Closing Thought–03Jan17

Ethics Be Damned!

I have often stated that I think those elected officials in DC are worthless d/bags and they have proven it again.

The new Congress, the 115th, I believe will have a free ride on ethics….hiring weasels to guard the hen house….

Did the swamp just vote against drains? House Republicans bucked party leaders Monday night with a vote that the New York Times reports will hobble and “effectively kill” their independent ethics watchdog. Under a change that comes as part of a rules package for the 115th Congress, which will be sworn in Tuesday, the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics will be put under the control of the House Ethics Office, which is run by House lawmakers, giving them the final say in investigating allegations of their own misconduct, PBS reports. The watchdog, which will be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review under the proposal, will no longer be able to receive anonymous tips or make its investigations public. The OCE was created in 2008 after a series of scandals, including the one that sent corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was among those warning against the proposal, which was adopted by a vote of 119 to 74. Politico reports that lawmakers from both parties had complained that the OCE had been too aggressive in its investigations, and the effort to defang it was led by Republicans who had been investigated by the body. The proposal, which Congress will vote on Tuesday afternoon, was criticized by other watchdog groups, as well as Democrats. “The Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Transparency be damned!

Now the Congress will police itself…..do you trust these toads to police themselves?

I don’t!

Update:  As I was writing this post I got word that there seems to be a change in plans…..

House Republicans at an emergency conference meeting on Tuesday withdrew a proposal to gut an ethics watchdog.

The new Congress hadn’t even formally gaveled in on before GOP leaders held an emergency conference meeting to discuss the blowback against the party’s vote Monday evening to gut the chamber’s independent ethics watchdog.

Tuesday’s meeting came after President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHouse GOP scraps plan to gut ethics watchdog after emergency meeting It’s no longer business as usual for the stock market this year Dem senator praises Trump for knocking House ethics move MOREissued a series of tweets questioning the timing of the changes, which would have put the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

Source: House GOP scraps plan to gut ethics watchdog after emergency meeting | TheHill

Maybe someone is listening?

If so then it will be short lived.

ISIS Update–2017

The term ISIS seems to slide from the headlines until someone attacks something and then it hits the front pages hard and endlessly…..

After teaching a class on terrorism I feel I need to let the readers know what is being said….some times not always in the headlines…..most of the sources are what we call the MSM…..

The Islamic State starts the new year with a drastically depleted bank account, counterterrorism officials say, following months of intensified efforts to deprive the Islamists of oil profits and other revenue used to finance military operations and terrorist attacks abroad. – Washington Post

In the past few weeks, the Islamic State has sustained a string of military defeats…Yet as the deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin made clear, those losses do not diminish the group’s extraordinary power to inspire terrorist mayhem around the world, and may even help fuel it. – New York Times

A rare visit to the Raqqa front line illustrated how near and yet far off the defeat of the Islamic State may be. The battle for Mosul in neighboring Iraq has stalled, the attack in Berlin has brought home the continued threat of terrorism, and there is still no plan for an offensive on Raqqa, making the war one of the most immediate, and complicated, challenges the Trump administration will have to confront. – Washington Post

Embattled Islamic State is still managing to maintain a propaganda machine that inspires violence among its far-flung followers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

A report by an organization that monitors Islamist militants’ Internet communications calls Telegram “the app of choice for many ISIS, pro-ISIS and other jihadi and terrorist elements.” The study describes the terrorists’ mass migration to Telegram as one of the most striking developments in the field recently. – Washington Post

Even as the American-led air campaign conducts bombing missions to support Iraqi troops fighting the Islamic State in Mosul, American commanders said the air war would probably play an even greater role in Syria over the coming weeks in the battle to retake Raqqa. – New York Times

Military chiefs are prepared to give President-elect Donald Trump the options he wants to intensify the fight against the Islamic State, including the possibility of granting commanders greater leeway to use secret cyber-warfare and space weapons, the top Air Force leader said. – USA Today

Space weapons?  What the Hell does that mean?

For more updates check this spot on your readership dial…..

Long Live The Oligarchy

Whenever I write about the failing of our democratic principles there will always be someone who, without an argument, wants to remind me that we are a republic not a democracy.

Yes we are a republic so then maybe we ALL should stop using the term “democracy” all together…..and stop saying we are promoting “democracy” around the world….apparently we are not.

I have had many conversations here on IST about the possibility that we are not a democracy but rather an oligarchy….

Huh?

Oligarchy (Greek Ὀλιγαρχία, Oligarkhía, from óligon, “few,” and arkho, “rule” ) is a form of government in which political power effectively rests with a small, elite segment of society. The term was used by Aristotle to refer to despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for often corrupt or selfish purposes. In most classic oligarchies, governing elites were recruited exclusively from a hereditary ruling caste, whose members tended to exercise power in the interests of their own class.

Oligarchies have sometimes been synonymous with aristocracies, which were ruled by members of a noble class, or with plutocracies, ruled by the wealthy members of a community. However, neither wealth nor noble birth are necessary conditions for belonging to the privileged group which rules an oligarchy. Historically, there have been organized oligarchies, and unofficial oligarchies in which a group of “advisers” dictated the policies of an official ruler. In practice, almost all governments, whatever their form, are run by a small minority of members of society, and it is necessary to further examine the ways in which these individuals acquire and retain power in order to correctly understand whether a system of government is a oligarchy.

A couple of years ago this supposition was covered by the New Yorker…..

From the Dept. of Academics Confirming Something You Already Suspected comes a new study concluding that rich people and organizations representing business interests have a powerful grip on U.S. government policy. After examining differences in public opinion across income groups on a wide variety of issues, the political scientists Martin Gilens, of Princeton, and Benjamin Page, of Northwestern, found that the preferences of rich people had a much bigger impact on subsequent policy decisions than the views of middle-income and poor Americans. Indeed, the opinions of lower-income groups, and the interest groups that represent them, appear to have little or no independent impact on policy.

Source: Is America an Oligarchy? – The New Yorker

Now a new study as confirmed our greatest fear…..IT is official!

The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (PDF)

After sifting through nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile), and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite.

Source: Major Study Finds The US Is An Oligarchy – Business Insider

You can sleep well tonight in knowing that our country is now in the hands of the oligarchy.

Rise of the American Mercenary

From time to time my friends at Ace News Room will publish an op-ed of mine…..below is one that I have been ranting about for a decade now…..

I have been very verbal on what I think of private “security contractors” or what they really are…mercenaries……

But first….a mercenary?

The word “mercenary” comes from the Latin “merces,” which means “wages” or “fee.” Thus, taken literally, a mercenary is any person who serves merely for wages. Although this definition could apply to many of us in the working world, it’s most closely associated with the professional soldier, or someone who is hired by a political entity to fight in a conflict. That conflict could be a war, a coup attempt or a prohibition campaign designed to reduce illegal drug trade.

(read on……)

Source: Rise of the American Mercenary | Ace News Room

The Interventionists’ Double Standards

These days we have interventionist everywhere….and each one tries to justify American adventurism in different ways…..no party is immune from this propaganda.

Our government only mentions a situation when they want to throw our weapons and military at it and use some humanitarian bullshit to get us involved.  And then seldom admits that our intervention is part of the problems that result (famine, deaths and chaos)…..

Matt Purple comments on the disparity between Western outrage over the carnage in Aleppo and general indifference to comparably horrible events in Africa:

None of this should be read as a case for nation building or military intervention in Africa. It’s meant merely to marvel at the most glaring hypocrisy of our foreign policy, a blind spot that blots out an entire continent, which bestows the status of global supervillain on Bashar al-Assad while Salva Kiir remains an unknown. The West has a double standard when it comes to Africa.

Purple is certainly correct about that Western media and interventionist political leaders respond to the terrible effects of conflicts in various parts of the world very differently, but the way that responsibility is assigned for these effects is even more telling. It has become commonplace to blame Obama for the horrors of Syria’s war because he “allowed” them to happen or “failed” to stop them, which takes for granted that the U.S. has both the authority and the ability to halt or at least ameliorate the effects of foreign civil wars at an acceptable cost. Obama is almost never faulted for his role in helping to stoke the conflict, because that doesn’t fit the bogus “withdrawal” narrative that his hawkish critics want to promote. It would also require acknowledging that the U.S. is already involved in the war and its involvement has only made things worse (as opponents of our involvement said it would).

Source: The Interventionists’ Double Standards | The American Conservative

Our interventionism is hurting the world and it is time for the US to re-think their total involvement in others conflicts….especially those that offer NO danger to the continental US….

Can we expect more of the same in the coming years?