Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Airstrikes are Working...

The airstrikes against ISIS are working, but not as the US intended.  The critics of war are correct again.

Vijay Prashad writes
US airstrikes on Syria seem to be driving Islamists into the arms of ISIS......
Pressure on Jabhat al-Nusra to reunite with ISIS after US airstrikes,

Syria's Nusra Front pressured to join with ISIS after US-led airstrikes September 26, 2014
Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, is facing mounting pressure from its own members to reconcile with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and confront a common enemy after US-led air strikes hit both groups this week.
But that move would require pledging loyalty to ISIS, which has declared a caliphate in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, which would effectively put an end to al-Nusra Front, fighters in the group say.
If that does happen, it would be an alliance and not a merger
Syria rebels, experts say US airstrikes hit Al-Nusra Front not "Khorasan"
The US says it has hit a group called "Khorasan" in Syria, but experts and Syria's so called "moderate" opposition argue it actually struck al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front, which fights alongside the Syria rebels.
"In Syria, no one had ever heard talk of Khorasan until the US media brought it up," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
targeting al-Nusra could even prove controversial within Washington's anti-jihadist alliance.
Some key members are believed to maintain channels of communication with al-Nusra, including Qatar, which has helped negotiate the release of prisoners held by the group.
Al-Nusra's terrorism in Lebanon
In August, the Lebanese army clashed with the al-Nusra and ISIS jihadists in the northeastern town of Ersal, on the Syrian borders, leaving 10 Lebanese soldiers dead.
The extremist group recently executed Lebanese soldier, Mohammad Hammieh, and is now threatening to execute second Lebanese soldier, Ali Bzal.

And in Iraq as Britain has just voted to join the military campaign against ISIS (Q & A), some Iraqis say "no" to US aistrikes
Published on Sep 21, 2014
Iraqi Shi'ite fighters say they do not need outside help as they push to reclaim the area of Jarf Al Sakher from Islamic State militants. Vanessa Johnston reports.

The day before Obama launched the first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, we learned what many had already been saying as we saw the US march again towards war

Weeks of U.S. Strikes Fail to Dislodge ISIS in Iraq
BAGHDAD — After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government’s forces have scarcely budged the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country, in part because many critical Sunni tribes remain on the sidelines.
Although the airstrikes appear to have stopped the extremists’ march toward Baghdad, the Islamic State is still dealing humiliating blows to the Iraqi Army.
even as Obama bombs Iraq and Syria, he knows there is no military solution to a political problem
Behind the government’s struggles on the battlefield is the absence or resistance of many of the Sunni Muslim tribes that officials in Baghdad and Washington hope will play the decisive role in the course of the fight — a slow start for the centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to drive out the militants.
The Sunni tribes of Anbar and other areas drove Qaeda-linked militants out of the area seven years ago with American military help, in what became known as the Sunni Awakening. But the tribes’ alienation from the subsequent authoritarian and Shiite-led government in Baghdad opened the door for the extremists of the Islamic State to return this year.

so in conclusion, the airstrikes against ISIS are "working"
  • to recruit more members
  • to reunite ISIS with Al Qaeda approved al Nusra Front
  • ISIS demanded airstrikes in Iraq stop in beheading videos that increased recruiting more jihadis
and now we're bombing Syria as well.

Alaska Politics Update

From time to time I will point to reporting from Alaska politics blogger Amanda Coyne, as I did first when the "Palin Brawl" was in the news.

So here we go

NRA not endorsing Senate candidates, but does endorse Governor Parnell for reelection

NRA decides not to endorse anyone in the Senate race between incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich and Republican Dan Sullivan (he was Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources but resigned to run for Senate, and was Attorney General from June 2009 until December 2010) the other Republican Dan Sullivan is currently Mayor of Anchorage.  US Senator Lisa Murkowski (D) is up for reelection in 2016.

The NRA has chosen to endorse Governor Sean Parnell who is running for reelection.  Parnell signed a version of the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, made famous in the Trayvon Martin shooting.

I was gonna say with that information, vote for Bill Walker, but Walker is not an easy choice either.

The Walker campaign is now the (almost ruled illegalunity ticket of Independent Bill Walker and Democrat turned Independent Byron Mallott.

Why a unity ticket
One of the driving forces behind the ticket merger was the Alaska AFL-CIO's decision to boycott the three-way governor's race, echoing the popular complaint among Parnell opponents that the overcrowded arrangement essentially rigged the election in favor of the incumbent.
His record is complicated, and both parties could like him, depending on the issue.  He is for Medicaid expansion, for raising the minimum wage, against the Pebble Mine due to impact on fisheries, but also supports oil and gas exploration and drilling including in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and pro 2nd Amendment.

News Roundup 9/26
  • Mineweb is reporting that on Thursday a federal court judge has validated an agreement that the EPA would stay its regulatory process against the Pebble Mine Project until no earlier than January 2, 2015.
The ruling stops (quote is edited by me)
EPA’s attempt to expand its authority under the Clean Water Act by stopping the Pebble Project before the Pebble Partnership even files for permitting.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to clarify EPA’s role in the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process to ensure that the agency doesn’t deny permits before applications for permits are filed.
  • Yesterday’s [9/25] 6.24 earthquake was the second largest earthquake in Alaska’s history and according to a seismologist in the Dispatch, “We got lucky.” The earthquake’s effects were still strong enough to momentarily interrupt the Chamber of Commerce’s press conference with U.S. Senate candidate, Dan Sullivan.
Finally, Senator Mark Begich is both right and wrong at the same time
U.S. Senate Mark Begich reaffirmed his support for airstrikes against the Islamic group ISIS
Begich reiterated however that he doesn’t support arming Syrian rebels, which both the President and GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan support. In a telephonic town hall recently, Begich said that he worries that today’s U.S.-friendly “moderate rebels,” might be tomorrow’s enemies.
“Just like ISIS was a year and a half ago – they were part of these rebels, and now they’re the problem,”
Begich said.
Begich is correct to worry about today's allies becoming tomorrows enemies, but the problem is that airstrikes won't stop ISIS, even if not arming the Syrian rebels would prevent those weapons from being used against us when our allies become our enemies.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't Fear ISIS Chemical Weapons Part 3

We aren't hearing much lately about the "Laptop of Doom" anymore since we've started actually bombing ISIS in Syria, but the media continues to scare us about terrorists

(Here is Part 1 and Part 2)

Our new Prime Minister in Iraq gives us a tip, there is a bad translation about imminence, then more scares about ongoing imminence...
Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captured Islamic State militants have told Iraqi intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris
Initially the AP quoted al-Abadi as saying ‘‘yes’’ when asked if an attack was imminent. A review of his remarks established that he actually said, ‘‘I’m not sure.’’
He said that the attack threat had not been thwarted.
‘‘No, it has not been disrupted yet... this is a network,’’
Officials say they are not aware of any threats, and the terrorists want us to live in fear and we refuse to do so
At a news conference outside the Union Square subway station Thursday afternoon, de Blasio worked to calm the nerves of New Yorkers after news of the alleged plot, saying city officials have found no specific threat.
“We are convinced that New Yorkers are safe,” he said. “We are convinced that people should go about our normal routine. Terrorists want us to live in fear. We refuse to live in fear.”
But just to be safe, worry about everything anyway and report anything weird that you see
The mayor also stressed the importance of the subway system’s “see something, say something” motto.
“The people of this city have an important role to play,” de Blasio said. “The phrase, ‘when you see something, say something’ is not an empty phrase. It is real.”
police Commissioner Bill Bratton echoed the mayor’s statements.
“At this time, the people of this city should feel very comfortable and secure moving through the subways,” he said.
Republican Representative Peter King, a regular media figure talking terrorism (Islamic not Irish, see here or here) had a quote I found amusing for it's "don't worry but worry" aspect
“Anything involving ISIS is taken seriously and there is absolutely no evidence at all that there’s any validity to what the prime minister said,” King told 1010 WINS.
King said the nation must be on guard, but that the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have not put out any advisories of an imminent threat against the U.S.
“If they thought it was imminent, they would be contacting New York state, New York City as soon as possible because when you’re talking about a subway attack obviously New York is always what first comes to mind,” King said. “We have at least 5,000 entrances and exits to train stations in New York, millions of commuters every day, millions of riders on the trains, so they would be first notified.”
So while there's no credible threat that anyone has heard about (or is admitting to) police will increase their presence once again
Bag inspections were being set up at some subway stations, more bomb-sniffing dogs and surveillance teams were deployed, and officers were working overtime and doing extra checks of subway stations
So the media is again trying to scare us about ISIS subway plots (as they reassure us as well)

But meanwhile a more dangerous threat lurks in the background, under-reported in the media
New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress
Scientists wearing space-suitlike protective gear searched for hours in May for a mouse — infected with a virus similar to Ebola — that had escaped inside Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, one of the federal government's highest-security research facilities, according to newly obtained incident reports that provide a window into the secretive world of bioterror lab accidents. During the same month at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, a lab worker suffered a cut while trying to round up escaped ferrets that had been infected with a deadly strain of avian influenza, records show. Four days later at Colorado State University's bioterrorism lab, a worker failed to ensure dangerous bacteria had been killed before shipping specimens — some of them still able to grow — to another lab where a worker unwittingly handled them without key protective gear.
More than 1,100 incidents involving select agents were reported by labs from 2008 through 2012 and more than half were serious enough workers received medical evaluation or treatment

How much coverage did the July hearing mentioned in the article get?

Maybe if we were trying to start a war this would get more coverage.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Israel and the Syrian War

US airstrikes in Syria were the main headlines, (I will write about those soon) and mentioned on the sidelines was the Syrian plane that Israel shot down.

It is interesting to hear that Israel shot down a plane on the same day, because the US told Israel that they were bombing Syria so that a mistake wouldn't be made.


Senior IDF officers said last week that Israel would provide the United States with intelligence that could help it act against IS. Reuters reported that Israel had given the United States satellite photographs of IS targets.

BBC, see also Al Jazeera
A Syrian fighter jet which apparently strayed into Israeli-controlled airspace over the occupied Golan Heights has been shot down by Israel.
The plane, identified by Israeli sources as a Russian-built Sukhoi, plunged to the ground in flames but the pilot reportedly managed to eject.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would respond to threats whether or not "they stemmed from a mistake".
 A Syrian activist group said the jet had been bombing an area inside Syria.
It is the first time since the 1980s that the Israeli military is known to have shot down a Syrian plane although Syria's civil war has threatened to spill over the border, and Israel has carried out air strikes inside Syria in response to cross-border attacks.
Brigadier General Ram Shmueli, former head of the Israeli air force's intelligence unit, said the likely cause of the incident was pilot error.
"We believe [the pilot's] mission was to attack enemy forces - not ours - in the Syrian Golan Heights," he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war, said the jet had been bombing areas outside Quneitra, a Syrian town near the Israeli-held side of the frontier.
This is not the first time Israel has been active in Quneitra.  I wrote about an Islamic group (some said it was ISIS, others said it was not) taking over the Quneitra border crossing in the Occupied Golan Heights in August.

From my blog post in August
Islamist opposition fighters in Syria, including members of an Al Qaeda affiliate, took control of the Quneitra crossing point on the demarcation line with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, activists said on Wednesday. [August 27]
The move could bring Islamist forces within 200 yards of territory controlled by Israel.
The Israeli military said one soldier and an Israeli civilian were wounded by “errant fire” from the clashes at Quneitra on Wednesday, prompting an artillery barrage against two Syrian Army positions in the Golan Heights — the latest of several occasions when Syria’s civil war has spilled into Israel, prompting retaliation. Israel has said it has no interest in further involvement in the fighting. (emphasis mine)

From The Jewish Press article quoted in my blog post (emphasis mine)
It was the third attack in a single day, the most intensive shelling from Syria in months. No one was physically injured and no property damage was reported in the attack.
Hours earlier, in the morning, an IDF officer was moderately wounded and two Israeli vehicles were damaged in a similar attack. A barrage of Syrian mortar shells was fired from across the border – again, from the Quneitra area.

There was also another retaliation by Israel in June in response to an attack that killed a teenager.
The Israeli military said Monday that it had struck Syrian Army targets in response to an attack in the Golan Heights the day before that killed an Arab-Israeli teenager and wounded two others.
The killing of the youth, Mohammed Karaka, in an attack on an Israeli defense contractor’s vehicle was the first fatality on the Israeli side of the Syrian border since Syria’s civil war started more than three years ago.

In June Prime Minister Netanyahu promised more attacks in Syria if attacks continued in Israel, even though
It was not immediately clear whether Syrian troops or one of the many rebel groups battling the government carried out Sunday’s deadly attack in the Golan.
So far
Israel is likely "to stick to its [present] Syria policy, which involves containing the threat by beefing up the border and by monitoring changes on the ground while seeking to avoid being dragged into the civil war"
but there are fears among the population in the Golan Heights that the war will spill over into Israel.

Israel may say that it is only "beefing up border security and monitoring changes on the ground" but shooting down planes, even if the plane was not attacking Israel, bombing inside Syria and this report from last year when Israel bombed a chemical weapons base (3 months before Obama threatened to) is hardly passive actions like border security and monitoring the situation.

April 2013 Report: Israel bombs Syrian chemical weapons base
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) reported at the weekend that Israeli warplanes had bombed a chemical weapons base in Damascus. The Israeli government gave no response.
Israel and the West have taken the Syrian regime to task for reportedly using chemical weapons against rebel populations in recent weeks. Equally concerning is the idea that Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, one of the largest in the world, could fall into the hands of Syrian rebel groups or even Hezbollah.
Many of the groups making up the Syrian rebel forces are either affiliated with or part of organizations like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The kinds of groups Israel will do almost anything to prevent from possessing weapons of mass destruction.

But even all of that was not the only news out of Israel.

DW The Philippines has pulled out more than 240 UN peacekeepers from the Golan Heights two weeks earlier than planned
The premature withdrawal brings to an end the country's five-year role in the Golan Heights peacekeeping mission, which Zagala said had been blighted by kidnappings and attacks by Syrian rebels.
Meanwhile Irish peacekeeping troops will stay in Golan

This shift is part of the Syrian war as troops came under increasing attacks.
The UNDOF (UN Disengagement Observer Force), whose troops come from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines, has been monitoring a 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel following their 1973 war.

Arab Israeli convicted of training/fighting with Islamic State
An Israeli citizen was found guilty Tuesday of traveling to an enemy country and joining Islamic State during a four-month stay in Syria earlier this year.  Ahmad Sorbaji, 23, of Umm al-Fahm, was found by the Haifa District Court to have entered Syria, a country with which Israel is officially at war, and to have received military training from Syrian rebel groups, including Islamic State, with the intention of fighting in the Syrian civil war.
Some 10 Arab citizens of Israel have left the country to join the Islamic State, a Shin Bet security service source was quoted by the Israel Hayom newspaper as saying in September.
An additional number is believed to have traveled to join more moderate rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army. Several Israeli Arabs have reportedly been killed in Syria.
Last week it was reported that Rabiya Shahade, 26, from Nazareth, has been fighting in Syria with Islamic State and has been in that country for about a year. Shahade, who goes by the name Abu Musaav Alsafuri in Syria, was described in a Yedioth Ahronoth report as having had Christian and Jewish friends before he became radicalized. He left behind in Israel a wife and newborn son.
In May, Idris Abu Alqayan, 23, a Bedouin Israeli citizen from the Negev, was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and aiding an unlawful exit from the country after he allegedly helped two family members leave Israel for Syria to join the Islamic State.

Israeli continues to build settlements illegally.  They were a major factor in the breakdown of peace talks in April which lead to the war in Gaza.
The September 1 announcement follows other recent Israeli plans relating to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the award of tenders to build 708 new housing units in another settlement near Jerusalem, and plans to force thousands of Palestinian Bedouin residents out of areas zoned for settlement expansion, which violate international law. Since January, Israeli authorities have announced plans to build more than 8,000 settlement housing units.

Israel killed the "alleged" suspects in the kidnapping of the 3 teens that was seen as the excuse for Israel's war in Gaza.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Posts on Police Shootings and Brutality

Death in Police Custody Law Obama signed into law a re-authorization of an expired law that requires reporting on those killed in police custody.  Data from the last time suggests it won't be complete as required reporting of data was lax.

No Merry Christmas in Ferguson

Governor Nixon gets it wrong  In a press conference discussing the pending Grand Jury decision on whether to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson, Governor Nixon called for protesters to be peaceful, saying "Violence will not be tolerated" while neglecting to mention the names of those killed by cops and ignoring the long history of police brutality.

The Strange Case of Damonte Shipp, aka Ceebo here I repost an article about the case of Ceebo the rapper, cousin of Ezell Ford.

As part of the post "Before Mike Brown" I found a map that shows every homicide in St Louis in 2014.  Here is the list of 199 killings

St Louis Homicides 2014

Before Mike Brown I take a look at St Louis before August 2014, to point out other police shootings and brutality, and the community efforts to stop the violence from cops and in the community.

Ferguson honors John Crawford Protesters in Ferguson shut down WalMarts in honor of John Crawford, killed by police in a WalMart in Ohio.  Includes other incidents of police brutality.

Just Wait, it gets worse  Two stories about law enforcement mishandling cremated ashes, and other things police mistake for drugs.

End the War on Drugs a report on some of the grant programs that give local police equipment and funding that can be used to buy equipment

The Police cannot handle.... Some situations of police brutality in everyday situations that should have been handled better.

We still need more information on police shootings a look at the statistics documenting police shootings and some problems with the reporting.

Crowdsourcing police shootings  A look at the difficulty in reporting police shootings

Police Shootings by State a look at where police do the most shooting, and what is not counted when discussing police shootings.

They were fleeing violence--the border crisis continues

Updates 10/16/14
Human Rights Watch Report: Deported migrants returned to danger
DemocracyNow! Migrant Women, Children Allege Harsh Conditions, Sexual Assault at For-Profit Texas Immigration Jail
Biased Reporter Clinton finally admits role in Honduras Coup aftermath

The media has moved away from covering the border crisis, but the story has not gone away.

As I first wrote in June when the media was paying some attention to the current crisis, thousands of children have been coming to America from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, fleeing violence and poverty.  Obama's reaction was to ask for the authority to speed up deportations, changing a 2008 law protecting children from human traffickers.  The Republican Party that calls on Obama and Democrats to "secure our borders" and at the same time won't pass any bills because their excuse is "we can't afford it" rejected Obama's request for $3.7 billion in funds for emergency needs including:
building more detention centers, adding immigration judges, and beefing up border patrols and air surveillance.
In the end the House GOP only considered giving the Administration $659 million in their border bill, but couldn't even get enough votes in the House for that to pass before leaving for their August vacation.

Now we have new evidence of the reality of the violence these children were fleeing.  42 children have been killed in Honduras since February, and reports show that between 5 to 10 of them were deported after fleeing to America.

Most media reports that discuss the possible reasons why so many children are fleeing will discuss gang violence and American drug use as issues, as well as poverty in these countries.  While they are correct they are missing a key issue that only some responsible people are reporting, and that I brought up in my initial piece on the border crisis (updated to reflect more recent news stories), the 2009 coup in Honduras.
U.S. support of brutal regimes in Guatemala and Honduras fuels the violence and instability that makes life unbearable for ordinary citizens. The U.S. government supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras, and continues to support the illegal coup government there.
The coup is not even listed as an issue in a CRS report on the current crisis.

We knew that these children were fleeing violence.  Now they are being killed as we deport them, but the media has turned its attention to other issues.

                                                                                                          Photo Credit

This excellent article documents the effects that a long history of US foreign policy in the region has had on these countries, and gives some ideas on how to solve the problem for real instead of continuing to throw money at the border, a band-aid solution to our foreign policy cancer.

How U.S. foreign policy in Central America created the child border crisis
The U.S. government has a history of standing on the wrong side in conflicts in the region, consistently supporting dictators over democratically elected officials. Too frequently, America intervened in favor of U.S. business interests to the detriment of Central American civil society.
For more than 60 years, U.S. foreign and economic policies in the region have greatly contributed to increasing desperation there. Most Americans will never see firsthand the impact of misguided, failed foreign and economic U.S. policies that result in the fears that Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans face daily. What Americans do see is the arrival of children at the border — a consequence of billions of U.S. tax dollars wasted over decades propping up generals and oligarchs.
continued (emphasis mine)
U.S. support of brutal regimes in Guatemala and Honduras fuels the violence and instability that makes life unbearable for ordinary citizens. The U.S. government supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras, and continues to support the illegal coup government there....This is not a border crisis.
Putting the Central American Children’s Migration In Context La Prensa San Diego
As Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin put it, “let’s take care that we don’t send them back into a deadly situation.” Our decent treatment of these children reflects our core values as a nation and is simply the right thing to do.
For decades, U.S. governments supported unspeakably brutal regimes and poured billions into maintaining them ($5 billion in El Salvador alone). Implacable opposition to communism—often defined as virtually any reformer—gave these regimes a blank check. The result is a legacy of dealing with your opponents through extreme violence and a culture of impunity. Judicial systems remain weak, corrupt, and often completely dysfunctional.
Critics charge that President Obama’s immigration policy is at fault today for providing an illusion that if children arrive here they will be allowed to stay....In a recent UNHCR survey of 400 child migrants only a single child mentioned new US immigration policies as the reason he came.
As a start, we need to do two things: first, insure that the rights of the children fleeing to this country are fully respected and that they are treated humanely. This approach would be in the finest traditions of the US and live up to the values we prize.
Second, a long-term Central American-style Marshall Plan is essential to address the structural, economic, and social problems these countries face. And, even then, we must realize that it will take decades to insure strong, sustainable development.
Washington Post March 11, 1999 Clinton: Support for Guatemala Was Wrong
President Clinton expressed regret today for the U.S. role in Guatemala's 36-year civil war, saying that Washington "was wrong" to have supported Guatemalan security forces in a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that slaughtered thousands of civilians.
The record of the Guatemalan security forces was laid bare in a report released Feb. 25 by the Historical Clarification Commission, which grew out of the U.N.-sponsored peace process that ended the war in 1996. The commission said the Guatemalan military had committed "acts of genocide" during the conflict, in which 200,000 people died.
another "Deporter in Chief" (emphasis mine) see Politico article on Obama
But he did not grant one key request from this region's leaders, who want the United States to cease or slow deportation of undocumented Central Americans, many of whom send money to relatives in their impoverished homelands.
"We must continue to discourage illegal immigration," he said. "We must enforce our laws."
continued (emphasis mine)
in San Salvador, Clinton alluded to the brutal civil wars and insurrections that killed thousands of people in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, to a lesser degree, Honduras, in recent decades. He did not, however, apologize for U.S. support for the Salvadoran military in the 1980s, which totaled billions of dollars during a war that cost 70,000 lives. 

Some Recent updates

ACLU sues Obama Administration

(paragraph is edited out of order by me)
on August 22, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of M.R.R., six other women, and three children being detained at FLETC. The suit claims that the government is running a “deportation mill,” which threatens the lives of detainees who are being denied due process and substantive protections.
continued (out of order)
The father of M.R.R.’s children was stabbed to death, but the gang that killed him wasn’t satisfied. They continued to send death threats to M.R.R. and her kids. Terrified and traumatized, the family fled their native Honduras for the United States.
M.R.R. and her children have viable refugee claims under international law, but the U.S. government is refusing to follow its own asylum protocols, designed to protect those imperiled in their home countries. So M.R.R. and her children are languishing in an immigration jail.

September 3, 2014 North Carolina Congressman: Reports Of Murdered Children Shouldn’t Slow Deportations
First term House Republican Robert Pittenger (R-NC) is running unopposed for another term representing North Carolina’s 9th District.
“It’s the most egregious, awful crime and a pity, what has happened to these young children,” he told ThinkProgress. “But do you want to open up America’s doors to the entire world? We can’t handle the healthcare and education today for our own population! We have to be sensible about what we our system can manage. So you put them on planes and you send them back.”
September 6, 2014 Excerpt from the statement from AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) on Obama's announcement that he will delay executive action on immigration until after the election
Through this decision to delay, President Obama has broken yet another promise to immigrants, their families, U.S. businesses, and a community largely responsible for his even having a second term. This President, who has deported more people in 5 years than any other, who has doubled down on the jailing of women and children, who has tried to gut the protections we have for trafficked children, who has failed to curb the unjustified denial of legitimate business applications or provide promised incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, has now joined the House of Representatives in profound failure regarding our immigration system.

Other resources
CRS Unaccompanied Alien Children—Legal Issues: FAQ July 18, 2014 

CRS Processing Flow Chart

CRS Potential Factors for Immigrating

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Employee Fired for Talking to the Press (at Palin Brawl)

There has been lots of attention around the "Palin Brawl" since Alaska political blogger Amanda Coyne broke the story (yay bloggers!) in a blog post that also mentioned some important political stories, including this update (I assume) about efforts to repeal the collective bargaining bill AO37.
Former Anchorage Police Department Chief and state Department of Public Safety commissioner Walt Monegan, and retired Anchorage Fire Department Chief Craig Goodrich have agreed to co-chair the repeal effort of Mayor Dan Sullivan’s controversial AO37.
Also mentioned in the blog post that mentioned mainstream media bait Palin is this update that Mayor Sullivan is running for Senate
The Alaska Support Industry Alliance has endorsed senate candidate Dan Sullivan. It is the first political endorsement that they’ve made in 20 years. The Alliance is an oil, gas and mining trade association with 500 member companies representing 30,000 employees in Alaska.
Then there's this bit of news from the Cook Political Report
The Cook Political Report moved the ratings of the Alaska governor’s race to “likely Republican” from “solid Republican.”
And finally an anniversary
Fifty years ago this week, a political TV ad aired, showing a little girl plucking flower petals, and helped elect Lyndon B. Johnson to the presidency of the United States. Watch the 60-second ad that revolutionized paid political advertising here.
So some news about collective bargaining, a senate race, oil industry endorsements, other news updates and


On September 11 Amanda posted an update to readers about the brawl, explaining (that she is trying to do more important work in my opinion).  She does do more important work, like covering Alaska oil and natural gas projects with Japan, and state political races and healthcare policy as she explains below.  I don't know how many people had heard of her before this week.  I am sorry to say that before this week I hadn't.

emphasis is mine
I wrote about the Saturday-night Palin family brawl  in my Loose Lips column—my version of a gossip column–hoping that some other news source, preferably a local news source, would pick it up, and run with it. I’m a one-woman show here. I’m the writer, the editor, and the business manager, and I’m trying to cover the state’s political races. 
As I write this, I’m at a health care conference in Girdwood, trying to learn as much as I can about why healthcare costs are so astronomically high in Alaska, when they have appeared to be declining elsewhere. (Expect a post on that later). All this is to say that I have little time to track down the details of the brawl. And even if I did, I’d probably pass. I spent many years covering Palin. It’s a rabbit hole every time.

But I thought I should update, because people seem to really want to know. Frankly, I would too if I were them, and weren’t at a health care conference, etc… 
Later on the 11th she did post the Alaska Police Department's statement on the brawl.

But here is why I am writing about the Palin's at all, as you can see in my headline for this story.  A witness to the brawl was (some report allegedly) fired from his job for talking to the press (ABC News Good Morning America)

emphasis mine
Eric Thompson was having fun with friends and his wife at a party in South Anchorage on Saturday night. Thompson, who is 56 years old, was the designated driver for the evening, so he wasn’t drinking. But that was okay with him. He was among friends. It was a birthday party for twins Matt and Marc McKenna, who own McKenna Bros Paving, for whom he works as a project supervisor.
A few other media outlets reported that the witness was fired, and give credit to Amanda for reporting the story.  CNN did give credit to Amanda for breaking the story but didn't mention that Eric was fired.

Washington Post steals the credit
Since we reported Thursday afternoon that the Palin brood was allegedly involved in a dramatic, bloody, straight-from-reality-TV rumble up in Alaska, the story went viral.
Sadly they got this right--but media is the problem here
Love her or hate her, people are still intrigued (entertained?) by Sarah Palin.
If the media wants to report on this story, fine. But please give credit to the person who broke the story, and media should always mention media related topics, like witnesses being fired for talking to the media.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

End the War on Drugs

Yesterday the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement under the Department of Defense Excess Property Program, known since the shooting in Ferguson Missouri of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown as the 1033 Program

The 1033 Program has gotten the most attention, but it is hardly the only grant program available (NYT) to local police agencies that distributes either equipment directly or funds that can be used to buy equipment.

A list of grants available by agency is listed here by DOJ's NIJ

Other grant programs include 1033, 1122, Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program

Website for has grants by agency and category, including DHS, DOJ and Law, Justice and Legal Services including grants like COPS-CAMP-APPLICATION-2014 from May for help to
engage in or to supervise anti-methamphetamine investigative activities
1122 Program Catalog of available equipment

Description of the 1122 program (paragraph edited by me)
Three sources of supply are available to law enforcement agencies through their SPOCs. The first two are the Department of the Army (DA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
The third source is contractor-supplied items. These items are furnished through the General Services Administration (GSA) and the sources can be found in the various Federal Supply Schedules published by GSA. These schedules are listings of contractors, identifying the types of products they provide to GSA. There is a Federal Supply Schedule for "Law Enforcement & Security Equipment," for example, that gives the names and addresses of suppliers of police equipment belts, holsters, batons, handcuffs and pepper spray; accessories for police cruisers; alcohol detection kits; bomb disposal and detection equipment; and forensic and criminal investigation equipment. GSA also will purchase motor vehicles for law enforcement agencies under this program. For more information please visit

There are 82 DHS grants listed on its website.

Investigative journalist Jason Leopold was able to get information through FOIA on the 1033 information from Ferguson and St Louis Police Departments.  In his article he noted the lack of evidence of distributions of the kinds of tactical equipment that was seen on the streets in Ferguson.
VICE News obtained the complete inventory of military leftovers secured since 2007 by the Ferguson Police Department under the DLA's 1033 program - and nothing on the list matched up with the militarized equipment police deployed during the protests.
Even though Ferguson police did not obtain any weapons under 1033, the program - its maxim is "From Warfighter to Crimefighter" - does supply US law enforcement agencies with M-14s, M-16s, M1911 .45 caliber pistols, grenade launchers (see DLA's weapons inventory PowerPoint below) and armored vehicles.
The obvious question: Where did Ferguson police get the military equipment it allegedly used during the protests, and how did the department purchase it? When VICE News posed the question to the Ferguson Police Department, an officer hung up the phone on us. Three subsequent calls back resulted in the same response.
From the August 27 article update 
The fact that the St. Louis County Police Department did not obtain tactical gear under 1033 is not to suggest that it doesn't have it. The department may have purchased military vehicles and weapons on its own or with grant money it secured from another federal program.
This is not a new problem.  While I was looking for Jason's article about 1033 I found this tweet mentioning this article from 2011 discussing the 1033 program, which was started in 1997 to help police agencies deal with the war on drugs.
The U.S. military has some of the most advanced killing equipment in the world that allows it to invade almost wherever it likes at will.

We produce so much military equipment that inventories of military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers eventually start to pile up and it turns out a lot of these weapons are going straight to American police forces to be used against US citizens.

Benjamin Carlson at The Daily reports on a little known endeavor called the "1033 Program" that gave more than $500 million of military gear to U.S. police forces in 2011 alone.
Back then the issue was the response to Occupy Wall Street
This upswing coincides with an increasingly military-like style of law enforcement most recently seen in the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns.
Along with Jason's work, the crowdsourcing FOIA website MuckRock also has documents that cover half of the states' 1033 programs.

Program 1033 aircraft, armored vehicle and weapons requests article
Requested by ShawnMusgrave on Oct. 7, 2013 for the Defense Logistics Agency, Disposition Services of United States of America and fulfilled on Dec. 9, 2013


Any mention of Rifleman Sets refer to vests not weapons as far as I can tell--see here

Here is the New York Time's data set as described here
Last December, the Defense Logistics Agency released two years of state-by-state transfer data to MuckRock, while the New York Times obtained data down to the county level in May. 
The request filed for data from 1033 transfers nationwide 2000 to 2014 still is due in 4 days time so it is not late yet.  Many FOIA requests are held up for various reasons.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has on her website an article/press release as well as her own fact sheet on 1033 Equipment transfers

This is not the first time that the militarization of the police has gotten widespread media attention, the last time being after the Boston Marathon Bombing last year, when Boston Police locked down Boston and several suburbs looking for the suspects.

April 19, Governor Patrick asked residents of Watertown and adjacent cities and towns (Allston-Brighton, Boston, Belmont, Brookline, Cambridge, Newton, and Waltham) to "shelter in place". Somerville residents also received a reverse-911 call with orders to shelter in place. 
"Was Boston Actually on Lockdown?"
Throughout the day, the media described residents complying with a “lockdown order,” but in reality the governor’s security measure was a request.
The lockdown is really voluntary, to be honest with you,” says Scott Silliman, emeritus director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke Law School.
The “shelter in place” request is legally different from a state of emergency, which Patrick declared earlier this year as winter storm Nemo descended on the Bay State. Patrick imposed a travel ban, threatening a penalty of up to a year in prison and a large fine if people were found on the roads.
See also here
The thousands of heavily armed law enforcement officers and scores of military-style tactical vehicles amassed around Boston Friday might have looked chaotic to many watching the hunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev unfold on television. But the man who heads the LAPD's counter terrorism and special operations bureau says the city-wide lockdown makes perfect sense.
Maria Haberfeld, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Justice in New York City said "I think the display of police power is more to calm the public than out of operational necessity."
Over the past decade, local and federal police agencies have been training to deal with situations involving terrorists, amassing weapons of war - such as the tank-like tactical vehicles currently rolling through the streets of Boston - and preparing to work together should the situation arise. This week, it did.
According to Haberfeld, the massive show of force in Boston represents the first major field test of the interagency task forces created in the wake of the September 2001 attacks. Currently on the scene in Boston are officers and vehicles belonging to the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard. The Boston and Watertown Police departments, as well as the Massachusetts State Police, are also involved. Additionally, the FAA has instituted flight restrictions in the area and Amtrak service has been suspended.
The militarization of police forces in response to the drug wars and terrorism since 9/11 ignores a much more dangerous threat to our society---everyday gun deaths and ironically an increasing threat from militarized police forces (see the ACLU report which counts 124 violent SWAT raids every day) and this great article from after the Marathon Bombings last year.

Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths?: The marathon bombs triggered a reaction that is at odds with last week's inertia over arms control
Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They're right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we've seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the "threat" of terrorism.
After all, it's not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorised by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.
If only Americans reacted the same way to the actual threats that exist in their country.
All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).
The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns.
It's not just firearms that produce such legislative inaction. Last week, a fertiliser plant in West, Texas, which hasn't been inspected by federal regulators since 1985, exploded, killing 14 people and injuring countless others. Yet many Republicans want to cut further the funding for the agency (OSHA) that is responsible for such reviews. The vast majority of Americans die from one of four ailments – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease – and yet Republicans have held three dozen votes to repeal Obamacare, which expands healthcare coverage to 30 million Americans.


While the War on Terror may be the reasons given for the increased militarization of the police since 9/11, the real reason the program was started in 1997 was the war on drugs, as discussed in the hearing yesterday.

According to Missouri state statistics drugs (defined as "distribute/deliver/manufacture controlled substance") are one of the top 3 offenses besides robbery and burglary.

See for example Senator Ron Johnson's exchange with Alan F. Estevez, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics at DOD
here from The Guardian's live blog of the hearing
Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, is up.
He asks what cops needed from the Pentagon to combat the war on drugs.
Estevez says “police departments were outgunned by drug gangs.”
But the “surplus” program continued to expand, Johnson says, moving $5.1bn in equipment since 1997.
Senator Rand Paul also made the connection between the militarized response we saw in Ferguson and the War on Drugs, quoted here from Kevin Gosztola's The Dissenter
 Paul was one of the few senators to connect what was witnessed in Ferguson to the War on Drugs. He expressed concern about SWAT teams engaged in no-knock raids and, in particular, a raid in Georgia where a baby was critically injured when he was hit by a flash bang grenade that landed in his crib.
Both Paul and McCaskill spoke rather openly about the risk police militarization posed to dissent. Paul declared, “Confronting protesters with armored personnel carriers is thoroughly un-American.”
Militarized policing tactics are not consistent with the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. These lawful peaceful protesters on that Wednesday afternoon in Ferguson, Missouri, did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants,” McCaskill stated when the hearing began.
I referred in a blog post earlier to the ACLU report on violent SWAT raids, the majority which are drug raids.  We must end the War on Drugs.  We must demilitarize the police.  We must stop police shootings and gun violence that plagues our nation every day.

Another ACLU report from last June documented the failures of the war on drugs comparing marijuana use by whites and blacks (basically the same) compared with arrests of whites and blacks (blacks were arrested 4 times as much--see also stop and frisk)

End the war on drugs now.  It's been 40 unsuccessful years.




Battle for the Net

 I'm spreading the word on the Battle for the Future of the Internet.

learn more here.

Get involved.


Thank you!

Copy and paste the text below.
The e-mail is a call to action and instructions for how they can participate and join you on September 10th to save the open Internet.
If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do?
Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.
Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?
On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.
If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here:
Everyone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bomb Explodes in Chile

Reverberations of America's long history of intervening in Chile continued today when a bomb exploded in the capital of Chile, Santiago.  8 people were injured, 2 wounded seriously. No one has claimed responsibility yet says the Washington Post but in the past it has been anarchist groups planting bombs.
At least 28 bombs have been found across Santiago so far this year — most planted at banks and police stations late at night. Some have not exploded and none of the other bombs before this one caused any injuries.
the government would invoke an anti-terror law enacted during the 1973-90 dictatorship that allows for lengthy periods of pre-trial detention, longer sentences, interception of communications and masked witnesses.
Protests are common in September and some have turned violent, even deadly, as they commemorate the 1973 coup.  This video shows police and protestors clashing, as well as the word "alleged" in the article to describe missing relatives
Demonstrators carried banners with photos of alleged arrested and missing relatives.
One of the more famous victims of the coup was folk singer Victor Jara, whose murder case still continues 40 years later, as 3 more people were charged with his murder during the coup in 1973
A judge in Santiago charged former military officers Hernan Chancon Soto and Patricio Vasquez Donoso with taking part in the Sept. 15, 1973 killing. He also charged ex-army prosecutor Ramon Melo Silva as an accomplice. They join a list of eight former army officers who were charged in late 2012 and early 2013 in the killing of the communist singer and songwriter.
There was also a civil lawsuit filed in the United States against Army lieutenant Pedro Barrientos Nunez
and it alleges that he actually ordered the torture of Victor Jara and killed him...Barrientos lives in the United States. He's in Florida. He's now a U.S. citizen.
The CIA supported the coup, and had been planning the overthrow of President Allende for years, fearing a new Cuba in Latin America.
The CIA was funnelling cash to Chile’s right-wing media outlets and Allende’s political opponents. But when it looked like he would win the 1970 presidential election, the agency stepped up its covert activities.
Chile has a long history of coups and coup attempts going back to the 1700's and Spanish colonial rule.  8 have been successful.

Friday, September 5, 2014

We Still Need More Information on Police Shootings

This post discusses an article that I saw from CassandraRules, who tweeted this article claiming to have the definitive number of police shootings, responding to this disturbing article in USA Today that reported 400 "justifiable" homicides per year reported to the FBI from local law enforcement agencies.  The article is correctly more interested in those deaths that cannot be justified, and looked to count those numbers.  The problem lies in their extrapolating the comprehensive data for August (a disgusting 104 deaths this month alone) (I congratulate and appreciate their work here) and using that number--104 deaths in August--to create a number of police killings for the whole year.

Quoting from the article:
The total for August alone: 104 deaths.
You can review the list on Wikipedia as "List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States, August 2014."
(emphasis mine)
Of course, 104 per month, over 12 months, would come to 1,248 deaths - an annual count significantly higher than the FBI's estimate of 400.
That is my whole problem with the article, but it is still a big problem.  They do a great job collecting the data of police killings in August 2014.  At first I thought the source was a Wikipedia article, but having 44 Wikipedians is very different than just citing a Wikipedia article that anyone can edit.  They even break down the total 104 even greater into smaller statistics and personal details.
But a closer reading of the list will make an honest American cry.

Innocent bystanders died - three of them. Four officers committed suicide. Twelve, like Michael Brown, were under 21 - just starting out in life. Many - it's impossible to say how many, but quite clear it was too many - were affected by mental illness, alcohol or drugs. Law enforcement officers killed people with mental illness in Arizona, Michigan, Colorado, Maryland, Alabama, New Jersey, Kansas, our state of Oregon, Missouri, and California.
Debunking the "104 killed every month" was easy.  I found 29 killed in August 2013
Just to show how easy it was to debunk this idea that because there were 104 people killed in August means that 104 were killed every month, I looked at the list for August 2013 and found 29, not 104.

I will still look at other months but it is time consuming--if anyone would like to help that would be great!  you can email me or comment on any articles with the month and year and the total number of people on the list.

So even without much scrutiny I debunked the "104 killed every month means 1248 a year" claim made in the article.

Another way to look at the estimated "400 justifiable" homicides each year by police, 400 divided by 12 is 33.33, so again if on average 400 are killed justifiably each year by police, it can be counted many ways.

Some examples are:
  • 400 divided by 12 months equals 33 people every day
  • 100 could be a total that are killed "quarterly,"  but not necessarily every day or month
January February March-----------100
April May June---------------------100
July August September-------------100
October November December-----100
  • Or 400 could be killed in random groups, sporadically throughout the year
 4, 36, 87, 54, 19, 10, 100, 39, 44, 7
There are other compilations of police shootings that are getting attention since Ferguson, including FiveThirtyEight who doesn't count justifiable homicides, as well as other databases mentioned in the article, FatalEncounters, Gun Violence Archive, Deadspin, and from this comprehensive list from 2011 by Jim Fisher who also has a good collection of Police Involved Shootings, but recently he has been writing on other subjects.

It is important to note that none of these databases count justifiable police homicides, although I did see an article (I have looked for it again) that cited 400-600 justifiable homicides by police, which does seem more accurate than 1,000, especially when taking a comprehensive count from one month and simply extrapolating it out for the rest of the year.

This article from 2011, discussing "suicide by police shooting" explains one reason why "justifiable homicides" are hard to count.

emphasis mine
“Seth,” who was 19 at the time and attending college in New Jersey, had already attempted suicide twice. He’d never been in trouble with the law but had spent years crippled by depression, and he was searching for the best way to die. Eventually, he decided the surest method was a gun. But he didn’t own one; neither did his parents.
That’s when it came to him: Police have guns.
The plan was simple: Get in the car and drive like crazy. Eventually, a cop would pull him over, and he’d do something threatening to get the cop to shoot him.

We do however come to the same conclusion: MORE INFORMATION IS NEEDED!!
our results demand certain actions:
From local media, curiosity and follow-through. Reporters must avoid simple regurgitation of police talking points. They must publish the name of the person killed, the names of the officers involved. If this information is not available, they need to ask why.
emphasis mine
The U.S. Department of Justice must survey all 17,000 law enforcement agencies, not just the handful that choose to report. We need full and accurate numbers, and gathering them should not be the province of the FBI; it is the DOJ that has an interest in civil rights and discrimination.
From local activists we need a unified voice insisting on police accountability for their communities - especially the suburban and rural areas where many of these deaths happen. This voice should come from a joining together of organizations representing persons of color and those representing persons with mental illness. In this way alone will we bring appropriate thoughtfulness, via recruitment and evidence-based training, to police agencies everywhere.

The shooting of Mike Brown was not the first police shooting of an unarmed black man.  Ferguson was not the first protest against police brutality.  Ferguson was not the first time police militarization was discussed in the media and by Americans.  Ferguson was not the first time America discussed guns, shootings, violence.  These discussions have happened before.  Shootings have happened before.  Protests have happened before.  Let's make sure our outrage doesn't stop.  Let's make sure we keep acting.

Let's work together to end gun violence.

Let's work together to end police militarization and excessive violence.

Let's prevent the next shooting before it happens.

Enough is enough.