Saturday, September 20, 2014


Selim Zherka (known as Sam), publisher of The Westchester Guardian and regular critic of county politicians, was denied bail after prosecutors portrayed him as a dangerous thug.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Exclusive: Angry with Washington, 1 in 4 Americans open to secession


By Scott Malone

(Reuters) - The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their states leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away, while 53.3 percent of the 8,952 respondents strongly opposed or tended to oppose the notion.
The urge to sever ties with Washington cuts across party lines and regions, though Republicans and residents of rural Western states are generally warmer to the idea than Democrats and Northeasterners, according to the poll.
Anger with President Barack Obama's handling of issues ranging from healthcare reform to the rise of Islamic State militants drives some of the feeling, with Republican respondents citing dissatisfaction with his administration as coloring their thinking.
But others said long-running Washington gridlock had prompted them to wonder if their states would be better off striking out on their own, a move no U.S. state has tried in the 150 years since the bloody Civil War that led to the end of slavery in the South.
"I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done," said Roy Gustafson, 61, of Camden, South Carolina, who lives on disability payments. "The state would be better off handling things on its own."
Scottish unionists won by a wider-than-expected 10-percentage-point margin.
Falling public approval of the Obama administration, attention to the Scottish vote and the success of activists who accuse the U.S. government of overstepping its authority - such as the self-proclaimed militia members who flocked to Nevada's Bundy ranch earlier this year during a standoff over grazing rights - is driving up interest in secession, experts said.
"It seems to have heated up, especially since the election of President Obama," said Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who has studied secessionist movements.
Republicans were more inclined to support the idea, with 29.7 percent favoring it compared with 21 percent of Democrats.
Brittany Royal, a 31-year-old nurse from Wilkesboro, North Carolina, said anger over the "Obamacare" healthcare reform law made her wonder if her state would be better off on its own.
"That has really hurt a lot of people here, myself included. My insurance went from $40 a week for a family of four up to over $600 a month for a family of four," said Royal, a Republican. "The North Carolina government itself is sustainable. Governor (Pat) McCrory, I think he has a better healthcare plan than President Obama."
By region, the idea was least popular in New England, the cradle of the Revolutionary War, with just 17.4 percent of respondents open to pulling their state out.
It was most popular in the Southwest, where 34.1 percent of respondents back the idea.
That region includes Texas, where an activist group is calling the state's legislature to put the secession question on a statewide ballot. One Texan respondent said he was confident his state could get by without the rest of the country.
"Texas has everything we need. We have the manufacturing, we have the oil, and we don't need them," said Mark Denny, a 59-year-old retiree living outside Dallas on disability payments.
Denny, a Republican, had cheered on the Scottish independence movement.
"I have totally, completely lost faith in the federal government, the people running it, whether Republican, Democrat, independent, whatever," he said.
Even in Texas, some respondents said talk about breaking away was more of a sign of their anger with Washington than evidence of a real desire to go it alone. Democrat Lila Guzman, of Round Rock, said the threat could persuade Washington lawmakers and the White House to listen more closely to average people's concerns.
"When I say secede, I'm not like (former National Rifle Association president) Charlton Heston with my gun up in the air, 'my cold dead hands.' It's more like – we could do it if we had to," said Guzman, 62. "But the first option is, golly, get it back on the right track. Not all is lost. But there might come a point that we say, 'Hey, y'all, we're dusting our hands and we're moving on.'"

Why the US Government's Counter-Terrorism Tweeters Are Finding it Tough to Fight ISIS Online

It's not just the lolcats.
  Fri Sep. 19, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

In its ascent, ISIS—the murderous extremist group controlling territory in Syria and Iraq that President Barack Obama has declared war on—has wielded a powerful weapon: social media. Its extensive online presence, which ranges from the posting of lolcat-like photos to videos of violent beheadings, has extended the organization's reach and boosted recruitment efforts that have fueled its rapid growth. And the State Department has mounted an initiative to beat back the Internet propaganda of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. But a senior State Department official says that because the group's social media messaging contains an "element of truth," it is hard to combat its online campaign.
In 2011, the State Department launched the Center for Strategic Counter-terrorism Communication, which developed anti-terrorism Twitter accounts that were first directed at Al Qaeda. The goal: to directly engage with people overseas who were interested in or drawn to the beliefs and actions of extremist organizations. The online campaign is called "Think Again, Turn Away," and it includes accounts in several languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Somali and English. These Twitter feeds routinely posts articles and messages countering jihadist claims and arguments. The group also manages social media accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and Google Plus.
And there is snark: Once, when a known Australian jihadist was claiming to be fighting in the Middle East for the Islamic State, the State Department tweeted a video of him being arrested on a beach in the Philippines, mocking him for lying about his whereabouts. The tweet reads ".@MusaCerantonio Turns out that you were having fun on the beaches of the Philippines rather than doing #HijrahToIS." (The word "hijrah" refers to a journey first taken by Muhammad. "IS" is shorthand for the Islamic State.)
On Wednesday, the State Department tweeted at a Muslim woman who praised ISIS for its free transportation, her profile displaying pink text and black ISIS flags. The department's retort: "ISIS will be charitable…if they decide not to kill you #Thugs #thinkagainturnaway."

"If you want to defeat their message, you have to change the elements that make it powerful," a senior State Department official says. "You have to answer them, find the arguments, not bullshit. It isn't easy."
Several State Department tweets feature extremists from New Zealand to England who have regretted joining ISIS. Other tweets highlight the consequences of ISIS' violent campaign, such as a pregnant Iraqi woman forced to give birth in a refugee camp. The State Department also posts articles about the arrests and legal troubles of extremists.
The State Department was targeting ISIS militants months before the group was front-page news. This mission has been more challenging than countering Al Qaeda, according to the senior State Department official, because ISIS is far more advanced in utilizing social media.
Some counter-terrorism experts have criticized the State Department's efforts to battle ISIS online. In a recent article in Time, Rita Katz, whose SITE Intelligence Group has been tracking jihadists' online activity for more than a decade, claimed the State Department's campaign "provides jihadists with a stage to voice their arguments."
In 2012, the program had a $5 million dollar budget. But the digital outreach team, made up of around 45 staff members in 2012 including 20 native speakers of Arabic, Urdu and Somali, in charge of this online counter-terrorism effort has limited means of determining its success. According to a 2012 study in the Middle East Journal, only 4 percent of responses to the team's posts expressed positive views of the outreach efforts. Yet the State Department tweeters have become well known within certain quarters of the online world of Islamic extremists. ISIS and Al Qaeda followers have warned their online comrades to ignore the US government tweeters, with some vowing to silence or spam them.
According to the State Department, no extremist has publicly declared that he or she has reconsidered joining ISIS or another extremist group because of the department’s messages.
The Think Again, Turn Away project has run into one particular problem, according to the senior department official. ISIS uses its sophisticated social media skills to disseminate propaganda that has "an element of truth."
A core component of ISIS' social media messaging is that tens of thousands of innocent people have been suffering and dying in Syria at the hands of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, that ISIS is a powerful counter-force opposing the Assad regime, and that it has racked up multiple successes in this endeavor, such as the radical group’s capture of a major Syrian military air base in August. These assertions have the benefit of being accurate. That makes it harder for the State Department to push a different narrative about ISIS and reach people who may be on the fence about joining its cause.
The group's focus on Syria is "a very powerful argument" according to the senior State Department official. "It is a deep, burning, urgent grievance." By tying the tragedy of Syria to the group’s religious ideology, the State Department official says, ISIS promotes a compelling narrative of "sanctioned violence" and "victory" blessed by God. One of the group's mottos is "baqiya"—"here to stay" in Arabic—and its affiliates constantly post the phrase online.
So how is the State Department trying to undermine the story the Islamic State pushes on line? The department's digital team regularly compare ISIS to Assad and highlight the violence and suffering it has caused in Syria. For example, on Tuesday, the State Department tweeted: "#ISIS to Syrians: What once was yours is now ours…#THIEVES #thinkagainturnaway." The tweet included a photo of a Syrian religious building painted black in the style of the ISIS flag.
The Foggy Bottom tweeters also highlight the group's defeats, such as the battle to control the Mosul Dam, in which Kurdish soldiers pushed back ISIS fighters, and the Iraqi forces' recent attack that retook Fallujah University and killed about 30 ISIS rebels. But, the State Department official notes, "sometimes there is no good answer" to the group's propaganda. Devising a response that will turn off a prospective jihadist from ISIS' radicalizing content—and doing so in a tweet or Facebook post—is a struggle, he says: "it's like catching lightning in a bottle."
"If you want to defeat their message, you have to change the elements that make it powerful," this official adds. "You have to stop [ISIS] from succeeding. You have to answer them, find the arguments, not bullshit. It isn't easy."

Jenna McLaughlin

DC Editorial Fellow
Jenna McLaughlin is an editorial fellow with Mother Jones in the Washington Bureau. RSS |

Female GOP Senators Propose Earning Seventy-One Percent as Much as Male Colleagues

(photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
(photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
18 September 14

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

wo days after voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that would help women to obtain equal pay, the four female Republicans in the United States Senate co-sponsored a bill that would slash their salaries to seventy-one per cent of what their male colleagues earn.
The senators—Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—said that the best way to take a stand against big government’s intrusive attempts to mandate equal pay for women was to take a twenty-nine-per-cent pay cut themselves.
“The days of the federal government forcing us to earn as much as male senators are over,” Ayotte said. “We will not stop fighting until we make twenty-nine per cent less.”
Fischer said that after voting down paycheck equity for women across America, the female Republican senators realized that they themselves were “burdened by the tyranny of equal pay” in the U.S. Senate.
“All we are asking for is the same freedom from equal pay that other American women enjoy,” Ayotte said.
Though the bill was just proposed on Wednesday morning, Murkowski said that it already has the unanimous support of male Republicans in the Senate.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Letitia James questions guard at de Blasio’s unoccupied home

Even a top political ally of Mayor de Blasio thinks the city needs to stop shelling out big bucks to keep the NYPD posted outside his unoccupied Park Slope rowhouse.
“I don’t understand why it’s still there,” Public Advocate Letitia James told The Post on Sunday.
“Assuming that they no longer live there, it appears to me that it’s a waste of money and the post should be removed.”
De Blasio and his family moved to Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side from their Brooklyn home in July.
But in the two months since — as first reported by The Post — NYPD officers continue to man an air-conditioned guard post at a cost of roughly $277,000 a year.
The NYPD declined to comment on why a security detail remains, given the mayor’s new residence, and referred all questions to the mayor’s office.
But de Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak referred a reporter’s questions back to the NYPD — saying, “We don’t comment on security matters.”
James, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat, vowed during her campaign for public advocate last year to provide “checks and balances” on Hizzoner despite their shared leftist leanings. On Sunday, she said she is merely following up on that promise.
“It’s worthy of an inquiry,” she said. “If in fact they’ve relocated to Gracie Mansion, the question of why we’re spending money on security at that location remains.”
James will pursue the matter with the NYPD, but stopped short of saying her office would investigate.
Comptroller Scott String­er also passed the buck to the Police Department.
“Security is under the purview of the Police Department so I’m not going to comment,” he said.
De Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray returned to the neighborhood last week to cast their primary ballots and stopped by the home.
“I don’t know where the heck he’s living,” one council member said of the mayor. “Probably at both places.”

White House Vows to Use Every Synonym for War Against ISIS

Barack Obama. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)
Barack Obama. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
14 September 14
The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."
resident Obama has had two sleepless nights since learning that Rush Limbaugh praised his speech about Iraq and Syria this week, a White House source confirmed on Saturday.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the President has been unable to sleep since Limbaugh complimented him on the air and has been seen pacing back and forth in the Oval Office in a way that aides described as “worrisome.”
“When he heard that [House Speaker John] Boehner and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell liked his speech, he seemed to take that in stride,” the source said. “But this Limbaugh thing has pushed him over the edge.”
After midnight on Friday, the source said, a member of the White House cleaning staff entered the Oval Office and found President Obama in his bathrobe and pajamas, staring at himself in a mirror.
“What have I done?” the President reportedly said to himself.

What the BRICS are Building

In 1971, United States shocked the world when President Nixon effectively ended the Bretton-Woods system by taking the dollar off the gold standard. The founders of the Bretton-Woods system, having just come out of the Great Depression, were insecure about financial markets—and gold was thought to be just the backbone needed to stave off another economic disaster.
Liberal economists such as Paul Krugman have argued that the Federal Reserve executed that move in order to keep the dollar as the primary currency trade note in the world, as has been the case. The American dollar has become the de facto fiat currency of the world—composing 61 percent of IMF currency holdings today.
But Nixon’s move had consequences: one immediate and one that remains consequential to this day. The first was the so-called “Nixon Shock,” where global markets reacted negatively to the news. The International Monetary Fund tired of ameliorating the “Nixon Shock” and stated that exchanges through the IMF may be done through any type of trade except gold—and so the world turned its eyes to oil just as prices began to skyrocket in the 1970s.
And so Western powers traded their gold hegemony for a different kind of hegemony grounded in the oil trade and the U.S. dollar, which went unchallenged for decades.
Now through multilateral cooperation by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—the so-called BRICS countries—a new challenger titled the BRICS Development Bank has emerged to take on the international economic order.
Just as the Bretton-Woods system based currencies including the dollar on gold, the BRICS countries have developed a system where international investments and trade are based on power politics. This is important because the BRICS nations today account for much of the dollars invested in the oil trade today with trading partners in Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern partners of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OAPEC, Indonesia, and Venezuela.
The simple move by BRICS is obviously a threat to the current order; the U.S. could lose its position as a major economic power in terms of the oil trade and the position of the dollar as a fiat currency—things it traded the Bretton-Woods system of gold hegemony for. The entire oil trade could be decentralized from dollars to local currencies, and with it, power would shift away from its current Western center.
King Faisal similarly shifted trade from dollars to local currencies in 1973 when Saudi Arabia ended oil supplies through OAPEC due to the Yom Kippur War, which pressured the U.S. to force Israel to pullout from Egypt. Of course, such actions are not sought as we live in an inter-connected world today where diplomacy at international forums such as the United Nations reigns. However, leverage is important, and the capability of the BRICS to pull off such a move is present. This can also gradually happen through its current system as well; buying the dollar, diluting it by cashing it out, and trading it for local currency for investment to clients in developing nations such as in Africa or South Asia.
The BRICS Development Bank was developed to support nations who have felt underrepresented in investment projects—an objective necessarily interlinked with the political actions. Much of the world is frustrated with the IMF—and the BRICS Development Bank will be a counter to policies that are frequently seen as out of touch and reincarnated tool of Western colonialism.
While the bank has not yet flexed its muscles, it certainly has the firepower to change the future of international economic development.
Parasaran Rangarajan studies at the Harvard Extension School. He is a consultant for the South Asia Analysis Group and editor-in-chief of the International Law Journal of London.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NATO Loses Ukraine

 by Tom Sullivan
Sat, 2014-09-13 20:56

The United States and NATO attack on the Russian Federation has failed. The Ukrainians who refused to accept the legitimacy of the West’s puppet government emerged victorious on the battlefield. If there is any doubt on that point, Ukraine’s decision to sign the Minsk Protocol cease fire agreement is proof. President Poroshenko seemed like a man in the cat bird seat when western nations chose sides in a civil war and kicked out his predecessor. The road to hell was paved with very bad intentions.
One wouldn’t know it from reading and viewing the corporate media, but the western gambit has been disastrous. More than 1 million people have been displaced (most fled to Russia), the economies of many countries have been damaged by sanctions, and atrocities such as the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 would have been avoided if there had been any grown ups at work in the western capitals.
The talking heads should be telling us about the failing effort to prop up the empire, but instead they parrot the words of the losing side. After destroying Libya and killing president Gaddafi the evil empire concluded that they had found a winning formula. Fortunately for humankind, Bashir al Assad hangs on in Syria and all that NATO has to show for its misadventures is ISIS, which grows stronger by the day, beheads American journalists on video, and attacks the legitimacy of Saudi Arabia and the other gulf monarchies who worked hand in hand on the imperial project.
Assad is still in power and Putin’s nemesis Poroshenko waved a flag of surrender but the United States and its allies won’t give up the failing strategy because they have no other plan for keeping the leaking ship afloat. Aggression is the only weapon they have and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is the order of the day. Putin is the winner by any standard but the United States won’t admit what is obvious to the rest of the world. Instead they dredge up phony claims of Russian treaty violations and behave as if Putin hasn’t pulled off a coup of his own.
Obama and his partners in crime would do well to remember the events of September 2013, just one year ago. The United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons as a casus belli. The American people didn’t buy what their president was selling and the no vote in the British parliament crushed the effort to start a hot war.
The signs of desperation in the capitalist West are obvious. Their “rebels” in Syria can’t defeat Assad, they can’t get support among their own people for war and yet they still used Ukraine’s political crisis to take on Putin and failed. The United States is committed to making war on the rest of the planet and uses its military and economic muscle to get its way. Peace is the last thing that the Nobel Peace Prize winning president wants to see.
In light of reality in Ukraine, the recently concluded NATO summit in Wales was a truly surreal event. Even as NATO’s major undertaking crumbled, Barack Obama pretended as though nothing happened at all. The lies and aggressions make American presidents sound like delusional psychiatric patients who don’t know hallucination from reality. Just as George W. Bush made bizarre claims about aluminum tubes being a reason for an invasion of Iraq, Obama tells Estonians that they are about to be attacked by Putin.
Ukraine acknowledged that its country would be broken up among the groups it had been fighting, with special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Rather than rethink its strategy, NATO announced that it was sending troops in a Rapid Response Force to Russia’s border. It seems that NATO’s motto is “nothing succeeds like failure.”
The horrible truth is that for the United States and its allies, war is peace. They will continue fanning the flames until they crush the rest of the world or ignite a war they don’t really want. The latter is more likely to happen because they actively create conflict and stand in the way of peaceful resolutions. Ukraine has been trying to sign a ceasefire for several months but always succumbed to American pressure to hang on a little longer.
Unfortunately there is more reason to fear than to rejoice at this juncture because of the insanity emanating from Washington. No one knows what our government will do next or where it will attack. We can only be certain of the uncertainty of events and that means the evil doers will not always get their way. Just ask Ukrainian president Poroshenko, the poster child of unintended consequences.
Source: Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, 10 September 2014

A different narrative of Libya under Gadaffi

De Blasio and Bratton at odds over cop expansion plan

Size matters, top cop Bill Bratton says. Except when he says size doesn’t matter.
The commissioner’s latest observation that New York needs to hire at least 1,000 more cops contrasts with his earlier statements that 35,000 were enough. Those who fault him for flip-flopping have a point, but only up to a point.
They forget that timing matters, too, and it’s now Bratton’s time to challenge his boss. Think of it as payback for the Al Sharpton fiasco.
When Mayor de Blasio foolishly invited Sharpton to a City Hall discussion of police tactics and seated himself between Bratton and Sharpton, the rabble-rousing rev used the promotion to humiliate his host and demonize cops. His hectoring reportedly infuriated the mayor, who believed he could count on Sharpton to be a team player. Silly man.
For his part, Bratton hid his fury, but is now getting even. The last thing de Blasio wants is to spend more money on hiring cops, which would be an admission that public safety is in jeopardy.
And the cost of those cops, more than $100 million a year, would be money he couldn’t spend on his leftist splurges, though it would probably buy him some peace with police unions.
The sense that the mayor and his police commissioner are in a tense dance is bolstered by the likelihood that Bratton didn’t give his boss a heads-up that he was going to use Monday’s City Council testimony to switch sides on the hiring issue. Nor can it be lost on City Hall that Bratton said additional cops were necessary because the entire department would be taken off the beat for re-training, a direct result of Sharpton’s agitation after the Eric Garner death on Staten Island.
Such are the strains of a marriage born of mutual convenience. Payback is expensive, but cheaper than divorce.
Bratton and de Blasio got hitched because the mayor’s anti-NYPD campaign last year raised fears he would be soft on crime and the city would revert to the mayhem of the David Dinkins era.
To counter those fears, de Blasio made a show of soliciting advice from Bratton, a cop’s cop and a successful commissioner in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
For his part, Bratton wanted the Gotham job again badly enough to criticize Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly, despite record-low crime rates. His hiring, then, gave both him and de Blasio something they wanted.
But the tension keeps surfacing. During an earlier dust-up, two friends of Bratton separately told me they believed he would be gone in a year because he and de Blasio have such fundamentally different ideas about policing and because of de Blasio’s political debts to Sharpton.
They might still be proven right, but I wouldn’t underestimate Bratton’s improved skills at political in-fighting. He dared Rudy Giuliani to fire him, and Rudy took him up on the challenge.
It was a misreading of his standing that Bratton is not likely to repeat. He’ll soon turn 67 and another firing or resignation in New York would be an unfortunate way to end his career.
Indeed, in a casual conversation just before de Blasio hired him, Bratton joked to me that “I should have worked for Bloomberg” because Bloomy gave Kelly free rein at the NYPD.
No commissioner worth the job would want it any other way, so my bet is that Bratton is both more patient and more confident in his ability to bend de Blasio his way. After all, pushing for more cops against the mayor’s wish is a pretty bold move for somebody who serves at the mayor’s pleasure.
Still, crime is the one thing that binds them. If it goes up appreciably, neither will survive in his job.
If they can keep crime down, and so far, they mostly have, they could stay together for four years, even though love has nothing to do with it.

Let victis inspire response to Isis

With President Obama set to outline a plan for more attacks against the Islamic State, two dead Americans deserve to be a big part of tonight’s speech. In fact, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff might be alive if they had been of almost any other nationality.
Remember, their executioners stressed that they were being beheaded as retaliation for limited bombing runs the United States carried out against the terror group.
Foley was subject to torture and mock executions before he was slaughtered, former hostages told intelligence officials. They said American prisoners were always treated more harshly than Europeans.
Sotloff’s murder confirms the point, and comes with an added twist. He was Jewish and had dual US-Israeli citizenship — facts not made public until his death because of fears he would be killed by his Muslim captors.
A friend of his wrote in The Times of Israel that after Sotloff’s kidnapping, “friends and associates raced to systematically remove any reference online to his Israeli and Jewish roots. The US and Israeli media agreed to cooperate in concealing this information, in order not to further jeopardize his life.”
The assumption — that being American would make him safer — proved to be more than false. He and Foley were singled out for death because of it.
As such, the gruesome murders served as a declaration of war against America. The failure of Obama to understand that — and to go golfing instead of responding — is helping to push his poll numbers to the basement.
A Washington Post-ABC poll finds that a majority of the country, 52 percent, now calls his presidency a failure. The poll finds that 59 percent view the Islamic State as a very serious threat, and 71 percent favor airstrikes.
We’ll know Wednesday night whether Obama is as wise as the people he supposedly leads.

Standing tall on this 9/11

With Thursday marking the 13th anniversary of the terror attack that changed history, the memorial service will serve as a fresh reminder of that awful day —and show how far New York has come in rebuilding the site.
The memorial and museum are finished, and the Freedom Tower is almost complete. Delays, disputes and overruns are legendary, and much of the surrounding area remains under construction.
But kower Manhattan continues to grow with housing, shops, offices, families and parks. All of that is a vital part of the comeback of a city the terrorists tried to destroy, but couldn’t because New Yorkers wouldn’t let them.

Trump record is Taj and go

You know times are tough when even the legal bookies are going bust. Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, and its Taj Mahal could be the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year.
In court filings, the company says it has liabilities of up to $500 million and assets of no more than $50,000.
Wow. Anybody who could dig a casino into a hole that deep definitely belongs in a government job.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The ISIS Speech: Obama and the Dogs of War

Can he control them once they are unleashed?

| Wed Sep. 10, 2014 10:23 PM EDT

Here is President Barack Obama's challenge: how to unleash the dogs of war without having them run wild.
This dilemma applies to both the political and policy considerations Obama faces, as he expands US military action in Iraq (and possibly Syria) to counter ISIS, the militant and murderous outfit that now calls itself the Islamic State and controls territory in northern Iraq and eastern Syria. In a speech from the White House on Wednesday night, Obama announced what was expected: The United States would widen its air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, "take action" of some sort against ISIS in Syria, ramp up military assistance for the Syrian opposition, keep sending advisers to assist the Iraqi military's on-the-ground-campaign against ISIS, and maintain pressure on Iraqi politicians to produce a national government that can represent and work with Sunnis and, consequently, undercut ISIS's support and appeal in Sunni-dominated areas of the country—all while assembling a coalition of Western nations and regional allies. (He gave no details about the membership of this under-construction alliance.) The goal: to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS. There were no surprises in the speech, and this strategy of expanded-but-limited military intervention—Obama referred to it as a "counterterrorism campaign" different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has a fair amount of support from the politerati and the policy wonks within Washington and beyond, as well as from the public, per recent polling. But whatever he calls it, the president is attempting a difficult feat: waging a nuanced war.
First, the politics. Despite years of public war-weariness following the Iraq War—a war that was sold on false pretenses and that yielded the current mess—Americans these days are telling pollsters that they support US military action against ISIS. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found that 94 percent had heard about ISIS beheading two American journalists. That's a whopping figure; far above any other event measured in NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls in the past five years. (The 2011 debt ceiling crisis rated only 77 percent.) And in this particular poll, 47 percent of the respondents noted that they fear that the United States is less safe now than prior to the 9/11 attacks. (A year after the attacks, only one-fifth said this.) Put it all together, and a good assumption is that many Americans are wigged out by ISIS and the chaos in Iraq. This may be, as some war skeptics have noted, due to extensive media coverage of ISIS and its bloody deeds. Yet whether the public fear is justified—in recent days, some foreign policy experts have noted that ISIS does not pose a direct and immediate threat to the United States—Obama, at this point, has plenty of political leeway for beefed-up military operations aimed at ISIS.
Though some progressive Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans have already decried Obama's stepped-up campaign in Iraq, he has not faced the sort of political opposition he encountered last year when he was considering bombing the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons (before Syria agreed to hand over its chemical weapons). There might be a tussle over whether Obama needs congressional authorization for the expanded military action against ISIS. In his speech, he said he already has the authority to proceed; some legislators say he does not, some say he does, and many lawmakers simply don't want to be put on the hook with a vote. But there's not yet a sign this will turn into a true political brawl. Still, Obama has to be careful. As he encourages and preserves support for this war, he cannot overstate the the threat ISIS poses—or allow others to hype that threat—for that could place him in a difficult position: advocating a limited strategy to deal with a situation the public views as a grave danger.
Obama has to present the ISIS problem in accurate terms. It's now a threat to the region and US interests there, not an existential threat to the so-called homeland. Yet neocons and other hawks—John McCain, Dick Cheney, etc.—have gone full war, declaring that ISIS presents a profound danger to the United States and that Washington must go all-out (unilaterally, if necessary) to destroy this enemy. They've been calling for greater US involvement in the Syrian civil war. If Obama doesn't manage the debate about the dangers ISIS poses, he will empower the hawks and weaken his political standing. And in the post-9/11 world, it's tough to talk about threats and proportionate responses, without providing ammo for those who want to turn up the volume to 11.
In the speech, Obama did associate ISIS with the "terrorist threat" that yielded 9/11. But he stated that the current danger ISIS presents is directed at "the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East." He added, "If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region—including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies." He also raised the specter of Europeans and Americans joining ISIS forces and returning to their home countries to carry out "deadly attack"—a scenario some terrorism experts believe has been exaggerated. So Obama walked a fine line: He gave the impression that thwarting ISIS is important for preventing another 9/11, yet he noted that was no reason to fear an ISIS attack against the United States at this time. With this approach, the president is not curtailing excessive interpretations of the ISIS threat.
In 2003, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sold a war on a simple premise: Saddam Hussein was a threat to the survival of the United States, and the only option was a full-scale invasion. Obama is presenting the public a military action that is not based on a black-and-white view (ISIS is evil, we will destroy it any way we can) but one predicated on grays. If US air strikes can make a difference, if other nations join in, if the Iraqi government gets it acts together, if the Iraqi military can do its job, then the United States will use its military might in a limited way to vanquish ISIS. A conditional case for war does not easily sync up with the stark nature of such an enterprise. If any of these ifs don't come to be, will Obama be cornered and forced by his rhetoric to do something? After depicting ISIS as a peril warranting a US military response—and with much of the American public convinced of that—can he then shrug his shoulders and say, "Never mind"? Will he provide the hawks an opening for political attacks and demands for greater military intervention? In his speech, the man who ran for president with the pledge to end the Iraq War declared, "We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq." But what if all else fails? He vowed to eradicate the ISIS "cancer," noting it will take time to do so. Can he stop if his nonwar counterterrorism campaign does not defeat the disease? It is hard to put the case for war back in the box.
The policy side of Obama's ISIS dilemma is similar. Once ISIS is deemed a threat that must be countered with US military force, the commander-in-chief could find it difficult to adhere to self-imposed restraints. If air strikes pounding suspected ISIS targets in Iraq don't do the trick, is Obama obligated to bomb in Syria? If bombing in Syria doesn't turn the tide, does the United States have to become more involved in the civil war there? If US trainers don't sufficiently help Iraqi troops battling ISIS, does the president resist calls for introducing US special forces into the fight? If an Iraqi unity government cannot function, does the United States and other coalition members wage the fight against ISIS on their own? If the current crisis yields a wider Sunni-Shiite conflict, what the hell does the United States do?
Obama's intentions are clear: He doesn't want to return to full-scale US military involvement in Iraq. But now that he has committed the United States to renewed military action there, where's the line? When US military intervention in Libya was debated in the White House, Obama, after careful deliberation, chose a calibrated course of action that included limited US military involvement as part of a multilateral campaign. That plan achieved its end: Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi was ousted. (The dust there, however, is far from settling.) Obama's approach to ISIS is similar, but this problem is more vexing and the risks greater. His speech gave little indication of how he might confront the possible problems and hard choices that will likely come.
There's an old cliché: No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. The same might be true for a case for war. Once a war is started, the narrative of that war, like the events themselves, can be hard to control.

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief
David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook. RSS |

Jon Stewart Explains How ISIS v. Al Qaeda Is Like Coke v. Pepsi

jon3 video It’s hard to find comedy in terrorist, but Jon Stewart gave it a try Tuesday night, taking on some kind of rivalry between ISIS and al-Qaeda like the fight between Coke and Pepsi to reach that key young demographic.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Burger King’s revolting corporate dream: How they became “citizens of nowhere”

As the federal government struggles financially and cuts food stamps, here's how great U.S. companies steal from us

Burger King's revolting corporate dream: How they became "citizens of nowhere" 
 (Credit: AP/Jason Decrow)

As Democrats and Republicans continue to heap abuse on one another in Washington, the U.S. corporate tax base continues to show signs of erosion. Under what is shorthanded as an “inversion,” U.S. companies bed down with a foreign partner or takeover target, and live happily ever after, domiciled in a tax friendlier jurisdiction like  Britain, Ireland or even Canada.
In the latest headline-grabbing inversion deal Miami-based Burger King will absorb Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain, to create what will be the world’s third-largest fast food global corporation, with more then 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries with  $23 billion in annual sales revenue.
Back in 2010 Burger King  was bought by 3G Capital, a global investment firm, led by 75-year-old Brazilian-Swiss billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann. Lemann, a Harvard graduate, former journalist and tennis star is ranked by Bloomberg as the 28th wealthiest man in the world, worth about $25.2 billion.
Back in 2008 Lemann and his team put together a $52 billion deal to buy out  Anheuser- Busch, the iconic American beer brand.
Just four years earlier they had parlayed their ownership  of Brazilian beer brands Brahma and Antarctica, which dominated South America,  into becoming a global player with their  takeover of Belgium-based Interbrew, makers of premium brands like Stella and Becks. From there it was just a hop, skip and a multibillion-dollar jump to global beer domination.
Today the world’s largest beer conglomerate is publicly traded as AbInBev. It has 200 beer brands with 150,000 employees based in 24 countries bringing in $40 billion in annual revenue. On its recruiting website a company video says its “dream is to be the best beer company in a better world. Better world is the way AbInBev gives substance to corporate social responsibility. Making a positive contribution to the world around us is crucial if we want our business to be sustainable and profitable in the long run.”
Lemann’s Anheuser Busch conquest was not without controversy and some patriotic hand-wringing over the globalizing of a brand like Budweiser that more than just about any other had wrapped itself up in America’s  sovereign “red, white and blue.” But at $70 a share price offer, there was enough green for stockholders and the Busch family to resign themselves to this new world beer order. The consensus of the business press was that the Anheuser Busch leadership had become complacent and vulnerable to a takeover by Lemann’s A team of cost cutters, who once in control, zeroed out free beer and fancy corporate travel.

3 Ways the Baltimore Ravens Completely Screwed Up the Ray Rice Mess

Mon Sep. 8, 2014 4:17 PM EDT

This afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens released running back Ray Rice in response to a video released by TMZ showing Rice knocking his then-fiancĂ©e (and current wife) Janay Palmer unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator in February. Rice has been the subject of intense scrutiny since the NFL suspended him for two games—earlier today, it suspended him indefinitely—but some had given the star running back the benefit of the doubt after he claimed he was simply defending himself. (Indeed, both Rice and Palmer were charged with assault following the incident.)
This new footage, though, clearly shows that wasn't the case, and as outrage mounted today, the Ravens had little choice but to take decisive action against Rice. But we should hardly be praising the team. If anything, the Ravens have been defending Rice and victim-blaming from the very beginning. For example:
1. In May, the Ravens decided it'd be a good idea to sit Rice and Palmer in front of the media and have them publicly address the Atlantic City incident. The result was a complete PR disaster. Rice began by apologizing not to Palmer, but to senior Ravens management and coach John Harbaugh. Rice also chose his words poorly, defining failure as "not getting knocked down, but not getting back up."
2. Even more tone-deaf than the press conference itself was how the Ravens presented it. The team had a staffer live-tweeting the spectacle, and the team's official account sent out this unbelievable tweet, straight out of Victim-Blaming 101:
The tweet was deleted today.
3. After Rice's two-game suspension was handed down in late July, people were outraged that occasional pot smokers got harsher punishments from the NFL. The Ravens PR machine thought it was the perfect time to start rehabilitating Rice's image, releasing a glowing dispatch from his first major public appearance after the punishment. The article, posted on the team's website, says Rice got a "standing ovation" from fans who "showed him a lot of love," even though he had been under "national scrutiny." After noting that he showed his "usual fun-loving side," the piece observed with remarkable subtlety that "Rice jerseys sprinkled the crowd, worn by both males and females."
The NFL has earned much-deserved flak for toughening its domestic-violence penalties only when the national criticism ramped up. Today's move by the Ravens should be seen in a similar light: Cutting Rice was the right decision, but it's clear the organization has never taken his offenses all that seriously. It took an even-worse leaked video to make the Ravens finally act.

Cheney Says Iraq Would Be Stable if He Were Still President

Dick Cheney. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)
Dick Cheney. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)
By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
10 September 14

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

arshly criticizing the current occupant of the White House, Dick Cheney told reporters on Wednesday, “Iraq would be stable today if I were still President.”
“ISIS is a problem that President Obama has made possible,” Cheney said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “I never would have let that happen when I was Commander-in-Chief.”
(An earlier version of a summary with this article misstated the former title of Dick Cheney. He was vice president, not president.
This is funny because many people believe that Cheney wielded an unprecedented level of influence over former President George W. Bush.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New York State Primary
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee, his girlfriend, after voting in the New York primary at the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco in Westchester County.
Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sandra Lee, his girlfriend, after voting in the New York primary at the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco in Westchester County.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, captured the Democratic primary over two law school professors, Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu.

Ms. Teachout, who has studied corruption, also assailed Mr. Cuomo over his office’s meddling into the work of the Moreland Commission, an anticorruption panel that Mr. Cuomo created last year but then abruptly shut down, a matter that is now being investigated by federal prosecutors.

Democrats Reject Indicted State Senator in Queens but Renominate One in Brooklyn

Democrats expelled one indicted lawmaker, held fast to another and reaffirmed their support for an embattled Bronx power broker.

In November 2012, the Democrats seized a numeric advantage in the Senate but were later foiled when the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democrats, formed “a bipartisan power-sharing agreement” with Republicans.