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3DHS / USS Liberty: Fifty years on
« on: June 08, 2017, 03:12:26 PM »
In early June of 1967, at the onset of the Six Day War, the Pentagon sent the USS Liberty from Spain into international waters off the coast of Gaza to monitor the progress of Israel’s attack on the Arab states. The Liberty was a lightly armed surveillance ship.

Only hours after the Liberty arrived it was spotted by the Israeli military. The IDF sent out reconnaissance planes to identify the ship. They made eight trips over a period of three hours. The Liberty was flying a large US flag and was easily recognizable as an American vessel.

Soon more planes came. These were Israeli Mirage III fighters, armed with rockets and machine guns. As off-duty officers sunbathed on the deck, the fighters opened fire on the defenseless ship with rockets and machine guns.

A few minutes later a second wave of planes streaked overhead, French-built Mystere jets, which not only pelted the ship with gunfire but also with napalm bomblets, coating the deck with the flaming jelly. By now, the Liberty was on fire and dozens were wounded and killed, excluding several of the ship’s top officers.

The Liberty’s radio team tried to issue a distress call, but discovered the frequencies had been jammed by the Israeli planes with what one communications specialist called “a buzzsaw sound.” Finally, an open channel was found and the Liberty got out a message it was under attack to the USS America, the Sixth Fleet’s large aircraft carrier.

Two F-4s left the carrier to come to the Liberty’s aid. Apparently, the jets were armed only with nuclear weapons. When word reached the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara became irate and ordered the jets to return. “Tell the Sixth Fleet to get those aircraft back immediately,” he barked. McNamara’s injunction was reiterated in saltier terms by Admiral David L. McDonald, the chief of Naval Operations: “You get those fucking airplanes back on deck, and you get them back down.” The planes turned around. And the attack on the Liberty continued.

After the Israeli fighter jets had emptied their arsenal of rockets, three Israeli attack boats approached the Liberty. Two torpedoes were launched at the crippled ship, one tore a 40-foot wide hole in the hull, flooding the lower compartments, and killing more than a dozen American sailors.

As the Liberty listed in the choppy seas, its deck aflame, crew members dropped life rafts into the water and prepared to scuttle the ship. Given the number of wounded, this was going to be a dangerous operation. But it soon proved impossible, as the Israeli attack boats strafed the rafts with machine gun fire. No body was going to get out alive that way.

After more than two hours of unremitting assault, the Israelis finally halted their attack. One of the torpedo boats approached the Liberty. An officer asked in English over a bullhorn: “Do you need any help?”

The wounded commander of the Liberty, Lt. William McGonagle, instructed the quartermaster to respond emphatically: “Fuck you.”

The Israeli boat turned and left.

A Soviet destroyer responded before the US Navy, even though a US submarine, on a covert mission, was apparently in the area and had monitored the attack. The Soviet ship reached the Liberty six hours before the USS Davis. The captain of the Soviet ship offered his aid, but the Liberty’s conning officer refused.

Finally, 16 hours after the attack two US destroyers reached the Liberty. By that time, 34 US sailors were dead and 174 injured, many seriously. As the wounded were being evacuated, an officer with the Office of Naval Intelligence instructed the men not to talk about their ordeal with the press.

The following morning Israel launched a surprise invasion of Syria, breaching the new cease-fire agreement and seizing control of the Golan Heights.

Within three weeks, the Navy put out a 700-page report, exonerating the Israelis, claiming the attack had been accidental and that the Israelis had pulled back as soon as they realized their mistake. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara suggested the whole affair should be forgotten. “These errors do occur,” McNamara concluded.


In Assault on the Liberty, a harrowing first-hand account by James Ennes Jr., McNamara’s version of events is proven to be as big a sham as his concurrent lies about Vietnam. Ennes’s book created a media storm when it was first published by Random House in 1980, including (predictably) charges that Ennes was a liar and an anti-Semite. Still, the book sold more than 40,000 copies, but was eventually allowed to go out of print. Now Ennes has published an updated version, which incorporates much new evidence that the Israeli attack was deliberate and that the US government went to extraordinary lengths to disguise the truth.

It’s a story of Israel aggression, Pentagon incompetence, official lies, and a cover-up that persists to this day. The book gains much of its power from the immediacy of Ennes’s first-hand account of the attack and the lies that followed.

Now, decades later, Ennes warns that the bloodbath on board the Liberty and its aftermath should serve as a tragic cautionary tale about the continuing ties between the US government and the government of Israel.

The Attack on the Liberty is the kind of book that makes your blood seethe. Ennes skillfully documents the life of the average sailor on one of the more peculiar vessels in the US Navy, with an attention for detail that reminds one of Dana or O’Brien. After all, the year was 1967 and most of the men on the Liberty were certainly glad to be on a non-combat ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, rather than in the Gulf of Tonkin or Mekong Delta.

But this isn’t Two Years Before the Mast. In fact, Ennes’s tour on the Liberty last only a few short weeks. He had scarcely settled into a routine before his new ship was shattered before his eyes.

Ennes joined the Liberty in May of 1967, as an Electronics Material Officer. Serving on a “spook ship”, as the Liberty was known to Navy wives, was supposed to be a sure path to career enhancement. The Liberty’s normal routine was to ply the African coast, tuning in its eavesdropping equipment on the electronic traffic in the region.

The Liberty had barely reached Africa when it received a flash message from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to sail from the Ivory Coast to the Mediterranean, where it was to re-deploy off the coast of the Sinai to monitor the Israeli attack on Egypt and the allied Arab nations.

As the war intensified, the Liberty sent a request to the fleet headquarters requesting an escort. It was denied by Admiral William Martin. The Liberty moved alone to a position in international waters about 13 miles from the shore at El Arish, then under furious siege by the IDF.

On June 6, the Joint Chiefs sent Admiral McCain, father of the senator from Arizona, an urgent message instructing him to move the Liberty out of the war zone to a position at least 100 miles off the Gaza Coast. McCain never forwarded the message to the ship.

A little after seven in the morning on June 8, Ennes entered the bridge of the Liberty to take the morning watch. Ennes was told that an hour earlier a “flying boxcar” (later identified as a twin-engine Nord 2501 Noratlas) had flown over the ship at a low level.

Ennes says he noticed that the ship’s American flag had become stained with soot and ordered a new flag run up the mast. The morning was clear and calm, with a light breeze.

At 9 am, Ennes spotted another reconnaissance plane, which circled the Liberty. An hour later two Israeli fighter jets buzzed the ship. Over the next four hours, Israeli planes flew over the Liberty five more times.

When the first fighter jet struck, a little before two in the afternoon, Ennes was scanning the skies from the starboard side of the bridge, binoculars in his hands. A rocket hit the ship just below where Ennes was standing, the fragments shredded the men closest to him.

After the explosion, Ennes noticed that he was the only man left standing. But he also had been hit by more than 20 shards of shrapnel and the force of the blast had shattered his left leg. As he crawled into the pilothouse, a second fighter jet streaked above them and unleashed its payload on the hobbled Liberty.

At that point, Ennes says the crew of the Liberty had no idea who was attacking them or why. For a few moments, they suspected it might be the Soviets, after an officer mistakenly identified the fighters as MIG-15s. They knew that the Egyptian air force already had been decimated by the Israelis. The idea that the Israelis might be attacking them didn’t occur to them until one of the crew spotted a Star of David on the wing of one of the French-built Mystere jets.

Ennes was finally taken below deck to a makeshift dressing station, with other wounded men. It was hardly a safe harbor. As Ennes worried that his fractured leg might slice through his femoral artery leaving him to bleed to death, the Liberty was pummeled by rockets, machine-gun fire and an Italian-made torpedo packed with 1,000-pounds of explosive.

After the attack ended, Ennes was approached by his friend Pat O’Malley, a junior officer, who had just sent a list of killed and wounded to the Bureau of Naval Personnel. He got an immediate message back. “They said, ‘Wounded in what action? Killed in what action?’,” O’Malley told Ennes. “They said it wasn’t an ‘action,’ it was an accident. I’d like for them to come out here and see the difference between an action and an accident. Stupid bastards.”

The cover-up had begun.


The Pentagon lied to the public about the attack on the Liberty from the very beginning. In a decision personally approved by the loathsome McNamara, the Pentagon denied to the press that the Liberty was an intelligence ship, referring to it instead as a Technical Research ship, as if it were little more than a military version of Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso.

The military press corps on the USS America, where most of the wounded sailors had been taken, were placed under extreme restrictions. All of the stories filed from the carrier were first routed through the Pentagon for security clearance, objectionable material was removed with barely a bleat of protest from the reporters or their publications.

Predictably, Israel’s first response was to blame the victim, a tactic that has served them so well in the Palestinian situation. First, the IDF alleged that it had asked the State Department and the Pentagon to identify any US ships in the area and was told that there were none. Then the Israeli government charged that the Liberty failed to fly its flag and didn’t respond to calls for it to identify itself. The Israelis contended that they assumed the Liberty was an Egyptian supply ship called El Quseir, which, even though it was a rusting transport ship then docked in Alexandria, the IDF said it suspected of shelling Israeli troops from the sea. Under these circumstances, the Israeli’s said they were justified in opening fire on the Liberty. The Israelis said that they halted the attack almost immediately, when they realized their mistake.

“The Liberty contributed decisively toward its identification as an enemy ship,” the IDF report concluded. This was a blatant falsehood, since the Israelis had identified the Liberty at least six hours prior to the attack on the ship.

Even though the Pentagon knew better, it gave credence to the Israeli account by saying that perhaps the Liberty’s flag had lain limp on the flagpole in a windless sea. The Pentagon also suggested that the attack might have lasted less than 20 minutes.

After the initial battery of misinformation, the Pentagon imposed a news blackout on the Liberty disaster until after the completion of a Court of Inquiry investigation.

The inquiry was headed by Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. Kidd didn’t have a free hand. He’d been instructed by Vice-Admiral McCain to limit the damage to the Pentagon and to protect the reputation of Israel.

The Kidd interviewed the crew on June 14 and 15. The questioning was extremely circumscribed. According to Ennes, the investigators “asked nothing that might be embarrassing to Israeland testimony that tended to embarrass Israel was covered with a ‘Top Secret’ label, if it was accepted at all.”

Ennes notes that even testimony by the Liberty’s communications officers about the jamming of the ship’s radios was classified as “Top Secret.” The reason? It proved that Israel knew it was attacking an American ship. “Here was strong evidence that the attack was planned in advance and that our ship’s identity was known to the attackers (for it its practically impossible to jam the radio of a stranger), but this information was hushed up and no conclusions were drawn from it,” Ennes writes.

Similarly, the Court of Inquiry deep-sixed testimony and affidavits regarding the flag-Ennes had ordered a crisp new one deployed early on the morning of the attack. The investigators buried intercepts of conversations between IDF pilots identifying the ship as flying an American flag.

It also refused to accept evidence about the IDF’s use of napalm during the attacks and choose not to hear testimony regarding the duration of the attacks and the fact that the US Navy failed to send planes to defend the ship.

“No one came to help us,” said Dr. Richard F. Kiepfer, the Liberty’s physician. “We were promised help, but no help came. The Russians arrived before our own ships did. We asked for an escort before we ever came to the war zone and we were turned down.”

None of this made its way into the 700-page Court of Inquiry report, which was completed within a couple of weeks and sent to Admiral McCain in London for review.

McCain approved the report over the objections of Captain Merlin Staring, the Navy legal officer assigned to the inquiry, who found the report to be flawed, incomplete and contrary to the evidence.

Staring sent a letter to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy disavowing himself from the report. The JAG seemed to take Staring’s objections to heart. It prepared a summary for the Chief of Naval Operations that almost completely ignored the Kidd/McCain report. Instead, it concluded:

that the Liberty was easily recognizable as an American naval vessel; that it’s flag was fully deployed and flying in a moderate breeze; that Israeli planes made at least eight reconnaissance flights at close range; the ship came under a prolonged attack from Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats.

This succinct and largely accurate report was stamped Top Secret by Navy brass and stayed locked up for many years. But it was seen by many in the Pentagon and some in the Oval Office. But here was enough grumbling about the way the Liberty incident had been handled that LBJ summoned that old Washington fixer Clark Clifford to do damage control. It didn’t take Clifford long to come up with the official line: the Israelis simply had made a tragic mistake.

It turns out that the Admiral Kidd and Captain Ward Boston, the two investigating officers who prepared the original report for Admiral McCain, both believed that the Israeli attack was intentional and sustained. In other words, the IDF knew that they were striking an American spy ship and they wanted to sink it and kill as many sailors as possible. Why then did the Navy investigators produce a sham report that concluded it was an accident?

Twenty-five years later we finally found out. In June of 2002, Captain Boston told the Navy Times: “Officers follow orders.”

It gets worse. There’s plenty of evidence that US intelligence agencies learned on June 7 that Israel intended to attack the Liberty on the following day and that the strike had been personally ordered by Moshe Dayan.

As the attacks were going on, conversations between Israeli pilots were overheard by US Air Force officers in an EC121 surveillance plane overhead. The spy plane was spotted by Israeli jets, which were given orders to shoot it down. The American plane narrowly avoided the IDF missiles.

Initial reports on the incident prepared by the CIA, Office of Naval Intelligence and the National Security Agency all reached similar conclusions.

A particularly damning report compiled by a CIA informant suggests that Israeli Defense minister Moshe Dayan personally ordered the attack and wanted it to proceed until the Liberty was sunk and all on board killed. A heavily redacted version of the report was released in 1977. It reads in part:

“[The source] said that Dayan personally ordered the attack on the ship and that one of his generals adamantly opposed the action and said, ‘This is pure murder.’ One of the admirals who was present also disapproved of the action, and it was he who ordered it stopped and not Dayan.”

This amazing document generated little attention from the press and Dayan was never publicly questioned about his role in the attack.

The analyses by the intelligence agencies are collected in a 1967 investigation by the Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations. Two and half decades later that report remains classified. Why? A former committee staffer said: “So as not to embarrass Israel.”

More proof came to light from the Israeli side. A few years after Attack on the Liberty was originally published, Ennes got a call from Evan Toni, an Israeli pilot. Toni told Ennes that he had just read his book and wanted to tell him his story. Toni said that he was the pilot in the first Israeli Mirage fighter to reach the Liberty. He immediately recognized the ship to be a US Navy vessel. He radioed Israeli air command with this information and asked for instructions. Toni said he was ordered to “attack.” He refused and flew back to the air base at Ashdod. When he arrived he was summarily arrested for disobeying orders.


How tightly does the Israeli lobby control the Hill? For the first time in history, an attack on an America ship was not subjected to a public investigation by Congress. In 1980, Adlai Stevenson and Barry Goldwater planned to open a senate hearing into the Liberty affair. Then Jimmy Carter intervened by brokering a deal with Menachem Begin, where Israel agreed to pony up $6 million to pay for damages to the ship. A State Department press release announced the payment said, “The book is now closed on the USS Liberty.”

It certainly was the last chapter for Adlai Stevenson. He ran for governor of Illinois the following year, where his less than perfect record on Israel, and his unsettling questions about the Liberty affair, became an issue in the campaign. Big money flowed into the coffers of his Republican opponent, Big Jim Thompson, and Stevenson went down to a narrow defeat.

But the book wasn’t closed for the sailors either, of course. After a Newsweek story exposed the gist of what really happened on that day in the Mediterranean, an enraged Admiral McCain placed all the sailors under a gag order. When one sailor told an officer that he was having problems living with the cover-up, he was told: “Forget about it, that’s an order.”

The Navy went to bizarre lengths to keep the crew of the Liberty from telling what they knew. When gag orders didn’t work, they threatened sanctions. Ennes tells of the confinement and interrogation of two Liberty sailors that sounds like something right out of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program.

“In an incredible abuse of authority, military officers held two young Liberty sailors against their will in a locked and heavily guarded psychiatric ward of the base hospital,” Ennes writes. “For days these men were drugged and questioned about their recollections of the attack by a ‘therapist’ who admitted to being untrained in either psychiatry or psychology. At one point, they avoided electroshock only by bolting from the room and demanding to see the commanding officer.”

Since coming home, the veterans who have tried to tell of their ordeal have been harassed relentlessly. They’ve been branded as drunks, bigots, liars and frauds. Often, it turns out, these slurs have been leaked by the Pentagon. And, oh yeah, they’ve also been painted as anti-Semites.

In a recent column, Charley Reese describes just how mean-spirited and petty this campaign became. “When a small town in Wisconsin decided to name its library in honor of the USS Liberty crewmen, a campaign claiming it was anti-Semitic was launched,” writes Reese. “And when the town went ahead, the U.S. government ordered no Navy personnel to attend, and sent no messages. This little library was the first, and at the time the only, memorial to the men who died on the Liberty.”


So why then did the Israelis attack the Liberty?

A few days before the Six Days War, Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban visited Washington to inform LBJ about the forthcoming invasion. Johnson cautioned Eban that the US could not support such an attack.

It’s possible, then, that the IDF assumed that the Liberty was spying on the Israeli war plans. Possible, but not likely. Despite the official denials, as Andrew and Leslie Cockburn demonstrate in Dangerous Liaison, at the time of the Six Days War the US and Israel had developed a warm covert relationship. So closely were the two sides working that US intelligence aid certainly helped secure Israel’s devastating and swift victory. In fact, it’s possible that the Liberty had been sent to the region to spy for the IDF.

A somewhat more likely scenario holds that Moshe Dayan wanted to keep the lid on Israel’s plan to breach the new cease-fire and invade into Syria to seize the Golan.

It has also been suggested that Dayan ordered the attack on the Liberty with the intent of pinning the blame on the Egyptians and thus swinging public and political opinion in the United States solidly behind the Israelis. Of course, for this plan to work, the Liberty had to be destroyed and its crew killed.

There’s another factor. The Liberty was positioned just off the coast from the town of El Arish. In fact, Ennes and others had used town’s mosque tower to fix the location of the ship along the otherwise featureless desert shoreline. The IDF had seized El Arish and had used the airport there as a prisoner of war camp. On the very day the Liberty was attacked, the IDF was in the process of executing as many as 1,000 Palestinian and Egyptian POWs, a war crime that they surely wanted to conceal from prying eyes. According to Gabriel Bron, now an Israeli reporter, who witnessed part of the massacre as a soldier: “The Egyptian prisoners of war were ordered to dig pits and then army police shot them to death.”

The bigger question is why the US government would participate so enthusiastically in the cover-up of a war crime against its own sailors. Well, the Pentagon has never been slow to hide its own incompetence. And there’s plenty of that in the Liberty affair: bungled communications, refusal to provide an escort, situating the defenseless Liberty too close to a raging battle, the inability to intervene in the attack and the inexcusably long time it took to reach the battered ship and its wounded.

That’s but par for the course. But something else was going on that would only come to light later. Through most of the 1960s, the US congress had imposed a ban on the sale of arms to both Israel and Jordan. But at the time of the Liberty attack, the Pentagon (and its allies in the White House and on the Hill) was seeking to have this proscription overturned. The top brass certainly knew that any evidence of a deliberate attack on a US Navy ship by the IDF would scuttle their plans. So they hushed it up.

In January 1968, the arms embargo on Israel was lifted and the sale of American weapons began to flow. By 1971, Israel was buying $600 million of American-made weapons a year. Two years later the purchases topped $3 billion. Almost overnight, Israel had become the largest buyer of US-made arms and aircraft.

Perversely, then, the IDF’s strike on the Liberty served to weld the US and Israel together, in a kind of political and military embrace. Now, every time the IDF attacks defenseless villages in Gaza and the West Bank with F-16s and Apache helicopters, the Palestinians quite rightly see the bloody assaults as a joint operation, with the Pentagon as a hidden partner.

Thus, does the legacy of Liberty live on, one raid after another.

A version of this essay appeared in The Politics of Anti-Semitism by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.

3DHS / That pesky 'Double Standard' thing
« on: March 09, 2017, 06:51:47 AM »
WH: ‘There’s a Double Standard’ in Outrage When Intelligence Leaks Occur
By Melanie Arter | March 8, 2017 | 6:32 PM EST

The White House complained Wednesday of a double standard in the way the media and Democrats respond to reports of intelligence leaks depending on who the target is.

“It’s interesting how there’s a double standard with when the leaks occur, how much outrage there is,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, adding, “I think it’s interesting how different subjects are approached.”

Spicer was asked to confirm whether there was a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of cyber tools from the CIA by Wikileaks, which alleged that the intelligence agency can hack into smart TVs, cell phones, and other devices to spy on Americans.

Spicer said he could not confirm the “authenticity” of the report’s claims.

“For obvious reasons, it is our policy as a government not to confirm the authenticity of any kind of disclosure or hack. That would be highly inappropriate for us, but all of these occurred under the last administration. That is important,” he said.

“All of these alleged issues, and I think it’s interesting to have it asked this way about the damage that could have occurred or what tools could be used in light of what’s been going on recently. I mean we’ve had-- your own network’s correspondent James Rosen had his phones, multiple phones tapped. Was that appropriate back then? I think there’s a lot of concern out there about alleged leaks,” Spicer said.

“There’s two steps to this, and I think what you saw over the last week in terms of-- this should be a major concern to people in terms of the leaks that are coming out and the desire to get to the bottom of them whether or not - not specifically with respect to the disclosure that you’re referring to - but I think the idea that we are having these ongoing disclosures of national security and classified information should be something that everybody is outraged in this country,” he said.

Trump tweeted Sunday that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during the election. Before that he complained about intelligence leaks regarding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who spoke to the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration.

"The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by 'intelligence' like candy. Very un-American!" Trump tweeted at the time.

Spicer emphasized Wednesday that anyone found leaking classified material will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“And make no mistake about it, I think the president has talked before that anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law. We will go after people who leak classified information. We will prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” Spicer said.

Spicer said it seems that lately, public outrage depends on the target of the leaks.

“This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our country, our security, and our well-being, and you’ve seen over the last two years, depending on the leak, it depends on the outrage,” he said.

“It’s interesting how whenever-- whether the leak occurred under the last administration, you had member after member talking about disclosures that occurred during the last administration, whether it was members of Congress. Elijah Cummings expressed concern during the last administration in terms of the Americans that were-- when it dealt with Hillary Clinton, there was complete outrage about the leaks that occurred, members calling for investigations into the leaks,” Spicer said.

“It’s interesting how there’s a double standard with when the leaks occur, how much outrage there is, and so I do think it’s important. While I don’t want to get into confirming or denying this particular thing, I think it’s interesting how different subjects are approached. This one, everyone is immediately rushing to, and there should be a lot more coverage of this. This alleged leak should concern every single American in terms of the impact it has on our national security,” he added.

Spicer was later asked whether Trump still loves Wikileaks as he said during the presidential election when Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was targeted.

“When it came to the campaign and Hillary Clinton, the president said, ‘I love Wikileaks.’ Does he still feel that way today?” a reporter asked.

“There is a big difference between disclosing John Podesta’s gmail accounts about a back and forth and his undermining of Hillary Clinton and his thoughts on her on a personal nature and the leaking of classified information,” Spicer said.

“There is a massive, massive difference between those two things, and I think it is again, the interest and the outrage that occurred last year by a lot of Democrats when it came to leaks, it’s interesting that we’re hearing not as much outrage now when it comes to some of our issues of national security,” he said.


Uh, yeah...

Oct 10, 2016 - Trump then began reading from sheets of paper some of the details of Clinton's hacked emails. ... “I love WikiLeaks,” he told listeners.

3DHS / The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance breakup?
« on: March 09, 2017, 06:48:44 AM »
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a theory about why President Trump continues to fixate on him.

"I think he's in love with me," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday on SiriusXM's The Michael Smerconish Program.

"Is that what it is?" host Smerconish asked

"Yeah, I think so," Schwarzenegger replied. He laughed after Smerconish referred to Schwarzenegger's "long relationship" with Trump.

Trump has indeed obsessed over the actor and former California governor, specifically about how Schwarzenegger fared as the host of The New Celebrity Apprentice, bringing it up on Twitter and at the National Prayer Breakfast.

3DHS / One down
« on: February 14, 2017, 04:59:28 AM »
Steve Holland and John Walcott | WASHINGTON

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned late on Monday after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Flynn's resignation came hours after it was reported that the Justice Department had warned the White House weeks ago that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail for contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took power on Jan. 20.

Flynn's departure was a sobering development in Trump's young presidency, a 24-day period during which his White House has been repeatedly distracted by miscues and internal dramas.

The departure could slow Trump's bid to warm up relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Flynn submitted his resignation hours after Trump, through a spokesman, pointedly declined to publicly back Flynn, saying he was reviewing the situation and talking to Pence.

Flynn had promised Pence he had not discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by U.S. officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador.

Such contacts could potentially be in violation of a law banning private citizens from engaging in foreign policy, known as the Logan Act.

Pence had defended Flynn in television interviews and was described by administration officials as upset about being misled.

"Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology," Flynn said in his resignation letter.

Retired General Keith Kellogg, who has been chief of staff of the White House National Security Council, was named the acting national security adviser while Trump determines who should fill the position.

Kellogg, retired General David Petraeus, a former CIA director, and Robert Harward, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, are under consideration for the position, a White House official said. Harward was described by officials as the leading candidate.

A U.S. official confirmed a Washington Post report that Sally Yates, the then-acting U.S. attorney general, told the White House late last month that she believed Flynn had misled them about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador.

She said Flynn might have put himself in a compromising position, possibly leaving himself vulnerable to blackmail, the official said. Yates was later fired for opposing Trump's temporary entry ban for people from seven mostly Muslim nations.


A U.S. official, describing the intercepted communications, said Flynn did not make any promises about lifting the sanctions.

But he did indicate that sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama on Russia for its Ukraine incursion "would not necessarily carry over to an administration seeking to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia," the official said.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was an early supporter of Trump and shares his interest in shaking up the establishment in Washington. He frequently raised eyebrows among Washington's foreign policy establishment for trying to persuade Trump to warm up U.S. relations with Russia.

A U.S. official said Flynn's departure, coupled with Russia's aggression in Ukraine and Syria and Republican congressional opposition to removing sanctions on Russia, removes Trump's most ardent advocate of taking a softer line toward Putin.

Flynn's leaving "may make a significant course change less likely, at least any time soon," the official said.

Another official said Flynn's departure may strengthen the hands of some cabinet secretaries, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

However, the second official said, Flynn's exit could also reinforce the power of presidential aides Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, whom he described as already having the president's ear.

Congressional Democrats expressed alarm at the developments surrounding Flynn and called for a classified briefing by administration officials to explain what had happened.

"We are communicating this request to the Department of Justice and FBI this evening," said Democratic representatives John Conyers of Michigan and Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Flynn's departure does not end the questions over his contacts with the Russians.

"The Trump administration has yet to be forthcoming about who was aware of Flynn's conversations with the ambassador and whether he was acting on the instructions of the president or any other officials, or with their knowledge," Schiff said.

The committee's chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, thanked Flynn for his service.

"Washington D.C. can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician —deserves America's gratitude and respect," he said.

(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Peter Cooney, Robert Birsel)

3DHS / Donnie's bad week
« on: February 11, 2017, 08:18:02 PM »
So, let's see what we have here...

Of course, the big news, the TRO against his travel ban was upheld. Bet that stung.

There were his several tweets about 'so called judges' and the court's decision, showing his total ignorance of and disdain for the law.

Then Nordstrom dropped Ivanka's line, causing him to tweet about how bad they were - not only on his private account, but on the official POTUS twitter account, raising concerns of conflict of interest. By the way, Nordstrom's stock went up following his tweets.

Then his counsel goes on TV telling people to buy Ivanka's stuff, setting off another flurry of conflict of interest speculation.

In the meantime, several New England Patriots players announced they will not be going to the White House so he can congratulate them for winning the Super Bowl.

He caved in to China, who are now apparently our best buds. Well, after Putin of course.

It was revealed Flynn in fact had talked to the Russians, before Trump took office, about our easing sanctions on them, another definite no-no.

We are now also best buds with Japan, another country try Trump spent so much time slamming on his campaign.

Sears and Kmart dropped Trump's line of furnishings. I hear suddenly their stock is up as well.

After Conway plugged Ivanka's stuff on TV, the Office of Government Ethics servers were overwhelmed with inquiries and crashed.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet strike fighters are the tip of the spear, embodying most of the fierce striking power of the aircraft carrier strike group. But nearly two-thirds of the fleet’s strike fighters can’t fly — grounded because they’re either undergoing maintenance or simply waiting for parts or their turn in line on the aviation depot backlog.

Overall, more than half the Navy’s aircraft are grounded, most because there isn’t enough money to fix them.

Additionally, there isn’t enough money to fix the fleet’s ships, and the backlog of ships needing work continues to grow. Overhauls — “availabilities” in Navy parlance — are being canceled or deferred, and when ships do come in they need longer to refit. Every carrier overall for at least three years has run long, and some submarines are out of service for prolonged periods, as much as four years or more. One submarine, the Boise, has lost its diving certification and can’t operate pending shipyard work.

Leaders claim that if more money doesn’t become available, five more submarines will be in the same state by the end of this year.

The Navy can’t get money to move around service members and their families to change assignments, and about $440 million is needed to pay sailors. And the service claims 15 percent of its shore facilities are in failed condition — awaiting repair, replacement or demolition.

The bleak picture presented by service leaders is in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s widely talked about plan to grow the Navy from today’s goal of 308 ships to 350 — now topped by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s new Force Structure Assessment that aims at a 355-ship fleet. Richardson’s staff is crafting further details on how the growth will be carried out — plans congressional leaders are eager to hear. It seems to many as though the Navy will be showered with money to attain such lofty goals.

Yet, for now, money is tight, due to several years of declining budgets mandated first by the Obama administration, then Congress, and to the chronic inability of lawmakers to provide uninterrupted funds to the military services and the government at large. Budgets have been cut despite no slackening in the demand for the fleet’s services; and the Navy, to preserve shipbuilding funds, made a conscious choice to slash maintenance and training budgets rather than eliminate ships, which take many years to build and can’t be produced promptly even when funding becomes available.

Congress has failed for the ninth straight year to produce a budget before the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2017, reverting to continuing resolutions that keep money flowing at prior year levels. CRs have numerous caveats, however, and many new projects or plans can’t be funded since they didn’t exist in the prior year. There is widespread agreement that CR funding creates havoc throughout the Pentagon and the industrial base that supports it — often substantially driving costs higher to recover from lengthy delays. Yet, like the proverbial weather that everyone talks about but no one can change, there seems to be little urgency in Congress to return to a more businesslike budget profile.

The current continuing resolution through April 28 marks the longest stop-gap measure since fiscal 1977 — outstripping 2011 by only a couple weeks, noted Todd Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a post on Twitter. This also marks the first CR situation during a presidential transition year.

And while the talk about building dozens of more ships grabs headlines, it is not at all clear when or even whether Congress will repeal the Budget Control Act — sequestration — which, if unabated, will continue its restrictions to 2021.

Meanwhile, some details are emerging of the new administration’s efforts to move along the budget process. In a Jan. 31 memorandum, Defense Secretary James Mattis described a three-phase plan that included submission by the Pentagon of a 2017 budget amendment request. The request would be sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget by March 1.

Under the plan, the full 2018 budget request is due to OMB no later than May 1.

The third phase of the plan involves a new National Defense Strategy and FY2019-2023 defense program, which “will include a new force sizing construct” to “inform our targets for force structure growth,” Mattis said in the memo.

The services will make their case to Congress this week when the vice chiefs of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps testify in readiness hearings before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Armed Services Committee the following day.

The vice chiefs are expected to make their pitches for money that can be spent right away, rather than funds for long-term projects that, with only five months left in the fiscal year even if Congress passes a 2017 budget, can’t be quickly put to use.

“If we get any money at all, the first thing we’re going to do is throw it into the places we can execute it,” a senior Navy source said Feb. 2. “All of those places are in ship maintenance, aviation depot throughput — parts and spares — and permanent changes of station so we can move our families around and fill the holes that are being generated by the lack of PCS money.”

The backlog is high. “There’s about $6-8 billion of stuff we can execute in April if we got the money,” the senior Navy source said. “We can put it on contract, we can deliver on it right away.”

Even if the budget top line is increased, Navy leaders say, the immediate need is for maintenance money, not new ship construction. A supplemental Navy list of unfunded requirements for 2017 that was sent to Congress in early January and is still being revised made it clear that maintenance needs are paramount.

“Our priorities are unambiguously focused on readiness — those things required to get planes in the air, ships and subs at sea, sailors trained and ready,” a Navy official declared. “No new starts.”

The dire situation of naval aviation is sobering. According to the Navy, 53 percent of all Navy aircraft can’t fly — about 1,700 combat aircraft, patrol, and transport planes and helicopters. Not all are due to budget problems — at any given time, about one-fourth to one-third of aircraft are out of service for regular maintenance. But the 53 percent figure represents about twice the historic norm.

The strike fighter situation is even more acute and more remarkable since the aircraft are vitally important to projecting the fleet’s combat power. Sixty-two percent of F/A-18s are out of service; 27 percent in major depot work; and 35 percent simply awaiting maintenance or parts, the Navy said.

With training and flying hour funds cut, the Navy’s aircrews are struggling to maintain even minimum flying requirements, the senior Navy source said. Retention is becoming a problem, too. In 2013, 17 percent of flying officers declined department head tours after being selected. The percentage grew to 29 percent in 2016.

Funding shortfalls mean many service members are unable to relocate to take on new assignments. So far in 2017, the Navy said, there have been 15,250 fewer moves compared with 2016.

Under the continuing resolution, the senior Navy official said, another 14 ship availabilities will be deferred in 2018 — one submarine, one cruiser, six destroyers, two landing ship docks, one amphibious transport dock and three minesweepers. Programs seeking to buy items that were not included in the 2016 budget can’t move forward, including CH-53K helicopters, Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles and littoral combat ship module weapons. Many more programs that were to increase 2017 buys over 2016 levels can’t do so.

And with only five months left in fiscal 2017, even if a budget is passed in late April, there is some talk about a yearlong continuing resolution — a prospect at which the senior Navy official shook his head.

“The full CR is not a good situation at all,” he said.

3DHS / Dumping Trump part deux
« on: February 11, 2017, 07:32:27 PM »
The 25th Amendment, explained: how a president can be declared unfit to serve

If the VP and Cabinet conclude a president is unwell, they can legally do something about it.

The president of the United States has essentially unconstrained authority to use nuclear weapons however he sees fit.

So what would happen if the president, in the judgment of those closest to him, were to … not be in his right mind?

In such a scenario, there is, in fact, something that could quickly and legally be done to avert global catastrophe. The answer lies in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

The amendment states that if, for whatever reason, the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” they can simply put that down in writing and send it to two people — the speaker of the House and the Senate’s president pro tem.

Then the vice president would immediately become “Acting President,” and take over all the president’s powers.

Let that sink in — one vice president and any eight Cabinet officers can, theoretically, decide to knock the president out of power at any time.

If the president wants to dispute this move, he can, but then it would be up to Congress to settle the matter with a vote. A two-thirds majority in both houses would be necessary to keep the vice president in charge. If that threshold isn’t reached, the president would regain his powers.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked in reality, though it’s a staple of thriller fiction. But there’s been a sudden surge of interest in it in recent months, as reports of Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior behind closed doors have been piling up, and there is increasingly unsubtlespeculation in Washington about the health of the president’s mind.

Whatever the current circumstances, an enormous amount rests on any president of the United States’ physical and mental health. The 25th Amendment exists as a failsafe that can be used if any president truly does appear to be unwell — as long as the people involved have the courage to actually go through with it, and the competence to carry it out without causing an even greater disaster.

1) Why was the 25th Amendment adopted?

The framers of the Constitution were farsighted about many things, but presidential succession was not among them. The text was vague on several matters, including on whether the vice president fully becomes president if the sitting president dies or resigns (in practice, the answer was interpreted as “yes”), and on how to fill a vice presidential vacancy in the middle of a term (in practice, the answer was interpreted as “you can’t”).

Most interestingly for our purposes, the Constitution’s original text states that a president could be removed from office for “inability” but gives zero specifics about how this would actually be determined or carried out. So when President James Garfield was bedridden after being shot and President Woodrow Wilson was debilitated by a stroke, they simply lingered on in the presidency without doing very much for months, because no one knew what else could be done while they were still drawing breath.

These scenarios may not have been so bad in the United States of the 1790s, but by the mid-20th century the country had become a global superpower, and modern communication tools created omnipresent demands for presidential decisions and actions.

The chaos and instability that followed John F. Kennedy’s assassination finally spurred Congress to move toward solving these problems. For once, it moved quickly, passing what became the 25th Amendment to the Constitution in 1965 and winning its ratification in the states by 1967.

The new amendment cleared up that yes, if a president died or resigned or was convicted of impeachment crimes, the vice president would fully become president. It provided, finally, for a simple way to fill a vacant vice presidency — the president nominates someone, and both Houses of Congress take a vote. It allowed for a president laid low by surgery or injury to voluntarily transfer his powers to the vice president and then easily get them back with a written declaration that he was healthy again.

And then there’s Section 4 — which is about how the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can deprive the president of his powers without his consent.

2) Wait, the VP and Cabinet can depose the president?
Sort of. There are three major parts to Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. The first part establishes how a president can be quickly stripped of his powers due to inability.

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

A few notes here. First, the power to sideline the president for inability is given to the vice president and a “majority” of “the principal officers of the executive departments.” (President Reagan’s Justice Department interpreted this to mean the main Cabinet departments, which today number 15.) Theoretically, Congress can also create and empower some “other body” that could make this declaration, but so far it has not done so.

So all the VP and eight Cabinet secretaries have to do is put in writing that the president is “unable” and send that message to the Speaker of the House (currently Paul Ryan) and the Senate’s president pro tem (currently Orrin Hatch). Then the vice president “immediately” takes on the president’s “powers and duties.”

Importantly, though, the veep only becomes “Acting President.” So the elected president hasn’t lost his office yet, just his powers — and not necessarily permanently, as we’ll see in a moment.

Finally, there is zero elaboration on what it would mean for the president to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” There is no specification even that it refers solely to health. In theory, it could entail not just physical inability but a judgment call on mental health or even, conceivably, poor character or simple disagreement. It’s really up to the VP and Cabinet to interpret it.

3) But what if the president wants to stay in charge?

Section 4 continues:

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

This is a mouthful, but the gist is that the president can tell the speaker of the House and Senate president pro tem that he is in fact not unable, and that he wants his powers back. You can imagine this happening if the president regains consciousness from some injury or ailment — or if he simply disagrees that he’s unfit for office.

If he does this, he’ll get his powers back in four days — unless the vice president and at least eight Cabinet officials say, in writing, that he is still unable. Then the vice president will remain in charge for the time being, and Congress will have to step in to settle this dispute. The rest of Section 4 is about this contingency:

Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

So Congress will vote on whether the president is in fact “unable.” If two-thirds of both the House and Senate vote that he is, then the vice president will remain in charge as acting president.

If they fall short of that margin in either House, or simply fail to act within 21 days, the president will regain his powers.

4) In what situations might this actually be used?

Section 4’s text is broad and could apply to a spectrum of different circumstances.

The least controversial scenario would be if a president should become indisputably physically debilitated either from an injury or ailment, so much so that he couldn’t communicate but remained alive. Then it’s a no-brainer to use Section 4 to put the vice president in charge unless and until the president recovers.

But one can also imagine situations in which the president’s physical or mental health is the subject of some dispute — including from the president himself. As a 1988 Miller Center report put it:

In retrospect, [Section 4] probably could have applied to the final periods of Woodrow Wilson's or Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidencies. This provision involves a sick president who either refuses or is unable to confront his disability. Put another way, this section basically applies to a president who is disabled but unwilling to step aside. He or she may be stubborn, or be in the hands of a powerful staff or of a strong-willed spouse, the latter being Wilson's case.

Indeed, the topic came up among top administration officials during President Reagan’s second term. In early 1987, White House aide Jim Cannon became intensely disturbed by reports from staffers about how the president had been acting. As he later told Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus:

“They told stories about how inattentive and inept the President was. He was lazy; he wasn't interested in the job. They said he wouldn't read the papers they gave him, even short papers and documents. They said he wouldn't come over to work. All he wanted to do was to watch movies and television at the residence.”

So Cannon wrote a memo in which he urged White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker to “consider the possibility that section four of the 25th Amendment might be applied.” But it didn’t end up happening — Baker soon decided that Reagan was still in possession of his faculties, and the president remained in office for his full final two years. (Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s in his later years, and some argue he demonstrated early symptoms while he was in office.)

Finally, the text of the amendment is so vaguely written that it could conceivably be invoked for any reason — even one unrelated to health — so long as enough Cabinet secretaries and the VP are in agreement and two-thirds of both the House and Senate later back them up. For this reason, Section 4 is a favorite of thriller writers concocting scenarios in which malefactors use some bogus pretext to depose the president.

Indeed, the senators who drafted the amendment openly acknowledgedthat if this power were to be utilized by “rogues,” it could result in “usurpation” of the presidency, as then-Sen. Birch Bayh wrote in a Judiciary Committee report on the proposal.

However, they hoped that since the Cabinet and vice president — “the persons closest to the president, both politically and physically” — are empowered to start this process, that would cut down on any incentives for coup-like mischief. Cabinet secretaries are appointed by the president, after all, so presumably they wouldn’t remove him from power without a really, really good reason. (The Gerald R. Ford Library has posted many fascinating primary source documents on the drafting and passage of the 25th Amendment online at this link.)

5) This sorta feels like a coup. Is it a coup?
I mean, it’s not technically a coup, because it’s indisputably legal and constitutional.

Still, there’s zero precedent for this actually happening in US history, and the vast majority of Americans are likely unaware that it’s even possible. Even savvy political actors or entrenched institutional ones likely aren’t all that familiar with how the amendment is meant to work.

So if a sitting president were to be removed from power by his VP and Cabinet despite his objections, it would sure feel like a coup to a whole lot of people, regardless of the technical legality. And key actors close to the president could well respond like they’re facing a coup. For instance, what would the Secret Service do in this situation? The military?

If the vice president and Cabinet secretaries truly concluded that the president could not remain in office, they would need to document everything that led them to that conclusion and assemble an airtight public case. They would also need to be prepared for the sitting president to resist — either in the court of public opinion or otherwise.

Basically, things could get out of hand really fast. But if the VP and Cabinet feel the situation is dire enough, it could be a risk worth taking.

6) So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
President Donald Trump has reportedly been ranting to foreign leaders about the size of his inauguration crowds his Electoral College victory, and other topics. He’s repeatedly insisted, with no evidence whatsoever, that massive voter fraud prevented him from winning the popular vote.

Perhaps the president is a basically rational person who just has a very strange and idiosyncratic personal style. Perhaps he’s just perfectly comfortable repeatedly lying about easily verifiable facts, or profoundly uninterested in examining evidence that conflicts with his assumptions.

But many people are beginning to wonder whether that’s all that’s going on. “I think there is a subtext here that is unlike anything that I have seen in 50 years of being a reporter,” journalist Carl Bernstein said on CNN in late January. “And that is that I am hearing from Republicans, and other reporters are as well, that there is open discussion by members of the president of the United States’ own party about his emotional maturity, stability.” He added: “We are in uncharted territory here.”

Diagnosing the president’s mental health from afar is a bad idea, as political partisans can see what they want to see, and the American Psychiatric Association has long cautioned even professional psychiatrists against evaluating anyone they haven’t personally examined.

Yet that’s precisely why the 25th Amendment gives the power to the vice president and the Cabinet secretaries here. Their judgments won’t be skewed by political bias against the president’s party. They work with the president up close and see him in private. So if they see deeply troubling things, they are the ones who have the ability — and, arguably, the responsibility — to act. Much could hinge on whether they do so.


3DHS / Dumping Trump
« on: February 11, 2017, 07:27:42 PM »
Sears, Kmart drop 31 Trump Home items from their online shops

Major U.S. retailers Sears and Kmart this week removed 31 Trump Home items from their online product offerings to focus on more profitable items, a spokesman said on Saturday.

The decision follows retailer Nordstrom Inc's announcement this week it had decided to stop carrying Ivanka Trump's apparel because of declining sales, prompting President Donald Trump to take to Twitter to defend his daughter. White House spokesman Sean Spicer characterized the Nordstrom move as a "direct attack" on the president's policies.

Neither Sears nor Kmart carried the Trump Home products in their retail stores, a Sears Holdings Corp spokesman said. Kmart is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings.

"As part of the company’s initiative to optimize its online product assortment, we constantly refine that assortment to focus on our most profitable items," spokesman Brian Hanover said in a statement.

"Amid that streamlining effort, 31 Trump Home items were among the items removed online this week," he said, adding those items can be found through a third-party vendor, without providing additional information about the products.

The Trump Home collection includes lines of furniture, lighting, bedding, mirrors and chandeliers, some from makers who supply the items to Trump hotels, according to the collection's website.

Nordstrom's sales of Ivanka Trump's line of clothing and shoes fell by nearly one-third in the past fiscal year, with sharp drops in sales weeks before her father was elected president on Nov. 8, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Grant McCool)

This in addition to Nordstrom dropping Ivanka's line.

I guess the rednecks just weren't buying them.

10 of the Worst Terror Attacks by Extreme Christians and Far-Right White Men
Most of the terrorist activity in the U.S. in recent years has come not from Muslims, but from radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.
By Alex Henderson / AlterNet July 24, 2013

From Fox News to the Weekly Standard, Neoconservatives have tried to paint terrorism as a largely or exclusively Islamic phenomenon. Their message of Islamophobia has been repeated many times since the George W. Bush era: Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist. But the facts don’t bear that out. Far-right white male radicals and extreme Christianists are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice. Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev and the late Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev (the Chechen brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013) are both considered white and appear to have been motivated in part by radical Islam. And many terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who were neither Muslims nor dark-skinned.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

Below are 10 of the worst examples of non-Islamic terrorism that have occurred in the United States in the last 30 years.

1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012. The virulent, neocon-fueled Islamophobia that has plagued post-9/11 America has not only posed a threat to Muslims, it has had deadly consequences for people of other faiths, including Sikhs. Sikhs are not Muslims; the traditional Sikh attire, including their turbans, is different from traditional Sunni, Shiite or Sufi attire. But to a racist, a bearded Sikh looks like a Muslim. Only four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by Frank Silva Roque, a racist who obviously mistook him for a Muslim.

But Sodhi’s murder was not the last example of anti-Sikh violence in post-9/11 America. On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Page’s connection to the white supremacist movement was well-documented: he had been a member of the neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate. Attorney General Eric Holder described the attack as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred.” It was good to see the nation’s top cop acknowledge that terrorist acts can, in fact, involve white males murdering people of color.

2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009. Imagine that a physician had been the victim of an attempted assassination by an Islamic jihadist in 1993, and received numerous death threats from al-Qaeda after that, before being murdered by an al-Qaeda member. Neocons, Fox News and the Christian Right would have had a field day. A physician was the victim of a terrorist killing that day, but neither the terrorist nor the people who inflamed the terrorist were Muslims. Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009, was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.

Tiller had a long history of being targeted for violence by Christian Right terrorists. In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. Then, in 1993, Tiller was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived that attack. Given that Tiller had been the victim of an attempted murder and received countless death threats after that, Fox News would have done well to avoid fanning the flames of unrest. Instead, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer." When Roeder murdered Tiller, O’Reilly condemned the attack but did so in a way that was lukewarm at best.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly out and denounced him as a “facilitator for domestic terrorism” and a “blindly irresponsible man.” And Crazy for Godauthor Frank Schaffer, who was formerly a figure on the Christian Right but has since become critical of that movement, asserted that the Christian Right’s extreme anti-abortion rhetoric “helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.” Neocon Ann Coulter, meanwhile, viewed Tiller’s murder as a source of comic relief, telling O’Reilly, “I don't really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.” The Republican/neocon double standard when it comes to terrorism is obvious. At Fox News and AM neocon talk radio, Islamic terrorism is a source of nonstop fear-mongering, while Christian Right terrorism gets a pass.

3. Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008. On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random. Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays, and he considered neocon Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, his political manifesto. Adkisson (who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is now serving life in prison without parole) was vehemently anti-abortion, but apparently committing an act of terrorism during a children’s play was good ol’ Republican family values. While Adkisson’s act of terrorism was reported on Fox News, it didn't get the round-the-clock coverage an act of Islamic terrorism would have garnered.

4. The murder of Dr. John Britton, July 29, 1994. To hear the Christian Right tell it, there is no such thing as Christian terrorism. Tell that to the victims of the Army of God, a loose network of radical Christianists with a long history of terrorist attacks on abortion providers. One Christian Right terrorist with ties to the Army of God was Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 3, 2003 for the murders of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. Hill shot both of them in cold blood and expressed no remorse whatsoever; he insisted he was doing’s God’s work and has been exalted as a martyr by the Army of God.

5. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996. Paul Jennings Hill is hardly the only Christian terrorist who has been praised by the Army of God; that organization has also praised Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for a long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity. Rudolph is best known for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics—a blast that killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. Hawthorne wasn’t the only person Rudolph murdered: his bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 caused the death of Robert Sanderson (a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard) and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Rudolph’s other acts of Christian terrorism include bombing the Otherwise Lounge (a lesbian bar in Atlanta) in 1997 and an abortion clinic in an Atlanta suburb in 1997. Rudolph was no lone wolf: he was part of a terrorist movement that encouraged his violence. And the Army of God continues to exalt Rudolph as a brave Christian who is doing God’s work.

6. The murder of Barnett Slepian byJames Charles Kopp, Oct. 23, 1998. Like Paul Jennings Hill, Eric Rudolph and Scott Roeder, James Charles Kopp is a radical Christian terrorist who has been exalted as a hero by the Army of God. On Oct. 23, 1998 Kopp fired a single shot into the Amherst, NY home of Barnett Slepian (a doctor who performed abortions), mortally wounding him. Slepian died an hour later. Kopp later claimed he only meant to wound Slepian, not kill him. But Judge Michael D'Amico of Erin County, NY said that the killing was clearly premeditated and sentenced Kopp to 25 years to life. Kopp is a suspect in other anti-abortion terrorist attacks, including the non-fatal shootings of three doctors in Canada, though it appears unlikely that Kopp will be extradited to Canada to face any charges.

7. Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994. Seldom has the term “Christian terrorist” been used in connection with John C. Salvi on AM talk radio or at Fox News, but it’s a term that easily applies to him. In 1994, the radical anti-abortionist and Army of God member attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others. Salvi was found dead in his prison cell in 1996, and his death was ruled a suicide. The Army of God has exalted Salvi as a Christian martyr and described Lowney and Nichols not as victims of domestic terrorism, but as infidels who got what they deserved. The Rev. Donald Spitz, a Christianist and Army of God supporter who is so extreme that even the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue disassociated itself from him, has praised Salvi as well.

8. Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010. When Joseph Stack flew a plane into the Echelon office complex (where an IRS office was located), Fox News’ coverage of the incident was calm and matter-of-fact. Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa seemed to find the attack amusing and joked that it could have been avoided if the federal government had followed his advice and abolished the IRS. Nonetheless, there were two fatalities: Stack and IRS employee Vernon Hunter. Stack left behind a rambling suicide note outlining his reasons for the attack, which included a disdain for the IRS as well as total disgust with health insurance companies and bank bailouts. Some of the most insightful coverage of the incident came from Noam Chomsky, who said that while Stack had some legitimate grievances—millions of Americans shared his outrage over bank bailouts and the practices of health insurance companies—the way he expressed them was absolutely wrong.

9. The murder of Alan Berg, June 18, 1984. One of the most absurd claims some Republicans have made about white supremacists is that they are liberals and progressives. That claim is especially ludicrous in light of the terrorist killing of liberal Denver-based talk show host Alan Berg, a critic of white supremacists who was killed with an automatic weapon on June 18, 1984. The killing was linked to members of the Order, a white supremacist group that had marked Berg for death. Order members David Lane (a former Ku Klux Klan member who had also been active in the Aryan Nations) and Bruce Pierce were both convicted in federal court on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and violating Berg’s civil rights and given what amounted to life sentences.

Robert Matthews, who founded the Order, got that name from a fictional group in white supremacist William Luther Pierce’s anti-Semitic 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries—a book Timothy McVeigh was quite fond of. The novel’s fictional account of the destruction of a government building has been described as the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.

10. Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995. Neocons and Republicans grow angry and uncomfortable whenever Timothy McVeigh is cited as an example of a non-Islamic terrorist. Pointing out that a non-Muslim white male carried out an attack as vicious and deadly as the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t fit into their narrative that only Muslims and people of color are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks. Neocons will claim that bringing up McVeigh’s name during a discussion of terrorism is a “red herring” that distracts us from fighting radical Islamists, but that downplays the cruel, destructive nature of the attack.

Prior to the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing McVeigh orchestrated was the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history: 168 people were killed and more than 600 were injured. When McVeigh used a rented truck filled with explosives to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, his goal was to kill as many people as possible. McVeigh was motivated by an extreme hatred for the U.S. government and saw the attack as revenge for the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992 and the Waco Siege in 1993. He had white supremacist leanings as well (when he was in the U.S. Army, McVeigh was reprimanded for wearing a “white power” T-shirt he had bought at a KKK demonstration). McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. He should have served life without parole instead, as a living reminder of the type of viciousness the extreme right is capable of.

Alex Henderson's work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

Local pastor, wife, shot to death; son charged with murder
By Jeff Edwards Staff Writer

The pastor of a Moulton church was remembered as a kind and loving man by church members days after he and his wife were allegedly shot to death by their adopted son on Thursday, April 21.

William Jeremy Hulsey, 42, was found dead  in the living room floor of the home at 445 Church Road in Priceville that he shared with his wife Sandra and their adopted son Andrew, Priceville police said.

Sandra Hulsey, 37, was found dead in a hallway about 10 feet from Jeremy Hulsey, according to police.

Both were shot multiple times with a 9 mm pistol, police said.

Andrew Husley, 23, was arrested without incident and charged with capital murder. He is being held in the Morgan County Jail without bail.

Jeremy and Sandra Hulsey adopted Andrew when he was about 8 years old, according to a family friend.

Jeremy Husley had been pastor at Aldridge Grove Church of Christ in Moulton for the past two years, and church members remembered him and his wife as caring people.

"They were just loved by everybody in the congregation," church member Don Alexander said. "We felt so fortunate that we were able to get him to come preach for us about two years ago."

According to the 911 transcript, Andrew Hulsey called Morgan County 911 shortly after 8 p.m. and claimed he shot his parents in self defense.

"I was attacked by my own parents and my father had a weapon in his hand, and things got out of control from there," Andrew Hulsey told the 911 operator according to the transcript.

The 911 operator asked Andrew Hulsey if he shot his father and he replied, "I had to do – I feared for my life and had to defend myself."

When the 911 operator asked if Andrew Husley had shot both of his parents, he claimed both parents had attacked him and he was defending himself.

Andrew Husley claimed his father was trying to attack him with a baton when he shot him.

Hulsey stayed on the line with 911 operators until police arrived at the scene to take him into custody.

Alexander said he finds it hard to believe that Jeremy Hulsey would attack his son.

"Jeremy was a huge man but he was just as gentle as a lamb," Alexander said. "I can't imagine him trying to kill that boy. Who knows, but I can't picture him doing anything like that. And certainly not (Sandra). She was a real tiny girl."

Alexander said Sandra Hulsey was as beloved by church members as her husband.

"She was just as humble as could be, and really smart on the Bible," Alexander said. "She knew the scriptures as well as he did. She was a real sweet person."

While Andrew Hulsey did not attend the small church regularly, he did come occasionally, and would always participate in the service, Alexander said.

"He led prayer when he came and several times when he came he led some songs as well," Alexander said. "He was kind of a quiet guy. I know he had been in trouble with the law in the past, but he seemed to have straightened his life out."

In May 2014, Andrew Hulsey was arrested for first-degree theft of property after being accused of stealing cash, ammunition and other merchandise from a pawn shop where he worked. The charges were dismissed five months ago after Andrew Hulsey completed a pretrial intervention program, according to court records.

The funeral service for Jeremy and Sandra Hulsey will be Friday at 1 p.m. at Marion County Funeral Home, 3325 E. Bexar Ave., Hamilton. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Burial will be in White House Cemetery.

Alexander said Aldridge Grove, a small church of approximately 35 people, is still in shock over the death of its pastor and his wife.

He said they have contacted another local pastor to fill in until a permanent one is hired, but it will be difficult in the coming weeks to hear sermons from someone else.

"That is hard to be on our minds right now," Alexander said. "We are all still in shock and hurting."

The Moulton, AL Advertiser

3DHS / Christian woman masterminded murders of her entire family
« on: May 12, 2016, 06:26:23 PM »
Woman who plotted murder of her entire family still visited by her father in prison
Erin Caffey asked her boyfriend and his best friend to murder her mother, father and two brothers, and only her father survived 
Rachael Revesz

A father whose daughter allegedly masterminded the murder of their entire family still visits her in prison every month.

In 2008, 16-year-old Erin Gaffey was sentenced to life in prison for encouraging her boyfriend Charlie Wilkinson and his best friend Charles Waid to go round to their house in Emory, Texas, and kill her family.

The pair shot guns and wielded a samurai sword on her mother Penny, her father, Terry, and her younger brothers Matthew, 13, and Tyler, 8, before setting the house alight with BIC lighters.

Only her father, a preacher, survived, despite being shot five times.

"People will say: 'What was your process of forgiveness? Who did you forgive first?' And I always say Erin. That was my daughter. That was a struggle at first. But I was able to forgive her and rebuild our relationship," he said.

He added that he also forgave the murderers, sparing them all the death penalty, and learnt to "forgive himself".

Police arrested Erin after they found her asleep in her boyfriend’s trailer. She claimed she had been drugged and kidnapped from the house, but two days later the police discovered she had been involved.

Mr Caffey believes Charlie Wilkinson carried out the attack as Erin’s parents wanted her to break up with him.

Erin, now 24, is the subject of a new ITV documentary called “Killer Women”, presented by chat show host Piers Morgan.

The churchgoing family lived in a cabin in the woods, 60 miles east of Dallas.

Erin had a car, a job and admitted she was not maltreated.

Erin is held at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville Texas, where she spoke with Mr Morgan for an hour and sang the song “Amazing Grace”.

When asked "what the hell happened", she said she had made “bad choices” at a young age, like “covering up one lie with another”, and did not realise those choices would have a wider impact.

She welled up with tears as she spoke of her father’s visit in prison and telling her he loved her.

Mr Caffey said his daughter started to change after she began dating Charlie Wilkinson.

Investigators remain convinced that Erin masterminded the murder, although she claimed her boyfriend had anger problems and she thought they were only joking when they talked about killing her family.

On 1 March 2008, Erin had promised the murderers she would keep the family dog quiet so they could park outside the house. She left the house door unlocked and waited in their car while they went inside.

As they drove away together, with Charles Waid’s girlfriend Bobbi Johnson in the car, Erin allegedly said: “Holy s***, that was awesome”.

3DHS / The Donald's biggest lies, all in one place
« on: May 08, 2016, 07:14:47 AM »
All of Donald Trump’s Four-Pinocchio ratings, in one place
By Glenn Kessler March 22
Donald Trump. (Chuck Burton/AP)
There’s never been a presidential candidate like Donald Trump — someone so cavalier about the facts and so unwilling to ever admit error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. At last count, 68 percent (26 of 38) of our rulings of his statements turned out to be Four Pinocchios, our worst rating. By contrast, most politicians tend to earn Four Pinocchios 10 to 20 percent of the time. (Moreover, most of the remaining ratings for Trump are Three Pinocchios.)

As a reader service, here’s a running list of our Four Pinocchio rulings. Since Trump never takes anything back — and often repeats the same false claims — voters are likely to hear these time and again during the campaign season. As an “honorable mention,” we also included a column in which we gave a Geppetto Checkmark to attacks ads disputing Trump’s claims about Trump University.

Click on the headline to read the original column.

Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime

Donald Trump repeatedly defended his claim that the Mexican government is sending criminals and rapists to the United States. But a range of studies shows there is no evidence immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. Moreover, the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants in prison do not belong in the category that fit Trump’s description: aggravated felons, whose crimes include murder, drug trafficking or illegal trafficking of firearms.

Trump’s bogus claim that he never said ‘some of the things’ claimed by Megyn Kelly

Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump a pointed question about his verbal treatment of women. On the Sunday shows, Trump refused to apologize — and further asserted that Kelly lists things he did not say. But there is ample evidence for each of the slurs against women uttered or tweeted by Trump. He had a small point that he attacks once he is provoked, but there is little doubt that the over-the-top language cited by Kelly was correct.

Trump’s zombie claim that Obama spent $4 million to conceal school and passport records

Trump, one of the most high-profile “birthers” during the 2012 presidential campaign, resurfaced this zombie claim that President Obama spent $4 million in legal fees to conceal records that would indicate his true citizenship. There is no proof that Obama spent $4 million in legal fees (personally or through his campaign) to keep his school application or passport application records away from the public. Federal campaign finance records show from 2008 through 2012, the Obama for America campaign paid more than $4 million in legal services to Perkins Coie, the law firm that defended the campaign in some of the eligibility lawsuits. But campaigns have in-house and outside counsel to vet a wide range of issues, not just those related to lawsuits.

Trump’s absurd claim that the ‘real’ unemployment rate is 42 percent

Trump’s made a ridiculous leap in logic to come up with his claim that the “real” unemployment rate was 42 percent — at a time when the official rate was 5.3 percent. He took an estimate for the number of people not working — 93 million — and assumed they were all unemployed. But the vast majority of those people do not want to work. Most are retired or simply not interested in working, such as stay-at-home parents. Even a President Trump would be unable to make much of a dent in this supposed 42-percent unemployment rate, given that most of the Americans he is counting as “unemployed” are not in the labor force by choice.

Trump’s tax plan and his claim that ‘it’s going to cost me a fortune’

Trump pitched his tax plan as being tough on the wealthy, saying “it’s going to cost me a fortune.” Trump has not released his tax forms — though he claims he made $604 million in 2014. In going through the details of his plan, it appears clear that it would significantly reduce his taxes — and the taxes of his heirs. This was later confirmed by an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Trump’s repeated claim that Obama is accepting 200,000 Syrian refugees

Like a broken record, businessman Donald J. Trump keeps repeating a statistic with little basis in fact — that the Obama administration wants to accept 200,000 refugees from Syria. It appears to be based on a misunderstanding — the Obama administration says it planned to admit 185,000 refugees over two years from all countries. For Syria, Obama has only directed the United States to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Ironically, that’s a number that Trump indicated was fine.

Trump’s baseless claim that the Bush White House tried to ‘silence’ his Iraq War opposition in 2003

Trump brags that he had the vision and foresight to oppose the Iraq War ahead of the invasion in 2003. He says his opposition was so vocal, and his reach so great, that the White House approached him and asked him to tone it down. There is scant media coverage of his supposed opposition ahead of the Iraq War. (We later compiled a complete timeline of Trump’s comments in 2002 and 2003 about the Iraq invasion, which showed he was not vocal about his opposition prior to the invasion, and they didn’t make headlines.) Trump ignored our request for the names of White House officials he supposedly met with, so we checked with former senior White House officials. None of the dozen people we contacted directly or through former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer could recall a meeting with Trump, concerns about his opposition, or even Trump’s views being on their radar prior to 2004.

Repeat after me: Obama is not admitting 100,000, 200,000 or 250,000 Syrian refugees

Trump had previously earned Four Pinocchios for falsely claiming President Obama was planning to admit 200,000 refugees from war-torn Syria. (The real number is 10,000; a total of 180,000 refugees from around the world will be admitted in 2016 and 2017.) Undeterred, Trump upped the number to 250,000 — and fellow novice politicians Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson followed up with claims of 100,000 refugees from Syria. All three earned Four Pinocchios.

Trump’s outrageous claim that ‘thousands’ of New Jersey Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks

GOP presidential hopeful Trump falsely and repeatedly asserted that he saw TV clips of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. Despite an army of fact checks, including ours, and repeated debunking, Trump continued to assert he was correct, even though he could produce no evidence except a handful of news stories that made brief mentions of alleged celebrations — which never could be confirmed. He earned Four Pinocchios. Ben Carson, another GOP aspirant, briefly said he, too, had seen such a video. But to his credit, he withdrew the statement after realizing it was of Palestinians in Gaza, not New Jersey.

Trump’s false claim that the 9/11 hijackers’ wives ‘knew exactly what was going to happen’

In the wake of the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., involving a Muslim couple, Trump has emerged with the claim that the 9/11 hijackers sent their wives home before the attacks — and those wives knew “exactly what was going to happen.” But there is no support for Trump’s claims, as the exhaustive 9/11 Commission report states that virtually all of the hijackers were unmarried.  The report includes a number of references to the hijackers cutting off communication with their families: “The other operatives had broken off regular contact with their families. …The majority of these Saudi recruits began to break with their families in late 1999 and early 2000. …[The ringleader] complained that some of the hijackers wanted to contact their families to say goodbye, something he had forbidden.”

Trump’s claim that he ‘predicted Osama bin Laden’

In various speeches and interviews, Trump has claimed that two years before the 9/11 attacks, he warned that Osama bin Laden was a threat — going to “do damage” to the United States — and even predicted the rise of terrorism. This claim rests on some vague references in a book he published in 2000. The references have little relationship to how Trump portrays them now — and he ignores the fact that well before 9/11, experts, news organizations and even bin Laden himself said he planned to attack the United States.

Trump’s claim that the unemployment rate is 23 percent

After falsely asserting the “real” unemployment rate was 42 percent, Trump suddenly tossed out a new estimate of “22 to 23 percent.” But this was also wrong. His figure is still more than double the most expansive rate published by the U.S. government, which at the time was 9.9 percent. That means there are about 35 million “unemployed” who Trump has not accounted for — and as usual the Trump campaign refused to explain how he came up with his estimate.

Trump’s dubious claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion

After Trump put a price tag on the wall he wants to build on the 2,000-mile border with Mexico — $8 billion — we investigated whether this figure was in the realm of possibility. We concluded it was not — and after the fact check appeared, Trump increased the projected cost to $12 billion. That’s still too low. A reasonable estimate is $25 billion.

Trump’s truly absurd claim he would save $300 billion a year on prescription drugs

Trump said that he would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies, thus saving $300 billion a year. This made little sense, given that the prescription drug portion of the Medicare program costs only $78 billion a year. Total annual spending on prescription drugs in the United States is between $298 and $423 billion, which suggests Trump thinks he can eliminate virtually any cost to prescription drugs. Once again, we are confronted with a nonsense figure from the mouth of Donald Trump.

A trio of truthful attack ads about Trump University

This is in effect a reverse Four-Pinocchio rating, as we presented a rare Geppetto Checkmark to three ads attacking Trump’s involvement with Trump University. We concluded that Trump University appears to have been a classic bait-and-switch operation, designed to lure people into paying increasing sums of money. We also examined Trump’s false claim that Trump University received an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau, when in fact its rating was D- before it started winding down. The BBB even felt compelled to dispute Trump after he made this claim again during a debate.

Trump’s false claim he built his empire with a ‘small loan’ from his father

Trump often says he started his business empire with just a $1 million loan from his father. But that is simply not credible. He appears to have inherited about $40 million. He also benefited from numerous loans and loan guarantees, as well as his father’s connections, to make the move into Manhattan. His father set up lucrative trusts to provide steady income. When Trump became overextended in the casino business, his father bailed him out with a shady casino-chip loan — and Trump also borrowed $9 million against his future inheritance. While Trump asserts “it has not been easy for me,” he glosses over the fact that his father paved the way for his success — and that his father bailed him out when he got into trouble.

Trump’s false claim that John Kasich ‘helped’ Lehman Brothers ‘destroy the world economy’

Trump blamed Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the collapse of the investment banking firm and helping start a global financial crisis, but it was a preposterous claim. Kasich was one of about 700 managing directors at Lehman Brothers and largely played a facilitator role, using his experience in government regulations and contacts in various sectors. He gave strategic financial advice to other companies and generated business by using his contacts in various sectors — not making risky mortgage investments. Kasich’s former boss at Lehman equated this attack by Trump to blaming a pilot for the failure of Trump Airlines.

Trump’s trade rhetoric, stuck in a time warp

We examined a series of Trump statements on trade, manufacturing and currency manipulation, in essence fact checking the economic world that he depicts in his speeches — a world in which the United States never wins at trade and is flooded by imports because China and Japan keep their currencies low, a world in which high tariffs would bring manufacturing back to Michigan and other states. We concluded that Trump appears to have little understanding of the economic reality of today’s interconnected world.

Trump’s smear of Time magazine as the source for his ‘facts’

In a contentious interview with a conservative radio host, Trump was quizzed on claims he made about Wisconsin at a time when Gov. Scott Walker (R) was still a presidential contender, in particular the false claim that under Walker the state had gone from a $1 billion surplus to a $2.2 billion deficit. Trump refused to apologize, saying the blame should be placed on Time Magazine; he claimed he was simply quoting the magazine. But we could find little evidence for Trump’s claim. While Time at one point has mentioned a $2 billion budget “shortfall,” that was different than Trump’s phrasing. Moreover, the budget issue had already been resolved two weeks before Trump started making the claim—and he didn’t change it even after being called out by fact checkers.

Trump’s nonsensical claim he can eliminate $19 trillion in debt in eight years

In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump asserted he could eliminate the nation’s $19 trillion in debt in just eight years, apparently through renegotiating trade deals. Using federal budget data, we demonstrated why Trump’s pledge is mathematically impossible. First, he has to eliminate the deficit that is adding to the debt year after year. (That is projected to add another $7 trillion in debt by 2024.) Even if Trump eliminated every government function and shut down every Cabinet agency, he’d still be $16 trillion short. Unfortunately, we only had Four Pinocchios to give for this whopper.

Donald Trump’s false claim that there have been no negative ads against Kasich

It’s fine to say far more ads have aired attacking Trump than John Kasich, but Trump went even further to say that no ads have attacked Kasich. That’s just not true. In fact, his own campaign has run an ad attacking Kasich. Attack ads sponsored by candidate committees and outside groups were fairly consistent earlier in the primary cycle, especially ones contrasting his record to other governors in the race.

Trump’s false claim that the Islamic State is ‘making a fortune’ on Libyan oil

Trump asserted that the Islamic State terror group had seized the oil in Libya and “is making a fortune now” in the country. But analysts said this is completely false. ISIS has attacked oil fields and destroyed equipment but it has not captured any – or even sought to control the fields. At best one can say ISIS has disrupted the flow of oil. But it is certainly not making any money from such tactics.

Trump’s claim that no foreign leader greeting Obama was ‘without precedent’

Trump claimed that the fact that President Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia and Cuba and was not greeted at the airport by the country’s leader was “without precedent.’ But we found numerous examples of this happening under Obama – and previous presidents. We don’t know where Trump comes up with this stuff, but once again he’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Trump’s false claim that ‘scores of recent migrants’ in the U.S. are charged with terrorism

It’s unclear where Trump is getting this information but it appears to be a bungled reference to a list issued by a Senate office concerning 30  foreign-born individuals who were arrested on charges relating to terrorism in recent years. But the majority of the 30 cases involved naturalized U.S. citizens — people who came to the U.S. as children or had arrived before 2011. There is no evidence that “scores” of “recent migrants” are charged with terrorism.

No, Putin did not call Donald Trump ‘a genius’

Trump likes to brag that Russian president Vladmir Putin has “called me a genius.” But Putin said no such thing. The Russian president used a Russian word that means “colorful” or “lively” or even “flamboyant.” A handful of news organizations used the word “bright,” but not in the sense of intelligent. As usual, Trump stretched the meaning even further.

Trump’s false claim that the National Enquirer story on Cruz’s father was not denied

Donald Trump refused to apologize for citing a thinly sourced National Enquirer article alleging that Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, worked with Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Part of the reason, he said, was because it had not been denied. But actually, Cruz himself denounced Trump’s claim, calling the businessman a “pathological liar.” The Cruz campaign also dismissed the story as “garbage” and “false” when the Miami Herald published an article on it on April 22 — 11 days before Trump gave it national currency on Fox News. Meanwhile, reports in The Washington Post, PolitiFact, FactCheck.Org and CNN all had concluded the story was hogwash.

Donald Trump’s ridiculous claim that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement

On the day Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee, he resurrected a zombie claim that has previously been debunked by fact checkers. The allegation that Clinton was the first, or even one of the first, to question President Obama’s birth certificate is simply false. Trump would be on safer ground if he blamed her supporters for stoking the birther rumors, since in spring 2008, some of Clinton’s supporters began circulating anonymous emails questioning Obama’s citizenship. But there’s no evidence that Clinton or her campaign questioned Obama’s birth certificate.

3DHS / London has a new mayor
« on: May 07, 2016, 01:17:35 PM »
Sadiq Khan is Mayor of London
Tom Peck

He shared a platform with an extremist in the end. As the results were read out there could be no disguising the fact that London’s first Muslim Mayor was standing happily alongside the man who has, over the past few weeks, stampeded over the line of acceptable public discourse. A man who has fought the dirtiest campaign in decades, and right up there with the most unsuccessful too.

The result was overwhelming. 1.3m votes for Sadiq Khan. 900,000 for Zac Goldsmith. ‘The largest popular mandate in British electoral history,’ is a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot of. What it means is that Londoners came out in large numbers and were entirely unambiguous in their choice.  From Hackney to Hammersmith, Barnet to Bexley, the terrorist-sympathisers’ grip upon the capital is total.

There’s no point acting surprised. It’s not like you haven’t been warned. Brave Zac Goldsmith’s been telling you for weeks. Sadiq won’t stand up for Hindus. He won’t stand up for Sikhs. If you’re Tamil, he’ll steal your family jewellery. All this was well known, thanks to the brave leafleteering of the once thought moderate face of Conservatism. It weighed not a feather in the balance. In the early evening, even his sister Jemima had disowned him. “Sad that Zac’s campaign did not reflect who I know him to be,” she said. Too late.

“This election was not without controversy,” Khan said in a very short acceptance speech, delivered beyond midnight, the results having been initially expected at five in the afternoon. “And I am so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear, and unity over division.”

More at:

3DHS / Move over, Clockboy
« on: May 07, 2016, 12:14:18 PM »
Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight
By Catherine Rampell May 7 at 9:19 AM

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive-skinned and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater – a look he would later describe as “simple elegance” – but something about him didn’t seem right to her.

She decided to try out some small talk.

Is Syracuse home? She asked.

No, he replied curtly.

He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

Rebuffed, the woman began reading her book. Or pretending to read, anyway. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note of her own.

Then the passengers waited, and waited, and waited for the flight to take off. After they’d sat on the tarmac for about half an hour, the flight attendant approached the female passenger again and asked if she now felt okay to fly, or if she was “too sick.”

I’m OK to fly, the woman responded.

She must not have sounded convincing, though; American Airlines flight 3950 remained grounded.

Then, for unknown reasons, the plane turned around and headed back to the gate. The woman was soon escorted off the plane. On the intercom a crew member announced that there was paperwork to fill out, or fuel to refill, or some other flimsy excuse; the curly-haired passenger could not later recall exactly what it was.

The wait continued.

Finally the pilot came by, locking eyes on the real culprit behind the delay: that darkly-complected foreign man. He was now escorted off the plane, too, and taken to meet some sort of agent, though he wasn’t entirely sure of the agent’s affiliation, he would later say.

What do know about your seatmate? The agent asked the foreign-sounding man.

Well, she acted a bit funny, he replied, but she didn’t seem visibly ill. Maybe, he thought, they wanted his help in piecing together what was wrong with her.

And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all! Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so she had Said Something.

That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

The curly-haired man laughed.

He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or some other terrorist code. They were math.

Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania and stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

They might even have discovered that last year he was awarded the Carlo Alberto Medal, given to the best Italian economist under 40. That’s right: He’s Italian, not Middle Eastern, or whatever heritage usually gets racially profiled on flights these days.

Menzio had been on the first leg of a connecting flight to Ontario, where he would give a talk at Queen’s University on a working paper he co-authored about menu costs and price dispersion. His nosy neighbor had spied him trying to work out some properties of the model of price setting he was about to present. Perhaps she couldn’t differentiate between differential equations and Arabic.

Menzio showed the authorities his calculations and was allowed to return to his seat, he told me by email. He said the pilot seemed embarrassed. Soon after, the flight finally took off, more than two hours after its scheduled departure time for what would be just a 41-minute trip in the air, according to flight-tracking data.

The woman never reboarded to the flight, Menzio said. No one told him, though, whether she was barred from returning or stayed away voluntarily, out of embarrassment or continued fear of the “dangerous wizardry” his mathematical notations resembled. (A spokesman from American Airlines was not immediately able to answer my questions about how the incident was handled, or what happened to the woman who’d made the initial complaint, and said he was reaching out to the regional partner that operated the flight. I was not able to contact her directly for comment, as Menzio did not know her name.)

Menzio says he was “treated respectfully throughout,” though he remains baffled and frustrated by a “broken system that does not collect information efficiently.” He is troubled by the ignorance of his fellow passenger, as well as “A security protocol that is too rigid–in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks–and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless. ”

Rising xenophobia stoked by the presidential campaign, he suggested, may soon make things worse for people who happen to look a little other-ish.

“What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia? It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base,” he wrote.

In this true parable of 2016 I see another worrisome lesson, albeit one also possibly relevant to Trump’s appeal: That in America today, the only thing more terrifying than foreigners is…math.

3DHS / Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice faces removal
« on: May 07, 2016, 10:03:42 AM »
Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justice was suspended on Friday as he faces possible removal from the bench for ordering state probate judges not to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, despite contrary rulings by a federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Chief Justice Roy Moore, an outspoken opponent of same-sex unions, with violating the state's judicial ethics laws, an allegation that could potentially remove him from office, according to news website

The legality of gay marriage had been at the center of a national debate for years until the Supreme Court ruled in June that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement.

Despite the ruling and a federal court ruling that made gay marriage legal in Alabama, Moore issued in January an administrative order to state probate judges, ordering them not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to court documents.

"Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority," the complaint said. "Moore knowingly ordered [probate judges] to commit violations...knowingly subjecting them to potential prosecution and removal from office."

Moore said in a statement that the commission has no authority over administrative orders or the court's ability to prohibit probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

"We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail," he said.

Moore wrote in his order that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling was at odds with a decision in March 2015 by the Alabama Supreme Court that instructed probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The conflicting opinions had resulted in "confusion and uncertainty," Moore said, with many probate judges issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while others refused to do so.

Until the Alabama Supreme Court decides the matter, probate judges "have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license," he said.

The complaint said Moore's order "was contrary to clear and determined law about which there is no confusion or unsettled question."

Moore, a Republican, has been a hero of conservative causes before. In 2003, he was removed from office after a federal judge ruled he was placing himself above the law by refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument.

He won the chief justice job back in 2012, vowing not to do anything to create further friction with the federal courts.

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