Archive for International

Mar
19

Getting Base With The Base

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The lefties are busing THEM to the polls. Yes, it’s a thing.

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General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, NV, one of several test sites promoted by the state.

We’ve also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States. – Pres. George W. Bush, Cincinnati, OH, October 7, 2002

That was the first time many of us heard the term “unmanned aerial vehicles.” Ticking off a litany of bogus reasons for invading Iraq, Bush hoped we would collectively wet our pants in fear of unmanned drones over America unleashing death from above. That was then. This is now.

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Mar
13

Guess It Depends On What You Count

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Somwething Digby posted today is worth reposting for the North Carolina audience. FL Gov. Rick Scott’s tweet yesterday (I assume) is intended to convince the uncritical reader that Florida’s economy must kick California’s ass. Digby notes that the same day, Bloomberg posted this:

There are plenty of reasons to presume that California must be a bad place to do business. The Tax Foundation says the state’s tax structure is the third worst for business in the U.S. Forbes ranks California’s business costs fifth highest among the 50 states and its regulatory environment the eighth most burdensome.

Just how burdensome, you ask? (Emphasis mine.)

The exceptional performance of California companies helps explain why (with no official gross domestic product data available yet) the state would have the world’s seventh largest economy if it were a country, bigger than Brazil’s, which saw its GDP decline in 2014. Here’s the rough calculation: Companies based in California grew 4.7 percent during the first three quarters of last year. Using 4.7 percent as a proxy for the growth of the market capitalization of California, the total market cap of the state grew to $2.3 trillion from $2.2 trillion in 2013. (Brazil’s GDP declined 1 percent from $2.25 trillion in the first three quarters of 2014 as its exports of raw materials fell.) As of March 10, 33 California companies are included in the 500 largest companies in the world. At the end of 2009, when the U.S. was recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, there were only 24 California companies in the Global 500, according to Bloomberg data.

As unemployment declined to 7 percent in December from a peak of 12.4 percent in 2011, California’s growth was substantial enough that during the 24-month period ended Sept. 30, 2014, the jobless rate fell the most of any state. This helps explain why California remains the No. 1 state for manufacturing, producing $239 billion, or 12 percent of all manufacturing in the U.S., according to Bloomberg data. Texas is No. 2 with $233 billion.

If taxes are really the bane of California existence, why aren’t they preventing rich people from making the state their primary residence? Some 123 of the world’s wealthiest 400 people live in the U.S., and 28 of them, or 23 percent, are California residents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. New York is No. 2 with 22 billionaires, or 18 percent, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.

Uh, because they’ve hidden so much of their wealth offshore?

NC Gov. Pat McCrory has been following the playbook of ALEC, Scott-free Walker and Sam Brownback. Consider the above next time he brags about his Carolina Comeback. Is it even a halfback?

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Mar
06

No joy in joystick

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The Air Force seems to have a problem retaining drone pilots. They are quitting faster than new ones can be trained, writes Pratap Chatterjee at Alternet:

The Air Force explains the departure of these drone pilots in the simplest of terms. They are leaving because they are overworked. The pilots themselves say that it’s humiliating to be scorned by their Air Force colleagues as second-class citizens. Some have also come forward to claim that the horrors of war, seen up close on video screens, day in, day out, are inducing an unprecedented, long-distance version of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

But is it possible that a brand-new form of war — by remote control — is also spawning a brand-new, as yet unlabeled, form of psychological strain? Some have called drone war a “coward’s war” (an opinion that, according to reports from among the drone-traumatized in places like Yemen and Pakistan, is seconded by its victims). Could it be that the feeling is even shared by drone pilots themselves, that a sense of dishonor in fighting from behind a screen thousands of miles from harm’s way is having an unexpected impact of a kind psychologists have never before witnessed?

Burnout may be a factor. Whereas pilots for manned Air Force aircraft log 300 hours per year, the drone warriors can spend 900-1,800 flying drones in circles, working “either six or seven days a week, twelve hours a day,” according to Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh.

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Feb
27

“Evil bastards” should go to prison

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“I want to stop paying tax, until everyone pays tax,” Wise told the Evening Standard. “I have actively loved paying tax, because I am a profound fucking socialist and I believe we are all in it together. But I am disgusted with HMRC. I am disgusted with HSBC. And I’m not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison.”

Actor Greg Wise is married to Oscar winner Emma Thompson, reported the Guardian.

HMRC has come under fire in the HSBC scandal because of a failure to carry out a criminal investigation against the bank, which has its headquarters in the UK. While the agency found more than 1,000 tax evaders among the almost 7,000 UK clients of HSBC Suisse, only one individual has been prosecuted. About £135m has been recovered in tax, a lower figure than in other European countries.

Stuart Gulliver, the head of HSBC, has apologised in writing and again on Monday, when he said the bank’s bosses were shamed and humbled by the scandal.

How refreshing. On both sides of the Atlantic, we’re all breathless with anticipation to see pubic servants who’ve taken oaths to uphold the law do actually something about it, you know, and-justice-for-all-wise. Sent the evil bastards to prison already.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
25

A flash of sanity in a weary world

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Willy Wonka: [touching the gobstopper Charlie has just set on his desk] So shines a good deed in a weary world.

Liberals may not be ready to hand her the chocolate factory over it, but on MSNBC’s All In last night, Chris Hayes literally applauded Laura Ingraham for speaking sanity to Fox & Friends star power. Mediaite as the clips:

“I don’t think we should jump every time the freaks with the ACE bandages around their faces put out videos,” Ingraham told the Fox hosts on Tuesday, adding that the U.S. should not be reacting “emotionally” to threats from ISIS, Al-Shabab or other terrorist groups.

“Amen, sister,” Hayes replied, literally applauding Ingraham’s commentary. The host said he was “incredibly gratified” to see Ingraham make the same arguments he’s been making on his show all along, that “everyone needs to keep calm and stay rational in the face of what is obvious emotional manipulation” through use of propaganda.

The ability of those terrorists groups to “murder people they have captured and even make videos of those murders does not correlate in any meaningful way to the actual threat they pose to Americans here in the U.S.,” Hayes reminded his viewers.

Ingraham’s pro-clearheadedness comments bookended her seeming to approve allowing Mall of America shoppers to come packing AR-15s. But I guess Hayes figured, these days you take your sanity where you can find it.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
15

Is it something in the water?

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Is there something in London’s water? From the Not Gonna Happen Here Dept.:

The Conservative party needs to break its dependence on millionaires, the former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke has told the Observer, amid a growing furore over the tax affairs of the party’s donors.

After a week of some of the most intense fighting between the parties in recent years, Clarke said the Conservatives would be strengthened by loosening the hold of rich men on their financial survival.

He called on David Cameron to cap political donations and increase state funding of political parties to put an end to damaging scandals and rows. The Conservatives have been rocked in the past week by a potentially toxic combination of allegations of tax evasion by clients of the HSBC bank, whose chairman, Lord Green, became a Tory minister; tax avoidance by party donors; and leaked details of the secretive black and white fundraising ball.

Meanwhile here in the Colonies, The Man Who Would Be Bush III is looking to lock in Mitt Romney’s network of presidential campaign donors from the “private equity and investment worlds.” It’s a trick Jeb Bush learned from his no-accountability brother, George. Suck all the air out of the GOP candidates’ Green Room room along with the money:

“It’s absolutely a kind of aggressive shock-and-awe strategy to vacuum up as much of the fund-raising network as you possibly can,” said Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a prolific Romney fund-raiser now helping Bush. “And they’re having a large measure of success.”

On the other side of the pond, however, the conservative Ken Clarke has had the scales fall from his eyes:

“What happens is that the Conservatives attack the Labour party for being ever more dependent on rather unrepresentative leftwing trade union leaders, and the Labour party spends all its time attacking the Conservative party for being dependent on rather unrepresentative wealthy businessmen. In a way both criticisms are true. And the media sends both up.

“The solution is for the party leaders to get together to agree, put on their tin hats and move to a more sensible and ultimately more defensible system.”

As previously noted, Clarke wants to see a cap on political donations. And it’s not just Tories having attacks of common sense:

Announcing that a Labour government would launch an independent investigation into the culture and practices of HMRC [Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs service] with regard to tax avoidance, [Labour leader Ed] Miliband told a Welsh Labour conference in Swansea: “The government’s failure to tackle tax avoidance is no accident. It has turned a blind eye to tax avoidance because it thinks that so long as a few at the top do well, the country succeeds. It thinks that wealth and power fence people off from responsibility. It thinks the rules only apply to everybody else.”

Imagine that.

Could any of this be contagious? Maybe there’s a vaccine they’re not taking in London that Villagers can not take here.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
09

Wait. I got this.

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McClatchy asks an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry how the Islamic State justifies its blood lust:

They cherry-pick Quranic verses out of context, apply the most rigid interpretations of jurisprudence and excuse just about any brutality by saying they’re waging a defensive jihad on behalf of aggrieved Muslims worldwide, according to Jocelyne Cesari, a renowned scholar of Islam who’s part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s working group on faith and foreign policy.

Swap out “Quranic” with “Bible,” “jihad” with “preemptive war,” and “Muslims” with “Christians” and this could describe death penalty proponents in Texas or torture apologists across America.

See if this doesn’t sound familiar:

Q: What religious grounding does the Islamic State give for its atrocities?

A: They say they’re in survival mode. They believe that conditions for Muslims today are a danger to your soul as a Muslim. They don’t see their jihad as an attack; they see it as defensive jihad.

Wait. I got this. “We fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Preemptive jihad. Who’da thunk that strategery would have become so popular?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
27

Peek-a-boo, we spy you … again

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Data visualization of Facebook relationships by the third-party app MyFnetwork. (Courtesy Kencf0618 via Wikimedia Commons)

Via a 2011 slide presentation leaked by Edward Snowden, The Intercept provides more details on how spy agencies are “building haystacks to search for needles.” By intercepting unencrypted data relayed from smartphone ads and apps to analytics firms and advertisers, British and Canadian spy agencies can compile detailed profiles of individual smart phone users. Advertisers typically collect this information to answer usage questions:

How often does a particular user open the app, and at what time of day? Where does the user live? Where does the user work? Where is the user right now? What’s the phone’s unique identifier? What version of Android or iOS is the device running? What’s the user’s IP address?

But since the data sent from apps is often unencrypted, it represents “a major privacy threat” exploitable by spy agencies. This particular spy program was/is code-named BADASS:

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Jan
24

The Dickens, you say?

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As Digby said yesterday, they will never quit trying to dismantle the social safety net. Both here and abroad, it seems, we’ve gotta keep those “takers” from taking. They are somehow keeping our “Makers” from making. (Genuflect here.)

It seems the British have set up a system of sanctions to keep the eligible jobless from receiving help. And, boy howdy, you thought Fox News’ obsession over the grocery shopping habits of Americans receiving SNAP benefits was Dickensian. Check out the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the land of Dickens:

“A Ukip parliamentary candidate named Lynton Yates this week suggested banning benefit claimants from driving: “Why do they have the privilege to spend the tax payers [sic] hard earned money on a car, when those in work are struggling to keep their own car on the road?” Ukip’s communications people said that Yates’s suggestions were “not Ukip policies and they will not form part of the Ukip manifesto”, and the media rejoiced in the week’s example of the party’s supposed fruitcakery – though at the time of writing, Mr Yates was still Ukip’s choice for the East Midlands seat of Charnwood.

But the problem isn’t his, or Ukip’s, alone. After all, in the sense that he proposed stripping “benefit claimants” of something most people take for granted, Yates’s plans merely sat on the outer edge of what now passes for mainstream thinking. When the state makes it clear that the poor and unfortunate are not to have spare bedrooms, and embraces the idea of stopping them buying booze and fags and shredding their entitlements if they have more than two kids, is it really such a leap to deny them non-public transport too? For all its inanity, there is a sadism at the heart of the Yates idea that is not a million miles away from the cruelties increasingly built into the benefits system: cruelties most of us would not put up with for a minute, but which are visited on thousands of people every week.

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