahideen continued to receive support from the CIA. The September 11 attacks eventually led to the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq “and over a decade of war, leaving, at its end, the ideological, financial and geographic basis for ISIS,” Assange concludes. His overview highlights passages from John Podesta’s hacked email server documenting how nominal US allies in Qatar and Saudi Arabia continue to support ISIS. As he pointed out in a typically plangent interview with Australian journalist John Pilger. ISIS and the Clinton Foundation have been “funded by the same money.”
Dec 2, 2016
Senator Jeff Sessions and Congressman Mike Pompeo, who were selected by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as Attorney General and CIA Director, respectively, support expanded surveillance powers for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Bloomberg News observes that confirmation hearings into their nominations “will set up an early test of Trump’s relationship with Silicon Valley giants including Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.” During the campaign, Trump indicated that he would be taking a harder line when “he urged a consumer boycott of Apple for refusing to help the FBI hack into a terrorist’s encrypted iPhone.”
Sessions has opposed restraints on the National Security Agency’s all-encompassing electronic eavesdropping, and in June said that he would support legislation to expand the kinds of internet data the FBI can intercept without obtaining search warrants.
Dec 2, 2016
Donald Trump is famous – or perhaps the proper word is “notorious” – for his lack of Twitter discipline, and when he becomes president in January he will be given the means to impose his random, briefly stated thoughts on any US resident who has a smartphone through the congressionally mandated Wireless Emergency Alert system.
Wireless Emergency Alerts “are part of a program put in place after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) act, in 2006,” recalls New York Magazine. WEAs allow for targeted messages to be sent to every cell phone getting a signal from certain geographically relevant cell towers (or, in a national emergency, all of them).”
Most cell phone users have received text alerts dealing with sudden severe weather, or Amber Alert notifications about a missing child. The Federal Communications Commission lists “alerts issued by the President” as one of three categories of messages that will be delivered to all cell phones through the WEA system. Interestingly, cell phone carriers participating in the system can allow subscribers to block Amber Alert notifications, or warnings about “imminent threats to safety or life” – but presidential alerts cannot be blocked. While the WEA messages are limited to ninety text characters – compared with the 140 characters allowed by Twitter – President Trump will be able to send out compulsory notifications on any subject, assuming that they are approved by FEMA.
Dec 2, 2016
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 contains a provision that essentially nullifies the habeas corpus guarantee by allowing for the indefinite detention of US citizens designated “unlawful enemy combatants.” Another troubling facet of that law overturned previous legislation prohibiting the government from conducting disinformation campaigns that target the citizenry – a matter that has garnered new relevance amid the ongoing discussion of so-called “fake news,” an expression generally used by the legacy media cartel to dismiss independent news outlets.
An amendment to the NDAA sponsored by Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas and Democrat Adam Smith of Washington neutralized the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which banned the use of government-sponsored “psychological operations” intended to influence US public opinion. Thornberry complained that the law as it stood“ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others [read CIA] by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”
Dec 2, 2016
Like many other news platforms – both in the legacy press and the new media -- Breitbart News has an undisguised partisan viewpoint. It currently ranks 28thon the list of Top 100 US Media sites as compiled by SimilarWeb, and boasts of 168 million page views in October. Now that Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon has been appointed by Donald Trump to be chief White House strategist, the controversial media site will enjoy access to the incoming presidential administration.
All of those facts suggest that whatever one thinks of the content and perspective offered by Breitbart, media companies should be eager to capitalize on its success, if they can. Apple Inc., which owns the iTunes marketplace, decided to act on other priorities by removing Breitbart from its app as part of the cultural left’s attempted purge of independent media outlets it insists are “fake news.”
Dec 2, 2016
Idaho state representatives Illana Rubel, a Democrat from Boise, and Steven Harris, a Republican from Meridian, have collaborated on legislation that would address abuses committed through the practice of asset forfeiture. This is the seizure of cash, cars, and other property suspected of being involved in criminal activity, even if the owner is never charged with an offense. A civil case is filed against the property itself, and the burden is placed on the owner to prove that the property stolen by the police had not been illicitly acquired.
Rubel and Harris have proposed limiting the kinds of property that can be seized. They are also seeking to abolish civil asset forfeiture – which can occur without criminal charges – by replacing it with criminal forfeiture, which can only happen if the owner is actually convicted of a crime. Not surprisingly, their proposals have collided with a barricade of obstruction through up by lobbyists representing police and prosecutors’ organizations.
Idaho Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Vaughn Killeen insists that when property is confiscated by police without criminal charges, “often what law enforcement knowns about individuals when they seize property is much more than a general citizen knows.” Killeen either ignores or doesn’t understand the constitutional principle that juries composed of “general citizens” must convict the accused of a criminal offense before punishment is imposed.
Dec 2, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly interviewed retired General and former CIA Director David Petraeus for a potential position in his administration – perhaps even as Secretary of State. Trump describes himself as “very impressed” with Petraeus, but so far hasn’t commented on his considerable baggage – beginning with the fact that he is currently serving probation after being convicted on charges very similar to those that inspired the “Lock her up!” chant at Trump campaign rallies.
Like Hillary Clinton, Petraeus mishandled classified information by sharing it with Paula Broadwell, a biographer with whom he had an extramarital affair. While Hillary Clinton has not been charged with federal felonies for her documented violation of statutes dealing with classified State Department communications, Petraeus pleaded guilty in exchange for having the charges reduced to misdemeanors. He was sentenced to two years of probation in April 2015.
Under the terms of the sentence, “The defendant shall not leave the Western District of North Carolina without the permission of the Court or probation officer,” specifies the judgment. “Travel [will be] allowed for work as approved by the US probation office.”
What that means, notes The Hill, is that if Petraeus were appointed Secretary of State, he would have three days to notify his probation officer and obtain permission to move to Washington D.C. – and similar permission would be needed for any official trips he would take abroad.
Also noteworthy to Trump supporters who see him as a champion of the Second Amendment is the fact that Petraeus co-founded a gun control organization with former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Dec 2, 2016
Tara Lenich, a high-ranking assistant Brooklyn prosecutor, was arrested on November 27 on charges that she used an illegal wiretap to spy on a colleague she thought was in a relationship with a police detective in whom she had a romantic interest. Following her arraignment Lenich was released on $25,000 bail.
Prior to her arrest, Lenich was deputy chief of the Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau in the Brooklyn DA’s office. That agency specializes in the use of wiretaps and similar surveillance methods to investigate criminal gangs and narcotics syndicates. Wiretap warrants are generally valid for 30 days before they must be renewed by a judge. The New York Times quotes law enforcement sources that claim that “Lenich repeatedly forged judges’ signatures to keep the eavesdropping scheme running for about a year. She also tried to avoid suspicion by telling fellow prosecutors that she had undertaken a secret investigation on behalf of the New York Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau and was the only person who could have access to the wiretap.”
Brooklyn criminal defense lawyer Wilson A. LaFaurie points out that the ease with which a prosecutor could carry out a cyber-stalking scheme demonstrates that “The public should have a tangible fear of this” – and that prosecutors willing to forge a judge’s signature could also potentially manipulate evidence in other cases by forging signatures from witnesses, detectives, or victims. The DA’s office has ordered a thorough review of its procedures.
Dec 2, 2016
Steve Mnuchin, the 17-year Goldman Sachs veteran and former Soros partner selected by President-elect Donald Trump to be Secretary of the Treasury, “has made a career out of being lucky,” begins a lengthy profile published by Pro Publica. Several years ago, Mnuchin “had the perspicacity to purchase a collapsed subprime mortgage lender soon after the financial crisis, getting a sweet deal from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Now, if he’s confirmed, he will likely be able to take advantage of a tax perk given to government officials.” Although he owed $97 million in stocks resulting from that deal as of last February, and will be required to sell them off if he is confirmed, Mnuchin “can defer taxes, as long as he complies with certain conditions. That benefit, available to all officials who are required to sell investments upon taking a government job, could be worth millions to Mnuchin.”
The scion of Wall Street royalty, Mnuchin similarly “dodge disaster when he inherited his mother’s portfolio,” continues the profile. “She was a longtime investor with Bernie Madoff, the largest Ponzi schemer in American history.” After his mother died in 2005, Mnuchin moved quickly to liquidate her investment, making $3.2 million.”
Unlike many of Madoff’s victims, Mnuchin defeated an effort by the scammer’s trustee to seize back those profits: A court ruled that Madoff “could only claw back money from those who had cashed out two years before the collapse,” and Mnuchin, acting on knowledge obtained through his contacts, had withdrawn three years earlier.
Mnuchin appears to be an alligator who is wise to the ways of the swamp Donald Trump has famously promised to drain. His Senate confirmation hearings should carefully consider whether or not this is a good thing.
Dec 2, 2016
Tens of millions of American voters enthusiastically agreed with Donald Trump’s campaign theme that the economic system is rigged against the working class. When Trump declared in the speech accepting the nomination that since he knew the system better than anyone, he alone could fix it, those voters believed him. The announcement of a deal with manufacturing company Carrier to keep some of its operations open in Indiana rather than relocating to Mexico has been hailed by the Trump transition team, and many of his supporters, as a partial fulfillment of his promises even before he is inaugurated.
While Trump and his soon-to-be Vice President – and incumbent Indiana Governor – Mike Pence visited Indianapolis to praise the Carrier deal, some details of it were finally made public. In exchange for a $700,000-a-year tax break that will continue into the indefinite future – the details of which will be worked out by Pence’s successor – Carrier agreed to keep 850 jobs in the state that would otherwise have been reassigned to a factory in Mexico. Three hundred administrative and engineering positions that would have been eliminated in Indiana and replaced with identical positions North Carolina will likewise remain in Indiana. However, about 1,300 jobs will be terminated, and replaced with lower-wage workers in Mexico.
Trump had threatened to seek a 35 percent tariff on any Carrier products manufactured in Mexico. He and Pence also mentioned that United Technologies, of which Carrier is a subsidiary, is a major Pentagon contractor and might be passed over for business if Carrier went through with the relocation.
Through a combination of threatened retaliation and carefully targeted tax breaks – that is to say, by promising to rig the system in favor of the company, if it cooperated -- the deal extolled by Trump saved fewer than half of the jobs Carrier had considered moving to Mexico.
Michigan Republican Congressman Justin Amash described the deal as “More corporate welfare and cronyism. Equal protection is denied when one company receives favors at the expense of everyone else in Indiana.”
Dec 2, 2016
While Hillary Clinton still leads the popular vote count, and Donald Trump claims that tally is inflated by voter fraud, the true winner is actually “Nobody,” points out USA Today: In 44 states, the number of eligible voters who didn’t cast a ballot for president “outnumbered the tallies of either Trump or Clinton.”
“If we consider `not voting’ to be voicing an opinion on the race, `none of these candidates’ wins in a landslide,” continues the paper. “Should we leave the Oval Office vacant for four years?”
If the presidency were reduced to its very modest constitutional role, it’s likely that the office would not be nearly as coveted as it presently is. It’s also likely that if the role of the president were to protect the rights of the American population without regard to partisan loyalties or other extraneous considerations, rather than wielding power on behalf of one faction, those who lose an election might have cause to celebrate, and those who win might consider their victory a burden, rather than a blessing. Although that perspective on the presidency will sound strange to contemporary Americans, it actually is much closer to the role of the office as defined by the men who created it.
Dec 2, 2016
Matt Cooper, political editor for Newsweek magazine, has admitted that nobody on the staff of the journal actually proofread its now-notorious “Madam President” cover story, which was produced and distributed ahead of the November 8 election. The commemorative election edition was outsourced to a subcontractor which produced the cover story and the cover illustration – and about 125,000 copies were printed prior to the election, which Donald Trump won in an upset.
One excerpt from the issue – which is both a testament to the mainstream media’s ideological rigidity, and a future high-priced collectible – is a North Korean-grade paean to Hillary:
“As the tone of the election grew darker and more bizarre by the day, President-elect Hillary Clinton `went high’ when her opponent went even lower,” recites the copy, continuing in a tone that might embarrass a freshman gender studies major at a community college. “No stranger to trudging through the mire of misogyny in her career as first lady, senator and secretary of state, President-elect Clinton continued to push for an issues-based campaign…. On Election Day, Americans across the country roundly rejected the kind of fear and hate-based conservatism peddled by Donald Trump and elected the first woman in U.S. history to the presidency.”
Cooper claimed that “The writing in this is – shall we say – not up to the editorial standards of Newsweek,” an assessment with which many would strongly differ.
Dec 2, 2016
Barack Obama is ending a presidency that began with him inexplicably winning the Nobel Peace Prize by making it much easier for his successor to wage war without congressional involvement.
Micah Zenko of Foreign Policy magazine warns that by expanding the power and scope of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Obama has created a “truly global combatant command, with the resources and authority to strike targets seemingly anywhere, rather than only after being placed under the authority of a regional combatant command.”
This is not out of character for Obama, who – despite being routinely lambasted by Trump and other Republicans as “weak” – has actually been among the most militaristic presidents in U.S. history.
“Obama administration lawyers and officials have always contended that there are no geographic limits to where US forces may conduct operations against terrorism, with the battlefield being anywhere `from Boston to [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan]’” Zenko points out. “Now, it appears that it has set up an organizational command structure to support such limitless targeting.”
In addition, Obama recently expanded the ongoing global anti-terror campaign to include al-Shabab, which was created in Somalia a decade ago after Ethiopia invaded that country with Washington’s support.
Dec 1, 2016
One day after teasing critics of the Federal Reserve by meeting with libertarian-minded banker John Allison – thereby raising hopes of an Establishment-defying pick for Treasury Secretary – President-elect Donald Trump quietly made the most conventional choice he could by appointing former campaign finance director Steven Mnuchin to the position. The Hill observes that although Mnuchin has never held a previous government post, he “has close ties to Hollywood and Wall Street.”
A former partner at Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin also worked for Soros Fund Management before founding the hedge fund Dune Capital Management. During last decade’s housing bubble, Mnuchin’s company was involved in one-third of all reverse mortgage foreclosures, and made an estimated $3 billion profit during the crisis.
Liberal-leaning Trump critic Jessica Mackler accused Mnuchin as profiting from “people’s misery and foreclosures.”
“Of course he’d want Steve Mnuchin … to be his Treasury Secretary,” complained Mackler. “Putting a Wall Street CEO in charge of his Administration’s oversight of Wall Street is dangerous and even more proof that Donald Trump is only interested in protecting corporations at the expense of working families.”
John Allison, who met with Trump shortly before the Mnuchin announcement, is a passionate devotee of libertarian author Ayn Rand and an outspoken opponent of eminent domain. He has also forthrightly said that the Federal Reserve must be abolished.
Dec 1, 2016
Elaine Chao, Donald Trump’s selection to head the Department of Transportation, is a well-pedigreed Washington insider who has found a very comfortable role in the “swamp” Trump had promised to drain. The wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Chao was secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration. Her family owns The Foremost Group, one of the largest international shipping companies, which became a major campaign donor to McConnell during the 1980s. Dr. James Chao, owner of the company, registers his ships in Liberia in order to avoid tax liability in the United States – an arrangement of the kind Trump had loudly condemned during his campaign.
Foremost purchases shipping vessels and coordinates a global commodity shipment network. Two years ago the Colombian Coast Guard seized the Ping May, a vessel owned by Foremost, and confiscated 90 pounds of cocaine concealed within a coal shipment.
Among the agencies under the supervision of the Transportation Department is the United States Maritime Administration, which plays a significant role in the regulation of shipping companies.
Dec 1, 2016
Charles Clarke II was one of thousands of innocent Americans to have their property stolen by law enforcement agents who described the larceny as “asset forfeiture.” Unlike most of them, however, Clarke is getting his money back – with interest.
In February 2014, Clarke was accosted by police officers at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport after a ticket clerk claimed that his luggage smelled like marijuana. Clarke, who was traveling to Florida to begin school, was carrying $11,000 in cash with which he intended to pay his college tuition. The officers were employed by a DEA task force at the airport, which routinely confiscated money and other property on similar pretexts. A drug dog alerted on the cash in Clarke’s pockets, which resulted in Clarke being arrested on narcotics charges that were later dropped – but the uniformed thieves insisted on keeping the pilfered money.
Clarke sought legal assistance from the Institute for Justice, an advocacy group that specializes in asset forfeiture abuses. The DEA has now agreed to a settlement in which Clarke’s money will be returned, with interest. The agency will not be required to admit wrongdoing.
Darpana Sheth, the IOJ attorney who represented Clarke, observes that “he was very lucky to file a claim early on and that we were able to help him. Otherwise, he would have been out of luck, especially since the burden of proof is on the property owner and not the government.”
Dec 1, 2016
A number of independent media outlets are considering legal action against the Washington Post and the proprietors of the website PropOrNot.com following accusations that the new media sites are retail outlets for Russian propaganda. The list produced by the website and given widespread exposure by the Post contains some government-owned media entities such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, but also conservative or libertarian organizations and publications such as the Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, the Ron Paul Institute, and dozens of others representing a variety of views.
Doug Owen, senior editor of Blacklisted News – which was named as a purported Russian propaganda front – told US News and World Report that the only reason he hasn’t filed a libel suit is that he has yet to experience financial damages from the false claims. Two editors of CounterPunch, a left-leaning investigative journal that was very critical of Hillary Clinton – and had little good to say about Donald Trump – report that they are considering possible legal action as well.
Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch points out that “My own writings on Putin have been nothing but critical” and that “The Russian writers we’ve published, such as Boris Kagarlitsky, are Russian dissidents.”
In addition to contemplating potential legal action, CounterPunch, which is a very capable investigative journal, is examining what St. Clair calls “the misty background of PropOrNot.”
Dec 1, 2016
Owing to the failure of an effort in the Senate to block a change in federal regulations, the FBI’s power to conduct covert hacking operations will dramatically expand. Under the newly revised Rule 41 of the federal ruler of criminal procedure, FBI investigatiors will be able to obtain search warrants authorizing them to have remote access to computers in any jurisdiction – both domestically and overseas. The FBI’s hackers will likewise be able to gain access to computers owned and operated by people who are not criminal suspects.
This expansion of FBI hacking authority is “one of the biggest mistakes in surveillance policy in years,” warned Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. It gives the Bureau “unprecedented authority to hack into Americans’ personal phones, computers, and other devices.”
Wyden’s effort to prevent the rule change was blocked by John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.
Dec 1, 2016
In October, an Albuquerque jury was hung in the second-degree murder trial of police officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy, who fatally shot a mentally ill homeless man named James Boyd in the foothills outside the city two years ago. The state attorney general’s office has now dropped the charges against Perez. Special prosecutor Randi McGinn told local ABC affiliate KOAT that there are no plans to dismiss the charges against Sandy.
Dec 1, 2016
Countless thousands of business owners display a sign reserving their right to refuse service – an assertion of a fundamental, and increasingly imperiled, property right. A growing number of proprietors in liberal-minded communities display signs advertising the fact that they aren’t interested in doing business with people they consider bigots. One café owner famously declared that she was not receptive to clientele who favor the right to keep and bear arms.
More recently, a number of high-profile designers have said that they would not accept business from Melania and Ivanka Trump, if they are interested in formal wear for the upcoming presidential inauguration.
All of those gestures are likewise instances in which business owners have exercised the absolute right to decline an opportunity to profit at the expense of their convictions – thereby creating opportunities for others in the marketplace who are not hindered by similar scruples. While every human being is endowed with that right, exercising it has become a privilege enjoyed only by those whose choices do not offend society’s self-appointed supervisors.
In recent years, observes Caleb Verbois of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, bakers and photographers who have declined to offer their products or services for same-sex wedding ceremonies “have been pilloried in the press, sued, and threatened with a loss of their business and personal savings,” despite the fact that they are exercising precisely the same property right as the designers who prominently announced that they would not offer their services to the Trump family. Discrimination of that variety is not only tolerated, but celebrated, by the progressive Left.
Dec 1, 2016
Public perceptions of the Syrian war – a conflict that has been instigated and exacerbated by the U.S. and the EU – have been shaped by the White Helmets, a humanitarian group widely praised for its heroic service to civilian victims. In addition to being afforded unquestioned credibility by the mass media, the White Helmets have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize – a fact that will prompt misgivings on the part of anyone familiar with the dubious history of that award.
Geopolitical affairs analyst Gareth Porter cautions that the White Helmets “are hardly a non-political organization. Funded heavily by the US State Department and the British Foreign Office, the group operates only in areas in northern Syria controlled by an al-Qaeda affiliate and their extremist allies – areas to which Western journalists have no had access.” This makes them literal gatekeepers of information – and whenever their accounts of the conflict can be subjected to factual scrutiny, the group’s reliability is found wanting.
Porter documents how Ammar al-Selmo, head of the White Helmets in Aleppo, was caught fabricating an account of a Russian air attack on a Red Crescent relief convoy in September. Selmo’s first story about a “barrel bomb attack” placed him more than a kilometer away from the convoy at the time of the attack. When discrepancies in his story were pointed out, Selmo revised his timeline – but the physical evidence for a barrel bomb attack was never found.
Nonetheless, Selmo’s clearly fabricated claims were quickly canonized by the self-described mainstream media, and he remains a trusted source in shaping the media narrative of the Syrian conflict.
Dec 1, 2016
Donald Trump has expressed a sincere interest in a less confrontational relationship with Russia – yet as his cabinet takes shape it is becoming clear that his administration will be top-heavy with advisers who want Washington to take a more bellicose stance toward Iran, a close Russian ally. Former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi laments that the influence of those figures, whom he designates “Iranophobes,” is already visible prior to Trump’s inauguration.
“One of the most discouraging aspects of the filling out of the Donald Trump cabinet is the array of Iran haters that seem to be lining up in the foreign policy and national security areas,” writes Giraldi. “Trump has been personally advocating sensible policies relating to Russia and Syria but he appears to have gone off the rails regarding Iran, which just might be attributed to those who are giving him advice.”
National Security Adviser-designate Michael Flynn believes that Iran is at or near the center of a global anti-US alliance that includes also such disparate powers as Venezuela and North Korea. Kansas Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, whom Trump tapped to be CIA Director, has described the government in Tehran as an existential threat to the U.S. Retired Marine General James Mattis, who is believed to be Trump’s choice for Secretary of Defense, likewise considers Iran to be the greatest threat in the Middle East – despite the fact that Tehran, for reasons of its own, is actually doing battle against ISIS.
“The neoconservative kingpin Bill Kristol is gloating, headlining in his Weekly Standard publication that the `Iran Deal Is Doomed!’” Giraldi points out. “He should be pleased. Team Trump’s attitude towards an alleged Iranian threat is delusional, more in sync with Kristol and some Israeli thinking than with any actual American interests. Just as neoconservatives always believe that it is 1938 and we are in Munich, Flynn, Pompeo and Mattis likewise seem to think that it is 1979 and the United States Embassy in Tehran is still occupied.”
Dec 1, 2016
During the administration of George W. Bush, Wall Street’s most powerful firm, Goldman Sachs, essentially ran the Treasury Department. After witnessing a barely perceptible reduction in its influence during the Obama years, Goldman was deeply entrenched in the Hillary Clinton campaign, and a frequent target of populist brickbats hurled by Republican candidate Donald Trump. It is reasonable to conclude that Trump’s blunt and forceful condemnation of the banking elite Goldman represents played a decisive role in his dramatic upset victory over Clinton.
As Trump’s administration coalesces, however, “Goldman Sachs … is dominating the early days” of the transition, observes Politico. “The newly picked Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, spent 17 years at Goldman. Trump’s top incoming White House adviser, Steve Bannon, spent his early career at the bank. So did Anthony Scaramucci, one of Trump’s top transition advisers.”
“Goldman’s president, Gary Cohn, spent an hour schmoozing with President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday and could be up for an administration job, possibly as director of the Office of Management and Budget,” continues the report. Cohn, a veteran commodities trader, “is friendly with Trump’s powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner.”
“It’s a stunning reversal of fortune for Goldman, a long-time Washington power that fell out of favor following the financial crisis,” Politico asserts, overstating somewhat the severity of Goldman’s chastisement. “Now Goldman, whose proximity to the levers of power dates to the early 20th Century and the creation of the Federal Reserve, stands to return to a level of influence unmatched by any other company in America.”
Dec 1, 2016
Without disclosing any of the relevant details, Donald Trump’s transition team has claimed responsibility for a deal with the Carrier company that will reportedly keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S., rather than moving them to Mexico. The company, an Indiana-based furnace manufacturer and subsidiary of the military contractor United Technologies, was reportedly offered tax incentives and promises of regulatory breaks by the Indiana state government – over which Vice President-elect Mike Pence will preside until January 20.
John Mutz, a former Indiana lieutenant government who sits on the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, told Politico that the deal brokered with Carrier “likely hinges on its parent company’s fear about losing business with the federal government.”
“This deal is no different than other deals that we put together at the IEDC to retain jobs, but the fact is that the difference is that United Technologies depends on the federal government for lots of business,” Mutz observed.
The Hill points out that “if it turns out that Trump and Pence have offered any special concessions to Carrier – either at the federal level or the state level, given that [Pence] is still the governor of Indiana – then … free market groups are likely to cry foul.”
Brent Gardner of Americans for Prosperity says that “our position on corporate welfare is well-known and it hasn’t changed.”
Dec 1, 2016
It has been said that everything about the United Nations is a lie, beginning with the name of the organization: It doesn’t represent the nations of the world, but rather its ruling elites. Most of the damage done by the world body is accomplished through the Security Council, where five permanent members – the US, UK, France, Russia, and China – have veto powers.
The General Assembly, on the other hand, chiefly serves as a playpen for what used to be called Third World powers. That element of the UN is chiefly preoccupied with the passage of resolutions that express an abiding love for socialists, kleptocrats, and other tyrants, and animosity toward the United States and Israel.
UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson of Fiji opened the November 29 meeting of the General Assembly by giving voice to his bereavement over the death of Fidel Castro, whose regime has impoverished and tyrannized the Cuban people for five decades.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Fidel Castro,” announced Thomson, struggling to retain his composure. He went on to extol the mass murderer as “one of the iconic leaders of the 20th Century, with a great love for the Cuban people,” and insisted that the dictator – who lived in baronial splendor while his subjects were mired in insuperable poverty – “dedicated his life to their welfare and development.”
Thomson then bade the assembly to rise to its feet in a moment of silence for “His Excellency,” Fidel Castro.
Dec 1, 2016
Since the inauguration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last July, an estimated 5,000 Filipinos have been killed by vigilante groups or police – and many of the latter incidents amount to extra-judicial summary executions.
The country’s nationalized police force receives funding and training through the US State Department and other agencies. That training and support continues despite a decision earlier this month to suspend the sale of 26,000 military assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, owing to the indiscriminate violence of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
Dec 1, 2016
When police officers learn that a fellow officer is the subject of a traffic stop, they will often decline to write a citation in the name of “professional courtesy.” Former Pocomoke City, Maryland Police Chief Kelvin Sewell, who more recently served as chief investigator for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, is facing a trial on charges of criminal misconduct for allegedly burying a traffic investigation because the driver was not only a fellow law enforcement officer but also shared membership in the Freemason fraternity, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Sewell and Pocomoke City Lt. Lynell Green are accused of misconduct and criminal conspiracy for allegedly interfering in the investigation of a November 2014 traffic incident. Corrections Officer Doug Matthews struck two unoccupied vehicles near his home. Sewell, who was police chief at the time, is accused of visiting the scene and instructing the investigating officer to record the collision as an accident, which foreclosed a criminal investigation. Matthews and Sewell are members of the same masonic lodge.
Sewell, who has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against officials in Pocomoke and Worcester County, insists that the decision not to investigate the traffic incident was within his discretion, and that the prosecution is politically motivated.
Nov 30, 2016
Like many people convicted of driving under the influence, Minnesota resident Richard Ohren is required to use an interlock device – which forces him to blow into a breathalyzer before starting his car and driving to work. Once he has reached his workplace, however, Ohren is handed a set of keys and given access to a government-owned vehicle he can operate without similar restrictions. As a Deputy in the Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Office, Ohren is not allowed to testify in court or respond to 911 calls, but he is allowed to drive inmates around northern Minnesota.
Although he was fired following his 2015 DUI conviction, Ohren was restored to the public payroll through the intervention of his police union, Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc.
WDAZ radio reports that “Mahnomen County officials learned after they fired [Ohren] in December that he had another DUI conviction that was missed on a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension check, bringing his total of related driving offenses to four.”
Although Sheriff Douglas Krier describes his office as being in a “tough spot,” he insists that “We’re abiding by the decision.” County Commissioner Brad Athmann blames the situation on living in “liberal Minnesota,” where “we’re going to give everyone a chance four or five times, I guess.” Even in liberal Minnesota, however, common citizens most likely wouldn’t receive the kind of leniency Deputy Ohren received through professional courtesy – and the intervention of his police union.
Nov 30, 2016
During the reign of Barack Obama, which is mercifully coming to an end, many conservatives complained that his administration was federalizing local and state police. Donald Trump, who ran as the “law and order” candidate, has been warmly received by police unions – who now eagerly expect that he will federalize law enforcement in a fashion they would find desirable.
Jim Pasco, president of the Fraternal Order of Police – the country’s largest law enforcement officers union – says that under Trump “we would like to see a greater level of federal participation in underwriting costs of policing at state and local levels.” The FOP and several other unions have called for a reversal of Obama’s decision to wind down the Pentagon’s 1033 program, through which war-fighting materiel is provided by the Pentagon to local police agencies.
“Let us have the [military] equipment that will otherwise be in rust heaps somewhere,” urges Greg Champagne, head of the National Sheriff’s Association.
Significantly, this is a demand to reverse an action taken by Barack Obama that was intended to de-federalize local police, rather than expanding federal control over them.
Both the FOP and the National Association of Police Organizations are pleading for legislation that would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer a federal crime – something that Mr. Trump has endorsed. Under the Constitution, only three offenses – treason, counterfeiting, and piracy – are assigned to federal jurisdiction.
Travis Yates of the online journal Law Officer wants federal subsidies to provide ballistic vests to all local police, and expanded federal subsidies for police training through the Justice Department’s Law Enforcement Coordinator’s Office. Once again, this would result in expanded federal control over local police agencies and personnel – something conservatives had ardently opposed during Obama’s tenure.
Nov 30, 2016
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believes that democracy is so precious that it must remain unsullied by the participation of the people. This is why he has instructed fellow EU leaders not to permit further referenda to be held in member-nations regarding their continued membership in the union. In fact, the very idea of potential withdrawal from the EU should not be debated, insists Juncker.
“Regarding referenda on EU membership, I think it is not wise to organize this kind of debate, not only because I might be concerned about the final result but because this will pile more controversy onto the huge number already present at the heart of the EU,” Juncker said in a recent interview. He was asked about the recent pledge by Norbert Hofer of Austria’s Freedom Party, who if elected president has promised that he would arrange a Brexit-style referendum on that country’s status in the EU.
“I don’t think the next president of Austria, whoever it will be, will launch themselves [sic] into this kind of escapade,” Juncker insisted with unwarranted confidence in light of the ever-strengthening populist tide. “I have learned to tell the difference between campaign promises and concrete policies,” continued the Eurocrat, who somewhat unpersuasively maintained that “the existence of the EU is not in doubt.”
Nov 30, 2016
One key difference between an authoritarian government and a totalitarian regime is the existence of independent civil and political groups that can use peaceful, lawful means to change public policy. Authoritarian governments will keep such groups under surveillance, infiltrate them, and sometimes abuse their leaders. Totalitarian regimes, on the other hand, forbid the existence of such independent civil society organizations, requiring them to be licensed and regulated by the central government.
The Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appears to be approaching the line that separates authoritarian from totalitarian governments. A measure drafted by the parliament and approved by the State Council entitled The Law on Civil Societies and Foundations and Other Entities Working in the Civil Sphere “would effectively prohibit non-governmental groups in the country by subjecting their work and funding to control by government authorities,” reports Human Rights Watch. This would mean that all political activism in the country would be conducted under the pervasive scrutiny and control of security agencies. The measure is primarily, but not exclusively, targeted at organizations that receive funding and other support from outside the country.
In addition, the law as presently written would criminalize a long list of broadly worded political activities, including efforts to conduct public opinion surveys without explicit government approval, or carrying on any work “of a political nature” outside of government-approved political parties and unions. Violations of the law would be punishable by a five year prison term and a fine of up to one million Egyptian pounds.
Nov 30, 2016
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the 18-year-old Ohio State University student identified as the assailant in the lethal November 28 campus attack in which eleven were wounded, fled war-torn Somalia as a refugee in 2007, eventually coming to the United States with his family two years ago. A few months ago he was featured in a profile published by The Lantern, an OSU campus newspaper, in which he expressed fears and frustrations over being a Muslim in the United States.
“I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be,” Artan complained a few weeks before he allegedly used a car to mow down innocent pedestrians before being shot by police while wielding a knife. Countless commentators have pointed out that the attack on OSU’s campus strongly resembled a murder rampage carried out earlier this year in Nice, France, and that it came a few days following a social media posting by ISIS urging “lone wolf”-style knife attacks.
Somalia was the supposed beneficiary of a US-led, UN-mandated invasion in December 1992, near the end of a civil war following the ouster of longtime ruler Siad Barre. Supposedly a humanitarian aid mission, the occupation escalated into an effort to create a centralized government, which prompted resistance from tribal leaders and led to withdrawal of UN forces a few years later. Left to itself, Somalia began a period of recovery under a loose tribal confederation that ended in 2006 when Ethiopia, backed by the US, invaded the country. This in turn led to the formation of an Islamist group called al-Shabab – which just last week was targeted for military action by the Obama administration.
The fact that Artan’s brief life was defined by US-abetted warfare in his home country may play a role in his apparent embrace of murderous jihadism.
Nov 30, 2016
According to the Russian government, US Secretary of State John Kerry has significantly intensified efforts to finish an agreement regarding the conflict in Syria before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin says Kerry is making a last-ditch effort to stop the Syrian operation targeting US-supported rebels in eastern Aleppo, in large measure because of his belief that Trump would look more favorably on Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, who is also an ally or Russia.
Nov 30, 2016
After becoming the target of universal social media ridicule for his effusive eulogy of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he will not attend the tyrant’s funeral. Trudeau’s initial reaction to the despot’s death was to describe him as a "remarkable leader" and to express his sorrow at the death of "Cuba's longest serving president” – as if this distinction means much in a single-party system in which Castro’s rule was unassailable.
Nov 30, 2016
In its remaining months, The Obama administration is expanding its efforts to resettle unaccompanied immigrant children from Latin America. MRCtv reports that “the Obama administration released another 6,051 unaccompanied alien children into American communities in the month of October, averaging about 195 kids per day. “
Only about 45 percent of all immigration cases opened for unaccompanied minors since July of 2014 have been closed, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Data provided by that office also show that nearly 40 percent of all illegal alien children ordered to appear before an immigration judge won’t show up for their final court hearing.
Nov 30, 2016
For reasons nobody has been able to identify, Donald Trump used his Twitter account to call for criminal prosecution of US citizens who burn an American flag – despite the fact that nearly thirty years ago the US Supreme Court ruled that this admittedly offensive act is constitutionally protected expressive conduct.
“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag,” the President-elect fulminated in a Tweet published in the early morning hours of November 29, going on to insist that “if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!”
Interestingly, Trump’s vanquished rival, Hillary Clinton, introduced a bill in 2005 during her single term as a New York Senator that would have outlawed burning the American flag. Her co-sponsor was former Utah Republican Senator Robert Bennett. The so-called Flag Protection Act of 2005 would have imposed a one-year prison term and a fine of $100,000. It did not contain a provision stripping US citizenship from anybody convicted of burning or otherwise destroying a flag for the “primary purpose of intimidation of inciting immediate violence.”
Nov 30, 2016
Guantanamo Bay detainee Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi, who was captured at an al-Qaeda safehouse in Pakistan in March 2002, told officers in his Periodic Review Board that the Saudi government has been using a facility described as a rehabilitation center to radicalize former Gitmo inmates in the service of jihad.
An estimated 134 former Gitmo detainees from Saudi Arabia have been sent to the Price Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, where they have supposedly been de-radicalized. Sharbi appears to suggest that the facility serves the opposite purpose.
“You guys want to send me back to Saudi Arabia because you believe there is a deradicalization program on the surface,” Sharbi told the review board. “You are one hundred percent right, there is a strong – externally, a strong- deradicalization program. But make no mistake, underneath there is a hidden radicalization program … way strong in magnitude – broader, in financing, than that.”
Sharbi’s official file describes him as “deceptive.” He is in poor health, and the transcript of his recent Periodic Review Board makes frequent mention of his use of a “portable breathing device.” His remarks in that interview are disorganized and self-contradictory. He continues to regard himself as a “mujahid,” or holy warrior, and claims to have connections to the Saudi royal family, but spoke resentfully of the Saudi government and religious establishment. At one point he criticized the Saudi elite, complaining that “they want you to be a compliant terrorist” who would be willing to “fight the Americans, but at our time, at our location…. They want it all like whenever they choose the time, they choose the location, and as a Muslim I see that … this is not in the cause of Allah,” Sharbi insisted.
Nov 30, 2016
The Trump administration will instruct its ambassadors to put pressure on foreign governments to investigate any dealings they have with the Clinton Foundation, reports the New York Post, citing a source “close to” the transition team. Although the President-elect has said he would not order a Justice Department investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s illegal diversion of official communications, or the Clinton Foundation “pay to play” operation, he reportedly doesn’t intend to let the matter drop.
According to the source who spoke to the Post, “Haiti and Colombia will be key diplomatic posts [for the Clinton Foundation inquiry] because of all the money involved.” Close friends and political allies of the Clintons allegedly were given priority treatment in a $10 billion aid disbursement to Haiti from the State Department following the 2010 earthquake. Canadian mining mogul Frank Giustra, who pledged $100 million to the Clinton Foundation in 2005, is suspected of receiving favorable treatment by the State Department in his pursuit of oil development in Colombia.
Nov 30, 2016
Venezuela’s currency, which bears the misleading name “bolivar fuerte” (strong bolivar), sloughed off nearly half of its purchasing power in the month of November, as the country’s socialist government lets the printing presses run. Those presses, it should be noted, are operated overseas, since the government-inflicted ruin in Venezuela has destroyed that country’s ability to produce its own fiat currency. Over the past year, the country’s money supply has increased by 127 percent.
In eerie, if predictable, echo of previous socialism-induced tragedies, a growing number of Venezuelans are fleeing their home country by sea, using whatever watercraft they can find. Similar waves of desperate refugees fled in the same fashion from Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and multiple waves of “boat people” took to the seas to escape from Vietnam after the Communists consolidated their hold on that country following the end of the war in 1975.
Nov 30, 2016
Since 2000, proud English patriot Derek Norman has traveled his country taking down EU-compliant road signs that list distances in kilometers, rather than in miles. Norman, a member of the UK Independence Party and, of course, an outspoken proponent of Brexit, promised the Daily Mail that he will not rest “until we have got rid of them all.”
Norman has no objection to specialized uses of the metric system – but rebels against EU-directed efforts to impose what is called “harmonization” on his country.
“I was an electrical engineer and I was quite happy to use metric units for physics, chemistry, and science but I do not see why they should make our everyday life metric,” Norman complains. “If you buy a loaf of bread why does it have to be in metric? So from that point we were opposed to it.”
Shortly after beginning his campaign to remove metric signage – which is not mandated by British law, and may in fact be a violation of 1994 British traffic sign regulations – Norman founded the Active Resistance to Metrication movement. Its members carry step ladders and wear yellow jackets and helmets when they remove the offending signs.
Nov 30, 2016
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for Washington, D.C. has dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Army captain challenging the legality of the Obama administration’s undeclared war against the Islamic State.
“This case raises questions that are committed to the political branches of government,” wrote the judge in a 34-page opinion. “The court is not well equipped to resolve these questions, and the political branches who are so equipped do not appear to be in dispute as to their answers.”
The logic of that ruling, such as it is, holds that when the political branches agree to violate the Constitution, the judicial branch has no recourse – which is precisely the opposite of its constitutionally prescribed function.
The plaintiff, Captain Nathan Michael Smith, recently returned from a combat deployment in Kuwait. While he agrees with the policy of fighting the Islamic State, Captain Smith – who swore an oath to protect and uphold the US Constitution – objected that the Obama administration’s policy violates the war declaration clause found in Article One of the Constitution, and the War Powers Resolution. The Obama administration’s brief in reply to Captain Smith invoked the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which supposedly serves as the equivalent of a declaration of war against al-Qaeda. The administration claimed that the AUMF applies to ISIS because of its institutional connections to al-Qaeda, and contends that by appropriating money for the anti-ISIS campaign Congress has ratified that claim.
Remarkably, although Captain Smith faces the prospect of being deployed to fight a war that has no constitutional sanction, Judge Kollar-Kotelly claimed that he did not have legal standing to bring his lawsuit against the Obama administration.
Nov 30, 2016
Republican presidential elector Art Sisneros of Texas has announced his resignation from the Electoral College, insisting that his conscience dictates that he not participate in the election of Donald Trump, whom he describes as “biblically” unqualified for the presidency.
“If Trump is not qualified and my role, both morally and historically, as an elected official is to vote my conscience, then I cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump for President,” wrote Sisneros on his blog, which is entitled The Blessed Path. “I believe voting for Trump would bring dishonor to God.”
Sisneros’s essay offers a detailed and well-informed discussion of the origins and constitutional purpose of the Electoral College, and he expresses dismay that the institution has been corrupted from its original purpose. Like other members of the body, Sisneros reports receiving angry and threatening messages from people who want him to vote against Trump, which would violate a pledge he made when running for the office months ago.
“Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector,” he concludes. “This will allow the remaining body of Electors to fill my vacancy when they convene on Dec 19 with someone that can vote for Trump. The people will get their vote…. I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions. I will also mourn the loss of our republic.”
Nov 29, 2016
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told Russia’s RT News that he regards Chinese President Xi Jin Ping as “a really great guy” and that “as of now” he is inclined more toward an alliance with Bejing and Moscow than toward maintaining his country’s long-standing alliance with the United States.
The United States “occupied my country for fifty years,” explained President Duterte. “If you were an American in front of me I would say to you …. `You want me to thank you for occupying my country?’”
During a recent Asian summit Duterte spoke dismissively of President Obama and criticisms he had leveled against the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines, which led Washington to reconsider arms sales to Manila. Asked if he regretted those remarks, Duterte replied, “I do not like to be ordered” and expressed confidence that a suspension of arms sales wouldn’t hurt his government.
“We have friends already,” he explained. “Good friends. You know, we were [not so friendly] with China because of … so many issues.” While Manila and Beijing remain at odds on territorial claims in the South China Sea, Duterte used a side meeting in Laos with Russian Prime Minister Medvedev to explain that his government wants “to be closer to you and China because I do not like what is happening to us.”
Nov 29, 2016
Already unpopular in many cities because of his continued silent protest during the National Anthem, starting quarterback Colin Kaempernick of the San Francisco 49ers attracted voluble booing during Sunday’s game with the Miami Dolphins – a reaction prompted by his embrace of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who had died at age 90 two days earlier.
Miami is the home to many thousands of Cuban expatriates who were forced to flee their home country after Castro’s communist regime came to power. More than a few of them endured a risky sea crossing in tiny, vulnerable improvised boats in order to escape what was supposedly a worker’s paradise.
Following a preseason game in August, Kaempernick was asked about a t-shirt he was wearing that featured an image of Castro meeting with Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X. In an interview with Miami media before last week’s game, Kaempernick defended his decision to wear the controversial shirt, and reportedly praised Cuba’s government-run education system. Following Sunday’s loss, the quarterback elaborated on his earlier comments, saying that “I agree with the investment in education. I also agree with the investment in free universal health care as well as the [Cuban] involvement in helping end apartheid in South Africa.” He also criticized those he described as “trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things that [Castro] did[.]”
In Miami neighborhoods filled with people who had experienced Castro’s reign first-hand, or whose parents had escaped prior to Castro’s consolidation of power, the dictator’s long-overdue demise was treated as a cause for celebration.
Nov 29, 2016
Officials in the Indian state of Assam, alarmed over its changing demographic profile, are creating a registry for Bangladeshi residents in what appears to be an effort to reduce the Muslim population. Assam shares a long border with Bangladesh.
“The Hindu rate of population growth is declining, but the Muslim rate is rising,”commented Himanta Biswa Sarma, the state’s finance minister in an interview with the Washington Post. “Most of the Muslims here are from Bangladesh. If this continues, the Assamese Hindus will become a minority soon – we will lose our language, our culture, our identity.”
The majority-Muslim Bangladesh fought a successful campaign for independence from India in 1971. For the past three decades, illegal immigration into Assam across its 160-mile border with Bangladesh has been a source of turmoil. During the 1980s, the problem gave rise to armed guerrilla groups. Earlier this year, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won state elections on the promise of addressing concerns over the estimated 20 million Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam, thousands of whom are recent arrivals escaping catastrophic floods.
“Our detect-delete-deport campaign is even more important because now Islamic extremist groups from Bangladesh are also sending their people into India along with the immigrants on this route,” claims long-time activist Samujjal Bhattacharyra.
Nov 29, 2016
Protests against Chinese rule are commonplace in Tibet, which has sought independence from Beijing since Mao’s government seized control of the country in 1949. Human Rights Watch reports that “Earlier this month, the People’s Armed Police carried out region-wide drills involving hundreds, if not thousands, of police and paramilitary soldiers” in what was obviously intended as an intimidating show of force by the central government.
Following the exercise, state-run media lavished praise on what it called “the courage of the broad masses of … soldiers in eliminating unseen threats, their perfect technique and high level of military training.” The police exhibited boldness “in defending home and country, keeping the peace … and dealing with terrorist attacks and sudden incidents,” continued the propaganda broadside.
Highly militarized displays of this kind are commonplace in Tibet, explains Human Rights Watch:
“On March 9, the day before many Tibetans mark the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, Chinese Communist Party, government, and military leaders marked the occasion with a rally [in which] hundreds of soldiers and police took oaths to `safeguard national unity,’ and then drove through the streets of Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, in massive convoys of military and riot-control vehicles featuring turret-mounted heavy machine guns and light cannons.” Similar displays of military force were staged in every other major Tibetan city.
Nov 29, 2016
In measured but well-organized steps, the Chinese space program is making progress in its plan to land “taikonauts” on the moon by 2036 and mount a manned Mars mission sometime thereafter, reports Bloomberg News. Beijing’s space program is emerging as a key pillar of its national industrial policy, infusing huge sums in an effort to advance robotics, aviation, and artificial intelligence.
“China has been relying on the knowledge discovered by others,” notes Wu Ji, director of the National Space Science Center. “If China wants to rejuvenate the economy, it needs to put more resources into developing groundbreaking technologies.”
The Communist government’s current five-year central economic plan mandates an effort to “make original achievements” in fundamental sciences with the objective of taking the lead in “development of cutting-edge space technology.” Toward that end the government demands that seventy percent of key technology components – such as computer software and semiconductors – be produced domestically by 2025.
While details of Chinese government expenditures on the space program are not publicly available, US-based analysts “are concerned that China is hitting the accelerator as NASA hits the brakes,” Bloomberg observes. “NASA ended the space shuttle, abandoned plans to return to the moon and is only committed to the International Space Station until 2024.” In contrast, Beijing plans to build its own space station, conduct unmanned landings on the far side of the moon, and place a robot lander on Mars by 2022.
Nov 29, 2016
Last April, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking information about a visit by officials from the US Bureau of Prisons to a notorious Afghan torture site called the Salt Pit, which is located north of Kabul. Senate investigators disclosed that a BOP delegation had toured the facility – referred to by the CIA as a “dungeon” – in November 2002, and certified that the CIA “did not mistreat the detainees” held there. It has since been disclosed that abuse and mistreatment of prisoners was commonplace at the Salt Pit.
The Bureau’s initial response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act filing was to claim that no documents existed describing the November 2002 inspection of the Afghan dungeon. The Intercept reports that the agency “has now turned over several emails mentioning the visit – along with a written declaration by a senior Bureau of Prisons lawyer explaining the attempted cover-up.”
BOP officials who toured the Afghan site “we tasked orally, so that there was no record of their travel, and … the CIA forbade the two officers from producing records of or about the visit,” explains The Intercept. In a newly released 2011 email, one of the officers involved in the trip informed a supervisor that “we were not even allowed to speak with a supervisor about what was going on.”
The advertised purpose of that trip was to offer “basic correctional practices training” to CIA operatives stationed there. However, CIA documents cited in a Senate report on torture listed the purpose of the visit as an “assessment” of what was done in the Salt Pit, and described the BOP officials as stunned over the conditions in which detainees were held. During their tour, CIA interrogators fatally tortured at least one detainee, a man named Gul Rahman, who was beaten, immersed in cold water, and then placed in an isolation cell, where he died of hypothermia.
Nov 29, 2016
Frustrated by the outcome of the recent presidential election, some left-leaning activists are seeking to browbeat or threaten electors from key states into voting against Donald Trump when the Electoral College convenes on December 19. Some state electors have reportedly received death threats. Retiring California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has sponsored legislation to abolish the Electoral College system, which would require a constitutional amendment.
As is always the case with a practice or institution that fails to deliver the results favored by the cultural left, the Electoral College is being denounced as “racist.”
“The Electoral College favors low-population states to high-population states by giving all states 2 electoral votes … regardless of population – and most low-population states skew white,” complains an essay published on the progressive site Crooks & Liars.
Elsewhere on the Left, some commentators are insisting that the Electoral College is simultaneously an anti-democratic anachronism – and the last hope to prevent Trump’s ascension to the presidency.
“Members of the Electoral College should not make Donald Trump the next president unless he sells his companies and puts the proceeds in a blind trust,” declared Judd Legum of ThinkProgress. Legum cited several legal advisers to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama who claim that Trump is already in violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which forbids federal office holders from receiving material gifts or monetary payments from foreign interests.
The purpose of the Electoral College was to prevent a situation in which heavily populated states would dominate the process of electing a US President. The Left’s perspective on the institution appears to be that its existence should continue only long enough to hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton – and then it should be dissolved.
Nov 29, 2016
At least three of the activists who had participated in last winter’s protest occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon report that they are now listed in the federal terrorist watch list.
Jason Blomgren, Jon Ritzheimer, and Jeff Banta told the Oregonian newspaper that “federal airport agents have pulled them out of regular screening lines to pat them down and question them when they’ve tried to fly.” Their airport boarding passes are marked with an “SSSS” notation, which designates the person holding it as the subject of additional screening. Ritzheimer says that he has received additional scrutiny “when police stopped him for a minor traffic accident.”
Brandon Rapolla of Springfield, Oregon, who visited Burns during the protest occupation but has not been charged with an offense, also claims to have been “pulled aside before every flight he’s taken since the standoff,” the Oregonian observes. Similar treatment has been reported by Ammon Bundy’s mother Carol, and his aunt, Margaret Houston.
“It’s just so humiliating,” Huston complains. “And then it’s scary because you think, `Why are they treating me like this?’”
Neither Carol Bundy, who is in her 80s, nor Margaret Huston, who is 60, has been charged with an offense.
Nov 29, 2016
Now that Fidel Castro has paid his debt to nature, the world has lost what was sometimes described as a living fossil – an unreconstructed and impenitent Communist dictator. The government of North Korea, which remains committed to the classic Stalin-era model of Communist rule, announced a mandatory three-day mourning period for Castro, whom it characterized as a “close friend and comrade of the Korean people.”
Nov 29, 2016
Although the development has earned scant attention from the media, six members of the House of Representatives exploited a lame-duck session of Congress to enact HR 5732, which contains language exploring the possibility of establishing “safe zones or a no-fly zone in Syria.”
The measure was passed as part of a special session in which the normal procedural rules are suspended in order to enact non-controversial measures – such as naming post offices. The creation of a no-fly zone would hardly be uncontroversial. During congressional testimony prior to the election, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that enforcement of a no-fly zone would most likely lead to a military conflict with Moscow.
“I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft if they felt that it was threatening to their forces on the ground,” advised Clapper. “The [anti-aircraft] system they have there is very advanced, very capable, and I don’t think they’d … deploy it if they didn’t have some intention to use it.”
During the campaign, Hillary Clinton and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence both spoke favorably of a Syrian no-fly zone. Donald Trump strongly disagreed, warning that if the US created a no-fly zone, we’re “going to end up in World War three over Syria.”
Nov 29, 2016
The term “confirmation bias” refers to the inescapable human tendency to evaluate factual claims on the basis of settled prejudices and deeply held opinions, rather than conforming one’s opinions to objective facts. This leads an individual to discount or ignore information that challenges his or her views. All human beings are susceptible to this tendency, which can be overcome if one is aware of it and makes a conscious effort to assess claims on their merits, rather than simply embracing those that reinforce what they already believe.
It could be said that social media has both turned confirmation bias into a communicable condition – and weaponized it. Many post-election analyses have criticized supporters of Donald Trump for giving wide circulation on Facebook and Twitter to artfully crafted phony news stories that were deliberately planted by disinformation peddlers – at least some of whom consciously sought to discredit Trump supporters by baiting them with false accounts that validated their views and suspicions. Ray Nickerson, a research professor of psychology at Tufts University, points out that precisely the same mindset was displayed by pollsters and other media elitists who sometimes look disdainfully on Trump supporters as credulous rubes.
Confirmation bias on behalf of self-appointed media gatekeepers, writes Dr. Nickerson, helps explain why “many of the polls and pundits were wrong in their predictions of which candidate would end up victorious.”
The election created an atmosphere “in which the motivated confirmation bias would find fertile soil,” he points out. “There is little doubt that it did just that and little evidence that arguments among partisans changed many minds. That most pollsters predicted that Clinton would win the election suggests that they were seeing in the data what they had come to expect to see – a Clinton win.”
Nov 29, 2016
In a familiar ritual that occurs whenever a presidential administration is leaving office, executive branch regulatory agencies are involved in what the Christian Science Monitor describes as a “flurry of `midnight’ rule-making” in anticipation of Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
“President Obama is heading into his administration’s final weeks with a full agenda of new draft orders to consider, even though his successor has vowed to scale back job-killing regulation and cancel `all illegal and overreaching executive orders,” notes the publication. The White House is reviewing nearly 100 new final regulations that could be put in place prior to Inauguration Day. The Republican-led Congress will be in session prior to January 20, and may use the Congressional Review Act of 1996 to repeal, by simple majority vote, any agency rule imposed after May 30 of this year.
Nov 29, 2016
During recent wildfires that ravaged Israel, tens of thousands of people – including some residing in Haifa, the country’s third-largest city – were forced to evacuate their homes. Many of them were offered refuge by residents of the Palestinian Authority, which also sent firefighters to assist their Israeli counterparts in Haifa and Sha’ar Hagai near Jerusalem.
“It’s our duty to help,” said Palestinian firefighter Muhammad Amayra in an interview with Israel Radio. “This is a humanitarian situation.”
Additional immediate assistance was provided by Israel’s Arab neighbors in Jordan and Egypt, with aid also coming from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, and the United States.
The Times of Israel reports that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday evening to thank him for the Palestinians’ help in battling [the] nationwide fires” and for “on-the-ground cooperation between Jews and Arabs who opened their homes for those affected by the fires.”
Nov 29, 2016
Conservative legal scholar and Reagan administration veteran Bruce Fein believes that Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions should pass a constitutional “litmus test” before the Senate ratifies his nomination to serve as Donald Trump’s Attorney General.
“The foremost role of the Attorney General… is to protect the Constitution from presidential vandalizing,” wrote Fein in an op-ed column. To that end, Fein insists, “a multi-pronged litmus test should be applied.”
Among other things, the nominee “should be required to affirm that the Declare War Clause of Article 1, section 8, clause 11 prohibits our nine ongoing presidential wars” in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. He should also “be required to affirm that the President may not circumvent the Treaty Clause of the Constitution” with “executive agreements” such as the nuclear agreement with Iran, that “torture under any circumstances violates the Eighth Amendment, federal criminal law, and the Convention against Torture,” and be prepared to prosecute officials and government agents who violate those statutes. Fein also demands that the nominee “affirm that the President is constitutionally forbidden” to circumvent Congress by soliciting foreign funding for unauthorized wars, as George HW Bush did in the 1991 Gulf War, and that presidential violations of his constitutional limits would be “an impeachable high crime an misdemeanor.”
Nov 28, 2016
Wisconsin resident Steven Avery was framed once by the Manitowoc County Sheriff and District Attorney, who had him imprisoned for 17 years for a rape he didn’t commit. Shortly after being released, Avery may have been framed a second time for murder – just days before he was scheduled to receive a multi-million-dollar civil settlement for his first wrongful imprisonment.
In 2005, Avery was arrested and charged for the vicious mutilation and murder of a 25-year-old photographer named Teresa Halbach, whose burned body was found in a vehicle at the periphery of Avery’s property. Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also charged with first-degree murder on the basis of what has now been ruled a spurious confession that was coerced by police interrogators. Both of them were sentenced to prison for life. Avery has always maintained his innocence, accusing the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office of framing him in retaliation for his exoneration. Avery’s case gained international notoriety last year through the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” which presented evidence that Avery was indeed the victim of a second frame-up.
Avery’s appellate attorney, Kathleen Zellner, has persuaded Sheboygan County Circuit Judge Angela Sutkiewicz to issue an order requiring forensic tests to be done on several critical items of evidence used to convict Avery of murder. The key evidence may be a blood sample that was taken in 1996 and sealed in a tamper-proof container. Avery has argued that police used some of that sample to plant DNA evidence on the vehicle where Hallbach’s burned body was found. Significantly, that evidence was not found in the initial crime scene investigation. Sheriff’s investigators claimed to have found it several weeks after the state crime lab filed its initial report, which didn’t mention genetic evidence linking Avery to the scene.
Nov 28, 2016
Many libertarians and small-government conservatives supported Donald Trump in the hope that he would represent a break with Washington’s interventionist foreign policy. In light of Hillary Clinton’s consistent support for militarism, and her antagonistic posture toward Russia, some right-wing Trump supporters depicted him as the “peace candidate” in the 2016 presidential election. However, Trump’s chief foreign policy adviser, retired Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, is among those who believe that the United States is engaged in a generational conflict that will define our society into the indefinite future.
“This is a world war,” Flynn insisted during a Fox News interview following last July’s terrorist attacks in France. “They’ve declared war on us. We must … create, I believe, a new 21st century alliance. But we have got to take the Arab Muslim world to task. The leaders in this world, that’s who I want to see … condemn this madness.”
“We know what it is,” continued Flynn. “It’s radical Islamic terrorism. They are vicious. They’re barbaric. They are on the march…. We have got to start thinking much more strategically in this country.”
Nov 28, 2016
The New York Post reports that both the NYPD and the US Secret Service will be operating command posts in Trump Towers, where Melania and Barron Trump will reside for at least the first several months of Donald Trump’s presidency and where Trump may wind up living at least part-time. The Secret Service is required to be present wherever the First Family resides, and there is nothing novel about command posts being established at the vacation residence of the incumbent president. What is unique about the emerging security arrangement for the Trump family is the possibility that the President could be charging rent to the Secret Service.
If the current plan works out, notes The Hill, “taxpayers would likely be paying the president-elect’s corporation to lease the two floors.” This would cost more than $3 million based on current rental rates at Trump Tower.
Nov 28, 2016
“Most economic commentators such as Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman should be delighted with the US president-elect Donald Trump’s economic plan for it is going to be along the lines of Keynesian economics,” writes Frank Shostak of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. Commenting on Trump’s promise to oversee “a massive infrastructure spending program,” and his simultaneous insistence that he would increase military spending while enacting tax cuts for all Americans, Shostak makes the obvious but compelling point that “It is not possible to lower taxes and raise government spending at the same time.” The tax cuts would remove an estimated $6 trillion in federal revenue over a ten-year-period.
“Nothing in Trump’s plan suggests that he is aiming at generating more real wealth,” Shostak contends. “His entire focus is to generate an increase in employment regardless of whether this increase in employment is in response to wealth-generating activities or not. This is quite disappointing,” Shostak opines. “Given Mr. Trump’s business credentials one would suppose he would understand the meaning of profitable versus non-profitable activities.”
With Republicans controlling both Congress and the White House, the Trump administration would have a real opportunity “to activate policies that are likely to strengthen the process of real wealth generation,” he continues, such as imposing severe restraints on the Federal Reserve’s ability “to expand its balance sheet,” which, coupled with reductions in the size and expense of government, would “leave more real wealthy in the hands of wealth generations – thus permitting a rapid buildup in the pool of real wealth.”
Nov 28, 2016
General Michael Flynn, who will serve as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has famously referred to fundamentalist Islam as a “cancer” and has claimed that the West is involved in what will be a generation-spanning world war. Examining Flynn’s record as a strategist for the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, international affairs analyst Gareth Porter concludes that Flynn bears a measure of responsibility for enflaming the antagonisms that have fueled this conflict.
In 2011, JSOC ordered a series of night raids in Afghanistan that were supposedly directed at suspected Taliban insurgent leaders. A subsequent investigation revealed that the raids were “based on a fundamentally flawed methodology that was inherently incapable of distinguishing between Taliban insurgents and civilians who had only tangential contacts with the Taliban organization,” Porter writes. “And it was Flynn who devised that methodology.”
Flynn’s system was built around what he called the “Unblinking Eye,” which consisted of all-encompassing drone surveillance to establish what has come to be known as “pattern of life analysis.” A more honest description is “guesswork” – which had lethal results for scores or hundreds of entirely innocent people who were targeted as a result of what was essentially an unreliable computer algorithm.
Nov 28, 2016
During a lengthy interview with the New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump appeared to equivocate on many of his previously stated positions, including his oft-repeated promise to reinstate the practice of torture as an interrogation method. That promise prompted criticism from many high-ranking military and intelligence officials, including incumbent CIA Director John Brennan.
Among those who vehemently disagree with torture from a moral, legal, and practical perspective is General James N. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general often mentioned as a potential Secretary of Defense in a Trump administration (which would require a congressional waiver). In a lengthy conversation with Trump, Gen. Mattis told the surprised President-elect that he has never regarded torture to be “useful,” insisting that useful intelligence is more effectively obtained through establishing a relationship of trust with detainees and rewarding cooperation.
“Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better,” Mattis told Trump, according to the latter’s account. Mr. Trump reflected that he was “very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy.”
Initial accounts treated those comments as a repudiation by Trump of his previous endorsement of torture. However, as the transcript of the New York Times interview discloses, Trump continued by insisting, “And when he said that I’m not saying it changed my mind.”
Nov 28, 2016
Last January, the US Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s death penalty system was unconstitutional under the standards the High Court established in its 2002 ruling Ring v. Arizona. Specifically, Florida’s criminal justice system “failed to require the jury, rather than the sentencing judge, to make findings of aggravating circumstances” that would “justify imposition of the death penalty,” observes Harry Lee Anstead, a retired Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
During that fourteen-year period, forty-seven people have been executed as a result of a death penalty process that has been ruled unconstitutional, Anstead points out.
Nov 28, 2016
Politicians may pander, regulators may rule, state-centered pundits may seethe, but threats to disarm the public are quickly losing their potency as decentralized manufacturing becomes a reality, insists Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed, which provides the templates for 3-D printing of personal firearms.
“It doesn’t matter what the origins of the Second Amendment were,” Wilson told Reason magazine. “With the internet, we can transform this thing into a right to resistance on a global scale.”
Wilson and his company are the creators of a 3-D printed firearm called “The Liberator,” which was made available freely as a shareware download on-line. Earlier this year the State Department filed an injunction before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals requiring that the download be prohibited as a matter of “national security.”
“The government, in certain cases, especially gun cases, gets to just wave around the words `national security’ without making a specific claim,” Wilson observes. In replying to the ruling – which he and his company are appealing – Wilson underscores the absurdity of the claim that 3-D printing will make firearms available to terrorists, when the CIA and other government agencies have historically supplied them with anything they desire.
Wilson is working on a new product called the Ghost Gunner, a milling machine that will permit owners to construct an unregistered AR-15 rifle in roughly four hours. The task could be completed with components readily available online, along with common tools and hardware.
Nov 28, 2016
An anonymous, unsourced blog calling itself “PropOrNot” lists scores of independent US media sites as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” That claim would have found little purchase on the attention of news consumers had it not been the subject of a Washington Post feature story bearing the breathless headline, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread `fake news’ during election, experts say” – despite the fact that the Post article did nothing to establish the credibility, or even the identity, of the supposed experts making the accusation.
The roster of purported Russian propaganda outlets includes, predictably, the WikiLeaks transparency organization, the venerable conservative news aggregator Drudge Report, the libertarian sites LewRockwell.com and AntiWar.com, the Ron Paul Institute, and left-leaning sources that had been critical of the Hillary Clinton campaign, such as Truthout, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism.
“This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of US journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering expose,” points out The Intercept. “It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website after it was published on Friday. Yet the article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics.”
Significantly, left-leaning Buzzfeed and several other less influential media outlets were offered the story, but passed on it because their standards are higher than those of the Washington Post.
Nov 28, 2016
A new “elite” Special Forces unit called the “Counter-External Operations Task Force” has been given a presidential mandate to conduct lethal attacks against identified “terrorist threats” anywhere on the planet, reports the Washington Post.
Such operations had previously been restricted to regions identified as conventional conflict zones. The Special Forces unit, like other teams operated by the CIA, will no longer be tied to geographical military commands, have independent access to intelligence, and enjoy a degree of autonomy in carrying out operations.
“The creation of a new [Joint Special Operations Command] entity this late in … Obama’s tenure is the `codification’ of best practices in targeting terrorists outside of conventional conflict zones,” anonymous officials reportedly explained to the Post.
Nov 28, 2016
“I’ll carry coffee if that’s what they want – just so I’m there, just so I’m visible and I exist,” declares a former member of Navy SEAL Team Six who now identifies as a female named Kristin Beck, explaining why he had applied for a job in the incoming Trump administration. The nature of the job doesn’t matter to Beck, who would prefer a civilian post in the Pentagon dealing with veteran’s issues – as long as it provides a degree of visibility to promote acceptance of sexually ill-adjusted people.
Beck had previously criticized Trump for an October 3 speech in which he urged the military to “get away from political correctness” after being asked about social engineering in the military.
“Some of the things that they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous,” Trump told the audience at the event, which was sponsored by a group called the Retired American Warriors.
Earlier this year, Beck ran for Congress but was defeated in the Democratic primary by incumbent Congressman Steny Hoyer.
Nov 28, 2016
Following the arrest of Otis McKane , who is accused of murdering San Antonio Police Detective Benjamin Marconi, Burnet County Judge James Oakley posted notice of the arrest on his Facebook page with the comment “Time for a tree and a rope.” Shortly thereafter, the Judge took down the comment – which, like all web-published commentary, never truly disappears, but is accessible in online archives – and issued a statement construed as an apology.
Characterizing his remark as “off the cuff” and “indeed curt and harsh,” Judge Oakley said that “It is for that reason that I deleted it soon after posting and apologize for not being more thoughtful and comprehensive in my expression. What I should have posted, if anything, is a comment that more clearly reflects my opinion on the cowardly crime of the senseless murder of a law enforcement officer.”
Given that McKane is black, the use of lynching imagery had a certain inescapable resonance that Oakley insists was unintended.
“To be clear, I advocate due process,” Oakley continued, addressing what should be the central concern prompted by his actions. “I also support the death penalty in cases where the ultimate crime has been committed and there is clear and complete evidence and where all steps of the judicial process have been respected.”
In other words, upon further reflection, Oakley – who specifies that he is an administrative, rather than criminal judge – concedes that justice isn’t served by simply finding a tree and a rope.
Nov 28, 2016
Nigel Farage, the private businessman who became the leader of the UK Independence Party and spearheaded the successful Brexit campaign, “has received death threats” and doesn’t leave his home without security guards, reports the UK Express tabloid.
“I’ve got no life – I can’t do anything, I can’t go anywhere,” c omplained the 52-year-old entrepreneur and activist. “Certainly I would not go out in London of an evening on my own without security – couldn’t even think about it. I can’t even walk down the street without it. I have to go to private places, private venues.”
Just a few days prior to the interview, Farage had been threatened by an assailant wielding a broken glass. He and his family have been chased out of restaurants, and his car has been vandalized.
Nov 28, 2016
Stalin famously said that while one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is merely a statistic. More than 1500 years ago St. Augustine observed that the only substantive difference between a pirate and an emperor is the extent of the territory he terrorizes.
Had Fidel Castro been a mobster who presided over a private criminal syndicate, his death at age 90 would have been of passing interest. Because Castro ruled over an island prison and headed a government responsible for the murder of millions, his passing into what promises to be an unpleasant eternity prompted extravagant tributes and anguished condolences from other members of the political elite who are, to a certain extent, kindred spirits.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the callow leftist issue of a former Marxist prime minister and his rock groupie wife, described Castro as a “remarkable leader” who “served his people for almost half a century” while displaying “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for `el Commandante.’” Perversely, Trudeau presumed to speak on behalf of both Castro’s “supporters and detractors,” though tens of thousands of the latter are political prisoners and millions more were murdered by his regime.
Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein commended Castro as “a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire.” UK Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn eulogized Castro as a “champion of social justice,” a plaudit difficult to reconcile with the often-murderous persecution of homosexuals carried out on Castro’s orders. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was openly bereaved by Castro’s departure for hell, insisting that “the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.”
Nov 28, 2016
Behind the studied pose of revolutionary austerity, the late and largely unlamented Fidel Castro enjoyed a life of exuberant self-indulgence.
“While his people suffered, Fidel Castro lived in comfort – keeping everything, including his eight children, his many mistresses, even his wife, a secret,” points out former longtime Castro bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez. Castro owned twenty luxury estates throughout his beautiful but tyrannized island nation, enjoyed bourgeois affectations like a yacht, and sired a large number of children with two wives and several mistresses. He claimed a large share of every profitable business enterprise in the state-dominated Cuban economy, and “made a personal fortune offering safe haven to drug traffickers,” Sanchez testifies.
Nov 28, 2016
Utah resident Christopher Lee Monson has been incarcerated for more than a year after being charged with rape and kidnaping. Prosecutors have repeatedly delayed court hearings while awaiting DNA test results from the state crime lab – much to the disgust of Judge Thomas L. Kay, who is ready to charge a crime lab official with contempt of court unless the results are made available.
“I’ve set this trial months and months and months [ago] and the defendant is in custody,” Judge Kay told the prosecutor in a recent status hearing. “This is ridiculous…. I want a human being here who is going to take some responsibility. It means he’s going to, or she’s going to, have [the results] or there’s going to be some good reason that they are not going to jail.”
Nov 24, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump used what was supposed to be an off-the-record meeting with the New York Times to signal his intention not to pursue prosecution of Hillary Clinton for violations of the Espionage Act and other federal statutes.
“It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about,” insisted Trump, according to a reporter who attended the meeting. “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”
This conciliatory posture contrasts sharply with the “Lock her up!” refrain Trump encouraged supporters to chant at campaign rallies, and his unadorned statement to Hillary Clinton during a debate that if he were president she would “be in jail.”
In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway confirmed that Trump would not be seeking further investigation of Mrs. Clinton.
“I think when the President-elect, who’s also the head of your party, tells you before he’s even inaugurated that he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone, and content” to other Republicans,” Conway declared.
Nov 24, 2016
Dave McGrath, a retired military intelligence officer and Eagle Scout, broke with the Boy Scouts of America in 2000 after the US Supreme Court held that the organization had the right to expel Scoutmasters whose sexual practices deviated from the organization’s long-established moral guidelines.
A former member of the Grand Teton Council of the BSA, McGrath now insists that the organization undermines sound citizenship by being insufficiently “inclusive,” despite recent concessions made by the Scouts to the Gender Revolution Lobby. The Idaho Falls Post Register reports that McGrath recently formed a schismatic scouting group called the 69th Rangers, which takes its name from “the 1990 Stonewall riots in the New York City, which are collectively considered a watershed moment in the gay rights movement.”
“When it comes to inclusiveness, I don’t have time for conservatism because my children are growing up now,” states McGrath, who has two gay sons and a gay twin brother. “I don’t have time to wait for them.”
According to McGrath, who obviously doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-regard, “I’m scouting now – come follow me.”
Nov 24, 2016
Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept is a prize-winning investigative journalist who sees his role as confronting those who exercise power. While he is not enchanted with Donald Trump, he is irrepressibly disgusted with the “media stars and network executives” who made a “pilgrimage” to Trump Tower on Monday, agreed to an off-the-record meeting – and then used leaked accounts to complain about their treatment.
While it’s “difficult to identify the shabbiest and sorriest aspect of this spectacle,” writes Greenwald, a good place to begin is by asking, “why would journalistic organizations agree to keep their meeting with Donald Trump off the record? If you’re a journalist, what is the point of speaking with a powerful politician if you agree in advance that it’s all going to be kept secret?”
Equally offensive to Greenwald was the fact that “some of the TV stars immediately breached the off-the-record commitment they made – not by bravely reporting what occurred but by slinking around in the dark to anonymously whisper and gossip about what Trump said to them. Which is worse: agreeing to an off-the-record meeting with Trump, or then unethically violating that agreement by disclosing exactly what you promised in advance you would not disclose?”
Trump’s disdain for the legacy media is shared by “the overwhelming majority of Americans,” he continues. One source of genuine concern, he concludes, is the fact that an independent press is indispensable as a check on the exercise of power, but the elite media figures who attended the meeting with Trump are given to “self-absorbed whimpering” rather than looking out for the public interest.
Nov 24, 2016
Dr. R.J. Rummel, a political scientist and historian who created the study of a phenomenon he calls “democide” – the systematic murder of populations by their governments – describes Cambodia under the rule of the Communist Khmer Rouge as a “hell state.” After coming to power in the mid-1970s, the Communist junta under the leadership of Pol Pot liquidated at least 2 million people – roughly one-third of the country’s population.
On November 22, Cambodia’s Supreme Court Chamber upheld life sentences imposed on the two most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, 85-year-old Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, and 90-year-old Nuon Chea, who had been the intimate advisor to Pol Pot.
“The gravity of the crimes should be reflected in the sentence,” explained Court President Kong Srim, as he announced the ruling. “The crimes were not isolated events but occurred over an extended period of time.”
Attorneys for the former officials complain that they had been improperly singled out by the post-Khmer Rouge Cambodian government, which has impeded trials of other subjects.
The convicted men also face separate trials on charges of genocide against ethnic minorities and foreigners, and imposing a system of rape and forced marriages.
Nov 24, 2016
Donald Trump is not the only national leader who is easily triggered by criticism in both conventional and social media. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Trump has long had a cordial relationship, has actually threatened to sue an unemployed 56-year-old Israeli citizen over a negative Facebook post.
Yoav Salem shared a Facebook link to a blog post that made grave allegations of corruption and misconduct against Netanyahu and his family. A letter to Salem from Yossi Cohen, the Prime Minister’s personal attorney, complained that “From the language of the post it appears that you are besmirching my client with serious and harsh allegations.” Cohen demanded that Salem apologize within 72 hours and delete the post within a week. If not, he said, the Netanyahus “have instructed me to use all legal means at their disposal against you, including resorting to authorized courts and institutions.”
Salem told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he has no plans to delete the posts.
“I have no idea how they came to me,” stated Salem, sarcastically suggesting that “Maybe they conducted a lottery. I am an unemployed, divorced computer technician and father of two. When I opened the letter, I understood that something crazy is happening in this country.”
Nov 23, 2016
Jeff Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama chosen by Donald Trump to become Attorney General, will most likely win Senate confirmation on the basis of collegial loyalty – despite criticism from liberals who depict Sessions as an opponent of civil rights. An ardent drug prohibitionist who has famously declared that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions can count on the support of police unions who are alarmed over the growing public backlash against the practice of civil asset forfeiture. This is a procedure in which police agencies can seize cash, cars, and other property as suspected narcotics proceeds, without even filing criminal charges against their owners. To recover their stolen property, the owners are forced to participate in a hostile civil procedure in which they bear the burden of proof – and the prohibitive legal expenses involved.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, told Reuters that his union has a good working relationship with Sessions, especially on matters of asset forfeiture.
“The door has been open, and we expect it to remain open,” Pasco declared.
Nov 23, 2016
In addition to becoming an overtly authoritarian regime, the government of Turkish President Erdogan has suggested that it might abandon its quest for full membership in the European Union and join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a rival economic and political bloc headed by Moscow and Beijing.
“Turkey must feel at ease,” insisted Erdogan in November 20 newspaper interview. “Why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five? I said this to Mr. Putin, to [Kazakh President Nursultan] Nazarbayev, to those who are in the Shanghai Five now.”
The SCO was created fifteen years ago and its current membership actually includes six nations – China, Russia, and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Three of the SCO member states speak Turkish dialects, and Turkey itself enrolled as a “dialogue partner” to the SCO in 2013. Belarus has the same status with the SCO, and Mongolia, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are listed as “observers.”
Nov 23, 2016
Largely discredited by what they had insisted was an impossible presidential election outcome, the legacy media mandarins have denounced what they call “fake news” outlets. It is true that social media has helped inspire the proliferation of unreliable online sources – such as “clickbait” sites that traffic in lurid or entirely invented pseudo-news, many of which are conscious disinformation efforts – but social media also acts as a conduit for immediate coverage of stories the Establishment media doesn’t want to cover, or lacks the conceptual tools to understand.
One very good example is the ongoing violent clashes between police and protesters over the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to political analyst Elizabeth Murray, demonstrators have resorted to social media and independent media outlets to inform the public as police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons against unarmed, peaceful protesters who were trapped on a bridge in sub-zero temperatures.
Nov 23, 2016
Incipient First Lady Melania Trump has said that she wants to remain in New York City so that her 11-year-old son, Barron Trump, can finish the current school year. President-elect Donald Trump has suggested that he would divide his time between the White House and his Trump Tower in downtown Manhattan. This arrangement multiples security concerns for both the US Secret Service and the NYPD – and the costs to taxpayers in New York have already begun to mount.
CNN Money reports that New York City is spending more than one million dollars a day to provide round-the-clock security for the incoming First Family. This includes not only Donald and Melania Trump and their son Barron, but also Trump’s adult children and grandchildren, who also receive Secret Service protection. Barricades have been erected around Trump Tower – where hundreds of other tenants have very expensive apartments – and a block on 56th Street and 5th Avenue, one of the priciest and most coveted tracts of real estate in the city, has been closed to traffic, which has radiating consequences for traffic patterns throughout Manhattan.
Nov 23, 2016
During the twelve-year intermission in the Iraq war, an estimated four percent of that country’s population – roughly a half-million people – died as a result of sanctions imposed by the United States in 1991. A similar catastrophe is taking shape in Syria, which is being ripped apart by a civil war that has been abetted by Washington. Muzzna Al-Ulabi, director of Cancer Care Syria, told RT News that children stricken with that dreaded disease are frequently dying under their care because of sanctions that prevent the delivery of needed supplies and medications.
“Almost all the children who died of cancer did so because of European sanctions,” Al-Ulabi laments. “We ask the European Union and humanitarian agencies to lift these sanctions and let cancer medicine in because children are suffering.”
“When the war began, we dreamed of opening a specialized children’s cancer hospital – but we don’t have that sort of money,” he continues. “We don’t even have $6,000 a month for medicine for the children. The children need enough food, or they won’t survive. It’s what all the mothers think about – having enough food for the children.”
Nov 23, 2016
MRC News reports that “Immigration officials at the U.S. Mexico border have been forced to open a new temporary facility in Texas to accommodate a recent surge of illegal alien border crossers, a wave of nearly 1,500 people per day that once again threaten to overwhelm border patrol and create a housing crisis for thousands of alien families and children.”
Customs and Border Protection reports apprehending 46,197 illegal border crossers on the Southwest border in October, including 13,124 identified as “members of family units” and 6,754 unaccompanied children.
Nov 23, 2016
Over the weekend, the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization that describes itself as a think tank representing the interests of European Americans, convened a celebratory conference in Washington just a few blocks from the White House. The lengthy conference concluded with an address by activist Richard Spencer, founder of the NPI. The speech ended with Spencer exclaiming: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” as the all-white audience leapt to its feet – several of them holding their arms outstretched in the familiar fascist or national socialist salute.
In an interview with NPR host Kelly McEvers, Spencer described his group’s desire to turn the continental United States into what he has called a white “ethno-state.”
“What I would ultimately want is this ideal of a safe space for Europeans,” Spencer explained. “This is a big empire that would accept all Europeans. It would be a place for Germans, it would be a place for Slavs, it would be a place for Celts, it would be a place for white Americans and so on.”
Spencer claims that the NPI would serve as the ideological “vanguard” for the movement Trump represents. Asked to comment on Spencer’s statements, Trump-Pence transition spokesman Bryan Lanza issued the following statement: “President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”
Nov 23, 2016
One attendee to the November 21 “media summit” with President-elect Donald Trump used an expletive in describing the gathering at Trump Tower as a “firing squad.”
“Trump started with [CNN head] Jeff Zucker and said `I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’” an attendee to the off-the-record meeting told the New York Post, a publication that has generally been supportive of Trump. “The meeting was a total disaster,” continued the source. “The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down.”
“The meeting took place in a big board room and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” a second source told the Post. “Trump kept saying, `We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’”
Kellyanne Conway, former Trump campaign manager, offered a strikingly different account of the event, telling Deadline Hollywood that it was “excellent” and that she saw “no need to mend fences” with the media.
Nov 23, 2016
Just days after his first meeting with Donald Trump as President-elect, Henry Kissinger, the antiquated embodiment of the Establishment Trump has promised to dethrone, expressed confidence that the maverick Republican would not be able to make good on that promise.
“One should not insist on nailing him into positions that he had taken in the campaign,” Kissinger told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria – with whom he shares membership in the globalist Council on Foreign Relations. Having won an upset victory on the strength of a populist appeal, Trump should now “develop a strategy that is sustainable, that meets the concerns that have appeared during the campaign but that can be linked to some of the main themes of American foreign policy.”
What makes the White House-bound political novice unique, according to Kissinger, is the fact that he brings “no baggage” with him.
Nov 23, 2016
One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to relieve the regulatory burden on American business, and his announced agenda for the first 100 days in office includes a promise to “formulate a rule which says that for every one new [federal] regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.”
During the campaign, Trump said that seventy percent of all federal regulations “can go.” The American Action Forum assembled a list of 48 major regulations that could be abolished under the Congressional Review Act.
“Together, those rules impose more than $42.5 billion in total costs, $6.5 billion in annualized costs, and $53 million in paperwork burden hours,” explain analysts Sam Batkins and Dan Goldbeck.
Nov 22, 2016
When the Broadway cast of the peculiar post-modern musical called “Hamilton” lectured Vice President-elect Mike Pence following the November 18 performance, they were exercising their right to petition – albeit in a way that may be considered impolite or presumptuous. Pence himself insists that he wasn’t offended by the gesture, and that the booing and disapproval expressed toward him by audience members represented the “sound of freedom.”Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrayed Aaron Burr, is the performer who delivered the message on behalf of his cast mates, and before doing so he reproached the audience for being disrespectful toward Pence. While he is an unabashed leftist, following the election Dixon published a message on Twitter declaring, “Anyone attacking someone for voting for a non-Democrat or Republican needs to stop immediately. It’s both unproductive and flawed.”
Trump supporter John Palmer, who disrupted a performance by “Hamilton”’s traveling cast in Chicago the night after the Pence incident, showed no similar sense of patriotic restraint. At the conclusion of one musical number, Palmer “stood and yelled profanities” as part of a lengthy harangue. At one point, according to witness Kate Hoyt, Palmer threatened one fellow audience member by raising his fists and screaming, “Let’s go, Democrats – I’ll kill you all.” Palmer was escorted from the venue and has been charged with criminal trespass.
Nov 22, 2016
Riot police arrested eight people during tumultuous protests outside the Texas Capitol in Austin on November 19 following the unveiling of a monument recognizing the historic contributions of Americans of African ancestry. Armed demonstrators from a group calling itself White Lives Matter gathered at the periphery of the ceremony to protest what they called unequal application of hate crimes laws – which, as a matter of due process, should not exist – while denouncing counter-protesters as “anti-white” and “anti-American.”
Nov 22, 2016
The Albuquerque Police Department has altered or deleted videos documenting several controversial use-of-force incidents, including at least two shootings,former Albuquerque Police Department employee Reynaldo Chavez has sworn in an affidavit. Among the adulterated records are body camera videos captured by officers involved in the fatal 2014 shooting of suspected car thief Mary Hawkes and surveillance video from a salon that recorded the shooting by APD officers of Jeremy Robertson in June 2014. Robertson was an informant and suspected probation violator.
According to Chavez, that surveillance video displayed “the tell-tale signs that it had been altered and images that had been captured are now deleted. One of the deleted images captured the officers shooting Jeremy Robertson.”
SD memory cards that contain digital video or still images can be easily lost or discarded, Chavez points out. He claims to have heard Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman say “we can make this disappear” when discussing a specific police camera containing an SD card. Chavez also reports that officers in several divisions of the APD, including those involved in recent shooting incidents, were instructed by superiors not to write reports until the video had been reviewed. Where the video record didn’t damage the interests of the department, the reports would be written accurately; where the record was deemed “problematic,” officers were told to omit mention of the recording in their reports or to claim that “the recording equipment had malfunctioned” or that the officer had forgotten to activate his camera.
Nov 22, 2016
Without so much as a tremor of opposition from parliament or the British public, a bill “giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law,” reports the Guardian of London. The Investigatory Powers act, which was passed on November 17, provides British domestic spies and police agencies the largest arsenal of surveillance and hacking powers in the Western world.
Fugitive NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden stated that the British government has “legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
Much of what is contained in the new law consists of powers that had been exercised by intelligence and law enforcement agencies without explicit legal sanction, or public notification. One new feature found in the measure would remove legal protection for whistleblowers who speak to journalists regarding abusive or illegal government practices. The new law also allows agencies to hack into private computers and cell phones and harvest massive amounts of personal data on people who are not the subject of a formal criminal investigation – and store that data.
“The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy,” laments Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
Nov 22, 2016
Although the United States Senate has not ratified the 1998 Rome Statute creating the UN’s International Criminal Court, the ICC has proposed to open an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by US military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan.
The ICC Statute claims universal jurisdiction over three categories of what it calls core offenses – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the latter being an open-ended category. From that body’s perspective, anybody on the face of the earth can be indicted and prosecuted for one of the core offenses, even if he is a citizen of a country that has not ratified the Statute.
A preliminary probe by the ICC into the conduct of US military and CIA operators in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004 concluded that there is a “reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of interrogating … detainees [that] members of the US armed forces and the US Central Intelligence Agency resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape,” in the words of ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
The ICC’s report says that military personnel, using “approved interrogation techniques,” tortured or otherwise abused at least 61 detainees, and CIA interrogators did the same to at least 27 detainees.
Notwithstanding legal claims made by the Bush administration, and accepted by the Obama administration, torture and abuse of detainees are violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and corresponding federal laws, and should be prosecuted through the appropriate US legal channels.
Nov 22, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump has offered $25 million to settle a fraud lawsuit in New York arising from his so-called Trump University program. Action on scores of other lawsuits – by one count, at least 75 – is pending, and will likely occupy at least some of Trump’s schedule after his inauguration on January 20. Trump’s plans to make a “victory tour” by staging public rallies in key swing states may be stymied if he is required to offer testimony in an ongoing fraud lawsuit in California.
Under existing legal precedents, consumer fraud of the kind alleged against Trump is exceptionally difficult to prove, and lawsuits of the kind he is dealing with rarely succeed.
Nov 22, 2016
Stephen Bannon, the former investment banker, Hollywood producer, and Breitbart News Network chief appointed as head White House strategist Donald Trump, rejects his emerging media characterization as a “white nationalist.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bannon insists, “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist. The globalists,” he continues, “gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia.” The Trump presidency, Bannon claims, will be the spearhead of “an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs.” Like FDR’s New Deal, the Trump administration will engage in economic experimentation: “We’re going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution – conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
Unlike conservatives and libertarians who see the concentration of power in the executive branch as dangerous, Bannon revels in power and enjoys his dark reputation, especially when that reputation prompts critics to misunderstand his strategy and objectives.
“Darkness is good,” Bannon told the THR reporter. “Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. That’s power.”
Nov 22, 2016
Mere weeks remain in Barack Obama’s presidency, and one of his most conspicuous promises will remain unfulfilled – the pledge to shut down the nearly empty detention and interrogation facility at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. Donald Trump, Obama’s successor, has promised to fill Gitmo up, and perhaps to expand it.
One significant hint regarding the future of the notorious prison has been provided by the Navy’s appointment of Rear Admiral Edward Cashman to take over as Gitmo commandant. He is the ninth commander appointed by Obama since he promised to close the camp in 2009.
Nov 22, 2016
During a congratulatory phone call to President-elect Donald Trump, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri found the conversation turning away from geopolitics to Trump’s business concerns. A report from Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper claims that the incoming US president asked Macri to authorize construction of a major office building in that country.
“For a number of years, Trump and his Argentine partners have been trying to build a major office building in Buenos Aires,” explains the left-leaning Talking Points Memo, by way of background. “The project has been held up by a series of complications tied to financing, importation of building materials and various permitting requirements.” Felipe Yaryura, Trump’s business partner in the Argentina project, had been present at Trump’s election night celebration in New York City.
Nov 22, 2016
The Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement, commonly called BDS, seeks to use economic and political pressure to compel the government of Israel to change its policies regarding treatment of Palestinians living in the disputed territories. Many US colleges and other businesses are involved in the BDS movement – and under measures being considered by Congress would be subject to federal fines for engaging in such protests.
Current state and federal statutes forbid government agencies – such as those operating pension plans for government employees – to do business with companies involved in the BDS movement. The proposed measures would build upon now-obsolete legislation from the 1970s that targeted businesses cooperating with the Arab League’s boycott of Israel. A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland would apply not only to Israel proper, but also the disputed Israeli settlements, and make “politically motivated” boycotts subject to legal penalties.
According to Senator Cardin, while criticizing Israeli policies is protected by the Frist Amendment, “What you can’t do is participate in a boycott and all these illegal activities, and we have defined them as illegal activities.”
Cardin did not disclose what Constitutional provision authorizes the federal government to define boycotting a foreign government as an “illegal” activity.
Nov 22, 2016
Continuing his ambivalent posture toward his treaty ally in Washington, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte used a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a trade summit in Peru to condemn what he called “bullying” and “hypocrisy” on the part of the United States, which he characterized as an untrustworthy diplomatic partner.
“Historically, I have been identified with the Western world. It was good while it lasted,” Duterte told Putin during a November 19 meeting. “Of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations. And not only that, they are into so much hypocrisy.”
Putin and Duterte were among the national leaders who assembled in Lima to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Nov 22, 2016
Protesters on the Blackwater Bridge near Canon Ball, North Dakota were met with volleys of rubber bullets and a blast from a water cannon from riot police on Sunday night. Leaders of the protest movement, which seeks to prevent construction of an oil pipeline on Sioux treaty land, claimed that the demonstrators were seeking to remove burning vehicles blocking the bridge. This would restore access to encampments in nearby Standing Rock and allow free movement of traffic and emergency vehicles.
“It is below freezing right now and the Morton County Sheriff's Department is using a water cannon on our people - that is an excessive and potentially deadly use of force," objected Dallas Goldtooth, a spokesman for the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the organizations involved in protests.
Nov 22, 2016
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is a litigator for the Federation for American Immigration Reform and has been a key adviser on immigration to President-elect Donald Trump, was seen carrying a draft plan for the Department of Homeland Security into a November 20 meeting at Trump Tower. Some of the text was captured by an AP photographer using a high-definition camera.
“The document is arranged in a numbered format,” reports the AP. “The first point reads, `Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists.’ The document calls for updating and reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The program was implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but largely suspended in 2011.”
Under the newly implemented program, “all aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” according to the document, which also calls for “extreme vetting questions” for “high-risk aliens,” who would be interrogated over support for Islamic religious law, the practice of jihad, and equality of the sexes under the US Constitution. The outline calls for reducing the admission of Syrian refugees to zero. Mention is also made of arrest and removal of illegal aliens, the so-called PATRIOT Act, and concerns about the National Voter Registration Act.