Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obama Right To Normalize Relations With Cuba

There aren't many foreign policy decisions Barack Obama has made since becoming president with which I agree, but his decision to normalize relations with Cuba after 55 years makes more sense than any Cuban-related policy imposed by successive presidents since John F. Kennedy. The only sad part of today's announcement is that it coincided with a negotiated release of a presumed CIA agent, Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba for the past five years. Gross had been convicted of crimes against the state after being caught distributing computer equipment while working under the cover of a USAID worker, a renowned CIA front group whose programs are barred by the Cuban government for good reason.

Under the new policy announced by Obama today, a U.S. embassy will be re-established in Havana, and the decades-old travel and commerce restrictions will be eased. Cuba agreed to release other prisoners in addition to Gross, although he was obviously the most prized release in the bunch. Obama correctly stated that more than a half-century of isolation "has not worked." "It's time for a new approach," he said. The Washington Post says today's announcement is the product of 18 months of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the government of Cuban President Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro, who outlived eleven U.S. presidents before turning control of the government over to his brother due to declining health. There is a bit of irony in Fidel's tenure, given the U.S. government's sordid, botched attempts to oust him, including several failed assassination attempts and the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-trained and funded mercenaries.

President John F. Kennedy inherited the ill-advised policies started under President Dwight Eisenhower towards the Cuban government, which only succeeded in driving it to closely ally with the former Soviet Union and other perceived enemies of the U.S. government. Perhaps the most insane plan devised by the American military-intelligence community to oust Castro from power was Operation Northwoods, a series of false flag attacks proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presented to a shocked President Kennedy for approval in March 1962. That plan included: staging assassinations of Cubans living inside the U.S.; developing a fake pro-Cuban terrorist organization based in Miami; sinking a boat load of Cuban refugees (either real or simulated); faking a Cuban attack on a U.S. jetliner; and my personal favorite, blowing up a U.S. Navy ship in Cuban waters ala the U.S. Maine sinking; and blaming it all on the Cuban government.

A sane President Kennedy, who had already begun heeding his predecessor's dire warning about the growing influence of the military-industrial complex through efforts to rein in the Nazi-like figures dominating American foreign policy, summarily dismissed the plan and replaced Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for presenting Operation Northwoods to him for consideration. Kennedy had already fired CIA Director Allen Dulles and two of his deputy directors, Charles Cabell and Richard Bissell, for their botched roles in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Many serious Kennedy assassination researchers have concluded that these very individuals played a key role in the assassination of Kennedy in retaliation for his efforts to shut down their growing shadow, undemocratic government activities under the guise of protecting U.S. national security.

Ironically, President Ford appointed Gen. Lemnitzer to the Rockefeller Commission, which was tasked with determining whether the CIA had engaged in activities on American soil in violation of federal law, and whether two key figures in the Watergate scandal, E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturges, who both worked for the CIA on anti-Castro projects, had any role in the Kennedy assassination. Like the Dulles-run Warren Commission, the Rockefeller Commission found Hunt and Sturges free of any role role in the Kennedy assassination, a finding debunked by Hunt's own deathbed confession about his and the CIA's role in orchestrating Kennedy's assassination. President Ford, who participated in the Warren Commission cover-up, appointed George H.W. Bush to run the CIA after assuming the presidency following Nixon's resignation over the Watergate scandal. Bush, of course, worked for the CIA as far back as his first days upon graduating from Yale, including his first job at Dresser Industries (later merged with Halliburton) and his time running a company he co-founded, Zapata Petroleum, which provided cover for many of the CIA's activities in Cuba under one of its subsidiaries, Zapata Offshore, which operated offshore oil rigs in the Caribbean region only miles from Cuban waters.

In a sense, you can blame the CIA's obsession with overthrowing Castro by isolating Cuba all of these years for the loss of the Republic as founded and envisioned by our founding fathers. They started out trying to kill Castro and they wound up justifying the killing of our own president in the name of national security. The ends justify the means. Cuba beget the Bay of Pigs, which beget the Cuban Missile Crisis, which beget the Kennedy assassination, which beget the Vietnam War and the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations, and which beget Watergate. Later, the CIA gave us Iran-Contra and Al Quaeda, which beget 9/11 and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and a seemingly endless War on Terror, which beget the legitimization of torture and killing of U.S. citizens by drone attacks and the loss of our constitutional right of privacy and protections from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Obama should do more than normalize relations with Cuba; he should dismantle the CIA, which is what President Kennedy planned to do had he gotten the chance before they blew his brains out in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.

People on the right and left have already begun criticizing Obama's decision to normalize relations with Cuba, which should tell you something about how deeply our political system is infected by this cancer consuming our country. Sen. Dan Coats, who has become a multi-millionaire courtesy of his close ties to the military-industrial complex, naturally denounced Obama's decision. Sen. Coast said the policy is "evidence that the Obama foreign policy objective is appeasement" and "rewards the Castro regime at the expense of the Cuban people." Hey, if you care about improving the lives of average Cubans, what better way could you help them than opening up the island nation to U.S. investment and as a tourist mecca once again for Americans? On the left, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) also criticized the decision. He says Obama's actions "will invite further belligerence towards Cuba's opposition movement and the hardening of the government's dictatorial hold on its people." Go figure.

Star Plays Catch Up On Regional Operations Center Investigation

For awhile, I thought the Indianapolis Star had decided to skip any coverage of the investigation of the sleazy manner in which the Regional Operations Center at a big political contributor's white elephant property on the east side came to be. What little reporting the Star has done to date has primarily been for the purpose of communicating to its readers that any investigation of the deal was simply partisan politics on the part of the Democratic-controlled council. The Star's John Tuohy finally has a story today emphasizing a point I made after reviewing the latest document dump from the Ballard administration a month and a half ago: Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub thought the Eastgate Mall site was a bad choice.

Tuohy's story, for the most part, doesn't cover any new ground than what I previously reported. He did get some comments from the building's owner about some of Straub's misgiving's about the Eastgate Mall site. One of Straub's concerns I previously discussed was an FBI raid of a business owned by one of the ROC property owners in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. That would be Marvin Slomowitz, an east coast billionaire real estate developer.

Slomowitz tells the Star the raid was "politically motivated" and he received a letter 18 months letter from the FBI clearing him. He said he was unaware Straub had concerns about the matter. "I feel sorry for my poor partners hearing now what they were against," Touhy says Slomowitz said by phone from Florida. Yeah, they're laughing all the way to the bank at just how much they were able to exploit politically-corrupt people in Indianapolis to extract a $20 million, 25-year lease a for deteriorating former Simon shopping mall they picked up on the cheap.

U.S. Representative Susan Brooks' husband's client, Alex Carroll, who has made big campaign contributions to the right people, chimed in. Carroll said he didn't know about the FBI raid of Slomowitz' business and that the raid couldn't have involved anything "significant because the FBI and other law enforcement agencies moved into the ROC in January 2012." That's not entirely true. The FBI had originally discussed having permanent space in the building, but according to testimony before the council's investigative committee, the FBI chose not to become a permanent tenant in the building. Agents may have used space at the building during the Super Bowl in February 2012, but they don't have an ongoing presence there. Councilor Ben Hunter, who received big campaign contributions from Carroll after pushing so hard for the Eastgate Mall site, insisted had nothing to do with the site selection or his support. Ballard's spokesman, Marc Lotter, says he didn't even think Ballard knew Carroll made campaign contributions. Yeah, right.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FBI Raids Home Of Township Fire Chief In Morgan County

Herald-Times Photo of Dave Allison Morgan Co. home
I figured out a long time ago I made a mistake not making a career in government. Check out this gated estate where the Harrison Township Fire Department Chief Dave Allison resides in Morgan Country. FBI agents raided Allison's home today, as well as the Putnam Co. Sheriff's Department where Allison doubles as a grant writer and chief procurement officer. According to WRTV, the raid on Allison's home pertained to a $1.1 million federal grant he procured for the fire department to build a new fire house that remains unfinished. Agents were supposedly interested in information from the Putnam Co. Sheriff's department on surplus military equipment obtained by the department.

The WRTV report describes Allison as "a central figure" in "a wide-ranging investigation of several individuals and multiple businesses." Allison supposedly submitted construction plans based on one proposal for a new firehouse but substituted it for another after obtaining the federal grant. This 2012 audit report by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General may have something related to the investigation. "Fire and Rescue's grant application states that the new fire station will be 7,100 square feet, but the plans submitted to FEMA show a structure of 23,600 square feet," the report reads. "The Chief said that he misread the question in the grant application and thought it referred to the size of the existing fire station."

The audit report indicates the fire station had been a source of controversy in the township where a number of residents opposed its construction, concerned about what it might mean for future development in the area. The Planning Commission held up granting a building permit until a number of issues had been resolved, including title to the property, which were later remedied in January 2012. The work permit for construction of the fire house, however, subsequently expired according to WRTV. Contracts totaling more than $910,000 had been awarded according to the inspector general report. In addition, the more than $76,000 in initial costs incurred for the project were deemed reasonable according to the audit report.

Allen Co. GOP Approves Resolution Calling For Resignation Of Speaker Boehner

The Allen Co. Republican Party approved a resolution Monday night denouncing the House Republican leadership for lying to U.S. Representative Marlin Stutzman, who had been assured by House leaders that they would replace the $1 trillion continuing resolution with a shorter-term funding bill if he changed his decisive vote on a procedural vote to allow the measure to be brought to the floor for a vote last week. Stutzman says the Republican leadership reneged on that promise, pushing ahead with the $1 trillion spending measure that gave virtually everything President Obama had demanded from lawmakers. Stutzman switched his vote to no on final passage in protest.

Allen County GOP committeepersons also approved an oral resolution calling on House Speaker John Boehner to resign according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.. The written resolution approved by the local party found House GOP leaders "devoid of integrity and untrustworthy" for the "offensive and insulting" misrepresentation the leadership made to Rep. Stutzman. Allen Co. GOP Chairman Steve Shine said the resolution was meant "to send a message to Washington, from literally the Republican heartland, to knock it off." Shine said both resolutions were approved unanimously by about 70 precinct committeepersons.

Merritt Officially Says He's Not Running For Mayor

Various news outlets are reporting Sen. Jim Merritt has announced he won't be seeking the Republican nomination for mayor next year, still leaving no Republican candidate running to replace Mayor Greg Ballard (R). It looks like a repeat of the 2007 Republican mayor's race when the GOP nominated Ballard as a token candidate and withheld any support for his election until the last few weeks of the campaign when it became apparent voters were prepared to oust then-incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson. A deal was obviously made to hand the mayor's office to Democrat Joe Hogsett in consideration for his agreement to kill public corruption cases involving high-level Republicans in Indiana while he was serving as U.S. Attorney. Expect the Republicans to handpick a controllable figure to act as a place-holder in the event the unthinkable happens, and Hogsett blows the first political race in his long political career that has been handed to him on a silver platter. The notion that a real two-party system exists in Indianapolis is only a figment of our imaginations.

Citizens Group: Duke Falsely Certified Edwardsport Plant "In-Service" To Skirt Construction Cost Cap

In 2012, Duke Energy reached a settlement agreement with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission over cost-overrun issues concerning its Edwardsport coal gasification plant. Under the agreement, Duke agreed it would not be allowed to charge utility consumers more than $2.595 billion for the new utility plant. Duke claimed the new utility plant would cost $1.9 billion when granted approval by the IURC to construct it, but those estimates proved to be about $1.6 billion short. The Citizens Action Coalition now accuses the utility company of prematurely placing the power plant in-service in June 2013 in order to skirt the construction cost cap by which it was supposedly bound by the 2012 agreement.

A press release from the consumer group says testimony before the IURC shows Duke billed its ratepayers $400 million before the Edwardsport power plant delivered any net energy to the power grid. By the end of March, ratepayers had paid in excess of $688 million for the power plant. The consumer group wants the IURC to establish performance standards for the plant and set operating cost caps to protect ratepayers from being overcharged by Duke's mismanagement and failure to abide by the 2012 construction cost cap agreement.

"The Company’s declaration that Edwardsport was ‘in-service’ on June 7, 2013 was an obvious attempt to circumvent or evade the construction cost cap," said technical expert David Schlissel of Schlissel Technical Consulting. "The plant was not in service in any meaningful way." Duke had promised regulators the plant would achieve an average capacity factor of 72% during the first 15 months of commercial operation on gasified coal. According to the consumer group, the plant's average actual monthly capacity factor was a mere 21% since being declared in-service. In fact, the plant hasn't reached the 72% level in a single month since it went online according to Schlissel's testimony.According to Schlissel, the plant was still in the "testing phase" as of November 2014 because it had yet to achieve "substantial completion" of construction during the 18 months it had been in service.

Monday, December 15, 2014

WRTV Story About Lack Of Funding For State Roads Morphs Into Push For Commuter Tax To Benefit Indianapolis

A TV news story by WRTV's Katie Heinz is indicative of how the news manager's at the TV station order their reporters to fit into any news story the talking points of Indianapolis' downtown mafia, even when they don't fit into the underlying news story. Heinz begins talking about the problem the Indiana Department of Transportation faces in funding ongoing costs necessary to keep the state's highways and bridges in a safe condition. A spokesman for INDOT tells her that current funding levels will lead to one of every state highway or bridge being in poor condition within a decade if a new funding source isn't found. We're told INDOT is studying new funding sources since most transportation funding comes from fuel taxes, which are impacted by more efficient automobiles and drivers supposedly traveling fewer miles.

From the discussion of the state's highway funding problem, Heinz jumps to an interview with the Indy Chamber of Commerce's Mike Huber, who has never met a tax increase he doesn't support, and a call by his organization to allow a new commuter tax on suburban workers to provide more funding for the City Indianapolis, which has absolutely nothing to do with the state transportation funding problem.
. . . The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce is offering one idea: tax commuters who work in the city but live elsewhere. 
"The population of Indianapolis grows per day a net of 150,000 residents. And we've never really had a real revenue stream to pay for that increase in population," said Michael Huber with Indy Chamber. Lawmakers directed INDOT to study new sources of revenue. 
The agency is expected to finish its study by the end of next year. In the meantime, INDOT is shifting from building new roads to maintaining those already in place . . . 
Huber's commuter tax proposal belongs nowhere in the discussion of state highway funding. The commuter tax supported by the Chamber of Commerce actually would allow the City of Indianapolis to capture a share of the local income taxes paid by suburban residents who work within Indianapolis, as if they aren't already paying taxes daily to support the spending needs of the City of Indianapolis every time they eat or drink anywhere within Marion County, attend sporting and other special events or shop anywhere within the county. The suburban counties also pay a food and beverage tax every time they eat out within their own communities to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium.

Huber needs to go back to school and learn that so many people flee the City to live in the suburbs because they're tired of paying higher taxes and watching all of that money go for projects that only benefit businesses located within the mile-square downtown, while other city neighborhoods crumble due to a lack of funding and attention. Indianapolis' problems have nothing to do with a lack of revenues; rather, it has everything to do with misplaced priorities on where the money the City collects is spent. On that score, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce is a part of the problem, not the solution.

More Proof Peter Kassig Beheading Was A Hoax

There's yet another twist in the story about Indianapolis native Peter Kassig going to Syria to do charitable work, converting to Islam, getting captured by the very soldiers our own government covertly trained, armed and funded to depose the Syrian government now deemed enemy combatants before later being executed by beheading after being held hostage for more than a year after his capture. The video supposedly released by ISIS to the public claiming Kassig was executed, along with more than a dozen other captured Syrian soldiers, was obviously a staged production using actors brought to you by your own government, which wants to scare you into believing that ISIS requires as much attention as their last terrorist creation, Al Qaeda, to justify their never-ending war on terror.

A recent news story by the Daily Mail acknowledged the possibility that Kassig had not been killed by ISIS; rather, he was killed by friendly fire after U.S. officials admitted the supposed beheading video may have been staged. The leader of an anti-ISIS group claimed Kassig was killed during a U.S.-led airstrike in Syria against ISIS forces on November 5. Now the Daily Mail is reporting that medical experts who have viewed the beheading video have concluded Kassig was likely already dead when the film was produced, and that the video had been digitally altered to make it appear that Jihadi John was standing over Kassig's head. Unlike the other victims, the video did not show the terrorists with knives in hand preparing to behead Kassig. The latest from the Daily Mail:
Extraordinary new research has emerged suggesting Peter Kassig's beheading was faked by ISIS, and that the U.S. aid worker was killed by a gunshot, not decapitated by Jihadi John as implied. 
Medical experts examining an ISIS propaganda video in which Mr Kassig's severed head is seen at the feet of ISIS' British executioner in chief, have concluded that he is likely to have been shot dead. The claims add further weight to speculation over why Mr Kassig's full body was not shown in the video. 
Unlike ISIS' previous sickening filmed murders, he did not speak directly to camera before being killed and his body was not shown after the murder. A popular theory is that Mr Kassig was killed before the video was shot because he did not cooperate with the jihadists - either refusing to give a final speech on camera or possibly even fighting back while the murder was taking place. 
His initial assessment was that a contusion above Mr Kassig's left eye was a gunshot wound. Closer analysis of the wound reinforced that initial assessment, leading him to believe that the wound was probably the cause of death, rather than beheading,' he added. 
Digital analysis of the film also suggests that Jihadi John may have been superimposed in the frame where he is seen standing over Mr Kassig's severed head. The raises the question of whether Mr Kassig was murdered in an entirely different location to the Syrian soldiers . . . 
The only additional information the Indianapolis Star provided to this story beyond what we were hearing from national news reports was to tell us that the reputed parents of Peter Kassig, Ed Kassig, a retired school teacher, and his wife Paula, a nurse for refugees, were actually his adopted parents. Kassig's biological mother, Rhonda Schwindt, an assistant professor of nursing at Indiana University's School of Nursing, complained to the Star about how the government refused to communicate with her and her children about her son. According to Schwindt, Kassig had sought out his biological family when he turned 18 and developed an ongoing relationship with them that continued up to the time he left the country for Syria. Schwindt complained the government kept them in the dark about the disappearance of Peter for many months after reaching out to the Kassigs and offering grief assistance to them but not his biological family.

When the public first became aware Peter was being held captive more than a year after he went missing, I found it odd that the website for his charity had only been created and uploaded to the Internet a couple of months before his disappearance. There was little information available about who was funding his charity. There had been no local reports about his work in Syria despite CNN having profiled his work in a high-profile piece more than two years ago, which made no mention of his conversion to Islam. In that news report, Kassig was shown applying fake bandages to supposed victims of the American-fueled civil war in Syria in an otherwise scripted interview. Blogger Max Malone's video below analyzes the video Kassig's alleged ISIS captors produced, which is too sophisticated and Hollywood-like in its production to have been filmed by a rag tag group of terrorists.

Navistar Closing Indianapolis Foundry

Slowly but surely the great manufacturing plants which fueled Indianapolis' economy in past decades is disappearing. Crain's Chicago Business reports Navistar is closing its Indianapolis foundry where it makes engine blocks and heads. About 180 good-paying jobs are being eliminated in a move Navistar says will cut its annual operating costs about $13 million a year. An agreement reached with the UAW workers to cut their pay substantially from $25 an hour to $17 an hour averted the plant's closing in 2010 after the company announced in 2009 it intended to close the foundry. In 2011, Mayor Ballard's website boasted of his administration's efforts to keep the plant open and "preserve 200 jobs" after the City awarded tax breaks to the company after it failed to live up to commitments it made when previously offered tax breaks.

Former Star Reporter's Inquiry Goads Emanuel Into Reimbursing City For Travel Expenses

I've commented before about how good reporters become bad reporters when they work for the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star, which provides cover for selected political insiders who are defrauding taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in this state. One former State House reporter for the Star, Bill Ruthhart, who never did anything but softball stories about the people he covered in state government during the Daniels administration, now works for the Chicago Tribune and regularly cranks out real investigative stories.

Like Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a prolific traveler. A security detail accompanies him on all of his out-of-state trips as is the case with Mayor Ballard. Ruthhart has been probing Emanuel's travel expenses. One day after Rutthart questioned the mayor's staff about a trip Emanuel took to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the mayor reimbursed the city for more than $7,000 in travel expenses he charged taxpayers to have a city-provided security detail accompany him. Altogether now, Emanuel has reimbursed city taxpayers at least $22,000 for out-of-state travel after the Tribune reported on questionable charges for past trips.
. . . It's the third check Emanuel has cut to taxpayers — a tab that's reached nearly $22,000 — in response to Tribune stories that showed how the mayor has used city funds to pay for trips during which he solicited campaign contributions and attended political events that included little or no official city business. 
This time, Emanuel has reimbursed the city for the cost of bringing three members of his security detail to a political convention where he gave a speech in support of President Barack Obama's re-election. The mayor, however, did not issue his latest check until the day after the Tribune asked his administration whether it had followed through on a pledge nearly three months earlier to determine whether the Charlotte expenses violated Emanuel's new travel policy.  
Emanuel directed his staff to draft the travel rules in the wake of a Tribune story that showed the mayor had taken at least 15 taxpayer-funded trips in which he mixed politics with city business or took part in events that helped burnish his national profile . . .
The Tribune reported in April that the mayor spent city funds on the Charlotte trip in a story that detailed that Emanuel had taken 56 trips during his first 21/2 years in office, with City Hall spending $355,000 on travel for the mayor and his staff. 
At that time, Emanuel's then-spokeswoman argued that it was appropriate for taxpayers to pay for his security costs in Charlotte, because "the mayor, regardless of where he is, is always the mayor, which is why he has security detail with him at almost all times. The security detail is serving him in his official capacity." . . . 
At least Emanuel is a recognizable figure to justify a security detail. Nobody outside of Indianapolis would even know Indianapolis' doofus mayor was a public figure if he didn't travel with a security detail in tow with him every time he travels outside the state to make himself feel important. All of those overseas Ballard takes supposedly as trade missions are paid for by Develop Indy, which receives taxpayer dollars to promote economic development and operates as an extension of the mayor's campaign committee. By any measure, no real city business occurs on any of Ballard's trips since no jobs have ever been created as a result of his trips. People who accompany the mayor on the trips are virtually all campaign contributors who do business with the city. Word on the street is that you can purchase a trip with Ballard overseas in exchange for campaign contributions of a certain level. Ballard has also traveled out-of-state on political trips, including the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, and to make speeches completely unrelated to his duties as mayor.