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Spiral Staircase - I Love You More Today Than Yesterday
News & Opinion
Joanneleon is still on vacation. joe shikspack aided by Lady Libertine is your guest news host for the day.
Yesterday, Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry gave a little speech for the teevee cameras and did his best to look solemn, earnest and morally outraged. Kerry did his best Colin Powell imitation and made the administration's best case for war. Kerry altered the Bush administration's language from "Slam Dunk" to "High Confidence." It looks like a trial balloon has been released by the Obama administration, now it is up to the media to help sell the war, if the traditional pattern is to be followed.
Kerry Outlines Evidence of Chemical Attack by Syria
Secretary of State John Kerry declared on Friday there was “clear” and “compelling” evidence that the government of President Bashar al-Assad used poison gas against its citizens, as the Obama administration released an unclassified intelligence report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. ...
A four-page intelligence summary released by the White House said the government had concluded that the Assad government had “carried out a chemical weapons attack” outside Damascus, based on human sources as well as communications intercepts. The suggestion that the opposition might have been responsible “is highly unlikely,” the assessment said. ...
President Obama is preparing to respond to the chemical attacks with a limited military strike on Syria despite Britain’s refusal to participate in the assault and expressions of deep reservation in Congress and among the American public. ...
Pentagon officials have moved warships and other military assets closer to Syria in preparation for a possible attack, which would most likely involve the use of cruise missiles. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the military is ready to execute any decision by Mr. Obama.
Here's a link toAnd here's the report on the purported evidence that the government has "high confidence" in.
Powell'sKerry's full speech.
U.S.Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013Erdogan wants action:
The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the
attack. These all - source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting. Our classified
assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key
international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.
[Follow link above to full (pdf) document.]
Turkish PM says limited action against Syria won't be enough, calls for Kosovo-like interventionHat tip to suejazz. Go ahead, click the link and read this whole Charles Pierce piece, it is a shame to excerpt it, but, what the heck, I did anyway:
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the U.S. statement on a "limited" military action against Syria will not be enough to satisfy Ankara, pleading for an intervention similar to the one in Kosovo in 1999. ...
A few minutes earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had given signs during a press briefing in Washington that the United States would act following last week's chemical attack in Syria, but said its response would be "tailored."
Erdoğan told reporters that the intervention could take place next week.
"Looking at what Kerry has said, there could be an intervention prior to the G-20 summit. This intervention should not last one or two days, but push the regime to collapsing," he said.
I do not want to believe that American policy is to weaken Assad but somehow not weaken him enough so that the rebels -- whom we do not trust and, frankly, do not know -- can actually overthrow him. I do not want to believe that the policy is to let Syria bleed itself white. I do not want to believe this because I remember when Henry Kissinger, that sociopath, actually adopted that policy during the Iran-Iraq War. We armed both sides to keep them at each other so that neither one would win. Thousands of people who were not us got slaughtered meaninglessly. I do not want to believe that American policy in Syria is within miles of that kind of lycanthropic realpolitik. I'd prefer to believe we just don't know what in the hell to do.
There is no question, however, that's it's on now, probably some time over the weekend. If I were a cynical clod like John Boehner, I'd hide until the missiles were launched and then scream that I wasn't consulted, and maybe throw a little wink to the impeachment crazies over the president's actions. If I were the Democrats, I'd be standing up right now demanding to be consulted, and demanding that Boehner get his orange ass back to Washington and put the House into session.
U.S. Prepares to Strike Syria Over Alleged Chemical Weapons as British Vote Not to Back Int’l ActionRobert Fisk. It's worth following the link to read this in full:
Iran, not Syria, is the West's real target
Before the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world begins – I am, of course, referring to the attack on Syria that we all yet have to swallow – it might be as well to say that the cruise missiles which we confidently expect to sweep onto one of mankind’s oldest cities have absolutely nothing to do with Syria. ...
After countless thousands have died in Syria’s awesome tragedy, suddenly – now, after months and years of prevarication – we are getting upset about a few hundred deaths. Terrible. Unconscionable. Yes, that is true. But we should have been traumatised into action by this war in 2011. And 2012. But why now?
I suspect I know the reason. I think that Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless army might just be winning against the rebels whom we secretly arm. With the assistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah – Iran’s ally in Lebanon – the Damascus regime broke the rebels in Qusayr and may be in the process of breaking them north of Homs. Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West.
David Cameron loses Commons vote on Syria action
British MPs have rejected possible UK military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to deter the use of chemical weapons.
A government motion was defeated by 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes.
PM David Cameron said "the government will act accordingly", effectively ruling out London's involvement in any US-led strikes against Damascus. ...
Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said the vote meant military action was "off the agenda", and added that MPs had reacted against the prime minister's "cavalier and reckless" leadership.
The defeat comes as a potential blow to the authority of Mr Cameron, who had already watered down a government motion proposing military action, in response to Labour's demands for more evidence of President Assad's guilt. ...
But in an unexpected turn of events, MPs also rejected the government's motion in support of military action in Syria if it was supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors, who are investigating the allegations of a chemical weapons attack last week.
English Parliament Balks At Obama’s Latest Demand For Military Intervention
While President Obama continues to maintain that only he decides what constitutes a war and requires consultation (let alone a declaration) from Congress, there remains a modicum of democratic process in England. The Obama Administration was surprised to learn that British Prime Minister David Cameron could not simply plunge his nation into another military conflict and that Parliament did not want to blindly follow the United States into attacking Syria. ...
What the English fail to understand is that our President stated publicly that he had a “red line” in Syria. Some say it was an off-the-cuff comment but he still said it. Now, either we go to war or Obama looks bad. For some reason, the Parliament does not see that choice as clearly as the White House. Of course, we have to go to war and spend a billion or so dollars to show that Obama means what he says. ...
Obama's Syria plans in disarray after Britain rejects use of force
Barack Obama's plans for air strikes against Syria were thrown into disarray on Thursday night after the British parliament unexpectedly rejected a motion designed to pave the way to authorising the UK's participation in military action. ...
The timing of the British vote, 272 to 285 against the government, was disastrous for Obama. Less than 30 minutes after the vote, senior intelligence officials began a conference call with key members of Congress, in an attempt to keep US lawmakers on side.
Congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of national security committees were briefed by the most senior US intelligence officials, amid signs that some of the support for military strikes against Syria was fading.
Military experts cautious about effectiveness of a U.S. attack on Syria
Just a few weeks ago, the nation’s top military officer was telling Congress it would cost $1 billion a month to take out Syria’s chemical weapons program in an extensive military operation entailing thousands of U.S. troops and the establishment of a no-fly zone over the embattled Middle East country.
Now, with the United States appearing close to launching a retaliatory attack for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of nerve gas last week, defense and diplomatic analysts are cautioning that the expected “surgical” strike will likely be symbolic and fall far short of eliminating Syria’s chemical capabilities.
As he decides how to respond to the apparent crossing of a “red line” that he drew, President Barack Obama is treading a fine line between delivering an unmistakable message and becoming involved in a Middle East conflict that a budget-strapped United States can ill afford, and that war-weary Americans want no part of.
“It’s an attempt to do a light version of a military response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime,” Stephen Long, a professor of international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said Wednesday. “The question is, ‘Why would we do this?’ We obviously can’t condone the use of chemical weapons, but a limited strike in response doesn’t really change the situation on the ground. And it could elicit a response by the Assad regime and possibly by Iran. It doesn’t really get us anywhere.”
The Soul of Our Nation: War
This is how it works.
The US has been providing Egypt with nearly $2 billion a year in "aid" since 1979. Most of this is military aid. That "aid" is then used to buy weapons from American corporations. So in reality most of US foreign aid becomes more welfare programs for the military industrial complex. ...
CBS News reported on August 20: "The billion dollars in aid Congress approved for Egypt does not go directly to Cairo, it goes to places such as Archbald, Pennsylvania. The General Dynamics factory there makes parts for the M1A1 tank. General Dynamics is filling an order for 125 tank kits for the Egyptian Army. One-hundred-thirty people work at the Archbald facility."
You can imagine the workers at the Archbald facility want this "aid" to continue. Archbald Mayor Ed Fairbrother says the jobs are "extremely important" to the community. "They are some of the best jobs we have in the community," he says. "Those are the kinds of jobs that sustain communities and families." ...
American communities have become addicted to war spending and military production. As most traditional manufacturing industry has moved overseas seeking cheaper labor the best jobs in most parts of the nation are building weapons. It's thus no coincidence that the #1 industrial export product of our nation is weapons. And what is our global marketing strategy for that product line? Hello Syria!
Alan Grayson On Syria Strike: 'Nobody Wants This Except The Military-Industrial Complex'
Citing his responsibility to represent the views of his constituents, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Thursday that he can't support an attack on Syria that his voters strongly oppose.
"One thing that is perfectly clear to me in my district, and I think is true in many other districts from speaking to other members, is that there is no desire, no desire on the part of people to be the world's policeman," Grayson said on SiriusXM's "The Agenda with Ari Rabin-Havt," which aired Thursday morning. "For us to pick up this gauntlet even on the basis of unequivocal evidence of chemical warfare by the Syrian army, deliberately against its own people -- even if there were unequivocal evidence of that -- that's just not what people in my district want."
That doesn't mean that opposition is universal, Grayson allowed. "I did notice, for what it's worth, that the manufacturer of the missiles that would be used has had an incredible run in their stock value in the last 60 days. Raytheon stock is up 20 percent in the past 60 days as the likelihood of the use of their missiles against Syria becomes more likely. So I understand that there is a certain element of our society that does benefit from this, but they're not the people who vote for me, or by the way the people who contribute to my campaign," he said. "Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex."
What the Assault on Whistleblowers Has to Do With War on Syria
Without whistleblowers, the mainline media outlets are more transfixed than ever with telling the official story. And at a time like this, the official story is all about spinning for war on Syria.
Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention. ...
There has been a pernicious method to the madness of the Obama administration’s double-barreled assault on whistleblowers and journalism. Committed to a state of ongoing war, Obama has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined—while also subjecting journalists to ramped-up surveillance and threats, whether grabbing the call records of 20 telephone lines of the Associated Press or pushing to imprison New York Times reporter James Risen for not revealing a source.
The vengeful treatment of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, the all-out effort to grab Edward Snowden and less-publicized prosecutions such as the vendetta against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake are all part of a government strategy that aims to shut down unauthorized pipelines of information to journalists—and therefore to the public. When secret information is blocked, what’s left is the official story, pulling out all the stops for war.
Chelsea Manning is 'doing well' in military prison, her lawyer says
David Coombs said on his blog on Thursday that he was able to speak with Manning, previously known as Bradley Manning, while she goes through the three-week indoctrination at Fort Leavenworth. ...
He wrote: "I am happy to report that she is doing very well at the USDB, and has already made several friends who accept her for who she is. Due to going through indoctrination, Chelsea was unaware of the response to her public statement on the Today show. During our conversation, I informed Chelsea of the overwhelming support for her decision.
"I also told her about how most responsible media have elected to respect her wishes and refer to her by her new name. Chelsea was very happy to hear of these developments. She requested that I relay how grateful that she is for everyone's understanding and continued support."
Glenn Greenwald Interview: "I Won't Be Kept Out of My Country for Doing Journalism!"
JF: You are a US lawyer. You are a world famous journalist. Do you dare travel to the USA? How does that make you feel?
GG: Right at the moment, I don’t have to cross that bridge, because I am writing a book; I am doing a lot of reporting, so I actually don’t even have time to go the US right now. But obviously I am an American citizen, and I haven’t committed any crime. The Constitution guarantees me the right to a free press, and I take all of that seriously. I won’t be kept out of my country for doing journalism. At the same time, the Obama Administration has become notorious for targeting the newsgathering process and trying to criminalize investigative journalism. There are prominent journalists and politicians in the United States who have called for my arrest. Obviously what just happened, with my partner being detained for 9 hours under a terrorism law by the US’ loyal servant in the UK, makes that analysis even a little bit more cumbersome - the idea that there is a real possibility that I could be arrested. I am working with lawyers. I absolutely intend that I will come back to my country when I choose, but I am not going to pretend that I think there is zero risk. There is definitely a risk, and it is less trivial than it was 3 days ago.
JF: You have cracked many a secret at the NSA, but we all think this is just the tip of the iceberg. What are your deepest fears about surveillance and spying? How much more insidious, widespread is this?
GG: The goal of the United States, which they are rapidly approaching fulfilling, is to be able not just to collect and monitor everybody’s electronic communications, but to store them for increasingly long periods of time. They are building a massive facility in Utah that has as its purpose storage of electronic data that they are collecting. They are collecting electronic data in such large quantities that they are incapable of storing it for very long, and they want to make sure that they can keep it for as long as they want. So you are really talking about a radical transformation in what kind of society we have if everyone of our electronic communications is being monitored and stored by this government that operates with very little accountability or transparency for anybody.
An Illustration of How the NSA Misleads the Public Without Technically Lying
The Wall Street Journal published an important investigation last week, reporting that the National Security Agency (NSA) has direct access to many key telecommunications switches around the country and “has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans.” Notably, NSA officials repeatedly refused to talk about this story on their conference call with reporters the next day. Instead the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA released a statement about the story later that evening.
If you read the statement quickly, it seems like the NSA is disputing the WSJ story. But on careful reading, they actually do not deny any of it. As we’ve shown before, often you have to carefully parse NSA statements to root out deception and misinformation, and this statement is no different. They’ve tried to deflect an accurate story with their same old word games. Here’s a breakdown:The NSA does not sift through and have unfettered access to 75% of United States online communications...The report leaves readers with the impression that the NSA is sifting through as much as 75% of the United States online communications, which is simply not true.Of course, the Wall Street Journal never says the NSA “sifts through” 75% of US communications. They reported the NSA’s system “has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic.” Their new term “sift” is undefined, but regardless of what the NSA is doing or not doing to 75% of Americans’ emails, they do have the technical capacity to search through it for key words—which they do not deny.
Despite Corporate Failure, Executives’ Pay on 'Inexorable Upward Climb'
Three years after the passage of landmark legislation aimed at strengthening regulation of major U.S. companies, one of the most criticised disparities characterising today’s corporate culture – the outsized compensation offered to top executives – continues to grow.
These extraordinarily lucrative salaries and benefits appear to have little connection to overall corporate performance. According to estimates released Wednesday, 38 percent of the top-paid chief executive officers (CEOs) of U.S. companies over the past two decades were fired or headed companies that were either bailed out by taxpayers or forced to pay significant fraud-related fines.
“An alarming number of CEOs are not adding exceptional value to [the U.S.] economy. They are extracting vast sums from it,” a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank, stated.
As Rim Fire Continues to Rage, Calls to 'Connect the Dots'
The historic Rim Fire continues to blaze in California for a 12th day on Wednesday, threatening San Francisco's drinking water, triggering emergency air quality warnings over 100 miles away and sparking further calls to 'connect the dots' of climate change and extreme weather events.
It has scorched through over 187,000 acres, and the fire's rapid growth, fueled by drought, has challenged the efforts of over 3500 firefighters, who have the fire 23% contained. ...
Felice Stadler and Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation charge that now, as the wildfire continues to scorch thousands of acres, it's important to connect the dots between extreme weather events and climate change.
“We have a problem and we are out of time," said Stadler. "Failing to connect the dots is irresponsible for it downplays the urgency of the tragedies, such as extreme wildfires, that we are witnessing in Yosemite and other regions in the west."
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