Sunday, January 19, 2014

Obama's Special Ops Surge: America’s Secret War in 134 Countries, NC Fracking Results To Be Kept Secret, Milwaukee Voucher School Disappears After Getting $2 Million in Taxpayer Funds, Fake HillBillies Run Amuck and Bill Maher Rules!


"Fracking Chemicals In North Carolina Will Remain Secret, Industry-Funded Commission Rules"

What, exactly, are those chemicals being pumped underground during the fracking process?

In North Carolina, no one has to say.

On Tuesday, the 15-member state Mining and Energy Commission voted unanimously to pass a rule that would let fracking companies keep secret the makeup of the chemical mixture they pump underground to aid shale gas drilling. Read the article at the North Carolina News Observer.

Were you aware of how low the rightwingnuts are going to stop funding of the safety net for the most fragile of our population?

You should inform yourself.

The Return of the Welfare Queen

Spawned by Ronald Reagan to turn blue-collar whites against the Democratic Party, then buried by Bill Clinton with a law "ending welfare as we know it," she's been excavated under the first African-American president as Republicans inveigh against the costs of health insurance and food stamps for the poor.

Twenty-five Republican-led states have — astoundingly — rebuffed billions of federal dollars under Barack Obama's signature health care law to offer Medicaid insurance to more poor people. To justify this unprecedented rejection of federal relief, these governors and state lawmakers say they just do not believe Washington will keep its promise to pick up the tab. Republicans in Congress are egging them on, denouncing Obamacare's disastrous launch as proof of the arrogance and folly of big government.

But all of this opposition carries an unmistakable undertone of class warfare, a theme easy to exploit in states such as Kentucky, packed with low-income white voters who have a strong distaste for the federal government. To hear the rhetoric coming from Capitol Hill and the campaign trail, Medicaid and food-stamp recipients are a bunch of shiftless freeloaders living high on king crab legs and free health care, all on the backs of hardworking Americans. 

Medicaid expansion is "the principal reason your kids' college tuition is going up," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky charged at a press conference here.

New Medicaid recipients "have no personal responsibility for their health," said state Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, in a memo from the state capital.

The mythical welfare queen was accused of driving a Cadillac and pumping out babies to keep the government checks coming.
And in Louisiana, Senate candidate and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy hypothesized about a single woman forced to pay high premiums under Obamacare who thinks her neighbor could make more money. "But he would rather work fewer hours or work for cash or, perhaps, live out of wedlock so that he and his girlfriend both qualify for the taxpayer-provided free insurance," Cassidy wrote in a newspaper column.

The tirades don't stop at Medicaid.

The rhetoric about rewarding indolence is also pervading the debate over the farm bill, passed with subsidies for big agriculture — but no food-stamp funding for the first time in four decades. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said he's heard "so many times" from constituents standing in line at the grocery store behind a shopper buying king crab legs. "Then he sees the food-stamp card pulled out and provided. He looks at the king crab legs and looks at his ground meat and realizes because he does pay income tax, he doesn't get more back than he pays in. He is actually helping to pay for the king crab legs when he can't pay for them for himself."

The mythical welfare queen was accused of driving a Cadillac and pumping out babies to keep the government checks coming; under the "food-stamp president," as Republican Newt Gingrich dubbed Obama, she (or he) nets free health care and expensive shellfish.

"Newscasts tell stories of young surfers who aren't working but cash their food stamps in for lobster," wrote Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy in a memo before the House vote, referring to a California beach bum who flaunted his food-stamp-financed lifestyle on Fox News. "Costing taxpayers $80 billion a year, middle-class families struggling to make ends meet themselves foot the bill for a program that has gone well beyond a safety net for children, seniors, and the disabled."

The facts defy the stereotypes. The largest group of food-stamp recipients is white; 45 percent of all beneficiaries are children; and most people eligible for Medicaid are families with children in which at least one person in the household has a job. But pitting makers against takers is simply smart, hardball politics for some Republicans. McConnell and Ernst both face GOP primaries that will be largely decided by a mostly white conservative base that hates the welfare state.

Same with the potential Republican presidential contenders in 2016. Governors who turned down the Medicaid money, such as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Perry of Texas, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have a leg up in GOP primaries over possible rivals who accepted the federal aid, such as Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio.

. . . "Most people believe the banks, the mortgage companies, Wall Street, and the insurance companies are screwing them over, and if a year from now they think the Democratic Party has their back, that could change the conversation," said Tom Perriello, president of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund. "If we can get past all of the misinformation and the race politics, we may have a chance."

That's the Republican Party's worst fear: The Obama administration's largesse will reach a broader audience and take hold as a coveted entitlement. These are the "gifts" to young people and minorities that Romney blamed for his defeat, and that the next Republican nominee could come to fear.

. . . To understand Kentucky's conflicted relationship with the federal government, 50 years after hosting President Johnson's launch of the "War on Poverty," is to meet Terry Rupe. The 63-year-old widower can't remember the last time he voted for a Democrat, and he's got nothing nice to say about President Obama. He's also never had health insurance, although he started working at age 9. Since his wife's death four years ago, he's been taking care of their 40-year-old, severely disabled daughter full time. She gets Medicaid and Medicare assistance.

"I don't have any use for the federal government," Rupe said, even though his household's $13,000 yearly income comes exclusively from Washington. "It's a bunch of liars, crooks, and thieves, and they've never done anything for me. I'm not ungrateful, but I don't have much faith in this health care law. Do I think it's going to work? No. Do I think it's going to bankrupt the country? Yes."

Rupe sounds like he could be standing on a soapbox at a tea-party rally, but he happens to be sitting in a back room at the Family Health Centers' largest clinic in Louisville — signing up for Medicaid. Rupe, who is white, insists that illegal immigrants from Mexico and Africa get more government assistance than he does. (Illegal immigrants do not, in fact, qualify for Medicaid or coverage under the Affordable Care Act.)

He's not alone in thinking this way. A majority of whites believe the health care law will make things worse for them and their families, according to a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
"President Obama's idea is taking from the working people to give to the people who won't take care of themselves. It's redistribution of wealth," Rupe said. "I've always taken care of myself. You got these young girls who go out and get pregnant and then they get $1,500 a month for having a kid, so they have two."

On the other side of town, Adele Anderson was signing up for Medicaid at a public library. The white, middle-aged woman makes $10 an hour as a child-care provider; she also gets $86 a month in food stamps. She was unaware that Republicans voted to cut $40 billion over 10 years from what's called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "Democrats are too liberal," Anderson said. "They just want to give handouts."

The disdain she and Rupe show toward living on the government dole at the very moment they are doing just that is typical in a state that distrusts Washington as much as it needs federal help.

What's most interesting to me about this type of reporting is that it never goes into the details of their concerns such as that "government help" due to programs like Medicaid and Medicare is an entirely different case from that of the ACA "Obama" health care system in that the former's benefits are/were paid for from taxes previously paid for needed programs benefitting those without resources, and that the latter's entails new payments from the poor for new benefits, which the poor know they don't have the income to afford or the ability to receive without even more aid being given (do you have any idea how expensive it is to just obtain health care, which includes co-pays, travel, parking fees, drugs, etc.?).

If only they could really appreciate the fact that if they could afford the insurance, it wouldn't be lost due to long-term or incurable illness, and that over the course of many years it would eventually get less expensive and maybe their children could afford it. (/Snark)

And my comments about Obama's fraudulent "plans" to reform the NSA's spying?

I don't know where to begin. What a disappointment this fake has been. The whole sh*t sandwich.

Sure, once again we are told to hope that the right course is taken to protect our privacy in pursuit of securing some type of (ineffable) security, but once again we know the security apparatus is already set up to ensure that that doesn't happen.

Obama's NSA 'Reforms' Are Little More Than a PR Attempt to Mollify the Public

I was a little, not a lot, surprised after the 2008 election to view Obama's emergence as a Napoleonic pretender in foreign affairs (occurring right after if not almost simultaneously with his unveiling as a Caesar in financial affairs).

As they say, the rest of his program is only icing on a very poisoned progressive cake. But we know for whom he works now.

As an ex-aerospace engineering worker I've seen every type of hardware/software defense system from radar (Tail Warning, ASPJ, AWACS, Peace Pearl, Peace Shield, and Turkey to name just a few) to sonar (AMCM), Joint Strike to Delta force up close and personal. And a whole lot more. I was an integral part of it at the beginning of the networking of industry and the NSF netting of the military. I'll hate to report in the future that I was there when the publicly-produced-and-paid-for internet went private to the highest bidders and NSA became the imperial ruler of the USA (earth). But I will report it if I can.

Federal Court Sides With Telecom, Deals Blow to Open Internet

I knew and was friends with soldiers in Special Ops commands who were patriotic and would have strenuously fought the madness that is happening now in Special Ops. And if you wonder where your tax money went as you freeze in your soon-to-be-foreclosed-upon homes and prepare to die without adequate health care you can afford . . . .

. . . the utilization  of Special Operations forces during the Obama years has decreased  military accountability, strengthened the “imperial presidency,” and set  the stage for a war without end.

Nick Turse at TomDispatch reports:

They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America.  They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa.  They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific.  They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia.  All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed - until now.

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, from their numbers to their budget.  Most telling, however, has been the exponential rise in special ops deployments globally.  This presence - now, in nearly 70% of the world’s nations - provides new evidence of the size and scope of a secret war being waged from Latin America to the backlands of Afghanistan, from training missions with African allies to information operations launched in cyberspace. 

In the waning days of the Bush presidency, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world.  By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post. In 2011, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120. Today, that figure has risen higher still.

In 2013, elite U.S. forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe, according to Major Matthew Robert Bockholt of SOCOM Public Affairs.  This 123% increase during the Obama years demonstrates how, in addition to conventional wars and a CIA drone campaign, public diplomacy and extensive electronic spying, the U.S. has engaged in still another significant and growing form of overseas power projection.  Conducted largely in the shadows by America’s most elite troops, the vast majority of these missions take place far from prying eyes, media scrutiny, or any type of outside oversight, increasing the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.

Growth Industry
Formally established in 1987, Special Operations Command has grown steadily in the post-9/11 era.   SOCOM is reportedly on track to reach 72,000 personnel in 2014, up from 33,000 in 2001.  Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as its baseline budget, $2.3 billion in 2001, hit $6.9 billion in 2013 ($10.4 billion, if you add in supplemental funding).  Personnel deployments abroad have skyrocketed, too, from 4,900 “man-years” in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013.
A recent investigation by TomDispatch, using open-source government documents and news releases as well as press reports, found evidence that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in or involved with the militaries of 106 nations around the world in 2012-2013.  For more than a month during the preparation of that article, however, SOCOM failed to provide accurate statistics on the total number of countries to which special operators - Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos, specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, and civil affairs personnel - were deployed.

“We don’t just keep it on hand,” SOCOM’s Bockholt explained in a telephone interview once the article had been filed.  “We have to go searching through stuff. It takes a long time to do that.” Hours later, just prior to publication, he provided an answer to a question I first asked in November of last year. “SOF [Special Operations forces] were deployed to 134 countries” during fiscal year 2013, Bockholt explained in an email.
Globalized Special Ops
Last year, Special Operations Command chief Admiral William McRaven explained his vision for special ops globalization.  In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, he said:

“USSOCOM is enhancing its global network of SOF to support our interagency and international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small, persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement where necessary or appropriate...”
While that “presence” may be small, the reach and influence of those Special Operations forces are another matter.  The 12% jump in national deployments - from 120 to 134 - during McRaven’s tenure reflects his desire to put boots on the ground just about everywhere on Earth.  SOCOM will not name the nations involved, citing host nation sensitivities and the safety of American personnel, but the deployments we do know about shed at least some light on the full range of missions being carried out by America’s secret military.
Last April and May, for instance, Special Ops personnel took part in training exercises in Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.  In June, U.S. Navy SEALs joined Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, and other allied Mideast forces for irregular warfare simulations in Aqaba, Jordan.  The next month, Green Berets traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to carry out small unit tactical exercises with local forces.  In August, Green Berets conducted explosives training with Honduran sailors.
  In September, according to media reports, U.S. Special Operations forces joined elite troops from the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia - as well as their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Russia for a US-Indonesian joint-funded coun­terterrorism exercise held at a training center in Sentul, West Java. 
In October, elite U.S. troops carried out commando raids in Libya and Somalia, kidnapping a terror suspect in the former nation while SEALs killed at least one militant in the latter before being driven off under fire.  In November, Special Ops troops conducted humanitarian operations in the Philippines to aid survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The next month, members of the 352nd Special Operations Group conducted a training exercise involving approximately 130 airmen and six aircraft at an airbase in England and Navy SEALs were wounded while undertaking an evacuation mission in South Sudan.  Green Berets then rang in the new year with a January 1st combat mission alongside elite Afghan troops in Bahlozi village in Kandahar province.
Deployments in 134 countries, however, turn out not to be expansive enough for SOCOM. In November 2013, the command announced that it was seeking to identify industry partners who could, under SOCOM’s Trans Regional Web Initiative, potentially “develop new websites tailored to foreign audiences.”  These would join an existing global network of 10 propaganda websites, run by various combatant commands and made to look like legitimate news outlets, including, Sabahi which targets the Horn of Africa; an effort aimed at the Middle East known as; and another targeting Latin America called
SOCOM’s push into cyberspace is mirrored by a concerted effort of the command to embed itself ever more deeply inside the Beltway.  “I have folks in every agency here in Washington, D.C. - from the CIA, to the FBI, to the National Security Agency, to the National Geospatial Agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency,” SOCOM chief Admiral McRaven said during a panel discussion at Washington’s Wilson Center last year.  Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Library in November, he put the number of departments and agencies where SOCOM is now entrenched at 38.
134 Chances for Blowback
Although elected in 2008 by many who saw him as an antiwar candidate, President Obama has proved to be a decidedly hawkish commander-in-chief whose policies have already produced notable instances of what in CIA trade-speak has long been called blowback.  While the Obama administration oversaw a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (negotiated by his predecessor), as well as a drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan (after a major military surge in that country), the president has presided over a ramping up of the U.S. military presence in Africa, a reinvigoration of efforts in Latin America, and tough talk about a rebalancing or “pivot to Asia” (even if it has amounted to little as of yet). 
The White House has also overseen an exponential expansion of America’s drone war.  While President Bush launched 51 such strikes, President Obama has presided over 330, according to research by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  Last year, alone, the U.S. also engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.  Recent revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have demonstrated the tremendous breadth and global reach of U.S. electronic surveillance during the Obama years.  And deep in the shadows, Special Operations forces are now annually deployed to more than double the number of nations as at the end of Bush’s tenure.
In recent years, however, the unintended consequences of U.S. military operations have helped to sow outrage and discontent, setting whole regions aflame.  More than 10 years after America’s “mission accomplished” moment, seven years after its much vaunted surge, the Iraq that America helped make is in flames.  A country with no al-Qaeda presence before the U.S. invasion and a government opposed to America’s enemies in Tehran now has a central government aligned with Iran and two cities flying al-Qaeda flags.
A more recent U.S. military intervention to aid the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi helped send neighboring Mali, a U.S.-supported bulwark against regional terrorism, into a downward spiral, saw a coup there carried out by a U.S.-trained officer, ultimately led to a bloody terror attack on an Algerian gas plant, and helped to unleash nothing short of a terror diaspora in the region. 
And today South Sudan - a nation the U.S. shepherded into being, has supported economically and militarily (despite its reliance on child soldiers), and has used as a hush-hush base for Special Operations forces - is being torn apart by violence and sliding toward civil war.
The Obama presidency has seen the U.S. military’s elite tactical forces increasingly used in an attempt to achieve strategic goals. But with Special Operations missions kept under tight wraps, Americans have little understanding of where their troops are deployed, what exactly they are doing, or what the consequences might be down the road.

As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, has noted, the utilization of Special Operations forces during the Obama years has decreased military accountability, strengthened the “imperial presidency,” and set the stage for a war without end. “In short,” he wrote at TomDispatch, “handing war to the special operators severs an already too tenuous link between war and politics; it becomes war for its own sake.”

Secret ops by secret forces have a nasty tendency to produce unintended, unforeseen, and completely disastrous consequences.  New Yorkers will remember well the end result of clandestine U.S. support for Islamic militants against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s: 9/11.  
Strangely enough, those at the other primary attack site that day, the Pentagon, seem not to have learned the obvious lessons from this lethal blowback.  Even today in Afghanistan and Pakistan, more than 12 years after the U.S. invaded the former and almost 10 years after it began conducting covert attacks in the latter, the U.S. is still dealing with that Cold War-era fallout: with, for instance, CIA drones conducting missile strikes against an organization (the Haqqani network) that, in the 1980s, the Agency supplied with missiles.
Without a clear picture of where the military’s covert forces are operating and what they are doing, Americans may not even recognize the consequences of and blowback from our expanding secret wars as they wash over the world.  But if history is any guide, they will be felt - from Southwest Asia to the Mahgreb, the Middle East to Central Africa, and, perhaps eventually, in the United States as well. 

In his blueprint for the future, SOCOM 2020, Admiral McRaven has touted the globalization of U.S. special ops as a means to “project power, promote stability, and prevent conflict.”  Last year, SOCOM may have done just the opposite in 134 places.
(Nick Turse is the associate editor of His latest book is Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. He is the author/editor of several other books, including The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare, Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt), The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives and The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His website is Nick You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, or Facebook.)

Domestically? Not going that well for taxpayers either.

But at least there are lots of taxpayers (for now) so the military and the domestic terrorists can depend on them continuing to buy in.

Milwaukee Voucher School Disappears After Getting $2 Million in Taxpayer Money

A voucher-funded Milwaukee school that had gotten more than $2 million in taxpayer money disappeared “in the dead of the night” last month, its former landlord said this week.

According to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, state officials confirmed that LifeSkills Academy had already received over $200,000 as a part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program this year before vacating the premises around Dec. 12.

“They moved out, as people say, in the dead of the night,” All Saints Catholic Church’s Father Carl Diederichs explained to the paper. LifeSkills had rented a building owned by the church.

Department of Public Instruction (DPI) documents obtained by The Journal-Sentinel indicated that LifeSkills had been paid $202,278 in taxpayer money this year and $202,278 in voucher payments for the 2012-2013 school year. Since joining the voucher program in 2008, the school had received over $2 million in payments.

But during the last full school year, only one of LifeSkill’s students managed to score as proficient in reading and math.

The motto advertised on LifeSkills’ now-shuttered website is “1 Awesome God / 2 Great Schools.”
“We pledge, To lead students into a genuine relationship with Christ while providing an excellent academic program,” the website said. “To this, we will strive to continue…”

After a series of confusing email messages in December, the school told DPI that it would be closing due to a “loss of funding.” However, DPI informed LifeSkills in a letter that no decision had been made to withhold funds.

By Dec. 12, Father Diederichs notified DPI that the LifeSkills building had been vacated.

The Journal-Sentinel pointed out that there was no legal way for DPI to recoup the voucher funds paid to LifeSkills.

[A classroom. Photo:]

Ready for a clean slate?

I am.

The fake hillbillies are ready to perform for their sad and ignorant audience.

Just roll the tape (video). From our erudite friend at The Immoral Majority:

January 18, 2014

Bill Maher's Final New Rule from Last Night's Show. "Be more cynical."

“And finally, a resolution I have been asking America to make for a long time,” Bill Maher said. “Be more cynical. Be less easily fooled. Case in point, all the people that are fans of these guys, heroes to all the rural heartland traditional values gun nuts out there. Except here is what we recently found out these guys really look like before they got their TV show, preppy a$$holes at the golf club wearing Tommy Bahama. That’s right. It is all an act, fat cats pretending to be just folks. And you fell for it. Take a hint Tea Partiers. This is what the Republican Party is always doing to you”.

I loved this. What a hoot!

I think that is probably a message that I try to send out as often as possible as well. Stop buying into the bullshit, and start thinking independently.

Of course if people did that there would be no Tea Party, no religion, and no Sarah Palin.

So really, no downside.

P.S. By the way, for those who watched the show last night, what is your guess as to what pharmaceuticals Mary Matalin was high on?

I mean I have seen people tripping on TV before, but Matalin was clearly orbiting the sun she was so blitzed out of her mind.

At one point I thought she was going to crawl under the desk and start blowing Steve Schmidt, who apparently she has been crushing on, or her husband, or Bill Maher, or any unsuspecting stage hand who happened to get too close.

It was freaky.

(H/T to Mediaite.)

Posted by Gryphen

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