United States

Counterterrorism Experts: ISIS Not A Threat

no attribution


Intelligence agencies say ISIS poses no immediate threat to the United States.

Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counterterrorism adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, said the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a “farce,” with “members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems — all on the basis of no corroborated information,” said Mr. Benjamin, who is now a scholar at Dartmouth College…

“As formidable as ISIL is as a group, it is not invincible,” Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said last week, using an alternate name for the group. “ISIL is not Al Qaeda pre-9/11” with cells operating in Europe, Southeast Asia and the United States. Mr. Olsen’s assessment stood in contrast to more pointed descriptions by other American officials like Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has said that ISIS poses an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”…

In a speech Wednesday morning, Jeh C. Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, said, “We know of no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland at present.”


10 things you need to know today: August 9, 2014

The United States is sending food and water to displaced Iraqis via airdrops.

The United States is sending food and water to displaced Iraqis via airdrops. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Week

The U.S. continues its aid drops and airstrikes in Iraq, Reagan’s former press secretary’s death is ruled a homicide, and more

1. Obama addresses Iraq airstrikes as ISIS advances
President Barack Obama used his weekly Saturday address to describe the United States’ military airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops in Iraq. “The United States can’t just look away,” he said, when “countless innocent people are facing a massacre.” Obama authorized the use of airstrikes against ISIS targets on Thursday, and the U.S. has since sent two rounds aimed at stopping the militants’ march toward Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdish capital. The Sunni insurgents have continued their advance, though, forcing thousands of Iraqis to flee into the nearby mountains, reliant on aid drops for fresh water and food. [TheWeek.com, The Wall Street Journal]


2. Former Reagan press secretary James Brady’s death ruled homicide
A medical examiner for the Northern District of Virginia on Friday ruled former press secretaryJames Brady’s Monday death a homicide. John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, along with three others including Brady, on March 30, 1981. He has since been treated at St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital, after being found not guilty for the assassination attempt by reason of insanity. The shooting wounded Brady, who died on Monday at age 73, and left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. The medical examiner determined that those injuries led to Brady’s death, albeit 33 years later. [The Washington Post, NBC4 Washington]


3. Afghanistan’s presidential candidates pledge to honor audit
Following a contentious runoff vote in June, Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates finally agreed to honor — and speed along — an audit of more than eight million ballots on Friday. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani are vying for leader of a country which should have instated its new president last weekend, but arguments between the candidates’ camps and disruptions of the audit have pushed that timeline back. The United Nations, along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, worked to broker the most recent agreement, which supersedes a previous truce that quickly stalled. [The Washington Post]


4. Malaysia Airlines to be de-listed and taken private
Two high-profile disasters in less than five months, capped off by three straight years of losses for Malaysia Airlines prompted the Malaysian government to announce that the company will be de-listed and taken private on Friday. The move had been expected following the March 8 disappearance of Flight 370 and the July 17 shooting-down of Flight 17 over Ukraine. Khazanah Nasional, a state investment fund, proposed a $436 million buy-out of the airline’s shares. The company said it expects to completely “overhaul” the airline. This will include eliminating popular routes, trimming payroll, and installing new management. [Reuters]


5. U.S. Ebola patient says he is ‘growing stronger every day’
Dr. Kent Brantly wrote in a statement released by international relief agency Samaritan’s Purse that he is “growing stronger every day,” as doctors at Emory University Hospital treat him for the deadly Ebola virus. Brantly contracted Ebola while working in Liberia as part of a post-residency program. He has been in the United States receiving treatment for a week. The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency on Friday. More than 900 people in West Africa have died from the virus so far. [Time]


6. State Attorneys General implore FDA to regulate e-cigarettes
A group of 29 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, requesting that e-cigarettes be regulated the same as traditional cigarettes. “E-cigarettes have all the addictive qualities of regular, combustible cigarettes,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “Each year, electronic cigarette companies spend millions of dollars advertising their product…glamorizing smoking in the same way combustible cigarettes did before these commercials were banned.” Courts have struck down previous attempts by the FDA to regulate e-cigs, which come in thousands of flavors and are sold everywhere from corner stores to the internet. [NPR]


7. Facebook purchases cybersecurity firm
Facebook announced on Thursday that it has acquired cybersecurity firm PrivateCore, although terms of the deal were not released. The Palo, Alto-based startup uses “vCage technology” to protect servers from malware and other malicious hardware devices. “I’ve seen how much people care about the security of data they entrust to services like Facebook,” Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, wrote in a post announcing the acquisition. [Time]


8. Congress adds $20 billion in extra projects to military budget
Congress added more than 300 glorified earmarks to the current defense spending bill, tacking on an additional $20 billion in costs for projects such as cancer research at historically black colleges and informing troops of the gym locations on military bases. The Pentagon did not request the additions, as the U.S. already spends more on war and defense than the next eight nations combined. American military spending totaled about $718 billion in 2013. [The Washington Times]


9. Judge rules against NCAA in O’Bannon case
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled on Friday in favor of Ed O’Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit claiming the NCAA had violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for their names, images, and likenesses. The decision is a victory for Football Bowl Subdivision and Division I men’s basketball players in the sense that they can now receive up to $5,000 a year in compensation for their role in the NCAA’s live television broadcasts. And, Wilken determined the NCAA’s arguments that it was not a monopoly and that payments to players were unreasonable based on the definition of amateurism did not hold — “that could haunt the NCAA in other litigation,” ESPN’s Lester Munson says. [The Associated Press, ESPN]


10. Giant, newly discovered jellyfish species baffles scientists
Researchers caught a new species of jellyfish off Australia’s northwest coast in 2013, and nearly a year later, the find still has the scientists flummoxed. The Keesingia gigas is a type of Irukandji jellyfish, but unlike its tiny cousins, this jellyfish is about the length of a human arm. It carries fatal venom, which can cause pain, nausea, and even heart failure. What Keesingia gigas does not appear to have is tentacles, and that’s stumping Lisa-ann Gershwin. “Jellyfish always have tentacles…that’s how they catch their food,” the director of Australia’s Marine Stinger Advisory Services said. “I just don’t know what it is.” [The Guardian]

Robert Reich: Children fleeing to the U.S. are ‘refugees of the drug war we created’

Robert Reich speaks to Conan

Robert Reich speaks to Conan | Screenshot

At last somebody is telling the truth about this immigration crisis and other issues that the Right has venomously perpetuated…

The Raw Story

Robert Reich, President Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, recently put the so-called immigration crisis in perspective by reminding Americans that the women and children who were escaping to the U.S. were “refugees of the drug war we’ve created.”

“I’ve been watching media coverage of angry Americans at our southern border waiving signs and yelling slogans, insisting that the children – most of whom are refugees of the drug war we’ve created — ‘go home’ to the violence and death that war has created, and I wonder who these angry Americans are,” Reich wrote on Facebook over the weekend.

The former Labor Secretary explained in a July 14 post why the “United States is not a detached, innocent bystander” when it came to the refugee crisis.

For decades, U.S. governments supported unspeakably brutal regimes and poured billions into maintaining them ($5 billion in El Salvador alone). Implacable opposition to communism—often defined as virtually any reformer—gave these regimes a blank check. The result is a legacy of dealing with opponents through extreme violence and a culture of impunity. Judicial systems remain weak, corrupt, and often completely dysfunctional. After the cold war ended, the United States lost interest in these countries. What was left was destruction, tens of thousands dead, and massive population displacement. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is 54 percent for Guatemala, 36 percent for El Salvador,and 60 percent for Honduras. More recently gangs, organized crime, and drug cartels feeding the US market have become part of this unholy mix.

Reich said that he wasn’t “suggesting we allow in anyone who wants to come here, but these are desperate children.”

“Whatever happened to the generosity, decency, and big-heartedness of this country?” he wondered, quoting a poem by Emma Lazarus that is engraved into the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of our teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In a follow-up post, Reich observed that the true division in America was not between Democrats and Republicans, it was “between the haters and the big-hearted.”

The haters direct their venom not just at child refugees seeking asylum from the drug war we created, but also at gays who want to marry, African-Americans who want to vote and exercise their other rights of citizenship, women who seek abortions, or even women in general, Latinos who want their children to be taught in Spanish, immigrants in general, Muslims, Jews, government “bureaucrats,” the poor and needy, anyone who dares suggest a required background check before buying guns, people they call “liberals” or “socialists” or “communists,” even the President of the United States.

He observed that “hate-mongers in the media” had also made the problem worse by encouraging the behavior.

“But the haters are not America,” Reich insisted. “They are a small and vocal minority. Most Americans are generous and welcoming, decent and kind-hearted. We are the silent majority, who have been silent too long.”

In the end, Reich said that it was wrong to “make children pay the price for the intolerable social destruction that Central American elites and militaries, as well as successive US governments, had a hand in creating.”

(h/t: Fusion)

Ex-Bush Official Blasts GOP: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing


With the Afghanistan war winding down, the United States would be required to return prisoners to Afghanistan. We can’t hold them indefinitely.

“I don’t see how these particular Taliban officials could ever have been tried in the southern district of New York,” John Bellinger, who served as an adviser to President George W. Bush explained during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday. “They’re certainly some Al Qaeda detainees who committed actual terrorist acts against Americans who perhaps could have been tried in a federal court because they committed federal crimes, but these particular Taliban detainees I think could never have been tried in federal court.” Although some of the released prisoners posed a danger to the United States when they were captured in 2002, especially toward soldiers serving in Afghanistan, several of the detainees did not commit crimes against Americans…

Though Cheney told Fox News on Monday that he would not have agreed to the deal, Bellinger stressed that the Bush administration “returned something like 500 detainees from Guantanamo.” Statistics from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence show that only 6 percent (5 in total) of Guantanamo detainees released during the Obama administration have potentially engaged in militant activities. That compares with a rate of nearly 30 percent under the Bush administration.

“I’m not saying this is clearly an easy choice but frankly I think a Republican, a president of either party, Republican or Democratic confronted with this opportunity to get back Sgt. Bergdahl, who is apparently in failing health, would have taken this opportunity to do this,” he added. “I think we would have made the same decision in the Bush administration.”

Head Of Top Conservative Think Tank Makes Spectacularly Uninformed Statement About Slavery

General Ulysses S. Grant, a big government official who played no role in ending slavery, according to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint

General Ulysses S. Grant, a big government official who played no role in ending slavery, according to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint | CREDIT: AP PHOTO


Think Progress

Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina who now leads the conservative Heritage Foundation, went on a Christian radio show last week where he discussed the topic of slavery. He offered some rather unusual views on the subject of slavery while he was a guest on this show.

Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

It’s difficult to know where to begin a list of the errors this brief passage. The phrase “all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights” does not appear in the Constitution, although a very similar phrase does appear in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, the Constitution, at least as it stood before the Civil War, had very different things to say about the subject of human equality. It provided, for example, that “[n]o person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” The original Constitution also contained explicit language prohibiting Congress from banning the importation of new slaves until 1808.

Nevertheless, DeMint is technically correct that “the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution.” That’s because the Thirteenth Amendment provides that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude. . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The Thirteenth Amendment did not, however, simply come into being because Abraham Lincoln had a “love in his heart that comes from God.” Rather, it happened because Lincoln led the nation in a massive big government program known as the “Civil War“.

During this war, the United States raised an army of over two million service members who clashed with a Confederate army of about half that size. Moreover, the war effort increased federal spending nearly 25 times. As the leader of a centralized government in Washington, DC, Lincoln also issued a document known as the “Emancipation Proclamation,” which ordered slaves in the Confederate states freed.

Notably, while the Thirteenth Amendment ended the legal practice of human chattel slavery, state laws such as the Black Codes and the Jim Crow laws were enacted in the South to maintain the inferior status of former slaves and their descendants. These laws were eventually eradicated by big government as well, primarily through legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

It’s also worth noting that the Confederate system of government differed from the Union’s system in that it placed far less power in a strong central government. While the United States Constitution, permits the federal government to “lay and collect taxes . . . and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” for example, the Confederate Constitution excluded the power to “provide for the general welfare.” Thus, the United States Constitution permits major national spending programs such as Medicare or Social Security, while these programs would have been unconstitutional in the Confederacy. Similarly, the Confederate Constitution includes a rigid limit on national infrastructure spending — forbidding its congress from “appropriat[ing] money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce” — a limit that does not appear in the United States Constitution.

So Jim DeMint is correct that there was a belligerent during the American Civil War that rejected “big government.” He’s just wrong about which side that was.

The Year of the Great Redistribution

Robert Reich

The stock market closed out a record year at an all-time high [at the end of the year] giving stockholders in 2013 their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.

But the real news here, that went completely unreported, is that the 2013 bull market widened inequality because

(1) the richest 1 percent of Americans own 35 percent of the value of all shares of stock, and the richest 10 percent own over 80 percent,

(2) the corporate profits on which these gains were based came largely from keeping the wages of ordinary workers low,

(3) the capital gains and dividends these gains generated are taxed at a lower rate than most of the income of the middle class, and

(4) the biggest winners are the top executives and Wall Street traders whose year-end bonuses are tied to the stock market, and the hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose “carried interest” loophole allows them to cash in big-time. When will we stop measuring the health of the economy by the Dow Jones Industrial average? —

Uh, America, are we listening to this man?

The Facts About Benghazi – NY Times Editorial

The Blue Street Journal

The New York Times Editorial Board

An exhaustive investigation by The Times goes a long way toward resolving any nagging doubts about what precipitated the attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The report by David Kirkpatrick, The Times’s Cairo bureau chief, and his team turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or another international terrorist group had any role in the assault, as Republicans have insisted without proof for more than a year. The report concluded that the attack was led by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s air power and other support during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and that it was fueled, in large part, by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

In a rational world, that would settle the dispute over Benghazi, which has further poisoned the poisonous political discourse in Washington and kept Republicans and Democrats from working cooperatively on myriad challenges, including how best to help Libyans stabilize their country and build a democracy. But Republicans long ago abandoned common sense and good judgment in pursuit of conspiracy-mongering and an obsessive effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.

On the Sunday talk shows, Representatives Mike Rogers and Darrell Issa, two Republicans who are some of the administration’s most relentless critics of this issue, dismissed The Times’s investigation and continued to press their own version of reality on Benghazi.


H/t: DB for emailing me this article


“You have to make it all about you, don’t you, Barack?” ~ Right Wing snark

This one is hilarious.  It epitomizes the term: Obama Derangement Syndrome…


Time’s Zeke Miller tweetered this adorbs little photo from June as part of a year-end skim of the White House Flickr stream. Photographer Pete Souza’s note:

“The President called me over to pose for a photo with a young boy who had fallen asleep during the Father’s Day ice cream social in the State Dining Room of the White House.”

So it’s not hard to imagine how this pic might hit the world of rightwing media.

Twitchy: “SNAP! Obama caught shaming small child forced to attend White House propaganda event”

Gateway Pundit: “Typical: Obama inserts himself into other people’s Fathers’ Day celebration”

Daily Caller: “Was cute sleepy child another Obama plant?”

American Thinker: “Sleepy Child Just Another Obama Plant — the evidence from photos”

Breitbart: “Sleepy Boy Reported To Be Another Plant”

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze: “No, there is no evidence that the sleeping boy was a plant. Buy Gold!”

WND: “Did ‘gay’ Obama fondle sleeping child?”

Peggy Noonan: “America. Sleeping. Where Is The Greatness? America.”

Drudge: “SIREN! Obama plays ‘Knockout Game’ on defenseless child”

Townhall/Katie Pavlich: “Pro-abort Obama With Child He Couldn’t Kill In the Womb”

Sarah Palin: “Obama’s America pointing sleep dad ice cream Obama precious child precious memories Alaska America Todd Gakk babies Willy Barstow foot American Exceptionalism Crhissmaks”

Erick Erickson: “Reagan never pointed at children” (1985 photo of Reagan pointing at child posted at Media Matters within 5 minutes)

Ben Shapiro: “Obama points finger, offers no market-based solutions to problems of black America.”

George Will: “The sleepy child and the tragedy of single black parents”

Fox & Friends: “Some people think Barack Obama is going to send this small boy to a reeducation camp! Are they right?”

Home Depot founder worries Pope Francis neither loves or understands rich Americans

Pope Francis on the papal flight back to Italy from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, on July 28, 2013. (AFP)

The Raw Story

In an interview on CNBC on Monday, Home Depot founder and devout Catholic Ken Langone said that the Pope’s statements about capitalism have left many potential “capitalist benefactors” wary of donating to the Church or its fundraising projects.

According to Langone, an anonymous, “potential seven-figure donor” for the Church’s restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is concerned that the Pope’s criticism of capitalism are “exclusionary,” especially his statements about the “culture of prosperity” leading to the wealthy being “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”

Langone said he’s raised this issue with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who yesterday praised Pope Francis for “shattering the caricature of the Church.”

“I’ve told the Cardinal,” Langone said, “‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country.’”

Cardinal Dolan told CNBC that he had, in fact, spoken to Langone, and had told him that “that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father’s message. The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people.”

He then thanked Langone for bringing this anonymous donor’s concerns to him, and insisted that “[w]e’ve got to correct — to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father’s message properly.”

Langone further said that, in the future, he hopes Pope Francis will “celebrate a positive point of view rather than focusing on the negative.” He does worry, though, because of “the vast difference between the Pope’s experience in Argentina and how we are in America. There is no nation on earth that is so forthcoming, so giving.”

Dolan assured Langone that he had communicated to the new Pope the “legendary generosity of the Catholic Church in the United States.”

Watch the segment from CNBC here…



Fox News analyst suggests extra-constitutional measures to protect Constitution from Obama

Major Gen. Paul E. Vallely (Ret)

The hatred for this president is unprecedented.   Barack Obama taught Constitutional Law, he’s an attorney for heaven’s sake.

The wing-nut hysteria over the President is rather hilarious.  They refuse to recognize his bona fides and instead make him out to be the most ignorant foreign-born usurper ever to occupy the White House.

I’ve said it before:  history will not look kindly on those fools who accuse the President of the most outrageous and false offenses…

The Raw Story

A retired general and Fox News analyst has prescribed a regimen of extra-constitutional measures to protect the Constitution from President Barack Obama.

“We need to get off our derrieres, march at the state capitol, march in Washington (and) make citizens arrests,” said conservative activist and retired Major Gen. Paul E. Vallely.

He said the president and his allies in Congress were “conducting treason,” “violating our Constitution and violating our laws,” and he’s demanded that Obama resign or face a vote of no confidence.

“Clearly America has lost confidence and no longer trusts those in power at a most critical time in our history,” Vallely said last week in an online radio interview. “It is true that not all who ply the halls of power fit under that broad brush, but most of them are guilty of many egregious acts and we say it is time to hold a vote of no confidence. It’s time for a ‘recall.’”

Perhaps realizing that the constitution doesn’t outline such a process, which is a common feature in parliamentary democracies, Vallely suggested that Congress pass legislation that would allow conservative activists to undo the results of the last presidential election.

“When you have a president and his team who don’t care about the Constitution, they will do anything they can to win,” he said.

Vallely ruled out impeachment, which is outlined in the Constitution, as a possible remedy.

“Harry Reid still controls the Senate, so like in Clinton’s day, forget about a finding of guilty,” he wrote. “Incidentally, if Obama was found guilty and removed from office, Joe Biden would step in, Valerie Jarrett still wields all the power, and likely we get more of the same.”

Vallely suggested that Obama’s misdeeds – which he identified as a handful of broken campaign promises, Benghazi and the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court – were so egregious that conservatives wouldn’t be breaking any laws by violating the Constitution to remove him from office.

“What else is our nation to do now that the ‘rule-of-law’ has effectively been thrown out the window by the Obama administration?” Vallely said. “How are we to trust our government anymore, now that lying and fraud are acceptable practices?”

But he stopped just short of endorsing violence to overthrow the Obama administration.

“That brings us to the other word no one wants to utter, revolution. In our opinion, this is the least palatable option,” Vallely said. “Others talk about the military taking over as we saw in Egypt; again, we do not support this route.”

But he did suggest that a new George Washington could be drawn from the ranks of retired military personnel, which, of course, include Vallely.

“It’s fallen upon senior, retired military to take stands against the overreach and tyranny of a corrupt government,” Vallely said. “I think for people, they respect what the military has gone through. Senior military guys are very well educated, they’ve gone to the right schools, gone to combat for the most part, have had to manage enormous budgets, were involved in major financial decisions and are heavily steeped in foreign policy and national security. No other group, no CEO that has that kind of background. Obviously our politicians don’t have that background. They have legislation experience, not leadership experience.”

Vallely said action was necessary, because even next year’s midterm congressional elections can’t solve the problem posed by the continued presence of Obama in the White House.

“Obama will just continue to subvert the Constitution he took an oath to faithfully protect,” Vallely warned. “His track record shows us that no matter what the make-up of Congress is, he will twist his way around it with a pen and secure even more power reminiscent of a dictator.”

“When that does not work, he will manipulate the courts and law enforcement will be run by fiat, choosing winners and losers,” he said.

Video at the bottom of the article.