Trump’s Treasury thug Steven Mnuchin used the Sunday talk show circuit to demand any Federal relief of the destruction inflicted by Hurricane Harvey (the costliest American hurricane in history, according to Wikipedia) be held ransom in exchange for the annual can-kicking of the nation’s record $20,000,000,000,000 debt.
Mnuchin used the Mussolini-era term “state” not for the state of Texas (it appears) but for our cancerous Federal Government, emphasizing the benevolent big wigs must have control at all times, or everyone will perish.
“The president and I believe that [raising the debt limit] should be tied to the Harvey funding, that our first priority is to make sure that the state gets money. It is critical and to do that we need to make sure we raise the debt limit.”
The $300 million-net worth Mnuchin also touched on his “comfort” with borrowing a few billion dollars in light of his boss’s two predecessors’ charging of $10 trillion apiece to the national credit card. (Read: threatened not to give Texas relief money if the nation didn’t step deeper into the debt pool.)
“[W]ithout raising the debt limit, I’m not comfortable that we would get the money that we need this month to Texas to rebuild.”
He insinuated the storm “moved up the situation” of that pesky debt limit. Any disaster can be used to bargain for an extension of your malicious fiscal practices.
That’s not all for the terrible toils of Texans in 2017. According to Texas Tribune, disaster relief funds from the Federal Government via Housing and Urban Development, will take between 7 and 32 monthsto disperse.
Before the government agencies can disperse the money, they must develop an action plan that HUD approves. The public must also have a chance to comment on the plan, a process that can take 30 to 60 days. Texas officials have asked that time period be reduced to seven days.
In all fairness, the layer cake of Federal job creation delaying the money is small potatoes compared to what Houston’s neighbor to the southeast, Puerto Rico, was in for after the next hurricane.
On September 7, the Senate sold out the younger generation as expected, 80-17. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Republicans of Texas and ostensibly fiscal conservatives, voted to continue borrowing into unsustainable oblivion until December, while kicking $15.25 billion to FEMA for Harvey relief.
Of the 17 “no” votes (all Republicans, which is interesting given their majority in both the House and the Senate…see below), notable were Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona. Marco Rubio, of oft-hurricane-battered Florida, did not vote.
The House initially wanted just $7.9 billion for the disaster, but approved the more lavish Senate bill September 8; Trump signed it the same day. When it comes to spending your money, the major parties are surprisingly cooperative.
New York Times noted Republican leaders had wanted a longer-term extension of the debt limit, but were left with little recourse when Mr. Trump sided with top Democrats in Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, at a White House meeting on [September 6], blindsiding his own party.
According to Washington Examiner, [a]head of Friday morning’s vote in the House, GOP lawmakers attended a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and House Republicans were angered by his lack of information about how much money the government will spend between now and Dec. 8.
That anger translated to a still massively lopsided 316-90 vote for the measure. All 90 “nay” votes were from Republicans.
On December 7, with the above-imposed deadline looming, Congress again dug deep into the country’s financial future, throwing together a two-week “continuing resolution” to keep the cash flowing long enough to advance what would be their only major legislative accomplishment under Trump thus far: a large tax cut that will add nearly $1,500,000,000,000 more to the national debt in the next ten years.
Because American raids, bombs and special operations have not hurt the world enough this year, the big-military warmongers went to bat for Pentagon budget increases beyond those Trump proposed by redistributing from domestic programs such as EPA.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, eviscerated the budget as [our emphasis]: “inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress.”
The irony of the phrase “dead on arrival” to characterize the Trump budget by a Republican reputed to have a hard-on for making things hard on the people crawling out of the smoldering wreckage we create in the name of freedom was, sadly, overlooked.
House Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) also declared the Trump proposal “basically dead on arrival.”
McCain and other “defense hawks” are reportedly determined to seize a full $640 billion from the American people this year to destroy non-American people.
The Pentagon has said this budget proposal is about fixing the readiness of the force it currently has and that Congress can expect the buildup to start in fiscal year 2019. But defense hawks say that’s an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay.
Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies, opined the Armed Services committee would look foolish if spending were authorized and not subsequently appropriated.
“It undermines some of the authority of the authorizers when they authorize things that don’t ultimately get appropriated,” he said. “You can’t spend an authorization.”
Harrison also noted the 2011 Budget Control Act capped defense spending at $549 billion per year (as we will see soon, that don’t mean shit):
“You might have to reprioritize, maybe delay a few weapons systems. But Congress is always good at sweeping up money that hasn’t been spent. You know, shake couch cushions and a few dollars fall out.”
Jumping to non-military spending momentarily, while addressing her alma mater Wellesley College on May 26, Hillary Clintonhad strong words on Trump’s proposal to marginally secure the crumbling financial future of the day’s graduates by cutting a paltry $3.6 billion in Federal Government bloat over the next ten years.
“Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington. It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us.
“It grossly underfunds public education, mental health and even efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.”
Above: academic people always wear special costumes so we take them seriously. Photo from Quartz, who kindly compiled Hillary’sentire speech.
“You are graduating a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason. Just log on to social media for 10 seconds, it will hit you right in the face,” she said, citing hoax online reports that her campaign was tied to a Washington pizzeria that operated a child sex ring.
Interestingly, Hillary seemed to address the all-female institution’s track record of suppressing disagreeable speech, which we have previously noted:
[Clinton] urged graduates of the liberal-leaning school […] not to retreat into their own partisan echo chambers, saying, “your learning, listening and serving should include people who don’t agree with you politically.”
Back to the defense budget. As we have previously reported, concealing waste at the Pentagon is a way of life for paper-pushers whose livelihood hinges on destroying strangers on the other side of the world:
Forbes reported on July 14 that the House had overwhelmingly passed a $696,500,000,000 defense bill, which, for those keeping score, was even larger than the monstrous amount McCain & Company insisted was necessary for the military’s survival:
Demented DC fixture Senator John McCain (R-AZ) had some hateful speech for the Senate majority as he joined his colleagues in changing the body rules to confirm U.S. Tenth Circuit appellate judge Neil Gorsuch (below) to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Democrats had filibustered the nomination of Gorsuch, 49. Republicans, who hold 52 Senate seats, were unable to muster a supermajority of 60 votes to break the filibuster. Instead, they held a 52-48 party-line vote to implement a “nuclear” option: the Senate will now require just 51 votes to allow a vote on Supreme Court justice appointments.
Yahoo! had more:
“It’s a bad day for democracy,” McCain said before entering the Senate chamber, where he later voted with fellow Republicans to change the rules. “I think it’s a terrible mistake that we will regret for many, many years to come.
“There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster, not one,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We all understand that’s what makes the Senate the Senate.”
[McCain (above) was re-elected in November with 53.7% of the vote.]
“I find myself torn between protecting the traditions and practices of the Senate and the importance of having a full complement of justices on the Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m left with no choice. I will vote to change the rules an [sic] allow Judge Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority.”
According to Yahoo!, McCain’s April 4 statement on the matter was even more patronizing to the American people who are apparently supposed to stomach the notion that the six-term senator, 80, has any integrity at all:
“I would like to meet that idiot, I’d like to meet the numskull that would say [changing the rule for Gorsuch is a good thing]. Whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I’ve been through and how we were able to avoid that on several occasions. And they are stupid and they’ve deceived their voters because they are so stupid.”
Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), similarly changed filibuster rules in 2013, requiring only a 51-vote majority in the Senate to break filibusters on all presidential nominees except Supreme Court justices (i.e., executive branch and all other judicial appointments). Once the filibuster is broken, these nominees can be confirmed by a similar, simple majority vote.
USA Today notes Reid and the Democrats felt unrelenting Republican filibusters of Obama nominees for necessitated the rule change:
The turning point in the decades-long debate over Senate filibuster rules was Republicans’ decision to block all three of Obama’s latest nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation’s second-most-powerful court with vast jurisdiction over federal agencies and regulations.
April’s was therefore the second “nuclear” rule change for the U.S. Senate in four years.
“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I believe they are right. The need for change is so very, very obvious.”–then-Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
Reid (above; thanks, galleryhip.com) retired in 2016.
Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)famously warned the Democrats: “You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”
Fifty-two of the fifty-five Democrats and their common-caucusing Independents voted for the 2013 rule change. Of the three Democrats in opposition, only Joe Manchin (WV) remains in the Senate today.
At the time, Dianne Feinstein noted: “I’ve sat on the Judiciary (Committee) for 20 years and it has never, ever been like this. You reach a point where your frustration just overwhelms and things have to change. I think the level of frustration on the Democratic side has just reached the point where it’s worth the risk.”
McCain, per USA Today, called the decision “foolish” and squarely blamed junior Democratic senators. “There are members that have never been in the minority who have been here a short time who basically drove this,” he said.
And Obama praised Reid’s maneuver: “A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to re-fight the result of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal[.]”
For Mr. Gorsuch’s confirmation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shamelessly misled the public by attempting to goad the Republicans into “changing the nominee” to allow Democrats to contribute at least eight votes to reach a 60-vote threshold. This is the number needed to end the filibuster Schumer orchestrated. Washington Post:
“If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”
Also according to Post, Schumer decided to lead a filibuster because “[Gorsuch] was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on Trump, and Mr. Gorsuch was “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology[.]”
Washington Post was complicit in Schumer’s fantasy that all Senate proceedings require 60 “yes” votes to break a filibuster (a sort of holdover from the Obama administration when Republicans filibustered ruthlessly and lead Dirty Harry to change the rules, as above) and not a simple majority of 51:
Among recent Supreme Court nominees, the 60-vote threshold has not caused a problem. President Barack Obama’s choices of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan each received more than 60 confirmation votes. Samuel A. Alito Jr., chosen by President George W. Bush, was confirmed 58 to 42 in 2006, but 72 senators voted to defeat a possible filibuster and allow his confirmation vote to go forward. Indeed, only Alito — among the last 16 Supreme Court nominees — was forced to clear the supermajority hurdle to break a filibuster.
President Obama had nominated chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit Merrick Garland in March 2016 following the unexpected death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans, who held the Senate majority, refused to hold a confirmation vote for Garland, leaving an eight-member court for about one year and prompting allegations they “stole” an additional Obama-appointed Supreme Court seat. The issue became more of a sore spot for liberals with Trump’s unexpected capture of the presidency, ensuring Hillary would not make the next nomination.
After the rule change, Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45 with 51 Republicans (led by now-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) joined in the affirmative by three Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Manchin, and Joe Donnelly (IN). All three are up for re-election in 2018. Republican Johnny Isakson (GA) did not vote.
We were unable to find a quote from Obama reacting to the rule change and ensuing Gorsuch confirmation.
On March 15, John McCain announced that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is a Russian agent when Paul tried to block a vote that would reportedly have allowed Montenegro to join NATO, according to Politico:
“The senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin […] [i]f there is objection, you are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin,” McCain said. “You are achieving the objectives of trying to dismember this small country, which has already been the subject of an attempted coup.”
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) a 28-country international alliance that assembled against Russia [then Soviet Union] and other Communists in the beginnings of the Cold War in 1949, most recently used Article 4 to require “member state consultation” following Putin’s annexation of Crimea, Poland in 2014. Article 5, obliging member states to defend others when threatened, has apparently only been enacted once: to send the International Security Assistance Force into Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
Paul’s introduction to his failed amendment to sink the Montenegro NATO invitation:
More domestically, on March 17 the Secret Servicemisplaced, according to New York Daily News, a Secret Service-issued laptop — containing floor plans for Trump Tower, information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and other national security information — that was stolen from an agent’s car in Brooklyn.
In the “who can lose more national secrets on a laptop” contest, Hillary appears to maintain a slim lead:
Just seven days earlier (March 10), Jonathan T. Tran, of Milpitas, CA jumped the White House fence and roamed around the grounds for 17 minutes, according to Washington Post.
According to BBC, Tran, 26, shown above in a court sketch, breached multiple barriers of security:
[Tran] was carrying two cans of mace, a US passport, a computer and one of Mr Trump’s books, authorities said…[he] had managed to climb a 5ft (1.5m) fence near the US Treasury Department, which is next to the White House. He then scaled an 8ft vehicle gate, and a shorter fence near the east wing of the White House grounds.
Post reports the laptop contain[ed] a letter addressed to the president about Russian hackers, saying Tran had found “information of relevance,” according to a criminal complaint filed March 11.
TIME TO RESET THE CLOCK:
The Secret Service (budget: $2,800,000,000 annually) has cultivated a comical public persona for the past several years. Multiple “White House fence jumpers” were caught during the Obama years, including one wielding a knife who made it through the front door of the mansion and near the actual living quarters in 2014:
Omar Gonzalez had passed an alarm box on the lawn, which Washington Post reported was muted at the request of an “usher.” Therefore, the front door guards had no warning to bolt the door, and Gonzalez made it up some stairs and into the East Room. The much-maligned Secret Service initially lied and said the intruder was stopped at the front door. Not so. Scientific diagrams from the Post illustrate his full [TRIGGER WARNING] penetration:
Post quoted three unnamed sources “familiar” with the breach, and noted at that time: Agency spokesman Edwin Donovan said the office is not commenting during the ongoing investigation of the incident.
We provide a list from Wikipedia of all the fence security breaches (just those that were stopped on the lawn) from the George W. Bush administration until now. Our emphases:
February – April 2006 – Brian Lee Patterson, jumped the White House fence a total of four times.
October 13, 2006 – Alexis Janicki, 24, of Independence, Missouri, an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, was arrested after climbed over the fence while in possession of marijuana.
March 16, 2007 – Catalino Lucas Diaz, scaled the fence with a package and threatened officers that he had a bomb. Catalino was arrested after determining that he had no dangerous weapon.
June 9, 2009 – Pamela Morgan, jumped the fence onto the northeast corner of the grounds while carrying a backpack. Morgan was arrested immediately and her backpack later searched and found to contain nothing dangerous.
March 30, 2014 – Unidentified male, caught and arrested after climbing over the fence.
August 7, 2014 – An unknown toddler squeezed through the fence, and was returned to his parents.
October 22, 2014 – Dominic Adesanya, formerly of Bel Air, Maryland, jumped the fence onto the north lawn and was quickly taken down by two security dogs while punching and kicking them before being arrested by the Secret Service. He was later ordered by a judge to a mental health facility. Adesanya, who had twice jumped the White House fence in July 2014, pleaded guilty in April 2015 to entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds and was sentenced in July 2015 to time served and one year of supervised release. Adesanya’s lawyer said that he suffered from schizophrenia.
November 26, 2015 – Joseph Anthony Caputo, 22, of Stamford, Connecticut, was arrested by Secret Service agents almost immediately after jumping over a White House fence as the first family was inside celebrating Thanksgiving. Caputo had left a suicide note and will and apparently had intended to die. In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Caputo pleaded guilty to one federal misdemeanor count of illegal entry of restricted grounds in a deal with prosecutor and was sentenced to three years’ probation with various conditions.
March 10, 2017 – A man carrying a backpack, later identified as Jonathan Tuan Tran, 26, of Milpitas, California, was arrested after jumping the White House fence, coming within steps of the mansion. Court papers charged Tran with “entering or remaining in restricted grounds while using or carrying a dangerous weapon” and stated that he had two cans of mace in his possession at the time of the incident.
We are not making this up: Within 24 hours of writing this article (March 18), an still-unnamed individual jumped a bike rack/pedestrian barrier but did not actually clear the fence.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reportedly “tweeted”: “Individual jumped bike rack on Pennsylvania Ave, not White House fence. Great response by Secret Service.”
So great, in fact, the next intruder had to get creative. On March 18, the very next day, CNN reported Sean Patrick Keoughan drove into a White House checkpoint and announced he had a bomb.
Keoughan, 29, of Roanoke, Virginia, was charged with threatening and conveying false information about the use of an explosive, according to the US attorney’s office. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
[He] had pulled up to the White House an hour prior to his bomb threat, saying he had an appointment with President Donald Trump, the office said. He also said he could communicate telepathically with the President.
Joseph Clancy was appointed by Obama in February 2015 to help clean up the mess, against Washingtonian recommendations. USA Today:
In the fallout [from the scandals], then-Director Julia Pierson, the first woman to lead the agency, was forced to resign.
In selecting Clancy, Obama defied the recommendation of a bipartisan White House security panel, which recommended that a new director come from outside the agency.
Pierson (above, flag) served 18 months. She was promoted by Obama to clean up Secret Service in the aftermath of agents getting caught with prostitutes at Summit of the Americas in Colombia, 2012.
Clancy (above, bald) resigned as head of the Secret Service effective…March 4, 2017. Remember this date.
One of the first incidents of Clancy’s two-year tenure was a highly-publicized (and perhaps sensationalized…see sources) incident in March 2015. Agents Mark Connolly and George Ogilvie made national news for allegedly leaving a fellow agent’s retirement party sloshed and plowing at low speed into a traffic barrel that sequestered a “suspicious package.” Huffington Post:
The area was locked down because [the Secret Service were] investigating a package thrown out of a car by a woman who had shouted, “It’s a bomb,” [Washington Post] said, citing a police report.
[A] law enforcement official familiar with some of the details described the vehicle as moving very slowly and deliberately at about 1 mile per hour.
The driver intentionally nudged a light-weight plastic orange construction barrel a couple of feet out of the way so the vehicle could reach a checkpoint, and did not drive through police tape, the official said.
[Marc Ambinder of The Week opined days later that he–as well as outlets like Washington Post, New York Post, and–real news!–The Daily Show—may have jumped to unwarranted conclusions regarding the agents’ alcohol use. Ambinder unofficially retracted the earlier statement he made in Politico: “This latest incident — where two high ranking Secret Service agents, while drunk, allegedly drove themselves into a crash barrier at the White House, disrupting a tense investigation into a suspicious package nearby, is heartbreaking.”]
WHAT WAS THE DATE IN 2015 OF THE “BOMB AND BASHED DRIVING” CONDUCT BY THE AGENTS???
March 4, 2015.
According to Wikipedia, Clancy was also head of security for Comcast from 2011 until his appointment by Obama.
April 20: The Secret Service announced it was closing the sidewalk in front of the White House permanently, according to multiple sources.
April 29: On April 25, Trump appointed Randolph “Tex” Alles, acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, as new head of the Secret Service.
Picture from Wall Street Journal.
Alles is a 35-year Marine Corps veteran who retired in 2011 as a major general to begin work at CBP.
On March 17, Donna Brazile lamented in Time that the Russians fixed the 2016 presidential election, called for an independent investigation of their interference of the DNC communications, portrayed herself as a damsel drubbing up Democratic diversity in the 2016 primaries, and oh by the way admitted she helped Hillary cheat in a nationalized presidential debate, contradicting her previous statement [our emphasis]:
Then in October, a subsequent release of emails revealed that among the many things I did in my role as a Democratic operative and D.N.C. Vice Chair prior to assuming the interim D.N.C. Chair position was to share potential town hall topics with the Clinton campaign. I had been working behind the scenes to add more town hall events and debates to the primary calendar, and I helped ensure those events included diverse moderators and addressed topics vital to minority communities. My job was to make all our Democratic candidates look good, and I worked closely with both campaigns to make that happen. But sending those emails was a mistake I will forever regret.
By stealing all the DNC’s emails and then selectively releasing those few, the Russians made it look like I was in the tank for Secretary Clinton. Despite the strong, public support I received from top Sanders campaign aides in the wake of those leaks, the media narrative played out just as the Russians had hoped, leaving Sanders supporters understandably angry and sowing division in our ranks. In reality, not only was I not playing favorites, the more competitive and heated the primary got, the harder D.N.C. staff worked to be scrupulously fair and beyond reproach. In all the months the Russians monitored the D.N.C.’s email, they found just a handful of inappropriate emails, with no sign of anyone taking action to disadvantage the Sanders campaign.
As we reported in October, Brazile’s misconduct was exposed not by the pro-Trump Russians, but by Wikileaks.
Brazile disparages the Republican reluctance to support “special prosecution” of Russian communication with Jeff Sessions and other Trump allies: Despite all the deeply troubling evidence, the White House continues to insist that “there’s no there there.”
Her own nonsensical syntax seems to be plagiarized from her former boss Bill Clinton‘s go-to legal defense: “That depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
This post has been updated for formatting and to correctly state former senators must wait two years, not one, to become lobbyists.
United States “Spends to Defend”
To ensure America continues to spend more on defense than the next seven highest spending countries–combined–Congress has passed, with moderate fanfare, a $619,000,000,000 “defense policy” bill, according to The Hill.
The Republican-dominated House got plenty of Democratic votes for a blowout 375-34 vote on Friday.
The bill would authorize a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including $59.5 billion for a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.
OCO is another sneaky way for the President to blow American money on death and destruction without formally declaring war. It’s better for everybody this way, because that usually involves droning innocent people (or people in hospitals, or people not in war zones who we have decided should be executed).
Congress made sure to include some popular provisions, like raises for the troops, which can apparently also come from the OCO. (If you make it complicated enough, the little people won’t ask where all their confiscated income is going.)
Another $8.3 billion from the OCO account — $3.2 billion more than Obama requested — would be used for base budget requirements such as a pay raise for troops and troop increases.
The troop pay raise would be 2.1 percent, above the president’s request for a 1.6 percent pay raise.
You get more than you even asked for, Obama! Merry Christmas non-exclusionary winter holiday! Ho ho ho! What $20,000,000,000,000 national debt???
According to non-partisan PopVox, the Senate version of the bill has 20% constituent approval.
(Yellow indicates disapproval.)
Senate Bill 2943 (above) has been kicking around since earlier this year and approved at least once: on June 14 the Senate gave it an 85-13 vote of approval after the House voted “yes” by 277-147 in May. Obama threatened to veto that measure because it apparently undermined his capabilities to clear out Guantanamo Bay.
Politico: [The House bill] adds $3.2 billion over the president’s budget request in war funds to mitigate readiness shortfalls in the Pentagon’s base budget.
Other changes on the horizon:
As in previous years, the bill would bar transferring detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S., virtually guaranteeing the president’s pledge to close the prison will go unfulfilled.
This means Obama will have to continue removing the prisoners extra-legally, as he has done throughout his eight years in office. Fortunately, only “at least twelve” of those (imprisoned without trial) suspected terrorists who were freed have engaged in terrorism as of June, according to Washington Post.
The Obama administration believes that at least 12 detainees released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have launched attacks against U.S. or allied forces in Afghanistan, killing about a half-dozen Americans, according to current and former U.S. officials.
One snag in negotiations was whether women would be required to register for the draft. In the final bill, they are reportedly not.
GOP dinosaur John McCain, 80, who was re-elected last month to a sixth six-year term as U.S. Senator from Arizona and sponsored S. 2943, reportedly looked up from his Syria defense hearing pastime of online poker to congratulate his colleagues:
“I am tremendously proud of this NDAA,” [McCain] said. “Thanks to these provisions and many more, the NDAA will enable our troops to rise to the challenges of a more dangerous world.”
Will he pull the Senate votes together again???
Not all House members were completely satisfied. Although House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) praised the fact that the bill “stops the layoffs of military personnel,” he will look to President-elect Donald Trump to demand a “supplemental spending request” next year:
No relation to Eliza.
“That’s not nearly enough,” Thornberry said of the [GOP-offered $3.2 billion over Obama’s initial request] increase. “And my great hope is that the new incoming administration will submit to Congress a supplemental request that can really get about the job of rebuilding the military, which is so essential.”
But don’t think our hardworking Congress people are working themselves to death.
The Hill heard from lawmakers last week that although some important measures had still not been ironed out, the hope of “getting out of work early for vacation” was in the air:
[Kevin] McCarthy [(R-CA)] said House lawmakers will finish two must-pass items left on their 2016 agenda — a short-term government-funding bill and a water resources bill — next week.
McCarthy predicted the House would clear a measure to keep the government funded by Thursday, though so far such a measure has not been released. Lawmakers have until Dec. 9 to move legislation to keep the government operating and avoid a shutdown.
Well hopefully we can rush through the temporary “continuing government funding resolution” to keep our pathological need to spend at record levels so that, despite record tax revenue ($3,270,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2016 KA-CHING!!!) we still leave the little people on the hook for $500 billion to $1 trillion in deficit for the year!!
The Hill notes that while both houses of Congress could conceivably rush through the latest financial mortgage on the country’s future, as well as “water resources,” “medical innovation” and temporary “extended legal status for some illegal immigrants” and get off of “work” for a well-deserved three-week sloth fest, there is still potential for someone to screw up this “good thing they got going on.”
[Representatives and Senators make over triple the national median income. Plus benefits. Plus pensions. Plus stocks that do 6% better (House) and 10% better (Senate), on average, than those of the little people.]
Any senator could use the Senate rules to drag out the upper chamber’s procedural clock and eat up days of debate time. Though no lawmaker has publicly threatened to do so, the move would easily force senators to stay in town past Dec. 9.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it’s “possible” the Senate could wrap up early, but noted lawmakers still needed work out a deal to fund the government.
“Frankly I’m not too certain it’s going to happen,” he told reporters.
(“Dirty” Harry, 77, who is retiring, may be okay with that. He lives in a Washington D.C. Ritz Carlton and must wait two years before registering as a lobbyist.)
Hillary Believes She was Honest and Ethical; Republicans Usurp Constitution; Apple, Liberals Defend?
After the FBI’s evidence destruction, public humiliation of Apple, and forceful anal rape of the Syed Farook ISIS terrorist iPhone, which we have extensively documented, the United States Federal Government–your employees, even if you live off welfare checks and only pay taxes on gas, cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets–continue their crackdown on unreasonable search and seizure of your person and property.
“The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve,” head FBI thug James Comey implored the nation as he failed to coerce Apple CEO Tim Cook to order the iPhone engineers to create backdoor software for the Federal Government to unlock any iPhone, anywhere, because patriotism. This even as Comey paid a black hat expert hacker $1,000,000 to unlock Farook’s iPhone. The mass murderer’s government-issued devices had been destroyed before he and his wife took 14 innocent lives in the name of Obama’s J.V. team Islamic State in California eight months ago.
This is interesting given Comey’s detailed assessment of former Secretary of State (and current presumptive Democratic 2016 presidential nominee) Hillary Clinton’s behavior in erecting an unsecured, unauthorized email server in her New York basement to flout FOIA open records requests of her emails as “extremely careless” and criminal—if, alas, criminal intent could be proven in a court of law.
While the FBI criminal investigation into the final four years of job performance of our likely next chief executive wound down just after Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the nation’s top prosecutor, met with Clinton’s husband on an airstrip in Phoenix, right-leaning non-profit Judicial Watch still has a second investigation open for the Clinton Secret Server: the State Department’s own. Clinton has signaled she will not cooperate. Transparency:
In a filing at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Clinton’s legal team called the request [to depose Clinton on her email arrangements under oath] from conservative organization Judicial Watch “futile and inappropriate.”
Clinton’s response to questions about the setup “would undoubtedly be ‘I don’t know,’” the lawyers added.
Mrs. Clinton, who has not given an unscripted press conference in over 200 days, waited three days to respond to the nation’s top criminal investigator’s characterization of all Clinton’s communications as our top diplomat as “extremely careless.” The Hill reports:
Clinton addressed the matter for the first time on the heels of violence in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas that has dominated the news cycle and put a spotlight back on police shootings of African-Americans. The timing of her interviews — late on a Friday afternoon — allowed her response to the email controversy to be buried by the fallout from the violence.
Mr. Comey’s thesis:
“I think she was extremely careless. I think she was negligent. That, I could establish. What we can’t establish is that she acted with the necessary criminal intent.”
In her interviews, Clinton referred to “over 300 people” she communicated with via email, including longtime diplomats and government officials.
“I do not believe that they did anything that they believed was in any way inappropriate,” she said on MSNBC.
According to Comey, at least 113 email messages Clinton sent or received through her controversial private email setup contained information that was classified at the time it was sent — including eight email threads with information at the highest level of top secret.
None of the emails in Clinton’s inbox was properly marked as classified; however, the FBI has found at least three messages with partial markings suggesting that some of the material was sensitive. But those markings were incomplete, and Clinton may not have been technically “sophisticated” enough to properly interpret them, Comey said Thursday.
Earlier in the week, the FBI director said that someone of Clinton’s experience nonetheless “should have known” not to have discussions about sensitive matters on an unclassified email system.
“We assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account,” he said at the FBI headquarters Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s fellow war hawk Senator John McCain (R-AZ)recently threatened to subpoena Apple CEO Tim Cook and his fellow tech execs from Google or other companies that handle the little peoples’ communications to ensure the Senate Armed Services Committee has all the specs on new smartphone encryption. Because the NSA logging the phone call participants and durations of every American, every day, isn’t enough for national security.
Cook had been invited to attend the Thursday hearing, but snubbed the committee, the news site reported. “This is unacceptable,” McCain reportedly said, after warning that the committee “has subpoena power.” McCain’s warning applied to executives from Apple and Google, the Naval Institute News reported.
Mr. Cook had a decent retort for the former P.O.W. McCain, 79, who is up for re-election in November:
“People use (smartphones) to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.
“All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk.”
In the wake of the mass murder (also ISIS-dedicated) of 49 Pulse night club patrons in Orlando last month, Mr. McCain helped rally to expand the Patriot Act.
The Hill reported in June:
The Senate on Wednesday came just one vote shy of passing a measure from Republican leaders that would have allowed the FBI to obtain terrorism suspects’ internet browsing histories, email histories and other records without warrants.
“You’ve had multiple terrorist attacks since then in the homeland. More companies are not providing the information when asked,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told The Hill shortly before his proposal was blocked.
Did you ask nicely?
“[The] amendment undermines Americans’ fundamental rights without making our country safer, and in my view, undermines the role of judicial oversight,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said shortly before the vote.
The proposal would have expanded the FBI’s ability to use a form of administrative subpoenas known as national security letters to gather electronic communication records as part of intelligence and terrorism cases. The data acquired as part of the case would not include content, supporters have been quick to point out.
FBI Director James Comey has called the proposal on national security letters the equivalent of fixing a “typo,” which has propelled the measure on Capitol Hill.
The Obama administration also pushed a similar proposal in 2010 but abandoned it following pushback from privacy advocates and tech companies.
This controversial Senate measure would re-authorize indefinitely the NSA to monitor suspected terrorists, according to The Hill.
Roughly a dozen Democrats joined with Republicans in support of the measure, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“I’m not positive, but I’ve been told, becauseI don’t count votes, that there were a couple of people who were in favor who were not there,” [McCain], a co-sponsor, said after the scuttled vote.
The House had just blocked a measure that “would have banned the government from demanding companies build security flaws into their systems,” according to The Hill.
In 2014 and 2015, the bipartisan measure passed by votes of 293-123 and 255-174.
After the lobbying from the Intelligence Committee, the measure went down 198-222.
For all her bullshit about affirmative action, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is admirably fighting for our Fourth Amendment rights, according to reason.
We have quoted the short column in its entirety below.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is fast becoming the Supreme Court’s biggest defender of the Fourth Amendment. After examining her record over the past few SCOTUS terms, including the term that just concluded this week, it’s clear that Sotomayor has emerged as a consistent and outspoken voice in favor of broad Fourth Amendment rights. Here’s a brief look at some of Sotomayor’s most notable actions in recent Fourth Amendment cases.
Missouri v. McNeely
At issue in this 2013 dispute is whether the Fourth Amendment stands in the way of the police obtaining a warrantless and nonconsensual blood test from a suspected drunk driver. Writing for the majority, Sotomayor held that the amendment is indeed such a bulwark. “In those drunk-driving investigations where police officers can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search,” Sotomayor wrote, “the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so.”
Navarette v. California
In this 2014 case a majority of the Supreme Court said that no Fourth Amendment violation took place when the police conducted a traffic stop and resulting drug bust based solely on information obtained from an anonymous telephone tip. “The Court’s opinion serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail,” Justice Antonin Scalia seethed in dissent. “All the malevolent 911 caller need do is assert a traffic violation, and the targeted car will be stopped, forcibly if necessary, by the police.” That troubling scenario, Scalia wrote, “is not my concept, and I am sure it would not be the Framers’, of a people secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.” Sotomayor signed on to Scalia’s dissent.
Rodriguez v. United States
At issue in this case was whether a police officer “unnecessarily prolonged” an otherwise legal traffic stop when he called for backup in order to walk a drug-sniffing dog around the stopped vehicle. During the January 2015 oral arguments, Justice Department lawyer Ginger Adams insisted that the police are entitled to broad leeway when it comes to determining the amount of time that’s “reasonably required” in that sort of situation. Justice Sotomayor took a decidedly different view. “We can’t keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement,” an exasperated Sotomayor lectured Adams. “What you’re proposing,” she told the government lawyer, is an approach that’s “purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.” Three months later Sotomayor joined the majority in voiding the officer’s unconstitutional actions.
Mullenix v. Luna
This case centered on a whether or not a police officer was entitled to qualified immunity after using deadly force to end a high-speed car chase. In a 2015 per curiamopinion, the Supreme Court held that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. In a lone dissent, Sotomayor faulted her colleagues for “sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing [that] renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment hollow.”
Utah v. Strieff
In this 2016 ruling the Supreme Court held that the Constitution does not prohibit law enforcement officials from using evidence that had been obtained as a result of an illegal police stop because it turned out that the man who was illegally stopped happened to be the subject of an outstanding traffic warrant.“This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants–even if you are doing nothing wrong,” Sotomayor fumed in dissent. “If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.” In her view, “the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct” by the police.
Birchfield v. North Dakota
The final case in our list was decided just last week. At issue here was whether warrantless chemical tests for suspected drunk drivers violate the Fourth Amendment. In a divided opinion, the Court held that warrantless blood tests do violate the Constitution but warrantless breath tests do not. Writing separately, Justice Sotomayor insisted that both types of warrantless DUI tests should have been struck down as unconstitutional.“Because no governmental interest categorically makes it impractical for an officer to obtain a warrant before measuring a driver’s alcohol level,” Sotomayor wrote, “the Fourth Amendment prohibits such searches without a warrant, unless exigent circumstances exist in a particular case.”
U.S. Sailors Humiliated by Iran Around Signing of “Nuclear Deal” Surrendered Sensitive American Military Information
As we previously reported, last January when Obama was bending over to let Iran bully him into the “nuclear deal” (which Iran has not only violated multiple times since, but never even actually signed), ten U.S. Navy sailors brought international humiliation onto the Great Satan America when their boat was seized in the Persian Gulf by Iran
A U.S. Navy report on June 30 revealed that not only did the female sailor involved cover her head with the hijab at gunpoint (above), some of the crew divulged “sensitive information” including their vessel’s capabilities and the “presence mission” to demonstrate American Gulf dominance they were undertaking.
“It is clear that some, if not all, crew members provided at least some information to interrogators beyond name, rank, service number and date of birth,” the report said.
While the names of the sailors were redacted, the task force commander of the boat was Captain Kyle Moses. He was relieved of command. Eric Rasch, commander of the squadron, was fired in May. Administrative action was recommended on six Navy personnel.
The two-vessel operation to Bahrain from Kuwait was blamed on “poor planning, leaders who did not properly consider risks, and complacency, a lack of oversight and low morale.” [CNN]
“Our actions on that day in January and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said. “Big incidents like this are always the result of the accumulation of a number of small problems.”
The 250-nautical-mile trip was the longest ever attempted by the two crews, and ordered on short notice. The risks were “severely underestimated,” according to the task force commander.
“[Task force commander] lacked a questioning attitude, failed to promote a culture of safety, and disregarded appropriate backup from his staff and subordinate commands,” the report said.
The boats accidentally went through Saudi Arabian waters, and failed to “zoom in” on their map, so the crew did not realize they were near Farsi Island.
About that time, a faulty engine was discovered, and IRGC (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) scrambled four of their boats to hold the U.S. boats at gunpoint. The Americans did not “put on protective gear or man their weapons,” according to CNN, in hopes of “de-escalating the situation,” although U.S. military personnel are obligated to defend their units under the rules of engagement.
“I didn’t want to start a war with Iran,” one of the boat captains told investigators. “My thought at the end of the day was that no one had to die for a misunderstanding.”
The Iranians pulled out their iPhones and filmed the U.S. sailors while they forced them to strip their body armor and kneel. Over the next 24 hours the soldiers were detained and interrogated at Farsi Island.
So the Iranians could film anti-Great Satan propaganda, the soldiers feigned eating calmly and read an Iranian-composed apology.
Unbeknownst to them, the U.S. government already had negotiated their unconditional release. [CNN]
The Navy report “faulted the IRGC for violating international norms.” [CNN] The American flag on the boat was replaced with the IRGC banner, and both boats were “ransacked.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei awarded medals to IRGC commanders, and Iranian media broadcast videos of the detainees.
“The Navy investigation confirms what has been obvious from the beginning: that Iran’s obstruction, boarding, and seizure of sovereign U.S. Navy vessels at gunpoint and the detention, interrogation, and recording of 10 American sailors were flagrant violations of international law,” war hawk Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said.
Reuters gave some additional information with the quiet release of the damning Navy report just before American Independence Day celebrations kicked off.
“This incident was the result of failed leadership at multiple levels from the tactical to the operational,” investigators wrote in the detailed, partially redacted, report.
The report found the crews were poorly prepared, their boats not properly maintained, communication almost entirely lacking, and their conduct after being captured by the Iranians wasn’t up to military standards.
“The boat crews could visually see Farsi Island, but were not concerned as they were unaware that it was Iranian or that they were in Iranian waters,” the report said.
“The culture … (was) characterized by informality. They conducted no patrol briefings, and missions were supported by no formal mission analysis, standard planning factors, risk assessment, or overwatch,” investigators wrote.
One of the female sailors accounted for the report’s only good point, when (apparently after she covered her hair for the Iranians) she “showed presence of mind and fighting spirit when she attempted to activate” at tracking beacon at some point during the incident.
While being filmed for Iranian propaganda, a crew member disobeyed a direct order from their commander.
Asked by their captors how it was possible a boat like theirs could have traveled such a distance, one sailor replied, “Yeah, I wish you could tell my people that because we told them these boats don’t do that” — a statement investigators said was inappropriate.
The report at least did not complete the pre-incident Obama emasculation of our armed forces on a national stage, and maintained, “Americans didn’t violate international law, while the Iranians did.” [Reuters]
“Essentially, there was no time given for the team to think through the task before executing. The collective team felt a sense of urgency for a mission that had previously been rescheduled and had no required accomplishment date,” the report said.
The report also found that the crew was never familiarized with the region, and didn’t know about weather, geography or potentially hostile threats.
In addition, before going out to sea, there’s supposed to be a written patrol briefing. But personnel couldn’t recall seeing that, the report said, and the investigation couldn’t find it and questioned if it had existed.
Also, the Navy boats were “undermanned,” with insufficient crew to both operate the vessels and man the weapons.
“The investigation found a lack of leadership, a disregard for risk management processes and proper mission planning standards,” Navy Vice Adm. John Aquilino, deputy chief of operations, said at the news conference.
The report said that mission leaders showed “blatant disregard for the genuine concern of sailors,” not listening to their concerns or empowering them.
Not empowering them or listening to their concerns. It’s like an undergraduate campus over here!
U.S. Sending More Troops, Helicopters for Iraq War in Which We Supposedly Ended Our Involvement
America has pledged an additional 200 troops and 8 “Apache” helicopters to repel the Islamic State in Iraq, according to Associated Press.
In a Baghdad conference Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated the insertion of U.S. advisers–in a move eerily similar to the disastrous development of the horrific Vietnam War–would “put [the advisers] closer to the action.” The advisers will have their own security and apparently only assist the Iraqi forces in matters outside the combat zones.
Most of the new troops will be U.S. Army Special Forces. There will also be troops with training backgrounds and maintenance crews for the eight Apache helicopters.
This aligns with President Obama’s goal of supporting the Iraqis by providing extra training and intelligence to “continually tighten the noose” on ISIS ISIL.
Obama stated Monday: “My expectation is that by the end of the year we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall.” As politically safe, ambivalent rallying cry as there ever was.
AP reports this insertion comes after “weeks” of discussions with American and Iraqi commanders, and Obama’s ultimate decision to authorize an increase in U.S. deployment in Iraq by 217: from 3,870 to a new 4,087.
Leading Congressional war hawk Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who suffered years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, accepted putting another 200 or so Americans in danger, but griped Obama’s decision was “yet another example of the kind of grudging incrementalism that rarely wins wars, but could certainly lose one.”
According to Associated Press: “U.S. military and defense officials have made it clear that winning back Mosul is critical, but will be challenging, because the insurgents are dug in and have likely peppered the landscape with roadside bombs and other traps for any advancing military.”
In other Middle East news, the Taliban coordinated an attack on a Kabul, Afghanistan security facility early Tuesday morning, local time, killing at least 28 and wounding over 300, including women and children.
Thanks to our sources: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/3327956a32d7485a86725e141caa0b3b/carter-arrives-iraq-talks-how-beef-fight; https://www.yahoo.com/news/afghan-official-suicide-attack-followed-gunfire-kabul-051839981.html
Obama “On the Verge of Taking Action” on Smoldering Ruin of Libya
ISIS ISIL is apparently becoming such a nuisance to the American-led, non-warfare bombing campaign of Libya that per hints of informed Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, President Obama is “on the verge of taking action.”
Washington dinosaur John McCain (R-AZ) added that “[the Obama administration] is going to have to intervene…There are many options…but they can’t be this incremental stuff like they’ve practiced in the past. This is the classic mission creep incrementalism that’s just been a total failure.”
Politico has quoted McCain for describing this limited bombing campaign without declaration of war as “leading from behind.” Presumably the similarity to pulling the strategy out of our national ass is a coincidence.
McCain did not elaborate on which part of the Obama strategy of unilaterally deciding who to assassinate thousands of miles away without trial was the failure. For example, The Washington Post detailed on Friday U.S. F-15 fighter jets striking a “suspected Islamic State camp in Libya.” The man whose life American leadership decided to take was Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian national and “senior ISIS ISIL facilitator.” American defense leaders reported that Chouchane was “probably” killed in the attack on the Sabratha, Libya compound; Tunisian Foreign Ministry spokesman Noufal el-Obaidi reported to Washington Post that 40 bodies were recovered, with an additional 6 Tunisians injured.
Is the failure that only 46 casualties were notched against an estimated 2,000-5,000 ISIL fighters in Libya, or that the American-determined target of the bombing was “probably” among them? Arizona voters, maybe bring that one up at McCain’s next town hall before he nods off. He is notoriously proud of the fact he’s never used email.
Chouchane’s possible death among the 40 would “represent a blow to [ISIS ISIL’s] ability to launch high-profile attacks in North Africa,” according to WP. Chouchane is “believed to have overseen” two Tunisian attacks for which ISIL claimed responsibility in 2015: gunmen killed 22 at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, while a lone gunman slaughtered 38 people in a coastal resort in Sousse.
America is gaining experience points in the region as well, however. Last June, American aircraft attempted to destroy Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who had links to ISIS ISIL’s sworn adversary, al-Queda. (This is called “hedging our bets.”) U.S. officials as of Friday still refused to confirm to Washington Post that Belmokhtar was indeed killed in that bombardment.
Obama added that, while he personally hoped it didn’t come to it, there was “an emerging possibility” America may soon take the extraordinary step of declaring war on Libya.
According to Human Rights Watch, the United States-led NATO strikes took the lives of at least 72 civilians in Libya during 2011.
Thank you to Politico and Washington Post, and especially Nahal Toosi, Sudarsan Raghavan, Brian Murphy and Missy Ryan: