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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014 08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014 11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014 12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015 01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015 02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015 03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015 04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015


 

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Hullabaloo


Sunday, April 26, 2015

 
SWATing with cops

by digby

Somehow I don't think this is what the founders had in mind when they wrote the 4th Amendment:

A Residence With Locking Doors And A Working Toilet Is All That's Needed To Justify A No-Knock Warrant

No-knock warrants have become the strategy of first choice for many police departments. Most of these target those suspected of drug possession or sales, rather than the truly dangerous situations they should be reserved for. The rise in no-knock warrants has resulted in an increased number of deadly altercations. Cops have been shot in self-defense by residents who thought their homes were being invaded by criminals. Innocent parties have been wounded or killed because the element of surprise police feel is so essential in preventing the destruction of evidence puts cops -- often duded up in military gear -- into a mindset that demands violent reaction to any perceived threat. In these situations, the noise and confusion turns everything into a possible threat, even the motions of frightened people who don't have time to grasp the reality -- and severity -- of the situation.

No-knock warrants are basically SWATting, with cops -- rather than 13-year-old gamers -- instigating the response. Judges should be holding any no-knock warrant request to a higher standard and demand more evidentiary justification for the extreme measure -- especially considering the heightened probability of a violent outcome. But they don't.

A Massachusetts court decision posted by the extremely essential FourthAmendment.com shows just how little it takes to obtain a no-knock warrant. The probable cause provided to obtain the no-knock warrant was ridiculous, but it wasn't challenged by the magistrate who signed off on the request. What's detailed here should raise concerns in every citizen.
The affidavit supporting the warrant contained the following representations: 1) the extensive training and experience in drug investigations, controlled purchases and arrests of the officer who made the affidavit, 2) the confidential informant's report that the apartment for which a warrant was sought was "small, confined and private," 3) the confidential informant's report that the defendant "keeps his door locked and admits only people whom he knows," 4) the fact that the defendant sold drugs to the informant only after arrangements were made by telephone, and 5) the officer's assessment that, given the retail nature of the defendant's operation and the fragile nature of the illegal drugs involved, "it would not be difficult for [the defendant] to destroy the narcotics if given the forewarning."
In other words, if you have a "private" home with working toilets and locks and you don't routinely allow complete strangers to wander around your home, you, too, could be subjected to a no-knock warrant. This description fits pretty much every person who lives in a residence anywhere. All it takes is an officer's "upon information and belief" statement and a few assertions from a confidential informant, whose otherwise unreliable narration (if, say, he/she was facing charges in court) is routinely treated as infallible by cops and courts alike.

I was watching the show "Turn" the other night, which is about the Revolutionary War. And in the show one of the main things that really chaps the colonists' hides is the high-handed way the government soldiers and other representatives just storm into their homes whenever they pleased. Not all that much has changed, unfortunately. And they are mostly doing it in service of the insane war on drugs.

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Sunday Funnies

by digby

From the Pulitzer Prize nominated Tom Tomorrow:




TPP for dummies:


 
Laboratories of failure

by digby

Paul Rosenberg has a deep dive piece at Salon today about the abject failure of GOP economic policies and how that's likely to be a big factor in the presidential race. Here's a bit of it:

What do Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal all have in common? They’re all sitting governors who’d like to be president, sure. But what else?

How about being embarrassingly bad at job creation? That’s right. From January 2011 through January 2015, Louisiana under Jindal ranked 32nd in job creation with 5.4 percent growth over four years. Wisconsin under Walker ranked 35th, with 4.85 percent growth. New Jersey under Christie ranked 40th, with 4.15 percent growth. This compares with a national average of 8.21 percent.

Even Ohio’s John Kasich, who’s worked more with Democrats—most notably by agreeing to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare—and thus tarnished his brand with conservative purists while puffing himself up with Beltway pundits — only ranked 23rd. He’s still under the national average, with Ohio’s 6.23 percent growth. Ohio has yet to get back to 2007 employment levels, “The nation and the majority of other states reached this benchmark in 2014,” said researcher Hannah Halbert, in a statement from Policy Matters Ohio.

And then there’s Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, once a 2016 hopeful cheered on by Grover Norquist and supported by supply-side icon Arthur Laffer in his crusade to slash (and eventually abolish) Kansas state income tax—a sure-fired job-creation move, according to the promises of all concerned. Justly dubbed a “failed experiment” for the massive deficits it has generated, the experiment also produced only lackluster job growth of 5.95 percent, ranking 28th in the nation—better than Walker and Christie, sure, but lower than its neighbors in Nebraska (25th) and Oklahoma (14th).

After years on end of House Speaker John Boehner whining, “Where are the jobs?” this is a singularly unimpressive lot of contenders, wannabes and dropouts. But it’s not an anomaly, as we’ll soon see. Nor is it an anomaly that the national press, so far, routinely ignores this abysmal record. But can they continue to ignore it going forward—particularly in the age of social media?

Historically, state governors have been the most credible candidates for president. Eight sitting governors have been elected to the White House, compared to just three sitting senators, and four vice presidents (compared to eight who took office after a president died). As chief executive of a state, governors can claim an experience most similar to that of president (though without the foreign policy part), and the potential diversity of that experience purportedly allows for an influx of proven practical state-level solutions to be ushered onto the national stage.

At least that’s how the political folklore goes. Now, however, it’s something of the opposite. With the off-year Tea Party wave of 2010 sweeping a large number of ideologically extreme politicians into office, decades of right-wing state-level institution-building reached fruition, and helped establish a high degree of uniformly mistaken economic practices—cutting taxes, public investment and much-needed services, all in accordance with a playbook that’s a proven loser. While individual presidential candidates can be expected to blow their own horns, the fact that their basic playbooks are all so similar opens them up to a broader attack: the entire framework of how they think about economic policy simply doesn’t work.

They'll talk about tax rates as if that's a substitute for jobs and growth and economic security. It will be interesting to watch them spin. But we've had a major experiment in the "laboratories of democracy" these past few years and the picture isn't pretty.

Rosenberg presents tons of data to support this in the rest of the piece, all of which is very informative.

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What is this "appearance of conflict of interest" you speak of?

by digby

While the Village scribes were all preening about their moral superiority and pretending there's nothing even slightly unseemly about hobnobbing with the officials they cover and kissing the rings of Hollywood celebrities, look what the Republican candidates were up to:

This weekend, Republican presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), will travel to Las Vegas to audition for billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s backing at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting. In their speeches, the candidates will make their pitch to Adelson that they mostly closely share his interests.
Mega donor Adelson and his wife Miriam spent nearly $150 million on the 2012 election — more than the Koch brothers — and are likely to match that amount this campaign cycle. With his $32 billion net worth, Adelson was the single largest campaign donor in American history.

Early in the last presidential election, Adelson made a decision to give a majority of his donations to conservative nonprofits which do not disclose donors. At the time, Adelson said he believed the media’s use of the phrase “casino mogul” when discussing his contributions is not helpful to the people he is trying to elect. By the time President Obama was reelected, Adelson had given close to $50 million of his contributions to dark money groups that were created after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stream of rulings against political spending limits.
T
But even though his donations may not be disclosed, his intentions are still transparent.
Last year, the “Sheldon Adelson primary,” as it has been called, auditioned Gov. Chris Christie (R), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), among others. Those candidates and the ones speaking this year will all try to one-up each other by appealing to the policies Adelson most strongly supports.

Adelson owes hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year, a low amount considering his wealth that he achieves through loopholes like shifting his stock holdings in ways that exempt the transfers from federal taxes. The GOP candidates speaking at this weekend’s meeting have all proposed making his rate even lower.

Bush has called for eliminating the capital gains tax which would have given Adelson and his wife an estimated $139.7 million tax cut in 2013 on dividends from their shares in Adelson’s company alone, according to a Center for American Progress report. Meanwhile, Cruz co-sponsored a 2013 tax proposal that called for replacing all income, payroll and employment taxes with a 23 percent sales tax. If that were to pass, Adelson’s taxes would be almost completely eliminated. And Perry’s proposed 20 percent flat tax would give Adelson an almost $142 million tax cut.
One of the issues most important to Adelson is his staunch opposition to a Palestinian state and his unwavering support for Israel. Adelson owns a popular newspaper in Israel called the Israel Hayom, which is widely recognized as having the singular goal of promoting Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Although Israeli campaign finance rules prevent contributions from non-Israeli citizens, “the existence of a newspaper like Israel Hayom egregiously violates the law, because [Adelson is] actually is providing a candidate with nearly unlimited resources,” Hebrew University economist Momi Dahan told the American Prospect.

But of course it doesn't matter. According to the Villagers, there is no "appearance of conflict of interest" in their little week-end soiree and neither is there even the slightest reason to be concerned about any "appearance" of a quid-pro-quo when Republican candidates for president openly go begging for money from billionaires who openly require them to promise to deliver on their pet issues.

All of this is evidently perfectly fine, nothing to see here. Nobody said a word about it on any of the morning shows. But then they didn't have time what with all their pearl clutching and hand wringing over Clinton's "appearance of conflict of interest" with the family's global charity.


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Near certainty is in the eye of the beholder

by digby

Here's a quote for the ages:

Mr. Weinstein’s death caused some in the White House to question whether the president’s policy was being followed. “It makes you wonder whether the intelligence community’s definition of near certainty is the same as everybody else’s,” said a senior administration official. “But the near certainty standard is the best possible standard.”

I don't even know what to say to that. Don't they have any criteria or do they just ask the analyst what his gut tells him? And how can you call something a "standard" if you don't even know how it's defined?

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CNN's latest war porn images 

by digby

Can you see the problem with the following images?




I knew that you could. Those images are from other countries. There are no ISIS fighters taking to the streets of Oxnard waving their ISIS flags. And most people surely know that on a conscious level. But by telling these stories of American threats with this footage they create a scary, subliminal image in the minds of Americans who are watching, especially those who are only halfway paying attention, which is most of us.

I seem to recall some alleged journalistic ethic from the dark ages that said you must never use images which are not directly related to the story you are telling. Now, it's true that in the screen shot at the top, it says "Syria" in small print, but that doesn't get them off the hook. All day long they had "experts" from a remote location calling in to talk about this story in exactly the same way they might have a correspondent on the phone talking from a battlefield.  The whole thing was set up to look as if ISIS had invaded the United States.

Again, people certainly understood on a conscious level that this was not the case.  But subconsciously, these images are now associated with a threat to America.  CNN was telling a story with those images but it wasn't a news story it was a fantasy, one designed to titillate its audience. Turn the sound off when one of these stories comes on and you'll understand the plot they're selling.

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When these guys get bored by politics it's very bad news

by digby

Corey Robin has a good piece in Salon this morning warning about this latest expression of political ennui coming from certain writers. He warns that when people of this ilk get bored with politics it's usually time to start a war.
Packer belongs to a special tribe of ideologically ambidextrous scribblers — call them political romantics — who are always on the lookout for a certain kind of experience in politics. They don’t want power, they don’t seek justice, they’re not interested in interests. They want a feeling. A feeling of exaltation and elation, unmoored from any specific idea or principle save that of sacrifice, of giving oneself over to the nation and its cause.

It’s not that political romantics seek the extinction of the self in the purgative fire of the nation-state. It’s that they see in that hallucination an elevation of the self, a heightening of individual feeling, an intensification of personal experience. That’s what makes them so dangerous. They think they’re shopping for the public good, but they’re really in the market for is an individual experience. An experience that often comes with a hefty price tag.
It's the media, too, although they are moved by a simpler desire for sheer stimulation which can be delivered through tabloid stories, disasters and other major events. But little gets their juices flowing like a war. (Why else do we see all these reporters embellishing their stories of being in the battle?)

And needless to say, nothing makes right wing hawks happier than when they can march around wrapped in the flag calling everyone else a traitor.

Read the whole thing, it's very good. And then check out this older piece by Chris Hayes talking about how so many of the Iraq war cheerleaders openly expressed a desire to be another "Greatest Generation." This is a rather human impulse, I think.  But one that should be resisted, particularly by the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth.

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The plaintive cry of the perpetually oppressed

by Tom Sullivan

A somewhat misanthropic friend once said if he ever wound up as an insider in some group he would have to create an outside just to feel like himself. Even as conservative Christians insist that they are America, inhabiting a country created by God himself just for them, and as sure as the prosperity gospel that he smiles upon and blesses them, they are most comfortable posturing as oppressed outsiders. So GOP presidential wannabes were on message yesterday in Iowa:

“The single greatest threat to all of our freedoms is the threat to your religious liberty,” Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, told the crowd in a speech that at times sounded like a church sermon. “Let me be clear tonight: I’m not backing off because what I’m saying is true. We are criminalizing Christianity in this country.”

That theme was predictably popular and reverberated throughout a five-hour-long summit hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition that attracted more than 1,200 Republicans and churchgoers. The event kicked off with a prayer calling on the Lord to "restore this country through godly leadership."

“You know, in the past month we have seen religious liberty under assault at an unprecedented level,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his White House bid last month. He was also met with repeated bursts of applause.

You know the drill. If you won't let us dominate you, then you're oppressing us.

Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal this week took to the New York Times to position himself as defender of the faith:

Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn’t an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?

In an America in which over three-quarters identify as Christians, a GOP that controls both houses of Congress, 31 governorships, and nearly 70 percent of state legislatures is, according to Jindal, beset on all sides by "left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom" and "seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence."

As Heather Cox Richardson observed in Salon, Jindal laid bare Movement Conservatism's Grand Bargain when he wrote that defending freedom "requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters." And what's really got Jindal and the religious right pissed is that after Walmart and NASCAR sided with marriage equality activists against recent "religious freedom" bills, the bargain is broken. Richardson writes:

Its end has been a long time coming. The toxic amalgam of economic and social reactionaries that Jindal identified began to mix after the Second World War. Americans in that era rallied behind the New Deal consensus. Reactionary businessmen loathed business regulation and taxation, but had no luck convincing voters to turn against the policies most saw as important safeguards against another Great Depression. Then, in 1951, a wealthy young writer suggested that social issues might be the way to break popular support for the New Deal. William F. Buckley, Jr. advanced the idea that unfettered capitalism and Christianity should be considered fundamental American values that could not be questioned. According to him, anyone who called for an active government or a secular society was an anti-American collectivist in league with international communism.

With communism a fading memory except among aging Cold Warriors, and with one-quarter of the world's population Muslim, Movement Conservatives will have a hard time getting buy-in from multinational corporations in alienating an already huge and growing market. What the religious conservatives are waking up to post-Indiana is that their former partners no longer need them.

Perhaps capitalists should have betrayed them with a kiss?


Saturday, April 25, 2015

 
Saturday Night at the Movies


Stealing the sun from the day: Top 10 Eco-docs

By Dennis Hartley



Come on you world, won’t you give a damn?
Turn on some lights and see this garbage can
Time is the essence if we plan to stay
Death is in stride when filth is the pride of our home

-from “Powerful People” by Gino Vanelli

So, did you do anything special for Earth Day? I know, if you blinked, you missed it. But in case you care, it was this past Wednesday. Frankly, it almost seems counter-productive to have a once-a-year, standalone Earth “day”, because when you stop to think about it for about, oh, 5 seconds, shouldn’t every day be “earth day”? It sort of devalues the importance of taking care of our planet (since we appear to have only been issued the one, far back as I can remember). And what with the drought in California and the rising sea levels in Florida, and the snow-less winter in Anchorage, Alaska (they had to start the Iditarod in Fairbanks this year, ferchrissake) and the record snow in New England…you get the picture. At any rate, in honor of Earth Day (week), I’ve cobbled together my picks for Top 10 Eco-docs. As per usual, my list is alphabetical, in no ranking order. And, as long as you don’t print it out, this week’s post is 100% biodegradable (it’s a com-post!).

Carbon Nation-The tag line for Peter Byck’s 2009 documentary promises “a climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change”. This is either good news or bad news, depending on what you generally look for in an eco-doc. If you are looking to have your worst fears confirmed about how screwed the planet might be, or a “catch ‘em with their pants down” muckraker about the fossil fuels industry, (like Gasland) then you may be frustrated by Byck’s non-partisan approach. However, if you already “get” the part about the sky falling, yet yearn for positive news on the solutions front, this film just might inspire you. Byck traverses America, profiling people who are striving to make actual headway to lighten our carbon footprint. And that’s a good thing.

Chasing Ice- This is not a putdown: Jeff Orlowski’s film is glacially paced. Because these days, “glacial pacing” ain’t what it used to be. Glaciers are moving along (”retreating”, technically) at a pretty good clip. This does not portend well for the planet. To put it in a less flowery way…we’re fucked. After all, according to renowned nature photographer (and film subject) James Balog, “The story…is in the ice.” Balog’s fascinating journey began in 2005, while he was on an assignment in the Arctic for National Geographic to document the effect of climate change. Up until that fateful trip, he candidly admits on camera that he “…didn’t think humans were capable” of affecting the Earth’s weather patterns in such a profound manner. His epiphany gave birth to a multi-year project utilizing specially modified time-lapse cameras to capture irrefutable proof that affective global warming had transcended academic speculation. The resulting images are beautiful and mesmerizing, yet also troubling. Orlowski’s film itself mirrors the dichotomy, being in equal parts cautionary eco-doc and art installation. This is best illustrated in a jaw-dropping sequence depicting an ice peninsula equivalent in size to lower Manhattan sluicing off of Greenland’s massive Hulissat Glacier. The image handily trumps the squawking that emits from the likes of the bloviating global climate deniers featured in the opening montage, and proves a picture is worth a thousand words.

If A Tree Falls A Story of the Earth Liberation Front- According to the FBI’s definition, “eco-terrorism” is “…the use (or threatened use) of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, sub-national group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.” That certainly covers a lot of ground. There are a number of “environmentally-oriented” types in the federal pen right now for non-lethal actions that the government considers terrorism and that others consider heroic. So what circumstance can transform a nature lover into a freedom fighter? This is not a black and white issue; a point not lost on co-directors Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman. They focus primarily on Earth Liberation Front member Daniel McGowan, who at the time of filming was facing a possible life sentence for direct involvement in several high-profile “actions” (like setting fire to an Oregon lumber mill) resulting in millions of dollars in property damage. Holed up in his sister’s apartment, and sporting a house arrest anklet for the first third of the film, McGowan candidly opens up about his life and talks about what led him to change his M.O. from “environmental activism” to “domestic terrorism”. Don’t expect any easy answers, but do expect a well-balanced and compelling look at a complex issue.

An Inconvenient Truth- I re-watched this on cable recently; I hadn’t seen it since it opened in 2006, and what struck me is how it now plays less like a warning bell and more like the nightly news. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Apocalyptic sci-fi is now scientific fact. Former VP/Nobel winner Al Gore is a Power Point-packing Rod Serling, submitting a gallery of nightmare nature scenarios for our disapproval. I’m tempted to say that Gore and director Davis Guggenheim’s chilling look at the results of unchecked global warming only reveals the tip of the proverbial iceberg…but it’s melting too fast.

Koyannisqatsi -Released in 1982, this is a profound, mesmerizing tone poem for all the senses, and one of those films that nearly defies description. It’s the first (and best) of a film trilogy. The title is taken from the ancient Hopi language, and describes a state of “life out of balance”. There are likely as many interpretations of what the film is “about” as there are people who have viewed it; if I had to make a broad generalization, I would say it’s about technology vs. nature, and mankind’s ongoing roughshod trampling of Mother Earth. But you’ll have to experience it for yourself (if you haven’t already!). Director Godfrey Reggio, cinematographer Ron Fricke and composer Philip Glass appear to have born to work together on this project; the result is sheer artistic perfection. I must have seen this film at least 30 times, and I’ll never tire of it. Reggio followed up in 1988 with Powaqqatsi (worth watching, but comes off a bit like a coffee table book variation of its predecessor) and the well-produced yet curiously uninvolving Naqoyqatsi in 2002.

Manufactured Landscapes -A unique eco-documentary from Jennifer Baichwal about photographer Edward Burtynsky, who is an “earth diarist” of sorts. While his photographs are striking, they don’t paint a pretty picture of our fragile planet. Burtynsky’s eye discerns a terrible beauty in the wake of the profound and irreversible human imprint incurred by accelerated modernization. As captured by Burtynsky’s camera, strip-mined vistas recall the stark desolation of NASA photos sent from the Martian surface; mountains of “e-waste” dumped in a vast Chinese landfill take on an almost gothic, cyber-punk dreamscape. The photographs play like a scroll through Google Earth images, as reinterpreted by Jackson Pollock. This one is a real eye-opener!

No Impact Man- Sometimes, it takes another guilty liberal to make a guilty liberal like me feel, well, guiltier; and filmmakers Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein succeeded in doing so in their 2009 film, documenting the efforts of blogger/author Colin Beavan to spend one year making as little environmental impact as possible. Operating under the supposition that there are more than a few well meaning, self-proclaimed “environmentally conscious” wags out there that don’t exactly practice what they preach (and humbly considering himself to be among them) Beavan set out to put his mulch where his mouth is. He convinces his dazzling urbanite wife, Business Week writer Michelle Conlin (a classic NYC neurotic) and their toddler to join in as well. So how does a family of Manhattanites pull it off without leaving their metropolitan cocoon? The paradox provides rich narrative compost for the filmmakers, and they cultivate it well.

Oceans- In their magnificent nature documentary, directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud wisely avoid hitting us over the head with cautionary rhetoric about mankind’s tendency to poison the precious well of life that covers three-quarters of our planet with pollution, overfishing and unchecked oil exploration. Any viewer, who becomes immersed in this stunningly photographed portrait of the delicately balanced aquatic ecosystem, yet fails to feel connected to the omniverse we cohabit with it (and a resulting sense of shared responsibility), has something missing in their soul. Or as the great Jacques Cousteau once said…“We forget that the life cycle and the water cycle are one.”

Queen Of The Sun- I never thought that a documentary about honeybees would make me both laugh and cry-but Taggart Siegel’s 2010 film managed to do just that. Appearing at first glance to be a distressing, hand-wringing examination of Colony Collapse Syndrome, a phenomenon that has puzzled and dismayed beekeepers and scientists alike with its accelerated frequency of occurrences over the past few decades, the film becomes a sometimes joyous, sometimes humbling meditation on how essential these seemingly insignificant yet complex social creatures are to the planet’s life cycle. We bipeds might harbor a pretty high opinion of our own place on the evolutionary ladder, but Siegel lays out a convincing case which proves that these “lowly” insects are, in fact, the boss of us.

True Wolf- It’s often said that “politics makes strange bedfellows”, but have you ever heard of a “wolf ambassador”? Before I screened Rob Whitehair’s modest but engrossing documentary, I certainly hadn’t. The film tells the story of how a wolf named Koani became an environmental activist (in a manner of speaking) and touched the lives of thousands. Born into captivity, Koani was raised by Montana couple Bruce Weide and Pat Tucker, who co-founded Wild Sentry: The Northern Rockies Ambassador Wolf Program back in 1991. The star of the show was Koani, who travelled around the country with Tucker, who wanted to dispel age-old myths about wolves. Ever cognizant of the inherent “wrong” (no matter how noble one’s intentions) in keeping such a magnificent wild creature as a pet, Weide and Tucker nonetheless overcame these challenges and found a way to make Koani’s life matter, and it all makes for an amazingly moving story.

…and singing us out, Gino Vanelli (try to get past the skintight elephant bells, chest hair and disco moves, and focus on the lyrics…also, that is one tight band backing up Gino!)





 
Emailgateski

by digby

After all the sturm und drang over Clinton having her private and unclassified emails on a private server, this is a wee bit ironic:
Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.
Right. So if Clinton had used the State Department email system for all unclassified work related communications these hackers would have them. And they probably do anyway since most work related emails went to people who used this system.

I dunno. This whole email thing mystified me in the first place since she would have always been making a decision about what emails were private, unclassifed work related and classified anyway. But whatever. It appears our vaunted security experts aren't that expert ... shocked, I am.





 
"A political stunt, a bow to Hollywood jingoism, and pillow talk"


by digby

Via:

Obama’s Department of Justice has led the most targeted campaign against whistleblowers of any president ever, charging more government employees under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined—almost all of whom sit in prison serving sentences up to 30 years.

As the relative slap on the wrist Gen. David Petraeus received this week revealing classified military information to his mistress and biographer proves, this aggressive pursuit of leaks does not, however, extend to the leadership of his intelligence agencies, revealing a deep seated double standard.

Petraeus is not the exception here. Current CIA director John Brennan once leaked classified details of a busted terror plot to the Associated Press yet saw no charges. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta once revealed classified details about the raid that captured Osama bin Laden to Hollywood filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow for the purposes of her film about the raid, Zero Dark Thirty, but he also saw no charges.

All three leaks were not done in the interest of the public but respectively as a political stunt, a bow to Hollywood jingoism, and pillow talk. The disregard for the criminal activity of these men, all former or current top administration officials, reveals a systemic hypocrisy within an administration failing to live up to its own standards. In order to highlight their hypocrisy, it’s worthwhile to look at seven lower government employees who shared classified information and paid a heavy price for it.

The article goes on to note the charges and convictions against a number of whistleblowers.

This disparity is certainly not surprising. Friends of elites usually get away with things that average people don't get away with. What is surprising is how little they care about the optics of this particular type of double standard. If they want to have these harsh penalties for whistleblowing in order to deter future whistleblowers, this is one situation in which allowing their buddies to get away with doing the same thing for their own purposes shows utter contempt for democracy and the public interest. It really gives away the game.

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The earth is angry my friend

by digby


Chile volcano:




Nepal earthquake:



Planet Earth is still alive and kicking.  If we humans manage to kill ourselves and all other life it will still be here.

Update: Oh God ...
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TOTD: Noah Smith

by digby


It probably won't be long before they do. Unfortunately, they won't be fighting other drones, they'll just be killing more humans.

In fact, the real future of drones, in my view, is the end of the soldier fighting soldier portion of our evolutionary program. We will all be using robots to target civilians. It's quite an advancement. Proud to be a part of it.

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Proving the stereotype year after year

by digby




It should be free, but other than that ...


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Bruce Jenner comes out

by digby

... and I, for one, am shocked and appalled. Last night --- on national television --- he admitted a great, dark secret. He admitted that the rumors are true.  He is a ... Republican.
When asked about Barack Obama addressing LGBT rights in his State of the Union, the 65-year-old former Olympic athlete said that didn’t affect him much.

“I’ve always been more on the conservative side,” Jenner said.

Sawyer, looking shocked, asked if he identifies as a Republican, to which Jenner answered, “Yes.”
What is this world coming to when a sports hero and Hollywood icon pulls a face at the mention of President Obama?

Oh, and Jenner also mentioned that he's transgender.(He told Diane Sawyer that he has not transitioned to be called she as yet.) His family is fine with it and just wants him to be happy. He's probably lucky they aren't conservative Republicans too.


*Seriously, it was a pretty amazing interview.  I don't happen to like Jenner much as a person but you have to admire his courage.  I sincerely hope this will have a positive influence on our society.

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Silenced for speaking her mind

by Tom Sullivan

We have become disturbingly accustomed in this country to police shootings of unarmed, black men. This is not another one of those:

Pakistan civil liberties activist and social worker Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi Friday night as she headed home from a talk on the troubled Balochistan province. She was 40.

According to the Dawn website, Sabeen left The Second Floor — she was the director of T2F which she called a community space for open dialogue — with her mother shortly after 9 pm and was on her way home when she was shot. She died on the way to hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body. Her mother was said to be in a critical condition.

"No one has claimed responsibility for her shooting, and police have not named any motive," reports CNN, plus this background on Mahmud:

Her second floor cafe on a dusty industrial road was painted with dashes of psychedelic colors. And Sabeen Mahmud surrounded herself there with books, people, and discussions on technology, human rights and women's entrepreneurship.

Introducing others to Jimi Hendrix, street art, and talking politics was not supposed to get her killed. But in Pakistan, free speech is dangerous, and Mahmud's exuberant exercise of it made her stick out nationwide.

[snip]

In the province of Baluchistan, where separatists have fought a virulent insurgency for years, people have been disappearing regularly. There have been steady allegations of mass abduction. The Lahore University of Management Sciences planned to host the discussion on the topic, with human rights activist Mama Qadeer Baloch, but authorities shut it down.

Mahmud would not hear of it not going on.

"Despite the plurality of opinion, very little space seems to be given to the discussion in Pakistani mainstream media or academia; the debate seems to be shut down before it can even begin," she posted on Facebook. "What is the reality? Has the media been silenced on Balochistan? What makes it dangerous for us to talk about Pakistan's largest province at one of our most celebrated universities?"

So she hosted the talk herself. At Aljazeera, friends remember her:

"Sabeen was a voice of reason, pluralism and secularism: the kind of creed that endangers the insidious side of constructed Pakistani nationalism," Raza Rumi, a rights activist who escaped an assassination attempt in March 2014 and now lives in the United States out of fear for his life, told Al Jazeera.

"In her work, she was neither a political partisan nor a power seeker but Pakistan’s state and non-state actors are averse to any form of dissent. This is why she had to be killed," Rumi said.

"Her death has simply reopened my wounds. She gave me support when I escaped death and now I feel even more scared to return to Pakistan. Her death is a huge blow to Pakistan’s civil society and social change movements."

Outside this morning, it's raining.


Friday, April 24, 2015

 
I'll bet you need this too...

by digby

It's been a long week, and I am in serious need of a cocktail or two.

And this:


Those are baby otters.  I've named them Bernie and Liz.

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Rubiomania may last a while

by digby

538 splashes cold water on Rubio's "surge" but offers some hopeful news for the hot Cuban-American hopeful's long term prospects:
What makes Rubio strong isn’t his polling surge, but that he is well-liked across the party apparatus. He pulls in conservatives with his voting record and moderates with his impressive 2010 Senate victory in Florida, a crucial battleground state.

This is all evident in non-horse-race polling. Rubio’s net favorability rating among Republicans is near the top of the field. The gap between Republicans who could see themselves voting for Rubio and those who couldn’t is among the field’s best, according to an average of CBS News surveys conducted this year
I have been saying for months that Rubio is the guy who makes the most sense for the GOP. Of course,   I could be wrong. It's based entirely on seat-of-the-pants intuition and very general observation of the political field. But I haven't changed my mind yet.

I don't know that he can win --- it's early days. But if I were a Republican strategist I'd tell the big money boys that he's the guy who looks like the best bet to beat Clinton. On paper at least. (I'd also tell Rubio to lose the smirk --- it worked for W but it's probably not a good idea to remind people of him.)


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Submission to the Panopticon

by digby

We've been writing here about the "stingray" technology and the local cops' use of it for a while.  But I was happily surprised to see the mainstream Vox take up the subject and with such a strong editorial viewpoint:
Did you know that law enforcement can track your cellphone with a fake cell tower? It's true — and devices that do this, known as stingrays, are at the center of a growing scandal.

The FBI has done everything it could to keep the existence and use of stingrays a secret. Local law enforcement agencies are forced to sign nondisclosure agreements before they can use the devices. The FBI claims that revealing details about how the gadgets work would tip off criminals and terrorists, rendering them less effective.

But in recent months, civil liberties groups have steadily chipped away at the secrecy of these devices. We've learned that they're used by dozens — and probably hundreds — of law enforcement agencies across the country, and that at least one agency has used them thousands of times.

Critics say the way these devices have been used violates the US Constitution, by tracking people's locations without judicial oversight. And the secrecy surrounding the devices also appears to be hampering efforts to prosecute violent criminals, as prosecutors have dropped key evidence rather than discuss how it was obtained.

The extreme secrecy surrounding these devices is out of step with the American tradition of open and accountable government. Americans have a right to know that law enforcement spying has proper judicial oversight. And this kind of oversight is impossible if even basic information about the technology is kept under wraps.
There is more info at the link. It would be really nice if the rest of the mainstream press showed similar concern. This is all of a piece in which new technology is created and then secretly deployed by the government where it inevitably leads to civil liberties abuses. After all, civil liberties exist for the express purpose of impeding the government's natural inclination to abuse the rights of its citizens, whether to further its own power or whether they believe it will "protect" innocents. Neither rationale is acceptable in a free society. After all, the government could "protect us" by using their powers to burst into every home at will to ensure that nobody is hiding anything but we would find that to be an odd way of defining "protection". Making things as easy as possible for police is not how we've arranged our society.

I suppose it's easy for people to believe that the NSA or the FBI are above such pettiness although it's very hard to see why considering their history. But for the sake of this argument we'll grant that. Can anyone in their right minds truly believe that local police are above corruption or error and should therefore be allowed to spy on citizens in secret with no safeguards? If you're willing to believe such fatuous nonsense then you probably deserve the police state in which you'll soon be living.

While many Americans may give the benefit of the doubt to police in a violent altercation they are unlikely to want to trust them with their own personal information. If they think it's fine then they ought to just give all their passwords out to law enforcement and willingly submit themselves to The Panopticon. I'm not up for that myself. I like being able to keep my private thoughts to myself. In fact, I can't imagine what life will be like when that's lost. It strikes me as a nightmare.

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Good for the daughter but not for the wife

by digby

I think we can all see the problem with this:



And other problems linger:
By more than two to one, men say that it is harder to be a man today compared with their father’s generation–and a number of the reasons focused on changes in their relationships with women.

This is just one of the insights from a recent Hart Research Associates poll for the Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man. The online survey was conducted among 818 men 18 and older.

Eighty-five percent of men say they are clear in their role in society today, but 45% say it is harder to be a man today compared to their father’s generation, while just 20% say it is easier to be a man today (35% say it is no easier or harder). For those who say it is harder to be a man, a number of the most common reasons stem from changes in relationships with women, including that women are in a stronger position in the workplace and financially; men are taking on a greater share of household responsibilities; and more demands are being placed on men.

While the old mold in male-female relationships has been broken, it’s clear that the new shape has yet to set. Sixty-three percent of men say they are very comfortable living with or being married to a woman who works outside the home, and 51% are very comfortable with a female partner earning more money than they do. But 56% of men agree, generally speaking, that men are more concerned about making good impressions and earning the respect of other men than earning the respect of women. And while a majority are very comfortable with their female partner working outside the home, just 24% of men said they would be very comfortable being a stay-at-home dad and not working outside the home.

These blurred lines and conflicted feelings about relationships with women are present in another way. Men were asked to select from a list of 10 terms the two or three qualities they deem most important in a wife or female partner. From the same list, they were asked to identify the most important qualities in their daughter when she grows up. Intelligence topped the list for a wife or female partner at 72% and for a daughter at 81%. But the ranking of qualities on both lists diverge after this, sometimes with wide gaps. While 45% of men consider being attractive one of the most important qualities for their wife or female partner, just 11% said so for their daughter. Similarly, 34% specified being sweet as a key quality for a female partner, but just 19% said the same for a daughter. Conversely, men are much more likely to cite being independent (66% for daughter; 34% for wife/female partner) and strong (48% daughter, 28% wife/female partner) as most important qualities for a daughter...
It is clear to me that these blurred lines and conflicted feelings are not easily divided by demographics or ideological leanings either.

I just post this as a little FYI to illustrate that the issues around gender are very complicated and in the most intimate ways. As a good friend of mine pointed out the other day, women bear the additional burden of seeking equality not only in the public sphere but must often deal with oppressors who have no idea they are oppressors and with whom they share their private life as well. Let's just say that it's complicated for everyone and pretending that it isn't merely serves the status quo.




 
One man's religion is another man's ecstasy

by digby

Why not?
A Nashville swingers club has undergone a conversion — it says it's now a church — in order to win city approval so it can open next to a Christian school.

The story began last fall, when a fixture in downtown Nashville called The Social Club sold its building and purchased a new one in a run-down office park several miles to the east.

The new building is geographically isolated at the end of a dead-end street, but it is near the back of Goodpasture Christian School, a large private school serving pre-school through high school children.

It might have been years before school officials and parents learned what was going on inside The Social Club — its website says it is "a private club for the enjoyment of both men and women ... to engage in any sexual activity" — if someone had not sent anonymous letters to the school president and the local councilwoman. Both say the person who tipped them off claimed to be a concerned club member, although they don't know that for sure.

Parents and religious leaders were called on to pack the Metro Nashville Council chambers to support a zoning change to prevent the club from opening. That's when the club, which had spent $750,000 on the building and begun renovations, suddenly transformed into a church.

The United Fellowship Center's plans are nearly identical to those of The Social Club but with some different labels. The dance floor has become the sanctuary. Two rooms labeled "dungeon" are now "choir" and "handbells." Forty-nine small, private rooms remain, but most of them have become prayer rooms.

Larry Roberts is the attorney for the club-turned-church. He previously vowed to take the city to court. Now, he says, it's the city that will have to sue.

"The ball is in Metro's court ... We've now gotten a permit to meet as a church, and a church is something that cannot be defined under the U.S. Constitution," he said.

Roberts said church members will "meet and have fellowship" in the new building, but no sex will take place there. "If people have something else in mind, they will go somewhere else."

Several of those who opposed The Social Club say they are skeptical of the change.

And if the government refuses to acknowledge them as a church they can do what the Scientology leaders did and sue the individual government employees personally. Worked like a charm ...

This whole thing is a reminder that "religious liberty" is a double edged sword and that keeping the church and state in their separate spheres, with the secular state being the governing institution in public life. It's always been a delicate balance but we have recently seen some scams and some intrusions on our civic life that are making all this risky --- for religion as much as secular society. The social conservatives should be careful how much they push this.

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Tryouts for billionaires

by digby

I wrote about the "donor primary" for Salon this morning:
As it stands today, the top candidate for leading man is the babyfaced Marco Rubio, who seems to be doing a much better job of finessing the GOPs immigration quagmire than Walker. Being Latino himself certainly doesn’t hurt, but as my colleague Elias Isquith pointed out yesterday, his slipperiness on the issue is actually quite impressive:

After putting together a big, bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013 — which passed the Senate only to die ignominiously in the House — Rubio has spent more than a year disowning his sole legislative accomplishment and urging heartbroken Tea Partiers to forgive him for his sins. His dalliance with “amnesty” didn’t mean anything; he promises he’ll “secure the border” first, if only they’ll give him the chance and take him back.

The whole incident was embarrassing and led to his being “unceremoniously defenestrated,” as BuzzFeed puts it, from the rarefied air of the 2016 elite. But now there’s reason to wonder if what looked like a blunder was really part of a larger scheme — or at least that’s what Rubio wants donors (and the BuzzFeed-reading political class) to think. Rubio’s onetime support of comprehensive reform, BuzzFeed reports, “has proved to be a substantial draw within the GOP money crowd.”
And I’d guess there are a few gay Republican billionaires to whom he’d be happy to whisper his personal tolerance for marriage equality too. You can’t let Cruz corner the market, after all. Rubio would also certainly be one guy you could depend upon for a hawkish foreign policy, which seems to be a must among these super-rich puppet masters.

And what would you know, mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is smitten:
In recent weeks, Adelson, who spent $100 million on the 2012 campaign and could easily match that figure in 2016, has told friends that he views the Florida senator, whose hawkish defense views and unwavering support for Israel align with his own, as a fresh face who is “the future of the Republican Party.” He has also said that Rubio’s Cuban heritage and youth would give the party a strong opportunity to expand its brand and win the White House…

Since entering the Senate in 2011, Rubio has met privately with the mogul on a half-dozen occasions. In recent months, he‘s been calling Adelson about once every two weeks, providing him with meticulous updates on his nascent campaign. During a recent trip to New York City, Rubio took time out of his busy schedule to speak by phone with the megadonor.

Rubio really is a GOP dreamboat, isn’t he? He even calls when he’s on the road!

Our world is run by billionaires more openly than ever before and big money in politics is going to be a huge story in this campaign. And both sides will be answering lots of questions about it.



 

Don't fear the Reapers

by Tom Sullivan

General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.

But who's counting? As Digby pointed out last night, there is a lot less precision to these "precision" drone strikes than meets the monitors of drone pilots at Creech Air Force Base. The government can't even keep count of how many Americans they've killed. The Guardian reports:

The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday.

The lack of specificity suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring “near certainty that the terrorist target is present”, the US continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill, a practice that has come to be known as a “signature strike”.

How certain is "near certainty"?

Human-rights observers see little indication, two years after Obama’s speech, that the US meets its own stated standards on preventing civilian casualties in counter-terrorism operations. Reprieve, looking at US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, concluded last year that the US killed nearly 1,150 people while targeting 41 individuals.
What's infuriating about these stories is the boilerplate "fog of war" excuses given after the fact. As if, after the Reaper has lingered over a potential target for hours (or days) while the CIA cross-checks its sketchy intelligence, everything just happened so fast.

Can't wait for these beasties to be lingering over your rooftops, can ya?


Thursday, April 23, 2015

 
Four not Two

by digby

Why am I seeing headlines all day about the US admitting to killing two Americans in drones strikes back in January? It was four Americans:

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in January accidentally killed two innocent hostages, including one American.

Multiple U.S. officials told CNN the hostages, Warren Weinstein, an American, and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto, were killed by a U.S. military drone that targeted the al Qaeda compound.

"As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni," Obama said Thursday morning in the White House briefing room, where he apologized on behalf of the U.S. government.

The White House also disclosed Thursday that two Americans, both al Qaeda operatives, were also killed in U.S. counterterrorism operations in the same region.

Al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq, who was an American citizen and deputy emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, was also killed in the operation that killed the two innocent hostages.

Adam Gadahn, another American in the senior ranks of al Qaeda, was also killed by U.S. forces in the region, "likely in a separate" counterterrorism operation, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Thursday.

It's terrible that the two hostages were killed, obviously. But it's probably important to note that they were killed in the process of purposefully targeting and killing another American. Something which we did to yet another American in a separate strike.

I guess this is all just normal stuff now. If your government wants to kill you when you're abroad they can do it and nobody will raise a stink. If they accidentally kill you then there's a problem. Good to know.

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"Safeguards at every step of the process...?"

by digby

So Loretta Lynch was confirmed. I guess that's one legislative roadblock that's been removed. Huzzah. But confess I have mixed emotions considering her record as a federal prosecutor on stuff like this:
Referring to the federal government’s forfeiture regime as “an important tool” in fighting crime, attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch staunchly defended the concept of civil asset forfeiture during the first day of her confirmation hearings.

After Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) questioned the “fundamental fairness” of Americans having their property taken by the government without any proof (or often even suspicion) of criminal wrongdoing, Lynch asserted that there are “safeguards at every step of the process” to protect innocent people, “certainly implemented by [her] office … as well as an opportunity to be heard.”

Even setting aside the litany of federal civil asset forfeiture abuses that have come to light recently across the country, Lynch’s reference to her own office’s handling of civil forfeiture is particularly concerning.

Lynch is currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and her office, despite its safeguards, is responsible for one of the more publicized and questionable uses of the asset forfeiture program. In May of 2012 the Hirsch brothers, joint owners of Bi-County Distributors in Long Island, had their entire bank account drained by the Internal Revenue Service working in conjunction with Lynch’s office. Many of Bi-County’s customers paid in cash, and when the brothers made several deposits under $10,000, federal agents accused them of “structuring” their deposits in order to avoid the reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. Without so much as a criminal charge, the federal government emptied the account, totaling $446,651.11.

For more than two years, and in defiance of the 60-day deadline for the initiation of proceedings included in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, Lynch’s office simply sat on the money while the Hirsch brothers survived off the goodwill their business had engendered with its vendors over the decades.

That case, which was handled by the Institute for Justice, finally ended just days ago when Lynch’s office quietly returned the money, having found no evidence of any wrongdoing. The Hirsch brothers and their business survived, but just how many law-abiding small businesses can afford to give the government a 33-month, interest-free loan of nearly half a million dollars?

Asset forfeiture should be a crime, not a law enforcement tool. And if they persist in using it as a law enforcement tool "mistakes" like this should result in the forfeiture of someone's job and restitution. These are real human beings whose lives have been upended, not statistics on a spreadsheet somewhere. That explanation was lame. Let's hope Lynch shows a little bit more concern for civil liberties in her new job.

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And here I thought Ted Cruz was one guy you could count on ...

by digby

Cruz is in New York, slumming with gay billionaires:

Senator Ted Cruz, the Republican presidential candidate, has positioned himself as a strong opponent to same-sex marriage, urging pastors nationwide to preach in support of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, which he said was “ordained by God.”

But on Wednesday night, at a reception for him at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, the Texas senator struck quite a different tone.

During the gathering, according to two attendees, Mr. Cruz said he would have no problem if one of his daughters was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the states.

The dinner and “fireside chat” for about a dozen people with Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, was at the Central Park South penthouse of Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, longtime business partners who were once a couple and who have been pioneers in the gay hospitality industry.
[...]
Mr. Cruz has honed his reputation as a grass-roots firebrand, and was strongly supportive of the Indiana religion law that was recently blasted as discriminatory by gay rights activists. When the law was attacked by major businesses like Walmart, he criticized the “Fortune 500’s radical gay marriage agenda.”


Interactive Feature | Who Is Running for President (and Who’s Not)? At least a dozen Republicans and a handful of Democrats have expressed an interest in running for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
So the juxtaposition of Mr. Cruz being the guest of honor at a home owned by two of the most visible gay businessmen in New York City was striking. Mr. Cruz was on a fund-raising tour of New York City, although the dinner was not a fund-raiser.

Mr. Cruz also told the group that the businessman Peter Thiel, an openly gay investor, is a close friend of his, Mr. Sporn said. Mr. Thiel has been a generous contributor to Mr. Cruz’s campaigns.

I get why some rich gay people would be Republicans. They are clearly rich first and gay second. But why any of them would support a nutcase like Ted Cruz is beyond me.

Cruz, of course, is just saying whatever he needs to say in the moment in hopes of landing a billionaire or two. Every candidate in this post-Citizens United world will need at least one in his pocket. (That's what we call "the donor primary".) It's not a problem for someone like Ted Cruz to do this, however, because his voters all know that he really truly hates gay people and they are happy for him to take their money to use against them. Now if he starts talking in public about gay rights, they'll have something to say about it. For now though I'd suspect they figure he's being pretty savvy.


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Teachable moments in militarized America

by digby

If you follow the right wing at all you've seen the hysterical handwringing this week over a melodramatic piece in the National Review which purports to expose a story of police intimidation and harassment of average conservative supporters of Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Let's just say the story is a little bit more complicated than that. I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

Fast forward to this new piece in the National Review, which is being breathlessly discussed in conservative circles as if it were the right wing’s version of the Pentagon Papers. It’s the story of jack-booted thugs raiding the homes of Republican activists all over Wisconsin, using such a degree of shock and awe that the subjects have mistaken the authorities for criminal home invaders. The star of this dramatic tale is a woman named Cindy Archer, whom the National Review article describes as “one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the ‘Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, [which] limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions.” The article goes on to characterize her and the other victims of the raids (who are only identified by pseudonyms) simply as “conservatives,” giving the impression that they are being targeted solely on that basis:
For dozens of conservatives, the years since Scott Walker’s first election as governor of Wisconsin transformed the state — known for pro-football championships, good cheese, and a population with a reputation for being unfailingly polite — into a place where conservatives have faced early-morning raids, multi-year secretive criminal investigations, slanderous and selective leaks to sympathetic media, and intrusive electronic snooping. Yes, Wisconsin, the cradle of the progressive movement and home of the “Wisconsin idea” — the marriage of state governments and state universities to govern through technocratic reform — was giving birth to a new progressive idea, the use of law enforcement as a political instrument, as a weapon to attempt to undo election results, shame opponents, and ruin lives.

It’s obviously impossible to know any details about the pseudonymous conservatives since we don’t know their names. But Cindy Archer wasn’t just a conservative citizen volunteering her time for cause. Back in 2011, when the story of the raid was first reported, the Wisconsin State Journal said she was an official who had worked with Walker as county executive and followed him to the capital.

Read on. These people weren't just nice volunteers handing out leaflets. They were high level aides to Scott Walker.

But I agree with these right wingers (even Rush!) who say the authorities shouldn't be pounding on doors at 6:45 in the morning and storming people's houses, yelling and screaming and confiscating their stuff. Why they always have to use these strongarm tactics is beyond me. They easily could have knocked politely, showed her the subpoena and basically dealt with her like a human being.

But then that's not how they do things anymore. They act as if everyone is a terrorist from small time suspected drug dealer to people out on traffic warrants to government bureaucrats. Often they get the wrong house and more than we want to admit actually shoot innocent people in the confusion and melee they cause with their military tactics. But since most of the time they aren't nice white conservative Republicans people on the right side of the dial usually take the jaded line that they must be guilty of something or the cops wouldn't be doing it.

Maybe this is a teachable moment. Never say I'm not an optimist.

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QOTD: Charlie Pierce

by digby

This is just one little piece of an excellent post:

As best I can trace the lines of the conspiracy as it is taking shape, some of the countries and patrons of the Clinton Global Initiative may also have paid Bill Clinton the big money to talk to them. There's a bit of innuendo to the effect that the Clintons may have been commingling Initiative money with their own. However, if Bill's piling up $100 mil just for talking, and the man loves to talk, then they hardly seem to have to raid the cookie jar. But the basic thrust is that these countries and patrons one day may seek the favors of President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The multiple avenues through which the Clintons and their causes have accepted financial support have provided a variety of ways for wealthy interests in the United States and abroad to build friendly relations with a potential future president.

You're kidding. Wealthy interests might use their wealth to "build friendly relations" with politicians? In 2015? Has anyone told Anthony Kennedy? He might plotz.

(This, by the way, is Clinton Rule No. 2 -- what is business as usual for every politician since Cato is a work of dark magic when practiced by either Clinton.)

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