As Twitchy reported earlier this week, CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill argued that accused deserter Bowe Bergdahl perhaps ought not be disciplined by the United States military at all, and his time in the captivity of the Taliban considered time served — never mind that Bergdahl allegedly left his post to seek out refuge with the Taliban.
Now, a soldier writes in the Daily Beast that Bergdahl was punished enough by his captors. “Ironically,” writes James Gillcrist, “the only reason Bergdahl was ever in the situation he found himself in — in that terrifying outpost in the middle of Afghanistan — was because of the institutional hubris of the military that led to the catastrophic and catastrophically long wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This institutional hubris not only blinded the strategic decision-makers in these wars, but it blinded the policy makers.”
So, argues Gillcrist, any greater punishment on the part of the United States would be an injustice.
By spying through them, the NSA hurts US companies like Facebook.
In the case of Facebook, I’m not that concerned. But I am sure it is going on with other US technology companies as well. Instead of exporting a trusted product that people in other nations want to use, they fear our companies and are suspicious of what the government is doing through them. When the company is one that reaches mass numbers of individual consumers overseas, each and every one of them can learn to resent Americans for getting them to use a tainted product.
According to The Guardian: “Leave Facebook if you don’t want to be spied on, warns EU.”
The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, finding that current Safe Harbour legislation does not protect citizen’s data.
The comments were made by EC attorney Bernhard Schima in a case brought by privacy campaigner Maximilian Schrems, looking at whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if sent to the US in a post-Snowden revelation landscape.
“You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one,” Schima told attorney general Yves Bot in a hearing of the case at the European court of justice in Luxembourg.
When asked directly, the commission could not confirm to the court that the Safe Harbour rules provide adequate protection of EU citizens’ data as it currently stands.
The case, dubbed “the Facebook data privacy case”, concerns the current Safe Harbour framework, which covers the transmission of EU citizens’ data across the Atlantic to the US. Without the framework, it is against EU law to transmit private data outside of the EU. The case collects complaints lodged against Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Microsoft-owned Skype and Yahoo.
Schrems maintains that companies operating inside the EU should not be allowed to transfer data to the US under Safe Harbour protections – which state that US data protection rules are adequate if information is passed by companies on a “self-certify” basis – because the US no longer qualifies for such a status.
Nothing about what the NSA is doing is necessarily unconstitutional. One could easily argue that the need to keep us secure means we should be spying on people in foreign lands.
But that’s not the only consideration.
Our security is not only maintained by intelligence gathering. It is also maintained by encouraging good will and mutually beneficial trade. We protect ourselves from enemies by not making new ones. We build up trust. We show that we are promoters of the rule of law for the nations.
The NSA hurts US companies by destroying that trust. When it does so, it also hurts the reputation of the United States as a whole.
The Tenth of the Ten commands, Exodus 20:17: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” This speaks clearly to our whole society, which, if you haven’t noticed, is largely given over to this sin of covetousness.
Consider the multi-billion dollar industry of Madison Avenue. It is devoted to manipulating people to desire things they probably cannot afford, so that they buy things they do not need to impress people they don’t even care about. How do we oppose this lure of covetousness in our own heart, how do we oppose the politics of covetousness in our culture? First we need to understand one aspect that God’s Word identifies for us is The Connection between Covetousness and Idolatry.
The Connection between Covetousness and Idolatry – Colossians 3:5 “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” We are to put covetousness to death in our hearts. Now this connection between covetousness and idolatry is one that we may not normally make in our thinking. To understand that connection that Scripture describes, we need to understand what actual idolatry is.
The truth of the matter is that there is only one True God—the God of the Bible – God is God. He is God and God alone. We come to know Him through what His Word says about Him, and to know Him personally through a relationship with the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no multiplicity of gods; there is only One True God. Now that doesn’t mean that there are no claimants to deity; there are many. We can categorize these, I believe, into three camps. Idolatrous “Religions,” Idolatrous Humanism, and Idolatrous Statism.
Idolatrous “Religions” – Something else is God, not the God of the Bible. I put “religions” in quotes because there is only one true religion, that of the God of the Bible. All other claimants to deity are imposters. So take for example Buddhism. It claims that the Buddha, through rigorous ascetic practices, became God. And the goal of his followers is that they would achieve enlightenment, just as he did. So if all humans ultimately achieve enlightenment, which Buddhism claims will eventually happen, you have 7 billion gods, all different from and competing against one another.
Idolatrous Humanism – Man is God. Often, we don’t think of this as idolatry, and the proponents of this belief system don’t want us to see it for what it really is. Humanism would have us believe that Man is the measure of all things. But think of the folly of this thinking. If man were truly god, then man would be the designer and the creator of the universe. Then why is it that we are still trying to understand the makeup of everything in the universe?
Many are proud that we have uncovered the human genome and now understand much more about human genetics than ever before. But if we were the designers and creators of ourselves, we would have known this perfectly already. Instead, if you talk with those in any field of scientific endeavor, they will admit that the more they discover, the more questions it leaves them grappling with. Clearly, we couldn’t be the designers and creators of the universe. It is a silly thought to think that man is God. That being true it is even a sillier thought that human beings together in a civil government is somehow God.
Idolatrous Statism – the State is God.
Legalized plunder keeps the whole idolatrous machine working
Coveting leads to taking by force or by law what belongs to our neighbor and is clearly a violation of God’s law. So “it follows that organization of such covetousness into a system is the creation of an anti-God society. A welfare economy -socialism, communism, or any form of social order which takes from one group to give to another – is thus lawlessness organizes into a system of plunder. In such a society, the lawless seizure can lay hold of what belongs to our neighbor by asking the State to serve as our instrument of seizure; to covet and take by law is no less of a sin.”
Liberty means breaking free from every form of idolatry. Think of what happens when people believe civil government is God. It can make law any way it chooses, and it can change the law it makes at a whim.
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Yep, sometimes you have to laugh through tears. We thought this photo of Obama’s foreign policy team was bad enough. But take a gander at this one:
That just says it all. Unfortunately, what it says is depressing and scary. Heck of a job, Barry!
DEA agents used drug cartel prostitutes at the sex parties they sponsored. Just the kind of people we want working in law enforcement.
It is not hard to find stories that allege that the Drug Enforcement Administration is in bed with one or more of the drug cartels in South America or Mexico. It now turns out that the allegations are more literally true. If drug cartel prostitutes can be considered the proxies for their employer, then we have a situation where DEA agents were quite literally in bed with the cartels.
Thus, the Washington Post headline, “Report: DEA agents had ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes hired by drug cartels.”
Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.
The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.
Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.
Former police officers in Colombia also alleged that three DEA supervisory special agents were provided with money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members, according to the report.
“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds,” according to the 131-page report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
Of course, this is helpful because we wouldn’t want our DEA agents to be morally out of step with, say, some of our FBI agents who were using official government phones for sexting and engaging in other unethical behavior. And we wouldn’t want to hold them to higher moral expectations than we use for EPA employees or other federal workers generally.
Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Praised on Facebook: ‘Our Holy Martyr Lubitz Died for our Prophet’
Piloting a plane to crash is not suicide, it’s mass murder. Lubitz was identified as a German citizen and Mr Robin said he was not known to terrorism links or extremist links, but the prosecutor said he was expecting more information from the German authorities. Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin added his religion was “unknown.”
“Co-pilot appears to have crashed Germanwings plane on purpose, prosecutor says,” By Tim Hepher and Jean-Francois Rosnoblet, The Daily Mail, Mar 26, 2015 (thanks to TMI)
(Reuters) – A young German co-pilot locked himself alone in the cockpit of a Germanwings airliner and flew it into a mountain with what appears to have been the intent to destroy it, a French prosecutor said on Thursday.
Investigators and grieving relatives were left struggling to explain what motivated Andreas Lubitz, 28, to kill all 150 people on board the Airbus A320, including himself, in Wednesday’s crash in the French Alps.
French and German officials said there was no indication the crash was a terrorist attack, but gave no alternative explanation for his motives.
Lubitz gained sole control of the aircraft after the captain left the cockpit. He refused to re-open the door and sent plane into its fatal descent, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.
He did this “for a reason we cannot fathom right now but which looks like intent to destroy this aircraft,” Robin told a news conference in Marseille broadcast live on national TV.
Describing the final 10 minutes of the passengers on board as the plane hurtled towards a mountain range, Robin said sound recordings from one of its black boxes suggested most of them would not have been aware of their fate until the very end.
“Only towards the end do you hear screams,” he said. “And bear in mind that death would have been instantaneous … the aircraft was literally smashed to bits.”
The CEO of Lufthansa, parent company of Germanwings, said its air crew were picked carefully and subjected to psychological vetting.
“No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar, and we have incredibly high standards, there is no way to rule out such an event,” CEO Carsten Spohr said.
The world’s attention will now focus on the motivations of Lubitz, a German national who joined the budget carrier in September 2013 and had just 630 hours of flying time – compared with the 6,000 hours of the flight captain, named in German media only as “Patrick S.” in accordance with usual practice.
Robin said there were no grounds to suspect that Lubitz was carrying out a terrorist attack. “Suicide” was also the wrong word to describe actions which killed so many other people, the prosecutor added: “I don’t necessarily call it suicide when you have responsibility for 100 or so lives.”
Police set up guard outside Lubitz’s house in Montabaur, Germany. Acquaintances in the town said they were stunned, describing him as an affable young man who gave no indication he was harbouring any harmful intent.
“I’m just speechless. I don’t have any explanation for this. Knowing Andreas, this is just inconceivable for me,” said Peter Ruecker, a long-time member of the local flight club where Lubitz received his flying license years ago.
“He was a lot of fun, even though he was perhaps sometimes a bit quiet. He was just another boy like so many others here.”
Robin said the conversation between the two pilots before the captain left the cockpit started normally but that Lubitz’s replies became “laconic” as they started readying what would have been the normal descent to the airport of Duesseldorf.
“His responses become very brief. There is no proper exchange as such,” he said. It was not clear why the captain had left the cockpit but it was probably to use the toilet, he said.
Robin said the family of the co-pilot had arrived in France for a tribute alongside other those of the victims but was being kept apart from the others.
“SMASH THE DOOR DOWN”
The New York Times cited an unnamed investigator as saying the recording shed insight into the moment when it dawned on the captain that he had been shut out of the cockpit.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” it quoted an investigator described as a senior French military official as saying. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”
“You can hear he is trying to smash the door down,” the investigator added.
Investigators were still searching for the second of the two black boxes on Thursday in the ravine where the plane crashed, 100 km (65 miles) from Nice, which would contain data from the plane’s instruments.
France’s BEA air investigation bureau had said on Wednesday it expected the first basic analysis of the voice recordings in days.
Pilots may temporarily leave the cockpit at certain times and in certain circumstances, such as while the aircraft is cruising, according to German aviation law.
Cockpit doors can be opened from the outside with a code, in line with regulations introduced after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, but the code can be overridden from inside the cockpit. Lufthansa’s CEO said that either the pilot had entered the code incorrectly, or the co-pilot inside had overridden it.
The BEA on Wednesday already ruled out a mid-air explosion and said the scenario did not look like a depressurization.
Germanwings said 72 Germans were killed in the first major air passenger disaster on French soil since the 2000 Concorde accident just outside Paris. Madrid revised down on Thursday the number of Spanish victims to 50 from 51 previously.
As well as Germans and Spaniards, victims included three Americans, a Moroccan and citizens of Britain, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Iran and the Netherlands, officials said. However, DNA checks to identify them could take weeks, the French government said.
The families of victims were being flown to Marseille on Thursday before being taken up to the zone close to the crash site. Chapels had been prepared for them with a view of the mountain where their loved ones died.
HOW ACCESS TO THE COCKPIT DOOR CAN BE DISABLED FROM THE INSIDE
Access to the cockpit door on the Germanwings Airbus A320 can be disabled from inside the flight deck, raising speculation that one of the pilots deliberately locked the other out.
The Airbus A320 is fitted with a locking mechanism to prevent unauthorized access to the flight deck while the aircraft is in flight.
The safety systems were improved in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks where hijackers were able to gain access to the cockpit and take over the aircraft.
In normal flight, the door to the flight is closed and locked.
Cabin crew can use a code and gain access to the flight deck. Entry is controlled by the flight crew, in case of a possible hijack attempt.
The Cockpit Door Locking System (CDLS) according to the flight manual ‘provides a means of electrically locking and unlocking the cockpit door.’
The CDLS is located in the central pedestal between both pilots and has a toggle switch which controls the door.
They also have a CCTV camera so they can see who is seeking access, and if they are under any form of duress.
Pilots can restrict access to the flight deck although cabin crew can gain entry in an emergency. However, this emergency access can be over-ridden by the pilot for between five to 20 minutes.
The limited time to keep the door closed is itself a safety feature, in case the flight crew become incapacitated – known in the industry as ‘incap.’
After the predetermined time, the keypad on the outside of the cockpit door will become operational again, unless the pilot actively restricts access again.
Also the cockpit door has several other safety features in case of a sudden decompression which will cause the door to open.
According to the flight manual there are ‘routine’ and ‘emergency’ access requests.
‘The toggle switch enables the flight crew to lock or unlock the cockpit door, following an access request, thereby allowing or denying the entry to the cockpit.’
The Cockpit Door Locking System, pictured, has several safety features to prevent unauthorized access to the cabin, however, this can be overridden if the flight crew become incapacitated for any reason
The flight manual states that the control unit is responsible for:
- Locking or unlocking the door latches, upon flight crew action
- Unlocking the door in case of cockpit decompression (the door then opens towards the cockpit under differential pressure)
- Indicating system failures of electrical latches and pressure sensors
- Activating the access request buzzer and turning on the keypad LEDs
On the Airbus A320, there are three settings:
- Unlock: This position is used to enable the cabin crew member to open the door. The switch must be pulled and maintained in the unlocked position until the door is pushed open.
- Normal: All latches are locked, and EMERGENCY access is possible for the cabin crew
- Lock: Once the button has been moved to this position, the door is locked; emergency access, the buzzer, and the keypad are inhibited for a preselected time (5 to 20 min)
… and what we don’t read or see in the media:
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Jim Messina, former Obama campaign manager who is now co-chairman of the pro-Hillary Clinton PAC Priorities USA, bids farewell to Senator Harry Reid, who will not run for re-election next year:
Somebody please pass a barf bag.
Better make that several:
Police cameras are supposed to record what police do, but if legislators get their way, they will be useless.
Equipping police with cameras requires a great deal of money. So it is interesting that Yahoo News reports that, having given us a way of monitoring police at great expense, legislatures are now moving to take it away: “State bills would limit access to officer body camera videos.”
State legislators around the country are pushing to make it much harder for the public to obtain police officer body camera videos, undermining their promise as a tool people can use to hold law enforcement accountable.
Lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced bills to exempt video recordings of police encounters with citizens from state public records laws, or to limit what can be made public.
Their stated motive: preserving the privacy of people being videotaped, and saving considerable time and money that would need to be spent on public information requests as the technology quickly becomes widely used.
Advocates for open government and civil rights are alarmed.
Police departments nationwide are already spending millions to outfit officers with cameras and archive the results. In this latest clash between the people’s right to know and government authority, the responsibility to record encounters, retain copies and decide what to make public mostly rests with the same police.
In the absence of public records protections, these police decisions can be unilateral and final in many cases.
“It undercuts the whole purpose of the cameras,” said Michelle Richardson, public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
“People behave better on film, whether it’s the police or the suspect, because they realize others are going to see them. When you take away that possible consequence, you really undercut the oversight value of these,” she said.
I find myself agreeing with some of the privacy concerns. I have to wonder if it would be possible to save the footage to only be reviewed if there is a question about what actually happened. In other words, I could see a reasonable argument that we don’t want people combing through the footage on a “fishing expedition” to find fault with police or anyone else. According to the story, advocates for releasing the video footage are open to covering faces so that privacy is protected.
But what are we to make of the stuff coming from the White House?
But the White House, through the Task Force on 21st Century Policing created in December, suggested new restrictions this month, despite President Barack Obama’s promise that the videos would improve transparency in policing.
The task force warned that releasing videos showing use of force, “even when lawful and appropriate,” can undermine trust in police, and that images showing minors and graphic events raise concerns. It said public-records laws need updating to protect the privacy of people in these recordings.
So we are supposed to not release the video for PR reasons?
With the US dollar hitting multiyear highs against other global currencies almost daily, Americans are in a sweet spot for making international investments. Your US dollars will buy a lot more rubles, yen, and Canadian dollars than they would a year, or even a month, ago.
But it’s the dollar’s rise against the euro–the official currency for 19 EU countries–that has the world’s attention. On March 13, the euro hit an intraday low of 1.046, its lowest level against the dollar in 12 years. It’s bounced back a bit since, but indeed, the euro has fallen nearly 25% against the greenback since July 2014.
Economic pundits attribute the collapse in the euro’s value to the actions of the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB has embarked on a €1.1 trillion effort to revitalize eurozone economies that never really recovered from the global financial collapse of 2007-2008. It has announced it will buy €60 billion of eurozone government bonds monthly through September 2016.
The objective of this exercise is to encourage banks to lend more money. Banks are supposed to make more loans. The idea is that banks take €60 billion and buy new assets to replace the bonds they sold to the ECB. That in turn is supposed to cause stock prices to rise and interest rates to fall, boosting investment in the eurozone.
Where will the ECB get the money? It will do what central banks do best: create the money out of thin air through “quantitative easing” (QE). The ECB and other central banks have run out of ways to stimulate global economies. If QE doesn’t work, there’s no backup plan – just more QE.
And there are plenty of indications that it won’t work. Even before the ECB climbed onto the QE bandwagon, interest rates in some eurozone countries were already at 500-year lows. Here’s a chart, for instance, of Dutch interest rates since 1517. As you can see, they’ve never been lower.
Indeed, the ECB itself started charging banks that hoard cash at the central bank negative interest rates last June (currently -0.2%). This policy punishes banks that have strict lending standards and encourages them to lend money.
The fall of the euro spells big opportunities for Americans who have most of their savings in dollars. Without doing anything at all, your US dollars will buy a lot more euro-denominated assets than they could only a few months ago. For instance, that apartment in Vienna I’ve been eyeing for years is now 25% less expensive in dollar terms than it was only a few months ago.
But along with these opportunities come risks. And not just the obvious ones.
The obvious risk, of course, is that the euro could fall further. While negative interest rates may give banks an incentive to lend money, and consumers and businesses an incentive to borrow, it makes the currency less attractive to investors. For that reason, I think the fall in the euro could go further. Indeed, the euro’s all-time low against the US dollar is just above 82 cents, a level it reached in 2000. That’s nearly 25% below its current levels.
A less-obvious risk is if the country you decide to invest in decides to leave the euro. What if I wanted to buy an apartment in Athens, for instance, rather than Vienna?
At first glance, buying property in Athens sounds like a no-brainer. Prices for the average residential property are down more than 40% in euro terms since 2008. Combined with the fall in the value of the euro, that means investors with greenbacks to burn can buy property in Athens at a 50% savings from what they could only a few years ago.
But if Greece were to abandon the euro, the government would need to resurrect the drachma – the currency Greece used prior to joining the euro – overnight. It’s unlikely anyone would be excited at the prospect of buying drachma-denominated bonds, so the Greek government would have to offer sky-high interest rates to pay civil servants, finance social benefits, and defend its borders. Some economists think that the value of the “new” drachma could fall 40% or more in a matter of days.
The prospect of a “Grexit” (Greek euro exit) is real, as I explained in this essay. And not only Greece – Spain, Italy, and Portugal all have fiscal problems only marginally less severe than those of Greece. All of these countries would face the same dilemma as Greece if they were forced to revert to pre-euro pesetas, lira, or escudos.
That’s why I’m not in a hurry to buy any assets in these countries. I think that despite the fall of the euro against the dollar, assets in the countries on the southern periphery of the eurozone could get a lot cheaper in the years – and possibly months – ahead.
There’s an even less-obvious risk as well. What happens if not just sick economies like Greece pull out – or are forced out – of the euro, but relatively healthy ones like Germany do so as well? After all, German taxpayers are tired of footing the bill to pay (among other outrages) for Greek civil servants to retire at an average age of 53. What would happen if Germany abandons the euro and reverts back to the Deutsche mark?
In that event, the exact opposite effect would probably occur: The value of the Deutsche mark would soar as investors flock to it seeking a safe currency haven. That’s why if I invest anything more in the eurozone than I already have, I’ll be looking to put it into stronger economies like Germany and Austria.
If the euro does collapse, and the countries now comprising the eurozone resurrect their own currencies, EU policymakers will view it as a colossal defeat for their dreams of a centrally planned currency. Indeed, the loss of confidence could be so shattering that it encourages Europe’s power elites to do something that is now unthinkable: revert not just to pre-euro currencies, but to gold.
From the time of ancient Egypt until the early 20th century, gold was the backbone of the global economy and the ultimate store of value. It’s not a particularly attractive asset from a central planner’s perspective, which is why it’s gotten short shrift during the last century. After all, you can’t devalue it, and you can’t create it out of thin air. But once the ECB’s QE program meets its demise along with the euro, gold could well be the only real option left.
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The Department of Labor invokes a commercial from the 1970s featuring Batgirl to support “equal pay.”
Actually, according to Batgirl, there’s already a law on the books that makes it illegal to pay women differently for the same work. This raises the question: Why does the Left incessantly talk about pay inequality if it’s already illegal?