Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie — Hot House, 1951.
What’s on your mind?
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie — Hot House, 1951.
What’s on your mind?
The Saudi-Israeli alliance and U.S. neocons have pressured President Obama into continuing U.S. hostility toward the secular Syrian government despite major military gains by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, leading to an emerging catastrophe in the Mideast.
By Daniel Lazare
President Barack Obama and his foreign policy staff are not having a very merry month of May. The Islamic State’s takeover of Ramadi, Iraq, on May 15 was one of the greatest U.S. military embarrassments since Vietnam, but the fall of Palmyra, Syria, just five days later made it even worse. This is an administration that, until recently, claimed to have turned the corner on Islamic State.
In March, Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, assured the House Armed Services Committee that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) was in a “defensive crouch” and unable to conduct major operations, while Vice President Joe Biden declared in early April that “ISIL’s momentum in Iraq has halted, and in many places, has been flat-out reversed.”
A couple of weeks later, the President proved equally upbeat following a meeting with Iraqi leader Haider al-Abadi: “We are making serious progress in pushing back ISIL out of Iraqi territory. About a quarter of the territory fallen under Daesh control has been recovered. Thousands of strikes have not only taken ISIL fighters off the war theater, but their infrastructure has been deteriorated and decayed. And under Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership, the Iraqi security forces have been rebuilt and are getting re-equipped, retrained, and strategically deployed across the country.”
But that was so last month. Post-Ramadi, conservatives like Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, have lost no time in labeling such views out of touch and “delusional.” And, indeed, Obama sounded strangely detached on Tuesday when he told The Atlantic that ISIS’s advance was not a defeat.
“No, I don’t think we’re losing,” he said, adding: “There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced.” It was rather like the captain of the Titanic telling passengers that the gash below the waterline was a minor opening that would soon be repaired.
Not that the rightwing view is any less hallucinatory. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, faults Obama for not doing more to topple the Assad regime in Damascus, as if removing the one effective force against ISIS would be greeted with anything less than glee by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his hordes.
“We don’t have a strategy,” House Speaker John Boehner complained on Tuesday. “For over two years now, I’ve been calling on the President to develop an overarching strategy to deal with this growing terrorist threat. We don’t have one, and the fact is that the threat is growing than what we and our allies can do to stop it.” But when asked what a winning strategy might be, the House Speaker could only reply, “It’s the President’s responsibility.” In other words, Boehner is as clueless as anyone else.
In fact, the entire foreign-policy establishment is clueless, just as it was in 2003 when it all but unanimously backed President George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. Both Republicans and Democrats are caught in a disastrous feedback loop in which journalists and aides tell them what they want to hear and resolutely screen out everything to the contrary. But facts have a way of asserting themselves whether Washington wants them to or not.
The Whys of Failure (more…)
In a bizarre miscarriage of justice today, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Officer Michael Brelo of two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were chased and gunned down by police after the vehicle in which they were riding accidentally backfired as they were driving past police headquarters. They were unarmed.
62 police vehicles participated in the ensuing 22 mile chase that reached speeds over 100 mph.
Thirteen officers, including Brelo, fired 137 shots into the vehicle. Russell had 23 bullet wounds and Williams had 24. Prosecutors said they only charged Brelo because he jumped up on the hood of the vehicle after it stopped and fired 15 shots through the windscreen into their bodies after they were no longer a threat, but still alive.
[Judge] O’Donnell said that while he found beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo caused at least one fatal wound to Williams’ chest, he couldn’t determine that the other fatal shots came from his gun.
“One or two other officers inflicted” the others, O’Donnell said, and therefore, he couldn’t find Brelo guilty of Williams’ death.
Judge O’Donnell also found that Brelo acted improperly when he jumped up on the hood of the car
Given these findings, I think he should have convicted Brelo of voluntary manslaughter for the death of Williams. If two or more people fire fatal shots (i.e., that would have caused death), each is guilty of killing the victim even if the ME can’t tell which shot actually killed the victim. That’s basic criminal law.
What do you think?
Here’s the judge’s 35 page decision.
To follow on Twitter: #Brelo
We end our week in Japan and I end my week as a student for now.
– President Barack Obama: Israel should know “the people of America” will protect them
– A report from the Pentagon found Western officials viewed the Islamic State as a group to counter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
– Saudi Arabia expressed interest in heading the Human Rights Council of the United Nations
– Who wants the Internal Revenue Service to punish American “eco-terrorists”? Japan
– One issue facing Syrians, especially very young Syrians, is the problem of the statelessness
– Unsure about who is who in the new Israeli government? Not to worry with this run down of each particular one you should keep your eye on
– For example, the Israeli deputy foreign minister said the land of Israel is for Israelis only
A painter known best for his portrayal of animals, Oudry studied and showed expertise from an early age and began as a portrait artist. He showed mastery in art featuring animals and attracted interest from members of the court of Louis XV and support that gave him a solid profession in a comfortable life.
Through his friend, Jean-Baptiste Massé, a portrait-painter and miniaturist, Oudry was introduced to the Marquis de Beringhen, hereditary master of the royal stables, for whom he painted a pair of paintings in 1727, followed by a suite of landscapes in the Flemish manner. Through this connection, he was commissioned to produce the painting that made his reputation, Louis XV hunting a deer in the Forest of Saint-Germain (1730; now at Toulouse). Subsequently he was commissioned to produce numerous works for the King, who was passionate about the hunt and appointed Oudry Painter-in-Ordinary of the Royal Hunt, in which capacity he produced portraits of dead game, the day’s kill. Oudry was granted a workshop in the Tuileries and an apartment in the Louvre.
M. Hultz, an adviser to the Académie de Peinture, commissioned Oudry to produce a buffet, or still-life combining silver plates and ewers, fruit and game; the work was exhibited in the Salon of 1737. Oudry timidly asked for tenpistoles for his work, but Hultz valued it much higher, insisting on paying twenty-five. Oudry was also commissioned to produce a buffet for Louis XV (exhibited in the Salon of 1743), that went to the château de Choisy, the King’s favoured hunting residence.
Although Oudry produced excellent scenes of animals and of hunting, he also painted portraits, histories, landscapes, fruits and flowers; he imitated bas reliefs in monotone tints en camaïeu, used pastels, and created etchings. He was often sent examples of rare birds to draw.
An important patron was Christian Ludwig II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who commissioned two pairs of paintings from Oudry: Three Does Watching Two Stags Fighting and A Family of Roe Deer; and A Boar Hunt and A Wolf Hunt, both delivered in 1734. He later purchased a series of large paintings of animals from Louis XV’s menagerie at Versailles. Oudry’s initial motive for painting these works is obscure. When exhibited at the Paris Salon, they had been described as having been painted for the French king; however the commission seems to come through the king’s surgeon, François Gigot de la Peyronie, who had engravings made after them, and in a letter to Christian dated March 1750, Oudry wrote that they had become available for sale due to de La Peyronie’s death. In addition to the portraits of the animals from the royal menagerie, Christian also bought Oudry’s life-size painting of “Clara“, an Indian rhinoceros which had been exhibited all around Europe to great public interest. The works are still at Schwerin.
Roger will be headlining this year’s Newport Folk Festival…
Roger Waters will headline the opening night of the 2015 Newport Folk Festival on Friday, July 24. Waters says he plans to deliver “an intimate appearance specifically crafted” for the event, set for July 24-26 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI.
The former Pink Floyd bassist will top a bill that includes Tallest Man On Earth, Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell, the Watkins Family Hour and others, while The Decemberists will perform on Saturday and First Aid Kit will play on Sunday.
Founded in 1959, the festival features a variety of musical genres each year, and has notably introduced Joan Baez and Bob Dylan to a wider audience. Dylan’s famous July 25, 1965 appearance caused an uproar when fans booed as the acoustic folk singer went electric with Mike Bloomfield on guitar alongside players from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
I’m back to slinging hash tonite…! Be nice to one another…!
The Justice Department’s latest settlement with felonious big banks was announced this week, but the repercussions were limited to a few headlines and some scattered protestations.
That’s not enough. We need to understand that our financial system is not merely corrupt in practice. It is corrupt by design – and the problem is growing.
Let’s connect the dots, using news items from the past few weeks:
The Latest Sweetheart Deal
Four of the world’s biggest banks pleaded guilty to felony charges this week, agreeing to pay roughly $5.6 billion in fines for fixing the price of currencies on the foreign exchange market. Justice Department officials made much of the fact that, unlike previous sweetheart deals with Wall Street, this one required the banks’ parent companies to enter a guilty plea.
That’s an improvement over previous deals. But it’s not as significant as it might have been, since the settlement wasn’t finalized until the banks were able to strike side agreements with regulators to ensure they’d be able to keep doing business as usual.
One of the institutions involved in this deal was Citigroup. That’s the bank whose self-written and self-serving “Citigroup amendment” passed Congress last December, a move which made it the target of an epic Elizabeth Warren takedown.
Another was J.P. Morgan Chase. Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was lionized for far too long by politicians and members of the mainstream media, many of whom insisted that Dimon was smarter and more ethical than his peers. There is now a considerable body of evidence to contradict that assertion – and it keeps on growing.
All four of these banks are repeat offenders with long records of serial fraud, as even this outdated graphic shows.
In A Related Development …
A fifth bank, UBS, was forced to give up a deferred prosecution deal as a result of its involvement in currency exchange fraud. In “deferred prosecution” agreements the Justice Department agrees not to prosecute a bank for crimes it has committed if it keeps a promise not to commit those crimes again. It was not clear whether this would lead to any real-world consequences for the bank, however.
In yet another related development, Bank of New York Mellon Corporation agreed this week to pay $180 million to settle a foreign exchange-related class-action lawsuit. This followed a $714 million settlement for writing pension funds and other institutional clients by overcharging them for currency transactions.
J.P. Morgan Chase – Again
This one seemed to slip through under the public’s radar. In a development that will trigger severe déjà vu for anyone who’s been following the big banks’ foreclosure scandals, the serially criminal J.P. Morgan Chase agreed on March 3 to pay more than $50 million over “robo-signed” documents – that is, documents that the bank fraudulently submitted to courts in mortgage-related hearings.
From the Wall Street Journal:
” … Bank officials admitted to filing more than 50,000 payment-change notices that were improperly signed, under penalty of perjury, by persons who hadn’t reviewed the accuracy of the notices, according to Justice Department officials.”
Telling a court you’ve reviewed a document when you haven’t? That’s perjury.
The Journal also noted that the Justice Department found that “more than 25,000 notices were signed in the names of former employees or of employees who had nothing to do with reviewing the accuracy of the filings.”
Many people lost their homes unjustly as a result of this mass-produced fraud. The practice was so widespread at J.P. Morgan Chase that it required the hiring of untrained college-aged temps – referred to within the organization as “Burger King kids” – to generate all the fraudulent paperwork.
This is where we’re obliged to insert a sentence that has long been superfluous when reporting on deals of this kind:
The Justice Department did not announce the indictment of any individual bankers for the crimes that led to this settlement.
Corrupt, And Getting Worse (more…)
‘Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.’
With the fate of the USA Patriot Act still hanging in the balance late afternoon Friday—and lawmakers eager to leave Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day barbecues and campaign stops in their home states—the chance to see the sun go down on the controversial spying bill is still on the table.
The debate over the Patriot Act is centered around one of its key provisions, Section 215, which is set to expire on June 1 absent congressional action. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) previously relied on Section 215 to justify its mass phone data collection operation, but its expiration would force an end to that program.
With that “sunset” approaching, lawmakers have the chance to reform the Patriot Act, end it altogether, or pass a clean re-authorization that renews all the provisions set to expire in mere days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the most outspoken supporter of a clean re-authorization, arguing that the Patriot Act in its current form is a crucial tool in the so-called “War on Terror.” FBI director James Comey also said this week that it would be a “big problem” to lose the authority that the law bestows on the intelligence agencies.
Adding to the urgency is the Obama administration’s warning that Congress only has until Friday to act on the law, because the government will need time to scale down its phone data program if it is not re-authorized. The House of Representatives has already left for the Memorial Day weekend.
The White House, along with the U.S. House, supports reform legislation called the USA Freedom Act, and warned that “there is no Plan B, these are authorities Congress must legislate.”
Should the Senate fail to pass the reform bill, said White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday, there is nothing the president can do to stop the Patriot Act provisions from lapsing.
Of course, that would be just fine with privacy activists and advocacy groups who oppose intrusive government surveillance. At protests held in dozens of cities on Thursday, demonstrators called on Congress to oppose any re-authorization of the Patriot Act and instead let its spying provisions sunset as scheduled on June 1.
“It’s time we came together and let the sun go down on this dark age of government surveillance,” said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer. “Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.”
Free Press Action Fund government relations manager Sandra Fulton added, “The nationwide sunset vigils have sent a signal to Washington: It’s time we closed this chapter on mass surveillance and restored everyone’s rights to connect and communicate in private.”
However, The Hill reported Friday that “momentum appeared to be on the side of reformers, whose hopes were buoyed by the near certainty that the Senate will either need to pass [the House version of] the USA Freedom Act, or allow three parts of the post-9/11 law to sunset.”
The report went on to say the USA Freedom Act “has the backing of the majority of the Senate—including all Democrats—but it remains unclear whether it has the 60 votes necessary to overcome procedural hurdles during what increasingly looks like a rare Memorial Day weekend session.”
The USA Freedom Act passed the House on May 14 with an overwhelming 338-88 vote. But according to advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the USA Freedom Act is a “small step instead of a giant leap,” particularly in comparison with previous iterations of the bill, introduced in 2013 and 2014, which offered stronger reforms but failed to progress through Congress.
The Act grants a five-year extension to Section 215.
After the bill passed the House, Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, warned that the USA Freedom Act would actually “expand the scope of surveillance” by the NSA and others.
“This is a fake privacy bill,” Cheng said. “Corrupt members of Congress and their funders in the defense industry are attempting to package up their surveillance-powers wishlist and misleadingly brand it as ‘USA Freedom.’ This is disappointing and offensive, and we will continue to work to kill this bill and any other attempt to legitimize unconstitutional surveillance systems.”
Opposition to the Patriot Act has grown steadily since whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed Section 215’s role in the NSA spying program. The call to let the provision expire only grew after a federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that the agency’s phone surveillance operation is illegal. And as Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out, a Justice Department investigation into the FBI’s use of Section 215, released Thursday, found that the provision has never been particularly useful in anti-terrorism efforts.
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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals embarrassed itself recently by refusing to find Dan and Fran Keller innocent of charges that they sexually molested children in their Austin day care center in 1992. Fortunately for the Kellers, however, the court finally did overturn their wrongful convictions after they had served 22 years in prison. It had little choice since there was no credible evidence that any of the children in their care had been sexually abused after Dr. Michael Mouw, the ER doctor who provided the only physical evidence corroborating the accusers, recanted his testimony after attending a medical conference and discovering his medical diagnosis was mistaken.
The Keller case was one of many satanic witch hunt prosecutions during the 80s and 90s that were initiated by the twisted imaginations of sexually fevered therapists, social workers, police and prosecutors who were adept at using leading questions to get young children to agree to false accusations. Jody Seaborn reports,
Without a finding of innocence, Dan and Fran Keller remain victims of a great injustice. It’s stunning to consider how credulously police and prosecutors fell for the incredible. Under leading and suggestive questioning by therapists, investigators and their parents, several children who attended the day care the Kellers ran in Southeast Austin told tales of videotaped orgies, of murder and dismemberment by chainsaw, of cats and dogs tortured and killed, of shark-filled swimming pools and a mutilated gorilla in Zilker Park, of corpses dug up and desecrated. The children also told stories of blood-soaked satanic rituals and of day flights to Mexico, where soldiers molested them before they were flown back to Austin in time to be picked up by their parents from the Kellers’ day care.
This case is very similar to the Wenatchee Sex Ring prosecutions in Washington State in the mid 90s. I have personal knowledge about it because I recruited 40 lawyers in the Seattle area and organized them into 17 teams assisted by law students from Innocence Project Northwest at the University of Washington School of Law. Each team was assigned to an innocent client who had wrongfully been convicted of swapping their children for sex during satanic orgies conducted in a church basement. We were successful in getting all of our clients released from prison.
As in the Keller case, the only evidence that corroborated the fantastical accusations by children in the Wenatchee case was provided by an incompetent ER doctor who did not know what he was talking about.
Another similarity was the stubborn refusal of therapists, social workers, police and prosecutors to admit the defendants were innocent. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sided with them despite the fantastical nature of the accusations, the use of improper child interrogation techniques and the absence of any evidence that supported them.
The Kellers spent 22 years in prison for something they did not do and their reputations have been destroyed. The cowardly refusal of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to set the record straight is shameful and disgusting.
They probably sympathized with the state officials who believed the Kellers were guilty and they wanted to protect them from being sued.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 20, 2015
It’s almost like war is a business. The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the United States would be sending 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to Iraq. While the Department of Defense emphasized that the rockets were being sent to help combat suicide car bombs, there is another target anti-tank rockets might be needed for in Iraq these days – US tanks and other vehicles in the hands of ISIS.
That’s right, while ISIS is mostly made up by local reactionaries living out a fantasy from the 7th century the weapons they now have in their possession are cutting edge tech. After the Iraqi army first collapsed ISIS gained control of numerous US weapons and vehicles sent to the Iraqi army including modern US tanks. The kind you might need anti-tank rockets for.
Now with the recent fall of Ramadi to ISIS forces the militants have a new cache of US weapons:
The ISIS fleet of captured U.S. military vehicles, including M1A1 tanks, grew by more than 100 when Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) fled the provincial capital of Ramadi 60 miles west of Baghdad and abandoned their equipment , Pentagon officials said Tuesday.In addition, “there were some artillery pieces left behind,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, but he could not say how many.
About 100 wheeled vehicles and “in the neighborhood of dozens of tracked vehicles” were lost to ISIS when the last remaining Iraqi defenders abandoned the city of about 500,000, Warren said. The tracked vehicles were mostly armored personnel carriers but “maybe half a dozen tanks” were in the mix, Warren said. He did not say what type of tanks they were. Photos posted by ISIS on social media purported to show about 10 M1A1 Abrams tanks in their possession and large amounts of captured ammunition.
Well this is an interesting game – send weapons to Iraqi army which loses US weapons retreating from ISIS, then send more weapons to Iraqi army to fight now better-armed ISIS only to retreat again and lose more US weapons to ISIS. Rinse, repeat, and consider buying defense stocks.
But don’t worry, the US military will also be attacking some of the US military equipment – ISIS won’t get it all right away. But look on the bright side, now we have somewhere to send all those tanks that the Pentagon did not want but Congress demanded be produced.
And you thought Washington didn’t have a jobs program.