What’s Up: September 17, 2012

To read the entire article click on the title? Enjoy as the world turns.

· US Credit Rating Cut by Egan-Jones … Again – Ratings firm Egan-Jones cut its credit rating on the U.S. government to “AA-” from “AA,” citing its opinion that quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve would hurt the U.S. economy and the country’s credit quality.

clip_image001The Fed on Thursday said it would pump $40 billion into the U.S. economy each month until it saw a sustained upturn in the weak jobs market. (Read more: Fed’s ‘QE Infinity’ — Four Things That Could Go Wrong) In its downgrade, the firm said that issuing more currency and depressing interest rates through purchasing mortgage-backed securities does little to raise the U.S.’s real gross domestic product, but reduces the value of the dollar. In turn, this increases the cost of commodities, which will pressure the profitability of businesses and increase the costs of consumers thereby reducing consumer purchasing power, the firm said. In April, Egan-Jones cuts the U.S. credit rating to “AA” from “AA+” with a negative watch, citing a lack of progress in cutting the mounting federal debt. Moody’s Investors Service currently rates the United States Aaa, Fitch rates the country AAA, and Standard & Poor’s rates the country AA-plus. All three of those ratings have a negative outlook.

· The Video Didn’t Do It – It was bad enough, two years ago, that Defense Secretary Robert Gates called fringe Florida pastor Terry Jones to ask him not to burn copies of the Koran, or last week, that chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey took his turn to call Jones to ask him to stop publicizing a YouTube video, The Innocence of Muslims. But then on Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney told the world that the violent protests in Cairo and Ben­ghazi and elsewhere were a “response not to United States policy, and not obviously the administration or the American people,” but were “in response to a video, a film we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.” Carney repeated the point for emphasis: “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States at large or at U.S. policy, but in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.” Carney’s comments lie outside the range of plausible spin, even by Obama administration standards, and if his bosses believe them—as we fear they do—are simply delusional. But they are not without consequence. Nor are Gates’ and Dempsey’s phone calls. They all send the message to America’s enemies that if you kill our diplomats and lay siege to the our embassies, the first move the American government will make is to denounce. Americans. Our leaders apparently believe that the way to protect Americans from extremists and terrorists abroad is to tell other Americans to shut up. What’s next? Where does it go from here? There are more than 300 million ways in which Americans expressing themselves might give offense to those who make it their business to be offended. Maybe it’s some other film, maybe it’s a book or even just a tossed-off phrase that our enemies might seize on to galvanize support for their causes. Is the White House going to put every American crank on speed-dial so it can tell them to shut up whenever a mob gathers outside a U.S. embassy or consulate?

· LA SHERIFF: FEDS INTERVIEW CALIF. FILMMAKER – A Southern California filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed at the station in his hometown of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Walker said. Federal officials have said they were investigating the activities of Nakoula, who has been convicted of financial crimes. If the probation department determines Nakoula violated terms of his release, a judge could send him back to prison. Walker said Nakoula traveled voluntarily in a squad car with deputies. “He went to the Cerritos station to talk with probation officers. He’s not under any arrest,” Walker said.

· ANTI-ISLAM FILMMAKER DONATED MILLION DOLLARS TO OBAMA CAMPAIGN – Blame the movie. Even though “the movie” was on YouTube for months prior to the collective indignation of thousands of Middle Eastern Islamists all coming together on the eleventh anniversary of September 11th (through wild coincidence, no doubt), we are being told by our government and our media overlords that we must blame the movie. You see, if we blame the movie for the burning of our foreign outposts and the brutal murders of four Americans (including our Libyan ambassador who was reportedly raped), we won’t blame the burners and the looters and the murderers and the rapists. You see, if we blame the movie for the Middle East burning, we won’t blames the Islamists who are doing the burning and looting and raping and murdering. Which means we won’t further connect the dots and blame Obama’s failed Middle East policy; the Obama Doctrine of backing away from the region and allowing events to unfold as America stands idly by — as the Islamists in the Muslim Brotherhood grab hold of power in Egypt, a country that was once our largest and closest ally. Blame the filmmaker. Hunt him. Out him. Demonize him. Burn the straw man! And all at the direction of a president of the United States who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, you know, the same Constitution that treasures the right of free expression and speech above all else. But no one asks … What about Bill Maher? Bill Maher? Bill Maher made a comedy/documentary called “Religulous” that’s most famous for mercilessly mocking Christianity. But what people forget is that the last twenty-minutes or so of the film make a damning case against Islam. Bill Maher made a film that mocked Islam. Oh, yes, he did. Bill Maher also contributed $1 million to a pro-Obama super PAC. And I’m sure that upon being reminded of this, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will tremble with self-righteous indignation and demand Maher take his money back. After all, if movies create the terrorists who in turn create the terrorism, what about Bill Maher?

· Carney: Protests not directed at the United States – White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday the violent protests throughout the Middle East are not directed at the United States or U.S. policy but are a response to a YouTube video: CARNEY: We also need to understand that this is a fairly volatile situation and it is in response not to United States policy, and not to, obviously, the administration, or the American people, but it is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be be reprehensible and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy, this is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims. Again, this is not in any way justifying violence, and we have spoken very clearly out against that and condemned it. And the president is making sure in his conversations with leaders around the region that they are committed as hosts to diplomatic facilities to protect both personnel and buildings and other facilities that are part of the U.S. representation in those countries. The protests which began earlier this week have expanded rapidly across the Middle East on Friday. Protesters attacked the U.S. Embassies in Tunis and Sudan; Tunisian protesters smashed windows and lit fires inside the embassy compound, while gunfire could be heard. Images of a dark column of smoke over the Tunisian site have circulated on the Internet Friday. According to a page on the State Department’s website describing what an embassy is, an attack on an embassy is considered an attack on that country. “Because an embassy represents a sovereign state, any attack on an embassy is considered an attack on the country it represents,” the page reads.

· WH: ‘We’re very proud of the president’s record on foreign policy’ – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney opted not to respond to the suggestion that the embassy attacks throughout the Middle East suggest that extremists view the United States under President Obama as weak on foreign policy. “We are happy to debate — and there is certainly ample time and appropriate time to debate foreign policy approaches, this president’s record on foreign policy,” Carney told reporters during the press briefing when asked if the attacks stemmed from “perceived American weakness” that stems from Obama’s leadership. “We’re very proud of the president’s record on foreign policy and are happy to make the case at the appropriate time.” Carney emphasized instead the tragedy in Libya. “This is a time when it’s in the best interests of the country to focus on the four personnel, the four Americans that we lost in Libya and who are returning home today, and on the measures that we need to take as a nation to deal with the [ongoing unrest],” he said.

· President Obama’s ‘proud’ statements on improving US image might boomerang – President Obama has said that elevating the image of the United States around the world was one of his proudest foreign policy accomplishments, but those remarks could boomerang and hamper his re-election bid. The violence and anti-American protests throughout the Middle East are bringing fresh attacks on the president’s foreign policies as Muslim rage is intensifying in the region. The protests that have spread could undercut one of the key tenants of Obama’s foreign policy argument that he has restored the U.S. image in the Middle East. In February, Obama said, “One of the proudest things of my three years in office is helping to restore a sense of respect for America around the world, a belief that we are not just defined by the size of our military.” Three years ago in Cairo, Obama stressed his leadership would be dramatically different than former President George W. Bush’s: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.”

· The Reality Behind the “Free Speech” Argument America and the Muslims – Thousands of angry Muslims demonstrated in front of American embassies and consulates in Egypt and Libya because of a newly released film that deliberately insulted and mockingly falsified the life of the prophet of Islam. The protests soon spread to Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere. Taking advantage of the chaos outside the American consulate in Benghazi, it appears that Al-Qaeda affiliates infiltrated the protesters, then attacked and firebombed the consulate building. Clearly there was no justification whatsoever for such reprehensible acts. Tragically, several innocent American officials including the U.S. ambassador in Libya died in the senseless violence that ensued. Experts believe that the violent attack was in response to the direct call by the head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, to avenge the killing of his deputy Abu Yahya Al-Libi who was killed by a U.S. drone attack last June. Yet, every few years the world gets tired from watching the same old inflammatory scene play out again and again. From Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in 1989 and the Danish cartoons in 2005, to the burning of the Qur’an by a nutty Florida pastor in 2010 and the release of this highly offensive movie just days ago. According to the most credible reports, this repulsive film was written, produced, and directed by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an extremist anti-Muslim Egyptian-American Coptic Christian in his mid-fifties. Nakoula is a felon convicted in California on bank fraud charges, for which he received a suspended 21-month sentence and was fined $790,000. According to press reports the low budget movie was filmed last year and starred sixty actors who recently released a statement stating that they were never told that the movie was about the prophet Muhammad. They also maintained that most of the offensive language was later dubbed over their images. Screened last June in a Hollywood theatre the movie was a flop that barely registered on anyone’s radar. The producer then contacted another Egyptian-American extremist Copt, Morris Sadek, 70, who for decades has led an anti-Muslim campaign in the U.S. Nakoula asked for his help in promoting and distributing the film. According to the Associated Press Sadek then contacted his friend, Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who is infamous for his calls to publicly burn the Qur’an. Even though Jones promoted the film on his website and announced that he would screen it on the anniversary of Sept. 11 as well as conduct a mock trial against the prophet Muhammad, his announcements drew very little attention from the public or the media. By early September less than 50 people had actually viewed the film’s 14-minute trailer on YouTube. Sadek, who has an extensive email list that included many Egyptian media outlets and journalists, then started promoting the Arabic version of…

· Is Washington Deaf As Well as Criminal? Stumbling Towards Nuclear War? – The morons who rule the American sheeple are not only dumb and blind, they are deaf as well. The ears of the American “superpower” only work when the Israeli Prime Minister, the crazed Netanyahu, speaks. Then Washington hears everything and rushes to comply. Israel is a tiny insignificant state, created by the careless British and the stupid Americans. It has no power except what its American protector provides. Yet, despite Israel’s insignificance, it rules Washington. When a resolution introduced by the Israel Lobby is delivered to Congress, it passes unanimously. If Israel wants war, Israel gets its wish. When Israel commits war crimes against Palestinians and Lebanon and is damned by the hundred plus UN resolutions passed against Israel’s criminal actions, the US bails Israel out of trouble with its veto. The power that tiny Israel exercises over the “world’s only superpower” is unique in history. Tens of millions of “Christians” bow down to this power, reinforcing it, moved by the exhortations of their “Christian” ministers. Netanyahu lusts for war against Iran. He strikes out against all who oppose his war lust. Recently, he called Israel’s top generals “pussies” for warning against a war with Iran. He regards former Israeli prime ministers and former heads of the Israeli intelligence service as traitors for opposing his determination to attack Iran. He has denounced America’s servile president Obama and America’s top military leader for being “soft on Iran.” The latest poll in Israel shows that a solid majority of the Israelis are opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran. But Netanyahu is uninterested in the opinion of Israeli citizens. He has Washington watching his back, so he is war mad. It is a mystery why Israelis put Netanyahu in public office instead of in an insane asylum. Netanyahu is not alone. He has the American neoconservatives in his corner. The American neoconservatives are as crazed as Netanyahu. They believe in nuclear war and are itching to nuke some Muslim country and then get on to nuking Russia and China. It is amazing that no more than two or three dozen people have the fate of the entire world in their hands. The Democratic Party is helpless before them. The Republican Party is their vehicle. The Russians, watching Netanyahu push Washington toward dangerous confrontations keep raising their voices about the danger of nuclear war. On May 17 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned the West against launching “hasty wars,” which could result “although I do not want to scare anyone” in “the use of a nuclear weapon.” On November 30 of last year the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia warned of nuclear war with NATO. General Nikolai Makarov said that NATO’s eastward expansion meant that the risk of Russia coming into conflict with NATO had “risen sharply.” General Makarov said, “I do not rule out local and regional armed conflicts developing into a large-scale war, including using nuclear weapons.” Here is Russian president Medvedev (currently the prime minister) describing the steps toward nuclear war that Russia has taken pushed by the crazed warmongers in Washington wallowing in their insane hubris: With regard to the American missile bases on Russia’s borders, “I have made the following decisions. First, I am instructing the Defense Ministry to immediately put the missile attack early warning radar station in Kaliningrad on combat alert. Second, protective cover of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons will be reinforced as a priority measure under the program to develop our air and space defenses. Third, the new strategic ballistic missiles commissioned by the Strategic Missile Forces and the Navy will be equipped with advanced missile defense penetration systems and new highly-effective warheads. Fourth, I have instructed the Armed Forces to draw up measures for disabling missile defense system data and guidance systems. These measures will be adequate, effective, and low-cost. Fifth, if the above measures prove insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy modern offensive weapon systems in the west and south of the country, ensuring our ability to take out any part of the US missile defense system in Europe. One step in this process will be to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Region. Other measures to counter the European missile defense system will be drawn up and implemented as necessary. Furthermore, if the situation continues to develop not to Russia’s favor, we reserve the right to discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures.” Russian president Vladimir Putin has said, as politely as possible, that the US seeks to enslave the world, that the US seeks vassals, not allies, that the US seeks to rule the world and that the US is a parasite on the world economy. It would be difficult for an informed person to take exception with Putin’s statements. Putin told the politicians in Washington and Western and Eastern European capitals that surrounding Russia with anti-ballistic missiles “raises the specter of nuclear war in Europe.” Putin said that the Russian response is to point nuclear armed cruise missiles, which cannot be intercepted by anti-ballistic missiles, at the US missile bases and at European capitals. The American move, Putin said, “could trigger nuclear war.” Putin has been trying to wake up the American puppet states in Europe at least since February 13, 2007. At the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, Putin said that the unipolar world that Washington was striving to achieve under its banner, “is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”

· Why Bondholders Can’t – and Shouldn’t – be Paid Wall Street’s War on the Cities – The pace of Wall Street’s war against the 99% is quickening in preparation for the kill. Having demonized public employees for being scheduled to receive pensions on their lifetime employment service, bondholders are insisting on getting the money instead. It is the same austerity philosophy that has been forced on Greece and Spain – and the same that is prompting President Obama and Mitt Romney to urge scaling back Social Security and Medicare. Unlike the U.S. federal government, most states and cities have constitutions that prevent them from running budget deficits. This means that when they cut property taxes, they either must borrow from the wealthy, or cut back employment and public services. For many years they borrowed, paying tax-exempt interest to wealthy bondholders. But carrying charges on these have mounted to a point where they now look risky as the economy sinks into debt deflation. Cities are defaulting from California to Alabama. They cannot reverse course and restore taxes on property owners without causing more mortgage defaults and abandonments. Something has to give – so cities are scaling back public spending, downsizing their school systems and police forces, and selling off their assets to pay bondholders. This has become the main cause of America’s rising unemployment, helping drive down consumer demand in a Keynesian nightmare. Less obvious are the devastating cuts occurring in health care, job training and other services, while tuition rates for public colleges and “participation fees” at high schools are soaring. School systems are crumbling like our roads as teachers are jettisoned on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. Yet Wall Street strategists view this state and local budget squeeze as a godsend. As Rahm Emanuel has put matters, a crisis is too good an opportunity to waste – and the fiscal crisis gives creditors financial leverage to push through anti-labor policies and privatization grabs. The ground is being prepared for a neoliberal “cure”: cutting back pensions and health care, defaulting on pension promises to labor, and selling off the public sector, letting the new proprietors to put up tollbooths on everything from roads to schools. The new term of the moment is “rent extraction.”

· A Nationwide Epidemic The Big Lie About Police Brutality – Police brutality is in the news, thanks to the widespread availability of amateur video and the omnipresence of security cameras. We’ve seen scene after scene of police beating the crap out of, and even shooting and killing unarmed or minimally dangerous students, women, old men and crazy people, many of them after they have been handcuffed and checked for weapons. The police brass, and leading politicians who oversee the departments involved, nearly always have the same answer: This is not the norm, these are isolated incidents, police violence is not on the rise. Rarely is an abusive or murderous officer punished or even administratively disciplined for documented crimes. The thing is, of course, it is on the rise. Just as the exonerations of supposed murders and rapists are only those where there was DNA available to prove their innocence, while many more are also clearly wrongly facing death or long prison sentences, the scenes of brutality we’re seeing on the videos are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg too. What is different is that we’re seeing these things at all. It used to be that getting videos of police brutality was very rare — like the taping of the notorious police assault on the prone body of Rodney King by Los Angeles cops during a traffic stop. It just happened that someone with a video camera was at the scene when it occurred. Nowadays everyone with a cellphone is a potential videographer, so we’re seeing more of what really goes on when police make their arrests. Just check out the latest video of LAPD officers body slamming a 5’4″ nurse (two times!) who had the audacity to get out of her car when they stopped her for talking on her cell phone while driving (this particular video was taken by a surveillance camera at a store focused on the parking lot where police had followed the woman’s car). Note that one of the burly cops slamming this small handcuffed woman to the ground and later fist-bumping to celebrate with his younger partner holds the rank of commander — he’s a 20-year veteran of the LAPD.

· Libyans See al Qaeda Hand in Embassy Attack – The head of Libya’s new national congress has blamed al Qaeda-linked militants for planning Tuesday’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, raising further questions about the motive behind the mayhem that killed four Americans. U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that they are investigating indications that a local group of Libyan militants, Ansar al Sharia, held a series of conversations Tuesday with al Qaeda extremists about the assault that day on the consulate, in the first sign of possible coordination in the attack between local fighters and the global terrorist movement. The statement from Mohamed Al-Magarief, broadcast Friday during an interview the Arabic broadcaster al-Jazeera, is the first time that a Libyan official has implicated the global terrorist organization in the chaotic events that raised tensions throughout the Middle East. Mr. Magarief didn’t say how far in advance the attack had been planned. He said, however, that he believes the militants went to the consulate with violence in mind.

· Israeli Foreign Ministry: U.S. ignored Arab radicalization – Foreign Ministry official on signs of ‘radicalization’ in Arab world: ‘We knew what was happening, but the Americans preferred to find excuses.’ For months before the most recent attacks on U.S. embassies in North African states, Foreign Ministry and U.S. State Department officials had been arguing over developments in these countries. Senior figures in Jerusalem claimed that Washington was burying its head in the sand and ignoring the increasing radicalization in states such as Tunisia and Egypt. The Obama administration, which since the beginning of the Arab Spring has aided, directly or indirectly, the forces that brought down the dictatorial regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Lybia, now finds itself in a position of helplessness. The attack on the consulate in Benghazi, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed, and the storming of the U.S. embassies in Tunis, Sanaa and Cairo, proved the great hostility to the United States and the unwillingness of these country’s new leaders to challenge domestic public opinion. Senior Foreign Ministry officials say their conversations with their Washington counterparts have focused on what Jerusalem terms “radicalizing trends” against not only Israel but also against the United States and the West in general. One of the most recent such meetings took place a week ago, during a visit to Jerusalem by the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, A. Elizabeth Jones. “The Americans were constantly trying to supply explanations and excuses for events in the post-revolution Arab states, and simply ignored the problems,” one senior Israeli official said, adding, “In practice the administration’s ability to affect events in the Arab world has decreased immensely.”

· Armada of British naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike – An armada of US and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf in the belief that Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program. Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war. Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea. A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south. In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.

· Loveland school seizes rosary beads from student, says they’re ‘gang symbol’ – A student is questioning whether his faith or his fashion is under fire at his high school in Loveland. Thompson Valley High School officials have confiscated his rosary beads twice since school started three weeks ago. And he says they never told him, or his family, why. “They tell me I can’t wear them,” says Manuel Vigil, showing us an identical rosary to the one seized by his school. The junior says he wears rosary beads to protect himself from harm. But his school district thinks the religious necklace will harm students. “That’s typically not what we want for a safe environment for school,” says Thompson Valley School District spokesperson Margaret Crespo. The district says they can be affiliated with gangs, and disrupt learning. “Are you in a gang? I ask Vigil. ‘No. I’m not in a gang,’ he says. You’re a good student? ‘I’m a good student,’” he says. The 16-year-old says he and his family are strong Catholics. “I use them for prayer. I feel safe when I have them on.” The district says it gave Vigil options before seizing the beads. “We’ve given you two opportunities to take it off or to put it inside your shirt. That’s not something you’re interested in doing. You’re not giving us an alternative than to remove it,” Crespo says Vigil was told. But Vigil says he only got a demand. “If he would have given me that option, I would have put it in my shirt,” he says. Vigil’s classmates agree putting a bad label on a good symbol is wrong. “If it’s for religious reasons he should be allowed to wear it. We have religious tolerance in this country,” says a freshman student Jack. “It’s a necklace. Girls wear necklaces all the time and they never get them taken away,” says junior Rachel.

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Filed under Left - Off Base, Politics from Just Right of Center - I want Balance!, Right - too Religous for me

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