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Monday, September 29, 2014

Headline 'o the day

by digby

Rand Paul, moderate centrist

by digby

Ryan Lizza has published a fascinating profile of Senator Paul that includes quite a bit of interesting info. I thought I'd just start with what the political media thinks is most important about it, using Chris Cilizza's rundown of the five most important quotes in the article.  I'll just pick two.

Here's a note on Rand's position within the party these days, starting with this quote:
"I’ve seen him grow and I’ve seen him mature and I’ve seen him become more centrist. I know that if he were President or a nominee I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem.” -- Arizona Sen. John McCain
Chris Cilizza says:
Rand Paul has spent much of his first four years in the Senate -- and especially the last two as it became clearer and clearer he was running for president -- trying to reduce some of the heat directed toward him (and his father) by the Republican establishment. He knows people like McCain are ever going to endorse him for president. (My guess on a McCain endorsement? Rubio.) But, Rand also believes that having people like McCain -- and McConnell -- actively working either behind the scenes or in front of them against you is a recipe to lose. (Ted Cruz, on the other hand, views this antagonistic relationship as a key to victory for him.) This McCain quote suggests that Paul's effort have paid off; he's never going to be McCain's guy but neither will the Arizona Republican go out of his way to say or do things to try and keep the nomination from Paul if it seems obvious the race is headed that way.
Well that's a relief. Cilizza is also convinced that Paul is not a libertarian ideologue and is more of a pragmatic conservative --- or at least is smart enough to hide his "true beliefs" in order to win. (At which point I guess his followers are supposed to believe he'll take off the mask and become the one true libertarian they voted for. Sure he will.)
“Ron was always content to tell the truth as best he understood it, and he saw that as the point of his politics. Rand is the guy who is committed to winning.” -- Paul family strategist Jesse Benton
Cilizza says:
This gets to the core of the difference between Rand and Ron Paul. It's not -- as Lizza correctly notes in his piece -- fundamentally about their policy views on which there is considerable overlap. "They don’t really have differences," Carol Paul, wife of Ron and mother of Rand, told Ryan. "They might have fractional differences about how to do things, but the press always want to make it into some kind of story that isn’t there.” The real difference between the two men is stylistic and focus-oriented. Many Republican strategists admit that if Ron Paul had simply refused to go down the rabbit hole of his foreign policy views (over and over again) during nationally televised debates, he might well have won a primary or caucus in 2012. Rand Paul, by contrast, understands the need to pivot off of topics where his views are not entirely aligned with the people he is trying to woo.
And apparently he also understands the total lack of professionalism on the part of the political press which will allow him to hide from his own record, a tactic Cilizza interestingly sees as a matter of style and focus rather than character. (Whether other Republicans will allow it is another question.)

I happen to think there's very little difference between Paul and the average Tea Party Republican which means that he will slash domestic government programs to the bone if he can, he will end as many regulations as he can, he will end as much taxation for the "job creators" as he can --- all good libertarian/conservative economic ideals. He will speak of religious "freedom" as it's now defined, which means that he will support the notions that the government has no ability to create or enforce laws that offend someone's religion while religion, on the other hand, has the "freedom" to insist that others abide by their beliefs. (Because otherwise they aren't free to practice their religion which requires them to compel others to follow their beliefs --- duh.) And he will also do whatever the national security state deems necessary because all presidents do that, regardless of party. There will not be any substantial advantage to voting for President Paul over President Cruz. (Well, maybe he would be less terrible on marijuana prosecutions.)

But from the looks of things, he's being positioned as the pragmatic centrist of the GOP presidential club. Which would be hilarious if it weren't so scary. It appears that in today's Village, any Republican who doesn't advocate capital punishment for pot smoking is now a moderate. Those goal posts just keep a-moving.

Can John Oliver Writer Scott Sherman Help Expose Gen. Zinni's Raytheon Connection? 

by Spocko

Hey Scott,

I'd love you to do a segment for John Oliver about how the network TV shows aren't telling the public that the retired generals selling the Syrian bombing and ISIS war actually work for the military contractors who profit from the war.
UPDATE: Cost of U.S. campaign against the Islamic State likely closing in on $1 billion

You might be thinking, "Didn't the New York Times already write this story after the Iraq war?" You are correct sir! It was written in 2008. Link  It was about the last war. Now there are all new retired generals for this war.

Here's the TLDR of Dan Bastow's Pulitzer winning article:
All the networks got busted for their military analysts having financial conflicts of interest.
Then why does Last Week Tonight need to do a segment? Because they are at it again. And they are ignoring the people calling them on it. That's why we need you.

Two weeks ago Lee Fang of The Nation wrote Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits?  The retired generals going on the TV networks pushing for ISIS and Syrian bombing, drone strikes and more "boots on the ground." In most cases the networks didn't tell viewers that they actual worked for General Dynamics, Raytheon and whatever name Blackwater is calling itself this week.

Fang's piece built on an extensive 2013 report, Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate by the Public Accountability Initiative. I wrote to Fang and asked what the media response was. Nada.  The TV media ignore journalism critics because they can. "Ohh what are they going to do? Shame us in print? Ohhh I'm so scared." As you learned at the Daily show, it's harder for them to ignore comedy TV shows. That's why we need you.

They even tried to avoid the New York Times piece. My favorite comment from that piece was, "A spokeswoman for Fox News said executives 'refused to participate' in this article."

They had to deal with the Times piece because there was a financial conflict issue. Therefore the network lawyers, accountants and HR people were forced to act, even though the spokespeople didn't. And that is another reason we need you, not only will everyone at the networks watch the show, it now has a reputation of doing journalism and getting your viewers to act. (BTW, the FCC sends its hate.)

So how did the network's lawyers, accountants and HR people avoid the financial conflict of interest problems? Easy, they simply don't hire the generals to be their military analysts anymore! Clever boots eh?

Networks accountants love it, they save money and don't need to send out all those pesky 1099 forms! Plus, since the generals aren't employees, they don't have to follow any annoying HR internal guidelines, corporate ethics rules or SEC reporting rules for a publicly traded company. The retired generals are now just 'guests' with opinions!

What this tells us is that unless the TV networks have some sort of legal or financial pressure, they'll continue to cover for the people making money on this war.

But does it really matter if everyone knows? When I tell savvy news consumers this they say, 'Well duh, of course they work for a military contractor. So what? What general ISN'T for more war?"

It might be different if during this run up to the bombing and war the TV networks did even the minimal, "both sides" game. Did we hear from veterans against the war or historians talking about the disastrous blow back consequences of war?

Every time they talked about those ISIS beheadings did they 'balance' it with heart breaking videos of innocent children being killed by US drone strikes?

Why not? Because there is no money in peace for the network. Plus it might upset the former military guests, who count on the media to let them tell their story to the public like one big infomercial.
(Side note: If these "news" shows were classified as an infomercial or as a celebrity endorsement, the FTC would be overseeing it. Fox News' own FTC Standards and Practices rules make it clear the lack of disclosure would not be allowed. See pages 6, 10, 11, 20 and 21)
For example, look at retired General Jack Keane. He's a Director of General Dynamics. He is paid in stock. More war, more product sold, stock goes up -- he makes more money.

TV journalists aren't identifying these connections even though:
They'll blow off the journalists, the FCC and ignore their own admission of blowing it last time. They follow FTC regulations for now because if they don't it costs them money.

But they won't blow off you guys. The next day all the internet will be aflame with the video, 'John Oliver Eviscerates TV Journalists' Excuses" or "Watch John Oliver Destroy Network News Divisions" And your readers will all be tweeting to the TV networks things like:
@ABC @GStephanopoulos When talking about #syriaairstrikes why don't you tell viewers Gen Zinni works for .@Raytheon, the missile's maker?
I'd like to think that massive public attention of their complacency would help because it would give the public something specific to ask the TV network journalists, producers and bookers to do, since, 'Do your fucking job!" isn't working.

As your old boss once said to the hosts on Crossfire, "Stop. You are hurting America." They are at it again. It's your turn now.

Who ya gonna call? (We ain't afraid 'o no terrorists)

by digby

Despite the authentic thrill of electing the first African American president, I was never a big believer in President Obama's liberalism. He always struck me as a slightly left of center, middle of the road guy whose paeans to "hope" and "change" in 2008 were meaningless slogans that did not add up to the progressive utopia so many assumed. I was hostile from the beginning to his persistence in believing he could transcend partisanship and his willingness to strike "grand bargains." I thought his unwillingness to pursue justice in the torture cases and his zeal to prosecute a covert war were indefensible.

But I always thought he was at least sensible in his rhetoric when it came to geo-politics and America's place in the world. He certainly didn't seem eager to throw his big, swinging, American hegemony all over the place. Unfortunately, that's changed. This administration is now employing the worst Hollywood dialog we've seen since Bush was babbling about "smokin' 'em outta their caves" and Cheney was droning on about torture being a "no-brainer."

This is from the 60 Minutes interview where Steve Kroft pointed out that, once again, the US seems to be bearing the majority of the burden in the latest war:
“Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation; we have capacity no one else has; our military is the best in the history of the world. When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow — they call us.”
Groan. As Elias Isquith quipped:
Having reduced geopolitics to the level of “Ghostbusters” (because when there’s sectarian killing born from a centuries-long ethnic and cultural conflict in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?) Obama continued, “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge, making sure Haiti can rebuild.”
And then, (oh.my.dear.God) the president concluded with a flourish:
“That’s how we roll. That’s what makes us America."
Huh. I used to think that what made us America was our belief in the inalienable rights of every human being, our welcome of immigrants from around the world and the dream of a decent life for yourself and a chance for your children to do better than you did, democracy ...

But really, we're just a big old global first responder. With guns. A lot of guns.

Global solidarity on authoritarianism

by digby

I love this so much:

Those are protesters in Hong Kong using the same hands up sign used by the Ferguson protesters.

According to Vox it's unclear if these protesters are deliberately doing this as a sign of solidarity but even if the message, the message, whether in Ferguson or Hong Kong is exactly the same. Is it possible we are seeing the beginning of a global protest against authoritarian tactics?

The Obama Doctrine: We hit bad dudes

by digby

I asked my husband a week or so ago what thought about Khoresan and he said he'd never heard of them and wondered what kind of music they played. (True story.) He's well-informed about current events, reads the papers and everything. My point being that this is a very new phenomenon, one which we all first heard about just two weeks ago.

I've been writing about the oddness of this sudden revelation since I first heard about it:

So al Qaeda is actually the group that we must keep from killing us all in our beds, not ISIS? Just like we've been keeping them from killing us in our beds for 13 years?

Huh ...

I'm being facetious and it's probably inappropriate. But many of us have been pointing out for months the reason Al Qaeda split with ISIS was because it was being too brutal to fellow Muslims when al Qaeda's mission was to take on the Great Satan --- just as it has been for a decade and a half. In other words, little had changed for Americans in the threat department. Al Qaeda still wants to kill us but we've been pretty successful at keeping them from doing that. For some reason we needed a new boogeyman. I wonder why?

We've spent trillions on Homeland Security, outfitted every Barney Fife in the nation with robo-cop gear and allowed the government to spy on Americans at will.  I don't know about you but I kind of expect that all of that should actually be worth something. If we're going to run around tearing our hair out every time somebody puts out a scary video maybe it's time to re-evaluate that strategy. 

This is not to say that there isn't a threat for the people in the Middle East and there is a legitimate argument to be made that it requires intervention from outside the region lest the whole place blows up even further. (I'm not sure we won't make things worse --- we usually do -- but I understand the arguments for it.) What is galling is the fact that they continue to treat us like children and tell us spooky bedtime stories so they can scare us into supporting their commercial/geopolitical goals. Maybe those goals are worth pursuing but we'll never know because we're chasing evil Ninjas who are allegedly coming over the border to unleash mushroom clouds on American cities. 

I'm serious. This is what Fox News reporter Todd Starnes said on Hannity last night:

And frankly, I'm almost as disgusted that the American people continue to be thrilled at the prospect of kicking ass over some trumped up threat --- and yes, I do believe that a whole lot of us are anxious to get back to the business of ass-kicking. It's much more exciting than thinking about the wealthy elites stealing more and more of your meager earnings. But it's a dangerous and nasty way to entertain ourselves out of a nasty malaise. 

Al Qaeda has a strategy to create dramatic terrorist attacks on the West.  We've known this for a long, long time and have been spending trillions to protect ourselves from it for well over a decade. That has not changed.  ISIS is a different problem. The fact that the war hawks pimped this line about ISIS being worse than Al Qaeda should make everyone skeptical of what they are hearing about this whole thing --- and skeptical of the motivations behind it.  
How many times do we have to be lied to?
An then there was this:
Several of Mr. Obama’s aides said Tuesday that the airstrikes against the Khorasan operatives were launched to thwart an “imminent” terrorist attack, possibly using concealed explosives to blow up airplanes. But other American officials said that the plot was far from mature, and that there was no indication that Khorasan had settled on a time or location for the attack — or even on the exact method of carrying out the plot.

Some experts said it was more likely that American spy agencies had developed specific intelligence about the location of Mr. Fadhli and others, and that Mr. Obama had ordered the strike to kill the Khorasan operatives before they could scatter.

One senior American official on Wednesday described the Khorasan plotting as “aspirational” and said that there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works.
Again, WTF???

Something is very,very off about all of this. In this Intercept piece, Glenn Greenwald documents how this new threat exploded into the ether and it's fascinating. This really struck me:

Late last week, Associated Press’ Ken Dilanian — the first to unveil the new Khorasan Product in mid-September — published a new story explaining that just days after bombing “Khorasan” targets in Syria, high-ranking U.S. officials seemingly backed off all their previous claims of an “imminent” threat from the group. Headlined “U.S. Officials Offer More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat,” it noted that “several U.S. officials told reporters this week that the group was in the final stages of planning an attack on the West, leaving the impression that such an attack was about to happen.” But now:

Senior U.S. officials offered a more nuanced picture Thursday of the threat they believe is posed by an al-Qaida cell in Syria targeted in military strikes this week, even as they defended the decision to attack the militants.

James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. . . .

Kirby, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said, “I don’t know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months….We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don’t think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes.”

Regarding claims that an attack was “imminent,” Comey said: “I don’t know exactly what that word means…’imminent’” — a rather consequential admission given that said imminence was used as the justification for launching military action in the first place.
"Bad dudes?" Really? Is that all it takes? The government reveals they've been tracking some "bad dudes" and decided to "hit them"? That wouldn't pass muster in a Screenwriting 101 class. In fact, it's right up there with the most puerile nonsense that ever came out of George W. Bush's mouth.

And James Comey doesn't know what the word "imminent" means which is kind of depressing. It's not as though we didn't recently have an arduous debate over this definition when the Bush administration stretched it to its limits it justify the invasion of Iraq. (Here's a bucket of lukewarm water Michael O'Hanlon on the subject if you don't believe me.) Or, as the Obama administration put it in their memo justifying the extra-juducial assassination of people overseas:
Certain aspects of this legal framework require additional explication. First, the condition that an operational leader present an "imminent" threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future.
Yes, that's from an official legal document prepared by the Obama administration. We have always been at war with Oceania.

It appears that the Obama administration has adopted a new doctrine that says "Don't worry your pretty little heads about this, we don't need no stinking dossiers, if they're a bad dude we hit 'em". So that's clear enough. They "hit" whomever they want to hit simply because they could do something bad someday. They are, after all, bad dudes.

Greenwald thinks the US has been flogging the "imminent"  Khoresan threat in order to get people riled up to support this bombing campaign. But I think it may be a bit more complicated.

Setting aside the propaganda purpose, which I agree is a big part of this, resting this Syrian operation on that "imminent"  legal doctrine is a bit precarious. This is a bombing campaign not an assassination. And it wouldn't have been a problem if the government hadn't spent weeks touting the fact that ISIS was so uniquely evil that it was even expelled from al Qaeda, (who were, by contrast, not such "bad dudes" after all.) If ISIS had still been painted as an offshoot of al Qaeda they could have just cited the 2001 AUMF and said they were chasing those familiar al-Qaeda bad dudes. And citing the Iraq war AUMF is also a stretch for bombing Syria. So, it seems logical that they might have wanted to gin up the threat of Khoresan --- which they clearly tie to al Qaeda --- as an alternative to cover their legal options.

This doesn't explain why they felt the need to call the threat "imminent" but the inconsistent statements among administration officials suggests that this was more a case of one hand not knowing what the other hand was justifying.  The fog of quasi-war and all that ...

None of us can know what really went on and we probably won't know for some time until enough people write their memoirs and tell us.  But we have been lied to so many times about this terrorist threat that we have a right --- a responsibility --- to look at these situations with skepticism and demand something more than a glib dismissal like this:
We can have this debate about whether it was valid to hit them or not, or whether it was too soon or too late…We hit them. And I don’t think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes.
Basically, that Pentagon spokesman said this to the American people:
You are in what we call the reality-based community,people who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose ...

The progressive future: Shenna Bellows

by digby

Blue America sent this out to our members today. We're getting down to the wire and there are some candidates really worth supporting in this final stretch. Shenna Bellows is one of them:

It's almost the end of the quarter-- and you know what that means-- hundreds of e-mails from the DCCC and DSCC and their careerist candidates begging for money.

Please tell them you already gave-- through Blue America-- to individual candidates whose agendas you believe in and values you share.

As you probably know, we’ve supported Shenna Bellows' entirely grassroots campaign for Senate in Maine this cycle more than any other candidate, and now we’re asking you to step up again. She’s running as an outspoken, unapologetic progressive in a blue state that voted for President Obama twice.

Her opponent, Susan Collins, is out of step with Maine’s economic needs and won’t tell voters where she stands on the big issues. It’s time for Shenna to join progressive champions like Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Senate and give Maine a big upgrade in representation.

Shenna is running the kind of campaign that makes progressives stand up and cheer. She’s outraising Collins more than three to one in small-dollar donations, according to OpenSecrets, and she hasn’t taken a nickel of corporate PAC money.

She walked 350 miles across the state this summer to hear from real Mainers and bring their stories to Washington where they need to be heard. She’s running full steam ahead on universal health care, investing in our economy, a higher minimum wage, student loan reform, and a national Human Rights Act that extends Maine’s strong LGBT protections to every American man, woman and child.

In other words, as a first-time candidate, Shenna Bellows is setting a standard a lot of incumbents should be trying to meet.

Shenna’s a strong candidate because of her values and her background-- she’s the working class daughter of a carpenter and a home health care nurse-- but also because of her experience fighting for privacy and civil rights.

Those fights are hardly over in Washington, and we need her there fighting to restore our liberties. As the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine for eight years, Shenna worked hard to protect the people of her state from law enforcement overreach. Her own website tells you everything you need to know:

Abuses of power like the Patriot Act, REAL ID, the NDAA, NSA spying, and domestic drone surveillance threaten our democracy. When the government spies on its own people, we, the people, lose trust in our government. We can restore trust and a sense of community by restoring our constitutional freedoms. 
In Maine, I led a coalition to pass groundbreaking privacy laws to require warrants before law enforcement accesses email or phone communications. As United States Senator, I will work with Republicans and Democrats alike to repeal the Patriot Act and restore checks and balances on government spying. I’m proud to have been called “the Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties,” and that’s exactly the kind of senator I intend to be.

Needless to say, you don’t find a record like that every day. We need Shenna Bellows in the Senate, standing with our most dependable leaders and bringing her passion and principles to a legislative body that’s short on both right now.

One last thing about this race you need to know: Susan Collins is nervous. When she started running a recent television ad trying to claim credit for ending the government shutdown, Shenna didn’t let it pass. She put out a web video telling voters the other half of the story-- the half where Susan Collins voted with the tea party to hold the government hostage and hurt businesses in her own state.

Now Susan Collins is backpedaling and trying to convince reporters her votes meant the opposite of what they meant. She can’t defend her record, so she’s trying to ignore it. Voters aren’t buying it, and we need to help Shenna hold her accountable for voting against her own state.

Shenna Bellows is the future of the U.S. Senate. She’s the future of progressive politics. There’s no one we’re more excited to support this year, and we hope you’ll join us-- right here and right now.

A protest made in Hong Kong

by Tom Sullivan

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue. As financial district crowds swelled Monday (reports conflict on this), riot police pulled back, CNN reported, to chants of "Stand down CY Leung!" (Leung is Hong Kong's current chief executive). Protesters demanded elections free of interference from Beijing.
“The people of Hong Kong want freedom and want democracy!” a protest leader yelled into a megaphone as demonstrators — many of them university students — donned goggles, covered themselves in plastic wrap and held up umbrellas to shield themselves in case they were hit with tear gas or pepper spray. “Redeem the promise of a free election!” chanted the crowd.
With Washington focused on the Middle East, there was a tepid show of support from U.S. officials — and nothing from the White House that I could find — as pro-democracy protesters calling themselves Occupy Central with Love and Peace faced a police crackdown in Hong Kong on Sunday and into the early hours Monday.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement on Sunday that Washington supported Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and fundamental freedoms, such as peaceful assembly and expression.
The outbursts surprised some residents, the Guardian reported Sunday. People there are usually more interested in working and making money:
In many ways it was a very Hong Kong protest, down to the protesters who politely explained that they would not be present the next day as they needed to go to work. 
But the resident saw something unique in the exuberance and spontaneity of the peaceful crowd – preempting plans to launch the civil-disobedience movement on Wednesday, a national holiday – combined with the tough tactics of the police. It is the first time officers have fired teargas in Hong Kong for almost a decade.
But the police response over the weekend changed that:
"Before dinner, I never would have imagined that I would join [the protests]," Candy Lam, a 32-year-old bank employee, said.
"I thought it was unhelpful to confront the Communist Party in this way, and that we could find other ways to negotiate, but tonight is too much. I saw the 6 pm news and so many of us cried in front of the television." 
A 57-year-old construction worker, who only wanted to be identified by his last name, Ng, said he saw the tear gas on television and decided to join the protest then and there.
As of 7 a.m. EDT this morning, streaming video was still available here.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

The coming climate war

by digby

Josh Marshall took a look at the countries which will be most affected by climate change. (It ain't us, btw.)

He wonders how these countries most affected will deal with this since they are also the countries in the midst of an industrial hyper-revolution where people are getting access to a first world lifestyle for the first time. A very good question. It's fairly clear that there will be, at the very least, some extraordinary migration that's going to cause some unpredictable upheaval.

I also have to wonder if the US and Europe --- both of which will be affected in many ways, including flooding, but not the the same extreme extent --- will take the high road or if this will become a matter of "national security." And I think you know what that usually means ...

QOTD: Joel Silberman

by digby

In our media if it bleeds, it leads. By over-emphasizing each horrific beheading video and war images, our media does its audience a terrible disservice. They are omitting the root causes for the rise of ISIS. Where is the funding money coming from? Who is buying ISIS’ oil at below market prices that subsidizes ISIS? Who and where are the banks facilitating the transfer of $2-4 million a day in oil sales to ISIS? Where are the banking regulators who have access that information? To be sure, this is a complicated story to tell to an audience that wants understand the situation but doesn’t want to invest a lot of time in getting educated. But that’s the story that I’d like to see.
Me too!

That's from an interview with Silberman, a media expert, who has written this piece about horrific coverage of the ISIS situation and a lot of the history that led up to it. It's mind-boggling to me that we've fallen back to the hysterical post 9/11 phase without missing a beat. And this time, all it's taken is two video-taped murders. We are easy marks these days.

*I must take the opportunity to give a shout out to Chris Hayes who is actually questioning all this lunacy on his show. At this point, he's about the only one I'm watching on cable news on this story beyond keeping tabs on the stupidity elsewhere. I'm getting nothing from any of the other shows.

Buying "content" or propaganda?

by digby

I'd guess this wasn't an isolated incident:
Yesterday I received a flattering email with a generous financial offer. “I came across several of your articles on the Columbia Tribune website and I really like your work,” Molly Berry of a company called Skyword wrote to me from Boston.

I blushed.

She was looking for writers, she told me in the email. Grow Missouri wanted “content” for its blog. “Based on your writing style and level of expertise, I think you would be a great fit,” Berry wrote.

In case you are unsure, Grow Missouri is the political advocacy group created by Rex Sinquefield that flew a giant blimp over Columbia during the Tigers inexplicable loss to Indiana. Perhaps that is due to Sinquefield’s own losing streak this year. But more about that later.

I was to receive $250 for each article, two or three each month, of 500 to 700 words. I didn’t even have attach my name to the articles, she told me.

That was the signal that made me think she was attempting to buy me. I could have written the articles anonymously, pocketed the money and kept quiet about it around the Tribune.

Just because everything that appeared afterward in the Tribune about Grow Missouri and its wealthy creator and only donor Rex Sinquefield happened to emphasize benevolent intentions towards the state and all the citizens who didn’t have $628,000 to spend on defeating four lawmakers would be mere coincidence.

“Thank you for the kind words regarding my work but I have never written for any advocacy group & do not intend to do so,” I replied to Berry. “Accepting this offer would disqualify me for my job at the Tribune covering state government.”

The lowest form of reporter, and one I hope has long since been run out of the business, is one who takes secret payments from people they cover. It could be due to my inherent mediocrity, but this has never happened before in any form. I have never been offered a job by a politician or political organization.

I try to be hard to offend. If you tell me by breath smells bad, I will get a mint or brush my teeth.

This particular offer had the rankest odor of anything I have encountered in my professional career.
The group explained that this was a big mistake, they didn't mean to approach reporters, it was a PR vendor etc, etc. And maybe it was.  But even if they aren't dumb enough to approach legitimate journalists, you know they are hiring someone to write their propaganda.

The whole story is quite interesting as an anatomy of a rich man's project --- a project designed to influence the public to support his cause: himself. This is all about tax cuts for the wealthy. Natch.

Fun stuff for the Netroots

by digby

Via Seeing the Forest:
Netroots Nation is announcing The Netroots Music Project, “to re-inject music into our current political discourse and support the artists already doing this day to day.” 
Netroots Nation will hold an annual Unity Concert with music and performers that focus on the issues of the Netroots Nation host city. At the Netroots Nation event in Phoenix the theme will be immigration. 
They need to raise money to pull this off. 

Why not?

Baby talk

by digby

Some people are upset by this but I think it's funny. She is, after all, an actual baby, so calling her a liberal "crybaby" isn't really an insult. (Now it's true they are insulting liberals, but what else it new?) And the picture is very sweet.

And just to prove I'm non-partisan when it comes to political babies, I thought this one was very sweet too. (It was Halloween, btw, and the baby was dressed as a tiny astronaut.)

No good deed ...

by digby

That's depressing. Here you have Muslims literally taking to the streets to protest extremism and as you can see (click on the pic if you haven't) the responses prove that doe the people who are demanding they do such a thing it doesn't matter at all.


"I still don't see these as "good" Muslims. Do they tear out the pages relating to the kill or convert parts?"

"I see signs but I don't see them going to Iraq and taking up arms to fight the "extremists". It's all a sham.

Sunday Funnies

by digby

... not so funny edition:


Funny, how that works

by Tom Sullivan

Perhaps it is not just a coincidence or a quirk of American policy-making that the words "innovation" and "reform" lately seem to attach themselves to ideas that drive more public money, public infrastructure, and public control into the hands of private investors. Nor that this meme is driven by lobbyists for public-private partnerships (P3s) where corporations stand to rack up profits by privatizing the commons.

Whether it is turning over state prisons to for-profit Corrections Corporation of America or public education over to publicly traded K12 Inc., we are to believe that despite the scandals and poor outcomes, the private sector will always do a better job than big gummint. We hear the private sector is more "efficient" than efforts run by the people and for the people. But more efficient at what?

This last week, as we noted, ITR Concession Co, and its parent company, the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy on its concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road. The 75-year deal fell apart after only eight.

But getting back to efficiency. Think maybe the Germans could do it better? Maybe not.

... a study by the Federal Audit Office has found that costs may actually be higher for ÖPP [P3] project [sic] than they are for conventionally funded enterprises. The auditors examined seven large, privately financed road-construction projects. They found that five of them would have been cheaper had they been paid for in the usual manner -- that is, with taxpayer money. The total savings were estimated at €1.9 billion. In the A1 expansion project, the Transportation Ministry had assumed that the public-private partnership would be 40 percent cheaper than tax financing, but the final cost was a third higher.

ÖPP projects "did not achieve significant goals" and projects conducted to date have been "uneconomical," the auditors concluded.

Funding costs are higher for public-private deals in Germany than with government-backed loans in the U.S. Still, Berlin infrastructure economist Thorsten Beckers estimates that "the capital costs of such projects amount to almost 28 percent of construction costs. Therefore, Beckers argues, the supposed financial advantages of ÖPP autobahn expansion projects are 'extremely implausible.'"

Writing for Thinking Highways regarding new P3 highway projects in Virginia, Randy Salzman writes that despite the positive press, the Congressional Budget Office sees financial benefit to taxpayers from P3s [emphasis mine]:

The cost of financing a highway project privately is roughly equal to the cost of financing it publicly after factoring in the costs associated with the risk of losses from the project, which taxpayers ultimately bear, and the financial transfers made by the federal government to states and localities,” the CBO’s Microeconomic Studies director told congress in March. “Any remaining difference between the costs of public versus private financing for a project will stem from the effects of incentives and conditions established in the contracts that govern public-private partnerships.”

And those contracts tend to be one-sided, win-win deals for investors – aided by financiers "mining" the tax code. Borrowing from the work of former Penn State law professor Ellen Dannin, Salzman describes the setup and the sting [emphasis mine]:

A private creates a shell company with a major finance – usually foreign – arm and an international construction contractor to bid on the P3. It sells private bonds, bonds generally backed by federal guarantee, and includes those funds as the major part of its “private” contribution. Any state’s representatives at negotiations are outclassed because they have little background in finance or contract law and its legal consultants, like Allen and Overy, are conflicted. The privates’ upfront financing allows the project to get underway quicker and it is implied that private efficiency is overcoming bloated public bureaucracy while heavily inflated traffic projections indicate the privates will be compensated through tolls...

Once the highway is built, the shell company – and we used that word consistently with Secretary Layne – accelerates the depreciation and about 15 years later, just when the highway is actually needing much repair, often goes bankrupt. The bond holders, however, are protected because of federal financing guarantees and taxpayers find themselves facing the costs of a highway re-build when all of the toll income has gone to the shell company backers, now protected by bankruptcy laws from having to pay back loans, bonds or depreciation.

Except as we noted, besides the Indiana Toll Road deal going belly up in 8 years, similar P3 deals have failed in Texas and California in just 2 and 3 years respectively. Is there a pattern here?

In North Carolina, the deals sound familiar. Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Thom Tillis, has been promoting a P3 to put toll lanes on I-77 in his own district. Tillis is aided by legislative lieutenants fanning out across the state and by lobbyists working the country like so many Professor Harold Hills to sell boys' bands to the rubes.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

Swimming to Soulsville: Take Me to the River

By Dennis Hartley

Maybe I'm just jaded, but there's a subgenre of music doc that is becoming somewhat formulaic. "(Insert director and film title here) is the story of (insert name of venerable American recording studio here), located near the banks of (insert name of venerable American river here), which has given host to the likes of (insert impressive roll call of venerable American musicians here), frequently backed up by (insert aggregate nickname for venerable American session players) who have collectively given us the soundtrack of our lives." There's no other way to say it: Martin Shore's Take Me to the River is the story of the Stax recording studios, near the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis Tennessee, which has given host to the likes of Mavis Staples, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Isaac Hayes, Otis Clay and William Bell, frequently backed by house band Booker T. & the MGs, who have collectively given us the, erm, soundtrack of our lives.

That's not to say that it isn't a damn good soundtrack, especially for those of (ahem) a certain age, who grew up digging classic Stax A-sides like "Green Onions" by Booker T., "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas, "Walk on By" by Isaac Hayes, "Private Number" by William Bell and Judy Clay, "Knock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd, "Soul Man" by Sam & Dave, "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight, "Respect Yourself" by The Staple Singers, and...well, you get the gist. Using archival footage and recollections by seminal Stax artists and producers, Shore traces the history of the label, from its founding in the early 60's, through its occasionally stormy partnership with Atlantic Records, to its heyday as an independent label from 1968 to 1972 (he doesn't dwell too long on the rough patches from the mid-70s through the early 1980s, which included bankruptcy and internal strife).

The good news is that Stax has enjoyed a second wind over the last decade (mostly as a reissue label). It is in the spirit of this revival that the director decided to frame the film by documenting the making of an inter-generational "duets" album that pairs up hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg, Lil P-Nut, Al Kapone and Yo Gotti with Stax veterans. This leads to some interesting moments; in my favorite scene, the great Bobby "Blue" Bland offers some grandfatherly advice about the music biz to the 11 year-old Lil P-Nut, as well as a "tough love" tutorial on how to inject his vocal phrasing with real soul. Mavis Staples really lights up the room with her wonderful spirit and "that" voice. Another music highlight is an impromptu jam session featuring the soft-spoken blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, proving age is not a factor when it comes to blowing a mean harp.

The best part about Shore's film is that it admirably aspires to connect the dots between the R&B “Memphis sound” and the contemporary subgenres that have evolved from it (like hip-hop and neo-soul). In this sense, the older artists who appear in the film (vital and soulful as ever) are literally "living history". One also gets the poignant sense of a legacy passing on, especially in a segment showing students from an associated music school working with veteran Stax artists on one of the sessions. An important element of that legacy is the colorblind factor; from its earliest days to the present, this has been a music scene (based in the Deep South, mind you) that remained happily oblivious to the very concept of a color barrier. All that mattered was the music that came out of the box.

The need to preserve that legacy of spirit holds more import once it's revealed that several of the older performers have passed since principal filming. One of those late legends, guitarist Charles "Skip" Pitts (who provided those iconic wah-wah licks on "Shaft") embodies this gracious spirit when we see him praise a young student drummer. "Watch this fellow," Pitts gushes like a proud dad, "He's already plugged in. Nobody had to tell him how to do nothing." He gives the teenager a fist bump, adding "Love you, man. Hope you like what I did...I tried to put a little some-somethin' on it." Hey, that's the best any of us can aim for before we shuffle off this mortal coil...puttin' a little some-somethin' on it.

Previous posts with related themes:

When are they going to fire the Ferguson police chief?

by digby

Good lord. It took the Justice Department to put a stop to this?
Federal officials intervened Friday to stop police in Ferguson, Mo., from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets in solidarity with the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old there last month.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson agreed to bar his officers from wearing the bracelets while in uniform and on duty, and to ensure that other local police agencies did too, according to a letter released Friday by Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

He did so after Justice Department officials brought the issue to his attention, alerted by residents during community meetings earlier in the week who complained they had seen officers wearing the bracelets on patrol during protests Tuesday, according to the letter.

"These bracelets reinforce the very 'us versus them' mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists," Lopez wrote.

Lopez also urged the chief to ensure that his officers wear their name tags in keeping with department policy. Critics had noted officers were patrolling without them or with their names covered by black tape, according to the letter.

“Allowing officers to remain anonymous when they interact with the public contributes to mistrust and undermines accountability,” Lopez had written to Jackson in a letter earlier this week, also released Friday. “The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.”
This chief is a menace. Anyone with half a brain would have put a stop to all this petulant behavior on the part of the cops immediately. It's going to lead to something very, very bad.

They need to get rid of him.

The problem is the execution

by digby

Following up on Tom's post from this morning, I notice that the right wing is having a full blown hissy fit over the beheading murder in Oklahoma by a Muslim convert. I can't tell if they think that this is an ISIS conspiracy or if they think the government should immediately jail all American Muslims just in case (maybe both) but they are very exercised.

The story is this: an African American man with a prison record converted last year to Islam. He was fired from his job on Thursday (no idea why) and immediately attacked two women who worked there, decapitating one and stabbing the other. The COO shot him and stopped the attack. It's a horrible story. Now, this man may be completely sane and driven by a desire to commit jihad. But it appears on the face of it that he's actually a disgruntled employee seeking revenge --- a sadly common story in America. The mode of death is likely tie to his conversion to Islam but his motive appears to be the same as many other other workplace killings --- anger at being dismissed.

It's also important to recognize that it's not only sicko terrorists who decapitate their victims (although, as I said, this one was very likely to have been inspired by the ISIS murders, although the motive appears to be much more banal.) Here's an absolutely sickening one, committed by an insane person. And heinous criminal drug gangs have been employing this method for a while. Check out this story from 2012:

In September 2006, gunmen opened the doors of the Sol y Sombra discotheque in Uruapan, in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, and threw five human heads onto the dance floor.

As frightened partygoers looked on, the gang left a scrawled message at the scene, announcing the arrival of a new, breakaway drug cartel called La Familia Michoacana, and walked out as coolly as they had entered.

For many, it represented a shocking new degree of brutality by the country's drug traffickers. It made headlines around the world.

Francisco Castellanos is the correspondent for the respected Mexican magazine, Proceso, in Michoacan.

He sees the 2006 beheadings as a game-changing moment in the conflict:

"The five were local drug dealers in Uruapan", he says in an email from the embattled Pacific state, adding that the hastily-written threat left at the crime scene spoke of "divine justice".

"It generated great fear and terror."


Such a violent form of execution is generally associated with the sort of radical Islamist groups who killed US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or British civil engineer Kenneth Bigley in Iraq.

Cult of death

But the Mexican context is very different, says Mr Gonzalez Ruiz. He argues the practice comes from Guatemala:

"In 2000, the Zetas began to extend their reach into Central America, and they incorporated into their ranks members of the elite jungle squad, the Kaibiles."

A statue of "Saint Death" is seen in Mexico City March 7, 2012.
The cult of La Santa Muerte is on the rise and some see a link to the extreme violence
"The Kaibiles had been trained in using decapitation to threaten the local population since the times of the country's dirty war (1960-1996)."

Others see links to a religious cult popular with the drug gangs called La Santa Muerte, or Holy Death.

Some commentators have even drawn comparisons to pre-Columbian human sacrifices by the Aztec and the Mayan civilisations.

Wherever it stems from, the gruesome practice is now a staple in the lexicon of violence of the drug cartels in Mexico.

This month has been perhaps the worst in terms of decapitations.

In the past 10 days alone, there have been an unprecedented 81 beheaded bodies discovered in the country.

In early May, 14 decapitated bodies were found in Nuevo Laredo, just over the border from Texas.

Last week, 18 bodies and severed heads were left in two mini-vans near Lake Chapala, an area popular with tourists in western Mexico.

Finally, in one of the most shocking incidents of its kind since the current drug war began, 49 headless and mutilated bodies were left in plastic bags on a road outside the industrial city of Monterrey.

I only bring this up because it's important to remember that this form of execution is not specific to Islam. Obviously, some radical Muslims are using the method for much the same reason as the criminal drug gangs and ... the Saudi government, which uses beheading for the same reason: to scare the hell out of people. And it works.

It wasn't always that way. The list of historical beheadings is very, very long. Virtually every nation did it although the English and the French really made a fetish out of it, particularly applying it to the nobility because it was considered a humane form of execution. (Just goes to show you how things change...) It's horrible to us in the modern world for good reason. It's brutal and primitive. But the truth is that executing people by any method is brutal and primitive ... even the supposedly humane lethal injection.

So let's just call it what it is: cold-blooded murder. And murder, whether at the hands of a terrorist, a criminal, an insane person or the state is immoral and wrong.

Update: Oh boy

Hamid Karzai’s last major act as president of Afghanistan may well be ordering the execution of five men who were convicted of rape after a trial that the United Nations’ top human rights official has denounced as unfair.

The convictions were based entirely on the defendants’ confessions, which all five men testified during the appeals process were obtained by torture at the hands of the police. One of the five men said he was beaten so badly that he would have confessed to incest with his mother.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, called on Mr. Karzai and his successor, Ashraf Ghani, who will be inaugurated on Monday, not to carry out the death penalty “and to refer the case back to courts given the due process concerns,” according to a statement issued by his spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani.

Mr. Zeid’s appeal may well come too late, because there were indications that the executions would be carried out speedily. Mr. Karzai has already promised to see the men executed once the Supreme Court upholds their convictions, which it now has done.

It seems to me that the method employed to execute these men -- or anyone --- is beside the point. It's about the killing.

Caught in their own (drag)net

by digby

I don't use the iPhone so this isn't particularly relevant to me.  I use Android and have encrypted my phone since they first began offering it. (The new ones will default to encryption I understand.) I understand why law enforcement is upset, but really, this is a case of the boy crying wolf:

“There will come a day when it will matter a great deal to the lives of people . . . that we will be able to gain access” to such devices, [FBI director James] Comey told reporters in a briefing. “I want to have that conversation [with companies responsible] before that day comes.”

Comey added that FBI officials already have made initial contact with the two companies, which announced their new smartphone encryption initiatives last week. He said he could not understand why companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”…

“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,” said John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department. “The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.”

People might not be so anxious to encrypt their phones if the government wasn't hoovering up everything they can get their hands on and storing just in case they might want to use it against them in the future. It's intrusive and creepy and you cannot blame companies or users for wanting to put a stop to it. What did they expect?

But it seems to me that what's really happened is that the power to encrypt has just been handed off from the company to the individual. I assume that the law can legally compel a user to turn over her phone if they have probable cause. This would be in line with a search warrant for someone's home. Here's the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That certainly reads to me as if it's aimed at the person whose persons, houses, papers and effects are to be searched. The convenient work-around of going to the "owner" of the server through which the information passes through and is stored is what's being thwarted. And the even more convenient work-around of sweeping up everything "just in case" --- the equivalent of the government in 1800 having the post office copy everyone's mail and keeping it on file for future use --- is also thwarted. I would guess that had the government had the good sense not to do the latter, they would be far less likely to have to deal with the former. Companies would not have felt the need to encrypt phones in this way if they weren't forced to be part of a huge dragnet that angered their customers and made them paranoid. What the phone companies have done is toss the problem back to the individual out of sheer self-preservation.

Having said that, I'm sure the government will figure out a work-around, whether legal, technological or both. And they can still search emails and everything else through the usual methods. People do still use computers. But there's little doubt that they wouldn't be in the situation they are today if they had just adhered to the spirit of the constitution and issued warrants the proper way. Their illegal dragnet has caught them in their own web.

Laura Ingraham lectures people about decency.  Lulz.

by digby

So the woman who shot to wingnut stardom by appearing on the cover of New York Magazine in a leopard print mini skirt is now lecturing young women about dressing modestly in public so they don't get raped:

Yes, that's a shockingly revealing dress. It shows the girl's arms and upper chest as well as her legs below the knee. Why she might as well be naked.

Ingraham elaborated on her radio show:
INGRAHAM: These are still girls. There are probably young women, probably 9th or 10th grade. And at the same time we're worried about date rape. At the same time we're worried about misogynistic behavior or making comments about peoples' appearances and bullying and all these other things. How about start with the way we appear in public. The way we treat people. How we speak to them. The language we use. And I'm sure a lot of these girls that dress this way, I'm sure they don't know any better.

"If we are trying to remind people that it's what's inside that counts, your heart, your spirit, the whole person," Ingraham instructed, "let's really ensure that the first thing a young boy sees in a girl is not her cleavage, or, you know, her pubic area because her skirt is so short."

Yeah. Let's have them covered from head to toe like the Dugger girls. Or maybe a burka. No, not that. Burka's are worn by dirty foreigners who are polluting our culture just by existing in this world. A nun's habit.

But perhaps Ingraham should have a chat with some of her friends who might be giving the impression that dressing in a sexy fashion is ok:

Or maybe Ingraham could have a talk with her boss, Roger Ailes:

The number of Fox News upskirt screenshots on Google is mind-boggling. It seems to be an entire industry.  And most of them are far more revealing than the one I posted above. I'll bet those women would love to wear pants once in a while, just for comfort's sake. But they're not allowed to. I wonder why?

I do agree with Ingraham about one thing, however:
How about start with the way we appear in public. The way we treat people. How we speak to them. The language we use
Uhm, Pot?  This is the kettle calling.  You're black.

Here's was one of the most disgusting things anyone has ever done on hate radio and that's saying a lot considering her cohort. It was on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination:
Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked the speakers at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, at one point using the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965. Ingraham used the speech's anniversary to race-bait about black-on-white crime statistics and hosted Pat Buchanan to bemoan the idea that minorities face any higher level of adversity in America 50 years later.

Actually, now that I think about it, when she said that girls should be mindful of how they treat people and the language they use, she probably meant that they should treat racial and ethnic minorities like dogs and denigrate them as often as possible. Of course.


At least they aren't plotting a coup Part II (yet)

by digby

Well, it looks like this is becoming a trend. Here's the notorious Allen West:

Morning folks. While you were sleeping, Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation. Obama has no constitutional authority to make any laws or rules concerning naturalization as stated in Art I Sect 8 Clause 4. This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military. As well, we are pink-slipping men and women in uniform, Americans, and Obama wants to enlist illegals. We are already outsourcing our national security to Syrian Islamists. This is intolerable and just another reason why we must flip the Senate and begin to reverse Obama's tyranny. Any Democrat supporting this illegal order needs to be voted out!

This tracks with Armed Services Committee member congressman Brian Lamborn suggesting that he and others are conferring with Generals about resigning en masse in protest of the president's policies. It would appear that the Republicans are finally getting their flag on. Hooah!

Eric Hanonoki at Media Matters delved into what the hell West is going on about:

The Military Times reported that the Department of Defense will expand an existing program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), to allow recruiters "to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mostly rare foreign language expertise or specialized health care training." The program "is capped at 1,500 recruits per year. Officials say it's unclear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, nonpermanent visas such as students or tourists."

The Times noted that "the military recruits about 5,000 noncitizens each year, nearly all of them permanent U.S. residents, or so-called 'green card' holders. Starting in 2006, DoD began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they had special skills that are highly valued. After entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform."

That's an emergency for sure. The last thing we need is special skills in the military. All we need is some manly men who can kick ass and take names. Maybe we could get those Duck Dynasty guys to sign up. I hear they're Real Americans.

This will not go well

by Tom Sullivan

So after getting fired, the former convict walks into the front of the Oklahoma business with a knife, attacks two women, and beheads one before being shot and disabled by a company employee, a county reserve deputy:
Mr. Nolen, 30, was convicted in 2011 of multiple drug charges, assault and battery on a police officer, and escape from detention, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He had earlier arrests on drug and assault charges.

Per another report:
According to the department’s database, Nolen had “Jesus Christ” tattooed across his chest, an image of praying hands on his right arm and “As-salaamu Ataikum,” tattooed on his stomach, which could be a misspelling of “As-salaamu Alaikum,” a standard Muslim greeting that means “Peace be upon you.”
Did we mention the suspect with the Jesus and praying hands tatoos recently converted to Islam? Fox News is already talking about the "ISIS effect."

More fodder for the fear-mongering campaign ads Gail Collins runs down in the New York Times:
The most popular terrorism-connected campaign theme is overall border security, since it allows conservative candidates to roll up ISIS terrorists with illegal Hispanic immigrants. “She’s for amnesty, while terrorism experts say our border breakdown could provide an entry for groups like ISIS!” announced that David Perdue ad against Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Some experts believe that even at this early hour, Perdue has wrapped up the title of Worst Commercial of the Campaign. 
The “terrorism experts,” by the way, are actually the Texas Department of Public Safety.
From there, the ads descend from revoking the passports of American terrorists to Scott Brown, now the Republican candidate for Senate from New Hampshire, bragging how "he sponsored a bill to revoke the citizenship of anyone who gives aid to a terrorist group." Terrorist, terrorist group, and anyone, of course, being in the eye of the fear-mongerer. Collins notes that Perdue's ads suggest that Nunn "funded organizations linked to terrorists" when running George H. W. Bush's Points of Light charity.

Now a beheading. This will not go well.


Friday, September 26, 2014

The importance of kindness

by digby


Even animals need guardian angels. 
And lucky for White Boy, a dog who was stranded in the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida, a manatee was standing by, keeping the pup company until a local police officer could help rescue him from the water. While neighbors in Seminole Heights heard the dog struggling Friday evening, they did not realize what had happened until they saw him in the water the following morning, according to Good Morning America, and called the Tampa Police Department. 
His pleas for help, however, attracted the attention of a large manatee -- a species that is naturally curious -- and likely swam over to investigate, rescuing officer Randy Lopez told ABC News. White Boy couldn't make it over the cement sea wall on his own, so the manatee watched over him until Lopez was able to set up an extension ladder and bring him back to dry land. 

"You don't see that every day, and it's a great reminder... the importance of kindness," the department wrote in their Facebook post alongside the photo.
Yes it is.  Click over to see pictures of the doggie reunited with his happy family.

Containing Ebola is worse than communism

by digby

It's been a helluva day for wingnut quotes. One of the best we've seen in ages. But this one from Laura Ingraham has to take the cake:
“Is this the American military mission to assist in the fight against Ebola? Again if we are really serious about Ebola being a threat to the United States of America, we have to shut down our border because you never know who could come across–probably not people with Ebola, but who knows. We gotta be much tougher on who we allow to come into this country legally on planes…”

“The military is just another tool in his arsenal to level the playing field, right? I mean, in other words, Africa really deserves more of America’s money because we’re people of privilege. We’re people of great privilege, so we should do what we can, we the American taxpayers, to transfer wealth over to Africa. It’s his father’s rage against colonialism, as Dinesh D’Souza wrote about, and maybe this is a way to continue to atone for that… If a few American military personnel have to be exposed to the Ebola virus to carry out this redistribution of the privileged’s wealth, then so be it.”

She's been very upset about this Ebola mission from the beginning. (She even pretended not to know what a virus was when he first announced it.) But then she's pretty much in a state of permanent high dudgeon about showing any form of basic human decency toward the rest of the human race. (Even Americans had better either be Allen West or Ward and June Cleaver.) It's pathological. Unfortunately, she happens to speak for a fair number of our fellow countrymen.

Schmaht as a whip: Part XXIV

by digby

whatevah ...
Well, at least they aren't plotting a coup.

by digby

... yet:
“[L]et me reassure you on this. A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation,’” [GOP congressman] Lamborn said Tuesday, adding that if generals resigned en masse in protest of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, they would “go out in a blaze of glory.”
That's very reassuring. Those of you who just watched The Roosevelts are familiar with the fact that he overruled his generals' desire to forget about going after Germany first and concentrate on the Pacific. The Generals complied. And in that case the fate of the world really did depend upon making the right decision.

Of course, that doesn't mean they would never do it. And they could plot a coup as well. (It wouldn't be the first time.)

In case you were wondering, Lamborn voted for the Syrian funding and in his recent questioning of Secretary Hagel was just mainly concerned that the president wasn't leaving every, single last military option on the table. He ended his comments by saying he would continue to support everything the president is doing. Seriously.

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