Tagged: Obama

Obama creating 1,500-mile “butterfly corridor” to help Monarchs get from Mexico to Minnesota


Click to enlargeimage/howardsview

US president Barack Obama, a friend to bees and other pollinating insects in peril, has unveiled his national strategy to mitigate honey bee loss, increase the Monarch butterfly population, and restore the habitats of both insects, whose health is essential to our food supply. The program will depend heavily on federal agencies and will also involve Mexico and Canada, since bees and butterflies know nothing of state laws and don’t really care about borders.

The strategic report includes a section on “expanding pollinator habitat on rights-of-way.” This doesn’t mean the feds will tell bees and butterflies who flies first, but rather that the US Department of Transportation and US Fish and Wildlife Service will help rehabilitate butterfly habitats alongside Interstate 35—a federal highway that extends from the Texas-Mexico border to Duluth, Minnesota.

That’s a key path or “flyway” for Monarch butterflies, who winter in Mexico before making a multi-generational migration, laying eggs and dying in the southern US, and leaving new, young butterflies to finish the journey north…

The Monarchs’ numbers have been dwindling, in part due to the loss of a nectar-producing flowers and milkweed—an important source of butterfly nourishment that has been depleted in the American midwest by agriculture and the ubiquitous herbicide Roundup.

Overdue.

Apple and others ask Obama to reject backdoors for cops and other snoops


Yes, this is what it says on my wife’s iPhone, same on my iPad

In a letter…delivered to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Apple is among a group of signatories requesting the White House reject incoming government proposals that would modify current policies to allow law enforcement access to encrypted user data.

As reported by The Washington Post, which gained access to the letter on Monday, Apple joins a cadre of more than 140 tech companies, security experts and interested civil groups concerned with upcoming legislation that could force access to consumer data, even if it is encrypted.

“Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,” the letter reads. Further, signatories unanimously recommend that government agencies should “fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards.”

According to The Post, three signatories were on a five-member presidential review team formed to investigate U.S. technology policy in 2013, just after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sparked public outrage by leaking information regarding secret government surveillance programs. Among the revelations aired by Snowden was the existence of mass data collection initiatives targeting everything from phone calls to social networks and other high-traffic consumer products…

With iOS 8, Apple built an encryption system so secure that it is technically incapable of decrypting a user’s device even with the appropriate documentation. The lockout method was not well received by officials wanting access to user data, a procedure allowed through [so-called] proper warrants.

RTFA if you need to dull your brain with predictable rationales from security-snoops. The history of this sort of political paranoia tends to end with Big Brother having his patriarchal way with your thought and speech. Coppers are accustomed, now, to the government handing them them anything they need or need to know – or think they need to know – on a bulletproof platter.

They’re incensed that Apple dares to advertise the fact that they can’t decrypt your iPad or iPhone, either.

Warren 1 — 0 Republicans + Obama

Senate Democrats have dealt President Barack Obama a stinging setback on trade by blocking efforts to begin full-blown debate on his initiatives.

All but one Senate Democrat defied the president Tuesday by voting to prevent consideration of his request for “fast track” trade authority. Such authority would let Obama present trade agreements that Congress could ratify or reject, but not amend.

Proponents needed 60 votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster, but managed only 52 in the 100-member Senate.

Obama’s supporters say they will try again, possibly starting in the House. But Tuesday’s vote highlighted the deep divide between Obama and the many congressional Democrats who say trade deals hurt U.S. jobs.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

Just as NAFTA was passed under Clinton, essentially a Republican bill was offered with hopes for sufficient Blue Dog Democrats climbing on board to get it through.

Regardless of the rationales offered by President Obama, the only reason for passing fast track legislation is to inhibit an up-or-down vote in Congress. Especially in the case where a bill is anti-democratic, against the will and needs of workingclass families.

This may not be up to the stage of crystal ball forecasting; but, it surely is nice to see Democrats try to act like they haven’t forgotten their workingclass base, entirely.

Is this the end of the tale? Hardly. It won’t take dramatic progressive change in White House trade policies to get the average Dem to cave. And I expect cave they will. They owe as much to corporate lobbyists as do Republicans. Their accountability is still the kind defined by accountants – not workingclass heros.

Court rules NSA mass phone surveillance illegal

A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end a controversial program aimed at fighting terrorism.

Ruling on a program revealed in 2013 by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI’s ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a “staggering” amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations…

The appeals court did not resolve the question of whether the surveillance was unconstitutional…It also declined to halt the program, noting that parts of the Patriot Act including Section 215 expire on June 1.

Lynch said it was “prudent” to give Congress a chance to decide what surveillance is permissible, given the national security interests at stake…I think he’s stupid to think Congress is capable of anything constructive much less Constitutional.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have introduced legislation to extend Section 215 and other parts of the Patriot Act through 2020.

The existing NSA program has repeatedly been approved in secret by a national security court established under a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…

ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo welcomed the decision.

Mass surveillance does not make us any safer, and it is fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society,” he said.

I agree. I believe most Americans with more than the equivalent of a sixth grade level of literacy and understanding of civics would agree. That just leaves miserable, corrupt and cowardly politicians to defend the Patriot act.

We continue to have to rely on a few courts uncorrupted by appointments as sleazy as the Republican Supreme Court to defend constitutional rights – when neither the White House nor Congress is willing to act on our behalf.

Canada prepares to replace democracy with NSA-approved world view

Widespread protest and souring public opinion has failed to prevent Canada’s ruling Conservative Party from pushing forward with sweeping anti-terror legislation which a battery of legal scholars, civil liberties groups, opposition politicians and pundits of every persuasion say will replace the country’s healthy democracy with a creeping police state.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking forward to an easy victory…when the House of Commons votes in its final debate on the bill, known as C-51. But lingering public anger over the legislation suggests that his success in dividing his parliamentary opposition may well work against him when Canadians go to the polls for a national election this fall.

No legislation in memory has united such a diverse array of prominent opponents as the proposed legislation, which the Globe and Mail newspaper denounced as a a plan to create a “secret police force”.

The campaign to stop Bill C-51 grew to include virtually every civil-rights group, law professor, retired judge, author, editorialist and public intellectual in Canada…

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have described the bill as a “reasonable and proportionate” response to the threat of “jihadi terrorism.” – blah, blah, blah.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians signed petitions urging the bill be scrapped and took to the streets in a national day of protest last month.

Critics of the legislation say the imminent law gives Canadian spies sweeping new powers to investigate and disrupt broadly defined threats to public safety, with language that makes no distinction between terrorist plots and legitimate political protests and demonstrations. At the same time, it neglects to provide any increased oversight of the country’s vastly empowered chief spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Harper like so many other supposedly independent – but always obedient – leaders of the world’s industrial nations can be counted on to toe the party line established by the White House. Whether that rarely honorable structure houses a Republican or Democrat.

When the topic is homeland security – as defined by Wall Street savants and corporate lobbyists – there is only one source for standards or the lack thereof. That is Uncle Sugar. And if you want to keep your place in the gallery of loyalist ideologues, you had better fall in line.

Okinawa protests over new US military base

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting the United States and will travel to Washington where he will become the first Japanese leader ever to address a joint session of Congress.

The visit is designed to show the strength of the countries’ alliance and to improve co-ordination on trade and defence.

Mr Abe will tell President Obama that construction has begun on a huge new US marine base on the southern island of Okinawa despite protests from local residents.

So much for democracy. Last election, citizens of Okinawa voted in candidates opposed to this giant air base. Once again.

Once again Obama avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings “genocide”

President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to fulfill a campaign promise and use the politically fraught term on the 100th anniversary of the killings this week. Officials decided against it after opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon…

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama did describe the killings of Armenians as “genocide” and said the U.S. government had a responsibility to recognize them as such. As a candidate in January 2008, Obama pledged to recognize the genocide and at least one of his campaign surrogates — the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power — recorded a nearly five-minute video at the time imploring Armenian-Americans to vote for Obama precisely because he would keep his word on the issue.

But Obama has never used that description since taking office, mainly out of deference to Turkey, a key U.S. partner and NATO ally, which is fiercely opposed to the “genocide” label.

Meanwhile, our stalwart ally continues to be governed by an opportunist hypocrite – doing his best to undermine Turkey’s secular constitution while he courts fundamentalist Islamist voters and activists to stay in power.

Tuesday’s announcement, accompanied by word that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will attend a ceremony in Armenia on Friday to mark the anniversary, was made shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry met with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Washington.

In brief comments to reporters at the State Department, neither Kerry nor Cavusoglu mentioned Armenia or the upcoming April 24 anniversary…

Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide. Turkey, however, denies the deaths constituted genocide and says the death toll has been inflated.

Too bad Armenia isn’t as important an imperial ally as Israel. Such denial wouldn’t be tolerated.

DEA sex parties go back to 2001


Anything else you think I should ignore – besides the NSA?

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee called…for the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration to step down amid allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas.

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said DEA chief Michele Leonhart has allowed problems at the agency to fester for more than a decade…

If Leonhart does not step down, President Barack Obama should fire her, Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz made the comments after a 3½-hour hearing Tuesday that focused on the sex party allegations, which date back to 2001. Leonhart has led the DEA since 2007 and was sole deputy administrator for three years before that.

An internal report said government money was used to pay prostitutes at a farewell party for a high-ranking DEA official in Colombia.

DEA agents also rented undercover apartments in Colombia and used them for parties with prostitutes, the DEA said in an internal report…

The Justice Department report recounts allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes, funded by local drug cartels, in a foreign county. The report does not identify the country where the alleged sex parties occurred, but the DEA report released Tuesday identified it as Colombia.

The report came after a separate 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia involving the Secret Service drew attention to questionable behavior by law enforcement officers while stationed overseas. Those allegations prompted Congress to order a review of other agencies’ practices. DEA agents who were accused of misconduct in the wake of that scandal were recalled from Colombia and put on limited duty.

Ten DEA agents were accused of wrongdoing; seven were issued suspensions ranging from one to 10 days…

My only suggestion – in addition to endorsing the firing of the DEA Chief who did nothing – is to bring the former DEA head(s) back to Congress for questioning about the how and why of starting this criminal behavior. Then, sue them for the return of their paychecks.

Somehow – in 2001 – it became clear to agents of a number of police operating for the United States outside our borders that accepting gifts and prostitutes from drug gangs was acceptable. That’s not an easy decision even under Emperor Nero or Reichsführer Cheney, I imagine.

If this is how you think an anti-war president acts, you’re out of touch with reality

Nothing sums up the warped foreign policy fantasy world in which Republicans live more than when House Speaker John Boehner recently called Obama an “anti-war president” under which America “is sitting on the sidelines” in the increasingly chaotic Middle East.

If Obama is an anti-war president, he’s the worst anti-war president in history. In the last six years, the Obama administration has bombed seven countries in the Middle East alone and armed countless more with tens of billions in dollars in weapons. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans. As the Isis war continues to expand and Yemen descends into civil war, everyone is still demanding more: If only we bombed the region a little bit harder, then they’ll submit.

In between publishing a new rash of overt sociopathic “Bomb Iran” op-eds, Republicans and neocons are circulating a new talking point: Obama doesn’t have a “coherent” or “unifying” strategy in the Middle East. But you can’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy in an entire region that is almost incomprehensibly complex – which is why no one, including the Republicans criticizing Obama, actually has an answer for what that strategy should be. It’s clear that this new talking point is little more than thinly veiled code for we’re not killing enough Muslims or invading enough countries.

Nobody will say that they want US troops on the ground to fight Isis, of course, since public support for such action is crumbling…

Those clamoring for more war are detached from reality: the US is already escalating – not pulling back – its involvement across the Middle East. In Afghanistan, the president has quietly delayed pulling US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year so they can continue special forces raids and drone strikes, despite loudly celebrating the supposed “end” of combat operations during the State of the Union in January. In Iraq, US forces escalated its airstrikes in the so-called battle to re-take Tikrit, which the New York Times editorial board decried as a folly, but received scant scrutiny elsewhere. The Pentagon also confirmed last week that they expect the Isis war to last “3+ years.”

And if you think the United States is sitting on the sidelines in Yemen just because it’s not US planes physically launching the missiles (yet), you should have your head examined. The US has given Saudi Arabia an astronomical $90bn in military equipment and weapons over the past four years and, as the Washington Post reported, it will play a “huge” role in any fighting. US drones are also still patrolling Yemeni skies and even helping Saudi Arabia “decide what and where to bomb”…

This is America’s modus operandi in the Middle East: give its friends a ton of weapons and watch the weapons fall into enemy hands one way or another. In Afghanistan, the US gave the Afghanistan government nearly 500,000 weapons that are now unaccounted for (and that was a couple years ago). In Libya, shipments of arms reportedly sent by the CIA to Libyan rebels in 2011 via the Qataris ended up, in many cases, in the hands of Islamic militants… Neither stopped the Obama administration from arming rebels in Syria, where many of the weapons promptly fell into enemy hands as well…

Photographer Gregg Carlstrom succinctly summed it up last week as Saudi Arabia started to drop bombs on Yemen: “US praises US ally for bombing US-equipped militia aligned with US foe who is partnering with US to fight another US-equipped militia.”

Expecting the United States to sort out and withdraw from one or another of the factions in a centuries-old religious war is not something I’m holding my breath over. After all, that would be like expecting a White House spokesman to answer questions about Iran and nuclear research by acknowledged the only power with nuclear weapons in the region is Israel. They’ve had them for decades. It is the threat they brandish over all nations in the region. Those weapons are illegal according to all the accords we have initiated and signed. We do absolutely nothing about it.

We took over the role of imperial bully right after World War 2. The Brits were economically and ideologically over with maintaining a global empire. They had to recover from being the front line of a terrible war for most of a decade. Uncle Sugar’s condition was exceptional – mostly by virtue of oceans on either side. Use to be a helluva defense.

And Barack Obama is as likely to use military force anywhere in the world as any Republican or Democrat president since the end of that war 70 years ago.

Obama tightens regulations on fracking chemicals disclosure – sort of

The Obama administration said Friday it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

A rule to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids used in fracking, a drilling method that has prompted an ongoing boom in natural gas production.

The rule has been under consideration for more than three years, drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. The industry fears the regulation could hinder the drilling boom, while some environmental groups worry that it could allow unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

What crap writing/editing. It’s the absence of regulations that allows unsafe drilling techniques to pollute groundwater.

The final rule hews closely to a draft that has lingered since the Obama administration proposed it in May 2013. The rule relies on an online database used by at least 16 states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. The website, FracFocus.org, was formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 and allows users to gather well-specific data on tens of thousands of drilling sites across the country.

Companies will have to disclose the chemicals they use within 30 days of the fracking operation.

While the new rule only applies to federal land – which makes up just one-tenth of natural gas drilling in the United States – the Obama administration is hoping the rule will serve as a model and set a new standard for hydraulic fracturing that states and other regulators will follow.

Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said…“Ultimately, this is an issue that is going to be decided in state capitals and localities as well as with the industry,” he said…

Thomas Pyle, president of the pro-industry Institute for Energy Research, said blah, blah, blah.

The League of Conservation Voters called the bill an important step forward to regulate fracking.

Even so, the group was disappointed with the continued reliance on FracFocus, which a spokeswoman described as an industry-run website.

Participation in FracFocus is voluntarily. So, the creeps using deleterious chemicals simply don’t participate.

FracFocus, right now, displays info on fewer than 95,000 oil and gas wells. The industry admits to approximately 441,000 fracked gas wells alone.

After three years of introspection, investigation and time-wasting the White House proposes tightening of regulations based on info from a single voluntary website. No requirements for compliance. And the regulations only apply to federal lands.

Window dressing.

The rest is left in the hands of state legislatures who will use their God-given states rights – and motivational handouts from oil and gas lobbyists – to do absolutely nothing.