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Photo by: joanneleon. September, 2013.


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DSWright.  Meanwhile, he also uses the Al Qaeda/terrorist justification to blow up terrorists (and civilians who get in the way) with drone strikes and to justify trillions spent on wars and Homeland Security.  Wrap your mind around that one.

Obama Bypasses Terrorism Rule To Give Weapons To Syrian Rebels

President Obama, in order to arm Al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebels, has waived a provision of federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups. Not surprisingly, federal law currently bans giving weapons to terrorists. Though it seems Obama does have the authority to bypass the restriction and he is choosing to do so by arming the Syrian rebels who have links to Al Qaeda, a group still listed as supporting terrorism.

The president, citing his authority under the Arms Export Control Act, announced today that he would “waive the prohibitions in sections 40 and 40A of the AECA related to such a transaction.”

Those two sections prohibit sending weaponry to countries described in section 40(d): “The prohibitions contained in this section apply with respect to a country if the Secretary of State determines that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” Congress stated in the Arms Control Export Act.

John Cusack in the Guardian.  It's also been published in several other places.
Will Eric Holder guarantee NSA reporters' first amendment rights?
The US attorney general vows not to prosecute journalists, but his criminalisation of whistleblowers undermines that assurance

Another week and another wave of stories on the NSA and the unconstitutional out-of-control surveillance state hit the digital newsstands, showing once again why the tide is turning. Some revelations are so surreal, it's hard not to assume they're satire. NSA chief Keith Alexander seems to be modeling his ambitions and visions for international spying after General Curtis LeMay's views on nuclear war.

Meanwhile, despite the massive smear campaign against Edward Snowden, opinion polls stand clearly with the truth-tellers. People know they have a right to know what the government is doing in their names. State secrecy is on the run, while American privacy, long rumored dead, is alive and kicking and wants the fight out in the open – in the sunlight and in the public square.

Last month, though, Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was detained at Heathrow airport for almost nine hours, while on a journalistic mission paid for by the Guardian. His electronics were seized, and he was forced to hand over his social media passwords under the threat of imprisonment. He was detained under the UK Terrorism Act – for an act of journalism. This was an assault on press freedom that should make every reporter shudder no matter their opinion on the NSA.

The message was sent. It gave a whole new meaning to "Miranda rights". A Miranda warning, in effect.

Obama pulled out all the stops with the media on Syria (but it was still 11 dimensional chess!)
New York Times Editors, Columnists Met With Obama During Syria Push

But that wasn’t the last time Obama met with Times editorial board members. On Aug. 29, the president again sat down for an off-the-record discussion with Rosenthal and some members of the editorial board, according to sources familiar with the meeting. Times opinion columnists David Brooks, Gail Collins and Ross Douthat also attended, but editors for the paper's news pages did not.

The meeting came amid the White House’s push for military intervention in Syria, one of the topics discussed that day. The Times editorial board hadn't explicitly come out for or against a strike on Syrian President Bashar Assad before the meeting, and soon after the paper still expressed concerns about the administration taking action without congressional approval and broad international support.

[...]

“We did meet with the Obama White House about two years ago and that meeting was off the record,” a Times spokeswoman said. “We met with them again recently under the same restriction, which we intend to honor.”

[...]

But the Obama White House has long seemed particularly interested in getting its point of view across in the Times, and the president has said he reads all the paper's columnists. In April, a former adviser said the Times is the only paper Obama reads.

WTF?
Nameless And Shameless: Masked DEA Agents Raid Innocent Women, Refuse To Reveal Their Identities

Over a three-day period in June 2007, heavily armed SWAT teams, supported by tanks and helicopters, descended on Detroit's Eight Mile Road. The massive operation involved police and agents from 21 different local, state and federal branches of law enforcement, and was intended to rid the notoriously crime-ridden area of drug houses, prostitutes and wanted fugitives.

After conducting hundreds of raids, the authorities made 122 arrests, according to The Detroit News, and seized about 50 ounces of marijuana, 6.5 ounces of cocaine and 19 guns.

When Caroline Burley, now 51, first heard the boom around 5:30 on the evening of June 13, it sounded like it had come from outside her bedroom window. She rushed to investigate, and as she came out of the room, a man with a gun confronted her, threw her into a wall and then hurled her to the floor. A SWAT team had burst through her front door. Wearing only her nightgown, she asked for mercy. She recently had back surgery, she explained. Instead, one officer, then another kept her close to the floor by putting a boot in her back, according to court filings.

der Spiegel.  I've been wondering when these SWIFT transactions would become an issue.
SWIFT Suspension? EU Parliament Furious about NSA Bank Spying

The recent revelations regarding the degree to which the US intelligence agency NSA monitors bank data in the European Union has infuriated many in Europe. "Now that we know what we have long been suspecting, we have to protest loudly and clearly," Jan Philipp Albrecht, a legal expert for the Green Party in the European Parliament, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. He is demanding a suspension of the SWIFT agreement, which governs the transfer of some bank data from the EU to anti-terror authorities in the United States.

On Monday, SPIEGEL reported that the NSA monitors a significant share of international money transfers, including bank and credit card transactions. The information comes from documents in the possession of whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has been able to see. "Follow the Money" is the name of the NSA branch that handles the surveillance. Information obtained by "Follow the Money" then flows into a financial database known as Tracfin. In 2011, Tracfin had 180 million datasets -- 84 percent of which are comprised of credit card data.
But data from the SWIFT network, headquartered in Brussels, also ends up on Tracfin. SWIFT, which handles international transfers among thousands of banks, is identified by the NSA as a "target" according to the Snowden documents. They also show that the NSA monitors SWIFT on several different levels, with the NSA department for "tailored access operations" also being involved. Among other methods, the documents note that the NSA has the ability to read "SWIFT printer traffic from numerous banks."

Why didn't OWS transform into a political movement?

DESVARIEUX: Okay. And we can't talk about the successes of Occupy without discussing some of the failures. To what extent do you attribute things like internal conflicts, police oppression, or just not having really a clear agenda to the decline of the Occupy movement?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think it's important to recognize first that when we talk about the failures of the movement, we're talking first of all about the ways in which the aspirations that the movement put in our minds weren't quite met by it. So in a lot of ways we wouldn't even be talking about these failures if the movement itself hadn't happened and set such high standards for what it might accomplish and such high ambitions.

But there was a lot of repression. This was a movement that was systematically torn apart by the security state, by the militarized police forces in cities all across the country. This was very clear. It was not only brute force. In meeting after meeting after meeting, there were clear infiltrators who were disrupting the discussions and making sure that no sustainable organizing practices could take hold. That was an incredibly significant problem.

But I think it's also important to recognize that this movement excelled in creating that rupture and that adrenaline-rush moment of the occupations driven by artists, forcing itself on the imagination.

And I think we're in a moment now where we have to transition. If this idea is to stay alive, we have to transition into more sustainable forms of organizing that can bring more and more people into the fold.

The Dead Rhetoric of War

... The high-blown rhetoric of patriotism and national destiny, of the sacred duty to reshape the world through violence, to liberate the enslaved and implant democracy in the Middle East, has finally been exposed as empty and meaningless. The war machine has tried all the old tricks. It trotted out the requisite footage of atrocities. It issued the histrionic warnings that the evil dictator will turn his weapons of mass destruction against us if we do not bomb and “degrade” his military. It appealed to the nation’s noble sacrifice in World War II, with the Secretary of State John Kerry calling the present situation a “Munich moment.” But none of it worked. ... The party is over. ...

We have listened to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concede that “there is a probability for collateral damage.” We know this means civilians will be killed to prevent the regime of Bashar Assad from killing civilians. Only the circular logic of war makes such a proposition rational. And this circular logic, no longer obscured by the waving of flags, the bombast of “glory and honor,” the cant of politicians, the self-exaltation that comes with the disease of nationalism, means that Barack Obama and the war machine he serves are going to face a wave of popular revulsion if he starts another war.

UN has allegations of 14 other gas attacks in Syria by both regime and rebels

U.N. inspectors, who Monday confirmed the use of chemical weapons against a rebel-held area in the Damascus suburbs, were in Syria by coincidence, intending to investigate other gas attacks where the national government claims the rebels are responsible.

 Led by Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom, the inspection team said in the report that it has every intention of traveling at a later point to Khan al Asal, which is near Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, and two other locations, where one side or both are alleged to have used the long-proscribed chemical weapons.

In fact there are credible allegations that chemical weapons were used at more than a dozen locations in Syria since December 2012, according to a U.N. human rights watchdog body.

Israel Grants First Golan Heights Oil Drilling License To Dick Cheney-Linked Company

Israel has granted a U.S. company the first license to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.

A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.

That geographic location will likely prove controversial. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. Its administration of the area — which is not recognized by international law — has been mostly peaceful until the Syrian civil war broke out 23 months ago.

Austerity Fury: Striking Greeks clash with police, teargased as crisis deepens

Pentagon too broke to buy a new fax machine

The United States went ahead with major spending cuts earlier this year, slicing around $85 billion off the federal budget. But while most government offices remain afloat, a fax machine on the fritz may be too costly for the Pentagon to fix.

Investigative journalists working for the website Muckrock.com have identified one side-effect of the sequester that is only now starting to cause concerns. A facsimile machine at Defense Department headquarters has reportedly been out of commission for almost three weeks now and is hindering the ability for reporters to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the military.

“Starting two weeks ago, requests faxed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) started coming back as undeliverable. After several subsequent attempts and troubleshooting on our end, MuckRock reached out to the OSD. Sure enough, their fax machine is down,” journalist Shawn Musgrave wrote on the site last week.

What’s more, though, is that Musgrave reported that the fax machine in question — the only one at the Pentagon handling FOIA requests, according to him — may remain out-of-service for another month, if not more.

Government Hands More Than $1 Trillion to Wealthy While Deficit Is $642 Billion

While our government is laying off hundreds and hundreds of thousands and cutting services in the name of cutting deficits, a new report exposes that taxpayers are handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest.

Instead of focusing on jobs, Congress and the White House obsess on how to cut the budget -– the things We the People do to make our lives and economy better. While the “sequester” has already cost 900,000 jobs — 1.6 million thru 2014 — Republicans are threatening to shut down the government and force the country to default on its debt as leverage to force even more cuts. ...

But a report out today from the National Priorities Project (NPP) shows that the country is handing more than $1 trillion to the already-wealthy.

That’s right, the government is cutting services and laying off hundreds upon hundreds of thousands in the name of cutting deficits, while handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest. The rest of us pay taxes and suffer cuts in jobs and services to make up this lost money.

According to the report, lots of 1%ers will pay no taxes at all this year, while the country cuts jobs and services in the name of cutting the deficit.

Wow, first SOS Kerry wants to launch an "Unbelievably small" attack on Syria with Tomahawk missiles - seriously, those Syrians will hardly notice they're dying grisly, painful deaths.  And now the Democrats want "relatively small" cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  Why you'll hardly notice that the old, the poor, the indigent children of parents who passed away prematurely (perhaps from a lack of proper healthcare or one of Obama's stupid wars of choice), veterans, etc. are starving in the streets.  Can't we do better than this? (joe shikspack)
What do the fucking Democrats mean by "relatively small" cuts to Social Security and Medicare?

MSNBC floats a trial balloon for this year's Grand Bargain:

Democrats prefer a mix of tax increases and relatively small cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other spending.
Almost 50 million Americans now on food stamps as nation plunges into widespread poverty

As economic recovery continues to prove dismal if not illusory, American families are signing up for food stamps in record numbers, showing signs that poverty is increasing and the job market is far from recovering.

According to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) numbers, households on food stamps increased by 45,900 in one month, hitting a staggering new high in June of 23.117 million households, with an additional 125,079 individuals signing up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a near-record 47.76 million people that is just below the December 2012 peak of 47.79 million.

More than 80% of those families receiving food stamp benefits are at or below the poverty line, with more than 61% of households drastically below the poverty line, making less than $14,648 in a year per household of three. ...

At the same time food stamp recipients have climbed sharply - reaching numbers nearly double those seen December 2007 before the collapse set it - the average benefit has declined. This forces those at or near poverty to stretch their food dollars even thinner, putting more items out of reach and lower quality items in the basket, as inflation touched 9.4% in recent weeks. Households received an average of only $274.55 under SNAP in June 2012, as compared with $293.89 per month as of October 2009, while individuals enrolled in SNAP received average benefits of $132.89 per month in June 2012, a statistical drop from $134.60 in October 2009.

A New Direction For the Fed?

With Larry Summers’ withdrawal from consideration as chair of the Federal Reserve Board, the odds jump dramatically for the nomination of Janet Yellen, the current Fed vice-chair, for the head of the institution that, according to journalist William Greider, “runs the country.” ...

[B]eyond the personalities in any contest for office, progressives need to take this opportunity to begin a larger debate about how the Fed has failed to do its job under Bernanke, and how it must transform both itself and the financial sector to avoid continuing the bubble and bust instability of the economy in recent decades. And if one takes a more in-depth look at Fed policies, Yellen seems at best a cautious reformer, and her record as Fed vice-chair suggests that she is not as likely to rein in the speculation of big, interconnected banks or to use the Fed to aggressively promote jobs as some equally qualified economists whom Obama is unlikely to consider, such as Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.

Fellow economists and some progressives praise Yellen for her relatively prescient forecasts and recognition of the housing bubble, and she has generally supported other Fed governors who take seriously their responsibility to maintain high employment as well as low inflation (although she has not always taken that position; in the late ‘90s, Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker says, Yellen urged the Fed to raise interest rates as unemployment dropped, while chair Alan Greenspan bucked such conventional wisdom, ultimately demonstrating that low unemployment need not trigger problematic inflation). But while Yellen, as Fed vice-chair, has supported an innovative variety of Fed actions since the start of the financial crisis, many progressives see those policies as having tilted towards saving bankers rather than reviving the economy.

As Fed vice-chair, Yellen generally sided with Bernanke on the bailout of the banks, which Bloomberg News reported in 2011 as having involved $7.7 trillion in largely secret loans, and the Fed subsidies to the big banks of about $83 billion a year. She also supported many aspects of the bailout that favored banks without giving the public adequate control or payback in the form of job creation.

Fisa court: no telecoms company has ever challenged phone records orders

No telecommunications company has ever challenged the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court's orders for bulk phone records under the Patriot Act, the court revealed on Tuesday.

The secretive Fisa court's disclosure came inside a declassification of its legal reasoning justifying the National Security Agency's ongoing bulk collection of Americans' phone records.

Citing the "unprecedented disclosures" and the "ongoing public interest in this program", Judge Claire V Eagan on 29 August not only approved the Obama administration's request for the bulk collection of data from an unidentified telecommunications firm, but ordered it declassified. Eagan wrote that despite the "lower threshold" for government bulk surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act compared to other laws, the telephone companies who have received Fisa court orders for mass customer data have not challenged the law.

"To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order," Eagan wrote. "Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an order, despite the mechanism for doing so."

That complicity has not been total. Before the Bush administration moved the bulk phone records collection under the authority of the Fisa court, around 2006, Qwest Communications refused to participate in the effort.

Ideas at the House: Panel - The War on Whistleblowers and Their Publishers

NPR's New Boss: Financial Industry Lobbyist, GOP Donor, Right-Wing Think Tank Booster

The NPR press release states that Haaga's "accomplished career" included a stint as "chairman of the Investment Company Institute"–the powerful lobbying group of the mutual fund industry. As the Los Angeles Times once reported, "Mutual funds have been mostly shielded from the reforms forced on the financial world–thanks in large part to the efforts of the Investment Company Institute."

NPR also adds that Haaga has ties to right-wing think tanks–he is "a member of the National Council of the American Enterprise Institute" and he sits on "the Board of Overseers of Hoover Institution at Stanford University."

Haaga is also a fairly regular contributor to to Republican politicians. According to OpenSecrets.org, this year he made a $32,400 donation to the Republican National Committee;  in the previous two years, he made contributions of around $30,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. He's also given four-figure checks to a large number of mostly Republican candidates, including  Rep. Paul Ryan, George Allen and Mitch McConnell.

Massive Federal Prosecutorial Misconduct Results in Overturned Ruling Against New Orleans Police

A federal judge on Tuesday overturned the convictions of five New Orleans police officers tied to the shooting of unarmed civilians during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, finding that prosecutors in the case had engaged in “grotesque” misconduct.

In a blistering and meticulously detailed 129-page ruling, U.S. Distr..ict Judge Kurt Engelhardt found that federal prosecutors in New Orleans had anonymously posted damning online critiques of the accused officers and the New Orleans Police Department before and during the 2011 trial, a breach of professional ethics that had the effect of depriving the officers of their rights to a fair trial. ...

The judge’s ruling excoriated two former top attorneys in the federal prosecutor’s office in New Orleans, as well as a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division who had played a role in the case. The prosecutors posted comments about the Danziger case on NOLA.com, the website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, as the case was still unfolding. The comments included a variety of attacks on the police department, calls for guilty verdicts and encouragements to other anonymous commentators to take apart the defense being offered by the five officers.

Engelhardt wrote that he was unaware of any other case in which “prosecutors acting with anonymity used social media to circumvent ethical obligations, professional responsibilities, and even to commit violations of the Code of Federal Regulations.” He called the behavior of prosecutors “bizarre and appalling.”

The Justice Department, in a statement, said it was disappointed in the judge’s action.

The 1,000-Year Flood: Did Global Warming Worsen Colorado’s Unprecedented Rainfall?

Colorado frack-site flooding - September 2013

Historic flooding across large portions of Central and Eastern Colorado has caused an unprecedented amount of damage. Along with the rise in water levels came elevated concern over the tens of thousands of frack wells that scar the region's landscape. In one of the hardest hit areas, Weld County, there are over 20,000 frack wells alone.

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Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues
Pt. I: Stiglitz, "...we have postponed doing anything about the fundamental problems we confront."
Pt. II: Martens, "JPMorgan Gobbles Lion's Share From FHLB–Program Meant to Aid Small Banks"
Pt. III: Greider, Nichols Note Populism’s Big Win At Fed, Obama Plays Defense w/G.O.P. Treachery



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Bob Marley - Is this Love

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