Thursday August 2nd, 2018

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf

World & National
 
Lawmakers defuse Trump's shutdown threat by passing partial spending bills ahead of deadline
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican: 'This is actually the way this work is supposed to be done'
                       "It's supposed to be done before the 30th of September. It's supposed to be done in smaller packages where members have a chance to debate the amendments on the floor, and we're doing that," Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said. (Associated Press photograph)

Congress is taking big strides to defuse President Trump’s shutdown threat, working to pass as many spending bills as possible before next month’s deadline so most of the government will remain open no matter what Mr. Trump demands on border security.

On Wednesday, the Senate cleared a $154 billion package that funds the Food and Drug Administration, the IRS and other programs for 2019. Senators now have passed seven of the 12 bills needed to keep the government open. The House has passed six.

Those measures still need to be reconciled in a conference committee, but lawmakers are pushing to have as many as nine bills completed before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, putting those operations on firm footing and outside the reach of a government shutdown.



NYT: Trump Pushing to Sit Down With Mueller to Clear His Name

                           NYT: Trump Pushing to Sit Down with Mueller to Clear His Name

President Donald Trump is eager to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller's team to clear his name, and in recent days has pushed his legal team to come to an agreement for a sit-down interview, according to three sources who spoke with The New York Times.

The report comes a day after Mueller responded to a letter from Trump's attorneys regarding the scope and format of a potential interview. The special counsel still wants to ask the president about obstruction of justice and other topics, but Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said Trump's team wants an interview limited to questions involving alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, arguing no "legal basis" exists for the president to be questioned about obstruction.
 


Black pastor calls Trump more 'pro-black' than Obama


A black pastor who’s a longtime supporter of President Trump is saying that Mr. Trump is more “pro-black” than former President Barack Obama, the nation’s only black president.

Pastor Darrell Scott of Cleveland, co-founder of Mr. Trump’s National Diversity Coalition, is one of several dozen inner-city faith leaders working with the White House on prison reform and other initiatives to help urban America.

“This is probably going to be … the most pro-black president I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Mr. Scott said Wednesday in an Oval Office meeting with the president. “This president actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community. The last president didn’t feel like he had to.”



Judge's order backfires as activists rush to share 3D gun designs


A judge’s attempt to halt the spread of blueprints for 3D-printed guns backfired Wednesday as the plans spread across the internet, posted and shared by people who said they were determined to strike a blow for free speech, to protect gun rights, or just to thumb their nose at the government.

Activists took to Twitter and Facebook to share links where the plans could be found on file-sharing services or sites on the dark web.

One website, CodeIsFreeSpeech.com, posted eight sets of files and reported more than 100,000 hits and nearly 1.5 terabytes of data downloaded by 6 a.m. Wednesday.



Anti-Trump FBI agent Strzok allowed to declassify documents after joining Mueller probe: Watchdog


New internal emails show that anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok demanded to preserve all the powers he held as a deputy assistant director as he agreed to move to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in 2017.

The emails show his superiors agreed and made him a “floating” deputy who could still handle counterintelligence cases and declassify documents as he investigated the Trump campaign for Mr. Mueller.

The emails were obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. President Tom Fitton has emerged as one of Washington’s most aggressively investigators into how the Justice Department and the FBI pursued President Trump.



Federal appeals court rules Trump sanctuary city order unconstitutional


A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump exceeded his authority when he threatened to withhold funds from "sanctuary cities" that do not fully cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities.

In a 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Trump's January 2017 executive order, cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities, was unconstitutional. But the court also ruled that a lower court went too far when it blocked the order nationwide.

"Absent congressional authorization, the administration may not redistribute or withhold properly appropriated funds in order to effectuate its own policy goals," Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for the majority.



Iran just heated up tensions with Trump in a major show of force to practice closing the Strait of Hormuz

                   
Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.

"We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman," Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. "We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways."

The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world's oil supply passes.



Russia: UN peacekeepers back on Golan Heights-Syria frontier


U.N. peacekeepers returned on Thursday to patrol the frontier between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time in years, Russia's Defense Ministry announced — Moscow's latest achievement in efforts to negotiate a solution to the crisis along the volatile border.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff told reporters at a press conference in Moscow that the U.N. peacekeepers, aided by Russian forces, conducted their first patrolling mission in the area earlier in the day.

The development also marked the first time that Russian forces, a major ally of the Damascus government, where involved in the patrols.



Poll: Trump Approval at 50%


The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 50% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Forty-nine percent (49%) disapprove.

The latest figures include 35% who Strongly Approve of the way Trump is performing and 41% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -6. (see trends).



Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Too Far Left for Hollywood?


The newly minted Democratic star makes her first appearance in Los Angeles on Thursday — but she isn't meeting with traditional Hollywood power brokers for now.

With rock-star Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez set to make her Los Angeles debut on Thursday, the 28-year-old's two-day trip will be marked as much by the throngs of people she'll meet as by  handful of notables that she won't.

In a break with tradition, Ocasio-Cortez, who labels herself a democratic socialist, has no plans to meet with any of the entertainment industry's Democratic political power brokers while she is in town. She will not be having coffee with Carl Reiner. There will be no sitdown with Jeffrey Katzenberg or David Geffen. No $5,000-a-plate dinner at Robert Iger's mansion in Brentwood.



Trump administration wants to roll back Obama-era mileage standards

The Trump administration has proposed rolling back tougher Obama-era gas mileage requirements that are set to take effect after 2020.

The administration also filed notice Thursday that it wants to revoke the authority of California and other states to set their own, stricter mileage standards — independent of federal ones.

The proposal would freeze an effort by the Obama administration intended to promote auto fuel efficiency and curb tailpipe emissions of climate-changing pollutants.



A look at the Continent's leaders


“Who is the most important European alive today?” I asked in early 2010. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, came my answer, because “he is best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent.” I even raised the prospect of his emerging “as a world-historical figure.”

In other words, I focused not on run-of-the-mill political leaders — the U.K. prime minister, French president, German chancellor, or even the Roman Catholic pope — but on the disruptive politician leading Europe’s revolt against immigration and Islamization. Conventional politicians optimistically assume that the continent will muddle through, that some form of convivencia (Spanish for “coexistence,” a term deriving from medieval Andalusia) will emerge, that multiculturalism somehow will tame the beast of Islamic supremacism.

But as Europe, population 741 million, heads toward cultural crisis, as indigenous birthrates plunge, as Islamist aggression increases, and as the elite made up of the 6Ps (police, politicians, press, priests, professors and prosecutors) myopically insists there is nothing to worry about, this happy talk has little basis in reality.



The American art of renewal


“Make America Great Again” is the oft-caricatured slogan of the Donald Trump presidency. When President Trump was elected, he boasted of jump-starting the economy to achieve an annual economic growth rate of 4 percent.

Experts laughed him off as a naif who did not understand that structural changes in demography and technology made such growth impossible. Many economists predicted that Mr. Trump would crash the stock and job markets.

Yet less than two years into Mr. Trump’s presidency, the economy achieved 4 percent growth in the second quarter of 2018. Unemployment rates are at near-record lows. The stock market and oil and gas production are reaching unprecedented heights.


"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. 

Citation

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…