Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DOD Finally Admits That The Manning Leak Was No Big Deal

The publication of hundreds of thousands of secret documents leaked by the Army soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010 had no strategic impact on the American war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a newly released Pentagon analysis concluded.

The main finding of the DOD report, written a year after the breach, was that Manning’s uploading of more than 700,000 secret files to the open information organization WikiLeaks had no significant strategic effect on the U.S. war efforts.

The belated publication of the analysis gives the lie to the official story maintained over several years that the leak had caused serious harm to U.S. national security.

It also calls attention to the disproportionately severe punishment that was meted out to Manning – 35 years in military prison, the harshest sentence in history for an official leak. And it raises questions about the continuing investigation by DOJ into the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

The conclusions are contained in the final report of the information review task force that the DoD set up in the wake of the Manning leaks to look into their impact in the hope of mitigating any damage.

The report, obtained by  BuzzFeed’s investigative reporter Jason Leopold under the Freedom of Information Act, is so heavily redacted that its original 107 pages have been reduced to 35. Nonetheless, some key findings can still be gleaned from it.  On Afghanistan, the review finds that there was no “significant ‘strategic impact’ to the release of this information”.  Similarly, the study of the impact on the Iraq war concludes “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former senior US leadership in Iraq”.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Then Fail, Caesar!

Hundreds of Trump voters have been venting their anger over Shakespeare in the Park 's recent production of "Julius Caesar" which featured a Trump-like actor in the title role.  There was no outrage over a similar production five years ago that featured a Barack Obama lookalike in the title role. A sampling of the recent vitriol:

"Your play depicting the murder of our President is nothing but pure hatred. You are vial [sic] despicable excuses for human beings. I wish you all the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die."

 "Hope you all who did this play about Trump are the first do [sic] die when ISIS COMES TO YOU fucking sumbags [sic]."

 "What exactly were you idiots thinking about producing a play that depicts the killing of our President? Does anyone over there have an ounce of morality, decency, and or common sense? Your organization is a disgrace to the community and to the arts. If you have a problem with the president protest, as is your constitutional right or just vote him out. I will do my best to ensure taxpayers' dollars are not used in the future to fund your disrespect and stupidity!"

Problem is, these threats (misspellings and grammatical errors included) were mistakenly sent to other Shakespeare companies across the country, including those in Massachusetts, Dallas and Washington, DC. 

"It's a case of mistaken identity," admits Raphael Parry, the artistic director at Shakespeare Dallas.  Yet he remains unsympathetic, saying.  "If you don't want to see political commentary, don't go see it.  Don't blast everyone who's in theatre or the arts. It's unbelievable. It's shocking. People need to do their research before they blast off."


Sunday, May 28, 2017

No Honor--Trump Steals Family Seal

At the Trump National Golf Club outside Washington, which hosted the Senior PGA. Championship this weekend, the president’s coat of arms is everywhere-- but it turns out the coat of arms was ripped off from a Welsh family and Trump is not even allowed to use it over in the U.K.

The British are known to take matters of heraldry seriously-- the seal was granted by British authorities in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post.  Joseph D. Tydings, a Democrat and former United States senator from Maryland who is the grandson of Davies, learned that Trump was using the emblem without permission when he visited Mar-a-Lago.  The copied version of the family seal is identical, except for the word "Integrity", which was ironically eliminated and replaced with the name "Trump"

Trump thad ride to bring the American version to Scotland a decade ago. He used the emblem on promotional materials when he started marketing a new golf course development in Aberdeenshire, on Scotland’s east coast. But the materials ran afoul of the coat-of-arms authorities in Scotland.

The College of Arms, which oversees coats of arms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, provided more detail. The emblem originally submitted in 2007 by Trump to Britain’s trademark office matched one that had been granted to the Davies, an American of Welsh descent who once served as ambassador to the Soviet Union. The trademark was denied.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Flash Mob Protests Trump Golf Course

A California grassroots protest group had a flash of inspiration: Members would scurry onto an open space near Donald Trump’s National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes and arrange themselves to spell out “RESIST!”

The Saturday action by Indivisible San Pedro — whose members sometimes refer to themselves as “The Indivisibles” — went off without a hitch. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies showed up, but the protest was peaceful and broke no laws. While the 30-foot-tall “letters” look like they’re in the center of Trump’s coastal golf course — and close to the clubhouse — they were actually created by some 200 protesters in a small park connected to the grounds. The California Coastal Commission, which guards public access to the Pacific Ocean, protects the park from encroachment from the golf course.

Organizers planned the strike to be lightning-fast. “We wanted an element of surprise,” said retired journalist and Indivisible group member Peter Martin. “By the time the Trump people figured out what we were doing, we’d be gone.”

The group studied public access and parking, and learned they didn’t need a permit for their protest. They met with a member of the Coastal Commission who told them they absolutely had a First Amendment right to protest at the spot, said Martin.

Theater professional and group member Melanie Jones planned out most of the logistics, said Martin. She calculated how many people — two deep and lying down — it would take to make each letter “tall” enough to be easily filmed by a hired drone. The group practiced forming letters during one of its weekly meetings.

Participants were told to be at the site at 9 a.m. and wearing white. They gathered at different picnic tables to meet with their specific “letter captain.” The entire letter-creating operation took about 15 minutes, and people sang “God Bless America” as they lay in their human “Resist” message, Martin said. Then they were out of there.

“We had a good time,” said Martin.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Breaking: Trump Fires FBI Director

In a shocking development, Donald Trump has fired FBI Director Comey.  No one saw it coming-- apparently it was in the works for about a week between Jeff Sessions and the White House.  Many have commented on whether it was appropriate for Sessions (who had recused himself from the Russian investigation) to be involved in the removal of the man actually running the Russian investigation.

In a total weasel move, Trump's letter didn't state his personal reasons for making the decision, but rather shifted the blame to a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (presumably Jeff Sessions was too stupid to write it).   Even worse, Trump didn't have the balls to call Comey himself to deliver the news--- Comey found out when the news of his firing came over CNN on a TV in a conference room where he was speaking to FBI employees in the Los Angeles field office.  In a move that demonstrated how personal this was for Trump, he had the letter delivered to the FBI building by his personal bodyguard (Keith Schiller) instead of the White House Counsel or Chief of Staff.  People are even speculating that the White House had no idea that Comey was on travel status in Los Angeles.

Of course, nobody believes that Trump fired Comey because of how he publicly dealt with the Clinton email invesigation.  Trump himself praised Comey during the campaign and said he was 'being brave" in how he handled her case.  If Trump did have any issue with Comey over the Clinton email handling, he would have fired him the day after inauguration.

Legal scholars and historians are comparing these events to Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox in 1973.   To most of these observers, the Comey firing is a grotesque abuse of power-- and it is now abundantly clear that Trump does not recognize the concept of checks and balances in our democracy.  Comey wouldn't explicitly rule out Trump as being under investigation in his Hill testimony last week, and Trump was pissed.  Trump's pathetic non-sequitur in his letter (where he squeezed in a mention that Comey allegedly said to him three times he wasn't under investigation) makes that clear.  Everyone in the federal government should take note-- displease King Trump and your career will be in jeopardy.   This alone may explain why career prosecutor Rod Rosenstein would agree to be complicit in this controversy.

Almost assuredly, there will be monumental pressure for Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor on the Russia investigation.  There is widespread concern now that they real reason Comey was fired was because the FBI's Russian investigation was getting to close to Trump for comfort.  The only way for the American public to have any confidence in our democracy is to have a special prosecutor to uncover the truth of whether Russia was involved in steering the election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign (or even Trump himself) was involved.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Guess Who Skipped History Class?

Donald Trump continues to make news for all the wrong reasons-- today, he mulled over the Civil War and suggested President Andrew Jackson could have prevented it.   Jackson, a populist who Trump often gets compared to, was elected in 1828 and died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War began. He was also a slave owner.

In an interview on SiriusXM, Trump displayed an appalling lack of knowledge of American history.  "[Jackson] was a very tough person, but he had a big heart," Trump began.  Trump then claimed that Jackson was "really angry' with "what was happening with regard to the Civil War." 

'[Jackson] said there's no reason for this,' Trump continued. "People, don't realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it why? People don't ask that question," according to Trump.  "But why was there the Civil War?" Trump said. "Why could that one not been worked out?"

'People don't ask that question. But why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not been worked out?' Trump asked.

The reason that people don't ask that question is because the answer is abundantly clear.  Most educated Americans now know that the Civil War was about slavery.

Conservative commentator David Frum tried to put a positive spin on Trump's amazing display of ignorance, tweeting, "At least Trump does seem aware that Andrew Jackson is dead."

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