Tuesday March 21st, 2017

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

Updated hrs PT           
              


World & National 
"The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people."
-- Justice Hugo L. Black
(1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice
Gorsuch promises independence from Trump, Congress
            Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Judge Neil Gorsuch said Tuesday he’s perfectly ready to rule against President Trump, the man who nominated him to the Supreme Court, should the law require it, taking a firm stand for judicial independence as he sought to win confirmation to the high court.

The judge also said he has made no promises to Mr. Trump nor anyone else in the process about how he would rule in cases he may hear.

“I have no difficulty ruling against or for any party,” Judge Gorsuch said.

The judge said there is no such thing as a Republican judge or Democrat judge.



Ryan calls Obamacare vote 'rendezvous with destiny' for conservatives

           House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, as President Donald Trump came to the Capitol to rally support for the Republican health care overhaul by taking his case directly to GOP lawmakers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Tuesday that Republicans have finally struck the sweet spot of getting a conservative Obamacare repeal bill that can actually get through the Senate, and predicted passage.

Just minutes after President Trump made a personal appeal to House Republicans, Mr. Ryan said he “knocked the ball out of the park” in his plea to wavering lawmakers.

“This is our chance and this is our moment,” Mr. Ryan said, calling the chance at repeal “a rendezvous with destiny” for Republicans.

Some moderates have been reluctant to back the GOP repeal-and-replace legislation, fearing it won’t work, while conservatives say the bill is ideologically damaged because it replaces the Obamacare entitlement with a new tax-credit entitlement.



President Trump says no tax cuts unless Obamacare replaced

            President Donald Trump points as he speaks during a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center, Monday, March 20, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

President Trump exerted some friendly pressure on Sen. Rand Paul Monday night in his home state, telling a crowd in Kentucky that Americans won’t get tax cuts unless Mr. Paul and other reluctant Republican lawmakers support the administration-backed health care law to replace Obamacare.

“I happen to like, a lot, Sen. Rand Paul,” Mr. Trump told a packed arena in Louisville. “He’s a good guy. I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so we can pass massive tax reform, which we can’t do until this [Obamacare repeal] happens.”



Trump Warns GOP Lawmakers on Healthcare
 
President Donald Trump warned House Republicans that their seats in Congress could be at risk if they fail to pass the GOP health bill.

Trump addressed Republican lawmakers in a closed-door meeting at the Capitol Tuesday.

Afterward, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina relayed Trump's message to reporters, "It's an important vote. If you don't pass the bill there could be political costs."



Fox benches Napolitano amid wiretap fizzle


The fallout from President Donald Trump’s wiretapping claims against Barack Obama have turned from the White House toward Fox News, and now, according to several reports, Andrew Napolitano, the outlet’s frequent “Judge Napolitano” legal commentator, has been benched.

Eh. He’ll be back. And back soon — rightly so. So note to left: Don’t crack the champagne bottle just yet.

Napolitano’s made several on-air statements advancing the White House narrative that supporters of Obama, through foreign intelligence, listened in on Trump conversations at Trump Tower.

In mid-March, on “Fox and Friends,” for example, Napolitano said he spoke with three sources in the field of intelligence who said Obama “went outside the chain of command” to conduct secret surveillance on Trump.

NOTE: There is codified examples of  U.S./UK efforts to circumvent law to accomodate intelligence gathering.
I wrote about it several times starting in 1998. 
Here is an example: Mainstream Echelon Epiphany


Comey Could Have Been More Transparent?


FBI Director James Comey could have been more transparent with his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday, Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday morning, while insisting there is more Comey could have said without violating national security or revealing details about an agency investigation.

"There's so many accusations out there that the more that can be said, the better," the Iowa Republican, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN's "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo. "It will bring some more confidence, and so [I'm] basically calling for more transparency."

Grassley said that there also should be more talk about people who "committed the crime" of leaking national security information to the public, and that discussion should be getting equal time.



U.S., UK curb electronics on planes from Middle East, North African airports

The United States and Britain on Tuesday imposed restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from certain airports in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified security threats.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said passengers traveling from those airports could not bring devices such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras into the main cabin that are larger than a mobile phone. Instead, such items must be in checked baggage.

Britain took similar steps, with a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May saying that there would be curbs on electronic items in the main cabin on flights from six countries in the Middle East.



North Kores Is Not Afraid of U.S. Threat Over Nucelar Build-Up?

North Korea is not frightened by U.S. warnings that pre-emptive military action is on the table, its foreign ministry said Tuesday, describing its expanding nuclear program as a "treasured sword of justice."

A spokesman for the rogue regime dismissed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comment Friday that an elevated weapons threat "would be met with an appropriate response."
 
The regime "has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the U.S. would like to ignite," it added. "The U.S. should face up to the situation … with its eyes wide open."



Trump Shifting Authority Over Military Operations Back to Pentagon

President Trump is shifting more authority over military operations to the Pentagon, according to White House officials, reversing what his aides and some generals say was a tendency by the Obama White House to micromanage issues better left to military commanders.

The change is at the heart of a re-engineering of the National Security Council’s role under its new leader, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, and reflects Mr. Trump’s belief that the N.S.C. should focus less on military operations and tactics and more on strategic issues. A guiding precept for the president and his team is that the balance of power in the world has shifted against American interests, and that General McMaster should focus on developing foreign and economic policy options in concert with the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies to respond to that challenge.



James Comey's disappointing tap dance

James Comey, the director of the FBI, continues to act like a jerk for every season. The man who first tried to save Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and then tried to wreck it at the eleventh hour, reprised his familiar tap dance Monday with Congress. It’s getting stale.

The kindest interpretation anyone could put to his testimony Monday to the House Intelligence Committee, which ran almost six hours, is that the man has trouble with his mouth. He talks too much, which is usually a fatal flaw in a cop. This is what got him in trouble with just about everybody during the presidential campaign.

Mr. Comey acknowledged Monday what everybody already knew, that the FBI is conducting an investigation into whether President Trump coordinated his campaign with the Kremlin. But then, as is his custom, he retreated into the shade of his unique ethics code, repeatedly declining to say whether specific persons close to the president were suspected of breaking the law. He didn’t want to “wind up smearing people.”



Making a pet project of hypocrisy

Some animal rights groups kill more animals than they save

Environment maven Al Gore selling his cable network to fossil-fuel-funded al Jazeera. Leonardo DiCaprio traveling thousands of miles on fuel-gobbling yachts and private jets while bemoaning climate change. PETA killing animals.

Activism is often accompanied by hypocrisy, but none is crueler than an animal rights organization euthanizing healthy animals. Last year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals killed more than 1,400 cats and dogs at its Virginia headquarters — roughly 72 percent of the animals put in its care. Since 1998, PETA has euthanized more than 36,000 cats and dogs — nearly 86 percent of its animals. In one recent year, the animal rights group killed 1,911 out of the 1,992 cats and dogs it took in.

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA is unusually adept as a euthanasia shelter. The euthanization rate among all private animal shelters in Virginia was 10.1 percent in 2016. At PETA? The kill rate was 71.9 percent — more than seven times higher.



"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.



3/14/20017

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 (www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wikileaks-cia-cache.html?_r=0) acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 (http://www.wnd.com/1998/04/6108/ ).

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 (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukusa/ ) 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…