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Compulsory Work Reception Centers and the What’s Wrong With the FBI??

The reason why Trump voters are not our favorite people is because we have to listen to stupid shit Sean Spicer says:

 

Holocaust Centers? He makes it sounds like the reception area of a compulsory agritourism resort. This isn’t right. It isn’t even wrong. It’s just bad.

We probably don’t need to cater to the Trump voter anymore. It’s not a hate thing. It’s just pointless to try to talk to people who think that just about anything is acceptable anymore because reasons.

They are not special.

**************************************************************

Meanwhile, back at the FBI, The Washington Post reports this afternoon:

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.

The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

So, let’s recap.

The Trump campaign was under investigation and Trump advisor Carter Page’s communications were being monitored, last summer.

Not a peep from the FBI.

Hillary’s email turned out to be a nothing burger and the Comey letter 11 days before the election likely did her in among voters who for some reason can’t evaluate candidates based on their merits.

For this we are saddled with Trump and a slew of Republicans for four years and we have just had a Supreme Court justice stolen from us to be replaced with a guy who believes in Natural Law. He’s to the right of Scalia.

And Obama said… nothing.

 

 

 

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Things that tick me off about lefty Hillary phobes

121115310_29ecec608bYou know who you are. You know she’s going to be nominated at this stage but there’s something about her you don’t like. It’s always SOMETHING.*

These are somethings that you would let slide in any other candidate. Please, don’t make me go over 2008 again. It’s even boring me. But before we move on with that, let’s just all get on the same page with 2008. We don’t buy any of the revisionist history on the 2008 Democratic primary. There should have been a floor fight and the fact that there wasn’t one tells us everything we need to know about how pure and virtuous the left can be.

On to stuff about Hillary:

1.) She feels she is entitled. She thinks it’s her turn. Ok, let’s take the first part. If you have as much experience as Hillary Clinton, you should feel as entitled as anyone with similary experience to run for president.

As for it being her turn, I have heard this over and over again from die hard Obots over the last 7 years, that somehow, there’s an unspoken deal that the party or Obama’s financial backers or even the Obots themselves, would allow Hillary to run after Obama prevented any change  presided over the executive branch for eight years. I don’t know where these people got this idea. None of the Clintonistas were in on this deal. In fact, as far as we were concerned, she probably shouldn’t have bothered. Eight years of Obama after eight years of Bush have made it harder for her to make any real changes. I would have just said “You’re on your own” and walked away if I were her. I don’t think it’s a deal that made her run. And anyway, it’s a stupid deal and she’s not stupid.

2.) The vote for the Iraq War. I hated this vote. I was all in favor of Afghanistan. We had to go there. No, no, peaceniks, we really did. But Iraq was a blunder of monumental proportions. I despise that vote.

But you know what? She was one of 100 senators. Guess what? Without her vote, we were still going to Iraq. Yep, going there and ruining the world for no good reason. John Kerry voted for going to Iraq and his long, disjointed, rambling speech made a lot less sense than Clinton’s. John Edwards voted for Iraq. I can clearly remember lefties falling all over themselves over Edwards. He was the one to beat. If he hadn’t been a cad, the Kossacks would have told Obama to take an old cold tater and wait his turn.

But Hillary is held to some higher standard. The way lefties go on about this makes you think that it was going to be a 50-50 tie and she broke it with her one single vote. It was not. It wasn’t even close. The hypocrisy is ridiculous in this area. So, you know, knock it off.

3.) Coziness with the banks. People who voted for Obama should not be bringing this up given his track record, the results of which certainly suggesting very strongly that there was a deal in 2008 in exchange for all their filthy campaign lucre (which the DNC lapped up without protest). But if they must, we should probably see how many times Jamie Dimon visited the White House in Obama’s first term. Maybe Ron Suskind, the author of Confidence Men would have the answer to that query.

And if we’re going to get transcripts of her speeches, we should probably get the transcripts for all of the other candidates, including Obama’s, from 2007-2008. Fair’s fair. If the media thinks the transcripts will tarnish her reputation with lefties, why bother? They’re already there. Her reputation with lefties can’t get any lower. The question is, does she have a record of exchanging money for influence? Her voting record does not show that.

Does it say that she would be ‘captured’ by the banks like Obama clearly was? Time will tell, I suppose. It might help if we could get a regular person on the Supreme Court who would see the sense in overturning Citizens United. Good luck getting Donald Trump to do that.

4.) Libya. I’m getting a little tired of this one. At the time she advocated the air strikes in Libya, there was a humanitarian crisis developing there. It’s the same kind of humanitarian crisis that developed and spun out of control in Syria. But note that we did nothing in Syria. And how did that work out? I mean, for the average, every day Syrian?

There were terrorists in Libya before the air strikes. The head honcho was one of them. This has been proven. Lockerbie, anyone?  Getting rid of terrorists was not why we did air strikes in Libya but it’s not like there weren’t any there before hand.

Failed states. Yes, it is regrettable that Libya is now considered a failed state. And whose fault is that? No, seriously, whose fault is that? What should we have done? Should we occupy another country? Like a pacifist is going to be thrilled with that solution either. We rebooted the country because it was going to crash (like Syria). Isn’t it the Libyans’ responsibility to keep it running?

So now the terrorists are back. But these are not the same terrorists as before. They are a product of what happened in Iraq when the Bushies insisted that we go kick Saddam Hussein’s ass. Which takes us back to the first point. Hillary’s vote in favor or opposed was not going to keep us out of Iraq.

Do you guys remember the crazy rhetoric in Congress back in 2003-2008 when anyone suggested we dial it back? Remember “cut and run”, “Freedom Fries” and “If you don’t like <fill in the blank>, then the terrorists have won”? Remember the Patriot Act??  Remember Russ Feingold? Hardly anyone does. And that’s the point. You cast a nauseating vote that you can do nothing to mitigate and live to fight another day.

As for the air strikes in Libya, they happened in 2012. So, this problem has had 4 years to fester. There have been 4 years for the Libyans to get their shit together. Why are we not asking the Libyans to step up? Why are we not pointing the Libyans to Kurdistan and saying, “look guys, you have the same oil reserves, the same crazy ass religious relatives, and YOU aren’t landlocked. Why can’t you be like Kurdistan? We gave you a chance to get your shit together and you sqaundered it.”

Why are we blaming ourselves for this?

I only ask.

BTW, if you are a Republican who is cowering in your bedroom because you are afraid that a Muslim is going to behead you, you have only yourself to blame. Iraq was entirely preventable. In fact, your insistence that we go get the WMDs and steal the oil in Iraq has put the entire world in danger by making the rise of ISIS possible. Colin Powell said we would break it. We were warned. So, you know, we’ve had enough of your less than helpful input.

I don’t like warhawks and I don’t like isolationists. They’re two sides of the same coin. Neither is thinking ahead.

Now, I have plenty of problems with the way Hillary is running her campaign this year. The economy is not nearly as good as her ads make it out to be. I understand the need to not make us feel like losers. I get it. But I really do feel like she is neglecting the suffering that a lot of us have had to endure because we have had an ineffective president and an obstructivist congress.

And there are very few people that I know who have benefitted from Obamacare. There is almost universal dislike of it. Her “never, ever” comment came off like a lead balloon and more than a little paternalistic. Like, “You’re not going to Ashley’s house for a sleep over and that’s final. Don’t even ask.” or “I’m tired of going over this and over this. We aren’t dredging this up again.”

That’s a mistake. That feels like inevitability. That makes people feel like they have no choices. But as Stephen Covey says, people always have choices. And they are really beginning to hate nudges.

America may still be great, I wouldn’t argue with that. But we are not addressing the problem that the people who live here are increasingly seen as crops to be harvested instead of people. To the rest of the developed world, what is happening here is horrifying. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

So far, I haven’t heard Hillary talk about the exploitative profit mining of the American people and I think it’s time she started to discuss that. What is she going to do to reset the balance of power and what is she going to do about income instability?

Everything else is New York Times getting its money’s worth on the deal it and WaPo and Fox News struck with an opposition research company last year.

* Someday, we’re going to have to talk about what really bugs lefties about Hillary Clinton. I think Anglachel was on to something when she discovered the Male Graduate Student problem.

 

 

 

 

Seth’s Sleepless Night

Seth Andrews at The Thinking Atheist recently returned from Australia to his hometown in Oklahoma. This is just after Mike Pence signed the RFRA bill in Indiana. Welcome home, Seth!

Seth went to a birthday party where all his relatives are “Christian” and they wasted no time talking about “The Signs”. Jet Lag and The Signs. Sounds like the name of an alternative jazz-rock fusion group. Nope, what came out instead was a perfect, well, rant would undercut the seriousness of the monologue. Let’s just call it a monologue.

Here it is. It’s called Coexist?

Unlike Seth, I am willing to coexist with the religious. I’m not an atheist but I have strong sympathies in that direction. So, I have no problems with liberal Christian denominations. But I consider myself an enemy of fundamentalism of any kind and this country has given Christian fundamentalists way too much attention and deference.

Yesterday, I met a man from Syria while I was at work. He was frantic. I think he needed someone to talk to. He said he was employed by the Saudi Royal family. I got the impression that it was his job to manage the families properties. But recently, he was kicked out of the kingdom- because he was a Christian. Not a good move. His wife is a dentist. They had to leave. They were able to get out of the middle east. Some of his friends are refugees in Sweden or other places in Europe. HE, he regrets to say, ended up in the United States. He thought that when he got here that because this is a Christian country, there would be some help for him. Not so. He has a job washing dishes. His wife can’t practice. He has an autistic son. He doesn’t know where to go for help.

His friends landed in countries that have a real safety net and health care. He has nothing.

Thank you, Fox News!

WWII: The Sequel

I haven’t been following the reboot of the Iraq War brought on by the ISIS atrocities.  For one thing, I don’t watch cable or network news so I missed the beheading videos.  Is it just me or should there be a law against showing that kind of thing on TV?  It feels like gratuitous snuff film porn for the purpose of horrifying people and stirring up strong emotional reactions.  I’m agin it.

I’m also against war in general but I’m not a pacifist or an isolationist.  I sat through a bajillion hours of The Last Lion, the biography of Winston Churchill and realize how dangerous pacifism and isolationism can be.  The peaceniks “at all costs” crowd are as unsettling to me as the Cheney types.  My attitude towards war is a Tolkienish one.  I don’t like it, don’t crave it, wouldn’t seek it out except for the protection of friends and innocents.

But there is a really good reason why the US can never be an isolationist country.  Going back to WWII, Churchill repeatedly threw the British Army (or what was left of it after Dunkirk) at different places in the Mediterranean and southeast asia for a purpose.  It was more than just a case of pestering Hitler like a biting sand fly.  And it did have something to do with the British Empire.  But more than that, he had to do it to maintain open sea lanes.  Take a look at the map below of the world’s chokepoints today:

If you follow the thickest blue line, you’ll notice that the most significant battles of WWII happened along it.  You can also see why the Axis came to be.  The countries that controlled the north Atlantic, Mediterranean and South China Seas pretty much ruled the world.  That big blue line represents the quickest route from East Asia to North America.  A vital choke point is right about where the Suez Canal is and what countries surround the entry and exit to the Suez Canal?  Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia.  If we follow the Red Sea southward, we see Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia. Then we swing around the Arabian Pennisula and into the Persian Gulf to Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and all that oil.

Like it or not, we are dependent on keeping those chokepoints open for international trade, not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world. It helps if the country in charge of patrolling the hot spots is above reproach.  Bush and Cheney kinda ruined our global reputation in that respect.  The rest of the world has to trust us to not act completely in our own best interests.

What Bush and Cheney did was take a giant dump in a very sensitive place.  And then they left a very naive but extremely cocky novice president to keep the place in order.  The naivety, coupled with an upcoming second term, caused a series of very bad decisions.  Pair that up with local instability in the region around the Suez Canal and you have our present situation.

There probably was a better time to intervene in Syria but in general, the region is always going to be a sensitive spot.  It’s geographically important, and you can bet the people who live there know it.  The Arab Spring might have been prompted by that realization.  We are probably never going to be able to completely reduce our presence there.  Our economy depends on keeping this chokepoint open.  Until we get rid of our dependence on foreign oil, we’re going to have to be there.  And even after we move on from sucking the mideast dry, that area is still the quickest way from point A to point B for many countries other than our own.

So, there’s my take on it.  We’re still fighting the world wars of the previous century and will be for the foreseeable future.  Obama was not thinking past his re-election and anyone who made their decision of presidential candidate in 2008 based on a war vote or promises to get out of Iraq wasn’t thinking it through to its logical conclusions.  It has always been clear to me that the president who took over from Bush/Cheney was going to have to make peace with the isolationists before he or she would ever make peace with the Iraqis and their neighbors.  It was never going to be simple or easy.  The best we could hope for was an uneasy status quo for a long time.

But somebody blew it and here we are.

Next time we elect a president, we might want to choose one who is explicit about these things.

One more thing: Considering what a sensitive area the Mediterranean is, you have to wonder why the ECB is being such a dick to Spain, Italy and Greece.

The White House ignored the State Dept’s warnings on Syria for Years

It looks like the gloves are off.  Josh Rogin at The DailyBeast reports the following this afternoon:

Throughout 2011 and well into 2012, President Obama’s White House barred Hillary Clinton’s State Department from even talking directly to the moderate Syrian rebels. This was only one of several ways the Obama team kept the Clinton team from doing more in Syria, back before the revolution was hijacked by ISIS and spread into Iraq.

The policy feud has flared up again in recent weeks, with Clinton decrying Obama’s Syria policy, Obama’s inner circle hitting back, and the president himselfcalling criticism of his Syria moves “horseshit.” Obama and his former secretary of state promised to patch things up at a social gathering on Wednesday. But the rift is deep, and years in the making.

Clinton and her senior staff warned the White House multiple times before she left office that the Syrian civil war was getting worse, that working with the civilian opposition was not enough, and that the extremists were gaining ground. The United States needed to engage directly with the Free Syrian Army, they argued; the loose conglomeration of armed rebel groups was more moderate than the Islamic forces—and begging for help from the United States. According to several administration officials who were there, her State Department also warned the White House that Iraq could fall victim to the growing instability in Syria. It was all part of a State Department plea to the president to pursue a different policy.

“The State Department warned as early as 2012 that extremists in eastern Syria would link up with extremists in Iraq. We warned in 2012 that Iraq and Syria would become one conflict,” said former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. “We highlighted the competition between rebel groups on the ground, and we warned if we didn’t help the moderates, the extremists would gain.”

But the warnings, which also came from other senior officials—including then-CIA chief David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—fell on deaf ears. Obama’s small circle of White House foreign policy advisers resisted efforts to make connections with rebel fighters on the ground until 2013, when the administration began to train and equip a few select vetted brigades. For many who worked on Syria policy inside the administration, it was too little, too late.

Look, guys, I hate to sound like a broken record, really I do.  Do you think it gives me any pleasure to point out that lack of planning, principle and follow through that has characterized the Obama administration for the last six years?  Hell, no.  I have to live in this country too and at my age, there’s no other country in the world that’s going to accept me as an immigrant.  (Though if there is anyone in New Zealand who wants to sponsor me, I’m all ears. )

I can understand the White House’s embarrassment and desire to keep all this dissension under wraps.  But I don’t appreciate the PR campaign they have unleashed against the former SOS simply because she chooses to reveal her difficulties with the White House.

On the other hand, maybe Hillary will learn to be more sympathetic towards people like Edward Snowden.

One can only hope.

No need for apologetics

Oh, my!  Hillary has astounded the left blogosphere again.  She hasn’t backed off on her “war hawkishness” and for the first time in 6 years, she has actually defied the White House and admitted that their foreign policy was full of holes.  So, now all of the left’s assessment of her is proven true, TRUE, I say!  She would have taken us into a new war had she been president, she wouldn’t have stopped with earth, she would have declared it on the Martians and then where would we be?  I can almost see the caricature Hillarys filling the souvenir shelves in 2016, hair standing on end and eyes wild and terrifying like some older, plumper version of Galadriel on ring steroids.

Will you people get a grip?  You’re starting to remind me of the right.  Yeah, I went there.  Those people are black/white thinkers without nuance. The left’s absolutism when it comes to war and pacifism is starting to resemble that.  I’m not apologizing for Hillary.  You can go back to her senate days until the present and really read what she’s said to figure out where she stands.  She’s allowed to be wrong.  God knows, the left is extremely forgiving of other politicians who were much wronger than Hillary.  John Kerry and John Edwards were given free passes and they were clearly motivated by politics.  But she’s also allowed to be right and we have to look at the bigger picture of the globe and our unfortunate and damning dependence on oil to see what might be going on here.

In the last couple of weeks, I have wondered why it is that this region of the world is still so tribal, why authoritarian religion has such a grip on the inhabitants, why it hasn’t allowed them to evolve and who is behind all that religious hierarchy.  I mean, why is it concentrated so heavily in the area where oil is located and where there are global chokepoints to the flow of oil and other goods?  You’d think that living in such a strategic area of the world that these people would have a better standard of living than they do.  Why aren’t the best minds coming from the middle east?  Why are so many of them poor?  What is the connection of religion to power and which side is wielding it?  I’m sure there are papers on the subject. But it’s not my area and I’m dissatisfied and embarrassed by the shallowness of the discourse on the left when it comes to these questions.  All I ever hear is, “why are we there?”, “why are we spending money to bomb other countries?”, “when can we get out?”, “get out now!, Now!, Now!” and “See, that was a waste, they’re back to killing each other”.

Back in 2008, I tried to warn people over at DailyKos and here that getting out of Iraq wasn’t going to be easy and shouldn’t be rushed.  The Bushies went to Iraq to steal and experiment, and, in the course of that experimentation, trashed the place.  Pulling out was going to be destabilizing and we were probably going to have to stay longer whether we liked it or not.  And what happened?  The White House, ever in campaign mode, pulled out without stabilizing before the 2012 election and the place fell apart.  (See this Frontline episode on Losing Iraq.  The evidence damns the Bushies and the Obama administration.)

I keep coming back to responsibility.  We on the left seem to think that if we didn’t want a war and didn’t start one, we are not responsible for what happens when one happens despite our protests.  And that’s just not true.  Whether we like it or not, we will be forever associated with the other fellow bone headed, stupid, mean spirited Americans who were lead over a cliff by a bunch of greedy, selfish, destructive global “citizens”.  What you might consider “war hawkishness” might be responsibility to me.  And it sucks to be the more conscientious elder sibling.  It’s so much easier to take the easy way out and enjoy the credit, while it lasts, for making everyone happy temporarily by disassociating from the war as quickly, and as it turns out, as recklessly as possible.  But getting out quickly didn’t make things better, did it?  That high was timed to last a campaign season and very little thought was given to the morning after the party.

If anything, the Arab Spring, the collapse of Iraq and the civil war in Syria has confirmed my initial assessment of the two candidates in 2008.  Clinton was rehab and Obama was an enabler.

The latter won.

Addendum:  Some dirty hippies completely discredited themselves in the last couple of election cycles and need to take an old cold tater and wait.

 

Random thots

Pretty busy lately.  Will show pics of my new screen porch at some point.  In the meantime, I’m trying to catch up with the news.  So, here are my random thots.

Syria- NOW we want to bomb the shit out of Syria??  A couple of years ago when Assad’s forces were picking off little kids in the streets of Homs we couldn’t be bothered.  But when they pull out the chemical weapons we get our knickers in a twist?  Syria isn’t like Libya.  At least in Libya, there was an endpoint.  A deft touch of air power was all it took to bring down the regime.  In Syria, who knows what it will take?  In any case, if we were going to deter Assad, it probably would have been better to catch it early.  At this point in time, it just looks like another clever way to get around the sequester for the wealthy and well connected, in this case, the defense industry.

And don’t stick that fricking “If we don’t support the president’s actions in Syria, it’ll be the end of Obama’s presidential career” guilt trip shit on us.  You know what will permanently tarnish his legacy and make him the least effective president ever?  If he can’t restore food stamp funding.  Yeah, that and high unemployment sucks and has been going on for too long.

Harvard business school has conducted an experiment in the past couple of years to make the place more equitable for women.  I’m not sure HBS was entirely successful.  But whatever.  Gender equity is the least of its problems.  It’s a horror story of American aristocracy simultaneously distancing itself from the rest of us while figuring out newer ways to take over everything.  Chilling.  Depressing.  Places like HBS shouldn’t exist.

Speaking of unemployment, it turns out that cutting wages to the science community was not an accident.  Nooooo.  It was a plan that Alan Greenspan floated in 2007:

Allowing more skilled workers into the country would bring down the salaries of top earners in the United States, easing tensions over the mounting wage gap, Greenspan said.

“Our skilled wages are higher than anywhere in the world,” he said. “If we open up a significant window for skilled workers, that would suppress the skilled-wage level and end the concentration of income.”

Thank you, Alan for murdering the American R&D infrastructure.  It will never be the same in our lifetimes.

Other stuff:

I started taking the bus to work.  Thumbs up to the East Busway.  Thumbs down to the people who decided to cut service to the eastern suburbs once you get off the east busway.  Stranding people in Wilkinsburg because the last bus to Oakmont leaves at something like 6:30pm, not very wise, especially considering how packed the Oakmont bus is all of the time.  Otherwise, I can’t complain about the buses.