12 December 2017

Quote of the Day

But perhaps it does explain why America’s legions of puffed-up generals have been such abysmal failures for onwards of a half-century now.
David Stockman, former Reagan budget wonk, explaining just how arrogant and stupid someone has to be to blithely lie to the FBI the way that Michael Flynn did.
I don't agree with his thesis, that the FBI laid a "Perjury Trap" with Mr. Flynn, but it is mind-boggling just how stupid he was, and I do agree that its origin comes from the toxic culture of general officers in the US military.

Linkage


See the AyePhone:

11 December 2017

Damn

After decades of deaths from collisions with ships and entanglements with fishing nets, the North Atlantic Right Whale is on the brink of extinction:
Officials with the US federal government say it is time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died so far in 2017.

The situation is so dire that American and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”

Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.

………

The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales’ deaths.
Any fix is probably going to be greeted by howls of protests from the fishing and shipping industries, but f%$# them.

Thank God for Incompetents

A would be suicide bomber in New York was such an incompetent bomb maker that he couldn't even manage to blow himself up:
A would-be suicide attacker detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his body in the heart of Manhattan’s busiest subway corridor on Monday, sending thousands of terrified commuters fleeing the smoke-choked passageways, and bringing the heart of Midtown to a standstill as hundreds of police officers converged on Times Square and the surrounding streets.

But the makeshift weapon failed to fully detonate, and the attacker himself was the only one seriously injured in the blast, which unfolded just before 7:20 a.m.

Law enforcement officials said the attacker, identified by the police as Akayed Ullah, 27, chose the location because of its Christmas-themed posters, a motive that recalled strikes in Europe, and he told investigators that he set off his bomb in retaliation for United States airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere.

It was the third attack in New York City since September 2016, and the second in two months, coming only weeks after eight people were killed in a truck attack along a Hudson River bike path. Like the earlier two, the attack on Monday appears to have been carried out by a so-called “lone-wolf” terrorist.

The explosion on Monday morning echoed through the subway tunnels just off Times Square and filled parts of the Port Authority Bus Terminal with smoke as commuters fled. Even as smoke still filled the chamber, Mr. Ullah was subdued by Port Authority police officers.

………

An immigrant from Bangladesh, Mr. Ullah came to live in Brooklyn through a visa program available to people who have relatives who are United States citizens. 
Some thoughts:
  • If the FBI weren't so fixated on sting operations on people who would never have been a threat, maybe they would have noticed the guy.
  • This is the first time I've heard of a Bangladeshi being involved, though I do know that Wahabbi/Salafist movements have been growing in strength there.
  • My guess is that his pipe bomb was insufficiently sealed, and so the gunpowder, or other low explosive, mostly just burnt, rather than generating a significant explosion.
We are lucky that this guy didn't know what he was doing.

Tweet of the Day


America's finest news source.

10 December 2017

As Atrios Would Say, "Time for a Blogger Ethics Panel"

It appears that LA Times senior security reporter in Washington DC, made a habit of taking direction from the CIA on the content of his stories:
A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.

“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”

………

Dilanian’s emails were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with reporters. They include email exchanges with reporters for the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. In addition to Dilanian’s deferential relationship with the CIA’s press handlers, the documents show that the agency regularly invites journalists to its McLean, Va., headquarters for briefings and other events. Reporters who have addressed the CIA include the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, the former ombudsmen for the New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post, and Fox News’ Brett Baier, Juan Williams, and Catherine Herridge.

Dilanian left the Times to join the AP last May, and the emails released by the CIA only cover a few months of his tenure at the Times. They show that in June 2012, shortly after 26 members of congress wrote a letter to President Obama saying they were “deeply concerned” about the drone program, Dilanian approached the agency about story that he pitched as “a good opportunity” for the government.
It appears that the AP has conducted a review and called it all hunky-dory.

Of course, Google and Facebook are doing their level best to ensure that this sort of corrupt incestuous "journalism" is never challenged, by filtering out alternate views as, "Fake News."

At Least, There is Symmetry

The Russians made an offer to stop trying to effect US elections.

It was rejected out of hand, because the US was unwilling to promise not to meddle in Russian elections:
The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference, three senior US administration officials tell BuzzFeed News.

Russia first broached the subject in July, when one of Vladimir Putin’s top diplomats arrived in Washington with a sheet of proposals aimed at addressing a top concern of the US government: A resurgence of Russian meddling in the 2018 elections.

………

To test the possibility of a mutual agreement, Putin dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Washington for a July 17 meeting with Under Secretary Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department. The official US account of the meeting offered only a bland summary of conversations on “areas of mutual concern.” But three US administration officials, including one inside the meeting, said Ryabkov handed over a document containing a bold proposal: A sweeping noninterference agreement between Moscow and Washington that would prohibit both governments from meddling in the other’s domestic politics.

After examining the proposal, which has not previously been reported, US officials told Moscow there would be no deal.

“We said ‘thank you very much but now is not the time for this,’” said a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic discussions.

………

The US official described the Russian proposal in historic terms, likening it to the 1933 accord between President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov that ended 16 years of American nonrecognition of the Soviet Union in exchange for a pledge not to interfere in US politics.

Ryabkov proposed “that we come to terms and agree not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs,” said the senior US official. “Historically, it relates back to the agreements that were done at the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration when we were establishing a relationship with the Soviet Union for the very first time,” said the senior official.

………

When asked if the president weighed in on the proposal, a spokesman for the National Security Council said only that the White House and State Department “coordinated closely on the United States’ response.” The spokesman was quick to point out that deliberations over the noninterference agreement never advanced to the stage of formal bilateral negotiations.

………

A second senior State Department official said any potential gains would come at too high a cost. “We would have to give up democracy promotion in Russia, which we’re not willing to do,” said the official.

………

Advocates of a deal point to President Barack Obama’s 2015 accord with China aimed at reducing commercial cyber espionage as an instructive case study.

“While Obama was criticized at the time for what looked to some like capitulation, experts now agree that the deal had at least some positive benefit,” said Kimberly Marten, the director of Columbia University’s program on US-Russia relations. Martin cited a 2016 report by the network-security firm FireEye finding that Chinese hackers had carried out fewer attacks on US targets.

She also said Putin’s paranoia about US meddling in Russia’s upcoming election could produce serious negotiations with Moscow. Putin “will almost certainly win another six-year term, unless the United States disrupts things by, say, releasing a cache of compromising material that turns the Russian population against him,” she wrote in a recent article. “To avoid that possibility, Putin might just find an anti-doxing agreement to be useful.”
(emphasis mine)

Apart from the misuse of the term "Doxing," these reports place allegations of meddling in elections in a different light:  The US openly, and aggressively, meddling in foreign elections.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who follows history.

Canada is Trying to Save the American Labor Movement

The Canadian government is meeting with some of the country’s biggest labor groups to discuss Nafta as talks on the deal are set to resume.

Labor Minister Patricia Hajdu will meet union leaders Friday in a round-table discussion near Toronto to get input on the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s the latest sign that labor has the Trudeau government’s ear in talks that could hinge, in part, on Canada’s push to raise working standards in both the U.S. and Mexico.

“That’s an indication of how much we value our labor movement, and we want to make sure as we go into negotiations that the rights of Canadian workers are protected,” Hajdu said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’ll do everything in our power to make sure of that.”

Nafta talks resume Monday with a partial round in Washington, without political leaders at the table. Canada wants the U.S. to undo so-called “right to work” provisions in some states, while also calling on Mexico to raise labor standards. One of Canada’s top union leaders, Jerry Dias, has met often with the Canadian negotiating team and regularly predicts Nafta talks will fail.

Trudeau has been pushing to add “progressive” elements like labor, gender and the environment into all trade negotiations -- a move derided by political opponents as “virtue signaling” that could make it tougher to get a deal. That strategy was a driving factor in the surprise false start this week of trade talks with China, a country that typically shuns the bells and whistles Canada wants in any trade deal.

Those added elements are among Nafta’s sticking points. Canada wants its two North American partners to ratify eight core conventions, including the right to organize, laid out by the International Labour Organization to make Nafta work. “We did put forward a very ambitious proposal on labor,” chief negotiator Steve Verheul told lawmakers this week. While Canada has adopted all eight and Mexico has nearly done so, the U.S. has adopted only two, Verheul said. “The U.S. is resisting that proposal.”

Canada’s call to claw back U.S. “right-to-work” laws, which ban unions from requiring workers to pay dues, is another obstacle. “The U.S. is also resisting that,” Verheul said.
As Yves Smith pithily observes, "Sounds like the Canadians are doing better by labor than our own Democrats."

The history of the modern Democratic Party does not show meaningful support for organized labor.

When Republicans pass so-called "right-to-work " laws, Democrats never repeal them, and the Obama administration dropped its support for the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check) before the last states were called in 2008.

The positions pushed by Trudeau benefit workers in all three of the signatories of NAFTA, so I expect Democrats, or at least the current Democratic Party establishment to vociferously oppose labor justice, because they have sold their souls to big donors.

09 December 2017

Best Political Tweet Ever

This encapsulates the Democratic establishment, and what needs to be done with it, in a nutshell:
This is brilliant.

My computer finally finished updating.

Light Posting Tonight

After 2 hours, Windows 10 is still updating.

Posted via mobile.