bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘60 MINUTES’

AN EVERYDAY THREAT TO GOVERNMENT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 14, 2021 at 12:05 am

It’s wonderful to believe that when you have a problem, you can write your local / state / federal representative and s/he will “give it my fullest attention.”

Unfortunately, it’s also usually a mistake.

Two cases on the futility of expectations:

Case #1: On August 12, a man I’ll call Mark, wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The subject: The disgraceful performance of San Francisco’s Municipal Railway (MUNI) bus lines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark had previously complained to MUNI and his member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors—without result.  So now he decided to literally make it a Federal case:

“MUNI bus drivers are the highest-paid in the nation: The average MUNI driver makes $79,617, 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730. This pay is 27% higher than the combined average salaries of drivers in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.

“Yet  for  more  than  a  year,  many  of  these  drivers  have  been  ‘earning’ their pay by staying at home—or  going on  what  amounts to  an  extended vacation at the expense of San Francisco voters and MUNI riders.”

Muni | SFMTA

Many bus routes, Mark wrote, had been eliminated. This forces riders to cram themselves aboard the first bus available—making it impossible to “maintain social distancing” as recorded messages aboard MUNI buses advise.

Other routes have been substantially altered, with passengers learning this only after they are deposited far from their expected drop-off point.

These changes are especially difficult for elderly and/or disabled riders.

Mark suggested that Buttigieg threaten MUNI with:

  1. The loss of the Federal monies it now receives through the Department of Transportation; and
  2. An Americans With Disabilities lawsuit on behalf of San Franciscans now unable to receive the transit services they need.

To date—one month later—Mark has not received even the courtesy of a reply, let alone seen a positive change in MUNI’s operations.  

Pete Buttigieg official photo.jpg

Pete Buttigieg

Case #2:  Janet, a chef in Los Angeles, was fed up with getting Spam calls on her cell phone. Each time she got one, she blocked the number. Being on the national Do Not Call Registry, she believed she had an airtight case to take to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates the airways.

So she called the FCC and spoke with one of its representatives.

She said that she had saved to her phone the numbers of Spam callers—and she was prepared to turn these over to the FCC.

The FCC’s rep applauded Janet’s willingness to turn over this information.

“Then what happens?” asked Janet.

“We’ll put it into our files.”

In short: the FCC had no intention of acting on the Spam-caller numbers that Janet was prepared to turn over.

Did you submit a net neutrality comment to the FCC? Are you sure?

Janet didn’t hide her disappointment: “If someone went to the FBI and said, ‘I’m being shaken down by the Mafia,’ and the FBI said, ‘Well, we’ll put this into our files’ but wasn’t willing to do anything more, how many people do you think would be willing to report crimes to the FBI?”

The FCC rep admitted that this would greatly reduce the willingness of the public to report crimes to the FBI. But she made no effort to help Janet stop the harassing Spam calls.

Incidents like the ones above are a potent reason why so many people have lost their trust in government—at all levels.

Untold numbers of average citizens feel their elected officials—and the agencies they administer—don’t care about their problems. Even worse, they believe—accurately—that if they were wealthy contributors to the Democratic or Republican party, their complaints would be addressed promptly.

On April 24, 2016, CBS’ longtime documentary series, “60 Minutes,” aired a segment titled “Dialing for Dollars.”  

It opened with the following: “The American public has a low opinion of Congress. Only 14 percent think it’s doing a good job. But Congress has excelled in one way. Raising money. Members of Congress raised more than a billion dollars for their 2014 election. And they never stop. 

“Nearly every day, they spend hours on the phone asking supporters and even total strangers for campaign donations—hours spent away from the jobs they were elected to do. The pressure on candidates to raise money has ratcheted up since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That allowed unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals in elections.”

Coat of arms or logo

In short: Members of Congress—the branch that writes the laws governing the lives of 328.2 million Americans—have essentially become telemarketers.

People who write to their members of Congress expect at least the courtesy of a reply addressing their concerns within a reasonable period of time. Many constituents will not receive even that.

Or the “reply” they receive arrives weeks or months later—and opens with: “Thank you for writing me to support my bill….”

Usually they haven’t even heard of the bill cited—and couldn’t care less about it. As they scan the letter—no doubt drafted by a low-level staffer—they search in vain for an offer of help, or at least empathy. 

Millions of Americans will have no other contact with government officials than this. And it will convince them that if government isn’t their enemy, it’s certainly not their friend.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2021 at 12:11 am

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Perhaps the most important reason for doing so: America’s past efforts in that region have usually gone horribly awry.

Two examples should suffice:

Iran: Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953. His decision to nationalize the Iranian oil industry led to his overthrow in a CIA coup.

He was replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979 when a national upheaval forced him to flee. Iranians have never forgiven the United States for subjecting them to the 25-year reign of a brutal despot.

Related image

Shah of Iran

Afghanistan: In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. America began supplying shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen fighters. These shifted the balance of the war to the Afghans, who brought down countless Soviet airplanes and helicopters.  

Deprived of air supremacy, the Soviet Army lost 14,453 killed and 53,753 wounded, and withdrew by 1989.

Americans congratulated themselves on their Realpolitic. But many of the Stingers remained in the hands of jihadists—who decided that America was now “The Great Satan.”  

One of those jihadists: Osama bin Laden.

According to Michael Scheuer, a primary step for disengaging from the Middle East is for America to its role as Israel’s permanent bodyguard.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Related image

Michael Scheuer

For decades, the United States has pursued two policies in the Middle East—one based on relations with the Arab world and the other based on relations with Israel.

Policy 1: Maintaining access to vast amounts of Arab oil at low prices.

Policy 2: Maintaining the security of Israel.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel—diplomatically or militarily—ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step—diplomatically or militarily—the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

In short: The United States is like a giant with one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in the Islamic world—leaving his private parts fully exposed to both.

This is not to deny that Israel has a right to exist. Every nation—including Israel—has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  

But no nation—including Israel—has the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. America, however, was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

Another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

Related image

Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is also the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. 

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

During his October 9, 2013 appearance before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael Scheuer absolutely rejected the conservatives’ assertion that jihadists wage war on America because they “hate us for our freedoms.”  

SCHEUER: These people are fighting for something substantive, for something religious….They are not going to fight us because we have women in the workplace.

That is an insanity. What they are fighting us about is what we do.Invariably, they attribute their motivation to U.S. and Western military intervention and support for Israel and Muslim tyrannies.

Scheuer’s take on Israel brought him into direct conflict with Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York).

Related image

Congressman Peter T. King

KING: I would just say we would have more dead Americans if we didn’t stand by our allies in the Middle East. We would just encourage al-Qaeda to take advantage of us.

SCHEUER: You know, you are presiding over a bankruptcy. What can be worse? What has been the goal of al-Qaeda since it was formed? To bankrupt the United States.  Who is winning today, sir? We are done like dinner.

KING: We are winning and we will continue to win unless we take the advice of people like you.

SCHEUER:  Sir, you are exactly wrong. We are losing. Two U.S. field armies were defeated by men in the field with weapons from the Korean War.

KING: The fact is we have not been successfully attacked since September 11.

SCHEUER: The fact is, sir, we have had two military defeats overseas, which is far more important.

And, warns Scheuer, more defeats—domestic and international—lie ahead unless the United States radically changes its policies toward the Middle East.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

According to Michael Scheuer, the United States faces a danger that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran who, from 1996 to 1999, headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq (2008).

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts the “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.Within that group are:

  • Politicians
  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Preachers
  • Civil servants
  • Military officers
  • Philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common: “An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

On September 28, 2014, President Barack Obama provided an example of this “unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

In an appearance on 60 Minutes, Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world.

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

President Barack Obama

Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90%.

Obama: Steve…when there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

Scheuer believed that America shouldn’t be the world’s 9-1-1 number. And that the place to start was by not deploying troops to Syria.

By the time Obama gave his 60 Minutes interview, more than 470,000 people had been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

And cheering on America’s intervention was the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which was safely based in Great Britain. 

According to its website:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.” 

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

In fact, there were powerful reasons why the United States should steer clear of that conflict.

First, since 1979, the U.S. State Department had listed Syria as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safehouse in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–-the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Second, there were no “good Syrians” for the United States to support––only murderers who had long served a tyrant and other murderers who wished to become the next tyrant.

Third, the United States didn’t know what it wanted to do in Syria, except “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But President Barack Obama didn’t state his “state policy” toward Syria—or what he intended to gain by attacking it.

Obama had said he wasn’t “after regime-change.” That would leave Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Among Michael Scheuer’s warnings: The United States cannot defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) through air power alone.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIL in September, 2014.  Since then, the United States Air Force has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL convoys.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2021 at 12:05 am

On July 9, Conservative New York Times Columnist David Brooks offered the case for why the United States should retain its military forces in Afghanistan.

He did so in response to President Joseph Biden’s July 8 announcement that the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan would conclude by August 31:

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build. It’s the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.” 

America had attacked Afghanistan in October, 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks orchestrated by Al Quaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was then a “guest” of the country’s ruling Taliban, which refused to turn him over.

Osama bin Laden portrait.jpg

Osama bin Laden

The initial goal of American military forces had been simple and direct: Find Bin Laden—and kill him.

But by December, 2001, Bin Laden was no longer in Afghanistan. He was thought to be living somewhere in the “no-man’s-land” between that country and Pakistan. 

At that point, American forces could—and should—have been withdrawn.  

But they weren’t.

Instead, the mission became a “civilize-the-barbarians” one. That is: Make Afghanistan a democracy where everyone—especially women—could be safe from hardline Islamic fundamentalists intent on creating a theocratic dictatorship. 

In previous years, Brooks’ argument for retaining American troops in Afghanistan would have been made by liberals—and furiously assailed by conservatives.

On the July 9 edition of The PBS Newshour, Brooks said: “I think [Biden]’s making a mistake [in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan].

“And it’s become obvious in record time that it’s a mistake. When he announced the policy initially, he said he had faith in the Afghan government to hold Afghanistan together from the Taliban. That has fallen apart.

“…Eighty-five percent of the territory has already fallen to the Taliban. The Taliban seems completely confident they will take over.

“I think it was 2014 or so, when this Pakistani young lady, Malala, won the Nobel Prize, and who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school. There are a lot of Afghan Malalas out there. And we were all moved by her.

“And we all sympathized and thought that was a very important cause that young women in this part of the world should be able to get an education. And we’re walking away from that. We’re walking away from the idea that Afghanistan will stay one country.

“…So, to me, what we were doing over the last year, which was like 2,500 troops, relatively low casualties, was a price worth paying for humanitarian and strategic reasons.”   

And when the United States isn’t voluntarily placing its soldiers in harm’s way, world leaders are calling for them to be placed there.

On July 7, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, plunging an always chaotic “nation” into even greater chaos. On July 10, Haiti’s interim government asked the United States to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country.

Anticipating such a request, Brooks said on the July 9 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“Even the story earlier in the program on Haiti, if Haiti is asking us to come in to stabilize Haiti, is that our role anymore? It used to be you had some sense of where America’s posture was. I don’t think I have a sense of where American’s posture is right now.”

Which brings us to former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer.

According to Scheuer, for all their ideological differences, Republicans and Democrats share one belief in common: An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He has served as a news analyst for CBS News and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

And he’s convinced that if America wants peace, it must learn to mind its own business.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer argues that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”—with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture. Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East: 

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments;
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula;
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall;
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low;
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; and
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants.

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

THE MAN WHO SAVED DEMOCRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2021 at 12:19 am

As a result of the vast increase in election security, President Donald Trump failed to get the help he expected from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

The result: He lost the 2020 Presidential election.

Thus, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 81,268,924 to 74,216,154 for Trump—and the Electoral College by 306 to 232. 

Two days later, Trump claimed: “And this is a case where they’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election.”  

Chris Krebs was the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And the man most responsible for ensuring election security. 

WATCH: Ousted DHS official Christopher Krebs testifies about 2020 election security - YouTube

Chris Krebs

On November 12, to counter the growing chorus of lies from Trump and his Right-wing allies, he put out the following statement:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs.

Too cowardly to confront Krebs, Trump fired him by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.

“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Related image

Donald Trump

Asked by “60 Minutes'” Scott Pelley if he was surprised to be fired, Krebs replied: “I don’t know if I was necessarily surprised. It’s not how I wanted to go out. The thing that upsets me the most about that is I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my team.

“And I’d worked with them for three and a half years, in the trenches. Building an agency, putting CISA on the national stage. And I love that team. And I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, so that’s what I’m most upset about.” 

Krebs was no dyed-in-the-wool Democrat but a life-long Republican. He gave up a lucrative job as Microsoft’s head of cybersecurity policy to join the Trump administration. He wanted to serve his country by creating a dedicated cybersecurity agency for the first time.

Still, he had his reservations about taking the job. As he told the Financial Times: “The flaws of this man [Trump] were obvious to everybody that was willing to pay attention. [But] to do your job, you have to be able to compartmentalize. I was willing to do that.

“Over time, it eats away at you. It eats away at you, the other parts of the department that were doing stuff that just seemed so inhumane. I was never involved in any of those policy conversations.”

By January 6, 2021, Trump had exhausted his legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

From November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

Of these attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election, Krebs told Pelley:

“It was upsetting because what I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people. It’s not me, it’s not just CISA. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months.

“They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that I just– it didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, met to certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he lacked the power to overturn those results.

At noon, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence. A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at his loss—and thus intimidate Congressional officials to reject the results.

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

Three hours passed before the mob was dispersed and order was restored.

Yet for all the terrible drama of that day, the true hero of the moment went unrecognized.

By depriving Trump of Russian help, Chris Krebs had ensured a victory for democracy.

On the evening of January 6, the House and Senate met again to count the Electoral Votes.

And as expected, the two bodies pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Donald Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

THE MAN WHO SAVED DEMOCRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2021 at 12:28 am

“TIME’s Person of the Year over the course of nearly a century has been a measuring stick for where the world is and where it’s going. But how to make sense of 2020, a year without measure? A year marked by multiple crises, all at once, all over the world: A once-in-a-century plague. Brutal racial injustice. Glaring inequality. Apocalyptic wildfires. Democracy under fire.”

Thus opens the web page advertising TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year” choice of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

On the surface, choosing Biden and Harris makes sense: “Joe Biden was elected President of the United States in the midst of an existential debate over what reality we inhabit. Perhaps the only thing Americans agree on right now is that the future of the country is at stake, even as they fiercely disagree about why.”

As for the shared legacy of Biden and Harris: “If Donald Trump was a force for disruption and division over the past four years, Biden and Harris show where the nation is heading: a blend of ethnicities, lived experiences and worldviews that must find a way forward together if the American experiment is to survive.”

Time Magazine logo.svg

Yet a lesser-known but far more consequential choice for “Person of the Year” would have been Chris Krebs.

Because, without Chris Krebs, there would not now be a Biden Presidency.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote—65,853,514 to 62,984,828 for Trump. But in the United States, what counts in Presidential elections is the Electoral College vote. And there Trump won: 304 to 227. 

What put him over the top in the Electoral College was the help he got from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And the point man for this was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by DHS.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. As he explained to Scott Pelley during a “60 Minutes” interview aired on November 29, 2020: 

“So we spent something on the order of three and a half years of gaming out every possible scenario for how a foreign actor could interfere with an election. Countless, countless scenarios.” 

Krebs’ to-do list included paper ballots:

“Paper ballots give you the ability to audit, to go back and check the tape and make sure that you got the count right. And that’s really one of the keys to success for a secure 2020 election. Ninety-five percent of the ballots cast in the 2020 election had a paper record associated with it. Compared to 2016, about 82%.

“That gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote, and just look at what happened in Georgia. Georgia has machines that tabulate the vote. They then held a hand recount and the outcome was consistent with the machine vote.”   

Krebs’ duties included:

  • Sharing intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

At his command lay the resources of a series of powerful Federal investigative agencies:

“We had the Department of Defense Cyber Command. We had the National Security Agency. We had the FBI. We had the Secret Service. We also had representatives from the Election Assistance Commission, which is the federal independent agency that supports the actual administration of elections.

“We had representatives from some of the election equipment vendors. And they’re critical because they’re the ones out there that know what’s going on on the ground if there’s any sort of issue with some of their systems. And we had representatives from state and local governments.”

Misinformation led CISA to create a new “Rumor Control” website ahead of the 2020 election. Its main goal was to debunk rumors surrounding the 2020 election that had been spreading throughout the country.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Donald Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly.

AMERICA NEEDS TO MIND ITS OWN BUSINESS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2020 at 12:05 am

“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us.”

So spoke President Barack Obama on the September 28, 2014 edition of 60 Minutes.

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He has served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

He is best-known as the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”—with its—freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.

Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.

Within that group are:

  • politicians
  • journalists
  • academics
  • preachers
  • civil servants
  • military officers
  • philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common.

According to Scheuer, that belief is “an unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

During his September 28, 2014 appearance on 60 Minutes, President Obama admitted that the mostly Sunni-Muslim Iraqi army had refused to combat the Sunni army of ISIS.

Then followed this exchange: 

Steve Kroft: What happens if the Iraqis don’t fight or can’t fight? 

President Obama: Well….

Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?  

President Obama:  I’m not going to speculate on failure at the moment. We’re just getting started. Let’s see how they do.

It was precisely such a mindset that led the United States, step by step, into the Vietnam quagmire.

As in the case of Vietnam, the United States lacks:

  • Real or worthwhile allies in Iraq or Syria;
  • A working knowledge of the peoples it wants to influence in either country;
  • Clearly-defined goals that it seeks to accomplish in that region.

America rushed to disaster in Vietnam because its foreign policy elite felt it had to “do something” to fight Communism anywhere in the world.

In December, 2012, Kayla Mueller, an idealistic 24-year-old American woman, arrived in Syria to assist Syrians caught up in their own civil war. And on August 4, 2013, she had been kidnapped and held for ransom. In 2015, she had been killed—whether by her terrorist kidnappers or Jordanian airstrikes remains unclear.

On February 23, 2015, Carl Mueller appeared on the “Today” show, Carl Mueller to protest the refusal of the United States Government to pay ransom demands to terrorist kidnappers. 

“How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naïve and didn’t get caught at? Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most. And she couldn’t help herself. She had to go in there and had to help.” 

But did she?

Kayla Mueller

There were thousands of communities within the United States desperate for the help of a caring social activist. And thousands of organizations—such as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services—that would have been thrilled to enlist her services.

And she could have made lives better without constantly facing the dangers of kidnapping by Islamics determined to humiliate and slaughter Americans.

Michael Sheuer is right: The United States should learn to mind its own business and quit intervening in the affairs of Middle Eastern governments and peoples. 

Kayla Mueller is proof of the rightness of that assertion.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN–AND STAY ALIVE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2017 at 12:13 am

“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,” said President Barack Obama, “they don’t call Beijing.  They don’t call Moscow. They call us.”

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”–with its–freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.

Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.

Within that group are:

  • politicians
  • journalists
  • academics
  • preachers
  • civil servants
  • military officers
  • philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common.

According to Scheuer, that belief is “an unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

During his September 28, 2014 appearance on 60 Minutes,  President Obama admitted that the mostly Sunni-Muslim Iraqi army had refused to combat the Sunni army of ISIS.

Then followed this exchange: 

Steve Kroft: What happens if the Iraqis don’t fight or can’t fight? 

President Obama: Well….

Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?  

President Obama:  I’m not going to speculate on failure at the moment. We’re just getting started. Let’s see how they do.

It was precisely such a mindset that led the United States, step by step, into the Vietnam quagmire.

As in the case of Vietnam, the United States lacks:

  • Real or worthwhile allies in Iraq or Syria;
  • A working knowledge of the peoples it wants to influence in either country;
  • Clearly-defined goals that it seeks to accomplish in that region.

America rushed to disaster in Vietnam because its foreign policy elite felt it had to “do something” to fight Communism anywhere in the world.

And it is continuing to rush toward disaster in the Middle East because its foreign policy elite once again feels is must “do something.”

During his interview with the “Today” show, Carl Mueller–the father of Kayla, who went to Syria to help Syrians caught up in their own civil war–said:

“How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naïve and didn’t get caught at? Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most. And she couldn’t help herself. She had to go in there and had to help.”

But did she?

There were thousands of communities within the United States desperate for the help of a caring social activist. And thousands of organizations–such as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services–that would have been thrilled to enlist her services.

And she could have made lives better without constantly facing the dangers of kidnapping by Islamics determined to humiliate and slaughter Americans.

Michael Sheuer is right: The United States should learn to mind its own business and quit intervening in the affairs of Middle Eastern governments and peoples.

Kayla Mueller is proof of the rightness of that assertion.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN–AND STAY ALIVE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 10, 2017 at 12:13 am

The father of Kayla Jean Mueller has a bone to pick with the United States Government.

“We understand the policy about not paying ransom but on the other hand…we tried and we asked.  But they put policy in front of American citizens’ lives,” Carl Mueller told NBC’s “Today” show.

Mueller was referring to the kidnapping and death of his daughter, Kayla, who began assisting Syrian refugees in Southern Turkey in December, 2012.

The United States has a policy of not paying ransom to terrorist groups in return for hostages.

Kayla Mueller

Although Turkey lies right on the border of Syria–where a brutal civil war has raged since March 15, 2011–Mueller insisted on putting herself at even greater risk.

In December, 2012, Mueller attended a two-day international conference in Aleppo, 70 miles inside Syria.  She survived that trip without incident, and returned to Turkey.

But as the fighting intensified and casualties mounted, she wanted to return to Syria to collect stories for her blog.  She begged her Syrian boyfriend to take her along during his trips there.

Her boyfriend relented in August, 2013, and she accompanied him on another trip to Aleppo during a 10-day break from her work. But as they were leaving, this time Mueller didn’t prove so lucky.

On August 4, 2013, as they drove to the bus station in Aleppo, gunmen ambushed them. Mueller’s boyfriend was beaten and released.

He was Syrian, so his life didn’t count for propaganda material.  But Mueller was an American–and her captors were members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to Catherine Herridge, an American reporter, the White House learned the location of Mueller in May, 2014. But no decision was made on a rescue mission for seven weeks.

By that time, the hostages had been dispersed. On February 6, 2015, ISIS released a statement claiming that a female American hostage–Kayla Mueller–they had been holding was killed by one of a dozen Jordanian airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria.

These airstrikes had been triggered by ISIS’ release of a February 3 video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

Al-Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him.  The pilot stood upright throghout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.

Image result for Images of burning to death of Jordanian pilot

ISIS burning of captured Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh 

So the Jordanians bombed a series of ISIS targets in Syria.  And Kayla Mueller, who had thrust herself into a Syrian civil war, was apparently killed in one of those raids.

Which led to the interview with Kayla’s distraught parents.

“Any parents out there would understand that you want anything and everything done to bring your child home,” said Carl Mueller.  His wife, Marsha, sitting next to him, naturally agreed.

Referring to the United States’ policy of refusing to pay ransom for hostages, Mueller said:

“And we tried. And we asked. But they put–they put policy in front of American citizens’ lives. And it didn’t get changed. So, that’s something they’re going to work on. I’m sure that’s in the works.”

Asked if his daughter hadn’t put herself in peril by jumping into the middle of a Syrian civil war, Mueller replied:

“Well, yeah, it was overenthusiastic youth and, of course, being naive.  But who wasn’t, you know?  How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naive and didn’t get caught at?

“Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most.  And she couldnt’ help herself.  She had to go there and had to help.”

But did she have to go there?  There weren’t Americans she could have aided–at far less risk to herself?

On the September 28, 2014 edition of 60 Minutes, President Barack Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting ISIS.

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…  

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have the capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

President Obama

Steve Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90 percent. 

President Obama: Steve, there is not an issue…when there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

President Obama is right: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing.  They don’t call Moscow.  They call us.”

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1–TIME TO HANG UP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2016 at 12:04 am

According to Micheal Scheuer, America needs to end its role as Israel’s permanent bodyguard.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security on October 9, 2013, Scheuer warned:

“If it was up to me, I’d dump the Israelis tomorrow. All I worry about is that continuing preaching of American politicians to the American people that our relationship with the Israelis doesn’t cause us to have dead Americans and extraordinary expenses in fighting the Muslim world.”

Related image

Michael Scheuer

For decades, the United States has pursued two policies in the Middle East, one based on relations with the Arab world and the other based on relations with Israel.

Policy 1: Maintaining access to vast amounts of Arab oil at low prices.

Policy 2:  Maintaining the security of Israel.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel–diplomatically or militarily–ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step–diplomatically or militarily–the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

President George W. Bush tilted strongly toward Israel. That convinced Israelis to go on building settlements in occupied Arab territory–and alienated the Arabs.

President Barack Obama, seeking a balanced approach, leaned heavily on Israel to stop building settlements. This alienated the Israelis–who continued building settlements–while leaving the Arabs enraged.

In short: The United States is like a giant who has one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in any Islamic country–leaving his private parts fully exposed to whichever side wants to take a shot at them.

This is not to deny that Israel has a right to exist. Every nation–including Israel–has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  

But no nation–including Israel–should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. America, however, was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

But there is another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel. And it has nothing to do with concern for the fates of Israelis.

It lies in the mythology of the Christian Right: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

Related image

Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is also the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. Clearly, people who hold such totally irrational views shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office.

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

During his appearance before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael Scheuer absolutely rejected the conservatives’ assertion that jihadists wage war on us because they “hate us for our freedoms.”  

SCHEUER: These people are fighting for something substantive, for something religious….They are not going to fight us because we have women in the workplace.

That is an insanity.  What they are fighting us about is what we do.

…I would draw your attention to the reality that, to the best of my knowledge, neither we nor any of our NATO partners have yet to capture a Western Islamist fighter whose words or documents have shown a motivation to attack based on hatred for liberty, elections or gender equality.  

Invariably, they attribute their motivation to U.S. and Western military intervention and support for Israel and Muslim tyrannies.

Scheuer’s take on Israel brought him into direct conflict with Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York).

Related image

Congressman Peter T. King

KING: I would just say we would have more dead Americans if we didn’t stand by our allies in the Middle East. We would just be encourage al-Qaeda to take advantage of us.

SCHEUER: You know, you are presiding over a bankruptcy. What can be worse? What has been the goal of al-Qaeda since it was formed? To bankrupt the United States.  Who is winning today, sir?  We are done like dinner.  

KING: We are winning and we will continue to win unless we take the advice of people like you.  

SCHEUER:  Sir, you are exactly wrong. We are losing. Two U.S. field armies were defeated by men in the field with weapons from the Korean War.

KING: The fact is we have not been successfully attacked since September 11.

SCHEUER: The fact is, sir, we have had two military defeats overseas, which is far more important.

And, warns Scheuer, more defeats–domestic and international–lie ahead unless the United States radically changes its policies toward the Middle East.

%d bloggers like this: