The Watering Hole, Monday, February 20th, 2017: ICYMI

Featured

A few articles from the past week:

I noticed something in one of Raw Story’s articles on Stephen Miller, and had to look into it:

“Though he denies it, Miller is believed to have written a significant portion of the travel ban, with some help from Steve Bannon and congressional aides sworn to contractual secrecy.[emphasis mine]

The Daily Mail article linked to in the above excerpt had more:

“Senior House Judiciary Committee staffers helped produce President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban, even as top lawmakers and cabinet heads were left in the dark.

The aides were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as they labored in secret to help draft the ban, Politico reported.

Trump’s transition brought in the Hill aides during the transition, while it was still rushing to staff the administration.”

And the Politico story had even more:

“The work of the committee aides began during the transition period after the election and before Donald Trump was sworn in. The staffers signed nondisclosure agreements, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Trump’s transition operation forced its staff to sign these agreements, but it would be unusual to extend that requirement to congressional employees.”

Now, wait a minute – since when do the president-elect’s staffers and congressional aides sign non-disclosure-agreements?  Aren’t any of them subjected to any vetting process, any background check, in order to work for the president-elect, or for congresspersons and congressional committees?  These are all government public servants, not trump’s TV employees!

I honestly don’t know anything about the legalities of this.  Both the Daily Mail and Politico articles are from the end of January, but I don’t remember hearing about this then. Considering that the articles also state that the congressional aides’ ‘bosses’, such as both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairmen, were not consulted, I’m a little surprised by that.  Am I just a suspicious cynical alarmist, or is this secretive ‘reacharound’ to bypass normal procedural channels just one more example of trump’s delusional version of presidential power, one that just slipped by amidst the hundreds of other trump delusions?

(sigh)  However…

Maybe there’s hope that there may be a REAL investigation into the trump-Russia cabal. From the Raw Story article:

[T]he Senate Intelligence Committee has ordered more than a dozen individuals and agencies to preserve records related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

According to the Associated Press, a congressional aide confirmed that the committee had sent formal requests that all materials related to Russian meddling be preserved.

The AP notes that the letters were a bi-partisan affair with both the panel’s chairmen, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and vice chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) signing on.

The Friday letters come on the heels of a closed door meeting with FBI Director James Comey who spent nearly three hours answering questions Friday afternoon in a secure room in the Senate basement used for classified briefings.”

Finally, some humor amidst the destruction of our world as we know it: if you didn’t catch John Oliver last night, here’s Raw Story’s thread covering it. Enjoy.

This is our Open Thread – say anything.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 6th, 2017: Don’t Forget RUSSIA

Two recent articles to remind us that at least Senator Ron Wyden has our back when it comes to investigating Vlad the Imputin’s Russians having hacked our election for trump.

First, an excerpt from David Corn’s article at Mother Jones:

Since Trump has moved into the White House, there has been less public chatter in political and media quarters about the Russian hacking that, according to the US intelligence community, was mounted by Putin’s spies as part of an extensive clandestine operation to undermine the US presidential campaign in order to benefit Trump. The same goes for allegations that Trump or his associates interacted with Russian officials or intermediaries during the campaign. After the election, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said “there were contacts” between Trump’s team and Russian officials, and various news reports have noted that the FBI has examined connections between Trump associates and Putin-allied Russians—without offering much detail about these FBI inquiries. Yet in the first, chaos-filled weeks of the Trump presidency, the story of Russian meddling in the election—after blowing up with the disclosure that President Barack Obama and Trump were briefed about private intelligence memos alleging Russia had run a yearslong secret program to cultivate Trump and gather compromising intelligence on him—has seemed to move off the center stage.

Second, a diary by Mark Sumner at Daily Kos adds commentary to the above Mother Jones story:

“Now that the intelligence committees are supposedly on the case—and with the FBI not discussing whatever inquiries it may be holding on this front—the controversy (or scandal!) has been nudged to the back burner. This often happens in Washington: a secret investigation is launched, the story goes dark.”

“Helping cast those shadows is a press that seems to have instant amnesia about anything Russia related, to the extent that Russian forces attacking towns in Ukraine just one day after Trump and Putin had their contents unknown chat, wasn’t enough to push aside Trump’s latest tweets on television ratings. The connections between Putin and Trump, Manafort, Flynn, Page, and others in the regime seldom merits a mention.”

We HAVE to keep this investigation front and center, and demand that our Congresscritters and Senators not only support the search for the truth, but inform we, the people, of that truth, no matter the cost. This is OUR country, OUR democracy, and OUR freedom at stake. We cannot let this issue fade into the background, despite all of the distracting crap continuously popping up in the foreground. There are many fights to fight in this travesty of a presidency, but said presidency’s legitimacy is the biggest fight that we all face.

This is our Open Thread–say whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 29th, 2013: Saint Ronnie? I Don’t Think So!

jimmycarter460
I have always had great admiration for President James Earl Carter. I confess that I did not start voting until 1988, after I married Wayne (so Clinton was “my first.”) But my parents were pretty staunch Democrats who voted for Carter, and in those times we actually did sit down to watch the evening news every night, and I watched the Sunday political shows with my dad each weekend – which, of course, usually ended with me taking a nap. So I was not completely ignorant of political machinations, especially with dad filling me in on the background issues.

President Carter’s administration covered some troubled times, but he always spoke to the nation in a unique combination of down-home-folksy Sheriff Andy and subtly eloquent professor. That he is still, and always will be, derided by Republicans as one of the worst Presidents in history, just proves how little the Republicans respect intellect and integrity.

President Jimmy (as I like to call him) differentiated himself from too many other former Presidents by, after leaving office, continuing for decades to serve his planet, his country, and humanity in general. Jimmy and Rosalynn remain wonderful examples of “public service” at its most noble.

Here’s a selection of interviews, articles, and videos, all from the last year or two, which include President Carter’s views on America’s dysfunctional democracy and the effect of Edward Snowdon’s NSA leaks; his speech at the Carter Center’s “Mobilizing Faith for Women” conference on June 23, 2013; and an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan from January 2012 on a wide range of topics, but mostly about the Middle East.

And saving the best for last, here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of President Carter’s appearance on The Daily Show, April 9th, 2013.

In my opinion, no other President has acted so Presidential after leaving office as has President Jimmy Carter. The right-wing can criticize and ridicule him all they want, but Jimmy deserves beatification to sainthood much more than their much-vaunted but historically inaccurate Saint Ronnie.

jimmy and rosalynn

This is our Open Thread. What’s your opinion about President Jimmy Carter? Or on anything else, for that matter.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 21st, 2012: DoD Noise Machine?

PROPAGANDA:prop·a·gan·da: [prop-uh-gan-duh]
1. publicity to promote something: information put out by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause
2. misleading publicity: deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread

(Synonyms: slanted, distorted, one-sided, polemical, partisan, extremist, manipulative)

While perusing the recent threads at ThinkProgress, I came across this brief piece with the disturbing headline: “Congressmen seek to ‘legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences.”

The piece referenced an article from BuzzFeed, part of which states:

“In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

[Note: While every article that I found on this issue used the phrase, “…in a little-noticed press release…”, not one article linked to the press release itself; so, here is the press release from co-sponsor Rep. Mac Thornberry’s (R-Texas) website.]

The text of the bill, H.R. 5736, (an amendment to the NDAA) co-sponsord by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), can be found here. I confess to be somewhat confused about the conflicting wording in Section 208, “CLARIFICATION ON DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION OF PROGRAM MATERIAL.”

`(a) In General- No funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States. This section shall apply only to programs carried out pursuant to the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.), the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.), and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.). This section shall not prohibit or delay the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from providing information about its operations, policies, programs, or program material, or making such available, to the media, public, or Congress, in accordance with other applicable law.

`(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure…”

According to a Daily Kos piece,

““It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Another article that I came across during my search mentions:

“The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

[Makes ya wonder where the rest of the $350+ billion is spent “to sway public opinion.”]

Mediaite, Dan Abrams’ website, has an article about this as well, along with a related article which states:

“United States Central Command (Centcom) is working with a California-based company, called Ntrepid, to produce new software that would help military service people create fake online accounts (known as “sock puppets”) with the intent of spreading pro-America propaganda (or, alternately, quash anti-American sentiment) across various online comment threads, such those found on blogs or message boards. The military has said that the accounts won’t publish comments for American audiences (as that would be illegal) or even in English, but, rather, in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto. The accounts would also steer clear of U.S.-based social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.”

[Oh, goody, they’re creating more sockpuppets and trolls?

It already bothers me that our country has been using propaganda overseas for, well, forever; it already bothers me that taxpayer money pays for such bullshit. But taxpayers having to pay to be lied to by our own military? I realize that this occurs already, with so many TV commercials encouraging young men and women to join the armed services, but this amendment appears to want to broaden those efforts to a scope closer to indoctrination than simple recruitment.

We were already lied to far too many times by the Bush administration in order to fulfill Dubya’s wet dream of invading Iraq. We already hear enough lies from politicians, corporations and other interest groups; whether through various news outlets, media commercial advertising, or opinionated pundits. It is hard enough now to sort through and fight all of the lies, both of commission and omission, that permeate our ‘news’ media. With so few real investigative journalists of integrity out there, how much of the truth will still be able to get through to citizens and voters?

This is our daily open thread — feel free to discuss this topic, or whatever’s on your mind!

Halliburton On The Hot Seat

Halliburton is charged with selling nuclear technology to Iran.  There is a loophole in the law that allows the foreign subsidiaries of American corporations that allows them to do business with countries like Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

(Thanks to Stranded Wind at DailyKos)

Financial Regulation: The President’s Speech on Wall Street Reform

Source: The White House

This is a full transcript of President Obama’s Speech on Wall Street Reform in Cooper Union. A video is not yet available.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you very much.  Well, thank you.  It is good to be back.  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in New York, it is good to be back in the Great Hall at Cooper Union.  (Applause.)

We’ve got some special guests here that I want to acknowledge.  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is here in the house.  (Applause.)  Governor David Paterson is here.  (Applause.)  Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.  (Applause.)  State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is here.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.  (Applause.)  Dr. George Campbell, Jr., president of Cooper Union.  (Applause.)  And all the citywide elected officials who are here.  Thank you very much for your attendance.

It is wonderful to be back in Cooper Union, where generations of leaders and citizens have come to defend their ideas and contest their differences.  It’s also good to be back in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Wall Street.  (Laughter.)  It really is good to be back, because Wall Street is the heart of our nation’s financial sector.

Now, since I last spoke here two years ago, our country has been through a terrible trial.  More than 8 million people have lost their jobs.  Countless small businesses have had to shut their doors.  Trillions of dollars in savings have been lost — forcing seniors to put off retirement, young people to postpone college, entrepreneurs to give up on the dream of starting a company.  And as a nation we were forced to take unprecedented steps to rescue the financial system and the broader economy.

And as a result of the decisions we made — some of which, let’s face it, were very unpopular — we are seeing hopeful signs.  A little more than one year ago we were losing an average of 750,000 jobs each month.  Today, America is adding jobs again.  One year ago the economy was shrinking rapidly.  Today the economy is growing.  In fact, we’ve seen the fastest turnaround in growth in nearly three decades.

But you’re here and I’m here because we’ve got more work to do.  Until this progress is felt not just on Wall Street but on Main Street we cannot be satisfied.  Until the millions of our neighbors who are looking for work can find a job, and wages are growing at a meaningful pace, we may be able to claim a technical recovery — but we will not have truly recovered.  And even as we seek to revive this economy, it’s also incumbent on us to rebuild it stronger than before.  We don’t want an economy that has the same weaknesses that led to this crisis.  And that means addressing some of the underlying problems that led to this turmoil and devastation in the first place.
Now, one of the most significant contributors to this recession was a financial crisis as dire as any we’ve known in generations — at least since the ’30s.  And that crisis was born of a failure of responsibility — from Wall Street all the way to Washington — that brought down many of the world’s largest financial firms and nearly dragged our economy into a second Great Depression. Continue reading