Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Under The Dome

CBS kicked off their show from the Steves (Stephen King and Steven Spielberg) Under The Dome last night.



It'll be more interesting to see where it goes next.  Natalie Martinez is in it.  I remember her from the awful Fashion House (if you missed that show, click here for Ava and C.I.'s 2006 review).  She's improved (she wasn't awful to begin with) and one of the characters that stood out even though they gave her very little to do.

She's a police deputy named Linda.  She works under Jeff Fahey and I was shocked out how old he was.  But The Lawnmower Man was back in the 80s and it turns out he's 60 now.  So he doesn't really look bad.  But I love The Lawnmower Man and that's how I always expect him to look.

The premise is that one day, after a lot of petrol gas deliveries to the town and after the fire fighters are all leaving to help out in a nearby town,  a dome drops on the city, trapping everyone on one side or another.  Or, as with a cow, splitting it in half, or one woman who was reaching, losing part of her arm.

The dome?

When you first touch it (you can't see it), you get a shock like a static shock.

Afterwards, you can touch it without being shocked.  There's no give to it.  Or no give to the sections we've seen so far.  So a plane hits it (you can't see it, remember) and the plane implodes.  Same with a delivery truck.

Is it a great show?

You really can't tell yet.

It's interesting.

I am curious what happens next.

I'd say it offered just enough Monday to keep people watching.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Anbar voting results are released, calls for Nouri to dismantle SWAT are sounded, Ed Snowden -- whether you think he's guilty or innocent -- should stay out of the US (and out of taxpayer pockets), Barack Obama stumble around the world stage like a drunken barfly, and much more.

While Iraq struggles politically, with violence and everything else, the biggest interest the country seems to generate from the world outside is this June 12th YouTube video of a dog in Iraq burying a dead puppy.  Perhaps that makes some larger sense?  Around the world popular videos of pets have them bouncing or whatever, but in violence scarred Iraq a dog buries a dead puppy.  And gets about half-a-million views when the video gets posted online.

Yes,  the violence continues in Iraq, the death toll for the month mounts.  Iraq Body Count. reports 466 deaths for the month of June through yesterday.

The death toll continued to mount today.  Shannon Young (Free Speech Radio News -- link is audio and text) explains, "Three bombing attacks killed more than 30 people across Iraq Tuesday as the security situation in the country descends into another cycle of sectarian violence. The New York Times reports the deadliest attack killed 16 people and wounded more than 50 as Shiites protested insecurity with a highway blockade in the Salahuddin province."   National Iraqi News Agency notes that protesters at a Tuz Khurmatu sit-in were attacked by 1 suicide bomber with "an explosive belt" who took his own life and left many demonstrators dead or injured.  World Bulletin counts 2 suicide bombers and 71 injured.  This evening, NINA reported the final toll from medical and security sources:  27 dead and 80 injured.  All Iraq News states it was one suicide bomber combined with a mortar attack.  AFP informs, "Among the dead were a former deputy provincial governor and his two sons, as well as a former provincial councillor." Alsumaria identifies the former deputy manager as Ahmed Abdul Wahid and note that the vice president of the Turkmen Front, Ali Hashem Mukhtar Oglu,  is the other official who died.   Yasir Ghazi (New York Times)  explains, "Security forces imposed a curfew in Tuz Khurmatu and ordered people to close their shops." Of the demonstration, Xinhua explains:

The Shiite Turkomans were holding a sit-in on a main road outside Tuz-Khurmato protesting the attacks by al-Qaida militants on their Shiite community in the city, which is part of the disputed areas claimed by the Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans.
The Kurds want to incorporate areas at the edges of their current Kurdistan region into their domain, a move fiercely opposed by the Baghdad government.
The Shiite Turkomans also demand the government to help form a special force to protect their minority from the attacks that they believe to be aimed at displacing them from their homes.

DPA adds, "The demonstrators were protesting recent attacks in the city, which has a majority ethnic Turkmen population."

There was other violence as well.  NINA notes an assassination attempt on Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi: "Police told NINA that an improvised explosive device, emplaced on the side of a street in Dawaseh area, downtown Mosul, went off when the Governor's motorcade was passing, wounding four of his guardsmen; but the Governor was not hurt."  In addition to being the Governor of Nineveh, he is also the brother of the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  This wasn't the first attempt on al-Nujaifi's life by a long shot, it wasn't even the first one this year.  From the April 16th snapshot:

Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi is a prominent critic of Nouri al-Maliki.  al-Nujaifi is Sunni, a member of Iraqiya and the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.
Among the politicians targeted by Nouri in the last three years?  Atheel al-Nujaifi.  It wasn't all that long ago that Nouri was demanding that al-Nujaifi resign.  (al-Nujaifi refused.)

And it wasn't even the first attempted assassination of Atheel al-Nujaifi this month.  Prior to today, there had been at least two reported attempts.   June 1st, he was targeted yet again (also a Mosul bombing).  From the June 13th snapshot, "Mainly, they report a Mosul car bombing attack on Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi.   Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds that the assassination attempt claimed the lives of 2 by-standers."

In addition to that assassination attempt,  National Iraqi News Agency notes a bombing hit a bus of pilgrims outside Hilla as they were heading to Karbala leaving 3 dead and fifteen injured, a Baghdad bombing "near an outdoor playground" [sports field] left 4 people dead and fifteen more injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and a third injured,  and 2 Baquba bombings left 6 people dead and twelve injured.   All Iraq News quotes a security source stating, "Unidentified gunmen attack this morning the Mari Church in Ameen neighborhood of southeast Baghdad and injured three policemen in charge of securing the Church."  And Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) reports,  "In Mosul, in the north, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up inside a popular cafe, killing 10 people and wounding 18." Iraqi Spring MC reports that clashes took place in Ramadi between rebels and Nouri's forces.   That's 52 reported deaths and 150 injured.

At their Facebook page, Iraqi Spring MC noted the attack on the protesters.  They've also noted an increase in the mass arrests in the last 48 hours such as in Abu Ghraib -- which was carried out by SWAT forces and the Army's 17th Division.  On the US-trained and equipped SWAT forces, NINA notes: that Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya has issued a demand for the dissolution of the SWAT forces as a result of their repeated and barbaric attack on the Iraqi civilians:

The statement said, "Such actions by these force which supposed to keep security and lives of the people, brings to mind a number of questions about the legitimacy of the so-called / SWAT / forces also about the legal and constitutional of these forces , as well as about its link with the government or just a militia and mob," stressing that / Swat / are the same forces that recently committed Hawija massacre without any brought to accountability or to justice or just deterred , according to the statement.
The coalition, held the commander in chief of the armed forces, Nouri al-Maliki full responsibility for what the coalition called a disregard for the lives of citizens, asking al-Maliki to dissolve these forces "unknown origin and legitimacy."

The April 23rd massacre referred to above is what happened when Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces stormed a peaceful sit-in in Hawija.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Among the demands of the protesters?  Release the many detained in prisons and jails who've never been charged with a crime.  Aswat al-Iraq reported today:

The Committee formed to tackle the demonstrators' demands announced here today that more than 7000 detainees were released, including 200 women.
The Committee, headed by deputy premier Hussein Shahristani, added that more than 14.000 residences were acquitted, which were covered with the regulations of Questioning and Justice formalities, as reported in a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq today.

Those are Nouri's figures.  They've refused the requests of governors to release lists with names.  So the figures may be accurate or they may be false.  But any country that imprisons people without charges has a government that needs to be replaced.

Let's note another of Nouri's problems, Camp Ashraf residents now in Camp Hurriya.  Saturday, June 15th, the refugees now at Camp Liberty were attacked.  It's past time to get them moved.  Nouri is not protecting them and has no interest in it.  The State Dept issued the following yesterday:

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 24, 2013

On June 19 and June 21, two groups of Camp Hurriya residents, 27 in total, were permanently relocated to Albania. This was the third of a series of movements planned under the terms of a generous humanitarian offer by the Government of Albania to accept 210 individuals from Camp Hurriya. The United States thanks Albania for its compassion in this humanitarian endeavor. So far, 71 individuals have relocated to Albania as part of this agreement, and we look forward to additional individuals relocating as soon as possible.
The United States strongly supports the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), and the tireless efforts of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler to relocate remaining camp residents outside Iraq. We urge the Mujahedin-e Khalq leadership, and all responsible parties, to ensure full cooperation with the UNHCR relocation process so that future movements occur as expeditiously as possible.
The relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq is a humanitarian mission and vital to their safety and security. The United States renews its call on the Government of Iraq to help ensure the security of the camp in accordance with its December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations. This is a matter of extreme urgency given ongoing threats to the camp. We further renew our call on the Government of Iraq to investigate and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the June 15 rocket attack against the camp.

Yes, it does read a lot like last week's UN statement (that we noted June 22nd).  One key difference?

The United Nations pointed out that there were over 3,000 still needing asylum outside of Iraq.  71 isn't zero but it certainly seems like a larger number than it is when you forget or 'forget' to include that over 3,000 residents are still Camp Liberty waiting for countries to agree to host them.

This does matter.  As the United Nations noted over a year ago:

The current Iraqi government has made it clear that it wants Camp Ashraf shut down and the MeK – which once fought alongside Hussein and is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization – to leave Iraq. Baghdad sees its presence, in a place which is off-limits to the government, as an affront to national sovereignty.
When the Government announced late last-year that it would be closing the camp by 31 December, many feared a repeat of the violence of April 2011, when dozens of Ashraf residents were killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces at the camp. An earlier incident in 2009 cost the lives of at least 10 residents.
Diplomatic Marathon
To prevent a similar outcome, the United Nations initiated intensive diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to extend the deadline for the camp’s closure, which he agreed to do. This provided time and space for a marathon exercise in preventive diplomacy led by Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, who has mediated between the Iraqi government and the group.
“As an impartial actor the United Nations could interact with both parties,” Kobler said.
With support from other governments, including the United States, Kobler was able to bridge the gaps between the two actors and find an agreement that both respects Iraq’s sovereignty and provides the people of Camp Ashraf with a safe and voluntary path to a more hopeful life outside of Iraq.

Since then, the US has taken the MEK off the terrorist list (September 28th).  What hasn't changed is that there's no great rush to welcome the refugees, there appears to be very little work being done on the issue at all outside of the UN.   How many more attacks on Camp Hurriya will it take before the world -- especially the United States government  -- pays attention?

The world can look away, most governments have no obligations in this matter.  It's a little different for the US government.

Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.  As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) has observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

But the US has little influence in Iraq these days.  In part because they're either unable or unwilling to use tools they do have.  Right-wing, neocon academic Kimberly Kagan wrote at length about this recently.    Via AINA, here's Kagan's suggestions for how the US government could be using influence:

There are, however, ways that the United States could use its leverage to influence the behavior of the Maliki government, although not to arrest the violence entirely. First and foremost, the United States needs to condition the provision of arms, equipment, and training to the Iraqi Security Forces on Maliki's respect for the representative political system, humanitarian treaties Iraq has signed, and inclusive political solutions. These include dropping his legal charges against the cabinet members and protest leaders, meeting the reasonable demands of the protesters for transparency and de-Baathification measures, and implementing the promised terms of the 2010 Erbil Agreement by which he achieved the premiership. It is also vital that Maliki not tolerate Shia militant groups.
Second, the United States can block the United Nations from lifting Iraq's onerous Chapter VII status, even though Kuwait has at long last agreed to support the change, until Maliki makes those concessions. Those who argue that conditioning aid is difficult must note that our failure to condition our aid has empowered Maliki disproportionately. His deliberate disenfranchisement of the Sunni population is the main accelerant to insurgency in Iraq.

 On the topic of disenfranchisement, Nouri finally allowed Anbar and Nineveh Provinces to vote last week.  Today the Independent High Electoral Commission's Deputy Chair announced:

 The Alliance of Mutahidoun headed the results with eight seats, followed by Abiroun Slate with five seats while the Iraqiya Arabic Slate came third with four seats then Iraqiya United Patriotic Slate headed by Ayad Allawi came next with three seats, in addition to three seats for Anbar Patriotic Alliance, two seats for the Iraqi National Alliance, two seats for Popular Will Project, one seat for Rawafid Al-Iraq, one seat for Amiroun Alliance and one seat for Sanadid al-Iraq Slate.

All Iraq News reports that the Nineveh Province results are supposed to be announced tomorrow.  Very few wrote about the elections at any real length in the US media.  Niqash offered serious coverage but it's out of Germany.   Ahmed Ali (Institute for the Study of War) offered an analysis last week of the two elections and we'll note this from his analysis of Anbar:

There are 30 seats slated for election in Anbar province. There were 17 political groups competing for the seats, and they fielded a total of 548 candidates. Among the 17 coalitions, four are likely to be the most competitive. 
Mutahidun (The United): As in Ninewa, Mutahidun is a major force in Anbar. It includes in its ranks former finance minister Rafia al-Issawi’s Future Gathering and tribal leader Ahmed Abu Risha’s Awakening (Sahwa) Conference in addition to the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). Given that the Nujaifis are not from Anbar, these political forces are necessary to garner more votes. In Anbar, tribal dynamics and locale trump politics and ideology, which, by contrast, are more prominent in Ninewa. Combined, these groups won 14 seats in the 2009 elections.
Aabirun: Aabirun is another coalition that is poised to win seats. It is led by incumbent governor Mohammed Qassim al-Fahdawi and includes nine groups. The coalition’s strength derives from Fahdawi’s tenure as governor, although Aabirun is perceived to be close to Maliki. This may cost the coalition votes during this round of elections.   
Arab Iraqiyya: Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is competing under the Arab Iraqiyya coalition which includes six groups. As in Ninewa, al-Karbuli’s Hal movement is part of the coalition. Both groups have nine seats in the incumbent council. Despite incumbency, Arab Iraqiyya may lose votes in this election on account of Mutlaq’s decreased popularity in Anbar.    
United National Iraqi Alliance: Another player is the Unified National Iraqi Alliance which is led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and includes 19 groups. It had won two seats in the 2009 elections.[i] The elections will indicate Allawi’s political longevity among Iraqi Sunnis.
The Conduct and Significance of the Elections 
The voter turnout for elections in Ninewa was 37.5%, which was a significant decline from the 60% recorded in the 2009 provincial elections. Anbar, meanwhile, registered a turnout of 50%, which is a 9% increase from the 2009 provincial elections. The decline in turnout Ninewa may be attributed to voter fatigue, as this is the sixth electoral process in Iraq since 2005. Voter enthusiasm tends to decline with every elections cycle. Furthermore, local elections witness lower turnouts compared to national elections. Security procedures may have also hampered voters from heading to polling stations. Regardless of the reason, Ninewa’s voter turnout presented a strong indicator of Iraqi Sunnis refraining from politics.  
This is a worrisome indicator. AQI resurgence, JRTN mobilization, and sectarian policies by Maliki have the potential to transform political discontent into armed opposition. This combination will allow JRTN in particular to find more sympathy from the population and therefore to recruit effectively. In addition, AQI has encouraged Iraqi Sunnis to boycott elections as a means to achieve their objectives. On the eve of the elections, AQI issued a statement that called on the people of Ninewa and Anbar not to participate in the elections. To that end, AQI is also likely behind recent attacks on local candidates including the June 18 attack on the leader of a pro-Maliki coalition. Notably, AQI does not seem to have been successful in carrying out large scale attacks to disrupt the elections. It is possible that increased security measures including vehicular travel bans in both provinces were effective in preventing most violence. A post-election suicide bomb attack on a vote counting center in Ramadi, however, demonstrated the speed with which security can deteriorate, as the attack reportedly targeted a highly fortified area. 
Violence in this charged environment will likely continue. The rhetoric leading up to the elections was more sectarian than that which preceded the April 20 elections. This is partly a reflection of electoral strategy to mobilize voters and also in part due to rising sectarianism in Iraq. Nonetheless, the election results will be crucial for the Iraqi Sunnis. From 2003 until 2009, Anbar was the political capital of the Iraqi Sunnis. That changed after the 2009 elections when the Nujaifi brothers emerged as a formidable power. Therefore, the results achieved by the Nujaifi brothers will be an important gauge of their influence before the 2014 national elections.

Turning to Barack Obama's War on the First Amendment.    Last month, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were, first, that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. Then came the revelation  that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment.  The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right."  And that was only the beginning.

This month found the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald breaking the news about Barack's orders to monitor the phone calls of every American -- the details of the call -- who called who, length of time, etc.  These used to be called "toll slips" in the pre-digital age and the government was required to get a warrant each time it wanted the "toll slips" for one phone line.  Now it's blanket spying on everyone. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) noted Senator Bernie Sanders calling out the program:

"The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans," Sanders said. "That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people."

And, as with AP in May, it was only the first shoe to drop.   AP probably summed up the second shoe better than any other outlet reporting, "Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours the nation's main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person's movements and contacts. It was not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans."

The PRISM targeting and the spying on every American phone call were both exposed by whistle-blower Ed Snowden.   Sunday whistle-blower Ed Snowden apparently left Hong Kong and apparently traveled to Russia.  This led to US officials launching a war of words that was so over-the-top other nations may be questioning the sanity of the US government.

Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports this evening, "After a three-day weekend of increasingly bellicose statements the White House has adopted what may be fairly called a “dual track” strategy toward trying to capture Edward Snowden, with most of the administration keeping up the old policy and Secretary of State John Kerry, apparently the only one who could feign civility, trying to ask nicely."

This change of tone on Kerry's part was also reflected this afternoon in the press briefing at the State Dept delivered by spokesperson Patrick Ventrell -- reflected and even asked about. 

 QUESTION: First off, can you just start out by updating us on the Administration’s attempts to force Snowden’s return, especially now that President Putin has said – confirmed that he’s at the Moscow Airport? And I’ll have a follow-up.

MR. VENTRELL: Thanks, Lara, for the question. We have seen the comments by Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin, and we understand the complicated issues raised by Mr. Snowden’s decision to travel to Russia. We do agree with President Putin that we do not want the issue to negatively affect the bilateral relationship. And so while we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia and do not expect that Mr. Snowden would be formally extradited, we do believe there is a basis for law enforcement cooperation to expel Mr. Snowden based on the charges against him and the status of his travel documents.
So we’ve asked the Russian Government to consider all potential options to expel him, to return him to the United States, and we’re going to continue those discussions in law enforcement and diplomatic channels in the hopes of building on the strong law enforcement cooperation that we’ve had for quite some time.
So I think you also heard that the Secretary spoke earlier today about – that we – calling for calm, that we don’t want to raise the level of confrontation, that we want to do this in routine law enforcement channels and have regular cooperation. So I don’t want to get into it further than that, other than to say that we do think that he should be expelled and deported and returned to the United States.

QUESTION: In the high-level talks that you spoke about yesterday, what has been the Russian Government’s reaction to the U.S. request? As you saw, President Putin indicated that Snowden would not be turned over, that he had no authority to do so.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, you’d have to ask the Russian Government for their perspective. I’m not going to read out their side of a diplomatic conversation. But we’ve been making our case clearly and we’ll continue to do so, that we’d like to see him expelled, and we do think there’s a legal basis to do so, and that we’ve cooperated on a number of these cases previously. You’ve heard the Secretary talk about a number of high-level criminals that were returned to Russia. Indeed, there’s – while he spoke of a handful of high-level ones, there’s been many hundreds of criminals over recent years that we’ve returned to Russia. So there’s a basis for this cooperation. Particularly since the Boston bombings, there’s been some excellent law enforcement cooperation. We’d like to see that continue.

QUESTION: Okay. And yesterday you said that the Administration was not buying the Chinese Government’s reasoning for not allowing Snowden to be extradited from Hong Kong. Is that the same kind of tact that you’re taking or the Administration is taking in regards to the Russian reasoning of not turning him over?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I’m not sure I would compare them directly. I mean, we were talking about in the situation of Hong Kong, where we had and have a longstanding bilateral extradition treaty, and we’d appropriately done the paperwork to file the procedures there, and that wasn’t followed on the other side. Here’s a slightly different situation, but the point we’re making to the Russian authorities is exactly what I just told you all, that while we don’t have that formal extradition treaty, we do hope there are grounds for law enforcement cooperation and a way to return him to the United States based on his travel documents or other – based on the charges as well against him. These are serious criminal charges, as I said yesterday.

QUESTION: Patrick, can I follow up on that? It seems as if --

MR. VENTRELL: Let’s go one at a time. Can you tell me your name and --

QUESTION: Bill Jones from Executive Intelligence Review.


QUESTION: With regard to president – to Secretary Kerry’s comments today, it seems like he was walking back his initial comments because this was made into almost something of a diplomatic incident by the comments that were made with regard to China when he was in Hong Kong, and then with regard to Russia afterwards. And it seems to me like it’s been something of a tempest in a teapot, but it was being ratcheted up into a major conflict between superpowers, nuclear powers, and now I think it’s an attempt to walk it back. Was there a mistake in trying to make this into something bigger than it actually is?

MR. VENTRELL: No. Look, I disagree with your characterization. Now, in the instance of China and Hong Kong, we very clearly disagree with their decision. We made that clear. But in terms of Russia, our points have been consistent all along. And so we’re clear that we have broad bilateral cooperation with Russia in number of areas we agree with. Law enforcement cooperation is one of those, and we’d like to see that continue.

It's always a smart move to lower the rhetoric -- especially when it's reaching the point where the US has little more to add other than, "Yeah, do it or will bomb you!"  And that's sadly where this conversation appeared to be headed.  You really have to wonder about the maturity of those in the White House -- including but not limited to Barack -- because this is an embarrassment.  It degrades the United States.  I'm not talking about pursuing Ed Snowden.  I think that's a waste of time and we can talk about that.  But I'm talking about allowing yourself to be so weak and so petty on the global stage for such a trivial matter.

Was this supposed to be the Cuban missile stand off?  What the heck were people thinking?  It was insanity.  You're talking about one person and you're insisting (if you want him captured) that he did a crime.  Well, even so, it's one person and it would fall under non-violent crime.  So this nonsense of stand-offs with China and Russia was embarrassing.  There was never any way to force them to do anything and when you bully like Barack's tried and you can't pull it off, you weaken the entire country.  Barack Obama's behavior (and that of those serving under him) over the last few days has not just been embarrassing, it's also been dangerous and put the United States standing around the world in jeopardy.

Bully Boy Bush could have gotten away with this.  When you talk about various polarities in the world system, you have uni-polar (which many argue we're in now -- wherein one country is the strongest and dictates terms), you have bi-polar (which was the Cold War with the US and the USSR the two strongest), but how do you become strong in any system?  One way is to have the crazy leader.  Bush was nuts.  The world thought he was stupid and crazy -- and that only increased with every year.  So Bully Boy Bush probably could have pulled off the threats because people thought he was beyond insane.

Barack can't pull them off.  And when you bully and bluster and don't get your way -- school yard rules -- everyone else on the playground now knows you're not as tough as you pretend.

With that in mind, note this from another report by Jason Ditz:

 Russian officials are mocking the situation, with President Vladimir Putin dismissing the “ravings” of administration officials and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointing out that there was no legal basis to expect Russia to do things according to US law, especially since they don’t have an extradition treaty.
China is less focused on the extradition battle as such and more interested in praising Snowden for uncovering the sordid activities the US has been involved in, with the nation’s largest state-run newspaper cheering Snowden for “tearing off Washington’s sanctimonious mask.”

So it was never smart.  Now let's deal with Ed Snowden real quick.

Many believe as I do, that Ed did a great thing and deserves praise.  Many don't agree.

If you think Ed Snowden's actions damaged the US, my question for you is, "Why do you want to bring him back?"

What can he do now?  What damage is he capable of?  None.

And how much money and time are being wasted pursuing him?

And if you think he's so awful and so unamerican, then wouldn't you want him out of the US?

As opposed to bringing him back, putting him on trial, getting a conviction and spending the rest of his natural life paying for his lodging, meals and medical treatment?

How does that make any sense?  I think he did a great thing but if you don't and you think he's horrible then why do you want to bring him back to the US?  Leave him outside the US, let him pay his own bills, his own medical and food.

And let the US Congress, the White House and others get back to doing the jobs they're supposed to.  And if they need a hint:  Start working on the economy.  (We covered different aspects of this in this morning's "The White House and administration grind to a halt.")

And start working on oversight because none has been provided.  If you doubt it,  Patrick C. Toomey (ACLU) explains:

Less than a year ago, the government convinced the Supreme Court to dismiss the ACLU's constitutional challenge to the FISA Amendments Act (FAA)—the controversial warrantless wiretapping statute that is the legal basis for the PRISM program—because our clients couldn't prove that they had been monitored under it. The government repeatedly assured the court that such a restrictive view of who could challenge the law would not forever prevent court review, because criminal defendants who were prosecuted based on evidence obtained under the FAA would be informed of such and would then be able to challenge the statute. Based in part on this assurance, the Supreme Court in February of this year dismissed the case, Clapper v. Amnesty, in a 5–4 vote.
But now that the case is closed, we are learning that the government's assurances that it would notify criminal defendants of its reliance on surveillance under the FAA were not what they seemed. Here's one example of the government unequivocally assuring the Supreme Court, in its brief, that criminal defendants would receive notice of FAA surveillance and an opportunity to challenge the statute:

If the government intends to use or disclose any information obtained or derived from its acquisition of a person's communications under [the FAA] in judicial or administrative proceedings against that person, it must provide advance notice of its intent to the tribunal and the person, whether or not the person was targeted for surveillance under [the FAA].

In response to questions from the justices at oral argument, the government reiterated this position. Never mind that the government had not notified one criminal defendant about this type of evidence in the five years since the warrantless wiretapping program was written into law.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court accepted the government's position—but, using language almost identical to that in the brief, it highlighted the government's duty to "provide advance notice of its intent" to "use or disclose information obtained or derived" from FAA surveillance. The court plainly took the government's representations at face value, and it concluded that a criminal proceeding would offer an alternative avenue for testing the legality of the FAA's warrantless wiretapping program.
What we have learned since the Clapper decision, however, has revealed a yawning chasm between the government's words and actions. Faced with recent revelations about the FAA surveillance program, intelligence officials have raced to defend the controversial law. And, in doing so, they have touted at least four cases where warrantless FAA surveillance was purportedly critical to preempting terrorist plots. Yet not one of the defendants in these prosecutions was told that the government's evidence was obtained from FAA surveillance, and thus they had no opportunity to challenge the statute. This fact runs directly contrary to the arguments that lawyers for the government paraded before the Supreme Court just last fall.




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