Friday, December 3, 2010

Governor Jim Hunt Hugs Suzan! & Ellsberg Says Amazon "Over" & Pistole Heads FBI "Sting" Operation And Reveals Entrapment Is Fake Terrorist Plot

Governor Jim Hunt (D-NC), who was elected four times due to his huge popularity and is the longest-serving governor in the state's history, appeared at the Barnes & Noble in Greensboro, NC, Wednesday night, in response to the release of his official biography Jim Hunt: A Biography, and wowwed the crowd with his continuing good nature, common sense and thoughtful intellectual responses to the prevailing negativity in the political sphere. (He displayed, once again, himself as one of the original "happy" (political) warriors, and probably one of the best natured ever.)

And having lost to Jesse Helms in a soul-searing Senate race in 1984, he knows negativity first hand. He, however, having previously served as both Lieutenant Governor and as Governor twice, came back after the defeat and served as Governor twice more, leading the state as a proud progressive Governor.

He reminded the large gathering of friends, family and supporters how hard he had worked to bring North Carolina its progressive state government with his emphasis on education and technological innovation. As North Carolina has just fallen into the hands of a Republican-dominated State House after the midterms for the first time ever, that probably is ended now.

Gary Pearce, a reporter and one of Jim Hunt's closest political advisors as well as serving previously as press secretary and chief speechwriter, is the author of this new biography, and after Governor Hunt spoke briefly, Gary spoke at length about his preparation for writing the biography and their good and bad times together. It was a delightful night of great stories and camaraderie in a very up-beat group of committed politicos.

But . . . before all this merriment commenced, Governor Hunt saw me in the crowd as he entered the space and enveloped me in a bear hug and hearty "Hello! What have you been doing?"

And that made my day as the last time I had participated in an election campaign for him was waaay back in 1976. How's that for a "happy warrior" (with a great memory)? See video of an interview done on a North Carolina television station with Governor Hunt and Pearce.

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Daniel Ellsberg speaks for all people of conviction and high morality (wish there were more of them at the highest levels of both banking and politics) as he states in a public letter that he will never use Amazon again. For anything. The question hangs out there now: Will we?

"I'm disgusted by Amazon's cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating today its hosting of the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China's control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing.

For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over. I ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.

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So it's really all about "illegal aliens and cash smugglers." (Don't want any of that valuable cash getting through without an accounting, do we?) We listen breathlessly as emptywheel gives us more inside info about why TSA is so "touchy." (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

FBI Entrapment Leads to TSA Pat-Downs Wednesday December 1, 2010 A couple of weeks back, I pointed to John Pistole’s testimony that directly justified the expansion of VIPR checkpoints to mass transport locations by pointing to a recent FBI-entrapment facilitated arrest.

Another recent case highlights the importance of mass transit security. On October 27, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a Pakistan-born naturalized U.S. citizen for attempting to assist others whom he believed to be members of al Qaida in planning multiple bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C., area.

During a sting operation, Farooque Ahmed allegedly conducted surveillance of the Arlington National Cemetery, Courthouse, and Pentagon City Metro stations, indicated that he would travel overseas for jihad, and agreed to donate $10,000 to terrorist causes. A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returned a three-count indictment against Ahmed, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings to cause mass casualties at D.C.-area Metrorail stations.

While the public was never in danger, Ahmed’s intentions provide a reminder of the terrorist attacks on other mass transit systems: Madrid in March 2004, London in July 2005, and Moscow earlier this year. Our ability to protect mass transit and other surface transportation venues from evolving threats of terrorism requires us to explore ways to improve the partnerships between TSA and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement, and other mass transit stakeholders.

These partnerships include measures such as Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams we have put in place with the support of the Congress. [my emphasis] Now to be clear, as with Mohamed Mohamud’s alleged plot, Ahmed’s plot never existed except as it was performed by FBI undercover employees.

In fact, at the time the FBI invented this plot, now TSA-head Pistole was the Deputy Director of FBI, so in some ways, Ahmed’s plot is Pistole’s plot. Nevertheless, Pistole had no problem pointing to a plot invented by his then-subordinates at the FBI to justify increased VIPR surveillance on “mass transit and other surface transportation venues.”

As if the fake FBI plot represented a real threat.

And according to Gary Milano (who appears to be TSA’s Federal Security Director for Tampa), that’s what they’re now doing – telling the bad guys (among whom they include “immigration law violators” and “bulk cash” smugglers) they’re going to be searching Greyhound for them. (Randy Balko posted the YouTube here.)

Now, to be sure, these no-warning searches are more effective than the security theater Pistole has ramped up at airports.

But that doesn’t excuse the logic: John Pistole points to a plot the FBI – under his management – cooked up, as if it represents a “real” threat.

He uses it to justify expanding VIPR to mass and surface transit venues. And then when TSA does set up one of those VIPR checkpoints, we learn they’re not looking for TATP (which is what Pistole implied in his testimony to Congress), but instead illegal aliens and cash smugglers.

I guess that all makes it okay, right? The plot justifying this checkpoint never existed, but then, they’re not really looking for the things they suggested they were looking for as defined by that plot. So it doesn’t matter that it was a fake terrorist plot, since the whole point of it seems to be to justify immigration and smuggling raids.

And Paul Krugman doesn't disappoint. Living in North Carolina where the conversation level about economics in the local McDonald's usually leaves a lot to be desired, it's good to hear Paul talk about the figures that are relevant and arguments that trivialize the whole process. I'm also thinking now that his use of the title "Mr." means it's really over for Paul (emphasis marks added - Ed.)

After the Democratic “shellacking” in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?

On Monday, we got the answer: he announced a pay freeze for federal workers. This was an announcement that had it all. It was transparently cynical; it was trivial in scale, but misguided in direction; and by making the announcement, Mr. Obama effectively conceded the policy argument to the very people who are seeking — successfully, it seems — to destroy him.

So I guess we are, in fact, seeing what Mr. Obama is made of.

About that pay freeze: the president likes to talk about “teachable moments.” Well, in this case he seems eager to teach Americans something false.

The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.

So freezing federal pay is cynical deficit-reduction theater. It’s a (literally) cheap trick that only sounds impressive to people who don’t know anything about budget realities. The actual savings, about $5 billion over two years, are chump change given the scale of the deficit.

Anyway, slashing federal spending at a time when the economy is depressed is exactly the wrong thing to do. Just ask Federal Reserve officials, who have lately been more or less pleading for some help in their efforts to promote faster job growth.

Meanwhile, there’s a real deficit issue on the table: whether tax cuts for the wealthy will, as Republicans demand, be extended. Just as a reminder, over the next 75 years the cost of making those tax cuts permanent would be roughly equal to the entire expected financial shortfall of Social Security.

Mr. Obama’s pay ploy might, just might, have been justified if he had used the announcement of a freeze as an occasion to take a strong stand against Republican demands — to declare that at a time when deficits are an important issue, tax breaks for the wealthiest aren’t acceptable.

But he didn’t. Instead, he apparently intended the pay freeze announcement as a peace gesture to Republicans the day before a bipartisan summit. At that meeting, Mr. Obama, who has faced two years of complete scorched-earth opposition, declared that he had failed to reach out sufficiently to his implacable enemies. He did not, as far as anyone knows, wear a sign on his back saying “Kick me,” although he might as well have.

There were no comparable gestures from the other side. Instead, Senate Republicans declared that none of the rest of the legislation on the table — legislation that includes such things as a strategic arms treaty that’s vital to national security — would be acted on until the tax-cut issue was resolved, presumably on their terms.

It’s hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama’s measure — that they’re calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And it’s also hard to escape the impression that they’re right.

. . . It would be much easier, of course, for Democrats to draw a line if Mr. Obama would do his part. But all indications are that the party will have to look elsewhere for the leadership it needs.

Clear enough yet?

Seems to be getting there.

And on a lighter note to close, scientists have found a bacterium that finds arsenic tasty. Wonder how tasty it might find that deficit?

Okay. But am I "reaching" any more than the politicians?

Suzan

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5 comments:

Jazzbumpa said...

I wanted to see video of the hug!

Cheers!
JzB

Suzan said...

Me too, Jazz!

If only a camera person followed me around all the time . . . .

Ha!

S

Border Explorer said...

You obviously made a lasting impression on Gov. Hunt! That is really very nice.
On Amazon: Yes, their behavior regaring Wikileaks is so disappointing. I tend to shop there (when I shop, that is, on rare occasions) so I guess I better find a different place to do business.

Border Explorer said...

Sign & share the petition:
Boycott Amazon for dumping WikiLeaks~ http://www.thepetitionsite.com/4/boycott-amazon-for-dumping-wikileaks/

Suzan said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments, Border Explorer.

So nice to have you among our group!

I'm signing the petition and urge everyone to.

Thanks for sending it friend!

S