And I am completely drunk.
Belgian ale and Jack Daniels.
And I am completely drunk.
Belgian ale and Jack Daniels.
Heredi Jews are delaying flights because they do not want to sit next to women.
To quote the federal law:
“[N]o person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”
This sentiment applies to both Ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as the Talibaptist Christians.
Just throw their asses in gaol.
I was thinking that the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, was the oldest doctor, was the oldest actor to play The Doctor, (Do we capitalize the “The”?) and then I realized that John Hurt, at age 73, as [T]the Doctor, albeit a Doctor who never had a bit on the series.
So, is Peter Capaldi the oldest actor to play [T]the Doctor, or is it John Hurt, who played [T}the Doctor who did (or didn’t) destroy Gallifrey?
I’m curious here, but I figure that I am stirring up a sh%$ storm, but I am alcohol loading for the new year, so I do not care.
It appears that the Iditarod sled dog race is missing a crucial element, snow:
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the most popular sporting event in Alaska, and has long been a test of human and animal endurance. Traveling a 1,000-mile path across Arctic tundra from Willow to Nome (with a ceremonial start in Anchorage), mushers and their teams of 16 specially-trained dogs must withstand some of the most extreme winter weather on Earth: blizzards and whiteout conditions, along with freezing temperatures, are commonplace.
The major challenge that mushers had to contend with this year — and that forced many of the more experienced racers out of the event — was not unusual cold and snow. In fact, it was the opposite — a near total lack of snow with ice covering across large stretches of the course. Mushing over snow cover across steep, rugged terrain is difficult enough, but the sleds were not designed for traversing gravel.
I actually saw the opening of the Iditerod in 1968, and the idea that there would be no snow was completely incomprehensible.
In fact, my enduring memory of that day is to walk into a f%$#ing igloo, and thinking how warm it was in there. (There was a sort of a fair at the beginning of the race.)
It was the first time that I was on a (pretty lame, actually) roller coaster.
The two things that I remember are the roller coaster and the start of the Iditerod.
H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.
It appears that they want to retain their patronage prerogatives:
In a joint press release on Saturday night, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie unveiled their long-awaited plan for reforming the Port Authority, while at the same time vetoing a Port-reform bill passed unanimously by both the New York and New Jersey state legislatures.
In separate letters sent to the legislatures in their respective states, Cuomo and Christie said that the program recommended by their “Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority” was superior to the one they passed.
“The governance structure and other accountability measures recommended by the Special Panel will do a better job of improving accountability,” wrote Cuomo.
The governors also agreed to sign a separate bill that would make the bistate authority subject to the states’ freedom of information laws.
The bills the governors vetoed would have subjected the Port to standards already imposed on other New York State authorities earlier this century.
More precisely, it would have required the Port Authority’s commissioners to certify in writing that their loyalty is to the authority (versus the governors who appointed them). It would have mandated that the authority write up policies for disposal and acquisition of authority property, establish a whistleblower program, require staff to report suspicions of fraud and corruption to the agency’s inspector general, require all commissioners to file annual financial disclosure statements, and more.
This stuff is governance 101, but they want to put their cronies in unaccountable positions of authority so that they can maintain patronage empires.
In addition to the TPP and the TTIP, we now have the Trade In Services Agreement (TiSA), which looks to vitiate national privacy, net neutrality, and consumer protections:
The US is attempting to secure immunity from investigation for online security breaches by major US companies under negotiations between Washington and Brussels, according to leaked documents seen by the Guardian.
Such a deal would prevent US companies that were operating inside the EU from being prosecuted by regulators or law officers for data breaches or claims of negligence in the host country, forcing European governments to pursue cases in the US courts.
Public service unions said the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) talks in Geneva revealed how the US planned to protect homegrown businesses from regulations that might hinder their expansion into sensitive areas such as government data handling and healthcare.
Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of Public Services International (PSI), which represents 650 unions in 150 countries, said the leaked documents, obtained by the Associated Whistleblowing Press, confirmed her fears that “Tisa is being used to further the interests of some of the largest corporations on earth”.
She said: “It is now clear the US wants to use its trade agenda to remove restrictions to data being held or processed in other countries.”
Here is nickel tour of what it all means:
The cynic in me understands why Obama came out in front of net neutrality regulation: Once TiSA goes through, any FCC ruling is moot.
He gets to play at consumer protection while taking it all away with a fast track vote on the treaty.
I did not notice this story when the Global Post published it in April, but when they republished the fact that Vietnam is executing corrupt bankers, I felt kind of jealous:
Editor’s note: This story was first published on April 3, 2014. GlobalPost is featuring it again as one of our must-reads of 2014.
BANGKOK — For the most part, American bankers whose rash pursuit of profit brought on the 2008 global financial collapse didn’t get indicted. They got bonuses.
Odds are that scandal would have played out differently in Vietnam, another nation struggling with misbehaving bankers.
The authoritarian Southeast Asian state doesn’t just send unscrupulous financiers to jail. Sometimes, it sends them to death row.
Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in the past six months.
One duo now on death row embezzled roughly $25 million from the state-owned Vietnam Agribank. Their co-conspirators caught decade-plus prison sentences.
I do not approve of capital punishment, but this whole “Decades-plus prison sentence” thing? That I wholeheartedly approve.
What’s more, his site is free to the public.
Well, Orbitz and United Airlines decided that they had to go medieval on his ass, and roll out the lawyers, and so his site is now getting mainstream coverage, fom places like Fortune Magazine:
United Airlines and Orbitz have teamed up to file suit against a 22-year-old entrepreneur whose airline ticketing startup, Skiplagged, operates according to a thrifty booking ploy known as ‘hidden city’ ticketing.
This means that passengers purchase tickets for indirect flights with the intention to disembark at their layover destinations. Say you want to fly from New York to Chicago, for instance: it could be cheaper to take an indirect flight to Los Angeles and then get off at the Chicago layover.
While hidden city ticketing only works when travelers purchase one-way tickets without any checked baggage, notes CNN, this often represents the cheapest option.
Yeah, CNN covered it too.
I was unaware of this technique, but I have now bookmarked the site, and I imagine that some of you will too.
*Wherein an attempt to suppress information has the unintended effect of publicizing that information. (Link)
It turns out that the new House Majority Whip in the Congress spoke to David Duke’s white supremacist group in 2002:
Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 Republican in the House, addressed a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in 2002, a Scalise spokeswoman confirmed Monday as his party prepared to take control of both chambers of Congress.
Mr. Scalise made his remarks to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, which was founded two years earlier by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader and Louisiana politician. Mr. Scalise was a Louisiana state legislator at the time.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the organization — which uses EURO as an acronym — as a hate group, while noting that in recent years it has “accomplished little” and serves “primarily as a vehicle to publicize Duke’s writing and sell his books.”
Moira Bagley Smith, a Scalise spokeswoman, said the congressman “has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question.”
Why are you dissing your base?
Seriously, David Duke in 2002? How could you not know who you were talking to.
Then again, the Republican party is far less inclusive than it was in 2002, when Trent Lott was bounced as Senate Majority leader for endorsing Strom Thrumond’s 1948 segregationist bid for the White House.
The Greek Parliament failed to elect a new President, which means that snap elections need to be held, and it looks like the left leaning Syriza Party, which has been dismissive of the “stay in the Euro zone at all costs” of the mainstream parties looks likely to win:
Greece will hold early national elections on Jan. 25, stoking concerns over the future of the country’s financial bailout, after lawmakers failed to elect a new president in a third and final round of voting Monday.
The conservative-led coalition government’s candidate for the presidential post, 73-year-old former European commissioner Stavros Dimas, garnered 168 votes from parliament’s 300 seats — short of the 180 votes needed to win.
According to the country’s constitution, parliament must now be dissolved within 10 days. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said national elections will be held “at the soonest possible date” — Sunday, Jan. 25.
Investors are worried that the main left-wing main opposition Syriza, which is consistently ahead in opinion polls, might try to renege on the terms of the bailout deal that is keeping the country afloat.
Syriza has pledged to roll back some of the reforms the country has implemented in order to qualify for billions of euros in rescue funds from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund — although it has recently somewhat softened its rhetoric about unilaterally pulling out of the bailout deal.
Seeing as how the “bailout deal” has Greeks chopping down their forests to stay warm in the winter, massive unemployment, and hospitals without necessary equipment or drugs in order to repay German and French bankers, I understand why the Syriza party is a bit skeptical that this is in their best interests.
The International Monetary Fund announced Monday that it would suspend the disbursement of financial aid to Greece until a new government takes power following next month’s elections.
In a communique, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said that talks with Greek authorities over the international financial bailout would be resumed as soon as a new government is chosen after parliamentary polls are held in late January or early February.
The announcement came shortly after the sharply divided Greek parliament once again failed to elect a consensus candidate to occupy the largely ceremonial office of the presidency, making the legislative elections originally set for 2016 inevitable.
Tell me that this is not a flat out threat from the so-called “technocrats” at the IMF.
If Syriza were smart, they would promise an aggressive program of going after the big name tax evaders and soaking the rich.
Technically, it would fit the requirements of the bailout, and it could very allow for sanctions against the foreign banks who have facilitated the hiding of assets.
A few bounties to people who leak bank data, and some snatch and grabs of particularly egregious offenders among the Greek upper class by the national constabulary, and they would be well on their way to solvency.
Since I was at home, I shared it with Charlie.
I would have shared it with Natalie at the same time, but seeing as how she is in Hawaii, she will have to read it on Facebook.
Whenever someone looks at Sheriff Woody or Buzz Lightyear they are inanimate, but when unobserved, they move on their own.
They, and Mr. Potato Head, are weeping angels.
I mentioned it to Charlie, and he suffered a bit of a meltdown, and he strongly implied that I had ruined his childhood.
About a half hour later, I talked to him again, and he gave me a high-five.
He told me that after some reflection, he realized that my brief moment of insight actually improved his memories of the whole Toy Story series.
FWIW, he’s getting into Dr. Who, though he is still first and foremost a Brony.
In particular, he likes the degree to which the show adheres to the Novikov self-consistency principle, and so does not create paradoxes.
You would think that if there was a group of minorities who would know how to behave toward the police, it would be black cops, but they fear encountering the police as well:
From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life.
“It makes good headlines to say this is occurring, but I don’t think you can validate it until you look into the circumstances they were stopped in,” said Bernard Parks, the former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, who is African American.
“Now if you want to get into the essence of why certain groups are stopped more than others, then you only need to go to the crime reports and see which ethnic groups are listed more as suspects. That’s the crime data the officers are living with.”
Blacks made up 73 percent of the shooting perpetrators in New York in 2011 and were 23 percent of the population.
A number of academics believe those statistics are potentially skewed because police over-focus on black communities, while ignoring crime in other areas. They also note that being stopped as a suspect does not automatically equate to criminality. Nearly 90 percent of blacks stopped by the NYPD, for example, are found not to be engaged in any crime.
The black officers interviewed said they had been racially profiled by white officers exclusively, and about one third said they made some form of complaint to a supervisor.
All but one said their supervisors either dismissed the complaints or retaliated against them by denying them overtime, choice assignments, or promotions. The remaining officers who made no complaints said they refrained from doing so either because they feared retribution or because they saw racial profiling as part of the system.
In declining to comment to Reuters, the NYPD did not respond to a specific request for data showing the racial breakdown of officers who made complaints and how such cases were handled.
“There’s no real outlet to report the abuse,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who said he was stigmatized and retaliated against throughout his 22-year career for speaking out against racial profiling and police brutality.
Officers make complaints to the NYPD’s investigative arm, the Internal Affairs Bureau, only to later have their identities leaked, said Adams.
One of the better-known cases of alleged racial profiling of a black policeman concerns Harold Thomas, a decorated detective who retired this year after 30 years of service, including in New York’s elite Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Shortly before 1 a.m. one night in August 2012, Thomas was leaving a birthday party at a trendy New York nightclub.
Wearing flashy jewelry, green sweatpants and a white t-shirt, Thomas walked toward his brand-new white Escalade when two white police officers approached him. What happened next is in dispute, but an altercation ensued, culminating in Thomas getting his head smashed against the hood of his car and then spun to the ground and put in handcuffs.
“If I was white, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Thomas, who has filed a lawsuit against the city over the incident. The New York City Corporation Counsel said it could not comment on pending litigation.
At an ale house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last week, a group of black police officers from across the city gathered for the beer and chicken wing special. They discussed how the officers involved in the Garner incident could have tried harder to talk down an upset Garner, or sprayed mace in his face, or forced him to the ground without using a chokehold. They all agreed his death was avoidable.
Said one officer from the 106th Precinct in Queens, “That could have been any one of us.”
This is arguably a more damning indictment of the inherent racism of the police as an institution than Michael Brown, or Eric Garner, or Amadou Diallo, or any one of hundreds of other black (and brown) men.
I would argue that the picture is even bigger than that. I would argue that this is actually something that we as a society demand.
The police are not a source of this sickness in this society, they are a product of this sickness in our society.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about the issues with the FBI’s investigation of the Anthrax mailings, and now it appears that the GAO report on this matter has attracted the interest of The New York Times:
A congressional inquiry into the F.B.I.’s scientific work on the anthrax mailings of 2001 has identified major gaps in genetic evidence that purportedly links the germs to Bruce E. Ivins, the Army microbiologist blamed for attacks that killed five people, sickened 17 others and shook the nation.
The Government Accountability Office study, requested in 2010 and made public on Friday, echoes earlier criticism from the National Academy of Sciences. In 2011, its expert panel found that the bureau’s analysis of the genetic evidence “did not definitively demonstrate” a firm link between the mailed anthrax spores and a sample taken from Dr. Ivins’s laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, and more generally was “not as conclusive” as the bureau had asserted.
The G.A.O. had better access to F.B.I. records and deepened the genetic critique, finding that the bureau’s investigation “lacked several important characteristics” that could have strengthened its case. “A key scientific gap,” the 77-page report said, was the bureau’s failure to investigate whether samples of anthrax spores could naturally mutate enough to obscure their putative links to Dr. Ivins.
I think that it is more than likely that Dr. Ivins was involved in the anthrax mailing.
I know that the FBI was flailing wildly, and was looking for anyone that they could finger as the perp, and Ivins was the 2nd person that the FBI aggressively harassed, the first being Steven Hatfill, and it appears that in both cases, the FBI was hoping for a suicide to end their search.
Speaking or Indian defense upgrades, the first Indian built SSBNs has entered sea trials:
In a major step in validation of indigenous defence technologies, the Indian built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Arihant completed its harbour trials and entered the sea here on Monday.
Built under the highly secretive Advanced Technology Vessel project monitored directly by the Prime Minister’s Office, the nuclear-powered submarine emerged from the breakwaters of the Visakhapatnam Harbour under the watchful gaze of a low flying helicopter. The 112 metre, 6000 tonne partially submerged Arihant glided into the Bay of Bengal as part of its sea trials, sailing north along the coast before disappearing into the mist.
The Arihant class is kind of an odd hybrid: It only carries 4 Polaris class missiles or 12 shorter range missiles, and at 6000 tons it’s on the smallish size for a missile boat.
It is also the first indigenously designed and built nuclear submarine for the Indians, so it represents a big step forward.
They have started ski-jump tests with the Light Combat Aircraf (LCA):
The first prototype of the Navalaized Tejas Indigenous Combat Aircraft (LCA) developed for the Indian Navy has took off saturday (December 20, 2014) from the Ski-Jump facility of Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa. LCA (Navy) is designed with stronger landing gears to absorb forces exerted by the ski jump ramp during take-off, and cable arrested landing.
I’m dubious of the suitability of tailless (or canardless) design on an aircraft carrier, but this does represent a step forward for the Indian Navy.
It appears that the latter is doing a cut and paste of MPAA legal filing.
Thankfully, the Sony hack has revealed these machinations:
Tensions between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood exploded into public view this week, as Google filed court papers seeking to halt a broad subpoena Hood sent to the company.
The Hood subpoena, delivered in late October, didn’t come out of nowhere. Hood’s investigation got revved up after at least a year of intense lobbying by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). E-mails that hackers acquired from Sony Pictures executives and then dumped publicly now show the inner workings of how that lobbying advanced—and just how extensive it was. Attorneys at Sony were on a short list of top Hollywood lawyers frequently updated about the MPAA’s “Attorney General Project,” along with those at Disney, Warner Brothers, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal, and Paramount.
The e-mails show a staggering level of access to, and influence over, elected officials. The MPAA’s single-minded obsession: altering search results and other products (such as “autocompleted” search queries) from Google, a company the movie studios began referring to as “Goliath” in around February 2014. The studios’ goal was to quickly get pirated content off the Web; unhappy about the state of Google’s voluntary compliance with their demands and frustrated in their efforts at passing new federal law such as SOPA and PIPA, the MPAA has turned instead to state law enforcement.
The most controversial elements of SOPA/PIPA would have let content owners effectively shut down websites they said were infringing their copyrights or trademarks. This already happens—think of various peer-to-peer sites that no longer exist—but it usually involves drawn-out litigation. SOPA promised a faster-moving process that would have essentially made rights holders a website’s judge, jury, and executioner.
To get the same results in a post-SOPA world, MPAA has hired some of the nation’s most well-connected lawyers. The project is spearheaded by Thomas Perrelli, a Jenner & Block partner and former Obama Administration lawyer. Perrelli has given attorneys general (AGs) across the country their talking points, suggesting realistic “asks” prior to key meetings with Google. Frustrated with a lack of results, Perrelli and top MPAA lawyers then authorized an “expanded Goliath strategy” in which they would push the AGs to move beyond mere letter writing. Instead, they would seek full-bore investigations against Google.
If the AGs felt short on resources—well, Hollywood studios could help with that. Money from Sony and other Big Six studios was available to draft the actual subpoenas, to research legal theories to prosecute Google, to spread negative press about the search giant, and to reach out to other state AGs that might join with Hood.
One chain of e-mails among the MPAA and studio lawyers bears the subject line “STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL PROJECT” and focuses on how Google could be pressured into altering its search results, demoting or removing so-called “rogue sites” that host high levels of copyrighted context.
Most notes on the project came from Vans Stevenson, the MPAA’s VP of state legislative affairs; higher-level updates were written by MPAA general counsel Steven Fabrizio or took the form of memos written by Perrelli. Most information about the AG project was shared with a group of more than 30 lawyers, including several from the MPAA and RIAA, as well as each of the six big studios, but some were kept to just general counsels and their immediate confidantes.
“[Attorney] General Hood told me by e-mail today that his conversation ‘with Google’s General Counsel did not go well,’ and therefore he followed up with the letter that was sent yesterday,” Vans Stevenson informed the group in November 2013. “Hood also said he was organizing a meeting during the NAAG [National Association of Attorneys General] meeting next week in New Orleans with his outside counsel Mike Moore, former MS Attorney General. Also attending that meeting will be MPAA/RIAA outside counsel Tom Perrelli and others, ‘so we can discuss the next move,’ Hood wrote…. I will keep you advised of further developments.”
The e-mail includes a letter from Hood to Google general counsel Kent Walker. It was published earlier this week by The New York Times, which reported that most of the letter was actually written by Perrelli’s law firm.
Google counter-sued, which has the AG Hood calling for a timeout:
It appears that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is making a strategic retreat in the wake of publicity about his investigation of Google.
On Friday morning, Google sued Hood, saying that a 79-page subpoena he had sent to the company was “punitive,” and violated Google’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. The company also pointed to recent press reports that showed Hollywood studios had lobbied heavily for the investigation.
Later that day, Hood sent a statement to The New York Times saying that he’s “calling a time out, so that cooler heads may prevail.” Hood says he wants to negotiate a “peaceful resolution to the issues affecting consumers” that he and other state AGs have pointed out in a series of letters.
Rather unsurprisingly, after the Mississippi AG told the press that he had received no funding from the MPAA, and challenged them to look, the press looked, and to no one’s surprise, they found MPAA money:
The saga of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and his cozy ties to Hollywood continue to come out. He’s been claiming that, sure, he met with Hollywood’s top lawyer, Tom Perrelli, had him prep Hood for a meeting with Google, and even took a ~4,000 word angry letter that Perrelli wrote for him, signed it as his own and sent it to Google — but he did all that without knowing that Perrelli worked for Hollywood’s top lobbying arm, the MPAA. Uh huh.
And then in a press conference, he insisted that he was doing this out of his own interest in protecting the children — but also admitted that his office didn’t have any intellectual property experts and didn’t have a million dollars to do an investigation (approximately the amount the MPAA’s leaked emails show them discussing to fund this investigation) and that he needed to rely on such help from “victims” to make his case. It’s fairly rare, though, that “victims” of a crime run the actual law enforcement investigation and fund it as well.
Still, in that last post, we also mentioned how Hood implied that anyone suggesting he was “paid off” might be defaming him, and apparently also stated that he wasn’t getting any money from Hollywood, encouraging reporters to “check records.”
Okay then. Let’s… check the records. Here, for example, is the MPAA’s Political Action Committee apparently giving $2,500 to an operation called “The Friends of Jim Hood.”
And, you can also look at the public record of who donated to his campaign, which pretty clearly shows donations to his campaign from NBC Universal and 20th Century Fox.
And it goes on and on.
One big take away about all this is that the leaked emails reveal that the Hollywood studios long term goal is to break DNS:
Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that’s sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that’s currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place?
A bold challenge to the basic engineering of the internet
To do that, the MPAA’s lawyers would target the Domain Name System (DNS) that directs traffic across the internet. The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, but three years after the law failed in Congress, the MPAA has been looking for legal justification for the practice in existing law and working with ISPs like Comcast to examine how a system might work technically. If the system works, DNS-blocking could be the key to the MPAA’s long-standing goal of blocking sites from delivering content to the US. At the same time, it represents a bold challenge to the basic engineering of the internet, threatening to break the very backbone of the web and drawing the industry into an increasingly nasty fight with Google.
Notice however how the New York Times story completely avoids mention that the MPAA was literally writing an AG’s legal documents:
In state legislatures and major professional associations, a bipartisan effort is emerging to change the way state attorneys general interact with lobbyists, campaign donors and other corporate representatives.
This month, during a closed-door meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, officials voted to stop accepting corporate sponsorships. In Missouri, a bill has been introduced that would require the attorney general, as well as certain other state officials, to disclose within 48 hours any political contribution worth more than $500. And in Washington State, legislation is being drafted to bar attorneys general who leave office from lobbying their former colleagues for a year.
Perhaps most significant, a White House ethics lawyer in the administration of George W. Bush has asked the American Bar Association to change its national code of conduct to prohibit attorneys general from discussing continuing investigations or other official matters while participating in fund-raising events at resort destinations, as they often now do. Those measures could be adopted in individual states.
The actions follow a series of articles in The New York Times that examined how lawyers and lobbyists — from major corporations, energy companies and even plaintiffs’ law firms — have increasingly tried to influence state attorneys general.
These outside players have tried to shut down investigations, enlist the attorneys general as partners in litigation, or use their clout to try to block or strengthen regulations emerging from Washington, the investigation by The Times found.
While it may be a stretch to say that a lot of state Attorneys General are for sale, they certainly appear to be for rent.
Admittedly, he has many reasons for animus towards Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, which would give him a more favorable view towards the current Russian President, but the fact that Mikhail Gorbachev credits Vladimir Putin with saving Russia as a Nation is a significant statement:
Russian President Vladimir Putin saved the country from falling apart, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said during the presentation of his new book ‘After the Kremlin.’ Gorbachev also commented on the situation in Ukraine and NATO expansion.
“I think all of us – Russian citizens – must remember that [Putin] saved Russia from the beginning of a collapse. A lot of the regions did not recognize our constitution. There were over a hundred local constitutional variations from that of the Russian constitution,” RIA Novosti quoted Gorbachev as saying on Friday.
In terms of Russia’s worries over NATO’s expansion, Gorbachev agrees that the US is playing a key role in the process. “[NATO] began to establish bases around the world…I think the president [I believe that he is referring to Putin here, not Obama] is mostly right when drawing the attention to the special responsibility the US has,” Gorbachev said.
Meanwhile, when speaking about the domestic situation in the country, the former president of the USSR expressed confidence that Russia will get out of the crisis, adding that the only questions are “when and at what price.”
“Now we need to be very careful in politics – what policy is implemented, by who, and who stands to benefit?”
In total, I do think that Gorbachev is saying that he agrees with Putin’s assessment that NATO in general, and the US in particular, still seem determined to wage some sort of war against Russia.
It appears that the USAF is cooking the books on A-10 use in Afghanistan to justify retiring the Warthog:
Over the past five months, Air Force leaders have pointed to one key fact while advocating for their controversial decision to retire the A-10 Warthog, an aircraft specifically designed to provide support to ground troops. The service’s top leaders say the vast majority of so-called “close air support” missions conducted in Afghanistan since 2006 have been flown by a variety of aircraft that are not A-10s. Specifically, the leaders say that the 80 percent of these missions conducted by aircraft other than the Warthog shows that a variety of aircraft can do the critical mission of reinforcing ground forces with firepower from the air.
However, a number of observers challenge the Air Force’s claim that 80 percent of close air support missions are really conducted by non-A-10 planes. These observers assert that the service has deliberately manipulated the data to support its case.
The plan to retire the A-10 has sparked a firestorm of criticism from members of Congress, A-10 pilots and airmen whose job is to embed with ground forces and call in air strikes.
In fact, Congress is well on the way to rejecting the Air Force’s plans. The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday, rejecting sending the A-10s to the boneyard. The Senate is expected to do the same.
The Air Force says it can save $4.2 billion over the next five years by retiring the fleet of 350 A-10s. The savings would be plowed into other aircraft that can perform a variety of missions, including close air support.
And, in making the case to retire the A-10, the one number that comes up time and again at congressional hearings is this: 80 percent.
The PBS NewsHour asked the Air Force about the basis for the 80 percent figure. The NewsHour shared the Air Force answers with A-10 supporters and those who advocate retiring the aircraft. The complete exchange can be viewed in the document linked here.
“This is a classic case of using numbers as propaganda for some bureaucratic position.”“This 80 percent number is a total fabrication,” said Pierre Sprey, one of the key designers of the A-10 in the 1960s and 1970s. Sprey has recently been lobbying Congress to save the aircraft. “This is a classic case of using numbers as propaganda for some bureaucratic position.”
Among the data the Air Force provided was a breakdown of the number close air support sorties flown between 2010 to 1014: 121,653. Also included was the number of sorties with at least one weapon released: 8,691.
Sprey notes that of the 121,653 close air support missions conducted, “93 percent of them never drop a weapon.” Sprey says the Air Force is “counting a whole lot of fluff.”
“The Air Force is counting these missions or these activities in a way that biases strongly against the A-10,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional staffer with more than three decades of experience working for both Democrats and Republicans. Wheeler is now with the Project On Government Oversight, a non-profit watchdog organization.
The Air Force is “not counting sorties where actual munitions delivery actually occurs,” he said. And they are “not distinguishing” between bombing fixed points on the ground from 20,000 feet and supporting troops that are moving while under fire from an enemy in close proximity. Wheeler said it is in situations like this “that really count” and where the A-10 outperforms all other aircraft.
“Measures of kinetic activity alone don’t capture events where aircraft presence was sufficient to deter attackers — which can be the better outcome in COIN [counterinsurgency] operations,” Sholtis explained in an email. “Actions like shows of force or armed overwatch of ground forces are legitimate and effective forms of CAS.” Shows of force are when aircraft fly overhead, making their presence known and signaling to the enemy — sometimes by dropping flares — that they might get bombed.
But counting shows of force is stretching the definition of close air support, according to retired Chief Master Sergeant Russell Carpenter, a 30-year veteran and specialist in leading troops who call in air strikes. When you “look up the definition of close air support, shows of force doesn’t fit in there.” Carpenter said what the Air Force has “done is said there are a variety of ways we achieve air-to-ground effects. But guess what, call that something else. But it is not close air support.”
Another controversial aspect in the way the 80 percent number was generated is the time frame of when close air support missions are counted. According to Air Force data released to the NewsHour, the service counted missions flown between 2006 and October 2013.
The Air Force told the NewsHour “unfortunately we do not have information prior to 2006 available in our AFCENT Combined Air Operations Center database.” Other Air Force officers who asked that their names not be used in this article, because they were not authorized to speak publicly, also told the NewsHour that the Air Force has not maintained records from before 2006.
But critics are skeptical.
“The date 2006 was not picked by accident,” said Sprey, the A-10 aircraft designer.
From March 2002 to December 2006, the only fixed-wing aircraft that could operate from the austere and dilapidated runways in Afghanistan were A-10s, according to the Air Force. Sprey believes counting close air support missions beginning in 2006 is suspect because that time period marks the point when different types of aircraft were beginning to operate out of the newly improved runways in Afghanistan.
“Before 2006, they couldn’t even get fighters into Afghanistan, they couldn’t land anywhere,” Sprey said. “They were totally dependent on the A-10 before and they don’t want to admit that, so they don’t tell you about it before 2006.”
The USAF has wanted to kill the A-10 and replace it with a “Wild Blue Yonder” alternative since it began to enter service in the 1970s.
Close air support has been a responsibility that the Air Force has consistently shirked since before its creation as an independent service.
When I criticized Rush Limbaugh’s racist screed about the possibility of Idris Elba being James Bond, I neglected to consider other possibilities.
I think that, once Peter Capaldi is done, Mr. Elba should give it a shot.
It would be an epic win.