Thursday, December 31, 2009

Proud To Be an American

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 30% oppose the use of such techniques, and another 12% are not sure.

  Rasmussen Reports

Has the guy refused to answer questions or are we just wanting to waterboard his ass?

Other interesting numbers from the Rasmussen poll:

Should the attempt to blow up the airliner be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act or by civilian authorities as a criminal act?

71% By the military as a terrorist act
22% By civilian authorities as a criminal act
7% Not sure

Only 22 percent believe that this should be handled by law enforcement! This isn't even an argument anymore, the Cheney view is now the dominant view among the American public.

  Weekly Standard



....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Monday, December 28, 2009

A Hopeful Return to Their Senses?

In-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter said Monday.

At the captain's discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.

The airline officials spoke on condition of anonymity because federal safety officials had not publicly announced the changes.

  Yahoo

Good, but I doubt that Mssrs. Lieberman and Specter have rethought their proposals to pre-emptively invade Yemen.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain

Yes, things are as insane as you thought they were. And maybe moreso.

In what can only be described as a very bizarre coincidence, another Nigerian man on Northwest flight 253 on Sunday spent too much time in the lavatory and had to be forcibly removed by kicking in the door and removing him. This time the passenger wasn't trying to blow up the aircraft. Instead, he had a stomach ailment which kept him in the lavatory for an hour, obviously raising major concerns with the airline crew and passengers aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The plane's captain called ahead declaring an emergency and had law enforcement authorities meet the aircraft at the end of the runway. A while later after the dust had settled it was determined that the man wasn't a terrorist after all, had no weapons or bomb making capabilities, and was actually ill while in the lavatory.

  Houston Examiner.com

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Senator Joeseph Lieberman (I-CT), who leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has a vision of "tomorrow's war."

"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday’s war," Lieberman explained. "Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war. That’s the danger we face."

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), also appearing on the program, seemed to agree, calling an attack against Yemen "something we should consider."

  Raw Story

Already Joe Lieberman and several Republicans are calling for more preemptive strikes on targets in Yemen, and it’s not hard to see that the US is very close to opening up yet another "front" in our eternal "war on terrorism."

[...]

[A]llegations that the Detroit incident was planned and carried out by al-Qaeda in Yemen can be traced back to "IntelCenter," a mysterious private contractor with a dubious reputation [.pdf] (see frames 89-100) that does business with the intelligence community.

  Justin Raimondo

Read Raimondo’s article for more reasons to wonder just what is really going on here, including statements from other passengers, and the fact that the man was allowed onto the flight with a one-way ticket to the US and without a requisite passport at the urging of a third person. And what about the calls by his father three months ago to alert authorities that his son might be up to something?

In addition to lighting a fire under the pre-emptive attack squad, the incident has insured that air travel will now be even more unpleasant.

The T.S.A. issued an update on its Web site Sunday that said passengers would be subject to greater security, but its information was not as detailed as the memorandums sent by the agency to airlines this weekend. The airlines said the new T.S.A. measures required an additional round of searches, including body pat-downs at airport gates overseas.

International travelers were also told that they could not leave their seats for the last hour of a flight, during which time they also could not use a pillow or blanket.

  NYT

I hope they are going to provide adult diapers.

Every time there’s a new airline passenger threat, the airlines make a rule to try to preclude that particular method of attack. We are another step closer to flying naked if we want to get on an airplane. And there won’t be any doors on the toilets.

Henry Chen, 48, a businessman who lives in San Francisco, said he was shocked to have a female flight attendant barge in on him in the restroom while he was washing his face during a flight from Seoul. “It was kind of weird, to have a lady try to get in,” he said. “She said that they had to watch people being in the restroom too long.”

[...]

Sarah Woodhouse, of Norwich, England, said she could understand the new steps. Before leaving Amsterdam for Newark Liberty International Airport, she said she was asked to switch on her camera to prove it was not an explosive device.

And if it had been an explosive device and switching it on was the trigger?

I’ll be watching the further reports to see if anything is mentioned about the person who oiled the way for Mr. Abdulmutallab to get on that flight without a passport.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Great Compromise

It has been called the "Omaha Stakes" and the "Cornhusker Kickback," but was a Medicaid provision added to the Senate health care bill a simple payoff to Nebraska to secure Sen. Ben Nelson's pivotal vote?

  TampaBay.com

I don’t care what it was, it should be illegal.

At issue here is a tiny clause tucked into a 383-page Manager's Amendment to the Senate health care reform bill. The wording of the paragraph is steeped in legal-ese, but it relates to money that states will have to pick up with regard to Medicaid. The Senate bill would expand Medicaid to people below 133 percent of the poverty level. And up until 2017, the federal government will pick up the tab for the added cost that will place on state governments. After that, states will have to start sharing the cost.

The provision added in the amendment will exempt Nebraska from that sunset, however, meaning that the federal government would forevermore pick up all of the expense of expanded eligibility to Medicaid in that state.

How can you make a provision for states to pick up costs and then exempt one state? I could see it if there were some criterion that states should meet to be exempted, but just to exempt one in a special deal?

South Carolina's attorney general, Henry McMaster, said he and his counterparts in Michigan and Washington were investigating whether the special provisions for Nebraska are unconstitutional.

Unconstitutional or not, it’s unethical.

Oh yeah, we don’t do ethical any more. We just do business.

And Nebraska's dealmaking Sen. Nelson claims it was done with other states in mind – to follow his example. Whether or not he had anyone else in mind with the deal, no doubt other states will be clamoring to have the provision changed for them.

If this thing ever gets passed, it will be tied up in court before it leaves the ground.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Message from Afghanistan

In July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced [US soldier Bowe Robert] Bergdahl's capture as "outrageous" and said the United States was doing everything it could to free him.

  Raw Story

I wonder what that is.

The Taliban on Friday released a video purportedly showing US soldier Bowe Robert Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan about six months ago.

[...]

"I'm afraid to tell you that this war has slipped from our fingers and it's just going to be our next Vietnam unless the American people stand up and stop all this nonsense," Bergdahl is shown saying on the video.

[...]

"We are ready to release him in exchange for the release of our prisoners but the Americans are not ready to release our prisoners in exchange for their soldier," Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.

"He is not being tortured or tormented. He is being dealt with according to sharia teachings of a war hostage," Ahmadi added, without saying what would happen if the Taliban demands were not met.

[...]

In the latest video, Bergdahl warns soldiers who are about to be deployed to Afghanistan what to expect on the battlefield.

"So, (to) all you soldiers that are getting ready to come over here for their first time because of the stupidity of our country, our leaders: no, you are not fighting stupid farmers.

"No, you are not fighting a small group of terrorist guerrilla fighters. You are fighting an organised guerrilla army that has perfected guerrilla warfare better than any country has ever perfected it in history.

"You're not fighting stupid people. You are fighting very smart people who know exactly how to kill us and are extremely patient and know how to wait for the right moment. So, stop believing illusions," he added.

It was impossible to verify whether Bergdahl was coerced into making the statements.


Take Your Pick


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


C&W




Klezmer




Jazz



(Miss Eartha died on Christmas day last year)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of the Best to You All

Smelly Kalikimaka

This one is just about wrapped up. We're about to go around again.


And Say Hello to the Fat Man for Me

My granddaughter at age 2 singing "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas".


video

No One Could Have Predicted...

This morning, there are reports of another yet air strike in Southern Yemen on a "suspected Al Qaeda site" which "killed at least 30 suspected militants" -- with anonymous U.S. government sources claiming the casualties possibly (though by no means definitely) included Nasir al Wuhayshi, the regional Al Qaeda leader who was the target of last week's strikes, and Anwar al-Aulaqi, the cleric reported to have communicated extensively with alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan.

  Greenwald

Here again…call me jaded, but I can picture the back room huddles after the Fort Hood shooting. The main goal: take out the guy Hasan was connected to. Americans are so dense, they’ll actually accept that as the proper and necessary response. It’s like stomping cockroaches. Vengeance is so satisfying.

And they would be right to think that.

"A radical Muslim preacher linked by U.S. intelligence to a gunman who killed 13 people at a U.S. Army base is believed to have died in a Yemen airstrike on al Qaeda militants, a security official said on Thursday," Reuters reports.

[...]

"If one was inclined to see the well-deserved death of Anwar al-Awlaki in the Yemen strike as a gift from Santa Claus, perhaps we can consider Saeed Ali al-Shehri as a stocking stuffer," Hot Air's Ed Morrissey writes.

  Raw Story

Of course we don’t even know yet if it’s true.

It’s a good thing Hasan provided us a new boogey man to hunt down and kill. The fictional boogey man was never taken very seriously. And we simply could NOT bring al-Douri back from the dead one more time.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Give You The Current State of the Union

(Yes, I suppose it was an uneventful evening last night.)

This is not bizarre just for the fact of the tea bagger admitting to praying that Sen. Byrd would die as instructed by Sen. Coburn, but that Sen. Barrasso and the TV talking head don't even acknowledge that's what the man said. These people can't be that good on the fly. They have to really be that disconnected.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Tell Us What You Really Think

Isn't it time that we all realized that a lot of these people just don't care? If all 45,000 of the people cited by that famous Harvard study who will die for lack of a decent health-care system dropped dead on his f**king lawn tomorrow morning, Joseph Lieberman would not CARE.

He would step over their bodies to get to a fundraiser. He is a vindictive, wretched sack of pus and all that will ever matter to him for the rest of his sorry political career will be settling scores and fluffing his tush in somebody's green room. There is no less excusable public man in America than this bitter old carny-whore; hell, Glenn Beck is either a genuine lunatic, or he masterfully portrays one on television. But either of those is a more honest transaction than that engaged in by Lieberman, who does not care if people die, and whose conscience long ago became the malignant servant of his baser nature. But he's only the most garish one. The rest of them, fumbling away the last best chance to get this serious issue right, don't care, either. About what, for example, does this president care so much that he will abandon his devotion to "bipartisan solutions"? The longer this goes, the more I'm convinced that the president insists on this particularly futile unicorn hunt, not because it makes for superior policy, but because abandoning it puts his political self-image at risk, and for that, we're supposed to let people sicken, go broke, and then die? About what does the Democratic congressional majority care so much that they will risk dissension within their ranks to do the things that clear majorities of the people who sent them to Washington have said, over and over again, that they want done? The Republicans care about nothing except turning the government into an ATM that spurts holy water. The courtier media of the Beltway might as well be living on Pluto, witness this wonderful Very Special Holiday EPISODE from the increasingly unmoored Washington Post opinion pages. But the point is that most of these people--and, alas, a substantially large portion of our fellow citizens--simply do...not...care. Not enough to do anything real about anything, that's for sure. Come to think of it, after 40 years of battering from the political elite, the very concept of having "fellow citizens" has been worn down to an infinitesimal nub.

Altercation

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The American Oligarchy

Just as the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union allowed the emergence of a class of lawless 'Oligarchs' in Russia, so Neoliberal tax policies and deregulation produced American equivalents. […]We have always had robber barons in American politics, but the Neoliberal moment created a new social class. At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic.

  Juan Cole

I can tell you from experience that certain people are not amused when you call this country a Banana Republic.

Bush-Cheney were not simply purveyors of wrong-headed ideas. They were the agents of the one percent, and their policies make perfect sense if seen as attempts to advance the interests of this narrow class of persons. It is the class that owns our mass media, that pays for the political campaigns of 'our' (their) representatives, that gives us the Bushes and Cheneys and Palins because they are useful to them, and that blocks progressive reform and legislation with the vast war chest funneled to them by deep tax cuts that allow them to use essential public resources, infrastructure and facilities gratis while making the middle class pay for them.

George the First’s name for us was “fodder units”.

Cole goes on to enumerate his pick for Ten Worst Things About the Bush Era. You can read it here.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Oh, So THAT'S Where It Was Hiding

I found that post I thought I had published several days ago...

The last time a foreign military staged a 'surge,' i.e. the Soviets in the early 1980s, it produced so much violence that 3 million Afghans were forced to flee to northern Pakistan. Islamabad is wary lest that pattern be repeated.

The split between India and Pakistan here is potentially damaging for the future. Afghanistan is an arena of contention between Islamabad and New Delhi. In the 1980s and 190s, various armed groups were backed by one country or the other. The Taliban were supported by Pakistan, the Northern Alliance by India. If we go back to that kind of proxy war inside Afghanistan, it will be ruinous.

[…]

As expected, the Taliban rejected the [Obama] plan as a form of imperialism. They dismissed Hamid Karzai as a Western puppet. But they also pledged that their organization has no international dimensions and they do not seek to commit terrorism in the West. The Taliban are pulling away from the wounded al-Qaeda.

  Juan Cole

I heard the most reasonable voice yet on the issue of Afghanistan (well, Cole is also very reasonable) from a retired military officer named Andrew Bacevich who pointed out that al-Qaeda is not an army or militia located in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but is instead an international jihad. He said warring on them in that area can be likened to the absurdity of (and here I left off and haven't the slightest idea now what that absurdity was - we'll just have to call it hugely absurd, and go on).

He also said that al-Qaeda members are international criminals who should be addressed by a force of international police.

Andrew Bacevich: Devising a new course requires accurately identifying the problem, which is not "terrorism" and, despite Washington's current obsession with the place, is certainly not Afghanistan. The essential problem is a dispute about God's relationship to politics. The proposition that the two occupy separate spheres finds particular favor among the democracies of the liberal, developed West. The proposition that God permeates politics finds particular favor in the Islamic world.

  WaPo

Colorado and Alaska.

Power, no matter how imaginatively or ruthlessly wielded, cannot provide a solution. The opposing positions are irreconcilable.



....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Indeed

The Senate passed its health care bill "by standing up to the special interests who prevented reform for decades and who are furiously lobbying against it now" -- Barack Obama, December 21, 2009.

"'Healthcare shares rose on Monday as a bill to reform healthcare passed the first critical test in the Senate . . . Shares of Cigna rose 5.3 percent to $37.69. Shares of Aetna Inc rose 5.84 percent to $34.41. Humana Inc rose 3.79 percent to $45.17 and United Health Group Inc rose 5 percent to $33.14. Shares of Wellpoint Inc rose 3.8 percent to $60.51" -- Reuters, yesterday

[...]

"Investors are seeing the Senate's version of health care reform as a massive public subsidy for insurance companies -- and as a result, are sending the sector's stock prices shooting up, up, up...

  Glenn Greenwald

A consistent narrative is emerging from various sides of the health care debate: the White House is largely responsible for the removal of the popular public option from the reform legislation.

[...]

Howard Dean and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) -- have essentially agreed with Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) declaration on Sunday that "the lack of support from the administration made keeping the public option in the bill an uphill struggle."

[...]

"When [Obama] came to the caucus he said, 'Just try to work this out as you get to the end here.' And I said, 'OK,'" Lieberman added. "Most of the negotiation I had on that was with Senator Reid."

  Raw Story


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Monday, December 21, 2009

And You Thought These Guys Were Savvy

After all, their middle initial stands for "intelligence".

A self-styled Nevada codebreaker convinced the CIA he could decode secret terrorist targeting information sent through Al Jazeera broadcasts, prompting the Bush White House to raise the terror alert level to Orange (high) in December 2003.

[...]

Working out of a Reno, Nevada, software firm called eTreppid Technologies, [Dennis] Montgomery took in officials in the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology and convinced them that technology he invented -- but could not explain -- was pulling terrorist-produced "bar codes" from Al Jazeera television broadcasts. Using his proprietary technology, those bar codes could be translated into longitudes and latitudes and flight numbers. Terrorist leaders were using that data to direct their compatriots about the next target.

But Montgomery's "technology" could not be reproduced, and the Playboy piece explains how he fell out of favor after word of what was going on spread in the CIA:

The federal government was acting on the Al Jazeera claims without even understanding how Montgomery found his coordinates. "I said, 'Give us the algorithms that allowed you to come up with this stuff.' They wouldn't even do that," says the first officer. "And I was screaming, 'You gave these people fucking money?'" ...

  TPM

I can’t stop laughing.


P.S.

A branch of the French intelligence services helped convince the Americans that the bar codes were fake.

[...]

They found definitively that what Montgomery claimed was there was not. Quietly, as far as the CIA was concerned, the case was closed.

Oui, oui. Zee cheese eating surrender monkies, zey have zee last laugh.


P.P.S.

[Montgomery’s] former lawyer calls him a "habitual liar engaged in fraud."

[...]

But even after the CIA abandoned Montgomery, he [...] inked a $3 million research contract with the Air Force in January of this year.

  

Left Hand, may I introduce you to Right Hand?


That was a good one.

Keystone Kops.

I’ll be smiling all night.

Well, for the next couple of minutes.

Speaking of Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez on Sunday accused the U.S. of violating Venezuela's airspace with an unmanned spy plane, and ordered his military to be on alert and shoot down any such aircraft in the future.

Speaking during his weekly television and radio program, Chavez said the aircraft overflew a Venezuelan military base in the western state of Zulia after taking off from neighboring Colombia. He did not elaborate, but suggested the plane was being used for espionage.

  Raw Story

Colombia has announced it will build a new military base near its border with Venezuela, in a move likely to further strain its tense ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

[...]

Army Commander General Oscar Gonzalez meanwhile announced Saturday that six air battalions were being activated, including two on the border with Venezuela.

[...]

Tensions between Venezuela and Colombia have been spurred by a US deal with Bogota allowing US forces to run anti-drug operations from Colombian bases.

  Raw Story

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!

Sound the alarms!

"Last night, DNS settings for the Twitter Web site were hijacked," the site's co-founder Biz Stone wrote Friday on the blog.

[...]

Visitors were redirected from Twitter to a page with an image of a green flag under red text reading "Iranian Cyber Army" and "This site has been hacked by Iranian Cyber Army."

[...]

"As an Iranian, in response to mischievous interference of this service provider at the order of US officials to meddle in our country's domestic affairs, this site is being hacked as a warning," the Farsi read, translated by AFP.

Screengrabs posted on Flickr clearly showed additional text below the image in English.

"U.S.A. Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access, But They Don't, We Control And Manage Internet By Our Power, So Do Not Try To Stimulation Iranian Peoples To," the text said in broken English.

"NOW WHICH COUNTRY IN EMBARGO LIST? IRAN? USA? WE PUSH THEM IN EMBARGO LIST. Take Care," it read.

  Raw Story

Who of you has been trying to stimulate Iranian peoples?

Now I know why we have to conduct tests again imaginary Iranian missiles (see previous post). If they can do this, they can do anything.


Typical

In order to test its missile defense technology, the United States intends to defend against a simulated attack [by Iran].

[...]

Sometime in January a simulated missile will be launched from the Marshall Islands, aimed at California, but Vandenberg Air Force Base is expected to intercept it.

[...]

Were Iran to launch its imaginary missile at the United States, a CNN source said that a U.S. interceptor would likely be fired from Fort Greely, Alaska. It is the only site other than Vandenburg that houses the missile defense technology.

[...]


Word of the test comes days after Iran tested its Sajjil-2 rocket, which can reportedly travel about 1,200 miles. As Iran's most advanced ICBM, it could reach as far as Israel or southeastern Europe.

  Raw Story

So we’re testing our capability to intercept a missile that is currently an impossibility from a site that wouldn’t be used to launch from if a missile is ever created that can reach us. I feel safer already. I wonder how much that’s costing us.

Let's hope some joker doesn't launch a live missile and we find out Vandenberg can't intercept. (Don't say that's not possible.)


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


And that reminds me...Millennium Challenge 2002: How We Won the War.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

TWOT

Yemen's Houthi fighters say scores of civilians, including many children, have been killed in US air-raids in the southeast of the war-stricken Arab country.

The Shia fighters on Friday reported the deaths of 63 people, including some 28 children, in the southeastern province of Abyan.

Almost 90 people were also injured in the attacks by US warplanes in the village of Bakazam, they added.

Yemen's southern provinces have recently been the scene of US airstrikes which Washington claims to be aimed at uprooting an al-Qaeda cell operative in the Persian Gulf state.

  Press TV Story

Are we strafing the entire Middle East?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Ah, the Blessings of Technology

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

  WSJ

Thank you George & Barack, for the never-ending war.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Dean Speaks

Following the jettisoning of both the public option and the Medicare buy-in provision, one of the nation's leading progressive voices on health care reportedly said Tuesday that the Senate bill is no longer worth supporting.


"This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate," former Gov. Howard Dean told political reporter Bob Kinzel of Vermont Public Radio.

  Raw Story


Escalating his opposition to what remains of the health care legislation, former Gov. Howard Dean has taken more swipes at President Obama, after a contentious back-and-forth that led to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs publicly sniping at him on Wednesday.

Dean, who outspokenly championed the public option and also supported the Medicare buy-in, said Thursday on MSNBC's Morning Joe that he won't "vigorously" support Obama's re-election in 2012.

"I'm going to support President Obama when he runs for re-election," Dean said. "Not vigorously. I'm going to vote for him."

  Raw Story

Holding his nose, I suppose, since he’s feeling confident that we’ll still be using the old team sports approach to elections.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Just As Planned

[...]as one would expect, health insurance stocks are soaring today in response to the industry-serving "health care reform" bill backed by the Democratic Senate and White House -- the same people who began advocating for "health care reform" based on the need to restrain on an out-of-control and profit-inflated health insurance industry .

  Glenn Greenwald


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


A New Horse in the Race?

Gary Johnson...



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Team Sports

Of all the posts I wrote this year, the one that produced the most vociferous email backlash -- easily -- was this one from August, which examined substantial evidence showing that, contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it. From the start, assuaging the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries was a central preoccupation of the White House -- hence the deal negotiated in strict secrecy with Pharma to ban bulk price negotiations and drug reimportation, a blatant violation of both Obama's campaign positions on those issues and his promise to conduct all negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN). Indeed, Democrats led the way yesterday in killing drug re-importation, which they endlessly claimed to support back when they couldn't pass it. The administration wants not only to prevent industry money from funding an anti-health-care-reform campaign, but also wants to ensure that the Democratic Party -- rather than the GOP -- will continue to be the prime recipient of industry largesse.

[...]

The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start -- the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry. And kudos to Russ Feingold for saying so.

  Glenn Greenwald

And, that is the name of the game. The game’s goal is to get and retain the majority and the presidency. Politics in America is a team sport, beginning to end.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Monday, December 14, 2009

And the Big News Down Here...

Houston has elected a lesbian as mayor.

Indeed, the world is on its head.

Added: Or as Jon Stewart said, Hell has frozen over; so much for global warming.

Or maybe Houston isn't as hopeless as I thought.

There's still a lot more of Texas, but I'll take this one as a major plus for the Houston area.

Molly Ivins would be pleased as punch.

Annise Parker scored a 53-47 victory over her opponent, Gene Locke. The City Controller stressed her budget experience and fiscal competence, and never planned to make her sexuality an issue. The election was significant in other ways because Parker was the first Houston Mayor in a generation not handpicked by the business community. But Parker’s status as a lesbian played a role and galvanized the LGBT community, after she became subject to hateful anti-gay attacks by Republican operatives. And her opponent, an African-American Democrat, never repudiated such support.

[...]

It has become gospel among social conservatives – such as the National Organization for Marriage – that this largely white, Republican movement can expand its base by working with the African-American community. [...] [They] hope to exploit homophobia by driving a wedge in the progressive community. And the Houston mayoral run-off between two Democrats – a black man and a white lesbian – offered them a chance to try it out.

Beyond Chron

FAIL.


More Dithering? Saber Rattling? Serious Discussion?

Okay, what’s going on here? Are we about to call down Armageddon or aren’t we?

I think I need more information.

Senior US officials are pushing to expand CIA drone attacks into a major Pakistani city in an attempt to pressure the Islamabad government to pursue Taliban leaders based in the city of Quetta, The Los Angeles Times reported.

  Google

Senior U.S. officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond Pakistan's tribal region and into a major city in an attempt to pressure the Pakistani government to pursue Taliban leaders based in Quetta.

The proposal has opened a contentious new front in the clandestine war. The prospect of Predator aircraft strikes in Quetta, a sprawling city, signals a new U.S. resolve to decapitate the Taliban. But it also risks rupturing Washington's relationship with Islamabad.

"If we don't do this -- at least have a real discussion of it -- Pakistan might not think we are serious," said a senior U.S. official involved in war planning.

[...]

Obama has endorsed an expansion of CIA operations in the country, approving the deployment of more spies and resources in a clandestine counterpart to the 30,000 additional U.S. troops being sent into Afghanistan.

But the push to expand drone strikes underscores the limits of the Obama offensive. The administration has given itself 18 months to show evidence of a turnaround in Afghanistan. But progress in Pakistan depends almost entirely on drone strikes and prodding a sometimes reluctant ally, which provides much of the intelligence to conduct the strikes, to do more.

[...]

Pakistan is not expected to hand over Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader and longtime ally of Osama bin Laden who fled Afghanistan when U.S. forces invaded after the Sept. 11 attacks. Omar is believed to have used Quetta as a base from which to orchestrate insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.

[...]

"We keep hearing that there is a shadow government in Quetta, but we have never been given actionable intelligence," the Pakistani official said.

Pakistan is prepared to pursue Taliban leaders, including Omar, even when the intelligence is imprecise, the official said. "Even if a compound 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer is identified, we will go find him." But, he added, "for the past two years we haven't heard anything more."

  LA Times

Washington, Dec. 14 (ANI): Tension prevails among Obama administration officials over whether an unmanned aircraft strike in a city of 850,000 is a realistic option. Those in favour, including some military leaders, argue that attacking the Taliban in Quetta -- or at least threatening to do so-is critical to the success of the revised war strategy President Obama unveiled last week.

But others, including high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials, are more sceptical of employing drone attacks in a place that Pakistanis see as part of their country's core.

Pakistani officials, however, have warned that the fallout could be severe.

"We are not a banana republic. If the United States follows through, this might be the end of the road," a senior Pakistani official was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity.

  NewsTrackIndia

Pakistan might not be a banana republic, but we are.

Washington, Dec. 14 (ANI): US President Barack Obama has opposed drone strikes in Pakistan’s Quetta city, saying that a surge in strikes in this region would only result in huge mass causalities, a US magazine has reported.

During an advisory committee meeting over the extension of drone strikes from the tribal areas to provincial capital, Obama favoured the opinion that this decision will be folly, unwise and will jeopardize civilian lives, The News reports.

[...]

Sources said the administration mulled over the surge in drone strike on Pakistan but no final decision could be reached. (ANI)

  Trak.in

He may be opposing the attacks, but he sure laid it on thick in his Afghanistan speech that Pakistan is in our sights.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

News Flash

The vast majority of an estimated $352 billion in proceeds of organized crime, mostly from the drug trade, was funneled through the global banking system during the financial crisis of the past two years, and in some cases, the money rescued banks from collapse, says the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Antonio Maria Costa told the UK Observer that intelligence agencies and prosecutors alerted him 18 months ago to evidence that drug money was being "absorbed into the financial system."

  Raw Story

That’s news to Mr. Costa? Shoot, drug money is a staple for U.S. “cash necessities.”


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Look Out

Here comes Jesse.

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has seen some stuff that will blow your mind.

Or, at least that's the tagline to "Conspiracy Theory," his new show on US cable station TruTV. In episode two, the one-time wrestler and movie star goes after one of America's greatest sacred cows: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It is, as far as this reporter can tell, the first time a syndicated program on U.S. cable has given a serious look at arguments made by members of the 9/11 truth movement.

  Raw Story

And I predict this will become the most watched TV show in the world. (As long as they don’t put it opposite Real Housewives.)

And that’s okay by me.

In the show, Ventura speaks to key 9/11 truth figures such as former BYU professor Steven Jones and William Rodriguez, a nationally-acclaimed hero credited with saving dozens as he tried to escape from the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11


National Security

Speaking of Andrew Bacevich…

”Al Qaeda operatives, hunkered down in their caves, pose no more than a modest threat. As for the Taliban, unless they manage to establish enclaves in places like New Jersey or Miami, the danger they pose to the United States falls several notches below the threat posed by Cuba, which is no threat at all.”

  The Vigil

Song from the Platte River
Brewer & Shipley

I was freezing on the banks of Platte River
And I was thinking of General Custer and his last stand
And I bowed my head, what has he done
He’s got my freedom on the run

[...]

I was thinking of the measure of my weakness
Like so many I condemn and do not know
And I bowed my head, what have we done
We've got our freedom on the run

The Vigil post has more of Bacevich’s thoughts. It's a good read. (I could have sworn that I did a post on an interview Bill Moyers did with Andrew Bacevich - someone I posted was a rare rational voice - actually both of them - but I cannot find it.)

Of course, the threat to our national security is the pretense under which we will (and have) forever interfere in worlds that are better left alone. In a very real way, of course, Afghanistan does hold that threat – so we're not really being lied to. They’re just admitting partial truth.

Honestly, I don’t understand why they don’t just tell the whole truth. In fact, I think the American people would rally behind the whole truth much better than we are backing this partial truth – which so many see as false. They see it as false because they are only looking at the idea that a backward country with nothing (unless – and this is a big deal – UNLESS it has our monetary/black ops/military backing) could pose any (military/political) threat to our nation.

No, that’s not the threat. The threat is that posed if we don’t control the world’s oil supply. If a country with the possibility of mounting a bigger, more powerful, military apparatus should get that control, should be able to deny us the oil we need to support our own military, our national security is dead in the water.

Americans would rally around the loss of military supremacy. We don’t really care about anyone else’s “freedom”. Hell, we’re not even that concerned with our own. What we want is to know that we have the most powerful military on the planet and all the things that require a constant and large oil supply. Transportation, trucking of goods, to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We must remember to read into the phrase “national security” our way of life. And while I’m on this tack…I honestly believe that when the oil is finally used up, our corporations will pull out the alternative energies they already have patented.

Whether we use it or not, we have to have control of the oil, so that another country which might possibly amass a more powerful military arsenal, is prevented from doing so.

”The conquest of Afghanistan had been planned since at least 12 February 1998”

Despite concerns about the Taliban, Unocal continued to develop the project from 1996 through 1998. Taliban representatives reportedly met with Unocal representatives in February 1997 in Washington D.C. and in November 1997 in Houston, Texas. Unocal later described these meetings as efforts "to educate them about the benefits such a pipeline could bring" to their "poor and war-torn country."

  footnote Fahrenheit

And natural gas.


December, 2002: An agreement has been signed in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, paving the way for construction of a gas pipeline from the Central Asian republic through Afghanistan to Pakistan.

[...]

Turkmenistan has some of the world's greatest reserves of natural gas, but still relies on tightly controlled Russian pipelines to export it.

[...]

But investors will be very cautious about putting serious money into Afghanistan when the central government in Kabul still has only limited influence in the regions the pipeline would cross.

[...]

The building of the trans-Afghanistan pipeline has been under discussion for some years but plans have been held up by Afghanistan's unstable political situation.

  BBC

And so it goes.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

CIA Director Leon Panetta has canceled a contract with the former Blackwater security firm that allowed the company's operatives to load missiles on Predator drones in Pakistan.

  NYT

Oh wow. That’ll show ‘em.

Panetta canceled the contract earlier this year and the work is being shifted to government personnel, a person familiar with the contract said Friday.

[...]

Separately, CIA spokesman George Little said Friday that ''at this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role.''

Riiiiiiight. I think the carefully chosen word here is 'support'.

Recall that Blackwater was the instigation for the Falluja horror.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Better Said

…so let’s bring out some of that ol’ Obama inspirational magic: “So let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.”

And then the soldier who sees he’s outgunned calls in an air strike and blows her and her child to pieces.

  WIIIAI


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We've Located Your Problem

To attract more Afghans into the security forces, the government last month increased salaries for police and soldiers by at least 33 percent, although the Taliban can still pay up to 100 US dollars more per head.

  Raw Story

Oh, and one more thing before you go.

President Hamid Karzai warned Gates on Tuesday that the international community would need to help fund Afghanistan's security forces for the next 15 to 20 years.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Meanwhile in Iraq

Five massive vehicle-borne bombs rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 127 people, including women and students, and wounding hundreds in the third co-ordinated massacre to devastate the city since August.

  Raw Story


And Don't Forget KBR

If Lt. Col. Jim Gentry and his doctors were right about the cause of his cancer, the Indiana National Guard officer didn't die for his country -- he died for defense contractor KBR.

[...]

In a lawsuit filed last year, Gentry and 15 other plaintiffs said KBR, at the time a subsidiary of Halliburton, was aware that soldiers and civilian contractors were being exposed to hexavalent chromium months before they told the people working at the site.

  Raw Story


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


ACORN May Have the Last Laugh

Seems the video that was supposed to slam them was doctored.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Go!

Had they been waiting on hold for the speech? Like the troops whose commanders were chomping at the bit to enter Falluja but were told they had to wait until after the 2004 election?

Operation "Cobra's Anger," which involves 900 U.S. Marines and sailors, British troops and 150 Afghan soldiers and police, pushed into the Now Zad district of southern Helmand province, an insurgent stronghold depopulated after years of heavy fighting.

  Yahoo

Cobra’s Anger. No we’re not trying to take over anybody’s anything. We’re peace-loving.

Depopulated.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Conservatism, Religion & Violence

……”It appears that conservatism has pathological dimensions manifested in violence and distorted psycho-sexual development” (Boshier, 1983, p. 159). This is supported by a study conducted by Walker, Rowe, and Quincey (1993) in which there was a direct correlation between authoritarianism and sexually aggressive behavior. An investigation done by Muehlenhard (1988) revealed that rape justification and aggression toward subordinate individuals was much higher in traditional (conservative personality) than non-traditional personalities.

[...]

McClosky (1958) noted that in Western society conservatism tended to be indicative of certain people: social isolates, people thinking poorly of themselves (low self-esteem), those uncertain of their values and who lack a clear sense of direction. That certainly fit the pattern of most of the offenders within the criminal justice system. The above was affirmed by Boshier (1969) when he suggested that those persons who were high in self-esteem were low in conservatism. He further noted that the individual with low self-concept scored high on conservatism. The offender certainly fit the criteria of having a low self-concept and, therefore, being high on the conservative scale. Boshier noted that by scoring high on the C-Scale, the conservative seemed to be demonstrating his hostility toward others, which was also a characteristic demonstrated by most criminal offenders.

[...]

Persons who had a dogmatic belief in religions and adhered to the teachings of absolutist and perfectionistic religious groups, tended to be more frequently and more intensely emotionally disturbed than those who followed less dogmatic religion (Ellis, 1986). Authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism were positively correlated, with scores on authoritarianism significantly related to those on ethnic and racial prejudice, hostility toward homosexuals, and punitiveness in prison sentencing (Wylie & Forest, 1992). According to Parker (1990), dogmatism and orthodox belief were incompatible with ethical acuity.

  Change in the Conservative Personality Equals Change in the Offender with a Resultant Reduction in Recidivism by Michael D. Parsons and Jennifer G. Parsons


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


It's Snowing in Houston

That is just not right. We will stay a little warmer by temp than Houston since we are on - i mean, in - the Gulf (I like to say we are south of Texas), but it's cold, very windy, and raining, so when night falls, if it is still raining....

All the hot air is in D.C.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

No One Could Have Imagined

For the past six years, [Blackwater/Xe's Erik Prince] "appears to have led an astonishing double life," writes Adam Ciralsky. "Publicly, he has served as Blackwater’s CEO and chairman. Privately, and secretly, he has been doing the CIA’s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into 'denied areas'—places US intelligence has trouble penetrating—to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies."

  Raw Story


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Former Bush Official Reacts

Dan Senor, a former Bush spokesman in Iraq: "If you would have said to me that a year into this administration that he would have doubled our troop presence in Afghanistan... Plus not reduced our troops meaningfully in Iraq. And if you had told me he would have fired General [David] McKiernan and replaced him with General [Stanley] McChrystal (a surge proponent)... I would have had a hard time believing it. So I am pleasantly surprised."

  HuffPost



....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


Regarding Obama's "Defining" Speech


[T]his whole speech was just one extended exercise in flim-flammery.

[...]

"Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground."
Just as we have done in Iraq – hundreds of thousands of deaths later. Why am I not feeling reassured?

[...]

Those who were hoping for some real change in our rhetoric, if not our foreign policy, with Obama in the White House are no doubt sorely disappointed right now, because George W. Bush could just as easily have spoken these very same words – and, indeed, he did utter endless variations on this identical theme when justifying our actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the truth of the matter is that there are barely one-hundred al-Qaeda fighters in the whole of Afghanistan – so what are we doing there?

On the other hand, contradicting himself (as he did numerous times), the Iraq war was a mistake.

Yes, the bad thing about the Iraq war wasn’t that it needlessly killed thousands – many thousands of Iraqis, and a far lesser number of Americans. Oh no: the really really bad thing about it was that it diverted attention and resources away from the battle Obama wanted to fight, the one in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That all happened in the bad old days of Republican rule, however, before the invention of "hope".

[...]

This business about how the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same cause because they both want to overthrow the government of Afghanistan is nonsense, pure and simple. Al-Qaeda’s “cause” is the destruction of the continental United States, and its tactics reflectsthis objective: that’s what the 9/11 attacks were all about. The Taliban, on the other hand, just wants to kick the US out of their country – period. They aren’t flying airliners into American skyscrapers – yet.

  Justin Raimondo

And don’t forget Pakistan.

"I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

[...]

”Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future."

[...]

Will we be told, in July, 2011, that, yes, we’re beginning to withdraw from Afghanistan – as Obama announced in his speech – so that we can go to where the real action is – in Pakistan? I’d lay odds on it.

I won’t be betting the other side.

These excerpts are from a much longer Justin Raimondo post, parsing the speech and pointing out its many frailties and falsehoods. Please read it if you have time. It’s one of Justin’s best, in my opinion.

And if you want to see what he should have said, check out: A Tale of Two Speeches.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.



Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Blogging Obama's More War Speech

Blah, blah, blah, blah....

Like Chowderhead before him, in front of an audience of troops - better yet, future troops (West Point cadets).

We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation's resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for - and what we continue to fight for - is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

  speech text

Now, would you like to buy a bridge?


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.