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Archive for March 9th, 2015

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) openly has supported a terrorist group—and is proud of it

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Some terrorists, in the eyes of the GOP, are all right. Peter King was a staunch supporter of the IRA. In the New Yorker Patrick Radden Keefe gives an example of what the IRA did:

Jean McConville had just taken a bath when the intruders knocked on the door. A small woman with a guarded smile, she was, at thirty-seven, a mother of ten. She was also a widow: her husband, Arthur, had died eleven months earlier, of cancer. The family continued to live in Divis Flats—a housing complex just off the Falls Road, in the heart of Catholic West Belfast—but had recently moved to a slightly larger apartment. The stove was not connected yet, so Jean’s daughter Helen, who was fifteen, had gone to a nearby chip shop to bring back dinner. “Don’t be stopping for a sneaky smoke,” Jean told her. It was December, 1972, and already dark at 6:30 P.M. When the children heard the knock, they assumed that it was Helen with the food.

Four men and four women burst in; some wore balaclavas, others had covered their faces with nylon stockings that ghoulishly distorted their features. One brandished a gun. “Put your coat on,” they told Jean. She trembled violently as they tried to pull her out of the apartment. “Help me!” she shrieked.

“I can remember trying to grab my mother,” her son Michael told me recently. He was eleven at the time. “We were all crying. My mother was crying.” Billy and Jim, six-year-old twins, threw their arms around Jean’s legs and wailed. The intruders tried to calm the children by saying that they would bring their mother back: they just needed to talk to her, and she would be gone for only “a few hours.” Archie, who, at sixteen, was the oldest child at home, asked if he could accompany his mother, and the members of the gang agreed. Jean McConville put on a tweed overcoat and a head scarf as the younger children were herded into one of the bedrooms. The intruders called the children by name. A couple of the men were not wearing masks, and Michael realized, to his horror, that the people taking his mother away were not strangers—they were his neighbors.

Divis Flats had been constructed in the late nineteen-sixties, in one of those fits of architectural utopianism that yield dystopian results. A “slum clearance” program had razed a neighborhood of narrow, overcrowded nineteenth-century dwellings, replacing them with a hulking complex of eight hundred and fifty units. To Michael McConville, Divis’s warren of balconies and ramps seemed like “a maze for rats.” By 1972, it had become a stronghold for the Irish Republican Army, which was waging an escalating guerrilla battle against the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and loyalist paramilitary groups. A nineteen-story tower stood on one edge of Divis. It was one of the tallest buildings in Belfast, and the British Army had established an operational post on the top two floors. Because this aerie was in the middle of enemy territory, there were times when the British could get to it only by helicopter. From the rooftop, British snipers traded fire with I.R.A. gunmen below. Michael and his siblings had grown accustomed to the reverberation of bombs and the percussion of gun battles. On bad nights, the children dragged their mattresses off the beds and away from the windows and slept on the floor.

The I.R.A. had disabled the elevators at Divis to hamper British patrols, so the masked gang hustled Jean and Archie McConville down a stairwell. When they reached the bottom, one of the men pointed a gun at Archie’s face, so close that he could feel the cold barrel on his skin, and said, “Fuck off.” Archie was just a boy, outnumbered and unarmed. He reluctantly ascended the stairs. On the second level, one of the walls was perforated with a series of vertical slats. Peering through the holes, Archie watched as his mother was bundled into a Volkswagen van and driven away.

The disappearance of Jean McConville was eventually recognized as one of the worst atrocities that occurred during the long conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. But at the time no one, except the McConville children, seemed especially concerned. When Helen returned home, she and Archie went out to look for Jean, but nobody could—or would—tell them anything about where she had been taken or when she might be back. Some weeks later, a social worker visited the apartment and noted, in a report, that the McConville children had been “looking after themselves.” Their neighbors in Divis Flats were aware of the kidnapping, as was a local parish priest, but, according to the report, they were “unsympathetic.”

Rumors circulated that McConville hadn’t been abducted at all—that she had abandoned her children and eloped with a British soldier. In Belfast, this was an incendiary allegation: Catholic women who consorted with the enemy were sometimes punished by being tied to a lamppost after having their heads shaved and their bodies tarred and feathered. The McConvilles were a “mixed” family; Jean was born Protestant and converted to Catholicism only after meeting her husband. The family had lived with Jean’s mother, in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood in East Belfast, until 1969, when they were driven out, as internecine tensions sharpened. They sought refuge in West Belfast, only to discover that they were outsiders there as well. Several weeks after the abduction, on January 17, 1973, a crew from the BBC visited the apartment and taped a segment. As the younger siblings huddled on the sofa—pale children with downcast eyes, looking shy and frightened—the reporters asked Helen if she had any idea why her mother had left. “No,” she said, shaking her head. Agnes McConville, who was thirteen, noted, hopefully, that her mother was wearing red slippers when she was taken away. She added, “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and pray hard for her to come back.”

But there was reason to believe that something terrible had happened to Jean McConville. About a week after she was kidnapped, a young man had come to the door and handed the children their mother’s purse and three rings that she had been wearing when she left: her engagement ring, her wedding ring, and an eternity ring that Arthur had given her. The children asked where Jean was. “I don’t know anything about your mother,” the man said. “I was just told to give you these.” When I spoke to Michael recently, he said, “I knew then, though I was only eleven years of age, that my mother was dead.”

His siblings were not so quickly convinced. The act of “disappearing” someone, which the International Criminal Court has classified as a crime against humanity, is so pernicious, in part, because it can leave the loved ones of the victim in a purgatory of uncertainty. “You cannot mourn someone who has not died,” the Argentine-Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman once observed. Helen and Archie reported Jean’s abduction to the police, but in the files of the Royal Ulster Constabulary there is no record of any investigation at the time. McConville’s body did not turn up. And so some of the children held out hope for years that they had not been orphaned, and that their mother might suddenly reappear. Perhaps she had developed amnesia and was living in another country, unaware that she had left a whole life behind in Belfast. But, as decades passed without word, these fantasies became increasingly difficult to sustain. For all the gnawing irresolution, there was one clear explanation. Michael’s sister Susan, who was eight when Jean was taken, told me that she knew, eventually, that her mother was dead, because otherwise “she would have found her way back to us.”

After several months of fending for themselves, the McConville children were separated by the state, and the younger ones were dispersed to different orphanages. The older ones found jobs and places to live. The siblings saw each other infrequently and never spoke of what happened to their mother. One by-product of the Troubles was a culture of silence; with armed factions at war in the streets, making inquiries could be dangerous. At one point, a posse of boys from the youth wing of the I.R.A. beat Michael McConville and stabbed him in the leg with a penknife. They released him with a warning: Don’t talk about what happened to your mother. As the children grew older, they occasionally saw their former neighbors around Belfast, and recognized individuals who had come to the apartment that night. But, as Archie McConville told me, “you can’t do nothing. They walk past you like nothing happened.”

Then, in 1994, the I.R.A. declared a ceasefire. Gerry Adams, the bearded revolutionary who was the president of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Republican movement, had entered into peace negotiations with the British government, attempting to persuade the I.R.A. to abandon armed resistance and tolerate a continued British presence in Northern Ireland. As Tim Pat Coogan observes in the 2002 edition of his book “The I.R.A.,” a peace deal would be visionary, but also highly risky for Adams, because “his life would not be worth a cent should it be thought that he was selling out the ‘armed struggle.’ ” Through perseverance and political savvy, Adams succeeded, and in 1998 he helped create the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the Troubles. As the peace process got under way, the I.R.A. agreed to help locate bodies that its members had buried in hidden graves during the seventies.

Though Adams is the most famous face of the Irish Republican movement, he has long denied having been a member of the I.R.A. He maintains that he never played any operational role in the violence of the Troubles, and that he confined himself to the leadership of Sinn Fein. As the chief Republican delegate involved in peace negotiations, however, he was obliged to confront the matter of forced disappearances, and he met on several occasions with the McConville children. Adams himself grew up in a family of ten children, and he conveyed his sympathies to the McConvilles. “There is no doubt the I.R.A. killed your mother,” he said. He told them that he did not know who had authorized the killing or carried it out, or where Jean McConville was buried. But he pledged to investigate.

Michael McConville told Adams that he wanted an apology. Adams parsed his words with precision. “For what it’s worth, I’ll apologize to you,” he said. “It was wrong for the Republican movement to do what they did to your mother.”

The first person to speak publicly about involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville was a former I.R.A. terrorist named Dolours Price. In 2010, Price revealed in a series of interviews that she had been a member of a secret I.R.A. unit called the Unknowns, which conducted clandestine paramilitary work, including disappearances. Price did not participate in the raid on the McConville house, but she drove Jean McConville across the border into the Republic of Ireland, where she was executed. McConville, Price claimed, had been acting as an informer for the British Army, providing intelligence about I.R.A. activity in Divis Flats. The order to disappear her came from the Officer Commanding of the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional I.R.A.—the man who held ultimate authority over the Unknowns. According to Price, the Officer Commanding was Gerry Adams. . . .

Continue reading.

The IRA was a vicious and evil organization that embraced killing innocents (for example, this bombing). Rep. Peter King is, for unknowable reasons, proud of them and his support for them. But he’s very quick to condemn other terrorists.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2015 at 9:10 pm

Posted in GOP, Terrorism

The GOP’s love of wars that other people fight

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Amy Davidson writes in the New Yorker:

Forty-seven senators, all of them Republicans, have sent a letter to Tehranthat might be summarized this way: Dear Iran, Please don’t agree to halt your nuclear-weapons program, because we don’t like Barack Obama and, anyway, he’ll be gone soon. That may be shorthand, but it is not an exaggeration of either the tone or the intent of the letter, which was signed by the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. The signature drive was organized by Senator Tom Cotton. He is a thirty-seven-year-old Republican, who entered the Senate two months ago, from the state of Arkansas. Senators, as the letter helpfully informs the Iranians—this is an actual quote—“may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.” (Or, of course, a third of the Senate could be voted out every two years.)

The letter opens, “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.” As the letter writers tell it, “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” It is a bit more complicated than that: Presidents can make commitments that are difficult to get out of (unless one wants to provoke a crisis), and Congress, instead of just being able to merrily modify, has to deal with things like vetoes. What is more extraordinary is the intent behind this tinny civics lesson—to tell a foreign power, one with which the United States is at odds, not to listen to the American President.

What is the source of the crying need that certain members of Congress, particularly Republicans, feel to make sure that everybody, and every last mullah, knows that they are much more important than some guy named Barack Obama? One pictures Tom Cotton walking through the streets of Montreux, where John Kerry, the Secretary of State, has been doing his best to negotiate a deal that will keep Iran from getting the bomb, asking random strangers with briefcases, “Don’t you know who I am?” Iran and the United States have been in an intimate, often hostile embrace for half a century. The Iranians have been watching us pretty closely, through coups and revolutions and wars and hostage negotiations and the imposition of sanctions. (I wrote about the current talks, which resume this Sunday, in the magazine this week.) The Iranians were adept enough in their knowledge of American electoral politics to time the release of the American Embassy hostages, in January, 1981, to Ronald Reagan’s completion of his Inaugural Address. (Split screens in the news coverage showed a tired-looking Jimmy Carter, who had actually negotiated the deal, on the phone, while Nancy Reagan waved at the crowd.) They probably know that they would be signing an executive agreement, not a treaty that the Senate would ratify.

Indeed, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, said that the letter has “no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.” He added that he found it “interesting” that certain groups should be so opposed to a deal that “they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

Is that the reaction that the Republicans were hoping for? Perhaps they don’t care if the United States is embarrassed in front of the other members of the U.N. Security Council—which, along with Germany, are the parties to the talks—as long as they have something that they can boast about on Fox News. The prospect of Iran getting a nuclear bomb is a grave threat to world peace. The Obama Administration, which is trying to stop that from happening, has only a certain number of cards to play, and yet the Republicans are doing whatever they can to weaken its hand. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2015 at 8:16 pm

The GOP wants another war, because the past couple have gone so well

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I do not understand the intense desire some have expressed to go to war against Iran. It seems absolutely insane to me, but of course I also thought that it was insane for the US to invade Iraq under George W. Bush, a war that was sold to the US by the simple expedient of outright lies and that has pretty much wrecked the Middle East and resulted in the rise of ISIS.

With that example, how could anyone think a war with Iran—a war that would be totally at the initiative and decision of the US—would be a good idea? Well, for one thing, none of those pushing for the war will have to fight in it. They mostly plan to reap great rewards from the increase in defense spending.

In the NY Review of Books Elizabeth Drew looks at the current situation:

Ever since Hurricane Bibi blew through Washington last week, advocates and opponents of a possible nuclear agreement with Iran have been assessing the damage. It’s clear that the traditional bipartisan approach toward Israel has been smashed. But the essential question is what effect Netanyahu’s visit will have on the the nuclear deal and above all, whether Congress, by bringing it to a direct vote as it now threatens, will reject it, thus ending a long effort to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions and raising a long-term question as to whether US negotiators’ word amounts to anything.

Because the agreement—being negotiated by the Obama administration and fellow members of the P5+1 group––isn’t a treaty, it doesn’t have to be approved by the Senate by a two-thirds vote. But since the existing strict economic sanctions on Iran were imposed by Congress, many members insist that they should have a voice in whether they can be lifted, as they would be in the agreement, in exchange for tight controls designed to prohibit Iran from developing nuclear weapons. What this is really about is whether Congress will have veto power over the agreement itself—a power that has become Netanyahu’s and other opponents’ chosen route for sinking a deal.

Hours after Netanyahu’s speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, apparently eager to capitalize on its rapturous reception by the mostly Republican audience, announced that he’d shortly move that the Senate immediately take up a resolution requiring a congressional vote on any agreement with Iran. This went against McConnell’s earlier pledge that the Senate would proceed according to the “regular order,” which would have meant that legislation had to be considered by the relevant committee, in this case Foreign Relations, before it could be brought to the floor; and two days later, he backed down after Democrats threatened to block the move. But this is most likely a temporary retreat on McConnell’s part.

The principal resolution to give Congress an opportunity to vote on any nuclear deal is sponsored by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, of Tennessee. It has been co-sponsored by Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democratic member on the committee, four other Democrats, and one Independent. As currently drafted (but subject to change, particularly if it has to be approved by the Foreign Relations Committee and as others weigh in) the resolution would require the administration, within five days of reaching an agreement, to submit it to Congress, which would move swiftly to vote on it—too swiftly, opponents of the resolution say, for serious consideration of its provisions. One particularly troublesome part of Corker’s proposal would require that the administration regularly report on whether Iran is involved in terrorist acts, which has nothing to do with arms control.

Corker is regarded as a relatively responsible figure, not simply a wrecker like so many of his party colleagues. He didn’t favor McConnell’s move to bring his bill to the floor just after Netanyahu’s speech, preferring that it go through the committee process first. Menendez, too, though a longtime critic of the negotiations with Iran, opposed bringing the resolution to a vote without review by the committee. But Corker now has to answer to the Republican Senate caucus if he wants his proposal to pass. And while Menendez has been a skeptic about dealing with Iran, it’s one thing to express concern about negotiations and another to defeat an international agreement that the administration has reached with Iran to try to prevent its development of nuclear weapons. (At the moment Menendez has other distractions: it was recently disclosed that the Justice Department plans to charge him with accepting gifts and lavish vacations from a supporter in exchange for governmental favors.) His most significant Democratic ally among the skeptics is Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

To give Democrats a palatable alternative to Corker’s proposal, Barbara Boxer, of California, along with some influential Democratic allies, has drawn up a counter proposal that would . . .

Continue reading.

Bob Corker is famous in my mind for endlessly repeating that “we must stay the course” in Iraq, and when the Iraq war was clearly a disaster, blandly stated, “I have never said, ‘We must stay the course.'” His political opponent had a good clip showing Corker explicitly saying that we must “stay the course,” and then explicitly denying he had ever said. Corker has absolutely no integrity.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2015 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Iran

New Zealand prime minister said he would resign if NZ did mass surveillance; now he won’t

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He simply lied about the mass surveillance—New Zealand does do it—and, as it turns out, also lied about resigning. It seems as though governments in many democracies are pulling away from a commitment to the public. Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

In August, 2013, as evidence emerged of the active participation by New Zealand in the “Five Eyes” mass surveillance program exposed by Edward Snowden, the country’s conservative Prime Minister, John Key, vehemently denied that his government engages in such spying. He went beyond mere denials, expressly vowing to resign if it were ever proven that his government engages in mass surveillance of New Zealanders. He issued that denial, and the accompanying resignation vow, in order to re-assure the country over fears provoked by a new bill he advocated to increase the surveillance powers of that country’s spying agency, Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – a bill that passed by one vote thanks to the Prime Minister’s guarantees that the new law would not permit mass surveillance.

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Since then, a mountain of evidence has been presented that indisputably proves that New Zealand does exactly that which Prime Minister Key vehemently denied – exactly that which he said he would resign if it were proven was done. Last September, we reported on a secret program of mass surveillance at least partially implemented by the Key government that was designed to exploit the very law that Key was publicly insisting did not permit mass surveillance. At the time, Snowden, citing that report as well as his own personal knowledge of GCSB’s participation in the mass surveillance tool XKEYSCORE, wrote in an article for the Intercept:

Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. . . . The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.

A series of new reports last week by New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager, working with my Intercept colleague Ryan Gallagher, has added substantial proof demonstrating GCSB’s widespread use of mass surveillance. An article last week in the New Zealand Herald demonstrated that “New Zealand’s electronic surveillance agency, the GCSB, has dramatically expanded its spying operations during the years of John Key’s National Government and is automatically funnelling vast amounts of intelligence to the US National Security Agency.” Specifically, its “intelligence base at Waihopai has moved to ‘full-take collection,’ indiscriminately intercepting Asia-Pacific communications and providing them en masse to the NSA through the controversial NSA intelligence system XKeyscore, which is used to monitor emails and internet browsing habits.”

Moreover, the documents “reveal that most of the targets are not security threats to New Zealand, as has been suggested by the Government,” but “instead, the GCSB directs its spying against a surprising array of New Zealand’s friends, trading partners and close Pacific neighbours.” A second report late last week published jointly by Hager and the Intercept detailed the role played by GCSB’s Waihopai base in aiding NSA’s mass surveillance activities in the Pacific (as Hager was working with the Intercept on these stories, his house was raided by New Zealand police for 10 hours, ostensibly to find Hager’s source for a story he published that was politically damaging to Key).

That the New Zealand government engages in precisely the mass surveillance activities Key vehemently denied is now barely in dispute. Indeed, a former director of GCSB under Key, Sir Bruce Ferguson, while denying any abuse of New Zealander’s communications, now admits that the agency engages in mass surveillance. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Something bad is happening to governments that once were democratic.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2015 at 11:55 am

Posted in Government, Law, NSA

Amazing DIY improvement for Lodge cast-iron skillet

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Truly astonishing. I want to do this…

If I were Lodge, I would consider coming out with a “highly polished” line, with higher prices to reflect the additional work.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2015 at 10:55 am

Posted in Food, Technology

Working through the soaps and creams: TOBS Grapefruit today, with iKon DLC Slant

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SOtD 9 Mar 2015

Wonderful shave today. I decided to use all my soaps and shaving creams in shelf order. I’m now halfway across the top shelf (which holds 8 tubs).Today was the Grapefruit Shaving Cream that TOBS makes, and it is quite nice. I wet the Rooney Victorian well, then shook it well so that it was just damp. I twirled the tips on the shaving cream to coat them, then brushed my beard to coat it in turn. Then I added a little water to the brush and brushed briskly to build the lather. As it turned out, I didn’t need more water, but it would have been easy to add.

The iKon DLC Slant did a terrific job with a Personna Lab Blue blade, producing a flawless BBS result, but of course it had the advantage of shaving a two-day stubble. A couple of instances have been reported of the DLC coating chipping off, though original purchasers are protected by the warranty. I’ve been told, however, that the B1 coating is much tougher—indeed, one guy bought a B1 head from someone, who simply put the cap and baseplate in a padded envelope and mailed it. When he got it, he could hear the pieces clinking against each other and though, “Oh, noooo.” But when he opened the envelope, they were absolutely unharmed. He says that the B1 coating is more like an anodized finish than a coating that can chip.

A good splash of Floïd for the aftershave. It definitely has a cinnamon kick to my nose, and the level of menthol is quite tolerable: just barely enough to cause a little cooling rather than the Polar Bear Swim Club levels some like.

I left a link out of the previous post, but it’s been added now: about how the US is losing (and not replacing) teachers: a situation that augers poorly for its future.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2015 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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