The human misery in Syria is agonising to watch. But intervention-lite is a bad idea for all but the politicians' egos
by Simon Jenkins
The Guardian, Thursday 29 August 2013 18.42 EDT
Something-must-be-done wars have a long and wretched history, notably in the Middle East. It was after Ronald Reagan saw television footage of the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982 that he ordered his marines into Beirut. He later withdrew them, leaving 265 American dead and Lebanon with a further decade of ghastly civil conflict..
In 1986, the US tried to kill Libya's Colonel Gaddafi over a terrorist attack in Berlin, merely ensuring a further burst of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism. In Kosovo in 1999, the Nato bombing of Belgrade did nothing to impede ethnic cleansing, indeed it probably expedited it. What tipped the Russians into forcing Serbia to back down was the threat of a western land invasion.
In 1993, President Clinton bombed Baghdad in retaliation for a claimed plot to kill former president George H Bush. This was followed five years later by the further bombing of Iraq in Operation Desert Fox, this time to deflect attention from the Monica Lewinsky affair. Its declared purpose of eliminating weapons of mass destruction was so botched as to require more bombing and the eventual invasion in 2003. Then as now, the zest for aggression seemed driven as much by the military-industrial complex as by legality or evidence.
Overstating the military and political potency of air power mostly as a "sending of messages" is as old as air war itself. Tactical bombing is occasionally effective where, as in Libya and initially in Afghanistan, it is in close support of ground forces. When, as now, it is intended as a soft option to ground action, it merely destroys.
Source: Billings, Montana Gazette
A Yellowstone County district judge Monday ordered a former Senior High teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old female student who later committed suicide to spend 30 days in jail.
Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended, for sexual intercourse without consent. Rambold, 54, will be given credit for one day already served. He was handcuffed and led to jail at the close of the hearing.
Baugh said he was not convinced that the reasons for Rambold's termination from treatment were serious enough to warrant the lengthy prison term suggested by the prosecution. Baugh said he listened to recorded statements given by Morales before her death and believes that while she was a troubled youth, she was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold.
The judge also said Morales was "older than her chronological age."
Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/former-senior-high-teacher-gets-days-for-rape-of-student/article_b1f84190-ef23-5868-8799-b779c0421dc1.html
Montana's legal system has hit an all time low when a 14 year old (who didn't have the opportunity to testify since she committed suicide while this case dragged on for years) is ruled by a judge (who never saw her) to hve been in control of a sexual relationship with a 49 year old teacher, and the convicted rapist gets all but 31 days in jail suspended.
Today, Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced a teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, who repeatedly raped a 14 year old female student, who then committed suicide, to 30 days in jail. Judge Baugh blamed the girl, who he said, "was older than her chronological age". Principal Scott Anderson hired Rambold, knowing he was a sex offender, in a Jerry Sandusky like move. He kept him on despite other allegations. Rambold's failure to attend a sex offender treatment program to which he was referred, still "did not warrant a lengthy sentence" according to Judge Baugh. We demand the removal from the bench of Judge G. Todd Baugh and the permanent removal from the education system of Scott Anderson.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday forced out his nominee to lead the state Department of Education, William Harner, three months after the selection was announced.
The government source said that Mr. Harner's troubles began in January or February, when an employee of the school district, while vacationing, received an email from Mr. Harner asking how the employee looked in a Speedo swimsuit. That email, according to the source, led to a complaint to the district's human resources office, which in turn led to the school board hiring outside counsel to investigate the matter. That outside counsel turned up more than a dozen other complaints about Mr. Harner, most involving comments he made in poor taste.
His personality "rubbed people the wrong way," the source said. The school board's behind-closed-doors probe was running concurrent to the Corbett administration's own vetting. On May 15, Mr. Corbett announced that his education secretary, Ron Tomalis, would leave the department to become an adviser to the governor on higher education, and that he would nominate Mr. Harner as secretary.
Sometime this month, the source said, the Corbett administration caught wind of the fact that the Cumberland Valley school board had held a closed-door vote to not renew Mr. Harner's contract. Sen. Andrew Dinniman of Chester County, the ranking Democrat on the Education Committee, said the announcement Monday showed a failure by the administration in checking its nominee. "If the governor's office is going to put people before the Senate without proper vetting, how in the future can we trust any nominee he puts before us?" Mr. Dinniman said. "Why did it take three months, while education is facing crucial questions?"
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/politics-state/william-harner-acting-pennsylvania-education-secretary-resigns-abruptly-700825/#ixzz2d9nKH0HU
Interesting that the investigation by the "outside counsel" for the Cumberland Valley School Board turned up "more than a dozen" complaints, but then tries to downplay the severity by calling them simply "in poor taste". Defense counsel's "poor taste" is a District Attorney's sexual harassment crime, and clearly the school board's own outside counsel wouldn't want to open up any doors to lawsuits. Classic institutional reaction: scandal control.
So, did any of those complaints involve students, or only people working for the school district? Sandusky redux? Will Cumberland Valley be able to suppress all those complaints? According to Harner's biography on Project Vote Smart, he also has a long-standing involvement with Boy Scouts of America. Another red flag to be investigated.
Former Board Member, Blue Ridge Council, South Carolina.
Former Member, New Birth of Freedom Council, Pennsylvania.
Or his $500,000 fee for a 45 minute speech? And don't ignore my main point, which is that the Democratic party OWES support to people who agree to run in races they have no expectation of winning; and people like ex-presidents, who made their post-presidential fortunes from their status as ex-presidents, OWE something back to the party which enabled them to gain office. If Clinton had not been elected President, where would he be today? An ex-governor of Arkansas would not command 1/2 million for a speech. He'd be keynoting Chamber of Commerce state conventions scouting for legal clients for his Little Rock law firm. And if his wife were not considered a likely candidate for president, I doubt people would be nearly as generous in their gifts to his foundation. I believe the New York Times article discussed how potential donors to the Foundation were strong-armed into donating to his wife's campaign fund.
Greed, gluttony and lust are referred to as sins of excess. Clinton seems to have gotten his gluttony and lust under control, but his greed is running rampant. Greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth. Whether it is the obsession of an individual to accumulate boundless wealth, or a politician selling out to special interest lobbyists, or of a corporation maximizing profits by exploiting workers, and/or promoting/marketing weapons of war and violence, it is the premier vice/sin driving our civilization into the mud.
And here's another evaluation of Clinton's "fund-raising" for you:
Jonathan Tobin, Senior Online Editor of the conservative Jewish publication Commentary Magazine, criticized the former president for shaking down the charitable group which raises questions not only of good taste but also of the propriety of one charitable endeavor profiting at the expense of the other. In an article titled, Bill Clinton's Big Israeli Payday, Tobin writes:
We are constantly reminded of the fact that theres no better gig in the world than being an ex-president. With lucrative book contracts (for books that dont always get read but for which publishers feel obligated to shell out big bucks in advances), highly paid speaking engagements and uncounted perks as well as lifetime security, our former commanders-in-chief live the rest of their lives high on the proverbial hog. And when theyre done repairing their personal finances, they can start foundations and shake down everyone who wants their ear or to link their names with a former president. Thats pretty much the story of the last 12 years of Bill Clintons life, as he has become a wealthy man as well as one with a personal foundation to which he can funnel almost unlimited amounts of contributions from those who wish to earn his good will or that of his wife, who has her own eye on the White House in 2016.
But there is a point when even the usual post-presidential gravy train becomes excess and it appears that Clinton has reached just such a moment. By accepting a $500,000 honorarium from the Shimon Peres Academic Center, Clinton has exposed himself and his hosts (which include the Jewish National Fund, which is co-sponsoring the event as part of its presidents summit in Israel this summer) to scorn and criticism. Clinton apparently demanded that the Center and the JNF pony up a cool half million and deliver it to his foundation a year in advance to secure his appearance at an event honoring the Israeli presidents 90th birthday. This raises questions not only of good taste but also of the propriety of one charitable endeavor profiting at the expense of the other.
The Center and the JNF attempted to recoup some of the money by charging those who attended the gala to take place on June 17 in Reshoot, Israel approximately $800 a head. But Peres was scandalized by the idea of asking so much from those coming to his birthday party and the Times of Israel reports he said he wouldnt attend if it was nothing but a fundraiser.
I agree with Tobin that there is something unseemly (a mild term - I would use "offensive" about Clinton, who was scheduled to receive the Israeli Presidents Award from Peres at an event scheduled for two days later, shaking down the JNF and its donor base for this kind of money for his personal charity. As New York Magazine noted, that amounts to $11,111.00 per minute. Or as one commenter to the Times of Israel article linked below noted, " $185 per second: even when he coughs, pauses and yawns."
Boeing has learned there's a difference between RIGHT to work and ABILITY to work. When Boeing left Washington for South Carolina in order to suppress the wages of its workers, it also left behind the quality work that had been provided by a highly skilled, union workforce. Now, that union-busting is backfiring as productivity has dropped immensely and Boeing is unable to meet their 787 Dreamliner production goals.
Via to the Puget Sound Business Journal:
As recently as July 24, when Boeing announced second-quarter earnings, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney insisted the company is on track to hit 10 Dreamliners monthly by the end of this year. But how Boeing accomplishes that has become more problematic. Company executives have started saying that Boeings North Charleston, S.C., plant is somewhat behind its goal of contributing three 787s monthly by the end of 2013.
The cost savings associated with moving to South Carolina, where workers are paid nearly half of what workers in the Everett, WA plant make, are now for naught. The Everett plant will be counted on to make up the difference.
For Boeing, the news is only getting worse as one of their largest global competitors, Airbus, is looking to move to Washington state to build their new engineering center. Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor explained the move:
We are attracted to Washington state for the same reason we were attracted to Wichita. Thats where the talent is, he said. If you want to have access to the talent that developed over the last 100 years of aviation, Washington is very fertile ground.
Boeing moved to South Carolina to take advantage of Right-to-Work laws. In an internal memo that leaked they said, the only consistent advantage attributed to Charleston was the ability to leverage the site placement decision toward rebalancing an unbalanced and uncompetitive labor relationship. Their new workforce is woefully inexperienced and cannot meet demand so they have to go back to Washington to get back on track. Meanwhile, their competitor is swooping in and taking advantage of the incredible wealth of skills in Washington. If karma has its way, the worker well will be dry before Boeing has a chance to return.
It's damned heroic for a person to agree to be a candidate when the odds are great against them going in. It's called flying the flag for the party, and if the party wants to get people to do this, the party owes them some support - if not financial, at least a personal appearance by a high-ranking, well-known politician.
I suggest that Bill Clinton can forego the $1/2 million speaking fees he's currently expecting, and take a couple of months every two years to campaign, pro bono, for Democratic gubernatorial and congressional candidates, whether their races are close or not. "Unlike many presidents, Bill Clinton did not come from a wealthy family, nor did he have lucrative employment before his presidency. But since leaving office we estimate that Clinton has earned more than $125 million before taxes, with the vast majority of that coming from speaking fees." In other words, Clinton has used his status as ex-president to market himself to attain great wealth. I think this obliges him to give back to the party.
Read more: The Net Worth Of The American Presidents: Washington To Obama - 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/banking-finance/2010/05/17/the-net-worth-of-the-american-presidents-washington-to-obama/#ixzz2ctiubbq0
The Wall Street Journal, in evaluating the wealth of U.S. Presidents, identifies Clinton as the wealthiest living American ex-president. You got that right - wealthier than either of the Bushes.
His current worth is estimated at $55 million.Where did all that money come from? Speaking fees. CNN estimates he may have raked in as much as $89 million in speaking fees since he left the White House in 2001. " Unlike many presidents, Bill Clinton did not come from a wealthy family, nor did he have lucrative employment before his presidency. But since leaving office we estimate that Clinton has earned more than $125 million before taxes, with the vast majority of that coming from speaking fees. Clintons net worth was reduced in 2008 when his wife, Hillary Clinton, wrote off more than $13 million she loaned her campaign for her own presidential bid. Her campaign debt, once over $25 million, was just retired in January.
Read more: The Net Worth Of The American Presidents: Washington To Obama - 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/banking-finance/2010/05/17/the-net-worth-of-the-american-presidents-washington-to-obama/#ixzz2ctiubbq0
Bill Clinton has earned a whopping $500,000 speaking advance to deliver a 45 minute speech at the 90th birthday bash for Israeli President Shimon Peres putting Clintons price tag at roughly $11,100 per minute...."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bill-clinton-paid-500-000-speaking-advance-45-minute-speech-earning-11-100-minute-article-1.1361928#ixzz2ctfPeS2n
Earlier this week it was reported, including by TheBlaze, that former President Bill Clinton had charged his hosts $500,000, one year in advance, to deliver a 45 minute speech at an event honoring Israeli President Shimon Peress 90th birthday later this month.
That news sparked an outcry in Israel, because of the size of the honorarium and because a well-known non-profit group, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) was footing the bill for the speech along with the Peres Academic Center.
Now, the KKL-JNF says it is pulling its funding for the Clinton speech, with one member of the group telling the Israeli site Ynet, we decided to wash our hands of the event.
The half-a-million dollar payment was reported to be going to the William J. Clinton Foundation, not directly to the former presidents personal pocket.
Given the New York Times expose re the jumbled financial record-keeping/lack of boundaries between Clinton's Foundation, his wife's political activities and his personal wealth - one wonders where that money ended up. Further, after much negative publicity about this $1/2 million fee paid a year in advance for a 45 minute speech, Clinton indicated he would turn the money back to some Israeli charity.
In our updated list, the only currently living president who makes the wealthiest list is Bill Clinton, who now has an estimated net worth of $55 million. Clinton continues to make millions of dollars in speaking fees. This January, following an email from Bill Clinton to supporters, Hilary Clintons 2008 campaign debt was paid off.
A final comparison of Clinton to Truman. A quote from Truman's book, Mr. Citizen, published in 1960, expressing his opinion on declining offers of corporate positions at large salaries:
"I turned down all of those offers. I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former President of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the Presidency." Consequently, Harry Truman's net worth never reached one million dollars (calculated by the Wall Street Journal in 2010 dollars).
There's more going on than what the mainstream media tells you. Here's a selection of the best independent investigative reporting from The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Center for Public Integrity this year.
It's been a great year for the Center so far: we were honored at the White House Correspondents Dinner, our investigative coverage of the financial industry was brought back to life, we added a bunch of new faces to our staff and our friends at ICIJ made a huge splash internationally with the release of the "Secrecy for Sale" project on offshore tax havens (more on that story below).
Amid all the excitement, we wanted to pause and reflect on a few of 2013's important investigations, and give you the opportunity to discover them once again. Below we've compiled selections of our most meaningful accountability journalism over the past year:
The investigations reported in some detail at the link include:
1. Deficit hawks keep costly nuclear plant alive.
2. Minority Media begins taking sizable industry donations and siding with industry.
3. Expelled California students left to teach themselves.
4. Once gushing streams sucked dry by "brutally efficient" coal mining.
5. Mystery group easily outspent and likely sunk judicial candidate.
6. Rare glimpse into origins of "dark money" (Big Tobacco lobbying)
7. Corporations and conservative foundations are top sponsors of judicial junkets.
8. What's stopping the Air Force from killing a drone program it can't afford?
9. Secrets of the offshore tax haven world revealed.
Every morning, with a feeling of dread, I log on - braced for some news of/ latest development from the Obama administration, or some federal agency reporting to Obama, that further destroys our Constitutional rights and/or pushes the limits of disappointment for progressive Democrats. This post about Obama's selection of Sunstein certainly qualifies as the "fresh hell" of the day.
For younger readers, Dorothy Parker was member of the Algonquin Round Table.
]The Algonquin Round Table was a group of journalists, editors, actors and press agents that met on a regular basis at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. The group began lunching together in June 1919 and continued on a regular basis for about eight years. There has never been another group quite like them in American popular culture or entertainment.
The group contributed to hit plays, bestselling books and popular newspaper columns. Their impact is still felt today. This site is a testament to that. Many know of the core group -- Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Robert Benchley, and Edna Ferber -- however, there were about 24 members of the Round Table.
November 8th, 1998
The Algonquin Round Table
About the Algonquin
The period that followed the end of World War I was one of gaiety and optimism, and it sparked a new era of creativity in American culture. Surely one of the most profound and outrageous influences on the times was the group of a dozen or so tastemakers who lunched together at New York Citys Algonquin Hotel. For more than a decade they met daily and came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table. With members such as writers Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross (founder of THE NEW YORKER) and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun, and Brouns wife Ruth Hale; critic Alexander Woollcott; comedian Harpo Marx; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, and Robert Sherwood, the Round Table embodied an era and changed forever the face of American humor.
It all began with an afternoon roast of the NEW YORK TIMES drama critic, Alexander Wollcott. A number of writers met up at the Algonquin Hotel on 44th street and had such a good time that the event was repeated the next day, and the day after that, until the lunch table at the Algonquin was established as a ritual. The core group of friends was sometimes joined by others who attended for short periods or drifted about the periphery of the group, including such notables as actress Tallulah Bankhead and playwright Noel Coward. The Round Table was made up of people with a shared admiration for each others work. Outspoken and outrageous, they would often quote each other freely in their daily columns.
Round Tabler Edna Ferber, who called them The Poison Squad, wrote, They were actually merciless if they disapproved. I have never encountered a more hard-bitten crew. But if they liked what you had done, they did say so publicly and whole-heartedly. Their standards were high, their vocabulary fluent, fresh, astringent, and very, very tough. Both casual and incisive, they had a certain terrible integrity about their work and boundless ambition. Some of the most notable members of the Round Table came together to work on significant collaborative projects. George Kaufman teamed up with Edna Ferber and Marc Connelly on some of his best stage comedies, including DULCY and THE ROYAL FAMILY. Harold Ross of THE NEW YORKER hired both Dorothy Parker as a book reviewer and Robert Benchley as a drama critic.
By 1925, the Round Table was famous. What had started as a private clique became a public amusement. The country-at-large was now attentive to their every wordpeople often coming to stare at them during lunch. Some began to tire of the constant publicity. The time they spent entertaining and being entertained took its toll on several of the Algonquin members. Robert Sherwood and Robert Benchley moved out of the hotel in order to concentrate on and accomplish their work. In 1927, the controversial execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, whose case had divided the country and the Round Table for six years, seemed to cast a pall over the groups unchecked antics. Dorothy Parker believed strongly in the pairs innocence, and upon their deaths she remarked I had heard someone say and so I said too, that ridicule is the most effective weapon. Well, now I know that there are things that never have been funny and never will be. And I know that ridicule may be a shield but it is not a weapon.
As America entered the Depression and the more somber decade of the 1930s, the bonds that had held the group together loosened; many members moved to Hollywood or on to other interests. It didnt end, it just sort of faded, recalled Marc Connelly. A decade after it began, the Algonquin Round Table was over. Not forgotten, the Round Table remains one of the great examples of an American artists community and the effects it can have on its time.
This column is a very erudite and, I think, powerful discussion of the intersection between today's activist Supreme court, Americans' civil liberties, the Bill of Rights and the fact that things can get a lot worse
"Because the Constitution, far from the plain and simple, absolute and immutable road map to democracy that the Pharisaic right wing seems to perceive, is a remarkably brief and, perforce, very general document whose meaning is what the Supreme Court says it is."
I include here just a few excerpts - hope you will read the entire column.
Re: The Fourth Amendment:
Now it is the government that has privacy quite a great deal of it and the citizens who have none at all. This not because the Constitution has changed or the courts have failed to read it. It is because judges have chosen to interpret its elegant but easy language in ways that turn it on its head. Just a few examples:
It continues with many examples - here is just one of them:
* The history of war powers is complex and fraught with differing interpretations from the beginning. Still, it is difficult to picture any of the Founders contemplating a president who would maintain a kill list in the absence of a declared war. This is part of what John Marshall, later to become chief justice, said in support of ratifying the Constitution: Shall it be a maxim that a man shall be deprived of his life without the benefit of law? Shall such a deprivation of life be justified by answering that a mans life was not taken secundem artem, because he was a bad man?
And he wraps it up:
"The next presidential election is crucial because the next president will determine the kind of Supreme Court we have. Candidates who are on record as supporting the Patriot Act, the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the National Security Agencys warrantless surveillance of domestic electronic communications should be summarily dismissed from consideration. Unfortunately, the only likely candidate who has stepped forward so far and supported the common-sense constitutional view of these things is Rand Paul. Paul is a Libertarian, and that is a dangerous form of political lunacy. Pauls view of the matter does, though, serve to illustrate a very important point: if ever there was a nonpartisan, purely American issue on which left and right could agree, this is surely it."
In addition to actual knowledge, the law also recognizes the concept of constructive knowlege.
That which exists, not in fact, but as a result of the operation of law. That which takes on a character as a consequence of the way it is treated by a rule or policy of law, as opposed to its actual character.
For example, constructive knowledge is notice of a fact that a person is presumed by law to have, regardless of whether he or she actually does, since such knowledge is obtainable by the exercise of reasonable care.
For example, possession of the key to a safe-deposit box is constructive possession of the contents of the box since the key gives its holder power and control over the contents.
Then the question becomes whether Obama took reasonable care to exercise oversight and control, as required of a president.
Which then raises the question of how much "plausible deniability" has Obama put in play re NSA, CIA, etc.
The term most often refers to the denial of blame in (formal or informal) chains of command, where senior figures assign responsibility to the lower ranks, and records of instructions given do not exist or are inaccessible, meaning independent confirmation of responsibility for the action is nearly impossible. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such act or any connection to the agents used to carry out such acts. The lack of evidence to the contrary ostensibly makes the denial plausible, that is, credible. The term typically implies forethought, such as intentionally setting up the conditions to plausibly avoid responsibility for one's (future) actions or knowledge.
In politics and espionage, deniability refers to the ability of a "powerful player" or intelligence agency to avoid "blowback" by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party ostensibly unconnected with the major player. In political campaigns, plausible deniability enables candidates to stay "clean" and denounce third-party advertisements that use unethical approaches or potentially libellous innuendo.
Plausible deniability is also a legal concept. It refers to lack of evidence proving an allegation. Standards of proof vary in civil and criminal cases. In civil cases, the standard of proof is "preponderance of the evidence" whereas in a criminal matter, the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt." If an opponent lacks incontrovertible proof (evidence) of their allegation, one can "plausibly deny" the allegation even though it may be true.
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