Tuesday August 20th, 2019

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf
World & Nation
China could crush U.S. military in Pacific: Report
Budget shortfalls, Middle East wars could lead to catastrophe
In this April 12, 2018, file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks after reviewing the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy fleet in the South China Sea. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP, File)

The U.S. no longer enjoys military supremacy in the Pacific, a shocking new report claims, and China is now fully capable of launching a surprise attack that would easily overwhelm American forces.

The new report from the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre argues that decades of war, budget shortfalls, a lack of investment and other factors have led to America losing its edge in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. military decline has come just as China makes huge investments in its own forces and projects its newfound power across the Pacific.

“The combined effect of ongoing wars in the Middle East, budget austerity, underinvestment in advanced military capabilities and the scale of America’s liberal order-building agenda has left the US armed forces ill-prepared for great power competition in the Indo-Pacific,” the study says. “Chinese counter-intervention systems have undermined America’s ability to project power into the Indo-Pacific, raising the risk that China could use limited force to achieve a fait accompli victory before America can respond; and challenging US security guarantees in the process.”

DACA's dark side: Illegal immigrants use Obama reprieve for criminal activities
Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside of the White House in Washington, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) ** FILE **

Yadel Alvarez-Chio is an illegal immigrant, but she was one of the lucky ones — a “Dreamer” who was able to take advantage of the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty, which gave her a reprieve to stay in the U.S., a work permit to hold a job and access to a full legal driver’s license.

She used the opportunity to become an immigrant smuggler, authorities say.

Ms. Alvarez was nabbed by Border Patrol agents this month in Woodsboro, Texas, where she was found driving two illegal immigrant Mexicans in a black Cadillac. She admitted she was earning $4,000 to smuggle the men and said $3,500 of that would go to pay off a debt she had incurred to the smuggling organizers.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, crossed the seven-year mark of operations last week. The anniversary sparked a new round of introspection, with immigrant rights advocates saying the program has proved its worth by helping give opportunity to a generation of young people who have become doctors, soldiers, lawyers and teachers.

Trump Calls for a Big Fed Rate Cut, Again Criticizes Central Bank Chairman
President says Jerome Powell has ‘horrendous lack of vision,’ says big reduction would improve economy

President Trump on Monday called for the Federal Reserve to sharply cut interest rates and again criticized the central bank’s chairman for a “horrendous lack of vision,” while reiterating his belief that the U.S. economy is strong.

The president said in a pair of tweets Monday morning that the Fed should cut its benchmark interest rate by at least a full percentage point and resume its crisis-era program of buying bonds to lower long-term borrowing costs. Such moves would typically be considered only when the economy faces serious peril, which Fed officials don’t believe to be the case.

White House officials have said in recent days that they don’t believe the U.S. is headed toward a slowdown.

Wide implications as Germany teeters toward recession

Germany, Europe’s industrial powerhouse and biggest economy, with companies like Volkswagen, Siemens and BASF, may be entering a recession, according to a gloomy report from the country’s central bank Monday — a development that could have repercussions for the rest of the eurozone and the United States.

A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and Germany saw a 0.1% drop in the April-to-June period. In its monthly report, the Bundesbank said that with falling industrial production and orders, it appears the slump is continuing during the July-to-September quarter.

Politico: Trump Talks Prison Time for Russia Investigators

President Donald Trump has been fueling expectations that some of the federal investigators in the Russia probe will face prison time, according to Politico.

“This was treason,” Trump recently said during a Fox News Interview with Sean Hannity. “This was high crimes.  This was everything as bad a definition as you want to come up with. This should never be allowed to happen in our country again.”

And Trump told Hannity he’s given Attorney General William Barr “total release” to probe the roots of the Russia probe.

Megan Rapinoe rips parents for Trump support, watching Fox: 'Go to therapy'

U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe has a message for her parents over their support for President Trump and Fox News viewing habits: “You guys need to go to therapy.”

The self-professed “walking protest” and an “f– you” to the Trump administration brought her parents into her ongoing political fight with a U.K. Guardian interview published Saturday.

“There’s been some major blow-ups,” she told the newspaper of the ways her activism has affected her home life. “There’s definitely been some dust-ups. I’m very close to my family. It’s not like: ‘Ugh, I’m from a conservative town and I never talk to them anymore.’ I talk to my parents all the time, every day. And I feel like I have seen progress and growth. I would love it if people understood you should never say racist things and be OK with gay people, or whatever it is. But, obviously, it doesn’t happen that quickly.”

The two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion said that her confusion regarding her parents’ politics stems from her upbringing.

3 More Women Sue Epstein's Estate Over Alleged Abuse

The lawsuits, filed in Manhattan federal court, bring the total number of civil cases against Epstein's estate since his apparent suicide in jail on Aug. 10 to at least five.

Two of the women say they met Epstein when they were 17, while a third said she met him when she was 20. All describe similar patterns of being brought to Epstein's home to provide massages and then subjected to repeated, unwanted sex acts.
Lawyers for Epstein could not immediately be reached for comment.

Politico: Trump Talks Prison Time for Russia Investigators

President Donald Trump has been fueling expectations that some of the federal investigators in the Russia probe will face prison time, according to Politico.

“This was treason,” Trump recently said during a Fox News Interview with Sean Hannity. “This was high crimes.  This was everything as bad a definition as you want to come up with. This should never be allowed to happen in our country again.”

And Trump told Hannity he’s given Attorney General William Barr “total release” to probe the roots of the Russia probe.

In de Blasio's New York, resisting arrest has unfortunate consequences -- for the arresting officer

You had to pity New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill as he defended his firing of white Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death five years ago of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who had resisted arrest.

Commissioner O’Neil unburdened himself of his angst while leading a televised press conference Monday morning.

He recounted how, on a Long Island street five years ago, Mr. Pantaleo, a much-decorated New York City cop, used a chokehold during a struggle with Garner. The unarmed, 6-foot, 3-inch, 350-pound, 43-year-old man of African descent was resisting arrest.

Mr. Pantaleo testified that he had never used the chokehold on Garner and if he had, he did it unintentionally in the course of the struggle.

It was said that the chokehold helped bring on an asthma attack that killed Garner. He suffered from asthma, heart disease and obesity.

Math-challenged politicians

Presidential candidates have assistants to crunch numbers, but their policies don't always make sense

Who among those now running for president would have been capable of creating the founding documents of the United States?  Who among them could have shown the level of knowledge, the logic,and wisdom concerning political theory and practice, and human behavior that the three authors (Madison, Hamilton, and Jay) of the Federalist Papers displayed?

From the beginning, it was recognized that America was blessed with a small group of exceptionally talented and literate individuals who collectively became known as the “Founding Fathers.” Most of them had a broad classical education where they studied languages, history, the science of the time and mathematics. Washington, and perhaps Franklin, were the least formally educated of the Founders, but in addition to their literary and political attainments, they both were skilled in applied math as shown by being very successful businessmen — a scientist in Franklin’s case and a surveyor in Washington’s case.

"It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright

Medal of Honor
Army Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.

From the Archives

We Have Met the Enemy…

Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even The New York Times acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998.

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA Treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional  'Patriot Act'.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…


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