NPR had a story today about how the U.S. Navy says it needs to train sailors off the coast of California, including in areas where blue whales travel. I am with the whales on this one. The Navy has the whole Pacific Ocean--the largest body of water in the world--and it can't steer clear of whales? I say cut the training lest a single blue whale be harmed--and I'm not an environmentalist in any degree.
Obama said today, or yesterday, that if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons it "crosses a line." There are no lines to cross in a strict non-interventionist foreign policy (that is, a foreign policy of Jefferson, morality, peace, commerce, and neutrality). Whether or not the Syrian government has used chemical weapons is immaterial. Whether or not the Syrian government kills millions of Syrians is immaterial. Both of things would, of course, be horrible, but still no justification for the U.S. to intervene with its military or any other way.
Republicans are upset that Obama spoke at Planned Parenthood. I don't know why, they vote every year to fund the organization. This includes when they control the Congress and the White House.
Andrew Napolitano has lost 60 lbs. by eliminating wheat from his diet. Congratulations!
The memo must have gone out, because the promoters of perpetual war, empire, central banking, and the police state are smearing the new Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Keep it up, guys. This is very good for fundraising.
Syrian rebels have been entrusted by US intelligence to collect information to show that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own citizens and, surprise, they have come back with the "evidence" the warmongers have sought to satisfy rebel demands for a US attack. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in a stunning about-face, has dutifully reported back to Congress these "findings" as fact and in so doing has shifted the US war machine from "neutral" into "drive".
Here is apparently the sourcing for the dramatic reversal in the opinion of Secretary Hagel and the US government:
"Christiane Amanpour, the chief international correspondent for CNN, said that sources have told her that physicians working with the Free Syrian Army obtained blood samples from chemical warfare victims and provided them to US intelligence along with soil samples collected from the earth."
They wouldn't falsify those, would they? It's not like they have a history of faking reports to suit their goals of drawing the US into the conflict...do they?
Two days ago, senior Israeli intelligence official General Itai Brun claimed that suspicious-looking pictures on YouTube of people with foam on their faces made him "nearly 100 percent" sure that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons. Secretary Hagel appeared blindsided by the claim and replied that he was provided no evidence by Israel to back it up.
A report on Hagel at the time, speaking in Cairo, has him asserting that:
"...Israeli claims of Assad employing chemical warfare were 'suspicious' and that 'we have to be very careful here before we draw any conclusions based on real intelligence.'”
Amazingly, just some 24 hours later, he now claims that the US intelligence community believes “with varying degrees of confidence" that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, including sarin gas.
Reading between the lines in such a situation is very important. What Hagel said was that the US intelligence community has determined “with varying degrees of confidence" that the Syrian government used chemical weapons (based on samples collected by the Syrian rebels). What this means in English -- and here I am forced to speculate based on what we know from the "footnote" taken by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) on the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which turned out to be absolutely correct -- is that some zealots in the intelligence community ran with this dubious intelligence passed on by Israel and "produced" by the insurgents like they ran with the yellowcake and the aluminum tubes lies on Iraq in the run-up to the war. Cooler heads (and my money is on INR, and not only because they have been right on the mark in the past but also because I am familiar with their independent streak and track record) screamed to the hilltops that this analysis was bogus, thus providing the "varying" degrees of confidence cited by Hagel.
Varying degrees of confidence likely means that INR believes the conclusion is garbage. I could be wrong. I am only speculating, but with some basis.
Meanwhile, the US is demanding -- and as usual the United Nations complies -- that Russia and China be excluded from any UN fact-finding mission into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria because the two countries are too involved in the conflict to be objective. To be truly objective, of course, the team must only be made up of the countries who are supplying weapons and training to the al Qaeda-allied insurgents in Syria. Truth is lies, war is peace.
And the "Hagel Trap" is sprung.
On Twitter @DanielLMcAdams
Regarding my posts on abolishing the FAA, I received this word from an air traffic controller, and am posting it with his permission: "Out of a normal 8 hour work day… maybe at most 4 1/2 hours is actually spent working by ARTCC controllers. The rest is on break. The east and northeast is rabidly unionized with unionization rates above 90%. Already those of us working west of the Mississippi are being told not to reroute or send anyone direct headed east because of workload concerns. Much of this is union politics, party politics, and political grandstanding."
In response to my latest article, a respondent named Paul provided still more context. He says:
It is hard for Rainbowlandians (what I call Americans) to understand that to those countries that we have invaded we are the terrorists. On the day of the Sandy Hook massacre the US killed 69 Pakistani children in a drone strike. Our kids get killed it's a terrorist attack; we kill their kids and it's democracy in action.
That middle sentence is powerful enough to require being repeated. "On the day of the Sandy Hook massacre the US killed 69 Pakistani children in a drone strike." People, they don't hate us for our freedoms. Also, I love the moniker, "Rainbowlandians" as an indicator of a society who not only believes all that "exceptionalism" propaganda but also blissfully ignore the terror bestowed upon others ostensibly in their names.
CORRECTION: There was NOT a drone strike on the same day as Sandy Hook, fortunately. Unfortunately, there was a Pakistan drone strike October 30, 2006, which killed 69 children at a madrassa, i.e., a school connected to a mosque. Just as bad, just not as coincidental. (Thanks, Bill!)
LRC had a huge week on Facebook,. More than 1,000,000 people saw our updates. Thank you!
But Gov. Devall Patrick says the taxpayers can't know the details.
Bush Library, dedicated today to the man who once boasted that he doesn't read anything.
The $2 trillion underground market.
UPDATE from Chris Westley:
The same guy who made that $100 image also made this. Very funny!
The cable "news" channels are giving us full coverage of the dedication ceremonies for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. A large facility that will house both books, . . . and the man wasn't even through coloring in one of them yet!
As I write this, a murderer, who is armed and dangerous, is currently on the loose in Denver, after murdering someone last night.
So, shouldn't the whole city be shut down now? Shouldn't the swat team be going house to house threatening every citizen at gunpoint to catch this guy? What's the difference between this fugitive and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? If you murder a handful of people the city gets shut down? If you murder only one (that we know of), then it's business as usual? Is it just arithmetic?
It's not the math, of course. When I was a kid, I remember my father installing new window locks in my bedroom because Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker) was on the loose in our town. By then, Ramirez had already murdered at least 8 or 9 people and raped 10 people or so. Most of them were strangers to Ramirez, so we were all at risk.
It didn't even occur to us that the police should go door to door forcing everyone out of their homes at gunpoint. But then again, Americans then were not a bunch of hysterical sheep craving government violation of all their rights in the name of safety.
In the end, the cops didn't even catch Ramirez of course. An angry mob chased him down and nearly beat him to death before the cops showed up.
GE, which has had a hand in millions of civilian deaths through its Pentagon contracts, will no longer loan money to gun shops. (Thanks to Travis Holte)
As far back as May 8, 2009, Tom Englehardt (in an LRC article) mentioned reports that drones in Pakistan had killed "hundreds of bystanders". (I haven't searched for the earliest such reports.) By October, 2012, a 36-page study appeared out of Columbia Law School, and I believe it was not the first. Analysts for quite some time had begun saying that drone strikes created more terrorists than they killed, and that the people being targeted were not "high" terrorist figures. There was also a great deal of criticism of second strikes on funerals for the people killed. But drone policy was Obama's baby, and he favored it. Despite the counter-productiveness of drone strikes to achieve the empire's aims, now channeled through Obama, he continued these strikes. If he felt he could not back down, retreat, or show softness in his goal of dominating the politics of the regions being droned, and if he had nothing to put in its place to achieve this aim, then he decided to accept the accompanying costs of creating terrorists. The Boston Marathon bombing is one of those acceptable costs, although I am certain he wishes the FBI had not messed this one up royally.
The adminstration of Obama wants the maximum capacity to use drones without accountability. It doesn't want anyone second-guessing its policies, and that includes Congress. Congress is a flabby and slow contender in the making and control over policy anyway.
The Columbia report complains about the "limited public debate on drones". That's because academics ignore most everything except what other academics say. They're not reading press accounts, or LRC, or Englehardt, or they're not giving much weight, say, even to a former CIA employee who criticizes the drone policy. Most academics don't get ahead except by massaging lots of data, and so we find them complaining that "hard facts" and "information that ought to be provided by the U.S. government" are not being provided. This is called "stonewalling" or "secrecy". It's any government's method of doing what it wishes to do without being constrained by widespread public knowledge of its base activities.
The U.S. government can stand LRC critics and quite a few others because so few Americans are paying attention, and when they do pay attention, they literally do not know whether they should believe what they are reading because their firmly-anchored belief is that the government is not only the authority but also "good" authority. This belief is part of a belief and value system that has been inculcated in them for years. Adults have to go through a period of years to root out such a system, and most people don't do this.
The U.S. government even welcomes a certain amount of criticism as evidence that the government is open, that there is public debate, that this is a viable free-speech democracy, and that the government's policies have been legitimized via this "open" debate. But since the government controls the flow of information to most of a big corporate media that cannot and does not put up any serious criticism, the government need not worry about critics. In addition, it can find and pay off, albeit indirectly, countless academics, columnists and commentators, who have no personal interest in being radical and a great interest in being loyal Americans who spout the ever-shifting party lines. More accurately, the standard analyses that never doubt the goodness of the State and Empire are like a river of Empire flowing between two banks, which are Left and Right. Almost everything that the public hears from first grade onwards is channeled between these two banks. This provides an illusion of a free country, just as the banks provide an illusion of a freely-flowing river.
Now, at least 5 years after drone criticism has begun, the Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing in which a man from Yemen tells them face to face what the effects of the drone policy are on making Yemenis anti-American. This slowness in responding to events on the ground is intentional on the part of Congressional leaders. They only address an issue when, for whatever reasons that are in their interest, they calculate the time is right. Then they schedule hearings and then they invite hand-picked witnesses. Any concern about the loss of innocent lives of foreigners or the retaliation on American soil only enters their calculations indirectly. Power and position are #1, and lives factor in secondarily only insofar as they affect power and position. An extreme cynicism, if you will, is called for in assessing these matters, if only to counteract the programming that most Americans have undergone. However, one need only ask why it has taken so long to address this drone issue, even to the limited extent of holding a hearing? And what does Senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the committee, stand to gain from having this hearing at this time?
It may be that Durbin's political antenna has picked up some possible gains to his power and position by gingerly moving toward a position that, while not anti-drone, advocates more, as he put it in May, "checks and balances". He also seems carefully to be stepping toward a more anti-war position. He said in May
"From a constitutional viewpoint, it goes to this authorization for the use of military force. I don’t believe many, if any, of us believed when we voted for that – and I did vote for it – that we were voting for the longest war in the history of the United States and putting a stamp of approval on a war policy against terrorism that, 10 years plus later, we’re still using."
I will venture to say that Durbin will remain solidly within the river banks. He may tack his boat a little more in an anti-war direction, but since both the left and right banks have for decades now been heavily mired in a pro-war fog, that direction may be beneath the river's surface. Perhaps he should capsize his boat. In the end, he will if he succeeds gain some points for himself while not altering the Empire by any significant amount.
The Empire flows on.
In a gentlemanly debate at American University, Justin demolishes his opponent, Jonathan Rauch. Advice: start at 8:00.