Tuesday April 25th, 2017

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metctalf

Updated
              


World & National 
"The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people."
-- Justice Hugo L. Black
(1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice
Trump's Wall collides with Congress

         


President Trump reportedly backed off his demand that Congress include a down payment for a wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexico border in a crucial spending bill that must pass by Friday night to keep the government funded.

Republican lawmakers have urged the president to focus on border security in general instead of the wall, which Democrats have called a poison pill that would cause them to reject the bill and shut down the government.

Trump told a group of conservative reporters he invited to the White House on Monday that he was open to getting funding for the wall in September when Congress debates the 2018 budget, the Associated Press reported. This is a sharp reversal from his position over the weekend and early Monday, when he doubled down on his demand for the wall. Trump tweeted repeatedly that the wall is necessary to stop the flow of drugs into the United States.



American's Dissatisfaction with Speaker Ryan, Congress Overall Is Growing

Nearly three-quarters disapprove of Congress’s job performance, up 12 points since February
            House Speaker Paul Ryan is the focus of growing dissatisfaction in a recent poll, with 40% saying they view him negatively, compared with 22% who had a positive view.

Americans hold dim views of Congress and of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds, with favorable opinions declining since February.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of Congress’s job performance, up 12 percentage points since February, the poll found. Just one-fifth said they approve of the job Congress is doing, a drop of 9 points.

The findings mark a return to recent norms in views of Congress, after a slight uptick in approval of lawmakers in February. With 20% approving of Congress, its rating is still slightly higher than in most months since May 2011.



North Korea reportedly holds live-fire drill as US nuclear-powered sub approaches

North Korea on Tuesday reportedly conducted a huge live-fire drill that involved up to 400 artillery pieces, which may have been supervised by the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as the U.S. added a nuclear-powered submarine to its fleet of vessels powering toward the region.

Pyongyang apparently deployed long-range artillery units in the coastal region of Wonsan, an unnamed government source told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. South Korea’s military did not confirm the report, but told the news outlet it was “firmly maintaining readiness.”

There was speculation that the North might carry out another nuclear or missile test.



Trump's lawyer launches legal action against BuzzFeed for publishing 'completely fabricated' dossier


Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, says he has instructed his own attorney to investigate legal action against BuzzFeed, which posted an opposition research “dossier” that accused Mr. Cohen without proof of a conspiracy with Russian agents.

Mr. Cohen told The Washington Times that he also is considering a lawsuit against former British spy Christopher Steele, who wrote the gossipy 35-page dossier that the liberal news website posted on Jan. 10.

Mr. Steele was paid by a Hillary Clinton supporter, via the Democratic Party-linked firm Fusion GPS, to gather dirt on candidate Trump last summer and fall. GPS circulated the Steele memos to reporters and Democrats.
But it was not until BuzzFeed posted the dossier that some people named in it learned that they were accused of wrongdoing.



How low can it go? Trump, House GOP jostle on ways to cut personal tax rates

Republicans divided over how to implement president’s changes

Capitol Hill awaits the promised release of President Trump’s tax plan this week, and lawmakers are hoping for clarity amid a debate roiled with myriad options — and no clear sense that any of the plans are gaining much traction.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, who’s been meeting weekly with House and Senate leaders on the subject, teased the broad outlines of their plans Monday.

“On the personal side, we’re about a middle-income tax cut and simplification,” Mr. Mnuchin said Monday. “On the business side, we’re about making them competitive.”

But there’s surprisingly little unity about how to achieve those goals within the GOP, much less when Democrats are included.



DHS to open office for victims of crimes by illegal immigrants


Homeland Security on Wednesday will officially open its office to assist victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, making good on a promise President Trump made during the campaign.

Mr. Trump has identified victims of illegal immigrant crime as a forgotten population in the immigration debate and has given parents whose children were killed by illegal immigrants an unprecedented platform to make their case for stiffer enforcement.

Democrats counter with exampled of high-performing illegal immigrants, and say creating a special office could give Americans an inflated sense of the criminal threat from illegal immigrants.

The new office is dubbed Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement or VOICE.



Grassley takes methodical approach, follows the money to find source of 'dodgy dossier'

In February, Chuck Grassley looked out his Senate office window at Washington’s cold, unforgiving winter sky, then shook his head in disgust. The seven-term Republican from Iowa and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman had hit a wall.

Spring would arrive soon and with it a torrent of questions about the young presidency of Donald Trump and exactly what happened with the November election: What was the real extent of Russian interference, and did Trump campaign officials know about it? What was the Obama administration’s role in investigating the explosive charges? Were there illegal and targeted leaks of sensitive intelligence? The accusations would fly so fast and furiously that Washington would shake.

Mr. Grassley, who has played many a role in high-stakes probes on Capitol Hill, ramped up his involvement. He believed one thread of the story needed a much more muscular tug to see what would unravel — the “dodgy dossier.”
With Congress now re-engaging its multiple investigations, the 35 pages of unsubstantiated, salacious opposition research by a former British intelligence officer that almost disrupted Mr. Trump’s campaign is getting a fresh look — and a new opportunity to create mischief.



Former Fox Host Claims Network Hacked Into Her computer


Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros stepped up her fight with her ex-employer claiming in a new lawsuit that she was a victim of hacking, electronic surveillance and a social media harassment campaign that mirrors the plot of a "Homeland" episode.

Fox News operatives broke into her personal computer, planted key-logging and other surveillance software on it and then used the information “to intimidate, terrorize and crush her career through an endless stream of lewd, offensive and career-damaging social media posts, blog entries and commentary,” Tantaros claims in the lawsuit.

“The outlandish merges with reality in the world of Fox News,” she said in the complaint, filed Monday in New York federal court.



Mattis visit to Afghanistan stirs talk of new U.S. battle plan as security structure crumbles


A surprise visit by Defense Secretary James Mattis to Afghanistan on Monday has fueled speculation that the Trump administration may be close to a new battle plan for the 16-year-old war.

In his first visit to the country as Pentagon chief, tacked onto a larger diplomatic trip to meet with U.S. allies in Africa and the Middle East, Mr. Mattis pulled no punches over the state of the fighting.

He arrived at a low point for Afghan Security Forces in the three years since President Obama ended the U.S. combat mission. Thousands of American troops remain as advisers and trainers.



Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign paymenets, House Oversight leaders say

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.
[Michael Flynn did not initially reveal income from Russia-related entities on his personal financial disclosure]

Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said they believe Flynn neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey when he applied to reinstate his security clearance. They reached this conclusion after viewing two classified memos and a financial disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.



Labour has a real Brexit alterntive. Now it must get the message to voters
 
Labour will rip up Theresa May’s Brexit plan but respect the referendum result. The benefits of the single market and the customs union will be on the table. EU nationals will be protected from day one. Human beings won’t be bargaining chips. The great repeal bill will be scrapped; Labour will introduce a EU rights and protections bill instead. All workers’, consumers’ and environmental rights will be protected. Much of the country craves unity: Labour will offer it. A “Brexit that brings people together,” not a “reckless Tory Brexit”. MPs will get a final say. If they reject the deal, Labour will return to the negotiating table.


These are Labour’s key lines on Brexit, unveiled today by Keir Starmer. They now have to be repeated ad infinitum: preferably in a pithier, snappier form than above. What the Tories get – particularly under the ruthlessly effective Lynton Crosby – is message discipline. If you want a message to cut through, you have to repeat it, over and over and over and over again, until your opponents are pleading with you to shut up. If you don’t define yourself, you’ll be defined by your opposition. We all know Tory lines off by heart – clearing up Labour’s mess, long-term economic plan, that kind of thing – as do voters, who often repeat them verbatim on the doorstep. The Tories clearly define both themselves and their opposition.



Senate staff perflexed by unusual White House private briefing on North Korea

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on April 24 announced that the White House will host a meeting on North Korea for all senators.

The White House announced Monday that it would host an unusual private briefing on North Korea for the entire Senate, prompting questions from lawmakers about whether the Trump administration intends to use the event as a photo op ahead of its 100-day mark.

Press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the lawmakers would be briefed Wednesday by several senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He emphasized that the meeting plan had been convened by Senate leadership and that the White House was serving “as the location.”

Yet the White House setting perplexed lawmakers who have grown accustomed to such briefings taking place in a secure location on Capitol Hill, where there is more room to handle such a large group.



The status quo survives in France, but in ruins


The French easily embrace contradiction and chaos. It’s what makes their politics work: “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” and they said it first: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The Sunday national election in France proved it again.

The two established political parties finished far out of the money, and Immanuel Macron, the new front-runner, is a banker who is the preferred candidate of the current Socialist president, Francois Hollande, who is so unpopular that he was the first president not to stand for re-election since World War II. He was so unpopular, in fact, that he didn’t publicly endorse M. Macron lest it be the kiss of death.

M. Macron polled 24 percent of the vote in the first round, barely 2 percent more than Marine Le Pen, the most charismatic candidate but who is counted out in the May 7 run-off because she is thought to be too far to the right of everybody else. The only left-wing candidate thought to have a chance to make the run-off was Jean-Luc Melenchon, who wanted to lead France out of the European Union and NATO and join Cuba and Venezuela and Cuba in something called the “Bolivarian Alliance.” In addition to chaotic, French politics can be ideologically nuts.



100 days of the GOP eating its own

It’s rounding on 100 days of the President Donald Trump administration — and surprise, surprise, it’s not just Democrats who are pointing wild fingers at the White House for this and that, for what have you and what not. criticizing, condemning and generally crying about how things are progressing.

It’s Republicans, and almost as much.

What is it about the GOP that it can’t keep from eating its own?

The headline, from Politico: “Republicans sound alarm on Trump’s troubles ahead of 2018.”



"It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright


Medal of Honor
Army Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Citation

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.



3/14/20017

We Have Met the Enemy…

      
Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
              
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
              
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wikileaks-cia-cache.html?_r=0) acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 (http://www.wnd.com/1998/04/6108/ ).

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA treaty (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukusa/ ) signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional ‘Patriot Act’.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…