Monday, September 16, 2013

James Clapper

"... in March [2013] that James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee that the N.S.A. did not collect data on millions of Americans. Mr. Snowden’s records forced Mr. Clapper to backtrack, admitting his statement was false. "

So the Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress! When this happens, isn't it usual for the liar to resign or be forced to resign?

NSA Budget


In 2013 NSA requested $10.45 billion dollars from Congress, according to the top-secret budget leaked by Edward Snowden.

And what can we expect from our tax money? Falsehood, evasions, half-truths, three-quarter lies, omissions...only last week the government released documents showed that in 2010 a FISA judge told NSA that it had exceeded its authority by spying on all phone calls in the U.S.A. Their own judge! The agency's bland reply was that the managers of the system didn't operate it properly. Well! Let's first fire those managers and then their bosses - I'm sure that we can find someone to operate the system correctly.

Promises Are Like Piecrusts...Detroit, 2013

Promises Are Like Piecrusts... Detroit, 2013

Promises are like piecrusts, made to be broken.

Often attributed to V. I. Lenin

The city of Detroit declared bankruptcy on Friday, July 19, 2013, at 4:06 p.m. Central Daylight Time. The special referee and the governor said that the city could not meet its obligations and that the amount of debt, some 18 billion dollars, had become unsustainable. Both of them tried to strike a positive note saying that this was a new start for the city, a new sunrise, a new effort. However, buried in the self-congratulatory speeches was the brutal fact that the city pensions, the promises that Detroit made to its workers, had become an unsecured debt, i.e. the pensions were worthless or skeletal, to use a death metaphor. However, it was also clear that some debt would get some money, that owed to bondholders and banks. Let it be noted that these individuals and institutions have the ability to socialize their losses through the American tax system. Declaring their loss on their taxes means they pay less taxes and we, the taxpayers, make up that shortfall. However, this method of recouping losses is not available to pensioners - they simply lose.

The ability to dump pension obligations by bankruptcy is a fairly new phenomenon, beginning, I believe, in the 1990's. I can think of Continental Airlines, Enron, Amerian Airlines, as companies that evaded their pension responsibilities with this financial device. Then cities such as Stockton, CA. and Central Falls, R.I. declared bankruptcy. And now Detroit, once the heart of industrial America, the home of the American automobile, the city that wheeled the world, has reneged. Next stop: a state will declare bankruptcy to free itself from promised pension and health benefits.

The larger question remains unasked: Why now? The Fox News pundits and others carefully outline the scale of benefits, calling them insupportable - the damned Democrats and Socialists made promises they couldn't keep - Fox News byline. However, unmentioned is the fact that these benefits have been sustainable for at least the last twenty-five or more years. So something must have happened. What?

The pension funds invested in the American stock market, which crashed in 2008, and their investments, then so safe, have not recovered. So the cities and counties, think Orange County, CA, couldn't maintain their level of promised benefit. So they borrowed. The investments have not recovered their level of yield and now the pension funds are in trouble.

Quite a feat for the bankers, yet they continue to oppose any meaningful reform, i.e. a higher level of reserves. This means that when they take risks, more of THEIR money would be at risk, instead of depositors.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


A geologist at Gulf Oil, M. King Hubbert, developed this theory in 1956: this is the point at which petroleum extraction would reach its peak and then begin to decline. He predicted that the United States, then the world's largest oil producer, would reach its maximum in 1970. This happened. As a result the seventies were a period of high volatility in oil prices. He also predicted that the rest of the world would reach peak oil around 2005. Since 2005 we also have had high volatility in oil prices, cf. summer, 2010, $4.50/gal.

Recently, Op-ed pundits and others have speculated that the United States will again become an oil exporter, having enough for its own needs, due to fracking and conservation (you don't hear that word much anymore, do you?). However, if true, this only postpones the problem of oil scarcity, it kicks the can down the road.

Perhaps today we should be thinking about mass transit, conservation, and other sources of energy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And so to Richard Cheney, Vice-President of the United States, 2000-2008


It was Dick Cheney, graduate of the Richard M. Nixon School of Honest and Responsible Government, who floated the idea of Total Information Awareness back in 2001. The American people didn't like it then, and they don't like it now. However, Dick Cheney went underground and executed the idea. His chief-of-staff, Dick Addington, drew up the rationale and Michael Hayden, later head of the CIA, carried it out.

Richard Cheney is the author of the violations of the Fourth Amendment which now so exercise the American people.

Have you seen him lately on the talk shows, defending his egregious behavior? The seeds he planted have produced the police state that he thought was necessary, even during the days of the unlamented Richard Nixon.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Snowden Again

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath and affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Don't you think this should be required reading for James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and General Alexander, head of the National Security Agency?
Eugene Robinson, in The Washington Post (7.4.13), detailed some of the egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment. Our government has collected information about billions of our phone calls, and perhaps, has recorded some or all of them. He asks the right question: under what authority was this information compiled? The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is supposed to oversee this operation, but its proceedings and rulings are secret. So we don't know. We do know that the government has requested more than 30,000 surveillance warrants and the court has refused only 11. Check my math, but that's .037%. 
That's right: .037%
So we don't know what information is being collected, for what purpose, and for how long. In essence, then, this is a lawless operation since the people, i.e. us, are not permitted to know any of these purposes or even whether the information is being or has been collected. It's a blank check to a Star Chamber court, completely and irrevocably antithetical to the Constitution and the American experience.
Policemen, and secret policemen, always want more information in order to "protect" their society from threats, both internal and external. In fact, the best way to protect us would be to put us in a dark cell, completely protected

Thursday, July 4, 2013

George F. Will Hits a Wall in Berlin

Just what was it about President Obama and his speech in Berlin that so bothered George F. Will, reactionary wordsmith of the Right? Was it the President's demeanor? Was it the mention of arms control? The President said that we cannot ignore the intolerance and extremism that provides the fuel for terrorism. George's sneer was that terrorists create intolerance and extremism - basically Obama is too dumb to understand this crucial distinction. The next insulting sneer was that Obama was ignorant of Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs. As if he could be. Remember when the Right insisted that a President shouldn't be criticised while on foreign soil? But that during the tenure of the Toxic Texan, not the unprincipled usurper, elected twice now. Which does remind me, has anyone heard of Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan lately?

This president seems to get under George's white, white skin. I looked at his article again and decided that the old hot buttons of the Cold War, so beloved by the Right, no longer produce the same frisson of angst and terror. The President mentioned arms control - that means cuts in the military, spelling financial hardship for arms makers and investors. The President is looking at the reasons why terrorists flourish in some venues across the globe. Again, for George, apostasy! He thinks that Americans have a God-given right to kill terrorists and anyone , really, who disagrees with our unquestionably generous policies. And then Obama talked about the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs. Yes, they are dangerous, but the central question is why these two countries, certainly not very properous or advanced, should devote so much of their Gross National Product to the production of nuclear bombs. Might these projects have something to do with fear? In the past has the United States threatened either or both countries? Does anyone remember Mohammad Mossadegh or the Korean War? Yes, George wants a no-nonsense, heavily armed America that brooks no opposition to its sway, you know, just like Ronald Reagan. Talking with opponents, considering long term solutions to problems, looking unblinkingly at the mistakes we've made - not for George.

I think that these considerations sparked George's tantrum. He was the one who hit the wall in Berlin, not President Obama.

The Atlantic Naval War: December, 1941 - June, 1942

Yesterday I watched Part II of The U-Boat War on You Tube. Again it confirmed my suspicion that many aspects of the Second World War have yet to be discovered.

After the gratuitous declaration of war by Germany on December 11, 1941, Admiral Doenitz, Commander of U-boats, dispatched five submarines to the East Coast of the United States to intercept and sink American and British shipping. They arrived at their patrol stations about January 10th. They were astounded to see that U.S. cities still had not dimmed their lights at night; Allied freighters and tankers were clearly outlined against the lights, providing easy targets for the marauding U-Boats. Later they extended their patrols to the Gulf of Mexico, especially the waters off Galveston, from which most American tankers sailed. The next five months were the "Happy Time" of the German U-boats. They sank over 400 ships off the East Coast of the United States. And this in spite of the fact that British Intelligence was reading U-boat radio traffic and had provided these intercepts to the American Navy. But Admiral King, then Commander-in-chief, United States Fleet, was an Anglophobe and did nothing with this incredibly valuable information. He also refused to institute convoys for vessels sailing northward to New York and Canadian ports where they would be convoyed to England. Admiral King remarked that convoys only provided grouped targets for the submarines, ignoring the plain fact that shipping losses from convoyed ships were significantly less that unconvoyed. The English even sent over four destroyer escorts to show the Americans how to detect and attact the U-boats. One of them, the HMS Bedfordshire, was sunk with all hands by a submarine. Their aid was not accepted. In late February, 1942, the lights of coast cities were dimmed, only after June was there a complete blackout. But even with the dimmed lights U-boat Captain Hardegen said they could clearly see the ships limned against the light. Only in June was there a complete blackout. Also in late May Admiral King consented to convoys, even with rag-tag escorts made up of small motorboats and volunteers.

King successfuly defended himself later, saying that lack of resources forced him to make the decisions he did. But then hindsight is always more effective than foresight.

Four hundred ships went down with over 4000 crewman lost.

Friday, June 28, 2013

So It Is True!

"I'm not going to be scrambling jets..."

President Barack Obama June 27, 2013

When asked about what the U.S. intended to do about Edward Snowden, the President began his reply with the above words.

It has been speculated that one of the reasons that Edward Snowden didn't fly to Havana aboard Aeroflot was the danger that the aircraft would be intercepted by U.S. fighters and forced down on U.S. soil. Snowden would then be removed and arrested and the plane allowed to fly on. From the above statement alone we can infer that this "solution" was discussed at the very highest levels of our government.

Query: just what does Snowden have that NSA, CIA, and the other alphabet security agences are so terrified of? Let there be no mistake: absolutely terrified is the the right word.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Irony Level Low: Texas

On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate storage site at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, exploded, causing the death of 15 people, injury to 160 others, and the destruction of more than 150 buildings.
The plant operated with little or no federal or state oversight.
Although the plant did have 1 million dollars of insurance, it is not nearly enough to cover the damages. Texas law allows fertilizer plants to operate without any liability insurance even when they store highly explosive chemicals.
At the time of the explosion Texas Governor Rick Perry was in Illinois touting his state's lack of oversight, claiming that this "red tape" impedes profit and expansion. Industry: move to Texas and avoid supervision.
After the explosion, however, Texas asked the federal government to cover, 100%, the costs to the community for damages and emergency response. FEMA declined to pay 100% of this disaster relief for West, Texas, having determined that the state and local governments have sufficient resources, 17 million dollars, to pay for uninsured public infrastructure damages. FEMA had already paid the Texas 51 million for debris removal and emergency services.
Governor Rick Perry was outraged. FEMA should have paid it all.
Let me get this straight. The state of Texas arrogantly claims that state and federal supervision, even of dangerous chemicals, impedes the free flow of commerce and constitutes a burden upon free enterprise. Profit and initiative rule. But after a major accident such as the West Fertilizer Company explosion we, the taxpayers of the rest of the country, are expected to bail out the state, which glories in its faux free enterprise ideology. Also the state of Texas leads the nation in the number and amount of incentives that it gives businesses. From this I infer that what the taxpayers of Texas don't pick up, the taxpayers in other states are liable.  
Say what?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pour decourager les autres

Amendment IV

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

That seems clear enough, doesn't it?

Edward Snowden did the nation a service by exposing the clear violation of American rights. The government has no right to listen to my phone calls, to find out who I called, or when I called. There is no "probable cause" to seize this information. And who has sworn an oath or affirmed that this information was needed in a warrant? We are not given those names.

But then why the fury and ever increasing anger of government officials as Snowden eludes them? First, of course, the NSA and the other spooks have nearly become unmanned by Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden -their secrets, so assiduously kept from the American people, have been partially, I emphasize partially, exposed. And so our government must punish these miscreants, these "whistleblowers", lest they provide a model. Manning and Snowden must be punished "pour décourager les autres," to paraphrase Voltaire. And yet, the intensity of the chase gives rise to another suspicion: that Snowden may have evidence of even more egregiously illegal government snooping - after all, if NSA can intercept simple telephone information, it can certainly intercept the calls themselves. Those giant computers (they may be located in Fort Huachuca, Arizona) capable of millions of calculations per second can certainly "listen" to a phone call and determine, by voice print, who called and who was called. It is but a short step to recording the calls themselves. Then too, he may have evidence that the government has used the U.S. Census or other privileged information for its own purposes, whatever they may be.

Monday, June 24, 2013

George again

June 24, 2013

George Again

Sigh. George F. Will is at it again. His bromides against Obama, that, that, black man in the White House, (emphasis on WHITE), have become frissons of rage and frustration. I'm surprised that George and his ilk even recognize Obama as a human being, let alone a political leader. But, as has always been true, George forgets or distorts recent history,

From his June 23, 2013 article, "Obama Hits a Wall in Berlin."

"Napoleon said: "If you start to take Vienna - take Vienna." Douglas MacArthur said that all military disasters can be explained by two words: "Too late."¹

Well, George, with your true and tested military acumen...ah, you DID support the Iraq war, did you not...and with the above strictures in mind, how do you rate the political and military leadership of our Doofus-in-Chief, George W., in reference to the aforementioned Iraq war? How does "take Vienna" or "too late" fit in when discussing the horrible mistakes of that war? What was the result of that conflict? Billions spent, thousands of American soldiers dead, a fractured country, immense debt, and for what?
Our Prussian Feldherr from upstate Illinois prefers not to answer this question.

That finished, G.F. commented on Obama's speech in Berlin:

""As I've [President Barack Obama, ed.] said, Angela and I don't exactly look like previous German and American leaders." He has indeed said that too, before, at least about himself. It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling."

Even a Obama's mild jokes are redundant, low-quality, and silly. Compared to Noel Coward I suppose that Obama and his speechwriters aren't that witty or amusing, but then...has George looked at questions and remarks of Generalissimo Flubya - they weren't exactly Noel Coward-like, in fact, they sometimes didn't even make sense.
What a Beltway world George lives in!

¹ Did General Douglas MacArthur, darling of the Right, say this before, during, or after the November/December 1951 disaster in North Korea?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anno Mirabile!!!!!!!!!!!!

ANNO MIRABILE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Year of miracles! 
On February 8, 2013, George F. Will wrote a long column advocating the breakup of the nation's largest banks. Just imagine the stomach-churning at the Republican National Committee! Break up the big banks!! Why, that damned Socialist!
At the beginning of paragraph 4, George actually commits apostasy, criticizing that saint, the very essence of the living God, Ronald Reagan!
"In a sense, TBTF [To Big To Fail. Ed.] began under Ronald Reagan with the 1984 rescue of Continental Illinois,then the seventh largest bank.
Gasp! Blasphemer! Profane Scribbler! Writer of Lies! Blaming the Holy Reagan! Why, why, why, that sentence could have been written by a liberal!!!!! Choke, cough, gasp!
Then another apopletic sentence:
"There is no convincing consensus about a correlation between a bank's size and supposed efficiencies of scale, and any efficiencies must be weighed against management inefficiencies associated with complexity and opacity."
My GOD! This sentence says that giant companies, like giant banks, may not be good for the American economy!!! And that, that, that, it hints that binges of greed in the private sector do not of necessity contribute to the well-being of the American community.

Last paragraph:

"By breaking up the biggest banks, conservatives will not be putting asunder what the free market has joined together. Government nurtured these behemoths by weaving an improvident safety net and by practicing crony capitalism. Dismantling them would be a blow against government that has become too big not to fail. Aux barricades!"

Gulp! Choke! Wheeze!! Holy Ronald along with George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush "...practic[ed] crony capitalism"!! We already know that the execrable Bill Clinton and the unmentionable Barack Obama were guilty, but these righteous and godly Republicans, paragons of virtue and sinlessness, they too????? Is there no justice, no love of morality, no standard of truth in this our land?????

I must say it: George F. Will is advocating ideas that the infamous Occupy Wall Street espoused. Of all things! It looks like the New Republicanism starts with this article. They lost bad and they lost big in the last election - echoes of 1948 reverberate across America. Yes, this is the first evidence of change. Let's see what a few more months produce.


"Underperformed" I'll Say!!!

The Solicitor General of the United States reported this month that the 206 billion dollars allocated to rebuild Iraq in the ten years since the war have "underperformed."

With that amazing statement one is forced to ask, just what did that war accomplish, what war aim was attained? Why did over 4,400 Americans give their lives to, uh, "free" that country?
And on Facebook, we see George W.'s smiling face with the caption, "Miss Me Yet?" And former Vice President Cheney says that he regrets nothing and would do the same again.
Don't these people have any sense at all?

Thursday, February 7, 2013



"...realism about the sociology of government and the logic of collective action. The theory’s explanatory and predictive power, Buchanan wrote, derives from its “ presumption that persons do not readily become economic eunuchs as they shift from market to political participation.”

From George F. Will, Balanced Budget Amendment, February 7, 2013

Ah, at last we have an explanation of Republicans in office. They merely exchange one form of aggrandizement for another.

Thank you, George.


from the New York Times:

"Memo justifying the targeted killing by drone, of United States citizens overseas..."


Monday, February 4, 2013

George, the Movies, and Terrorism

George, the Movies, and Terrorism

Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Meditations:

"If you wish to know a thing, look to its origins."

The term, "enhanced techniques" or "enhanced interrogation techniques", meaning torture, is actually a Gestapo term, "verschaerfte Vernehmung." This term indicates Gestapo practices.

To explore the topic of American use of torture, George F. Will uses two Hollywood productions: Code Red and Zero Dark Thirty. It is unclear whether he believes that the scriptwriters had unique insights or unique access to information or whether he believed, and wants us to believe, their stories. But a scriptwriters job, we must remember, is not to explain or elucidate or illustrate, their job is to sell movie tickets. Boring truth or ambiguous moralities have little influence on them.

He tells us that Michael Hayden, former CIA chief, claimed that half of our knowledge about al-Qaeda came from the use of "enhanced techniques." However, this is just a claim, not truth. Michael Hayden was head of the CIA when it used waterboarding and other techniques on prisoners. (1) That claim is just another example of CYA, or "cover your ass", in case Congress looks into the matter. (2) The "knowledge" so gained may have been useless, such as the fact that Osama bin Laden was a disaffected Muslim, that he was in hiding, that he had couriers bring him information, and the like. If the information had been truly priceless and valuable, then the CIA could have tracked him down earlier instead of ten years after his triumph.
I have deep doubts about Mr. Hayden's assertions.
Lastly, we have George's glaring lack of historical knowledge. On July 20, 1944, a group of Army officers and civilians tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb. The Gestapo rapidly arrested most of the conspirators. They were interrogated using standard police methods, not torture, and the Gestapo quickly learned the extent of the plot. Later, some were tortured, but for the most important information, standard police techniques of questioning and cross-referencing information was sufficient. What does this tell us? That not even the Gestapo thought that torture worked. IT DOESN'T WORK, George, maybe in the movies, yes, but not in real life.
I must also note that the plot of Code Red came from the Melville novel, Billy Budd, which explores the moral ambiguity of our guardians, who must act for good by less than moral means. The movie has a schmaltzy, idealistic ending, quite in keeping with Hollywood. All this escapes George.

You know, if the Republican Party, our incarnations of selfishness, ever came out against the Cruxifixion, George would publish an article praising Pontius Pilate and executioners.