Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Call For The Snowjob, Con't.

In response to yesterday's embarrassing dance as Putin's puppet, Edward Snowden apparently took to the Guardian's op-ed section and wrote a rather interesting defense of his actions giving the motive that he was trying to hold Putin as accountable as he wants President Obama to be

On Thursday, I questioned Russia's involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: "Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals' communications?"

I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.

The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden's question and mine here.)

Clapper's lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.

In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we'll get to them soon – but it was not the president's suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.

I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive
. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin's evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.

It's those last two paragraphs that really, really ring alarm bells for me.  This comes across as incredibly condescending and arrogant, as if anyone in the class of Snowden's critics even have the right to question his motives.  Given what Snowden is trying to accomplish, the irony of that is breathtaking.   He basically says "I'm sorry you misunderstood me" which is no apology at all, and then dismisses his critics as speculating wildly and incorrectly about him.

He then goes on to point out that yes, Russia is very much a surveillance state, and that he was trying to get Putin into a "gotcha" moment.

The first is true.  I don't believe the second.   That's pretty naive.  But how then do we explain this column?

If Snowden didn't pen this, he's being used as a pawn by his allies as well as Putin, in which case he's severely damaged his own argument not once but twice in the last two days.  If Snowden did pen this, he's an arrogant prick who believes he's beyond criticism, and who severely damaged his own argument not once but twice in the last two days.

Now having said all this and insofar as there are two separate arguments here, that is A) “What role should the NSA play in America and how can we enforce that the NSA remains in that role when they are a covert organization with next to zero transparency” and B) “Did Edward Snowden really have no other choice but to break the law in order to expose the NSA’s practices”, Snowden remains the sideshow compared to the NSA's awful practices.

My problem is the people who say “A justified B, and therefore Snowden is a hero” and then when Snowden does something like this, immediately respond with “Snowden is not the argument.”

I agree Snowden himself and his conduct are a much much much smaller issue than the NSA repeatedly not telling the truth and doing whatever the hell they feel like, because NSA LOL.

But there are people that not only want it both ways, they conflate the two arguments to begin with, and that’s making any realistic discussion on A) very difficult.

And now we have Snowden himself making that discussion more difficult with his own actions.  Snowden's credibility is damaged.

But maybe that's the whole point, says Putin, laughing in the background.

No, President Obama Is Not Deporter-In-Chief

No matter how much the Freakonomics crew at Vox like to think so, the fact is no, President Obama is not "deporting more immigrants than any president in history".  It's complete nonsense, as Sean Davis at The Federalist explains:

Vox writer Dara Lind didn’t just torture the data. Oh no. This was no simple waterboarding operation. The offending data was not forced to give a bogus confession. Nope. Lind straight up had the traitorous data disappeared.

In order to make her point that Obama was far more willing to deport illegal immigrants than his predecessor, she was forced to ignore and exclude 80 percent of all deportations under Bush. That’s right. How laughably wrong is Vox’s claim, which was obviously meant to make Obama look tough in order to make it easier to pass some type of immigration amnesty? Lind had to exclude 8.3 million deportations under Bush in order to con her readers into believing that the current president is totes the toughest ever on illegal immigration.

Now granted, The Federalist is dudebro central and very much is anti-Obama, with the theory that Vox is trying to make Obama look tough on immigration in order to pass "amnesty".  But the funny part is Reuters comes to the same conclusion about President Obama's deportation record, quoting a NY Times piece on the data.

Deportations through U.S. immigration courts have fallen 43 percent in the past five years as the federal government brought fewer cases before those courts, according to Justice Department data analyzed by the New York Times on Wednesday.

The figures come as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans clashed openly over immigration- reform legislation that remains stalled in the Republican-led House.

More than 11 million people are believed to be in the United States illegally. Many are children brought by their parents across the border from Mexico.

Obama, who has made immigration reform a priority, has drawn fire from advocacy groups and been called "deporter in chief" for presiding over an administration that has deported some 2 million people. But his administration brought 26 percent fewer cases in immigration courts in 2013 than in 2009, the New York Times reported.

Judges ordered deportations in some 105,000 of those cases in 2013, which is just part of total annual deportations. The lower numbers, however, contributed to an overall drop in removals in 2013, which saw nearly 370,000 deportations, a 10 percent decrease from 2012, the newspaper reported.

The Department of Homeland Security, which handles immigration prosecutions, opened 187,678 deportation cases in 2013, nearly 50,000 fewer than in 2011, the newspaper said. In addition, the courts increasingly are deciding against deportation and allowing immigrants to remain in the U.S., the Times said.

Funny how that works out.  It's like the President really is deporting fewer people than Bush because he understands how broken Republicans keep making our immigration system.

Putin's Latest Snowden Job

Hey look, Dudebro Defector has gone from heroic figure of the information age to Putin propaganda tool!

NSA leaker Edward Snowden put a direct question to Vladimir Putin during a live televised question-and-answer session Thursday, asking Russia's president about Moscow's use of mass surveillance on its citizens. 
Speaking via a video link, Snowden asked: "I've seen little public discussion of Russia's own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance, so I'd like to ask you: Does Russia intercept, store or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?" 
Putin replied by stating Russia did not carry out mass surveillance on its population, and that its intelligence operations were strictly regulated by court orders. 
"Mr Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy, I used to work for the intelligence service, we are going to talk one professional language," Putin said, according to translation by state-run broadcaster Russia Today
"Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law have to get a court permission to stalk that particular person. 
"We don't have as much money as they have in the States and we don't have these technical devices that they have in the States. Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by society and the law and regulated by the law."

To recap, Obama and America, evil fascist capitalist pigs who spy on everyone so you can't trust a single word he says.  Putin and Russia, so much better than America as beacons of human rights who love freedom and are 100% totally credible, because Snowden!  (Please ignore our invasion of Ukraine.)

Please, tell me again how awesome Russia's human rights record is. I wonder if Edward is uncomfortable with Putin's hand up his ass like that.

Speak, puppet.  Speak.  Eli Lake at the Daily Beast rips into Snowden:

Snowden and his defenders have repeatedly said the former NSA contractor does not control the master files of intelligence documents he originally took from the U.S. intelligence community even if he wanted to hand them over to Russian intelligence. Thus far no U.S. official has provided any public evidence to suggest that Snowden was a paid foreign agent when he took those documents.
But on Thursday Snowden looked to some like he was participating in a Soviet-style propaganda play. “Whatever else Snowden might think he has been doing, surely he must understand he was just used as a prop by the president of the Russian federation,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA and CIA director under the George W. Bush administration who has been one of his former agency’s most ardent public defenders. Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has also been critical of Snowden and the journalism his leaks have helped produce said, “It speaks volumes that Snowden lends his name to Putin’s propaganda efforts.”

Galeotti says he found the display of Snowden’s question for Putin on eavesdropping to be depressing. “I believed he was an honest man who made some stupid choices,” says Galeotti. “But in this case he was doing what was in his handler’s interests.”

“We have to think of two Snowdens,” Galeotti tells The Daily Beast. “There was the original whistleblower who thought he was doing something good for the world. Now there is the Snowden—to put it crassly—who is bought and paid for entirely by the Russians. The Russians are not altruistic, if they are protecting him they are doing so because there are things he can do to repay them.”

In the immortal words of Trent Reznor, "Bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve."


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Last Call For A One-Sided Battle

So Tuesday's "Anti-terrorist" operation in Eastern Ukraine didn't exactly go so well, and as a result, the Russian predictions of civil war and a breakup of the country seem pretty damn prescient, rather than propaganda.

Ukraine’s “anti-terrorist operation” against anti-government rebels has proved a spectacular debacle. Soldiers refused to move in on rebel-held positions. The rebels captured six APCs, drove the soldiers into Slovyansk flying the Russian flag, and sent them back on dingy buses, dejected, disarmed, and defeated. Self-appointed “self-defense” commanders who couldn’t even agree on which one of them was in charge disarmed and defeated Ukraine’s army.

On the eve of talks in Geneva between Ukraine, Russia, the U.S., and the European Union on the country’s crisis, Kiev seems to have proven many of the points the Kremlin and its propaganda machine have rammed home for weeks. Eastern Ukraine is in chaos, and Kiev’s central government has no power over large parts of it. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov acts deaf to protesters’ demands, and frightens them with force. Moscow’s calls for a federalized Ukraine with special status for the Russian-speaking southeast, which Kiev and its Western backers decried as tantamount to breakup only weeks ago, now seem inevitable.

Kiev's government has no power outside Kiev itself, and that was proven this week.

Asked what they wanted, nearly all the protesters made identical demands mirroring those voiced on Russian television for weeks about a federalized Ukraine. That, many commentators say, suggests Moscow’s goal may be to destabilize Kiev’s government, which it says is illegitimate, and disrupt presidential elections set for May 25 to help bring a more favorable candidate to power. In any event, the protesters appeared to have succeeded in bypassing Kiev’s ban on Russian state television, which it shut off last month. Many of them would not talk to BuzzFeed without assurances this reporter was not secretly working for oligarch and presidential favorite Petro Poroshenko’s Channel 5, which is seen as having supported protests in Kiev against Yanukovych last winter.

Even some of the soldiers seemed affronted by Kiev’s mixed messages and failure to address the concerns of eastern provinces. “Some people say one thing, others another – it just leads to clashing heads with locals. I don’t know whom to believe anymore,” Dima, 27, a reservist, said. “The only thing we are scared of is armed conflict with the locals. We are not scared of the Russian army,” he added.

So given a choice between Russia and Kiev, a lot of folks in eastern Ukraine are choosing Russia.  There's next to nothing that the West can do, so we'll see how all this shakes out.  But the practical upshot is Ukraine will not be the same country anymore.

Tuesday I was worried about a shooting war.  Now it seems that the government of Kiev is so incompetent and hated that nobody wants to take a bullet for them.

Oh Susana, Now Don't You Cry For Thee

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones posts an article revealing that New Mexico GOP Gov. Susana Martinez is petty, vindictive, ignorant, and thin-skinned to almost Palinesque levels.  (I know, shocking, right?)

Despite numerous requests, the governor and her aides declined to comment for this piece. But previously unreleased audio recordings, text messages, and emails obtained by Mother Jones reveal a side of Martinez the public has rarely, if ever, seen. In private, Martinez can be nasty, juvenile, and vindictive. She appears ignorant about basic policy issues and has surrounded herself with a clique of advisers who are prone to a foxhole mentality.

Martinez doesn't look like any of the governors who came before her, and members of her inner circle sometimes feel that she has been subject to unfair attacks. Jay McCleskey, her closest aide, once sent a text message complaining about an opponent's negative mailing: "They're trying to keep the brown girl down!!!"

Still, interviews with former Martinez aides, state lawmakers, Democratic and Republican officials, fundraisers, and donors show a governor whose prosecutorial style and vindictiveness have estranged her from leaders in her own party and from the Democratic lawmakers she must work with to get anything done. Martinez and her staff, they say, have isolated themselves in her fourth-floor office inside the modest state capitol known as the Roundhouse. As one major Republican donor in New Mexico puts it, "They've got this Sherman's march to the sea mentality, burning everything in sight until they get to the finish."

Martinez's office wastes no time proving the core of the piece to be true.

Hours after it was published, Martinez circulated a fundraising email decrying the "D.C. Liberal media."

"We’ve come a long way since the days of Bill Richardson, but now liberals in Washington want to undo the progress we’ve made," Martinez said in the email. "In the absolute height of desperation, one of the most radically liberal publications in the country is now peddling false, personal attacks against me, using stolen audiotapes from our debate prep sessions four years ago.

"Their 'smoking gun'? I referred to Diane Denish using the B-word four years ago in a private conversation with close advisers," she continued. "I admit it — I've had to fund the cuss jar a few times in my life."

Can't make this stuff up, folks.  How dare the liberal media use my exact words verbatim!  Meanwhile...

Martinez's crew saw enemies everywhere. A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez's DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. "Cool I will see who it belongs to!!" the investigator replied.

Nope, not vindictive, petty, or thin-skinned at all.

Back To Barack Bashing

And Sen. Mary Landrieu has learned precisely nothing from the awesome collapse of Blanche Lincoln four years ago as she rolls out a new ad attacking President Obama on oil and gas drilling.

A new ad by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) features TV clips of her going after the Obama administration's oil and gas policies, spliced with footage of Louisianans who appear to be energy workers in the state. The ad is running statewide with a buy of $250,000 this week, a Landrieu campaign source told TPM.

"The administration's policies are simply wrong when it comes to oil and gas production in this nation," she says in one clip. In another, she says there are 300,000 oil and gas workers in Louisiana, and "you can't just beat up on them." Landrieu chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

So when Republican Bill Cassidy wins by 15 points in November, recall what Mary was doing to her fellow Democrats.   Because the energy industry has been so good for the Louisiana coast.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Last Call For Electile Dysfunction

I have to say that with both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner voters served by the Cincinnati media market, we get some hysterical political ads like this one from J.D. Winteregg, the Tea Party challenger gunning for Orange Julius's seat in the Ohio primary on May 6.

Winteregg is an awful candidate of course, but the ad is actually very funny.

Winteregg’s policy agenda includes term limits to make people more comfortable about how they’re represented in Washington — an issue that could be highlighted nationally by an abrupt end to Boehner’s term — and a blend of fiscal conservatism and moral values. “I’m 100 percent pro-life,” he said, adding that he strongly supports the Second Amendment and opposes illegal aliens being “suddenly entitled to this welfare system.”

“When they talk about the debt ceiling they ask, ‘Will you raise it?’ I say look at how it got here. We need to cut spending. We can find waste fraud and abuse everywhere. That will resonate with people because we’re all doing that [in our own lives]. The government is the only thing that’s not,” Winteregg said. “The fastest-growing place in America right now is Washington D.C. These people work for us and they’ve become independently wealthy?”

As a teacher, Winteregg has special ire reserved for federal school reforms, including the 2001 Bush administration policy that Boehner co-sponsored.

“You can’t address individual students’ needs when it’s centrally planned. Boehner was a co-sponsor of No Child Left Behind which has opened the door to Common Core. It takes a toll on the kids, a toll on the teachers,” the challenger declared. “You have a bunch of politicians making decisions in education. We need teachers making decisions on education. You get that when you diminish the role of the federal government.”

The guy hits all the Aggrieved Ohio White Guy buttons here, including comparing Orange Julius to a union leader ("If you say anything bad about the party you’re a scab") and is running on the notion that Boehner spends too much time fundraising to vote, so the people in the tony suburbs north of Cincy towards Dayton don't actually have any representation, or something.

Whether he has a chance in hell, well who knows.  But Tea Party groups are throwing money at Winteregg to get this ad up, and Boehner actually is buying TV ads now.

Just in case.

Oh, and the Democrat running is Tom Poetter, who is light years ahead of either of these clowns.  Drop by his website or his ActBlue page and drop in a few bucks.

My Conversation With Frazier Glenn Miller

     I read about the shootings in Overland Park, Kansas and was shocked.  That is not normal for this part of the country, for a lot of reasons.  I happened to be on Facebook when news sources began running the updates, and people began to clog feeds sharing every update.  I went to bed, upset at the events but figuring I would get better information tomorrow after the news hawks had done their job, and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the name of the alleged shooter.  I do not know Frazier Glenn Miller.  I have never met the man in person, and I would not have known him if he sat by me on the bus.  However, once upon a time I did speak with him.  And believe me, once was enough.  Our conversation was so memorable that years later I recognized his name immediately.  You never forget your first psycho.
     About six years ago, I joined an experimental group of writers who were brought together to represent different opinions and viewpoints for a local publication.  I was in the first group to go in, and through some crossed wires, my cell phone number was given out to a couple of people by mistake.  One of those people was Frazier Glenn Miller, who asked to speak with someone about a lack of news coverage.  That’s just the kind of thing we were created to cover.  I was surprised that I got an actual phone call, but grabbed a pen and notepad and began jotting notes.  Novice or not, I wasn’t stupid.  Someone was calling me with a story and I wanted to get it right.
     What I heard that night was an upsetting mix of conspiracy theories gone wrong, hate and stubborn stupidity.  Anything that did not meet his theory was rejected outright for being biased.  Meanwhile, he ignored anything inconvenient and considered himself an expert.  What in the world made him call a woman, I’ll never know.  I cannot tell you how many times I bristled and wondered what to do.  I don’t remember now how I set him off, only that he eventually turned belligerent and ultimately threatening.  I finally ended the call, and after I regained my composure I emailed our contact and let him know what had happened.  Immediately, our information was protected and there were no further incidents.  When the name of the caller was mentioned at our next meeting, there was a hush and a feeling something weird had happened.  I got a glossy explanation at the time, but even back then Miller was outspoken and of concern.  He was scary, loud and persistent and dangerous, he knew my name and my picture had just been published alongside my bio.  I was escorted to my car the remainder of our meetings.  When my term was up, I think they were a little relieved, right up until Frazier applied for membership.
     I thought about Miller several times over the years.  I still hear him, every time I read about how the [insert minority] has [insert ridiculous accusation].  When the Tea Party was at its peak, I told a friend from those days how much their stupidity sounded like it had been written my Miller.  That friend agreed, and he is a Republican.  Miller isn’t just a lone nut from a small town.  He’s everywhere.  He’s spreading lies, fear and hate because he’s angry and it’s all he knows.  He stirs terror and paranoia, a black hole who sucks goodness out of the world with purpose.  He is the opposite of everything I stand for and fights against everything I love.  But now I’ll always think of him, and every time I hear people marginalized by hate wrapped with lies I will hear the echo of his voice.  That snap.  That anger.  That need to see that hate in others to validate its existence.  That’s Frazier Glenn Miller in a nutshell, and it didn’t take a genius to figure him out.
     If we are to be afraid of men like Frazier Glenn Miller, let it be for the right reason.  Not because they are oddities or exceptions, but because they are everywhere.  For example, the mayor of Marionville, Missouri says he agrees with Miller's views, just not the killing.   I'm glad he clarified where his line of decency is.  I sure as hell had a hard time finding it without help.  While trying to speak for Miller's character, the mayor said he was very respectful of his elders, as long as they were the right color.
     This is what passes for upright character in the world, and don't you dare forget it.  If you're a woman, a minority, or a non-approved religion you can pay with your life if you slip for even a second in the presence of men like this.  Miller didn't get to this point all by himself.  He came with friends, liars and hatemongers who came before him and paved the way.  He will be followed by more of the same, and if unchecked and ignored we'll be here next week mourning different victims who died for the same ridiculous reason.  

Bobbing For Martyrs

Yes folks, the militia groups who showed up at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada to protest the Bureau of Land Management's decision to confiscate cattle (after rancher Cliven Bundy went 20 plus years without paying grazing fees mind you) wanted bloody corpses and world headlines.

It appears that the anti-government activists protesting the Bureau of Land Management's actions against a Nevada cattle rancher were considering using women as a human shield if a gun battle had erupted during the standoff.

The Blaze, the conservative news site affiliated with Glenn Beck, flagged the comments made Monday by Richard Mack, identified as a former Arizona sheriff who had joined more than 1,000 other protesters alongside Cliven Bundy, who has been feuding with BLM over his use of federal land to graze his cattle.

We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front,” Mack said in a Fox News clip pulled by The Blaze. “If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

 Richard Mack is a real piece of work, by the way.

Sheriff Mack has been a celebrity amongst anti-federalist militia types and Second Amendmenters for years. In 1994, the NRA recruited him as a plaintiff in one of nine lawsuits against the Clinton administration over the 1993 Brady Law, which required federal background checks on firearms purchasers. "The case was based on the principle that the federal government is not our boss," Mack says. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled in Mack's favor, finding that federal agents may not force local law enforcement to require those background checks. In appreciation, the NRA made Mack its Law Officer of the Year and inducted him into the NRA Hall of Fame.

Mack has done PR work for Gun Owners of America, a gun lobby that makes the NRA seem moderate, and is on the board of the Oath Keepers (read our profile here), which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls a "Patriot group" made up of vets, military folks, and cops who believe the government is turning on its citizens. They vow to disobey 10 specific (and sometimes fanciful) federal orders that they consider unconstitutional, such as declarations of martial law, the herding of people into concentration camps, and the taking of guns from law-abiding citizens.
So yes, rather than give these ghouls the martyrs they were looking for, the BLM walked away before anyone got hurt or killed.

Brave man, wanting to put women up front as human shields to be killed on purpose.


Also, Bon will be posting her recollection of her conversation with KC Jewish Center shooting suspect Frazier Glenn Miller this afternoon, so stay tuned.  It's a hell of a story.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Last Call For Heartbleeding Liberals

If anonymous sources are enough to convict the NSA in the court of public opinion over the Heartbleed bug, what does that mean for news that Google knew about it and didn't tell users or the government?

On purpose, mind you.

Google knew about a critical flaw in Internet security, but it didn't alert anyone in the government.

Neel Mehta, a Google engineer, first discovered "Heartbleed"—a bug that undermines the widely used encryption technology OpenSSL—some time in March. A team at the Finnish security firm Codenomicon discovered the flaw around the same time. Google was able to patch most of its services—such as email, search, and YouTube—before the companies publicized the bug on April 7.

The researchers also notified a handful of other companies about the bug before going public. The security firm CloudFlare, for example, said it fixed the flaw on March 31.

This is not an anonymous source, but a named Google employee admitting to this.

Asked whether Google discussed Heartbleed with the government, a company spokeswoman said only that the "security of our users' information is a top priority" and that Google users do not need to change their passwords.

Companies often wait to publicize a security flaw so they can have time to patch their own services. But keeping the bug secret from the U.S. government may have left federal systems vulnerable to hackers. The IRS said it's not aware of any vulnerabilities in its system, but other agencies that use OpenSSL could have been leaking private information to hackers.

The government encourages companies to report cybersecurity issues to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which is housed in the Homeland Security Department. US-CERT has a 24-hour operations center that responds to security threats and vulnerabilities.

Why would Google tell the government or competitors and not keep this to themselves, so they could fix the bug on their servers while other internet giants were vulnerable?  Then they could say "Hey, we fixed the problem, these other guys were the ones that exposed your password info."

Of course that only works if people don't find out Google is a bunch of bastards.

But let's blame the NSA and Obama some more.  They're the real bad guys, right?  I mean hey, if the Electronic Frontier Foundation has finally decided to back the Tea Party since the unsourced NSA accusations made last week, this isn't a mass effort to depress Democratic voter turnout, right?


Things Just Got Bad In Ukraine

Monday's deadline from acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov for Russian militants holding Ukrainian government building in eastern Ukraine to leave has passed without incident.  Unfortunately, all that meant was that the promised military operation was postponed until today and the shooting has now begun in earnest.  Bloomberg News:

Ukraine unleashed an offensive to dislodge militants from towns in its eastern Donetsk region as Russia’s prime minister said the country risks civil war.

Ukrainian units backed by armored personnel carriers blocked all approaches to the town of Slovyansk, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news service reported, citing an unidentified pro-Russian activist. Two militants were wounded when an airport in Kramatorsk was stormed, forcing the protesters to retreat, according to RIA.

The government in Kiev started the operation after fighting between its forces and pro-Russian separatists turned deadly this week. The U.S. and the European Union also deliberated deepening sanctions against Russia, which they blame for stoking the unrest, as Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin remained at odds over who was at fault.

“The aim of these actions is to protect people,” acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a statement on his website. “Apart from Russian special forces and terrorists, there’s hundreds of thousands of innocent Ukrainian people deceived by Russian propaganda, and that is why we will take any needed anti-terrorist actions prudently and responsibly.”

Reuters too is reporting that the Ukrainian operation is underway.

Turchinov said the offensive, which he first announced on Sunday, was finally underway. "The anti-terrorist operation began during the night in the north of Donetsk region. But it will take place in stages, responsibly, in a considered way. I once again stress: the aim of these operations is to defend the citizens of Ukraine," he told parliament.

At least 15 armored personnel carriers displaying Ukrainian flags were parked by the side of a road around 50 km (30 miles) north of Slaviansk, witnesses said.

Ukrainian troops wearing camouflage gear and armed with automatic weapons and grenade launchers were stationed nearby, with a helicopter and several buses containing interior ministry personnel near the road.

Things just got bad.  Really bad.  The Russians are already using the excuse that this is a "civil war" in the Ukraine and that Russian forces have nothing to do with what's going on, and that the "illegitimate" government of Kiev is fighting the people of Ukraine who are resisting tyranny or something, because everyone really wants to be part of Russia, so of course we'll have to assist these rebels...

You can imagine where this is going next. 

Cheaper Than Advertised, Better Than Expected

The latest Congressional Budget Office projections find that Obamacare will cost far less than last year's estimates, to the tune of over $100 billion less over ten years.

More than 12 million people will gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday. And millions more stand to benefit from the law over the next decade.

At the same time, the law's costs to the federal government are shrinking. According to the new projections, the federal government will spend more than $100 billion less on Obamacare's coverage provisions through 2024. That includes a downward estimate of about $5 billion this year. Overall, spending on the federal and state insurance exchanges are projected to cost 14 percent less than originally forecast.

The CBO said plans offered through the exchanges are narrower, allowing companies to keep premiums low and the federal government to pay less in subsidies. The lower spending projections on the Affordable Care Act will help shrink deficits overall. The CBO said the federal government will now run a deficit of $492 billion in fiscal year 2014, which is almost a 33 percent decrease from 2013.

But, but, but...death spirals!  Unsustainable!  Failure!

CBO Obamacare

Watch the FOX News headline be "Seven MILLION Americans will lose employer health insurance by 2024 thanks to Obamacare!"

Of course, Republicans want to repeal Obamacare and take insurance coverage away from millions.  Good luck with that.
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