Donald attacks the media, FBI, and intelligence agencies over Flynn’s “resignation”

A real President would promise to find out just how deeply Russia has influenced his Administration. Then there’s Donald Trump….

Donald and Michael Flynn during the campaign (image credit: Yahoo News)

Donald and Michael Flynn during the campaign (image credit: Yahoo News)

Three days ago, I wrote a post I titled “After Michael Flynn’s resignation, Donald will be out for blood.” In it, I wrote

Donald lost tonight, and every time he’s lost he’s gone on Twitter or stood before an audience to rant against whoever was responsible for his loss. I anticipate that Donald will attack the media again for reporting the facts about Flynn and his Russia contacts. And I expect he’ll instruct his new Attorney General to figure out who in the FBI was investigating Flynn, and who leaked the information that Flynn was being investigated….

Two days ago, we learned that Donald knew about Flynn’s Russia contacts, and that Flynn had lied about them, since January 26. And supposedly, Flynn was asked to resign because of “eroding trust” between him and Donald. Riiiight.

I don’t know about anyone else, but if I found out my National Security Advisor had been lying to me and was susceptible to blackmail by foreign powers as a result of it, I’d have fired him almost immediately, not waited two weeks until the media broke the story and forced my hand. Because, you know, national security. But maybe that’s because I take stuff like this seriously, rather than treating the Presidency like a business investment. Continue reading

Syria and chemical weapons attacks: “Just trust us,” says everybody.

Sarin

Today, as covered by nearly everyone, Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

Mr. Kerry alleges that the Assad regime destroyed evidence:

“Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Mr. Kerry said. “Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence.”

Evidence, of course, is forthcoming. Until then, just trust us.

 In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces. The information could include so-called signals intelligence — intercepted radio or telephone calls between Syrian military commanders.

Meanwhile, Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, presents some kind of evidence that it was the rebels that used the chemical weapons, not Assad. Was Shoebat a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Confirmation is needed, but how rigorous would the confirmation need to be for it to be accepted as fact? Would it matter if he were? As for the evidence he presents, how good is it? Is it merely circumstantial? Taken out of context? Entirely fabricated? Who should judge?

Meanwhile, Russia, likely to veto any UN Security Council measures against Assad, claims that there is no evidence that Assad did use chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Assad denies using chemical weapons.

The drums are beating for war, and all too many, some perhaps with dubious motives, are eager to get the jump on Assad. How about we wait until the UN inspectors actually have a chance to report on the evidence, if any is found?

Meanwhile, speaking of obscenities committed with chemical weapons:

“They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

And:

“The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.”

Surprising no one, Mr. Kerry didn’t mention this bit of our history.

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Image credit: US Army Materiel Command http://www.flickr.com/photos/armymaterielcommand/877765649/sizes/m/in/photostream/. Licenced under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

Emphasis added: the foreign policy week in pieces

CATEGORY: ForeignPolicyMental Illness a Prerequisite to Run for Public Office

It’s unbelievable what people would do to be in power. I know: It happens everywhere. I can’t believe that normal people in their right mind would run for elected position. There has to be something wrong in their value system to go through what they have to go through. What I saw here was much worse: so much humiliation to run for office.
—  Vihar Krastev

Escape From Ignorance and Chalga, John Feffer, Focal Points

No End to Atonement in Sight

Germany apparently remains eternally wounded, dependent upon the healing power of remembrance. Germans must live with their trauma and occasionally reopen the wound to prevent it from festering. … “History or, to be more precise, the history we Germans have repeatedly mucked up, is a clogged toilet. We flush and flush, but the shit keeps rising,” Günter Grass concluded in his 2002 novel “Crabwalk.”

‘Our Mothers, Our Fathers’: Next-Generation WWII Atonement, Roman Leick, Spiegel Online

From Marijuana and Heroin in Vietnam to Antipsychotic Drugs in Afghanistan

… there has been a giant, 682 percent increase in the number of psychoactive drugs — antipsychotics, sedatives, stimulants and mood stabilizers — prescribed to our troops between 2005 and 2011. … The data suggest that military doctors may prescribe psychoactive drugs for off-label use as sedatives, possibly so as to enable soldiers to function better in stressful combat situations.

Wars on Drugs, Richard A. Friedman, The New York Times

Iron Lady Surpasses Hitchens’s Record for Most Disrespectful Obituaries of a Brit

… when I was a child she was just a strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off. I didn’t know what to think of this fearsome woman. … It always irks when rightwing folk demonstrate in a familial or exclusive setting the values that they deny in a broader social context. They’re happy to share big windfall bonuses with their cronies, they’ll stick up for deposed dictator chums when they’re down on their luck, they’ll find opportunities in business for people they care about. I hope I’m not being reductive but it seems Thatcher’s time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most.

Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: ‘I always felt sorry for her children’, Russell Brand, The Guardian

Giving the C.I.A. Its Head in Pakistan

[American ambassador to Pakistan Cameron] Munter was reporting daily back to Washington about the negative impact of the armed-drone campaign and about how the C.I.A. seemed to be conducting a war in a vacuum, oblivious to the ramifications that the drone strikes were having on American relations with Pakistan’s government.

How a Single Spy Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States, Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy blog Focal Points.

These aren’t the drones you’re looking for: The U.S. shift to droid warfare and surveillance

by Kevin Rogers

In George Lucas’s Star Wars universe, droids are robots with tasks including translation, computing and repair work. The series’ most famous droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, take on these benign jobs.

But not all droids are created equal. The malevolent Galactic Empire uses droids designed for torture and surveillance in the original trilogy. In the prequel series, the Trade Federation deploys entire armies of droid warriors and aircraft tasked with destruction and conquest.

Imperial Probe Droid: CC-DevanJedi

Droids go by a different name in this galaxy. Pilotless drones gather enemy intelligence and blow up suspected terrorists abroad. It sounds great; American enemies are destroyed without risking military lives.

But America’s shift to drone-based warfare and surveillance should arouse concern. The Justice Department released a justification to take out American citizens without charges or trial. Federal agencies look to expand permits for drones in U.S. airspace.

Smuggler Han Solo put it best in the original Star Wars: “I got a bad feeling about this.

Vulture droids in foreign skies

Drone attacks in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia have transformed America’s battle against al-Qaida. While Yemen and Somalia rack up some impressive drone strikes statistics, Pakistan draws the most attention from these glorified droid star fighters.

While the drones rained death upon terrorists, hundreds of civilians, including children, went with them. The total number of civilian deaths may be even higher given the administration’s policy of counting military-age males killed in a strike zone as enemy combatants.

Drones put distance between the pilot and the target. A human pilot can likely show some discretion when pulling the trigger. If a drone is flying autonomously toward a target, those judgments can’t be made.

The strikes have been effective in taking down top members of al-Qaida, but the cost has been a federal justification to kill American citizens abroad without charges, judges or juries. The drone-targeted killing of U.S.-born al-Qaida chief Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen occurred under this rationale. Drones nabbed his 16-year-old son a few weeks later.

The existence of justifiably legally killing American citizens without due process should prompt outrage. The American government isn’t the Empire.

Probe droids overhead

These winged droids won’t be limited to foreign skies. The Federal Aviation Administration, working to expand unmanned aircraft in domestic airspace, grants limited permits to the armed forces, law enforcement and some universities.

In other words, the probe droids deployed to Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back exist and fly over American skies.

Though these domestic drones lack the destructive capabilities of their overseas counterparts, these droids present a new challenge. These droids, in their capacity to assist law enforcement and the armed forces, pose a clear threat to privacy.

Though some states and cities have moved to restrict the capacity of law enforcement to use drones, others won’t. Regulated or not, any camera with wings ought to concern those who care about privacy. This technology grants unprecedented surveillance capacity to authorities.

A shift to droids and a loss of humanity

There’s a reason why Star Wars fans cheer on the rebels and the Jedi against droid armies and Imperial forces. It represents the battle of humanity against machines.

Using drones for police work and military operations robs that humanity. There’s no discretion, judgment or morality coming from a robot. The normal processes in surveillance and military strikes get tossed aside in the name of efficiency. The right of due process and expectations of privacy get erased.

But Americans don’t need a rebellion to challenge these policies. Voice opposition. Protest. Press lawmakers to protect legal rights and privacy.

Tell them to keep abuse of this technology in a galaxy far, far away.

Drone strike protest, Washington, D.C.

Kevin Rogers is a junior journalism major at St. Bonaventure University. He writes the blog The Nerds of Congress.

My non-intervention problem

When it comes to foreign policy, most progressives agree that intervention in another state’s internal affairs is ill-advised. With regards to Syria, Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Stephen Zunes summed this argument up well back in March.

Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Other studies demonstrate that foreign military interventions actually increase the duration of civil wars, making the conflicts longer and bloodier, and the regional consequences more serious, than if there were no intervention. In addition, military intervention would likely trigger a “gloves off” mentality that would dramatically escalate the violence on both sides. Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Nota Bene #110: WEHT SWK?

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #101: Your Pal, Mike S.

“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Judgment and the burnt weeny terror plot

Did anyone expect this Obama character to be such a card? I seem to remember speeches and quips about judgment and its importance in leadership. No quibbles about that, it’s true and i would take a man of good judgment over one of ossified, bureaucratic experience in most cases but especially situations of threat or upheaval. As an American, i should be well-trained in this game; i’ve eaten enough Big Macs to know that they look nothing like the advertising picture used to entice me. Lukewarm, grey “meat.” Ah yes, move over Big Dog, Big Mac is running the show now.

I think that i’m supposed to be comforted by his “surge” of federal air marshals. What is it with this guy and surges? See that problem, a surge will fix it. Hell, only a surge will fix it. I feel the same way about hammers, but i don’t act on it.
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Nota Bene #94: Bear Vs. Ninja

“Overture, curtain, lights Continue reading

Dopeman

Well now, the paper of what, why didn’t anyone tell us? record has stumbled across information suggesting that Ahmed Wali Karzai is on the CIA’s payroll. Yeah, that Ahmed Karzai who had the Senate’s panties all in a bunch as recently as August for his purported role in the Afghan opium trade.

According to the paper of sure we’ll lie to help you invade Iraq record, Mr. Karzai was paid for “a variety of services” that included raising a paramilitary force. You don’t say…

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Afghanistan: Obama at the crossroads

Election fiascos and strategy deliberations continue, while Pakistan’s army is laying waste to South Waziristan. The deliberations are of the utmost importance; more important and more pressing than health care reform. This is Obama’s second strategy review in nine months. He cannot, politically or strategically, continue on such a pace. That means that the decisions made can be expected to indicate overall policy for the rest of his term, if not longer in the way that policy develops a momentum of its own.

There’s no question that the election was rigged, but the low voter turnout is more dangerous to government legitimacy than the fraud. Just five years ago Afghanistan held an election that defied expectations: women voted in large numbers, old men cried after voting for the first time in their lives, polls had to stay open late so that all who wanted to vote could, and it was peaceful. In effect, we’ve been moving backwards.

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Nota Bene #88: Pigeon Power

♫♪ If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed Continue reading

AfPakintacular

It was such a pleasant weekend. Fall is in the air. Football is on TV, and the Angels sent the Boston Red Sox golfing. It even felt wholesome and normal to listen to the soothing sounds of Republicans and Democrats making fun of each other and playing nerf meme dodge ball. I suppose that we owe the Nobel Committee a thank you note. But all good things must come to an end. Or…. Now that we’ve got that peace prize thing out of the way, let’s get back to the business of war.

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Scholars & Rogues Nightstand: what Scrogues are reading

If you are what you read, it is indeed evident that our cast of characters is composed of both scholars and rogues. . .

Chris Mackowski:

All the World’s a Grave: A New Play by William Shakespeare by John Reed (Plume, 2008). Take all the best plot ingredients from Shakespeare’s greatest plays, cut and paste the Bard’s own language, keep all the insights into human behavior, and mix creatively — the result is Reed’s invigorating re-envisioning of Shakespeare, written by Shakespeare himself. Continue reading

Note to Pakistan: Winking does not a foreign policy make

From afar, Afghan boys find Predator drones exciting. In “Right at the Edge,” his essential article in the September 7 New York Times magazine about Afghanistan, Dexter Filkins writes:

“The young fighters were chattering excitedly about a missile that had recently destroyed one of their ammunition dumps. An American missile, the kids said. ‘It was a plane without a pilot,’ one of the boys explained through an interpreter. His eyes darted back and forth among his fellows. ‘We saw a flash. And then the building exploded.'” Continue reading

Nota Bene #30

Got hot links if you want ’em!

At Truthdig economic reporter Doug Henwood writes: “The Republican never has doubts about the rightness of a money-driven hierarchical society ultimately backed by violence. The Democrat, though, is troubled by doubts and anxieties in the back of his mind that get diluted by evasion and qualification by the time they work their way toward the front of the mind.”

In a Christian Science Monitor article, “The Alternative to an Israeli Attack on Iran,” Trita Parsi and Shlomo Ben-Ami write about “a central flaw in the outlook of both Jerusalem and Washington: the tendency to treat the risks and repercussions of military operations with extreme optimism, while treating the diplomacy challenges with extreme skepticism.”  [Emphasis added.] Continue reading