Sunday, February 28, 2010

Things Are Rosy in Marja; On to Kandahar!

U.S. military commanders were upbeat, bolstered by the high turnout in the center of town to watch the flag raising ceremony and the swearing-in of Abdul Zahir Aryan as the town's new administrator.


"I think this genuinely underscores that this is a fresh start for Marja," Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson told ABC News. U.S. officials hope Marja will be a model for new governance all over Afghanistan.

"We have said from the very beginning it's going to be a 30 day operation and I think I got to tell you it's day 12 and here we are... [I'm] pretty pleased that we are here in city center," Nicholson said.


Just a few dozen yards from the bullet-riddled government building, Marine Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson found more proof Saturday that the battle for Marja was over.

"A popcorn vendor on the streets of Marja," Nicholson said in a gleeful voice as he found some coins in his pocket and bought a bag of freshly popped corn.

  LA Times

Marines and Afghan troops cleared the last major pocket of resistance in the former Taliban-ruled town of Marja on Saturday -- part of an offensive that is the run-up to a larger showdown this year in neighboring Kandahar province.


"Basically, you can say that Marja has been cleared," said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment.


Even as Marines in Afghanistan continued to fight for control of the Taliban stronghold of Marja, senior Obama administration officials said Friday that the United States has begun initial planning for a bigger, more complex offensive in Kandahar [Afghanistan's second largest city] later this year.


The assault on Marja, the largest U.S.-NATO military operation since 2001, is a "prelude to larger, more comprehensive operations," senior Obama officials said Friday. Administration officials declined to say when the Kandahar offensive will begin, but military officials have said that it probably will kick off in late spring or early summer after additional U.S. forces have moved into the area.


Nothing could possibly go wrong.

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

Climate Change Is Real to Coffee Growers

Coffee producers say they are getting hammered by global warming, with higher temperatures forcing growers to move to prized higher ground, putting the cash crop at risk.

"There is already evidence of important changes" said Nestor Osorio, head of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which represents 77 countries that export or import the beans.

"In the last 25 years the temperature has risen half a degree in coffee producing countries, five times more than in the 25 years before," he said.


[P] roducers meeting in Guatemala this week are in a state of panic over the impact of warming on their livelihoods.

  Raw Story

Well, now. Will the coffee company lobbyists save the world backing climate change legislation? Or will the coffee companies find somewhere else to grow coffee and let Guatemalan coffee growers be damned? Or perhaps a synthetic coffee , and like was done with vanilla, destroy the Guatemalan coffee trade quicker than the climate can do it?

ICO figures show that production in Latin America dipped last year, largely due to poor weather, and producers say they are struggling to stay afloat.

In Colombia, one of the world's largest producers, production slumped 30-35 percent while Costa Rica and El Salvador still struggled to recover from poor harvests in 2000-2005.


"Land and water are being fought over by food and energy producers," said Osorio, "we need to make an assessment to guarantee the sustainability of and demand for coffee production."

That answers my question about whether or not the Guatemalan coffee producers will be left in the lurch. The energy lobby outstrips the coffee lobby, I have no doubt.

The National Coffee Association of Guatemala -- a regional leader -- said production in nine Latin American countries was expected to fall 28 percent in the first three months of this season

You'll be paying more for your cup of joe.

And will this all somehow be symbolic of the Coffee Party?

The Lone Kucinich

In the wake of congressional Democrats' reauthorization and extension of the USA Patriot Act, few elected Democrats have been as vocal about the post-9/11 security measures as they were during the Bush administration.

Leave it to stalwart House progressive Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to raise a rallying cry against what he called America's love of its fears.

  Raw Story

I can scarcely believe Ohio is represented by Mr. Kuchinch. I wonder if he actually were president (I know, I know, fantasy land) if he would stay true to his apparent leanings, and if, in fact, he would be able to make changes. Sadly, we'll never know.

“This legislation extends three problematic provisions of the PATRIOT Act and, at the same time, leaves some of the most egregious provisions in place, absent any meaningful reform and debate," he declared in a media advisory.

The specific provisions he cited are the Patriot Act's powers to conduct roving wiretaps, conduct surveillance of people not thought to have any association with terrorism and tap into your personal records, such as library accounts.


"Despite years of documentation evidencing abuse of these provisions during the Bush Administration, the Department of Justice has failed to hold Bush Administration officials accountable for illegal domestic spying by barring any lawsuits to be brought against those officials," he said. "Months into this Administration, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had 'intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits,' and that the practice was 'significant and systematic.' Passage of this legislation today continues to make Congress complicit in these violations of our basic constitutional rights."

And of course Obama signed the extension.

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

Excuse Me?

Former US president George W. Bush told a group of his White House aides at a breakfast Friday that he is "trying to regain a sense of anonymity," an event attendee confirmed to AFP.

  Raw Story

Why does he still have meetings with his White House aides?

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

Climate Change

We should probably get away from calling it "global warming" and back to the original "climate change." The loud-mouthed crowd would have a harder time deriding that. You know the crowd I'm talking about - the idiots who believe the record snow storms they're experiencing disprove global warming, while at the very same time they are having snow storms, other parts of the world are suffering through another hot summer. Perhaps to those loud-mouths, there is no other part of the world.

At any rate, Juan Cole has advice for climate change scientists.

The falsehoods in the media are not there because you haven't spoken out forcefully or are not good on t.v. They are there for the following reasons:

a. Very, very wealthy and powerful interests are lobbying the big media companies behind the scenes to push climate change skepticism, or in some cases (as with Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp/ Fox Cable News) the powerful and wealthy interests actually own the media.

b. Powerful politicians linked to those wealthy interests are shilling for them, and elected politicians clearly backed by economic elites are given respect in the US corporate media.


c. Media thrives on controversy, which produces ratings and advertising revenue. As a result, it is structured into an 'on the one hand, on the other hand' binary argument. Any broadcast that pits a climate change skeptic against a serious climate scientist is automatically a win for the skeptic, since a false position is being given equal time and legitimacy.


Every single serious climate scientist should be running a blog. [Emphasis mine] There is enormous thirst among the public for this information, and publishing only in technical refereed journals is guaranteed to quarantine the information away from the general public. A blog allows scientists to summarize new findings in clear language for a wide audience. It makes the scientist and the scientific research 'legible' to the wider society. Educated lay persons will run with interesting new findings and cause them to go viral. You will also find that you give courage to other colleagues who are specialists to speak out in public. You cannot depend on journalists to do this work. You have to do it yourselves.


If you just keep plugging away at it, with blogging and print, radio and television interviews, you can have an impact on public discourse over time.[...] It is a lifetime commitment and a lot of work and it interferes with academic life to some extent. Going public also makes it likely that you will be personally smeared and horrible lies purveyed about you in public (they don't play fair-- they make up quotes and falsely attribute them to you; it isn't a debate, it is a hatchet job). [...] But if an issue is important to you and the fate of your children and grandchildren, surely having an impact is well worth any price you pay.

Excellent advice. Take it, scientists.

Every new generation is indebted to, and R.I.P., Rachel Carson.

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

Not Completely Under the Rug

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has forwarded materials on the writing of the torture memos to state bars where John Yoo and Jay Bybee are licensed, calling on the bar association to consider possible disciplinary action.


The torture memo report produced by the Justice Department's ethics office concluded that Yoo, now a professor at Berkeley, and Bybee, now federal judge on the ninth circuit, committed professional misconduct in their drafting of the memos that authorized report.

But top DOJ official David Margolis overruled that finding and barred the ethics office from referring the batter to state bars in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, where Bybee and Yoo are members, respectively.


[ Nadler:] "This should never have happened, and I will continue working to ensure that the appropriate corrective steps are taken so that it does not happen in the future.

At the same time, the relevant officials in the states where attorneys Yoo and Bybee are licensed to practice law have authority to determine whether further investigation or disciplinary action is warranted. These states do not need a referral from the Department of Justice in order to interpret and enforce the standards of professional responsibility and ethics against their members."


That won't happen, but as someone in the comments of this TPM post mentioned, what will happen is that the "professional misconduct", including a description, will go on their respective records. And that's not nothing.

In the meantime, any alumni of Berkeley out there want to protest the hiring of that dufus Yoo? Perhaps a petition by alumni and students to dismiss? What's with Berkeley? Apparently not the same place it used to be. They can still work up some passion but I can't quite figure out about what.

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

Iran Doesn't Need Nuclear Weapons

I imagine they are smart enough to know that. I also imagine that our "enemies" the globe over are smiling while they wait for us to go broke, knowing it can't be much longer. All they have to do is hold out that threat of nukes and WMD and make some attack somewhere, no matter how small, to convince us that they are a threat to us (how absurd!), and we will continue to finance the war machine - on money borrowed from foreign governments! Actually, they don't even have to waste propaganda dollars - our military-industrial masters and their high-level slaves (aka Congress) do it for them.

When you consider the enormous differential in cost of fighting our war against the Taliban you will realize that they have already won.

While a Marine Corps combat brigade [...] burns up around 500,000 gallons of fuel a day (or $24 million, at an average of $48 per gallon), the marines’ insurgent enemies use a tiny fraction of that. They ride around in pickup trucks, or walk. They do not move in Humvees that average four miles per gallon.

The cost-benefit advantage the insurgents enjoy in combat occasionally features on jihadist websites. One video clip makes the point that an improvised explosives device that costs $30 to make can knock out a $3.2 million Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle.

Both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have so far been financed with borrowed money that makes up part of the country’s deficit. The 2009 budget year, which ended in September, set an all-time high with $1.42 trillion. In 2010, it is expected to reach close to $1.5 trillion.

  The Vigil

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

Another Party

Frankfurt, Germany?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Would Have Expected Nothing Less

Attempting to make a change...

President Obama plans to change the criteria used to award all federal government contracts in order to reward companies who pay employees better than average wages and offer benefits. Rather than cheering the thought of having more government money end up in individual workers’ pockets, (rather than in CEOs’ bank accounts) Republicans are booing the initiative.


John Podesta showed the White House Office of Management and Budget last year that more than 400,000 people employed by government contractors make $22,000 or less per year — well below the poverty line for a family of four and less than half of the U.S. median income — and new studies show that many such people are reliant on Medicaid and food stamps.

  Washington Independent

And you know what Big Dick says…”So what?”

Really, it’s the way God intended it to be.

Hey Bloggers

Want to increase your hits? Just mention SAIC in your posts.

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

Speak of the IMF...

The International Monetary Fund wants more power to police the global financial system and a bigger role in emergency financing, managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Friday. In a speech to the Bretton Woods Committee, a finance reform think tank in Washington, D.C., he claimed that a stronger IMF also warrants a new global reserve currency that would serve as an alternative to the U.S. dollar.

  Raw Story

Yes, that’s just what the IMF needs – more power, and it’s own currency.

Strauss-Kahn added that "having several suppliers of reserve assets would limit the extent to which the international monetary system as a whole depends on the policies and conditions of a single, albeit dominant, country."

The real government already has their wealth vested in whatever currency looks best at the time. They don’t care which.

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

Helping Haiti

Anthropologist Timothy Schwartz documents the disastrous impact of the NGOs in his book Travesty in Haiti. In particular, he shows how CARE International -- which claimed its mission in Haiti was to provide food aid to the "poorest of the poor" -- not only failed in its mission, but also actually exacerbated the food crisis.


While some NGOs like Partners in Health have done and are doing amazing work to provide services for quake victims, overall, the catastrophe in Haiti revealed the worst aspects of the U.S. government and the NGO aid industry.

As many analysts have noted, the U.S. in fact used its "relief" operation to disguise a military occupation of Haiti, intended to prevent a flood of refugees reaching the U.S., impose even greater sweatshop development on Haiti, and signal to the rest of Latin America, the Caribbean and the world's most powerful governments that U.S. aims to reassert its power in the region.


[NGOs] play a role very similar to the one that missionary religious institutions played in the earlier history of empire. They provide moral cover -- a civilizing mission of helping the hapless heathens -- for the powers that are plundering the society.


Nowhere is this pattern more clear than in Haiti. The U.S. convinced the dictator Baby Doc Duvalier in the 1980s to implement a neoliberal development plan which Haitians call "the plan of death," which dropped tariffs on American agriculture, encouraged sweatshop development in Port-au-Prince and opened tourist resorts for the international elite.


Indeed, that is the pattern for all ‘third world’ countries we – and the IMF - ‘help’. Add to that the backbreaking interest on the loans that these countries are forced to pay for their 'aid'.

Peasants were no longer able to find a market for their produce, and were therefore thrust into poverty, often unable to meet their own food needs because of their collapsed standard of living. They then became dependent on food aid.

USAID, in turn, funded CARE International to feed the impoverished peasants. The NGO began to distribute U.S. crops as food aid, during both bad and good harvests, further undermining Haitian peasants ability to compete for the market.


Predictably, the plan produced a social catastrophe; it increased absolute poverty by 60 percent. But the Haitian poor, workers and peasants rose up to build a mass movement, Lavalas, that eventually elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide president in 1990 on a platform of anti-neoliberal reform.

The U.S. saw Aristide's mild reformism as a threat, backed a coup in 1991 and used the coup regime's reign of terror to crush the Lavalas social movement. It also convinced Aristide to implement the "plan of death" as the condition of his restoration in 1994.


The U.S. used yet another coup against Aristide in 2004 and another coup regime to force through the rest of the plan. Now, Haiti has the most neoliberal economy in Latin American and the Caribbean.

And let us not forget that Barack Obama -- the progressive, Peace Prize-winning humanitarian in the White House -- appointed the man whose administration orchestrated that 2004 coup (and whose father orchestrated the 1991 coup) as the public face of America's "humanitarian mission" to Haiti ... along with the man who, in 1994, re-imposed the "Plan of Death" on the Haitian people. Yes, it's hard to beat your progressive humanitarians when it comes to brutal, blatant cynicism.

   Chris Floyd

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

A Proposal

I have a positive program to offer, a viable, workable, practical approach to many of our problems. This is what my program offers:

Lower taxes
Stronger national security
More jobs
Greater prosperity
Higher wages
Better schools, roads, and health care
Less government
Safer streets

What's more, this program requires no social upheaval, no political turmoil, no violence – no revolution from either Left or Right. It can be accomplished entirely within the existing political and economic system. It needs no new government powers, no new bureaucracies, no new taxes.

All it requires is simply this: Bring America Home. End our worldwide military empire.

Chris Floyd

We can rest easy Chris Floyd won't be in any D.C. government office any time soon.

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

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Ahmadinejad once again fails to call for the annihilation of Israel, despite what you heard on CNN.

I saw Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN Friday afternoon. Oren said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had called for the annihilation of Israel, and was therefore speaking of genocide.

It is dreary to see this constant drumbeat of dishonest propaganda. Whatever one thinks of Ahmadinejad or the Iranian regime, one should not misrepresent their statements, since that will lead to bad policy-making.

   Juan Cole

Too late.

Ahmadinejad began by offering an olive branch to any former enemies that wanted to make peace. But he characterized the 'Zionist regime,' i.e. the Israeli government with its current ideology, as intrinsically belligerent, and insisted that this 'regime' must 'accept its own end' and grant Palestinians their full rights (presumably, citizenship and property rights, which they now lack).


Ahmadinejad did not mention Israel and did not call for any genocides, or anyone to be killed, or war. He asked Zionists to see that their ideology has no future. In the past he has compared his vision of the fall of what he calls the Zionist regime to the fall of the Soviet Union, which happened peacefully and with no annihilation of the population.


Ahmadinejad may be blinkered and hypocritical, but he did not call for the annihilation of or genocide against anyone.

Well, but we needed him to have done that, so that’s what our State Media will report that he did.

And as I always say... do what you will anyway.

The 545

The 545 People Responsible For All Of U.S. Woes

BY Charley Reese

(Date of publication unknown)-- -- - Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 235 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Don't you see the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.

Continue reading.

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


Marines and Afghan troops who fought through the center of Marjah linked up Saturday with American soldiers on the northern edge of the former Taliban stronghold, clearing the town's last major pocket of resistance.


"Basically, you can say that Marjah has been cleared," said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment.


Marine spokesman Capt. Abe Sipe downplayed the development, describing it as another step in the effort to secure Marjah. He warned that the combined forces expect to face intermittent attacks for at least two more weeks.

"We are not calling anything completely secure yet," Sipe said.


Who to believe? I'm going with Sipe.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Again Do They Hate Us?

Senator Hamidullah Tokhi of Uuzgan complained to Pajhwok that the foreign forces had killed civilians in such incidents time and again, and kept apologizing but then repeating the fatal mistake: "Anyone killing an ordinary Afghan should be executed in public."

Lawmaker Fatima Aziz of Qunduz concurred, observing, "We saw foreign troops time and again that they killed innocent people, something unbearable for the already war-weary Afghans."

Maulvi Abdul Wali Raji, a senator from Baghlan Province, called for the Muslim law of an 'eye for an eye' to be applied to foreign troops for civilian deaths. Pajhwok concludes, "Mohammad Alam Izdiyar said civilian deaths were the major reason behind the widening gap between the people and Afghan government."

Note that those speaking this way are not Taliban, but rather elected members of the Afghanistan National Parliament, whose government is supposedly a close US ally.

  Juan Cole

Hearts and minds, people, hearts and minds.

In the meantime, Karzai is taking no chances. Radio Azadi reports in Dari Persian that Karzai took control of the supposedly independent Electoral Complaints Commission, and will appoint all 5 of its members. The system had been that 3 members were appointed by the United Nations, and the other two chosen by the supreme courty chief justice and the independent high electoral commission.

Well, that should satisfy the Afghan public that Karzai is not corrupt.

But wait! It gets worse.

As for those [...] trained Afghan troops that Washington keeps boasting about, it turns out that the Pentagon sub-sub-contracted the troop training and "a Blackwater subsidiary hired violent drug users to help train the Afghan army."

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Elsewhere in Afghanistan

A bicycle bomb detonated remotely killed 7 persons and wounded 14 on Tuesday morning in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. The bombing is a bad sign, since Lashkar Gah was supposedly the secure base for the US/ Afghan National Army attack on Marjah to the West, but even the capital is not stable.


The Afghanistan cabinet issued a strong condemnation of NATO for an airstrike in the province of Dai Kundi, which is alleged to have killed 21 civilians and wounded 14 in 3 vehicles. Aljazeera Arabic noted that the US and its allies have repeatedly mistakenly fired rockets at civilians and repeatedly apologized, and that Afghans are getting tired of it.

  Juan Cole

And Big Dick says: So what?

That Makes More Sense

So it's our hearts and minds they're trying to win, eh?

[A Washington] Post report, by Greg Jaffe and Craig Whitlock, both of whom cover military affairs, said the town of Marja would not have been chosen as a target for a U.S. military operation had the criterion been military significance instead of impact on domestic public opinion.


McChrystal decided to commit 15,000 U.S. troops and Afghan troops to get control of Marja as the first major operation under the new strategy of the Barack Obama administration.

That decision has puzzled many supporters of the war.


The real reason for the decision to attack Marja, according to Jaffe and Whitlock, was not the intrinsic importance of the objective, but the belief that an operation to seize control of it could "deliver a quick military and political win for McChrystal."


The primary goal of the offensive, they write, is to "convince Americans that a new era has arrived in the eight-year long war…." U.S. military officials in Afghanistan "hope a large and loud victory in Marja will convince the American public that they deserve more time to demonstrate that extra troops and new tactics can yield better results on the battlefield," according to Jaffe and Whitlock.

A second aim is said to be to demonstrate to Afghans that U.S. forces can protect them from the Taliban.

Despite the far-reaching political implications of the story, the Post buried it on page A9, suggesting that it was not viewed by editors as a major revelation.

  Gareth Porter - IPS News

Either that or they didn't really want people to read it.

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

Marja Fallout

Khalid Iqbal has concerns about the effects on Pakistan of the Marjan offensive.

Pakistan’s advise to establish an adequate number of check posts on the Afghan borders in order to block the exodus of extremists into Pakistan have been totally ignored. On the contrary, disturbing news indicate that even a major chunk of previously manned check posts by ISAF/NATO were abandoned prior to commencing the operation. One wonders if this surge supported operation ever had one of its military objectives to eliminate or capture the extremists.
Hence the abandonment of check posts bordering Pakistan by ISAF/NATO has opened the flood gates for extremists’ influx into our country. This could set into motion another cycle of instability in the tribal belt of Pakistan arising out of knock-on effects. As a damage reduction measure, the Pakistan army has speedily set up some check posts on the Pakistani side to restrict the immigration.

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


Last year, I debated John Yoo during a panel discussion at Princeton University. He is an amiable, soft-spoken adversary, whose sole response to one of my questions about torture was: "I enjoy reading Nat Hentoff on jazz."

  Nat Hentoff – Village Voice

I saw Jon Stewart interview John Yoo, and it was impossible to know what Yoo was actually saying. I'm not sure he knows what he's saying. According to Raw Story, ThinkProgress' Ian Millhise had this to say about Yoo.

More recently, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Court held that the President does not have the power to unilaterally set military policy (in those cases with respect to detention); he must comply with statutory limits on his power. Taken together, these and other cases unquestionably establish that Congress has the power to tell the President 'no,' and the President must listen."

"John Yoo is a moral vacuum, but he is also a constitutional law professor at one of the nation’s top law schools and a former Supreme Court clerk," the site added. "It is simply impossible that Yoo is not aware of Little, Hamdi and Hamdan, or that he does not understand what they say. So when John Yoo claims that the President is not bound by Congressional limits, he is not simply ignorant or misunderstanding the law. He is lying."

  Raw Story

The Raw Story article also quotes another Yoo debate with International Human Rights expert Doug Cassel:

Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty.

Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

Kucinich Writes a Letter to SOD Gates

Kucinich writes, “Please provide information about the events leading up to the air strike, including the name of the person who granted authority to US Special Forces helicopters to conduct the aforementioned airstrike, the name of the person who ordered the airstrike, a detailed description of how it was determined that the civilians traveling by minibus were Taliban insurgents, and the protocol for ordering this airstrike and all other airstrikes."

  Raw Story

Thank you, Denis. We'll be awaiting a response.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Must Be His Lungs

Because he doesn't have a heart.

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney was at George Washington University hospital Monday night after experiencing chest pains, his office said in a statement.

“He is resting comfortably and undergoing evaluation,” read the statement.



Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, kept a remote U.S. base in the country manned last year at the local governor's request despite warnings from his field commanders that it should be closed because it was vulnerable and had no tactical or strategic value.

McChrystal's decision to maintain the outpost at Barg-e Matal prompted the top American commanders in eastern Afghanistan to delay plans to close a second remote U.S. outpost, Combat Outpost Keating, where insurgents killed eight U.S. troops in an assault Oct. 3, a McClatchy investigation has found.

Keeping Barg-e-Matal open also deprived a third isolated base of the officer who would have been its acting commander and left its command to lower-ranking officers whose "ineffective actions" led "directly" to the deaths of five American and eight Afghan soldiers in an ambush Sept. 8, according to a high-level military investigation.


Nuristan Gov. Jamalluddin Badr pressured the United States publicly and privately to keep troops in Barg-e Matal to prevent the village from falling to the Taliban before Afghanistan's Aug. 20 presidential election. The two U.S. defense officials said McChrystal's decision to keep the outpost there open until the local militia was trained was intended to help Badr survive the political fallout had insurgents captured the village after an American withdrawal.

"Everyone knew why we were in Barg-e Matal," one U.S. defense official said. "McChrystal . . . was not in favor of pulling out because of the political ramifications."


However, the ambush inquiry and a similar high-level Army probe into the Oct. 3 deaths at COP Keating, the worst single American combat loss in 2009, don't mention that McChrystal's decision to keep Barg-e Matal open made the combat outpost and the Ganjgal operation more vulnerable.

Instead, the inquiries hit lower-ranking officers — including two field commanders who'd urged McChrystal for months to close Keating and Barg-e Matal — with administrative penalties.


The fact that officers in the field are being punished while no mention has been made of the role that their superiors played signals that those on the front lines always will take the blame when things go wrong.


That wasn't already abundantly clear?

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

Marja Monday

Marines met with tribal elders in Marja.

One man, Izmarai, vented at the Marines for setting up an outpost at a home he said he owned. [...] “If you want to arrest me, arrest me,” he said. “If you want to shoot me, shoot me now. You say you want to make peace and security. Then why did you make your compound in my home, and between my home and my field? Did you ask me? No.” [...] But later he returned, saying his presentation had been a performance. There were Taliban members at the meeting, he said, and he spoke as he did to impress them. The Marines said they were not sure what to believe. Was he telling the truth? Or playing both sides?


Abdul Ajahn, an elder here, voiced a lingering fear.

“If the Taliban shoots from that side, and you are on this side, and I am in between?” he said to the Marines at a meeting arranged by a commander and local elders over the weekend. “Then I am sure you will shoot me.”


How can farmers water and feed their livestock or work on crops without risking being shot? When will it be safe enough to visit the bazaar, which has been all but closed? When will searches of their homes stop? Can the mullah move through the village before dawn to open his mosque for morning prayer?


I'd like to hear the answers myself.

The Afghan official tapped to govern a Taliban-free Marja paid his first visit to this strife-torn community Monday, imploring residents to forsake the Taliban and promising employment programs as an inducement for local men to put down their weapons.


But [Haji] Zahir, a native of southern Afghanistan who spent the past 15 years in Germany, elicited only a tepid endorsement from the men who gathered to meet him. Their questions made clear that the Taliban still enjoys deep support here, while the Afghan government is almost universally loathed, illuminating the deep challenge facing U.S. Marines and civilian stabilization specialists as they try to establish basic civic administration.

"The Taliban provided us with a very peaceful environment," said Fakir Mohammed, 32, a tractor driver. "They did not bother us. We were very happy with them here."

Mohammed said police corruption and malfeasance led residents to support the insurgents. "They were not corrupt like the police," he said.


"Your government drops bombs on us," another said.


[S]everal residents said they were less interested in government services than being left alone. The principal cash crop in Marja is opium-producing poppy, and many farmers are wary that the establishment of local governance and a police force will put an end to what has been a lucrative way of life.


Zahir arrived in Marja aboard a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey helicopter with a contingent of Marine officers and a small retinue of tribal elders who have been living in other parts of Helmand province. He stayed in Marja for only about two hours, not venturing more than 100 yards from where his aircraft landed.


I'm not certain Haji is off to a good start.

The battle taking place in Taliban stronghold Marja is the “initial salvo” in a military effort that could take up to twelve to eighteen months, General David H. Petraeus said today.

  New York

Wow, that's great timing! Just in time for the July 2011 date Obama says we're going to start pulling out. These guys are good!

Check back this summer.

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

Oops, Sorry. Again.

"Initial reports indicate that NATO fired Sunday on a convoy of three vehicles ... killing at least 27 civilians, including four women and one child, and injuring 12 others," the Afghan cabinet said in a statement.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement civilians had been killed as they approached a joint NATO-Afghan unit, but did not say how many.

An investigation has begun, it said.

"We are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives," U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in the ISAF statement.

"I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people and inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission."


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

Juan Cole, Middle East Historian: Afghan Prognosis

Even the WSJ admits that in Marjah, the Marines are not exactly feeling the love from the civilians they have supposedly just liberated. Since the Taliban are typically not as corrupt as the warlords, in fact, to any extent that the US and NATO re-install corrupt warlord types in power, they may alienate the locals. And keeping civilian casualties low so as to win hearts and minds is key here. That task will become more difficult as the US inserts itself more deeply into Pashtun territory, since insurgent villages will have to be defeated. The Soviet occupation produced 5 million externally displaced and 2 million internally displaced, along with hundreds of thousands dead. A campaign in Qandahar could easily displace half a million people, and they might mind. Meanwhile, on Monday, the governor of Dai Kundi asserted that a US airstrike killed 27 persons, mostly civilians.

  Juan Cole

I wonder what counts we would have had in this escapade if we were not constrained to trying to limit civilian casualties.

And what of the NATO coalition responsible for the Marja approach to winning in Afghanistan?

Over the weekend, the center-right government of the Netherlands fell over whether to keep Dutch troops in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan war is universally unpopular in continental Europe, and governments have troops there mostly in the teeth of popular opposition, because NATO invoked article 5 of its charter, 'an attack on one is an attack on all' with regard to the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks. It may take months after the next elections this spring for the Dutch to form a new government, in part because of the surging popularity of the far-right populist anti-Muslim 'Freedom Party' of Islamophobe Geert Wilders-- a smelly party the others will probably not want in their coalition. Holland's 2000 troops are likely to be withdrawn by late summer. Canada's military is also departing Afghanistan. Are these one-off situations, or are they the beginning of a NATO withdrawal over-all, which will leave Obama in the lurch? Australia is already refusing to take up the Dutch slack, and its government is under public pressure to get out, itself.

And the other factor – Afghanistan's ability to take over on its own?

After nearly a decade of training and an investment of $1 billion that Afghan troops are not ready for prime time. In the Marjah campaign, they showed no initiative, no ability to fight independently. They are poorly served by their junior field officers, and they are 90% illiterate. (The NYT reporter expected to see them with maps out planning approaches!) The ethnic make-up of the particular Afghanistan National Army units sent into Marjah is also not clear. Almost no ANA troops hail from Helmand Province, and Tajiks (native speakers of Dari Persian, often from towns and cities) are vastly over-represented in the army. There is often bad blood between Tajiks and Pashtuns, the group that predominates in Marjah.

And lastly, what about the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban?

So far, there is no sign that the Taliban leadership still at large is interested in negotiations. A Taliban spokesman replied to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's call for reconciliation with Kabul over the weekend with a resounding 'No!'. Qari Muhammad Yusuf Ahmadi told the Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto that the Taliban would cease fighting when there were not further foreign troops in his country.


On the other hand, those members of the Taliban shadow government now in Pakistani custody may be less categorical.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And, Oh Yeah...

The Obama DOJ has ruled that the torture memo authors were merely guilty of poor judgment.

Friday, February 19, 2010, the administration of President Barack Obama declared that not only will it not prosecute the avowed and boastful perpetrators and accomplices of the capital crime of torture, it will not impose even the mildest of administrative or professional reprimands upon them. For the foulest of tortures, reaching even to murder, the government of the United States will do nothing: no investigation, no prosecution, no penalty.

  Empire Burlesque

UPDATE 2/22:

Essentially, the current posture of the U.S. to the world is this:
Yes, we implemented a worldwide torture regime that we justified with lawyers' memoranda that were false, wrong, shoddy, lawless, sloppy and extremist, but because those lawyers were such warped radicals, they probably believed what they were saying at the time, so we're going to declare that we had the right to do what we did and are shielded from all consequences, even though we've signed treaties agreeing to prosecute anyone who authorizes torture and demanded that other nations prosecute their own torturers. Besides, we have important things to do and thus want to Look Forward, not Backward.

Doesn't that make you proud?

  Glenn Greenwald

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

Now What About Those Activist Judges?

I wasn't being hyperbolic when I suggested that the end of America arrived with the Supreme Court decision to permit uncapped corporate financing in political campaigns. Nor was I being sarcastic. It struck me as the terminal blow for democracy as it was intended and has been (at least by lip-service) construed since the country was founded. The outpouring of popular involvement in the 2010 election so frightened the country's real rulers that Samson's hair needed to be shorn before he fully woke. Enter the SCOTUS Delilah.

We should not be surprised by the ruling rolling back limits on Corporate participation in elections, since this august body already proved its willingness to overstep its mandates in its decision to undermine Florida's election laws in 2000.

This latest supreme trampling of our laws once again raised a big hullabaloo, but things seem pretty quiet now. What happened? What's happening?

I sometimes have complained that things went south in this country when corporations were granted rights once held to belong to individuals. Certainly there are those more politically savvy than I who held that sentiment. As the law stands now, we've come to the very southern end of the road south. Or, no, I guess that will be when Goldman Sachs is "elected" president, on a Supreme Court ruling that stops the recount called for by Bechtel. Or will it be the other way around?

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court ruled 5-4 that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech and can therefore use their profits to support or oppose individual candidates. The decision appears to open the door to unlimited spending by corporations, trade groups and unions in the weeks leading up to an election, which has been explicitly banned for decades.


It's interesting (in an activist sort of way) that the underlying lawsuit heard by the SCOTUS (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) did not propose any change in the laws regarding corporate campaign contributions. All it did was ask the court to rule on whether the Hillary Clinton flame film was a film pure and simple or a negative campaign ad. The Conservative activists on the bench decided it was a great opportunity to make some new law, without going through Congress. How is a decision like that legal? Not that legal or Constitutional matters in this country any more.

Americans of both parties overwhelmingly oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Eight in 10 poll respondents say they oppose the high court's Jan. 21 decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65 percent "strongly" opposed.


And as Big Dick Cheney might say, so what?

Besides, give Glenn Beck and Fox a little time, and those polls will change. There's a huge population of Americans who don't know what they're for or against, aside from Muslims, liberals and abortion, until Fox tells them.

President Barack Obama [...] said [the court's decision] "opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money" and vowed to push legislation that would "repair the damage."

That presents a tricky task, since overturning the essential verdict would require a constitutional amendment. But last week, congressional Democrats unveiled a bill intended to curb the effects of the decision, with New York Sen. Charles Schumer warning, "If we don't act quickly, the court's ruling will have an immediate and disastrous impact on the 2010 elections."

  Chicago Tribune

That is about what I would expect from a Congress Critter. He's concerned that the decision will impact party power. If the ignoramus would have actually thought before he spoke, he might have more cleverly framed his objection to include something that Republicans could rally behind, should they be so inclined – something like the spirit of democracy. The way he's attacking it, the Republicans are bound by party loyalty to uphold the ruling.

Under legislation being drafted by Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), companies with foreign ownership or federal contracting ties would be limited in their ability to spend corporate money on elections.


It's supposed to make you rest easy, I guess, that "foreign" companies and government contractors wouldn't be allowed to play. Will subcontractors be able to claim they don't have federal contracting ties since they don't directly sign contracts with the government? I would think a fairly smart lawyer could handle that, so I hope they're going to cinch up that legislation good and tight.

The lawmakers also want to require companies to inform shareholders about political spending; to mandate special "political activities" accounts for corporations, unions and advocacy groups; and to require that corporate executives appear in political advertising funded by their companies.

The "disclaimer and disclosure requirements" - as though that might somehow curtail (or at least legitimize) the contributions.

Other likely proposals include banning participation in U.S. elections by bank bailout recipients.

And why not let banks getting federal bailout money play? What about banks who hope to get federal money depending upon which candidate is elected?

The court said corporations are being denied their right to express their views and that citizens are being denied information by banning the corporations from participating more directly and fully in elections. That's absurd. There is no legitimate reason to allow corporations to influence campaigns. A corporation is made up of individuals who already have individual rights to express and influence.

And somebody needs to keep reminding the public that a corporation's sole purpose is to amass wealth, regardless of the ideals of the individuals who come together to create it. It is not concerned with the interests of any one of those individuals, much less that of the public.

And it's not like those corporations don't already have plenty of influence in Washington, is it?

But I'm willing to be a realist. The last political battle belongs to the individual factions which now form the complex that actually runs our government. So who are you voting for – Bechtel or Goldman Sachs? Oh, wait. At last we might get three parties in this country: Military-Industrial, Financial, and Pharmaceutical.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

• Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

• Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.

• Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.

  Move to Amend

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

Oh, Now Here's Some Good News

Israel's air force on Sunday introduced a fleet of huge pilotless planes that can remain in the air for a full day and fly as far as the Persian Gulf, putting rival Iran within its range.


Explain This One to Me

February 11, 2009: Science Applications International Corp. said Thursday it has reeled in a new Army contract potentially worth $12 million to develop advanced training simulators for combat helicopter crews.


SAIC employ[s] 45,000 worldwide in defense, intelligence and other government and commercial high-tech work. It posted annual revenues of $10.1 billion in 2009.

  Orlando Sentinel

July 3, 2009: The Justice Department announced yesterday that it had joined a whistleblower lawsuit filed in federal court in Mississippi asking for a monetary judgment against SAIC, which has already been paid $116 million under the contract.


SAIC, one of the Pentagon's largest contractors, conspired with federal officials to rig a $3.2 billion technology contract and tried to cover up the scheme by destroying documents and electronic records, federal prosecutors said in newly unsealed court documents.


"Those who do business with the government must act fairly and in accordance with the law," Assistant Attorney General Tony West said in a statement. "As this case illustrates, the Department of Justice will actively pursue legal action against both contractors and federal employees who seek to gain an unfair advantage in the procurement process."


Just last summer the Justice Department joined in a lawsuit against SAIC over contract rigging, which surely implies fraud, but now they're getting yet another government contract. Could it have anything to do with the fact that Robert Gates, current Secretary of Defense, ex-CIA director, and a veteran of the Iran-Contra scandal, is a former SAIC board member?

But wait…we know much more about SAIC.

From Sourcewatch:

In 1990 SAIC was indicted and pled guilty to 10 felony counts of fraud on a Superfund site, called “one of the largest (cases) of environmental fraud” in Los Angeles history. [2] SAIC had some 44,000 employees and took in $8 billion in 2006. SAIC "is larger than the departments of Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development combined," reported Vanity Fair. [3] "SAIC's largest customer by far is the U.S. government, which accounts for 69 percent of its business," according to the Center for Public Integrity.


Under "yet another no-bid contract," SAIC created the Iraqi Media Network, supposedly a "free and independent indigenous media network" that quickly became "a mouthpiece for the Pentagon." Eventually, "the network was turned over to Iraqi control. Today it is a tool of Iraq's Shiite majority and spews out virulently anti-American messages." Moreover, SAIC's work on the Iraqi Media Network was criticized by the Pentagon's Inspector General as having "widespread violations of normal contracting procedures."

And permit me, if you will, to reprint an entire post I made January 13, 2005:

A new FBI computer program designed to help agents share information to ward off terrorist attacks may have to be scrapped, the agency has concluded, forcing a further delay in a four-year, half-billion-dollar overhaul of its antiquated computer system. Since the attacks, Congress has given the FBI a blank check, allocating billions of dollars in additional funding. So far the overhaul has cost $581 million, and the software problems are expected to set off a debate over how well the bureau has been spending those dollars.


The bureau recently commissioned a series of independent studies to determine whether any part of the Virtual Case File software could be salvaged. Any decision to proceed with new software would add tens of millions of dollars to the development costs and render worthless much of a current $170-million contract.

Requests for proposals for new software could be sought this spring, the officials said. The bureau is no longer saying when the project, originally scheduled for completion by the end of 2003, might be finished.


Probably a wise decision.

Apparently the program was also considered by the Justice Department, which deemed it unusable for them as well.

The designer of the program is Science Applications International Corp (whose programs are used by Halliburton and the U.S. Navy), which has gotten a number of government contracts in Iraq, including one to "rebuild Iraq's mass media".

So, the FBI is having problems with the SAIC program, the Justice Department nixed it, and lo and behold, the Defense Department also had some problems with another program SAIC was to develop.

March 25th, 2004

Defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. has agreed to pay $484,500 to settle allegations it violated the False Claims Act when designing a computer system program for the U.S. Department of Defense.


The federal government alleged that SAIC repeatedly misrepresented its progress on the project.


The government also alleged it overpaid for SAIC's services and that SAIC's actions delayed the government's implementation of the system.

Corp Watch article

March 25th, 2004

In a scathing report yesterday, the Pentagon's inspector general sharply criticized contracts issued last year to San Diego's SAIC for reconstruction and humanitarian work in Iraq.


In particular, defense auditors highlighted problems with SAIC's work to create a free and independent Iraqi Media Network, or IMN, that was ostensibly to be modeled on Britain's BBC.

The Defense Contracting Command awarded the $15 million contract to SAIC on March 11, 2003, without an acquisition plan or competitive bidding. By the end of September, however, SAIC's costs under the contract had escalated to $82.3 million.

Sign on San Diego article

Read that last article. There are some real humdingers in it.

I wonder how this company keeps getting contracts.

SAIC has been awarded seven contracts by the Defense Department to provide experts and advisers on development of representative government in Iraq; restore and upgrade the country's broadcast media; and provide a group of Iraqi expatriates to assist coalition officials working in the country. The value of the contracts, which were obtained by the Center for Public Integrity under the Freedom of Information Act, was blacked out in copies provided by the Defense Department. A Pentagon FOIA officer said keeping the information secret "was an appropriate way to avoid substantial competitive harm to the contractor" and was "due to the sensitive nature of the Iraqi contracts."


The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to release any specific information on SAIC's media reconstruction work, which has been dubbed the Iraqi Media Network. What little information that has leaked out about the SAIC effort has come mainly from disgruntled employees and press freedom advocates, who have charged the company has bungled the job badly. One report said SAIC had ordered equipment that was incompatible with existing systems in Iraq. [...] There have also been widespread complaints from press freedom organizations about the SAIC effort, including charges of military censorship and cronyism.


David Kay, the former U.N. weapons inspector who was hired by the CIA to track down weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is a former vice president of SAIC. Kay left SAIC, where he oversaw homeland security and counterterrorism work, in October 2002.

Christopher "Ryan" Henry left a senior position at SAIC in February 2003 to become principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy.


Executive vice president for Federal Business and director Duane P. Andrews served as assistant secretary of Defense from 1989 to 1993, when he joined SAIC.

There are more.

The Associated Press describes Science Applications International Inc. (SAIC) as "the most influential company most people have never heard of." The Asia Times calls it "the most mysterious and feared of the big 10 defense giants."


SAIC might best be described as "the-company-of-what's-ha ppening-now" in defense and intelligence. If it's important and it's happening, it's likely that SAIC has piece of the action. The company's ranks overflow with former or retired government person, many from the military and intelligence agencies. Much of SAIC's work is highly classified.

At any given point in time, SAIC's board of directors represents a Who's Who of former military and intelligence officials.


Long before the shooting began SAIC was already at work on Iraq.


[William] Owens also served as president, chief operating officer and vice chair of SAIC. And, Owens is a member of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's internal think-tank, the Defense Policy Board.

Veterans for Peace article (10/03)

SAIC is also a sub-contractor under Vinnell Corporation, another big defence contractor that has long been in charge of training for the Saudi National Guard, hired to reconstitute and train a new Iraqi army.
Peace Redding article

SAIC is also somehow involved in the electronic voting business.

"The American vote count is controlled by three major corporate players, Diebold, ESS, and Sequoia. There's a fourth, SAIC, Science Applications International Corporation, coming on strong. These companies, all four of them, are hard-wired into the Bush power structure and they have been given God knows how many millions of dollars by the Bush regime to complete a sweeping computerization of voting machines that were just used in the 2004 election.
Ratical article

Four main corporate entities are responsible for the proliferation and implementation of this "black box" voting technology: Diebold, ESS, Sequoia, and Science Applications International (SAIC). These ostensibly competitive businesses interconnect with one another and with major corporate sponsors, especially the famed Carlyle Group, of the Bush administration. Their people are his people, so to speak. And vice versa.
ReasonToFreedom article

SAIC was hired to investigate the reliability of Diebold machinery in Maryland.

Aviel Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's Information Security Institute, was asked to review the Diebold code accessible on the company's website and used by its machines. Rubin and his colleagues found numerous security issues with the code, including the use of a consumer version of Microsoft Access as the database in which votes were stored, a product that has few security measures. The report, which garnered front page news in a number of newspapers, was released only days after Maryland had purchased 11,000 Diebold DRE machines at a price of $55.6 million. Maryland then had the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) review Rubin's findings. SAIC verified Rubin's concerns, reporting that they had "identified several high risk vulnerabilities of the managerial, operational, and technical controls for [Diebold's] AccuVote-TS voting system." The SAIC report continued, "If these vulnerabilities are exploited, significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity, and availability of election results."
Couples Company article

I don't know if there's a competition thing going on there, or if there is anything at all untoward in it. A number of articles on the electronic voting fiasco hint that SAIC is involved in some shady way (and given what else we know, I guess that's a pretty safe bet).

It is something to be looked into. But not by me. In the immortal words of the Senate panel on new torture restrictions: too complex.

<---- End Post ---->

Defense contracts, of course, are only some 70% or so of SAIC's income. They're into virtually everything, and globally. Here's another very recent article on a SAIC project that might be of interest:

Will the U.S. flush another $2.4 trillion down the drain?

02/20/10 12:55 AM EST

That’s how much the U.S. economy will lose over the next two decades by continuing current federal policies that limit drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and the continental shelf, according to an independent study by Science Applications International Corp. and the Gas Technology Institute.

The study was commissioned by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and sponsored in part by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

  Washington Examiner

Does SAIC's finding surprise you?

I bet if you try, you could trace the "Independent" Petroleum Association of America to some current DC politicos, too.

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

IPAA is one of the largest energy contributors to both Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress. These contributions total $336,500 to the 110th US Congress (as of the third quarter), the largest of which has been to Rep. John Sununu(R-NH) for $10,000. Rep. Sununu, for his part, has consistently voted with the oil industry on energy, war and climate bills.


Teabaggers Distilled

Teabaggers : My limited understanding of politics makes me so ANGRY I’m going to put on a silly costume and misquote Thomas Paine.

  The Talent Show

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

It's Sunday

Sometimes when I need the illusion that things are getting better, I turn my hymnal to this page from February 4, 2005:

Q : how is it the new plan is going to fix that problem?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it.

Back in Marja

"We're still pushing through the city," said Lt. Josh Diddams, a Marine spokesman. Some of the remaining pockets of insurgents consist of only a tiny handful of fighters, but at least 40 -- a relatively large concentration -- are thought to be holed up in the town's northwest quarter, the Associated Press reported.


NATO said the operation remains "on track," although commanders conceded this past week that clearing operations will take a month or more, somewhat longer than originally envisioned.

  LA Times

We just haven't gotten that 'quick as a flash' thing perfected yet.

Just hours after the Marines and Afghan army began an offensive to drive the Taliban from the community of Marja, a Marine officer told several hundred Afghan men that the goal is to provide the people of Marja with the same peace and prosperity now being enjoyed in Nawa.


The improvements in Nawa since the Marines chased the Taliban from control last summer are noticeable and significant: the bazaar reopened, a clinic established, a school refurbished and opened, a community council formed, irrigation canals cleaned, and Afghan police patrolling the streets and back roads.


Haji Abdul Manaf, the district governor for this region of Helmand Province, [however,] was incensed.

An employee from the agricultural ministry of the provincial government refuses to come to Nawa unless he is assured a desk and a telephone at the district headquarters, where desks and phones are in short supply.


Although there have been improvements recently, the relationship between the district government and the provincial government in Lashka-Gar is tenuous.


[R]ifts between the locals and the provincial government cover nearly all services and are hampering plans to make Nawa into a showpiece of the permanent improvements that can occur when the Taliban are no longer in charge.

  LA Times

Not to worry. Marja is going to get a US-certified 'government in a box.' I'm sure that will be light-years better.

The civilian team's most important immediate task will be to assist the newly appointed district governor, Haji Zahir, who recently returned to Afghanistan after 15 years in Germany. Zahir plans to make his first trip to Marja in the coming days.

A key challenge for the stabilization team and Marine commanders will be transforming Zahir, who does not hail from Marja and knows few people there, into an influential local figure.


Well, good luck with that.

The man with the most sway in Marja is Abdul Rahman Jan, the former police chief in Helmand. His officers in Marja were so corrupt and ruthless — their trademark was summary executions — that many residents welcomed the Taliban as a more humane alternative.

Although Jan, who has extensive ties to narcotics traffickers, was removed from his post in 2005 after pressure from the British government, which was then about to send forces to Helmand, he remains close to Karzai.

Jan injected himself into discussions with tribal leaders in the run-up to the current operation. U.S. and British diplomats say they think he will seek to influence the shape of the future Marja government and police force, in an effort to protect his interests in the area.

"Karzai wants A.R.J. to be the guy calling the shots in Marja, not Haji Zahir," said a Western diplomat familiar with the issue. "That makes building an effective, stable government there a very challenging proposition."

In coming days [...] the coalition expects [Marja] will be secure enough to bring in [Zahir], marking a symbolic shift in emphasis away from the military confrontation and toward job creation, school openings and the setting up of other long-absent public services.

  LA Times

I hope they have a desk and phone lined up.