Friday, November 30, 2012

McCain Won't Let Actual Security Threats Distract Him From His Susan Rice Jihad, By Gum

A reporter at a press conference in D.C. with Grumpy John McCain, who still wants to rant about Benghazi even after it's become clear there's nobody out there on that lawn, asked a perfectly sensible question yesterday:
Q: Do you think there was potentially a greater national-security threat in apparently thousands of pages of classified documents ending up on the personal computer of a Tampa socialite who may have been a friend of the head of the CIA, of secret covert e-mail accounts involving the head of the CIA, and a top general in Afghanistan, and the fact that the FBI agent who was complained to stepped out of the chain of command and apparently went to a House Republican leader, rather than anybody upstairs. Do you think that there's potential -- you put all that together -- do you think that's a greater potential national security threat than what you're talking about?
You could watch the veins begin to bulge on Grumpy's neck and forehead as this question went along, and so naturally he burst like a festering pustule when it was done:
MCCAIN: Well, I say with great respect, that’s one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard. -- I’m answering your question. Do you want me to answer your question or do you want to interrupt? Which do you want? -- There are four dead Americans. The lives of other Americans were put in jeopardy.

This is a matter of four dead Americans. I think that the other issue raised is very serious, and I think it deserves a thorough and complete investigation — but it does not rise to the level of an attack on an American consulate that took four American lives.
OK, just so we're clear: Potential security threat created that exposes possible Republican chicanery? Never an issue. Tragic incident in which intelligence details remain unclear, so it can be endlessly exploited? Yeh, that's what gets Grumpy's attention.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Poland Narrowly Averts Its Own Right-Wing Terrorist Bloodbath

BrunonKwiecien.jpgDr. Brunon Kwiecień
We all remember Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist who massacred dozens of (mostly) young Norwegians in the summer of 2011, right? Well, now it seems that people in Poland have narrowly escaped having their own version of such a terrorism-induced bloodbath, at the hands of an admirer of Breivik:
Last week the Polish government announced the thwarting of a terrorism plot that is worrisome in its audacity and in who was behind it. In a country with minimal experience of terrorism, the discovery of a sophisticated homegrown bomber seeking to decapitate the government by blowing up the parliament and the president has caused shockwaves and introspection.

The would-be bomber, Dr. Brunon Kwiecień, a forty-five year old research scientist at Krakow’s Agricultural University, fits few currently fashionable profiles. Neither a jihadist nor marginally employed or socially bereft, Kwiecień is married with two children, has a respectable income, and is reported to have been exceptionally interested in explosives since his youth. A skilled chemist popular with his students and considered unremarkable by his university colleagues, he came up with a truly audacious plot to blow up the Sejm, the Polish parliament in Warsaw, during a joint session where both houses, the president and the full cabinet would be present. As Kwiecień is reported to have conducted visits to Warsaw to select his targets, this appears to be more than the figment of a demented imagination.

The seriousness of the bomber’s intent was evidenced by the astonishing haul made by Polish police after Kwiecień’s arrest on November 9. Among the items seized were a dozen illegal firearms, some 1,100 rounds of ammunition, body armor of various types, several detonators (including cell phones triggers) and an amazing four tons of high-grade explosives—more than enough to flatten several city blocks—which the bomber had access to due to his job. There seems to be little doubt that Kwiecień had the technical competence to build the bomb, but his efforts to find collaborators fell short.
As Stratfor explains, this was an attack for which Kwiecień was well suited, requiring a skillset well within his range of competence:
Kwiecien is also a self-proclaimed supporter of Norwegian ultranationalist terrorist Anders Breivik, who conducted a successful lone wolf attack in Oslo in 2011. Indeed, tactically Kwiecien's plot against the Polish government resembled Breivik's in many ways. But his was only the latest, certainly not the last, thwarted terrorist attack in Europe, where similar plots can be expected as the economic and political situation continues to worsen.

Kwiecien allegedly considered Breivik's vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack on Norway's parliament building a failure -- Breivik's killed only eight people and failed to inflict catastrophic structural damage on the building. Breivik used 1 metric ton of ammonium nitrate-based explosives, commonly called ANFO, or ammonium nitrate fuel oil, and parked his vehicle on the street, putting some distance between the VBIED and the building. Kwiecien intended to construct an explosive device using 4 metric tons of ANFO inside a tanker truck, crash through the gates of the parliament building and detonate the VBIED within the courtyard. Investigators believe that it would have been a suicide mission. Had he executed his attack successfully, he likely would have created a blast big enough to cause significant structural damage and loss of life, resulting in more damage and more deaths than Breivik's explosive device.

According to authorities, Kwiecien began planning for the attack between July and September. He apparently had traveled to Warsaw to surveil the area surrounding the building. The fact that there is fairly light security at the entrance to the parliament building may have encouraged Kwiecien to go forward with his plot.
Europeans have been having a problem with a surge in right-wing-extremist violence generally. But then, so has the USA -- to little notice in the media.

It's enough to make one wonder if there are Breivik admirers in the USA working along similar lines. And whether our law-enforcement apparatus would be able to catch them in time.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Right-Wingers File Suit to Delist Endangered Orcas

When the resident orcas in the Puget Sound were listed as an endangered species back in 2005, it seemed inevitable that business interests -- who hate being restricted in their ability to ruin the environment at whim, including destroying the salmon runs on which the orcas' survival depends -- would try to overturn the ruling. And sure enough, within the year, the Building Industry Association of Washington filed a suit to try to delist them. It was thrown out in a matter of months.

Now comes yet another attempt, courtesy of a right-wing legal foundation filing another delisting attempt on behalf of a handful of California farmers, unhappy that they've lost irrigation water to salmon restoration:
NOAA Fisheries will begin a review of the status of a population of killer whales that is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. This review is prompted by a petition from the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation to remove existing protection for these whales.

NOAA said the petition presents new information from scientific journal articles about killer whale genetics, addressing issues such as how closely related this small population is to other populations, and meets the agency's standard for accepting a petition to review.

During the status review, the agency will seek public input and gather all relevant information to determine if NOAA should propose to remove this distinct population of killer whales from the federal species-protection list. The agency cautioned that acceptance of this petition does not suggest that a proposal to delist will follow.

These fish-eating marine mammals, sometimes called orcas and officially known as Southern Resident killer whales, were listed as endangered in 2005, when there were 89 of them in the population.

Southern Resident killer whales spend time in Washington's Puget Sound and nearby waters. They generally leave for the open ocean in the winter. Scientists say that there are now 86 killer whales in the population. The petition asserts that the Southern Resident killer whales are actually part of a much larger population and are, therefore, not in danger of extinction.
NOAA insists that accepting the petition does not mean it is necessarily inclined to delist:
We'll begin a review to determine the population's ESA status, and are soliciting scientific and commercial information about these whales to ensure that the status review is comprehensive. Acceptance of this petition doesn't presuppose any particular outcome. We'll consider and address all substantive information received by Jan. 28, 2013.
What's especially specious are the arugments being raised by the Pacific Legal Foundation:
The decision comes after the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a petition in August asserting that the whale, which swims in the marine waters of the Pacific Northwest, is not biologically different from other orcas found in oceans all over the world.

The PLF argues the whale's continued listing puts farmers at risk because salmon and steelhead found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are part of the orca's food supply.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a news release that the PLF's petition presents new information from scientific journal articles about killer whale genetics. The articles address issues such as how closely related this small population is to other groups of orcas, meeting the agency's standard for accepting a petition for review.
In reality, the newest orca research actually establishes the unique qualities of resident populations. Because they are social animals, they live in fairly large groups which move about to various locales, depending on where fish runs are most abundant. At the same time, genetically distinct populations of so-called "transient" orcas, or Bigg's killer whales -- which eat marine mammals as opposed to fish -- also move through these same waters.

Orcas are not like other species in their portability: If these resident orcas become extinct, they will not be replaced in the ecosystem by other orcas. They will simply be gone.

This would be not just a devastating outcome for people who care about the health of our waters here on Puget Sound. It would also have a devastating economic effect: It's estimated that over a million travelers come to Washington state each year with the purpose of seeing our killer whales, who are indeed among the world's most easily observed whale populations.

A number of observers are questioning NOAA's motives as well:
Fred Felleman, of Seattle, who in 2001 advocated for the original petition for listing, said the petition now to delist the orcas is a distraction from the necessary work of rebuilding orca populations.

"Oh great, here is a chance to biopsy them and tag them and chase them all over town until we don't have to worry about them any more," Felleman said.

To him, the distinct behavior of the southern residents sets them clearly apart from other orcas. They eat only fish, while other orcas eat seals and other mammals. They have distinct family groups, dialects, greeting ceremonies and migratory patterns.

"If there was ever a poster child for this type of subspecies, it's the killer whales," he said. "It's not just their genetics, it's culture. These clearly are the tribes of the sea, and if you extirpate that population not only do you lose the genetic code, you lose a unique brain trust."
If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, there are two organizations to whom you should write:
Northwest Region
Protected Resources Division
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115-0070
Attention—Donna Darm, Assistant Regional Adminstrator
And then you can write our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has a history of advocating for tobacco and nuclear interests and other "business" causes inimical to the human population. Now they're moving to hurt wildlife too -- which also hurts humans.
Pacific Legal Foundation
3900 Lennane Drive, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95834
Phone: (916) 419 7111
Fax: (916) 419 7747
Email: plf AT
Notably, PLF has offices in Washington state, where the businesses who would be harmed by orca extinction operate:
10940 NE 33rd Pl # 210
Bellevue, WA
(425) 576-0484
Be polite and respectful -- but let them know what you think.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Navarette Spins a Big Immigration Lie Out of a Bushel of Little Lies

Ruben Navarrette, the conservative Latino columnist who has been struggling for some time with the nature of the beast with which he finds himself in bed, was pondering the other day how -- after 71 percent of the Latino vote in the USA went for Barack Obama and other Democrats -- Republicans might possibly turn around their image problem with Hispanic voters. They are, after all the demographic time bomb that just went off in the GOP's face.

In his newest column, he appears to have hit upon the solution: Lie like a dog about Democrats, pretend that the raging nativism in the Republican Party doesn't exist, and in general invert reality by introducing a new viral right-wing Planet Bizarro meme -- to wit, that Democrats are the reason comprehensive immigration reform will run aground in the coming sessions of Congress.

That's right: In Navarrette's up-is-down recasting of the immigration universe, the Republican hysterics -- led by Rush Limbaugh and the Minuteman faction, who nowadays fancy themselves the Tea Party -- who were responsible for shooting down the 2007 immigration-reform bill, having declared it "dead on arrival" at the moment of its introduction -- have been airbrushed entirely out of the picture.

But in order to paint a picture of venal Democrats secretly conspiring to keep Latinos in thrall by only pretending to support comprehensive immigration reform, Navarette has to lie. A lot. And indeed he does:
When the media talk about the imminent arrival of comprehensive-immigration reform, this is what is generally assumed: Supposedly, the tuneup to our immigration system that President George W. Bush first talked about at the White House with Mexican President Vicente Fox in September 2001 is a done deal. We’re told: Democrats want it, and Republicans need it.

The assessment is half right. The Republicans need it. But the Democrats don’t really want it. They’ve never really wanted it. They only say they want it to trick Latinos and immigration-reform advocates into voting for them again and again.

Which is why reform probably won’t happen. We’ll have a debate but no solution will emerge from it.

So why don’t Democrats want comprehensive-immigration reform? For the same five reasons that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid teamed up in 2006 and 2007 with the nativist wing of the Republican Party to kill bipartisan bills and, in 2010, helped scuttle the DREAM Act — a mini-legalization program for college students and military.
This is just blatantly, egregiously false -- and the nakedness of these assertions is a clear signal that Navarrette is not simply mistaken on the facts, but actively knows they are false and is lying.

For instance: Harry Reid was the sole sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. He did not "team up" with nativist Republicans to kill his own bill: He fought them tooth and nail.

Likewise, Reid has always supported the DREAM Act, and was one of its sponsors in 2009 and 2010. When it was reintroduced during the 2010 lame-duck session, it was Harry Reid leading the charge. The measure failed because Democrats couldn't overcome the Republican-imposed and -supported filibuster.

Navarrette tells a number of other little lies too, including claiming that labor "opposes any stab at immigration reform that includes mention of guest workers" (false: unions are fine with guest-worker programs that ensure normal constitutional rights, guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, for such workers, including labor and civil rights) and that Democrats are afraid of pitting Latinos against labor unions (new flash for Navarrette: Labor unions loudly support comprehensive reform; indeed, one of the largest unions, SEIU, counts Latinos as a significant bloc of their base).

But the Big Lie all this is intended to promote is the notion that it's not Republican nativists -- you know, the folks who would rather die than allow anything remotely like Navarrette's own "common sense" proposal to craft a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here (not to mention for new arrivals as well), which are immediately and loudly denounced as "amnesty" -- who are preventing immigration reform from moving forward. Nope. It's venal conniving Democrats.

Certainly it's true that there are parts of comprehensive reform that are hard for progressive reformers to swallow as well (including, most likely, penalties and fines for immigrants who are found to have violated existing law), especially for labor unions, many of whose members may also view the new arrivals with some anxiety. But that is not a serious obstacle, nor are those currents strong enough to inspire the kind of nefarious "keep them on the plantation" conspiracy that Navarrette has fabricated here.

What's most self-evident, though, is that Ruben Navarrette has not single shred of credibility remaining.

 Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.