Robert Samuelson: Goodbye, readers…

As regular readers know, I write on the economy and its connection with society and politics. Over the years, I’ve explored dozens of subjects: recessions, inflation, executive pay, budget deficits, climate change, poverty, the welfare state, trade, taxes, aging, cybersecurity, China, the stock market — and many others. So far as I can tell, nothing that I have written has ever had the slightest effect on what actually happened. A long period of solid economic growth — labeled the Great Moderation by economists — fueled easy credit, shaky loans, defaults and insolvent lenders. Goodbye and good luck — you’ll need as much help as you can get.

Har!

Robert J. Samuelson wrote a twice-weekly economics column. Both appeared in the Washington Post online, and one usually ran in The Washington Post in print on Mondays.

The Climate Has Already Changed

❝ The Washington Post…published a massive, interactive feature on the effects of climate change in the United States, headlining the story by promising to illustrate the corners of the country that are warming fastest as the effects of a century’s worth of carbon emissions take hold.

❝ Climate change doesn’t warm the globe equally, according to the article, and some parts of the Lower 48 have already crossed the critical threshold of a 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase.

❝ “Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark,” according to the article. Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country. Rhode Island has already crossed the 2 degrees Celsius mark. New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts are close. The article includes an searchable graphic that produces the increase in temperature for U.S. counties.

If you’re still catching a free peek at the POST, more power to you. Retirees managing their resources tight enough to maybe live as long as they’d like to…are more pennywise than that. Here’s a link to the Washington POST article. As more folk quote it – it will become available in widespread fashion. Sounds like a good one.

How many pain pills were sold in your county? How many deaths?


Data compiled by CDC and DEA — Washington POST

❝ The Post obtained and analyzed a previously unreleased database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every pain pill sold in the United States – by manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city. That data was compared with individual death records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which were obtained and analyzed by The Post.

Phew!

Did our Fake President keep our snoops from warning Jamal Khashoggi?


Ozan Kose/AFP

❝ Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi counsulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document certifying he divorced his ex-wife – never to be seen since.

Turkish sources have told media outlets they believe the Saudi writer and critic was killed inside the consulate in what they describe as “premeditated murder”.

❝ Saudi officials have countered that claim, insisting Khashoggi left the building before vanishing.

The Latest

❝ The Washington Post reports Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered an operation targeting Jamal Khashoggi.

Based on US intelligence intercepts, Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi from the US state of Virginia, where he resides, back to Saudi Arabia where he would be detained, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US officials…

A team of 15 Saudis flew into Istanbul last week, drove to the Saudi consulate and then departed that same day on private planes headed for Cairo and Dubai. This is according to The Washington Post, which has been tracking the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

SHANE HARRIS: I don’t think we fully know the intent. And I think you’re right. Fifteen people is a lot to kill one individual. And a former U.S. official I spoke to about this said it actually bears a lot of the hallmarks of a rendition or a kidnapping operation. But we still don’t know. But what we are understanding is that the U.S. government was picking up intelligence that the Saudis wanted for some time to capture Khashoggi – not clear whether they wanted to capture and prosecute him or whether they want to interrogate him or kill him but that there was some high-level interest on the part of the government of getting him in some way.

No mention of any attempt by anyone in the White House or Trumpo to warn Khashoggi. Something required by US law and convention – even for non-citizens.

Pulitzer Prizes Continue to Challenge American Political Criminals

Winners of the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes were announced at Columbia University in New York City on Monday. The Pulitzers are highly revered and mark the best in journalism in 14 categories…

“It’s clear that good reporting by one newsroom helps generate even more good journalism by others. We need more reporters working on stories to bring matters to light, and in doing so that puts more power in the hands of citizens.

Journalism is not optional in a democracy…”

National Reporting

Awarded jointly to the staff of The Washington Post and the staff of The New York Times for coverage of contacts between Russian officials and President Donald Trump’s teams.

We should all give thanks to the absence of inner peace in the hearts and minds of investigative journalists. Especially that species willing to challenge the corrupt and powerful.

RightWing sting tries to setup journalists – to help Roy Moore in Bamalama

❝ A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public.

❝ The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.

But on Monday morning, Post reporters saw her walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups. The organization sets up undercover “stings” that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias.

RTFA. These are the lengths Confederate scumballs, the White Supremacist clown show, Republican thugs are prepared to go in their pitiful attempts to whitewash the bigotry and lies that are their normal cannon fodder.

Pentagon paid for a report on wasted taxpayer dollar$ – It’s so bad they’re trying to hide it, now!


Click to enlargeDavid B. Gleason Photo

❝ In a bombshell article, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon hired an outside consulting firm to identify ways to streamline its bureaucracy. It turns out the American military needs a lot of back-office support to keep running and that’s where most of the waste, fraud and abuse piles up.

The consultants did their job and identified $125 billion worth of unnecessary spending. The recommended plan called for some simple, common-sense changes such as making early retirement more attractive, streamlined information technology departments and cutting back on civilian contractors.

If the U.S. military made these changes, it could save more than a hundred billion in taxpayer dollars over five years…So…the suits at the Pentagon buried the report out of fear Congress would use it to cut the defense budget…

“We’re spending a lot more money than we thought,” reads the first line of the report.

No shit. But here’s the thing, for the people who spend their days watching the Pentagon for waste, fraud and abuse neither the report nor its suppression came as a surprise.

“This report confirms what anyone who’s paying attention already knows: there are a lot of opportunities to increase efficiency and effectiveness without increasing spending,”…Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight…

She’s right. Budget hawks have long known that the Pentagon’s $600 billion plus annual budget is rotten to the core…

❝ The Pentagon’s property management division employs 192 thousand people, yet has no idea how much property it owns nor how much it’s worth. Existing best estimates say the U.S. military owns half a million properties on 30 million acres across the globe.

It’s worth — the Pentagon accountants think — around $800 billion total. Worse, as of a 2014 according to the Government Accountability Office, the property managers have literally no idea what’s going on in half those buildings.

The United States Department of Defense [sic] is the largest single employer on Earth. They pay little more than lip service to the kinds of efficiency many long-standing government agencies offer. When the Pentagon echos the Republican lying mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs…” they mean jobs for themselves, their kin, their retirement, their individual and personal investments, commitments, to suppliers.

RTFA for a quick journey through the fiscal corruption of our military-industrial complex. Incidentally, you’ll find a link to the actual 77-page report inside the article. It’s been removed from any featured spot on any DOD website; but, it’s still up and alive.

Republican war on a Free Press escalates at rally for Trump running mate, Mike Pence


“I’m a Christian, conservative and a Republican, in that order”

Donald Trump’s campaign has denied press credentials to a number of disfavored media organizations, including The Washington Post, but on Wednesday, the campaign of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, went even further.

At Pence’s first public event since he was introduced as the Republican vice-presidential candidate two weeks ago, a Post reporter was barred from entering the venue after security staffers summoned local police to pat him down in a search for his cellphone…

Post reporter Jose A. DelReal sought to cover Pence’s rally at the Waukesha County Exposition Center outside Milwaukee, but he was turned down for a credential beforehand by volunteers at a press check-in table.

DelReal then tried to enter via the general-admission line, as Post reporters have done without incident since Trump last month banned the newspaper from his events. He was stopped there by a private security official who told him he couldn’t enter the building with his laptop and cellphone. When DelReal asked whether others attending the rally could enter with their cellphones, he said the unidentified official replied, “Not if they work for The Washington Post.”

After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.

When the officers — whom DelReal identified as Deputy John Lappley and Capt. Michelle Larsuel — verified that he wasn’t carrying a phone, the reporter asked to be admitted. The security person declined. “He said, ‘I don’t want you here. You have to go,’ ” DelReal said…

Trump has banned nearly a dozen news organizations whose coverage has displeased him, but reporters have generally been able to cover his events by going through general admission lines.

DelReal’s experience on Wednesday elicited a rebuke from Post Executive Editor Martin Baron.

“First, press credentials for The Washington Post were revoked by Donald Trump,” he said. “Now, law enforcement officers, in collusion with private security officials, subjected a reporter to bullying treatment that no ordinary citizen has to endure. All of this took place in a public facility no less. The harassment of an independent press isn’t coming to an end. It’s getting worse.”…

In a statement, Pence press secretary Marc Lotter said blah, blah, blah.

Nothing new about any politicians trying to manage press access to a certain extent. Banning the press is another story altogether. A free press plays a constitutional role in our history starting right from our revolutionary beginnings.

Crap like this is another symptom of the fascist-minded crew in charge under Trump and his populist followers. The herd mentality that rejects constitutional law, history and civil rights controls what used to be the Republican Party. Plausible deniability or not.

NSA collected the private data of tens of thousands of Americans

It’s been a number of months since there were any new revelations based on the massive trove of top-secret NSA surveillance documents that former security contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he left the service, but the Washington Post came out with a big one on Saturday: according to files that Snowden provided to the newspaper, NSA agents recorded and retained the private information of tens of thousands of ordinary Americans — including online chats and emails — even though they were not the target of an official investigation.

According to the Post‘s story, nine out of 10 account holders who were found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the actual surveillance target sought by the NSA, but in effect were electronic bystanders caught in a net that the agency had cast in an attempt to catch someone else. Many were Americans, the newspaper said, and nearly half of the files contained names, email addresses and other details. Although many had been redacted or “minimized,” almost 900 files still contained unmasked email addresses…

As the paper explains, the NSA is only legally allowed to target foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant from a special surveillance court — a warrant that must be based on a reasonable belief that the target has information about a foreign government or terrorist operations. The government has admitted that American citizens are often swept up in these dragnets, but the scale with which ordinary people are included was not known until now. The NSA also appears to keep this information even though it has little strategic value and compromises the privacy of the users whose data is kept on file…

The Snowden documents come from a cache of retained information that was gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — despite the fact that for more than a year, government officials have stated that FISA records were beyond the reach of the rogue NSA contractor, according to the Post. The paper said it reviewed about 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

Thanks to Matthew Ingram for posting this at one of the best widely-read geek blogs, GigaOm. Here’s a link to the original, longer article, over at the POST.

And another thank you – as ever – to Edward Snowden for blowing the whistle on government creeps.