Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

PresObamaUS-CourtOfAppeals-2ndCircuit-SealWhile President Obama ran on a pledge to be the most transparent presidency in history, critics have charged that — as with promises to protect civil liberties and international law — Obama has done precisely the opposite of what he promised. His Administration has radically expanded the national security state while fighting every effort in court to challenge unchecked executive powers, including his successful effort to get Congress to dismiss dozens of public interest lawsuits over surveillance, torture, etc. The latest effort of the Obama Administration was to refuse to release even redacted version of legal memoranda on Obama’s use of drones to kill U.S. citizens. I have previously written about Obama Kill list policy in columns and blog posts. What is interesting is that the Obama Administration shows utter contempt for the federal courts in first claiming that any release of redacted classified legal arguments would endanger national security and then, after the district court yielded to the government, proceeding to discuss the very same information in public when it suited the Administration. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit finally said enough. The problem is that the district court did not exercise its authority to reject the clearly excessive claims of the government. It is only because the government contradicted itself — not the facially overboard claims made before the district court. The case is New York Times v. United States Department of Justice, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 7387. The case highlights the extreme hostility shown by the Obama Administration to both transparency and the media.

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We only recently passed the 20,000,000 mark last February but we just hit 21,000,000, according to WordPress. Congratulations everyone. This has been a banner year for the site with a continuing increase in traffic, links on other sites, and new voices on the blog. These milestones are coming faster and they give us a chance to look at the spread of our regular readers and commentators. As always, I want to offer special thanks for our weekend contributors: Mark Esposito, Eliane Magliaro, Mike Appleton, Larry Rafferty, Charlton Stanley and Darren Smith. The increasing traffic on the site is gratifying and reaffirms that there are many people looking for mature and civil debate. Even among the top ten sites, I believe that we offer a unique forum of different views and backgrounds in the discussion of law and politics (and a few quirky items).

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Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Weekend Contributor

We have seen and heard the claims from Donald Rumsfeld and others that the leaked Senate torture report is off base because the enhanced interrogation techniques were not only legal according to the Office of Legal Counsel, but they also produced results.  Putting aside the idea that just because an allegedly illegal act is claimed to have been successful in producing actionable intelligence, does not make it any more legal or illegal, is there a reason why we should listen to the participants who authorized the waterboarding and other torture procedures when they claim that all is well?

Now it seems that Donald Rumsfeld has company.  “In an uncompromising and wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, his first public remarks since he was linked to the program in 2007, James Mitchell was dismissive of a Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture in which he features, and which is currently at the heart of an intense row between legislators and the agency.

The committee’s report found that the interrogation techniques devised by Mitchell, a retired air force psychologist, were far more brutal than disclosed at the time, and did not yield useful intelligence. These included waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation for days at a time, confinement in a box and being slammed into walls.

But Mitchell, who was reported to have personally waterboarded accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, remains unrepentant. “The people on the ground did the best they could with the way they understood the law at the time,” he said. “You can’t ask someone to put their life on the line and think and make a decision without the benefit of hindsight and then eviscerate them in the press 10 years later.” ‘  Reader Supported News  (more…)

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article-0-1CC4CE2700000578-597_306x423article-0-1CC4CE2200000578-659_306x423There is a disturbing case out of Northern Virginia where Braulio Castillo, the CEO of a computer company, is accused of beating his wife and then hanging her from the ceiling to make it look like a suicide. Castillo has been under investigation by Congress over $500 million in contracts secured through a special service-disabled veteran status law.

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250px-Michael_Hayden,_CIA_official_portrait225px-dianne_feinstein_official_senate_photoFormer CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden has long been the face and voice of the growing security state within the United States. While many of his representations have been challenged, he continues (like Dick Cheney) to create his own reality to justify powers viewed as authoritarian and unlawful. Now, with the approaching release of a comprehensive report on the torture program, Hayden is out in the press denying the findings of the report that torture did not result in any meaningful new intelligence and that the CIA tortured people who were already cooperating with conventional (and legal) interrogations. Hayden took to the airways to champion torture by attacking the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Cal.) and said that she was just being “emotional” and should not be involved in such a serious debate.

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250px-46_Dick_Cheney_3x4A secret recording has surfaced of Vice President Dick Cheney speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition where he held forth on various subjects — assuming that the session was closed to the public and press. Cheney appears to be intent on, again, revising history to get people to embrace a security state. You may recall how Cheney (who is often cited as a potential defendant in a torture prosecution) publicly assuring the nation that the Bush torture program produced valuable intelligence. That assertion has been previously dismissed by experts and insiders. However, as we discussed recently, the forthcoming Senate Report goes into great deal to show that not only is that assertion untrue but that the CIA actively sought to hide the fact that the torture program produced insignificant intelligence (and that detainees were tortured despite their cooperation in conventional interrogations). Cheney is now fighting to defend the massive surveillance of citizens — again dismissing even the concessions of intelligence officials about abuses and violations under the program. Cheney told a rapturous crowd that all such accounts were “hogwash.” He further pumped the crowd with support for an attack on Iran to add yet another war to our current international conflicts.

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CIAsenate_large_sealWe previously discussed how CIA officials were accused of trying to intimidate Senate staffers working on an investigation into allegations of torture and lies by the agency officials. Now the details of that still classified report have been leaked to the media. For the Senate Intelligence Committee (long accused of being a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies), the report is quite damning. The Senate found a pattern of misinformation knowingly released by the CIA to convince the public that its torture program yielded valuable intelligence — and new forms of torture that have never been previously confirmed. What is most striking however is what is not in the report: a recommendation for criminal prosecution. Indeed, consistent with its past approach to intelligence abuses, the Committee does not recommend any action be taken against a single CIA official.

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President_Barack_Obama150px-OHCHR_logoThe United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report slamming the United States on torture and surveillance — the last international condemnation of the United States that is now viewed by many as a threat to civil liberties and international law. This follows international reports condemning the Obama Administration for its attacks on the free press and Internet freedoms. The demand for action on torture revives one of the greatest failures of the Obama Administration when the President, shown after taking office, assured CIA employees that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture despite the existence of international treaties obligating us to carry out such prosecutions. The President has admitted (as is clear from domestic and international rulings) that water boarding is torture. What is fascinating is that those who continue to defend this Administration dismiss the criticisms of respected international public interest groups, award-winning journalists, and even United Nations organizations in such condemnations. It is part of what has become a blind loyalty for an iconic president over long-standing principles. As noted by a widening array of organizations and experts, Obama has proven a perfect nightmare for civil liberties — once a core and defining area for Democrats and liberals alike.

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

115px-CA_-_Oakland_PoliceThe city of Oakland has entered into an agreed order to pay former Marine and two-tour Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen $4.5 million. This is, as lawyers say, “to make him whole.” Unfortunately, Scott will never be whole again. The night of October 25, 2011 he was shot in the head by a police officer using a shotgun loaded with a “non-lethal” beanbag. Upon being hit, the former Marine went down like a sack of potatoes. His skull was fractured, he was bleeding heavily and his neck was broken.
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250px-Rimpac_battlegroup_2006220px-DiegogarciaLocated in the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcia is one of the most pristine areas of the world. When the British allowed the United States to use the base in the early 1980s, the authorization came with clear environmental controls to prevent the deterioration of the natural surroundings. Four years ago, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) were declared the world’s largest marine reserve. However, its greatest danger appears to be the United States Navy. For decades, in direct violation of governing standards, the U.S. Navy has dumped hundreds of tons of human waste into the lagoon. In the meantime, while 5000 U.S. service personnel are dumping waste into the waters and coral reefs, Chagossians are being kept from returning to their home because of the delicate environmental conditions of the area.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

As the son of a fallen Air Force pilot whose remains were never found, I am sensitive to the plight of family members of servicemen and women whose remains may be recoverable, but yet are still not identified.  There are multiple military and defense department agencies who are responsible for locating and identifying the remains of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and Cold War missions.

The purpose of this article is to examine the efforts of just one of those agencies.  The Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, is an example of an agency that is crucial to both locating and identifying remains, but because of bureaucratic constraints, outdated methods and the possible stubbornness of its scientific head, has produced very little results at a very expensive cost to the taxpayers. (more…)

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225px-Vladimir_Putin_official_portrait230px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S33882,_Adolf_Hitler_retouchedWe have long discussed the authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin whose history of beating protesters and striping away press freedom was put aside briefly for the Olympic ceremonies. However, Putin appeared to be eager to stop the love fest and turn on Ukraine. For history buffs, however, there is something a bit unnerving in Putin invading a neighboring country to protect Russian-speakers who are welcoming the troops as protectors. In case the Sudetenland does not come to mind, Poland is now mobilizing troops along the border to bring the historical analogy home for the rest of the world. While I believe that this crisis will be contained and Putin is not ready for a wider war, it is no accident that the blind nationalism and authoritarianism would lead to expansionism. Ukraine is not the Sudetenland and Poland is no longer using horses to repel tanks. Putin’s desire for control of this port and Lebensraum may not be as easy to hold as it was to take.

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417px-Vaccination-polio-indiaIslamic fundamentalists in Pakistan are again expressing their moral outrage over the effort of the international community to vaccinate their children against polio. In the latest case, at least 12 security officials were killed and nine others injured in an ambush on a clearly marked medical convoy in the Jamrud area of the Khyber tribal region. It appears that both murder and denying children polio vaccines are viewed by these men as a pure expression of faith and morality.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

The Fifth Amendment protects all United States citizens by guaranteeing us all the right of due process of law. The Fifth Amendment is meant to ensure that the government has to at least prove to a court that a citizen is guilty of any crime that he or she is charged with.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Cornell Law

Without the Fifth Amendment, the government could grab any citizen off the street and proceed to jail them or execute them without a trial of any kind where the accused could mount a defense to the government’s charges.  It seems that the Obama Administration is once again in the process of deciding whether it will unilaterally execute an American citizen believed to living in Pakistan.  Or at least, preparing us for a kill decision that they have already made. (more…)

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300px-The_Pentagon_January_2008We have yet another report of the mind boggling waste and mismanagement by the Defense Department in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the most recent investigation, the U.S. government continues to hand out no-bid contracts worth billions to companies with histories of ripping off the U.S. taxpayer. One foreign company, Supreme Foodservice should be remained Supreme Fraudservice after the company based in Switzerland overcharged the government by $757 million. Nevertheless, the company has been given contracts worth more than $5 billion to feed the troops in Afghanistan.

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180px-Suicide_Bomber_vest_at_ComicCon_2007,_San_Diego,_CASchoolClassroomSometimes one has to acknowledge the possibility that there is a God . . . with a wicked sense of humor. In Iraq, a commander at a terrorist camp was teaching a class on suicide bombings with a belt packed with explosives. There is now an opening on the faculty after the instructor accidentally blew himself up with his suicidal students. It was a case of Publish or And Perish.

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National Record Center St Louisby Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Last week, I reported on the deliberate misfiling, destruction, and throwing away files at the Records Center in St. Louis.  Although an audit showed several employees were outside normal limits for error rates, only two were serious enough to warrant charges.

As I described in the earlier story last week, one of the men, 28-year-old Lonnie Halkmon, entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of destruction of government records. Halkmon was sentenced to forty hours of community service and two years probation. He could have gotten up to six months in jail on that charge.

Engram was responsible for the destruction of more than a thousand records. He destroyed some of them, threw 241 away in the woods near the Center, and took others home with him where he tossed them in the trash.

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filename-img-1649-jpgCNN has issued an apology for a story that ran this week calling the famous “Courage” Monument in Brest, Belarus “the world’s ugliest monument.” Not to be outcome on the stupidity scale, Russian Senator Igor Morozov has proposed a temporary ban on CNN (I guess until their tastes change in conformity with state demands). I do not happen to agree that such memorials should be immune from artistic or architectural criticism. Indeed, I have criticized some of our own memorials. However, I was most struck the harsh critique. I find the memorial to be refreshingly different from the usual flaming torch or sword. CNN however appears to have taken down the story, which raises concerns over withdrawing a piece due to unpopular opinions. I happen to disagree with the author, but what is the standard for post-publication deletion of opinion pieces? This was not racist or sexist or even categorically false. It was an opinion.

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225px-hamid_karzai_2004-06-14Our erstwhile ally Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is back reminding American citizens of the waste of thousands of dead and wounded U.S. soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars. Karzai has refused to sign an agreement to keep a significant number of troops in the country for training and counter-insurgency operations — an agreement guaranteeing more U.S. losses in lives and treasure that the Obama Administration wants signed. Karzai however has been negotiating with the Taliban to force the U.S. out and return them to power in a sharing arrangement with this government. In the meantime, he is repeating his condemnations of the United States as a “colonial” power and alleged that insurgent attacks were actually staged by U.S. forces. I understand that the “enemy of our enemy is our friend” but what about the friend of our enemy?

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I love this video compilation of dogs welcoming soldiers home after long deployments.

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By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor

National Record Center St LouisThe National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis County, MO is the repository of millions of personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. Records from before WWI are kept in Washington, DC. The Center also stores and maintains the records of dependents and other persons treated at medical facilities owned and operated by the US military.

Or at least it’s supposed to.

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200px-Non_Commissioned_Officers_of_the_Afghan_National_ArmyWe have previously discussed the obscene amount of money — in the hundreds of billions — spent in Afghanistan and Iraq as we cancel or curtail educational, scientific, and environmental programs at home. The sheer waste and corruption in those countries is breathtaking. We can now add a five-year program where we have spent $200 million dollars to teach Afghan soldiers to read but is now considered a total failure — after almost a quarter of a billion dollars. As we discussed earlier, there is again no word of any actual discipline for the people that approved and managed this colossal failure.

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SchooAFHThe United States continues to pour money into Afghanistan — and not just in those bags of cash that Hamid Karzai has insisted keep being delivered to his office. Billions have disappeared while hundreds of millions have been spent on dubious projects rife with corruption. This week we have an insight into just how shoddy this work is in Afghanistan. The U.S. Agency for International Development paid Afghan firms $17.1 million to build 16 small schools. The contractors ripped off the U.S. and built one school that still cannot occupied due to structural dangers.

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210px-Seal_of_the_US_Air_Force.svgWe have been discussing how the U.S. military continues to waste billions with little accountability for failed programs or unneeded equipment. This includes tens of billions wasted in our ongoing wars. Much of this waste or lost resources has been covered up by intentional accounting tricks. No one appears to be disciplined, let alone fired, for billions of lost money and over-charges. And the beat goes on. The Senate Armed Services Committee has decided to actually investigate waste and is looking into a failed $1 billion software project for the U.S. Air Force that was implemented by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. It was scrapped after it was disclosed that we would have to spend an additional $1.1 billion just to fix the unused system.

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Last available picture of David from 2012

Last available picture of David from 2012

It is with the greatest personal sadness that I have to report the death of a cherished member of our blog family. David Blair Drumm passed away on December 18, 2013 in Austin, Texas. David was there at the very beginning of this blog and remained one of its staunchest supporters. Through the years, David was a rock who not only brought reasoned and calm analysis to posts but also to the management of the blog. He started as a regular commentator under the name “Nal” and I then invited him to write on the weekends. He played the role of editor as well as writer. (Indeed, I am worried about this memorial since David often caught the many typos that I would leave in early morning postings). I came to trust him absolutely in his judgment and analysis. I considered him a good friend and one of the most important influences on this blog. David wrote as a Weekend Blogger for years, sharing his insights into religion, politics, and his always popular “Find the Kitteh” contest. Our success is due in no small part to David Drumm and this blog, I hope, will remain a testament to his work and his memory. To that end, we are dedicating the entire blog today to David and his work. He was a brilliant electrical engineer, a profound writer, a passionate civil libertarian, and most importantly a fierce and loyal friend to our blogging community. (more…)

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220px-Eisenhower_in_the_Oval_Office220px-B-2_spirit_bombingBelow is my article this weekend in Al Jazaerra on the powerful lobby and industry supporting our various conflicts abroad as well as counterterrorism efforts. I previously testified before Congress on this industry and the government’s inflation of counterterrorism numbers to justify huge domestic budgets at the Justice Department FBI, and other agencies. I wrote the article for the anniversary this month of Eisenhower’s famous Military-Industrial Complex speech.

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300px-thumbnail220px-Defense.gov_News_Photo_041108-M-8205V-003Many of us on this blog have been critical of the Iraq war from the outset as a war based on a false claim by the Bush Administration and then perpetuated by political cynicism by both Democratic and Republican leaders who did not want to be accused of “losing” the war. The costs were paid by soldiers and taxpayers in a war where the U.S. was often openly opposed by government figures and demonized in many parts of the country. It was clear that we were propping up a government that could not maintain order or loyalty across the country. Now, shortly after our withdrawal of combat troops, one of the most costly “victories” of the war — Fallujah — has been retaken by Al Qaeda as militants threaten additional takeovers in the country. Despite this history, members of Congress are already complaining that we should have continued the ground war longer at the cost of more American lives and billions of dollars.

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220px-BenFranklinDuplessisPresident_Barack_ObamaBelow is my column in Al Jazeera on the expansion of presidential powers in the United States. While there is growing recognition of the threat posed by the current powers exercised by the White House, it is important to keep the issue before the public if we are going to realign the tripartite system back to its original balance between the balances.

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eurocuptrophy80mm2008Well, the results are in and we have another distinction to crow about at the blog. We have been selected as the 2013 top News/Analysis site among the competing world blogs in the annual ABA Journal survey. The success of this blog is due entirely to our unique community around the world, which have maintained a site where the issues of our day can be discussed with passion but civility. Thanks to all of our regulars and particularly our our talented and popular weekend team of guest bloggers: Mike Appleton, David Drumm, Mark Esposito, Gene Howington, Elaine Magliaro, Larry Rafferty, Darren Smith, Mike Spindell, and Charlton Stanley. While we created and maintain this site to allow us to share our thoughts, it is always gratifying to receive such recognitions. It is always my hope that the selection will bring new people to our site to further expand the voices and views on legal, political, and sometimes just plain bizarre stories.

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chow_on_the_beach220px-Salt_shaker_on_white_backgroundThere is an interesting ruling by an administrative appellate court in Australia this week awarding an Army widow a pension after the death of her husband in July 2012. Clement Hutton had hypertension and Shirley Hutton argued that he became addicted to salt while serving in the Australian army in World War II.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

JFKRiceUniversityI’ve written before about the fact that the murder of JFK in Dallas was to me the most traumatic national experience in my life and the fact that I think it changed the destiny of our country in a negative fashion. I think that for many around my age this is also true, but it is now fifty years past and the majority of Americans have no real knowledge of it. The trauma of that day and the ensuing events of history have left me with an admittedly irrational repugnance towards the city of Dallas and I feel almost a shudder when I hear of Dealey Plaza, where the murder took place. These feelings are so intense that I doubt that I will ever visit Dallas in my lifetime, much less go to Dealey Plaza. When I got my weekly E Mail from my favorite investigative journalism website WhoWhatWhy.com I took note of an article about the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The article was a humorous look at the potential for Christmas gifts that might be available at the museum’s gift shop and of course provided a link to the museum’s website, which I then followed. Going to the website and perusing it caused me to muse about the ability in our country to turn even our most solemn national events into commercial enterprises, while we pretend that they provide an educational service. (more…)

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260px-Fukushima_I_by_Digital_Globe220px-ChopperDecon2011There is a little reported story about U.S. service members who have developed cancer and other illnesses after serving in the rescue efforts following the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In an account that could have easily been written for the nuclear tests in the 1950s, service members have said that the Navy told them that there was no harm from radiation so long as they avoided the plume rising from the plant.

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_71928576_turingComputer pathbreaker and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing has been finally pardoned. It only took 61 years after his 1952 conviction for homosexuality and his chemical castration for the British government who contributed so mightily to the defeat of the Germans. What is particularly astonishing is not just that “moral people” in the United States and Britain not only did this to their citizens, but did this to a man who was protecting his nation so brilliantly and barred him from continuing work that was so pathbreaking in computer science. In the aftermath of the Sister Wives decision and our discussion of morality laws, Turning is a reminder of the hateful measures meted out in the name of morality or science or both.

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220px-Michael_Morell,_December_2012Last week, I wrote about the dangers of tasks forces bearing gifts for civil libertarians and noted how Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program. One of those was former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell who served during the secret development and use of the program. Obviously, if he were to conclude that the program was illegal, it would have meant that he was part of the violations. Not only did the task force maintain the program was legal (in conflict with the recent ruling of a federal court), but now Morell has called not for the limitation of the program but its expansion. That is what President Obama considers a reformer in the national security field.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

104248208I believe that it is impossible to deal with any problem until one understands the underlying nature of that problem. The analogy of a Physician treating the symptoms of a patient, but ignoring the cause of those symptoms, comes to mind. We have the medicine to deal with the specific manifestation of an illness like a headache and a fever, but in ameliorating the discomfort of the symptoms, we may miss the underlying pathology. This happened to me last March when shortly after being prescribed a change in the anti-rejection medicines that keep me alive after my heart transplant, I began to get so sick that I needed hospitalization in intensive care. I won’t bore you with the grimy details of this sudden downturn in health, but I must note that my most important bodily functions began to shut down. What is curious about this incident is that my wife, who is internet savvy, immediately began to suggest to my Doctors that I was having a bad reaction to the medicinal change. At first they ignored her as they had Department Heads in Cardiology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Neurology, Proctology, Urology and even Dermatology come in to examine me and pore over my medical charts. Finally, in response to my wife’s unfailing advocacy, they returned me to my prior anti-rejection medication. To my Physician’s surprise and possible chagrin the symptoms almost immediately began to abate and within in days I was home from the hospital and on the mend. (more…)

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300px-DF-ST-98-01305I have previously written about the waste of billions of dollars by the government without any significant discipline for government officials. We have become accustomed to reports of unimaginable corruption and waste in Afghanistan from bags of money delivered to President Karzai to constructing huge buildings to be immediately torn down to buying aircraft that cannot be used. The common element to the stories is the absence of any reported prosecution or even discipline for those responsible. You can simply waste hundreds of millions of dollars and continue in your government position. This week’s outrage comes from a report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Thus, USAid can pay a $300,000 charge for 600 gallons of diesel fuel at $500/gallon but there is no punishment, let alone a prosecution. In the meantime, small programs for as little as $1 million domestically are being cut while we gush billions in waste. We can now add a half-billion dollars spent on refurbishing aircraft for the Afghan Air Force that have been left to rot unused in Kabul and Germany. Ironically, the aircraft are called Spartan but there was nothing Spartan about the wasteful spending of the Pentagon which may now seek to destroy the aircraft.

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220px-Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005We have been following the lethal pollution gripping Chinese cities, including now cities like Shanghai, with stories of children developing lung cancer and other medical problems.  One benefit is that the rising levels of pollution have actually made it harder for Chinese police to use the country’s extensive surveillance system to monitor citizens.  That is not something that the authoritarian government is likely to celebrate however.  Now, the official media has come up with one benefit to offer its choking readers:  the thick blanket of unhealthy air could make it more difficult for countries to bomb Chinese cities if they have a hard time finding them.

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Contributed by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

Hickham Field Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941

Hickam Field
Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941

I remember where I was and what I was doing shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon on December 7, 1941. My dad called me in to where he and a couple of his friends were sitting by the huge Stromberg Carlson 350R console radio, its front doors swung open. They were leaning forward, hanging onto every word coming out of the polished walnut cabinet. The breathless announcer was talking so fast he sometimes stumbled over his words. The usual calm and soothing baritone of a professional radio news reporter was replaced by an almost panicked staccato, an octave higher than his voice would have sounded normally. One phrase has stayed stuck in my mind’s ear all these years, “They stabbed our boys in the back!”

At first I thought they were talking about Japanese soldiers bayoneting our soldiers and sailors in the back, as I had seen them do in the newsreels of the massacre of Nanking. Even as a kid, I knew war was on the horizon. Six weeks earlier, a Nazi U-boat had sunk the destroyer USS Reuben James as it escorted a convoy of cargo ships carrying food and supplies to England.

Everyone thought that when war did come, it would come from Europe. No one but a few farsighted tacticians like General Billy Mitchell were looking west, and even predicting that an attack would come by air. Mitchell was Court Martialed for his outspoken military and political heresy. When Americans were killed in what was to be the first military engagement of WW-2 with the sinking of the Reuben James, President Roosevelt held back committing troops and sailors to combat despite the provocation. Hitler was counting on that kind of restraint, or he would not have been so bold as to sink an American warship. He knew the US was not prepared to fight a war, since American troop levels had been drawn down to very low numbers, and much of the equipment was either obsolete or obsolescent. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, and needed time to re-arm.

Admiral Yamamoto took Roosevelt’s options away from him that Sunday morning. Hitler was said to be furious with his Japanese allies.

Which brings us to the story my cousin Jimmy.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

The five alleged 9/11 defendants currently being held at Guantanamo Bay where they have been detained since 2006, are currently preparing their defenses for trials that are scheduled for September 2014.  All five defendants have been subjected to what the United States government called enhanced interrogation techniques at CIA black sites even before they got to Gitmo. (more…)

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President_Barack_Obama220px-Hoover-JEdgar-LOC

We have previously discussed how Barack Obama has become the president that Richard Nixon always wanted to be. From his Administration’s comprehensive attack on privacy and civil liberties, investigation of journalists, to his claim of unilateral authority to kill citizens, Obama has created an Imperial Presidency that could haunt this nation for generations. He has succeeded with the silent acquiescence of many liberals and Democrats who have embraced personality over principle in continuing to support his Administration. Now, a new report documents how the National Security Agency under Obama has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites to be used as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of people consider radicals. The obvious comparison to Nixon is only dwarfed by the comparison to J. Edgar Hoover, but again the silence is deafening from the Democrats. In the meantime, the so-called “reforms” of the NSA as expected would preserve the massive data-gathering programs of the agency — as guaranteed by such “reformers” as Dianne Feinstein.

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isa-abd-rabo-20102The Palestinian Authority embraced a curious hero this week among those released as part of an agreement with Israel. Issa Abed Rabbo was the longest serving prisoner of the 104 released this week. Rabbo, 49, was heralded as a hero and given a pension and a large sum of money by the PA. However, Rabbo was convicted of taking two young hikers, binding them, putting bags over their heads, and then shooting them to death in 1984. That is not the makings of any freedom fighter that I know of.

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Sierra-RCHDDefense_Finance_Accounting_Services_(DFAS)_Official_SealI previously wrote a column about how government officials waste billions or plow whole programs in the ground without nary a reprimand. If that column bothered you, you might want to sit down. A new report has detailed how the military has cooked the books to hide trillions, that’s right trillions, in missing money and equipment. The military calls them “plugs,” a curious term for fraud. These are knowingly fake figures used to hide the fact that there is no accurate record of the money. In one finding, a single office in Columbus, Ohio, made at least $1.59 trillion in errors with $538 billion in plugs. The study reveals that government accounting records are fraudulent but that congressional oversight has been equally illusory.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

In recent years many studies have come out  that have made the case that a high proportion of CEO’s of major companies are sociopaths. At the end of this blog I’ll provide a number of links that discuss this, some from major conservative business magazines. We do know that from 1% to 3% of humans are sociopaths sharing all of these 10 characteristics:

#1) Sociopaths are charming. #2) Sociopaths are more spontaneous and intense than other people. #3) Sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse. #4) Sociopaths invent outrageous lies about their experiences. #5) Sociopaths seek to dominate others and “win” at all costs. #6) Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent #7) Sociopaths are incapable of love #8) Sociopaths speak poetically. #9) Sociopaths never apologize. #10) Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truth.” http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html

495px-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_SkidmorePaul_Ryan--113th_Congress--Mitt_Romney_by_Gage_Skidmore_7Now the problem with the definition of Sociopathy is that there can be a good deal of subjectivity in making the diagnosis, absent a clinician interviewing the subject. After all many people are charming, spontaneous, invent lies, try to dominate others and speak “poetically” and that doesn’t make them sociopaths. The subjectivity comes in trying to determine whether a given person is incapable of feeling guilt, shame, remorse and is delusional. A trained clinician may be able to do this via an intensive interview, but the nature of this disorder is such that even a trained clinician can be fooled by a sociopath. Rather than argue back and forth about the negative effects of CEO sociopaths on this society as the root of so much dysfunction, my readings this week suggest another theory that would provide a simpler explanation of why it seems that so many in this country have so little compassion and empathy for the less fortunate among us. We need not deem them sociopaths, but people who are simply removed from the misery that they inflict. The apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” may well characterize those who control most of this country’s wealth. It may be why some are sincere philanthropists, yet show such disdain and lack a sense of responsibility for the suffering that they cause. Let’s explore this further. (more…)

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225px-BenjaminNetanyahuPresident_Barack_ObamaThe Obama Administration is in the midst of an open fight with the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Congress. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced negotiations viewed as historic between the United States and its allies with Iran over its nuclear program. The negotiations have attracted international support and are viewed as a rare opportunity after the change in leadership in Tehran. Netanyahu however has called upon the pro-Israel lobby to scuttle the diplomatic efforts by imposing new sanctions against Iran. Despite that fact that new sanctions would eliminate allies and be widely viewed as evidence of bad faith by the United States, AIPAC and AJC easily pushed through the sanctions in the House and they are viewed as making strides in the Senate despite the opposition of the White House.

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The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court

Today, I filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court in Adams v. Federal Aviation Administration. The case challenges the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act (FTEPA) under which senior pilots were stripped of their benefits, seniority, and status. The law included a poison pill provision openly drafted by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to advantage their members. The ALPA provision was inserted without the knowledge of most members by former Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar, a major recipient of ALPA campaign contributions and publicly called “ALPA’s man” in Congress in by the group. The odyssey of that these pilots have faced in the federal courts is a chilling story of how politicians can abuse citizens without fear of political or judicial repercussions. This is now their final appeal in a case that constitutes one of the greatest injustices that I have witnessed in my career. As for Oberstar, he continued to receive contributions ALPA members until he was finally defeated in 2011. For senior pilots, he left a legacy of arbitrary injury to families across the country as a result of his blind actions on behalf of ALPA.
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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Hill_Street_Blues_CastI have written some guest blogs in the past dealing with aspects of the issue of America becoming a Police State and will link to them at the end of this piece. There are so many issues that call for our concern and attention in this country today, that dealing with the entire dysfunctional state of our country becomes daunting due to the wealth of material. Finally, the stories on a given issue multiply in such a way that their effect is a realization across all political lines that enough is enough. The issue of our country’s continuing descent into a”Police State” equaling all we know of the vile systems in the USSR and the former East Germany is an issue that concerns me.. The situation is  dire and the consequences have produced not only horrible injustices, but also the many unneeded maiming and deaths of innocent individuals. Our country imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world by far. Part of the reason for that is the “War on Drugs” an abject failure that falls most heavily upon people with low incomes and people of color. One such incident caused Professor Turley to pen two blogs this week. They were about a man falsely suspected of drug possession who had all his bodily orifices and cavities checked in the local Arizona police’s vain attempt to find evidence of guilt. None was found and the procedures were not only traumatic, but invasive. Thus the “War on Drugs” is one major contributing force to turning our country into a Police State.

Another contributing Police State factor has been the Federal Government militarizing our local police forces. I’ve written about this as well and will link at those blogs at the end as well. Somewhere along the line, certainly hastened by 9/11 it appeared a necessity to some that are police should be turned from officers of the law into a paramilitary occupying army. There is a great distinction between an officer of the law and a paramilitary trooper. An officer of the law the way I see it, is empowered to enforce the criminal law in ways of lawful conduct that are deemed permissible via our Constitution and Statutes.  Thus an officer of the law should be a citizen like the rest of us and in the performance of their jobs should respect the rights of the citizenry. A paramilitary trooper by definition perceives themselves operating in a hostile environment and so everyone in that environment that is not of their army is a potential “hostile”. This unerringly begets a certain level of brutality when dealing with the populace, because from a paramilitary perspective people are presumed guilty, until they are proven innocent. We have seen and I have documented in guest blogs that vast sums of money have come in from the Federal Government to help create paramilitary SWAT teams. Once created, the uses for these teams multiply far beyond their original purpose, because having a tool inevitably causes its usage. After the split I will discuss yet a third factor that adds to this police state mentality, but first I’d like to express the following. The issue of our country becoming a Police State should not be and is not a partisan issue. Just from the opinions of people who follow this blog and comment, we see general agreement that these police tactics violate our Constitution and our innate sense of propriety. We may not all agree on most aspects of government policy, but I would hope we can agree on the proper manner in which our law officers should enforce the peace. (more…)

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Harry_Jacob_AnslingerI’m going to use what has become a cliché to open up this piece. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing that has failed over and over again.” Often clichés are expressions of reality that nevertheless express problems faced by generation generations and generations of human beings. In my opinion “The War on Drugs” is not only an abysmal failure, but has gone a long way towards destroying the social fabric of this country and corrupting the efforts of law enforcement, by manufacturing a “problem” that they are pressured to solve. The idea for writing this came to mind this week at my local drug store. My wife had sent me for a decongestant that contains pseudo-ephedrine to treat a persistent cold. These medications which were formerly as matter of course located in the Cold and flu section are by law now kept behind the prescription counter. To make my purchase I had to produce a driver’s license, whose number was duly entered into a computer and sign an affirmation form digitally. Now since I was a loyal viewer of “Breaking Bad” I understood why this was seen to be necessary by the government. Pseudo-Ephedrine is used in one common formula to “cook” Chrystal Methedrine, or “Speed”. The idea that I, a 69 year old greybeard, should be recorded as a potential cooker of “meth”, is so ludicrous that it caused me to think about the whole process of drug interdiction that is the result of the War on Drugs.

The reach of the War on Drugs goes far beyond the control of formerly non-controlled substances and has affected and limited the way Doctors prescribe for their patients. This prescription oversight ever expands the categories of controlled substances and puts every physician under undue government surveillance. To illustrate the silliness of this, from my own experience, let me relate that in 2010 I underwent 3 major, life-threatening operations within a 4 month period. After each operation which involved cutting my chest open (the middle one was a heart transplant) in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit I was being given unlimited dosages of morphine to deal with my pain. In each instance after an operation, after two days, I would refuse the morphine because it was affecting my thinking and the pain without it was tolerable. In each instance after practically having to forcefully deny the proffered morphine in the morning, my request for Xanax that evening to help me sleep was denied, even though my Surgeon had prescribed it. This required a late hour call to the Doctor on call to prescribe it. The nurse was only following procedure, but the scrupulousness of the procedure is the result of the War on Drugs. Physicians now treating people for various pain symptoms are now under very close scrutiny regarding the medications they prescribe. To me this is nonsensical, given that addicts always find ways to get their drugs no matter what strictures are put into place. What follows is my examination of the premises behind the War on Drugs, its affect on all of us and my solution to this “problem”. (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

Everyday we read about the latest call for drastic cuts in government spending and claims that our national debt is killing us.  Those calling for the cuts claim that austerity is the only way that we can get the economy moving again.  To that end they call for cuts in Social Security, Medicare, SNAP and many other assistance programs, but consistently refuse to cut our immense defense budget.  Where else have these calls for austerity been made into law and what are the results of these programs?

If you look to Ireland, you can see just one example how austerity has brought a country and its people, to their knees.   (more…)

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Hoover-JEdgar-LOCThrough the years this site has produced a multitude of blogs that details the excesses that occur in the intelligence community of the United States. Whether it is about spying on us, or upon other governments, the disclosures of incidents where this group of agencies has overstepped the bounds of our Constitution have become too numerous to detail. Beyond that through the years there have been many instances where elements of our Intelligence Complex have interceded in other countries, under the rubric of protection of United States interests. There are many different Agencies within our government that deal with intelligence and in the post 9/11 era the prevention of threats to our country and its citizens has become a giant self serving industry. The Agencies that we know about have supposedly fallen under the egis of the Department of Homeland Security, which should mean from an organizational chart perspective, they are under the control of the President of the United States. To get the political issue out of the way I believe that President Obama has aided and abetted policies that go against the Constitution of the United States. However, not to justify his policies, which are clearly wrong, my opinion is that it has been a very long time since any American President had control of our Intelligence Complex. My belief is not informed by any information public or private, but from what I’ve gleaned from history and from what I know about the operations of bureaucracy. This Guest Blog is not a piece of investigative journalism, but the opinion of someone who understands both the workings of human nature and the workings of bureaucracy. I hope that this piece can engender discussions about the Intelligence Complex and elicit opinions as to what service it provides in protecting this country. The issue is not one of politics per se, because the guilt of enabling our Intelligence Complex falls equally on both political parties and the powerful elements within those parties who would support any action taken by the Intelligence Complex including abrogating our Constitution. The FBI is where I’d like to begin my perspective and that might surprise some, who consider the Federal Bureau of Investigation, basically a law enforcement agency. The history of the FBI is such that it has expanded its role with each upheaval, or new popular shibboleth that garners national attention. (more…)

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225px-dianne_feinstein_official_senate_photo220px-Angela_Merkel_(2008)For civil libertarians, there may be no more unsettling statements than “Dianne Feinstein is here to protect civil liberties.” Of course, it is not quite that bad. The Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been the greatest champion for the creation of the massive surveillance of U.S. citizens and effectively blocked any demand for a perjury prosecution of National Intelligence Director James Clapper for lying about the programs. She has called for the prosecution of Edward Snowden for revealing years of deceitful or false statements made to the public. She has criticized the media for disclosing information on the programs despite admissions that of unlawful conduct by the government after the disclosures. No, none of that bothers Dianne Feinstein. However, she is outraged by the monitoring of foreign leaders and promised a “total review” surveillance program.

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