Thursday, December 11, 2014

Emery Barcs -- 1905-1990

Emery Barcs (born Imre Bruchsteiner) was a Hungarian Jewish journalist who escaped to Australia in 1938  -- fleeing Fascist persecution.  He seems to have acquired English easily and in my youth I often read newspaper articles by him.  He was especially informative about the Communist world.  Something he wrote in 1961 will ring a bell:  "Under Communism if theory clashes with facts then it's just too bad for the facts".

As a belated acknowledgement of my debt to him, I have just put 12 of his old newspaper articles online  -- written between 1950 and 1970.  There are no other articles of his online that I know of -- though diligent mining of Trove might turn up something.  See my collection of his articles here.  If he had been pro-Communist, every word he ever wrote would already be online, of course.


CIA torture report: ‘Harsh’ tactics against suspects didn’t work, Senate Democrats allege

What about this guy? Thought it worked with him. . .
The CIA misled Congress and the White House about the scope and effectiveness of the agency’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program after 9/11, and the harsh treatment of terrorism suspects produced no key evidence in the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a long-awaited report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday.

The document, culminating a years-long battle between the CIA and lawmakers who investigated the program presents the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the agency’s use of interrogation techniques that human rights groups have described as torture at “black sites” in Europe and Asia.

While an actual 6,000-page report produced by the Intelligence Committee remains classified, the roughly 500-page executive summary released Tuesday concludes outright that “the CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”

The agency told the White House, as well as the CIA Office of Inspector General and Congress, “that the best measure of effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was examples of specific terrorist plots ‘thwarted’ and specific terrorists captured as a result of the use of the techniques,” states the executive summary, which adds that a subsequent investigation by Democrats proved such claims to be wrong.

The CIA, which fiercely resisted the summary’s release to the public, pushed back Tuesday against the report’s findings.

“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement Tuesday morning. “The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”



Bush Interrogated Terrorists to Get Information; Obama Kills Them With Drones

What's the difference between harsh CIA interrogation techniques and drones that kill civilians, a reporter asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday. The reporter noted that the lethal use of drones has "actually increased under this administration."

Earnest did not explain the difference, except to say that the U.S. works in "close consultation and cooperation with local governments and making sure that it's local forces that are taking the fight on the ground to these extremist elements."

Earnest also said the U.S. military and intelligence community takes "enormous precautions" when targeting terrorists to eliminate or minimize the impact on civilian populations.

According to Human Rights Watch, "Targeted killings have been a hallmark of this administration's counterterrorism strategy. Obama sharply increased the use of armed drones (begun under George W Bush), which have conducted lethal strikes against alleged terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The strikes have killed hundreds of people, including civilians, and some have clearly violated international law."

Human Rights Watch complained that the Obama administration "has long refused to disclose basic information about the program, from its full legal basis to how it identifies targets."



A Russophobic Rant From Congress

Hopefully, Russians realize that our House of Representatives often passes thunderous resolutions to pander to special interests, which have no bearing on the thinking or actions of the U.S. government.  Last week, the House passed such a resolution 411-10.

As ex-Rep. Ron Paul writes, House Resolution 758 is so "full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from the chilliest era of the Cold War."

H. R. 758 is a Russophobic rant full of falsehoods and steeped in superpower hypocrisy.  Among the 43 particulars in the House indictment is this gem: "The Russian Federation invaded the Republic of Georgia in August 2008."

Bullhockey. On Aug. 7-8, 2008, Georgia invaded South Ossetia, a tiny province that had won its independence in the 1990s. Georgian artillery killed Russian peacekeepers, and the Georgian army poured in.

Only then did the Russian army enter South Ossetia and chase the Georgians back into their own country.

The aggressor of the Russo-Georgia war was not Vladimir Putin but President Mikheil Saakashvili, brought to power in 2004 in one of those color-coded revolutions we engineered in the Bush II decade.

H.R. 758 condemns the presence of Russian troops in Abkhazia, which also broke from Georgia in the early 1990s, and in Transnistria, which broke from Moldova. But where is the evidence that the peoples of Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia want to return to Moldova or Georgia?

We seem to support every ethnic group that secedes from Russia, but no ethnic group that secedes from a successor state.  This is rank Russophobia masquerading as democratic principle.

What do the people of Crimea, Transnistria, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Luhansk or Donetsk want? Do we really know? Do we care?

And what have the Russians done to support secessionist movements to compare with our 78-day bombing of Serbia to rip away her cradle province of Kosovo, which had been Serbian land before we were a nation?

H.R. 758 charges Russia with an "invasion" of Crimea.  But there was no air, land or sea invasion. The Russians were already there by treaty and the reannexation of Crimea, which had belonged to Russia since Catherine the Great, was effected with no loss of life.

Compare how Putin retrieved Crimea, with the way Lincoln retrieved the seceded states of the Confederacy — a four-year war in which 620,000 Americans perished.

Russia is charged with using "trade barriers to apply economic and political pressure" and interfering in Ukraine's "internal affairs."

This is almost comical.  The U.S. has imposed trade barriers and sanctions on Russia, Belarus, Iran, Cuba, Burma, Congo, Sudan, and a host of other nations.  Economic sanctions are the first recourse of the American Empire.

And agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy and its subsidiaries, our NGOs and Cold War radios, RFE and Radio Liberty, exist to interfere in the internal affairs of countries whose regimes we dislike, with the end goal of "regime change."

Was that not the State Department's Victoria Nuland, along with John McCain, prancing around Kiev, urging insurgents to overthrow the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych?

Was Nuland not caught boasting about how the U.S. had invested $5 billion in the political reorientation of Ukraine, and identifying whom we wanted as prime minister when Yanukovych was overthrown?

H.R. 578 charges Russia with backing Syria's Assad regime and providing it with weapons to use against "the Syrian people." But Assad's principal enemies are the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, and ISIS. They are not only his enemies, and Russia's enemies, but our enemies. And we ourselves have become de facto allies of Assad with our air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

And what is Russia doing for its ally in Damascus, by arming it to resist ISIS secessionists, that we are not doing for our ally in Baghdad, also under attack by the Islamic State?  Have we not supported Kurdistan in its drive for autonomy? Have U.S. leaders not talked of a Kurdistan independent of Iraq?

H.R. 758 calls the President of Russia an "authoritarian" ruler of a corrupt regime that came to power through election fraud and rules by way of repression.

Is this fair, just or wise? After all, Putin has twice the approval rating in Russia as President Obama does here, not to mention the approval rating of our Congress.

Damning Russian "aggression," the House demands that Russia get out of Crimea, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria, calls on Obama to end all military cooperation with Russia, impose "visa bans, targeted asset freezes, sectoral sanctions," and send "lethal ... defense articles" to Ukraine.

This is the sort of ultimatum that led to Pearl Harbor.

Why would a moral nation arm Ukraine to fight a longer and larger war with Russia that Kiev could not win, but that could end up costing the lives of ten of thousands more Ukrainians?

Those who produced this provocative resolution do not belong in charge of U.S. foreign policy, nor of America's nuclear arsenal.



These 7 Revealing Emails Show Federal Officials Scheming to Target Legal Businesses

Senior officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation actively sought to crack down on legal businesses that the Obama administration – or the officials themselves – deemed morally objectionable, a new congressional report finds.

Released today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the 20-page investigative report details how the FDIC worked closely with the Justice Department to implement Operation Choke Point, a secretive program that seeks to cut off the financial lifeblood of payday lenders and other industries the administration doesn’t like.

The FDIC is the primary agency responsible for regulating and auditing more than 4,500 U.S. banks.

Emails unearthed by investigators show regulatory officials scheming to influence banks’ decisions on who to do business with by labeling certain industries “reputational risks,” ensuring banks “get the message” about the businesses the regulators don’t like, and pressuring banks to cut credit or close those accounts, effectively driving enterprises out of business.

The House panel’s investigation, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, cites confidential briefing documents that show senior Justice Department officials informing Attorney General Eric Holder that, as a consequence of Operation Choke Point, banks are “exiting” lines of business deemed “high risk’” by regulators.

“It’s appalling that our government is working around the law to vindictively attack businesses they find objectionable,” Issa, chairman of the Oversight Committee, said in a press release. Issa added:

"Internal FDIC documents confirm that Operation Choke Point is an extraordinary abuse of government power. In the most egregious cases, federal bureaucrats injected personal moral judgments into the regulatory process. Such practices are totally inconsistent with basic principles of good government, transparency and the rule of law".

For example, email reveals FDIC employees opposing the payday lending industry on “personal grounds” and attempting to use their agency’s supervisory authority to drive the entire industry out of business.

One email from Thomas Dujenski, FDIC’s Atlanta regional director, to Mark Pearce, director of the Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection, was particularly concerning to investigators.

In it, Dujenski writes:  "I have never said this to you (but I am sincerely passionate about this) … but I literally cannot stand the pay day lending industry … I had extensive involvement with this group of lenders and was instrumental in drafting guidance on stopping abuses".

In another example, a senior official insisted that FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg’s letters to Congress and talking points always mention pornography when discussing payday lenders and other targeted industries, in an effort to convey a “good picture regarding the unsavory nature of the businesses at issue.”

Payday loans are small, short-term loans supposedly made to hold borrowers over until their next payday.

Norbert Michel, research fellow in financial regulations at The Heritage Foundation, said payday lenders, along with some other industries targeted by Choke Point, all have been criticized for taking advantage of the poor or financially strapped by charging exorbitant fees or leaving customers in more debt than they started with.

The Obama administration contends that Operation Choke Point combats unlawful, mass-market consumer fraud. However, an earlier report by the House Oversight Committee found that the Justice Department initiative’s targets included legal businesses such as short-term lenders, firearms and ammunition merchants, coin dealers, tobacco sellers and home-based charities.

Today’s report, investigators said, confirmed that the FDIC originated the controversial list of “high risk” industries that it posted on its website, as previously reported by The Daily Signal.

Critics of the program argue that equating legal industries such as ammunition and lottery sales with explicitly illegal or offensive activities such as pornography and racist materials transforms the FDIC into the moral police.

Apparently, FDIC officials were aware of the “inherent impropriety” of these policies, the report indicates. In another email, David Barr, assistant director of the FDIC’s public affairs office, wrote:  "[S]ome of the pushback from the Hill is that it is not up to the FDIC to decide what is moral and immoral, but rather what type of lending is legal".



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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