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Mon, 20 Feb 2017
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Puppet Masters


Democratic state leaders think Obama's new organizing army is 'Grade A Bullsh*t'

Organizing for Action was supposed to complement the Democratic National Committee. Instead, Democratic leaders say, it nearly killed the Democrats.
© Getty
It is difficult to overstate just how enraged state Democratic activists and leaders are with Organizing for Action (OFA), the political and community-organizing army that grew out of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns.

The nonprofit, which functions as a sort of parallel-Democratic National Committee, was founded to mobilize Democratic voters and supporters in defense of President Obama's, and the Democratic Party's, agenda. Instead, the organization has drawn the intense ire, both public and private, of grassroots organizers and state parties that are convinced that OFA inadvertently helped decimate Democrats at the state and local level, while Republicans cemented historic levels of power and Donald J. Trump actually became leader of the free world.

These intra-party tensions aren't going away, especially now that OFA "relaunched" itself last week to protect the Affordable Care Act, boost turnout at congressional townhalls, and train grassroots organizers gearing up for the Trump era.

Comment: Obama-linked activists training tens of thousands of agitators to protest President Trump's policies


Russia-Belarus rift grows as Putin loses patience

© Yekaterina Shtukina/Pool Photo via AP, File
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 file photo, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the talks in Minsk, Belarus. In more than two decades in power, the autocratic leader of Belarus has cast his nation as Moscow's closest ally, securing tens of billions of dollars in Russian subsidies. Now, the Kremlin finally seems to have lost patience with its unruly ally.
In more than two decades in power, the autocratic leader of Belarus has cast his nation as Moscow's closest ally, securing tens of billions of dollars in Russian subsidies.

At the same time, President Alexander Lukashenko has skillfully exploited Russia's security fears by occasionally reaching out to the West to win concessions from Moscow. Now, the Kremlin finally seems to have lost patience with its unruly ally, spelling an end to a relationship that has been described as giving away "oil for kisses."

The spiraling conflict between the neighbors has reached such a level that some analysts have talked about Russia possibly staging a "palace coup" against Lukashenko. Visibly nervous about Russia's intentions, the Belarusian leader recently assured his nation of 10 million people that "there will be no war" between the two countries.

Comment: Is Belarus mulling exit from Eurasian Economic Union, turning from Russia to West? Not quite


Media stirrin dirt: It's costing a fortune to protect the Trump family

© Unknown
Protecting the president isn't easy or cheap, and according to estimates from The Washington Post, the cost to protect President Donald Trump and his family is on track to supersede what it cost to protect former President Barack Obama and his family by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Judicial Watch, a conservative group that tracked the cost of travel expenses for Obama, estimated that $97 million was spent during his eight years in office.

However, based on the first four weeks of Trump's presidency, which included three trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump is well on his way to jump past that figure.

Comment: Trump declares CNN, NYT, CBS, ABC and NBC are 'the enemy of the American people'


Iraq: Operation launched to retake Mosul from ISIS

© Mole.my
Iraqi forces have launched a major military operation to retake the western part of Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced. "We announce the start of a new phase in the operation, we are coming to Nineveh to liberate the western side of Mosul," Abadi said in a brief televised address, referring to the province of which Mosul is the capital, AFP quoted. "Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh," Abadi added.

On Saturday, Iraqi aircraft dropped millions of leaflets in western Mosul, calling on residents to get ready to welcome the Iraqi troops as they continue the siege on the militants. "Your armed forces... are advancing in the direction of the right side, relying on God. Get ready to welcome the sons of your armed forces and to cooperate with them, as your brothers on the left side have done, in order to reduce losses and speed up the conclusion" of the battle, one of the leaflets read, as cited by Reuters.

Other leaflets were aimed at IS members, urging them to "lay down their weapons and surrender," according to the defense ministry's statement.

Also on Saturday, the US-led coalition said that they had destroyed the de facto command center of IS in Mosul, a building in the main medical complex. The terrorists denied that the Friday strike was effective, and claimed it killed 18 people, most of them women and children, and wounded 47 others.

Comment: See also this article from last fall under Obama's watch: Coalition general uses stalling tactics; calls for patience and restraint in re-taking Mosul


Making an ass of himself: Lindsay Graham says its 'year of kicking Russia in the ass,' urges more sanctions

© Michaela Rehle / Reuters
U.S Senator and political hack for empire Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said that 2017 is going to be "the year of kicking Russia in the ass" as he threatened Moscow with a new round of sanctions over Moscow's alleged US election interference.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, the Republican senator referred to accusations by both Republicans and Democrats: that Kremlin-backed hackers conspired to rig the 2016 US presidential election at the expense of Hillary Clinton, adding that a bipartisan investigation is due to get underway.

"If you're worried that we're not going to look long and hard at what Russia did in our election because Trump won and the Republicans are in charge, you don't need to worry about that," the South Carolina lawmaker told delegates from around the world. "I promise everybody in this room that Congress is going to take a long, hard look at what Russia did to undermine our elections, so they'll be better prepared when they come your way."

Comment: OMG! How can a politician in office in America be wrong about everything he says?!


Pope Francis denies Muslim terrorism exists

© Getty Images
In an impassioned address Friday, Pope Francis denied the existence of Islamic terrorism, while simultaneously asserting that "the ecological crisis is real." "Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist," Francis said in his speech to a world meeting of populist movements.

What he apparently meant is that not all Christians are terrorists and not all Muslims are terrorists—a fact evident to all—yet his words also seemed to suggest that no specifically Islamic form of terrorism exists in the world, an assertion that stands in stark contradiction to established fact.

"No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent," Francis said, while also suggesting—as he has on other occasions—that terrorism is primarily a result of economic inequalities rather than religious beliefs. "The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode."

The Pope also reiterated his conviction that all religions promote peace and that the danger of violent radicalization exists equally in all religions. "There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia," he said.

Comment: In general, the Pope is stating the obvious: the terrorism threat is not any religious dictate. It is the master plan of factions of specific governments and organizations to put populations in jeopardy to further their explicit agendas for power and profit.


Priebus: Top intel officials state allegations of Trump's campaign link to Russia is 'complete garbage'

© Fox News
News reports of US President Donald Trump's campaign officials colluding with Moscow during his campaign are "not only grossly overstated, but also wrong," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News, citing top US intelligence officials.

"I can assure you, the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that [the allegation] is not only grossly overstated, but also wrong," Priebus said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.

"They have made it very clear that the story is complete garbage," he added.

Priebus declined to name his sources within the CIA and FBI, according to the report. "There are certain things that are happening in the news that just aren't honest," the White House official added, when asked to comment on Trump's relations with the media.

Comment: Enough with anonymous sources and broad statements that do nothing except raise speculation and feed the frenzy. While the intel community is 'the high level source,' it is not the best or most forthcoming fount of specific information and context. Priebus was left out on a limb on this one, exemplifying one of the administration's chief complaints.

Arrow Up

Russia-Turkey brokered ceasefire most viable plan to succeed, according to UN Syria envoy

© Times of India
Syrian government forces expressing hope during a cessation of hostilities.
UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has praised the joint efforts of Russia and Turkey to broker peace in Syria, and has urged the international community to support it. "The ceasefire is holding more than previous ones," de Mistura said at the Munich Security Conference, "and in my modest opinion has, if we all look at it carefully and support it, more chances to actually succeed than others." This is because, according to de Mistura, both Russia and Turkey have the assets in Syria needed to "exercise leverage, which is a crucial point."

There is a mechanism being established to monitor and support the ceasefire, de Mistura said. "That's why we have been supporting Astana, and the meetings in Astana, of course based on the assumption that they are surgical, laser-beamed on a very important issue: establishing, stabilizing and reinforcing the cessation of hostilities."

De Mistura believes that Russian and Turkish brokering helped avoid the worst possible scenario for the battle of Aleppo. "There were not-so-secret meetings in Ankara, and those meetings produced discussions between armed groups and Russian military which avoided - people sometimes forget it - the final, the worst part, of the battle of Aleppo. "Which would have led to the total destruction of the city plus 110,000-115,000 between refugees and dead people."

Comment: Are we witnessing the beginnings of the US as a team player with a clear understanding of its role and expectations? The test is whether all sides honor their commitments to each other and the process. If so, that would be an epic step forward.

Cell Phone

Border crossings: Electronic media searches increase worry

© Haisam Elsharkawi via AP
Haisam Elsharkawi, a self-employed businessman from Anaheim, CA, says he was detained on Feb. 9, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport while he tried to board a flight to Saudi Arabia because he refused to unlock his cell phone.
Watchdog groups that keep tabs on digital privacy rights are concerned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are searching the phones and other digital devices of international travelers at border checkpoints in U.S. airports. The issue gained attention recently after at least three travelers, including a Canadian journalist, spoke out publicly about their experiences.

The episodes have gained notice amid an outcry over President Donald Trump's travel ban and complaints of mistreatment of foreign travelers, but the government insists there has been no policy change in the new administration.

Border Protection says searches increased fivefold in the final fiscal year of the Obama presidency, but still amounted to less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of all international arrivals.

Here are some things to know about the searches and your privacy rights.

Comment: Some of the rise in complaints may be due to a growing level of vocal animosity towards the new administration as well as the public's newfound awareness to the invasion of privacy taking place within the authoritarian protection scheme - for good reasons or bad. There is nothing new in protocol, thanks to Obama for its reach and severity. Privacy and protection -- two sides of the same coin in conflict.


What? There's a deep state in America?!

© WhoWhatWhy
Imagine my surprise when, on my flight back from San Francisco to New York, that's what my trusty New York Times revealed to me. My first thought was: I can't believe how this horrible Donald Trump has set up a Deep State in less than a month?! Surely Russia was involved in its formation.

Then again, I strangely find myself thinking a lot about Russia these days. I'll admit it - when my morning breakfast was late it fleetingly occurred to me that the Kremlin was behind this slowdown in my hotel room service.

Putting that aside, I was immediately relieved when by the 3rd paragraph our nation's paper of record had put to rest my fears of an unprecedented formation of a US Deep State with, "Not quite, experts say...."

Whew. I just don't put anything past the evil capabilities of the Donald!

Comment: A wonderful 'tongue-in-cheek' exposé of 'the times' and The Times. The deep state is not so much a structure but an inside system that maneuvers and manipulates the pulse of the nation without electability, accountability or approval. It seeks to work undetected, but the Trump win exposed the beast, an unexpected turn of events that impacts politics, big money and the road forward.