Monday, March 29, 2010

Light Blogging Week

Moving. Thanks for hanging in. Please be patient.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour

8:30 PM

Friday, March 26, 2010

Straight From the Top

American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, according to military officials in Kabul.

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen.Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year.


That's an admission that would be enough to make a man choke on his pretzel.

Though fewer in number than deaths from airstrikes and Special Forces operations, such shootings have not dropped off, despite new rules from General McChrystal seeking to reduce the killing of innocents. The persistence of deadly convoy and checkpoint shootings has led to growing resentment among Afghans fearful of Western troops and angry at what they see as the impunity with which the troops operate — a friction that has turned villages firmly against the occupation.


Many of the detainees at the military prison at Bagram Air Base joined the insurgency after the shootings of people they knew, said the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall.


It's still not Sunday, but on the heels of the Wisconsin scandal of a priest abusing deaf boys, three deaf Italian men have come forth to make the same claim.

Bisoli, Laiti and 65 other former pupils signed a statement last year saying sexual abuse, pedophilia and corporal punishment occurred at the school from the 1950s to the 1980s.

While not all acknowledged being victims, 14 of the 67 wrote statements and made videotapes, detailing abuse they suffered, some for years, at the hands of priests and brothers of the Congregation for the Company of Mary. They named 24 priests, brothers and lay religious men.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

It Will Soon Be Time to Start Thinking About Vote Fraud Again

Supporters of unverifiable electronic voting, such as election officials and voting machines companies, had long argued that, though manipulation of such systems was possible, nobody had actually ever done so.


All eight defendants in Clay County, Kentucky's election fraud trial have been found guilty today by a federal jury. Six of those eight were high-ranking election officials, including the county clerk, a circuit judge and the school superintendent. The conspirators were charged with having manipulated federal elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 by buying and selling votes and manipulating electronic voting machines.

According to AP, each of the now-convicted felons could face up to 20 years in prison for what prosecutors had described as a conspiracy to manipulate elections for decades in the rural, heavily Republican county.


[O]ne of the witnesses in the case [...] described how she was trained by the county's chief election official, Clerk Freddy Thompson (one of those convicted today), to change votes cast by voters on the county's ES&S touch-screen voting systems after they'd left the voting booth. The witness, Wanda White also detailed how she was instructed to change her own voter registration from Republican to Democratic so that she could serve as a Democratic precinct official.


The ES&S iVotronic touch-screen systems secretly manipulated by the cabal of election officials in Kentucky to change voter's votes, are used in a total of 18 states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.


And There He Goes...

A politician can stick to his principles only so long. There goes Kucinich.

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

Finally the Change!

In 2008, Indonesia empowered a national commission to investigate human rights abuses committed by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime "in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice," and Obama was asked in this interview: "Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?" He replied:

We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards . . . .

When asked last year about whether the United States should use similar tribunals to investigate its own human rights abuses, as well his view of other countries' efforts (such as Spain) to investigate those abuses, Obama said:

I'm a strong believer that it's important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.

  Glenn Greenwald

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

It's Not Sunday, But...

Yet another instance where Joe "the Pope" Ratzinger's office covered up priestly child abuse. And, while it's just one of many, many cases of priestly child abuse, this one's a doozey.

Arthur Budzinski says the first time the priest molested him, he was 12 years old, alone and away from home at a school for the deaf. He says he asked the Rev. Lawrence Murphy to hear his confession, and instead the priest took him into a closet under the stairs and sexually assaulted him.

Budzinski, now 61, was one of about 200 deaf boys at the St. John's School for the Deaf just outside Milwaukee who say they were molested by the priest decades ago in a case now creating a scandal for the Vatican and threatening to ensnare Pope Benedict XVI.


Murphy was accused of molesting boys in the confessional, in dormitories, in closets and during field trips while working at the school for the deaf from the 1950s through 1974.


Some of the allegations became public years ago. But they got renewed attention this week after documents obtained by The New York Times showed that Murphy was spared a defrocking in the mid-1990s because he was protected by the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope.


Is there any more heinous organization than one which protects and thereby makes it possible for its members to molest children?

Church and Vatican documents showed that in the mid-1990s, two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office led by Ratzinger to let them hold a church trial against Murphy.

However, Ratzinger's deputy at the time decided the alleged molestation occurred too long ago and said Murphy — then ailing and elderly — should instead repent and be restricted from celebrating Mass outside of his diocese, according to the documents.

Whoah! That's a little excessive, don't you think?

How anyone could give money to the Catholic Church these days is beyond me.

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

P.S. This all brings to mind the Boys Town of Nebraska scandal where young boys were being used by the archdiocese to entertain and entrap (obviously stupid, in addition to immoral) politicians at private parties. (My November 2004 post on the subject is here.) I wonder how long before the outing of Ratzinger (who was very aware of that sex ring) leads to some well-known politicians. Or, will it once again get clamped down and covered up?

Time for a Treat

Update: More tree sculptures in Galveston.

Some people found a way to turn Hurricane Ike's tree damage on Galveston Island into something wonderful.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good God

No change here.

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

Not Exactly His Finest Moment

President Barack Obama awkwardly kept a promise Wednesday he made to ensure passage of historic health care legislation, pledging the administration would not allow federal funds to pay for elective abortions covered by private insurance.

Unlike Tuesday, when a beaming Obama signed the health care law in a nationally televised ceremony interrupted repeatedly by applause, the White House refused to permit coverage of the event.


If we don't see it, it doesn't happen?

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nothing to Crow About

Kaiser Health News has a new article today -- headlined: "Doctors, Hospitals, Insurers, Pharma Come Out Ahead With Health Bill" -- which begins as follows: "Most health industry sectors are winners -- some bigger than others -- under sweeping health care legislation that will expand coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans over the next decade, analysts say." It details the massive benefits each industry receives (compared to their mild costs) [and] the success they had in killing any real competition and reform in the bill (i.e., the public option, Medicare expansion, drug-reimportation, bulk price negotiations, and an end to the insurers' anti-trust exemption).


one wants to argue that this is a good bill, that's reasonable, but to claim that it is an example of Democrats' "standing up to special interests and the health insurance lobby" is so blatantly false that everyone -- especially supposedly independent commentators -- should be deeply embarrassed to espouse it.

  Glenn Greenwald

Staffed with the very best from the league of conventional politics, [Obama's] team bought off PhRMA (with the promise not to use market forces to force market prices for prescription drugs), and the insurance industry (with the promise[...] that they would face no new competition from a public option), so that by the end, as [Glenn] Greenwald puts it, the administration succeeded in "bribing and accommodating them to such an extreme degree that they ended up affirmatively supporting a bill that lavishes them with massive benefits." Obama didn't "push back on the undue influence of special interests," as he said today. He bought them off.

  Huffington Post

At the public's expense.

And while we're trading and buying….

The health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama Tuesday requires members of Congress and their office staffs to buy insurance through the state-run exchanges it creates – but it may exempt staffers who work for congressional committees or for party leaders in the House and Senate.

Staffers and members on both sides of the aisle call it an “inequity” and an “outrage” – a loophole that exempts the staffers most involved in writing and passing the bill from one of its key requirements.


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

Monday, March 22, 2010

Checking in on Iraq

With 95 percent of the votes now counted, the Iraqiyya coalition has extended its national lead over State of Law to 11,346 votes.

That could be why prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has now personally asked the Independent High Electoral Commission for a recount.

  The Majlis

Even with the undoubted vote fraud on behalf of Maliki, he's losing? And losing badly enough to ask for a recount before the counting is done? Sounds like somebody who expected the rigging to show a different outcome by now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Meanwhile in Marja

MARJAH, Afghanistan -- Explosions rumble through this former Taliban stronghold three or four times a day - an ominous sign that the insurgents have not given up despite losing control of this town to U.S. and Afghan forces about two weeks ago.


Taliban fighters scattered but have not abandoned the fight - and are using homemade bombs as their weapon of choice.

New bombs are planted every night, even though Marines say they find and render safe more of them than explode.


[C]oping with the daily blasts and hunting for bombs takes up time that could be [spent] helping set up a local Afghan administration.


As the Marines improve their bomb-detection skills, the insurgents have begun to adapt to Marine tactics.


On Thursday, two Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles - heavily armored personnel carriers known as MRAPS - struck bombs within a couple of hours.


The southern Afghan town of Marja is still contested, even though U.S., NATO and Afghan forces wrested control from the Taliban in a three-week offensive in February and early March.

  Concord Monitor

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the fact that it is still contested mean that control has not been wrested from the Taliban? Are you in control if you're still being attacked daily?


7 Years

Senior Bush administration officials, including former President George W. Bush himself, have been asked to give testimony before a British committee investigating the basis for the invasion of Iraq, according to a published report.

  Raw Story

What do you think the odds are?

Other officials contacted by the panel include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Bush adviser Stephen Hadley, among others.

"Members of Sir John Chilcot's panel are believed to be willing to travel to the US to take evidence – almost certainly in private – on the administration's policies between the 2003 invasion of Iraq and 2009," The Telegraph reported on Sunday.

They'd most likely find themselves on a "no fly" list.

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

7 Years

Speaking of Health Care

A US doctor and a development consultant visited Iran in May [2009] to study a primary healthcare system that has cut infant mortality by more than two-thirds since the Islamic revolution in 1979.


Then, in October, five top Iranian doctors, including a senior official at the health ministry in Tehran, were quietly brought to Mississippi to advise on how the system could be implemented there.


The southern state has the highest levels of child obesity, hypertension and teenage pregnancy in the US. More than 20% of its people have no health insurance.


The idea of looking for solutions in Iran emerged when James Miller, a consultant based in Mississippi, was called in to advise a rural hospital in financial difficulty. He was shocked to find that the state had the third highest medical expenditure per capita, but came last in terms of outcome.

Miller, managing director of Oxford International Development Group, remembered a conference in Europe where Iranian officials had explained how their country had revolutionised its healthcare system.

  Times Online

Yes, Iran. (And by the way, Cuba is training American doctors. On Cuba's dime.) Very interesting article. Read it for yourself.

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

It's Sunday

Saturday, March 20, 2010

And Then There's This...

America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster.


And what has become of all the billions of dollars this program has cost America? Government investigators aren't entirely sure.


Since January 2007, upwards of 2,000 police have been killed in action—more than twice the figure for Afghan Army soldiers. U.S. officers say as many as half the police casualties were a result of firearms accidents and traffic collisions.


At a March 12 briefing on Afghanistan with his senior advisers, [President Obama] asked whether the police will be ready when America's scheduled drawdown begins in July 2011, according to a senior official who was in the room. "It's inconceivable, but in fact for eight years we weren't training the police," replied Caldwell, taking part in the meeting via video link from Afghanistan. "We just never trained them before. All we did was give them a uniform." The president looked stunned. "Eight years," he said. "And we didn't train police? It's mind-boggling." The room was silent.


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

Winning Hearts and Minds

February 12, 2010: More than at any time since 2001, American and NATO soldiers will focus less on killing Taliban insurgents than on sparing Afghan civilians and building an Afghan state.

“The population is not the enemy,” Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the commander of the Marines in southern Afghanistan.


The chief worry among both American and Afghan commanders is that if a large number of civilians are killed, the Afghan government — including its sometimes erratic president,Hamid Karzai — could withdraw its support.


March 16, 2010: Covert troops who killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl in eastern Afghanistan went on to inflict “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” on the survivors of a botched night raid, a report by the UN said.


The report, written in the aftermath of the February 12 attack, states: “As a result of the operation, five people were killed, two men and three women, all belonging to the same family.” There were about 25 guests and three musicians at the house on the night of the raid. They had gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn child.

  UK Times Online

March 16, 2010: Local elders delivered $2,000 (£1,300) in compensation for each of the five victims to the head of the family, Haji Sharabuddin, after protests brought Gardez, the capital of Paktia, to a halt. “I don’t want money. I want justice,” he said. “All our family, we now don’t care about our lives. We will all do suicide attacks and [the whole province] will support us.”


The family suspect that a spy may have deliberately misled the assault force and the relatives have appealed to President Karzai to hand him over.


“The foreigners are always talking about human rights. But they don’t care about human rights,” said Gulalai’s father, Mohammed Tahir. “They teach us human rights then they kill a load of civilians. They didn’t come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists.”

Mohammed Sabir, whose wife, Bibi Shirin, was killed, suggested vengeance: “If the Americans don’t give us the spy, bring us seven Americans and we will kill them.”

The family count seven deaths, not five, because the two women were pregnant.


“Before, when I heard reports of raids like this and elders said [foreign troops] only came to colonise Afghanistan, I told them they are here to help us,” said Sayed Mohammed Mal, the vice-chancellor of Gardez University, whose son Mansoor was [one of the murdered women's] fiancĂ©. “But when I witnessed this in my family’s home, I realised I was wrong. Now I accept the things those people told me. I hate [foreign forces]. I hate the Government.”

Afghan officials insist that the raid was a mistake.

  UK Times Online


Friday, March 19, 2010

On Political Correctness

I have from time to time in this blog expressed amazement that the officials in our country do not take more care to think before they speak. It is not that I am without blame there myself. I especially remember an incident in the early 70s when I was sharing an apartment in a Marin County California town. My roommate and I were longhaired, bell-bottomed, peace-loving, and some other things that I will not offer here - characteristics that were in those days associated with hippies. There was a young man in a neighboring apartment of similar character, whose name I forget. It may have been Tom, but I'm not certain. Whatever, we called him "The Hippie."

The Hippie was an artist working in stained glass. He rode a bicycle everywhere he went, and he had one eye that looked straight out to the right. It was his right eye. Or maybe it was his left eye that looked straight out to the left. At any rate, he had one eye that tracked 90 degrees from the other eye.

One day, The Hippie was in our apartment, and he and my roommate were discussing an actor named Jack Elam. I said the name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. They began to try to jog my memory, describing him as a burly man who played mostly cowboy rolls. A lightbulb went off in my head, and I said, "Oh, yeah! The guy with the gouch eye." The room became dangerously quiet as the two of them stared at me (The Hippie with just one of his eyes), nodding slowly and slightly, while I tried to pretend that no faux pas had been uttered.

But then, I was not a practiced public official, and was probably stoned.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On to Kandahar! Sort of

With Marja barely in the “hold” phase [...] it came as a surprise in [Gen. Stanley] McChrystal’s briefing yesterday when the commanding general of NATO forces told reporters that “instead of putting a date certain on which there would be a climactic military operation, I tell you, that process has already begun.”

What he meant was that he’s seeding the bed with local leaders to enter the city, so that his forces enjoy maximum political legitimacy when they arrive.


McChrystal: "If you control the environs around Kandahar, you go a long way to controlling Kandahar. And so unlike a Marja operation, where there was a D-day and an H-hour for part of the operation, it is more likely that this will be a series of activities that target different parts of it to increase that security."

  Washington Independent

And, speaking of Marja…

A month after losing control of their southern base in Marjah, the Taliban have begun to fight back, launching a campaign of assassination and intimidation to frighten people from supporting the U.S. and its Afghan allies.

At least one alleged government sympathizer [a mosque leader] has been beheaded. There are rumors that others have been killed. Marjah residents awake to letters posted on their doors warning against helping the troops.


"My sense is that the Taliban will reinfiltrate in due course as the Afghan government fails to live up to the modest expectations NATO has of it," says Mervyn Patterson, a former U.N. political affairs expert in Afghanistan. "I do not think that the Taliban have been weakened in Helmand by the loss of Marjah.


New cell phone towers brought phone service to Marjah a little over a week ago. But the service doesn't work at night because the Taliban threaten or bribe tower operators to shut off the network, presumably to prevent people from alerting troops and police as they plant bombs after dark.


"My sense is that the Taliban will reinfiltrate in due course as the Afghan government fails to live up to the modest expectations NATO has of it," says Mervyn Patterson, a former U.N. political affairs expert in Afghanistan. "I do not think that the Taliban have been weakened in Helmand by the loss of Marjah.


Military commanders believe the Taliban campaign is achieving some success because of questions raised at town meetings: Do the U.S. forces want to shut down the mosques and ban prayer? Will they use lookout posts on their bases to ogle women? Are they going to take farmers' land away?


I'd say that second answer would be a big you betcha.

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

Chris Floyd on Health Care Reform

The usual line is something like, "If we don't pass this horrible bill, we won't get another shot at real health care reform for 20 years." Or as Kucinich himself put it (somewhat inelegantly): "This is a defining moment for if we will have any opportunity to move off square one on health care."
This seems to me to be the exact opposite of the truth. In reality, if this horrible bill passes, we will be stuck with it for 20 years, because no Democratic politician -- "progressive," "pragmatist," or otherwise -- will want to go near the issue again. You can already hear the "savvy" counsel party bigwigs will dispense if anyone tries to "move off square one" on health care in the foreseeable future: "For God's sake, don't rake all that up again! Don't you remember the hell we went through getting that damn thing passed in 2010? You want to give the Republicans another club to beat us over the head with? We've done 'reform.' Leave it alone."

However, if this bill (which almost every "progressive" has declared is a misbegotten, corruption-ridden, botulistic glop of indigestible legislative sausage -- even as they threaten to wage holy war against anyone who votes against it) is defeated, then the ground will be cleared for genuine reform. A real leader could then say: "OK, we tried it your way. We brought in the corporations. We courted the Republicans shamelessly. We gave away the game on day one, took all our cards off the table, compromised every value we profess to hold. We backed down, we turned tail, we sold out. And it didn't work. Now, we're going to do it for real. Single-payer, universal: that's where we start, and by God, that's where we finish, or somewhere damn near to it. And if you don't like it -- well, let us refer you to the famous words uttered by Dick Cheney to Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate on that historic day in 2004."

If the bad bill is defeated, you can bring up a good bill in every Congressional session -- yes, for the next 20 years, if need be. Hell, you can bring it up every week. And if you beat the drums for genuine health care reform with even one-tenth of the strength and fervor that the Obama team lavishes on demonizing Iran, protecting torturers and enriching the criminal rich, then you wouldn't need 20 years -- or 20 weeks -- or 20 days -- to get it passed.

That's what a real leader could do. But of course, there is not even the shadow of a semblance of a real leader within 500 miles of the festering core of the Potomac Empire.

  Chris Floyd

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And As I Started Out This Day...

I'll end it with...

Good luck.

Mubarak Update

Or...President Mubarak is still not dead.

The appearance of ailing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on television has done little to allay concerns about the political future for Cairo, analysts said.


State television Tuesday, however, showed footage of the president seated beside two doctors in his German hospital ward.


More on the Shipment to Diego Garcia

According to this report, the company is Superior Maritime Services, and they are being paid around $700,000 for the work.

Contract details for the shipment to Diego Garcia were posted on an international tenders’ website by the US navy.

  Vos Iz Neias

According to Ian Davis, director of the new independent thinktank, Nato Watch, the shipment to Diego Garcia is a major concern. “We would urge the US to clarify its intentions for these weapons, and the Foreign Office to clarify its attitude to the use of Diego Garcia for an attack on Iran,” he said.

For Alan Mackinnon, chair of Scottish CND, the revelation was “extremely worrying”. He stated: “It is clear that the US government continues to beat the drums of war over Iran, most recently in the statements of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

“It is depressingly similar to the rhetoric we heard prior to the war in Iraq in 2003.”

The British Ministry of Defence has said in the past that the US government would need permission to use Diego Garcia for offensive action. It has already been used for strikes against Iraq during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars.

About 50 British military staff are stationed on the island, with more than 3,200 US personnel.


Even As We Speak

Reports emerged this weekend from Scotland’s Sunday Herald that the US government has contracted with a Florida company to ship a massive amount of weaponry, including hundreds of bunker buster bombs, to Diego Garcia.


The island’s proximity to Iran suggests it may be used as a staging ground for US air strikes against the nation.


The Sunday Herald report also cites numerous experts as saying that the lack of publicity for the move, just one of several examples of the Obama Administration adding major amounts of weaponry to the area around Iran, suggests they believe a confrontation is more likely.


And I guess our military doesn't move its own equipment any more. Or was that part of the secrecy? Who owns that Florida company?

Be Patient, Iran, We Have Not Forgotten About You

We will never forget about you.

[Even] though the Obama Administration is employing the exact same tactics in demonizing Iran that the Bush Administration employed with Iraq -- right down to the use of the highly respected, internationally renowned New York Times as a "stovepipe" for warmongering propaganda -- no one seems able to grasp what is happening. We still get earnest debates and fretful questions about the "direction" and "intentions" of the current administration's policies toward Iran.

The intention is this: domination, by any means necessary.

  Chris Floyd

This is a somewhat lengthy (entertainingly written) post jammed with information about our long-standing designs on Iran. I highly recommend reading the whole thing (which is why I didn't excerpt more of it).

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


[W]ounded romantic nationalism [...] is a pathetic remnant of the twentieth century, which polished off tens of millions of human beings over wet dreams about "blood and soil." There isn't any "blood" or "pure" "races," and human groups have no special relationship to territory. My complaint about the treatment of the Palestinians is that they have been left stateless and without citizenship or rights. I'm not a Palestinian nationalist who insists that they return to what is now Israel (though they should receive compensation for lost property if they don't). The Germans weren't always in Germany (in fact they are relative newcomers), and they aren't of 'pure' 'blood,' and the 200,000 Jews in contemporary Germany--some of them Israelis-- have as much right to be there as anyone else. Most Germans and most Ashkenazi Jews have a relatively recent female common ancestor. As a species and subspecies, we are from southern Africa, and that only about 100,000 years ago. If someone is nostalgic for the Old Country, they should try Gabarone, Botswana. And say hello to Mma Ramotswe for me.

  Juan Cole

On to Armageddon

Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem were repressed by Israeli security forces on Tuesday, leaving over 100 persons wounded


Fear that the Israelis will attempt to push the Palestinians altogether out of East Jerusalem lay behind some of the anxieties that provoked Tuesday's demonstrations.


Aljazeera is saying that the demonstrations and clashes spread from Jerusalem to Ramallah and Hebron (where the Israelis have inserted a synagogue into the mosque over the alleged tombs of Abraham and the patriarchs).

  Juan Cole

Bethlehem, 16 March (Ma'an) -- Dr Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, condemned the Israeli policies of dictating terms, settlement activity, provocations, and attacks on holy sites, similar to the ones that took place on 16 March. Erekat said: No sooner did the Arab world, the Palestinian leadership, and the international community announce to the US Administration their decision to launch proximity talks in a bid to end the conflict, than the Israeli Government disregarded this decision by issuing tenders for the construction of settlements, carrying out raids, dictating, assassinating, laying siege, imposing closures, and taking provocative steps of a religious nature.


Erekat also noted that he has been mandated by President Mahmud Abbas to travel to Moscow, carrying with him written messages, documents, and maps for Quartet members, which shed light on the inflammatory Israeli practices in Jerusalem. He further argued that the Israeli policies are playing with fire and adding fuel to it. Therefore, the written messages urge the international community to intervene immediately in order to curb the Israeli occupation and force it to halt its practices and unavailing policies.

  Ma'an News

President Irrelevant's Hypocrisy Is Showing Again

Last month,Eli Lake reported that Obama has simply failed to make a single appointment to, or even activate the budget of, The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the body created pursuant to the report of the 9/11 Commission to safeguard civil liberties in intelligence activities; it has thus been completely dormant. And, with a few very mild exceptions, Obama -- since he was inaugurated -- has affirmatively embraced one radical secrecy doctrine after the next that used to be controversial among Democrats (back when Bush used them).


And indeed, all year long, there's been a series of disclosures about highly controversial intelligence programs that appear to be "off-the-books" and away from the oversight of the Intelligence Committee. In late January, it was revealed that the President was maintaining a "hit list" of American citizens he had authorized to be assassinated far from any "battlefield," followed by yesterday's story describing the use of shadowy private contractors to collect intelligence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


To their credit, Congressional Democrats -- over the objections of right-wing Republicans -- have been [attempting] to severely narrow the President's power to conceal intelligence activities from the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and abolish the "Gang of Eight" process.


Yet these efforts to ensure transparency and oversight have continuously run into one major roadblock: Barack Obama's threat to veto the legislation. Almost immediately after leading Democrats on the Intelligence Committee unveiled their legislation last year, the Obama White House issued a veto threat with extremely dubious (and Bush-replicating) rationales: such oversight would jeopardize secrecy and intrude into "executive privilege." In response to Obama's veto threat, Democrats spent the last nine months accommodating the White House's objections by significantly diluting their legislation [...] and two weeks ago the House passed that diluted bill.

[A]s Walter Pincus reports today in The Washington Post, Obama is now threatening to veto even this diluted bill.


In other words, the Obama White House -- just as was true for the Bush White House, and using the same rationale -- does not want any meaningful oversight (i.e., briefings beyond the absurd Gang of Eight sham) on whether it's breaking the law in the conduct of its intelligence activities.


On the same day he threatened to veto this oversight and transparency legislation, President Obama issued a proclamation celebrating "Sunshine Week" and hailing himself and his administration as "the most open and transparent ever." He further praised himself as follows: "We came to Washington to change the way business was done, and part of that was making ourselves accountable to the American people by opening up our government."


Marcy Wheeler notes what is probably the worst part of all of this, something I consider truly despicable: the administration is also threatening to veto the bill because it contains funding for a new investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, on the ground that such an investigation -- in the administration's words -- "would undermine public confidence" in the FBI probe of the attacks "and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions."

As I've documented at length, not only are there enormous, unresolved holes in the FBI's case, but many of the most establishment-defending mainstream sources -- from leading newspaper editorial pages to key politicians in both parties -- have expressed extreme doubts about the FBI's case and called for an independent investigation. For the administration to actively block an independent review of one of the most consequential political crimes of this generation would probably be its worst act yet, and that's saying quite a bit.

  Glenn Greenwald

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

Good Luck

Monday, March 15, 2010

Any Truth to the Rumor...

...that Mubarak died in surgery?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It May Be a Joke Now....

Murray Hill for Congress

The firm, whose clients include labor unions and environmentalists, is seeking to enter the Republican primary for the 8th District seat held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The firm "wanted to run as a Republican because we feel the Republican Party is more receptive to our basic message that corporations are people, too," Klein said, adding that his client has no particular beef with Van Hollen.


It's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there.

The Madoff Era Becomes Official

Let your class war begin in earnest.

Click to go there.

Deja Vu

[In] March 9, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates paid a visit to Now Zad, another town in Helmand, which Marines have fought hard to liberate from the Taliban. To demonstrate the success of the U.S. military mission, Gates walked down a street in Now Zad and chatted with shopkeepers. Gates described Now Zad as a former “ghost town, a no-go zone” where now “stores are opening, people are returning.” However, in the words of Anne Gearan of the Associated Press, “Gates' walk, with armed guards in front of and behind him and soldiers dressed for battle posted all along his short route, also showed the limitations of the U.S. and NATO military campaign.”

As for the reborn town of Now Zad, which was once the second most populous town in Helmand, so far only 2,500 of its 30,000 former residents have returned.


Walking freely in Afghanistan. Just like a farmer's market in Indiana.

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

And What of Israel?

On January 16, [...] a team of senior military officers [...] arrived at the Pentagon to brief JCS Chairman Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow...and too late."


The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus's instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. "Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling," a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. "America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding."

  Foreign Policy

And recently Joe Biden went to Israel, perhaps to put Israel on notice, as well as remind us that Israel is our best friend, followed immediately by an increase in Israel's expansion into the West Bank.

[A]ccording to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth,[Biden] engaged in a private, and angry, exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister.[...] "This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

And in the immortal words of Dick Cheney, I expect he was answered with, "So what?"


Gregg Carlstrom answers the question, "Does America's "special relationship" with Israel serve its strategic interests?"


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

Iraqi Vote Fraud?

Two men, three purple fingers....

Yes, I do bounce around from serious to silly. Isn't that an appropriate response to a world out of balance?

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

Support Our Troops

"Where their morals are at odds with their survival instincts."

An Open Letter to Iraq Veterans Against the War Members and Supporters From David Zeiger, Director of This is Where We Take Our Stand and Sir! No Sir!


Winter Soldier happened in the last year of the Bush administration, and it was the most powerful condemnation of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that I have seen. Your testimony laid bare the insane, relentless brutality of those wars and the hypocrisy of Bush’s claims that you were there to bring “freedom and democracy” to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. You made it clear that it was the policy of the government and military that was criminal. And you brought into the open the courageous, profound opposition to the wars that exists within the military and veterans’ community.

But what about now? Millions of people expected the Obama administration to change those policies and end the occupations. Well, where is that change?


What’s most horrifying for me is seeing the slaughter continue today with hardly a peep from those who would have loudly objected when Bush was in charge. So, perhaps ironically, Winter Soldier is today more relevant and urgent than ever. This is not about the past, as Obama has often said, but about what is happening right now.


Support Our Troops

After filing an official complaint over inadequate mental health services at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, Army SPC Marc Hall was jailed on December 12, 2009 on the pretext of an angry song about “Stop-loss” he produced in July 2009. The Army has recently shipped SPC Hall to Kuwait where he remains jailed awaiting a virtually secret trial.


It's Sunday

Dear Father Bill [Breslin],

I see you're catching a lot of hell for expelling that little girl because her parents are lebanesian homosexualists, but I thought the Archbishop's explanation was perfect--It's a Catholic school, so students' families are required to obey important Catholic teachings.


Maybe people would understand your policy better if you expelled another student for something other than her parents' homosexualism. Certainly, some of the mothers are taking birth control pills and some of the fathers are putting those little rubber* man-juice collectors on their manfully hard O'Reillys. That's a serious violation of the Church's teachings about contraception. The children should pay for their parents attempt to turn a procreative chore into happy happy fun night at Gomorrahland.

  Jesus General

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

It's Sunday

From "The Truth Group" at Tangle (and seen at JG):

The Real Enemy

The Opinion "Cats are native to earth" has died.

They aren't. Because humans lack the proper visual aids (i.e. astral feline spectrometers) that would clearly reveal cats to be the galactic invaders that they actually are, humans have historically assumed that cats are from our planet. We could not be more wrong. Our weakly constructed assumption regarding the meowing Warhol rats has taken us down the garden path to clumpy litter boxes, the culinary wonder known as Hair Ball Upchuck Surprise and Late Night Cat Ass Theater (as played out on my chest around 3:45 a.m.--it's not as sexy as it sounds). It all gets much, much worse, which amuses these felons no end.


[Has any] self-satisfied nativist ever plummeted to [his death], having begun the descent of a stairway just as a feline times its open-field running to coincide with one's setting one's foot down on a perilous step--a mad adjustment ensues, an ankle is twisted, and a hopeless human cascades unto death, all at the paws of space invaders? These stairway murders, which occur daily all over America, are the work of aliens: malevolent, whiskered interlopers sent here to purr in our laps like mechanical harlots, only to lull us into a false sense of bestial familiarity.


The Opinion is survived by a field mouse, a terrified, worldly little field mouse. You can see the absolute horror in his eyes: he knows a hawk from a handsaw, by gum. And you should too.

  MJS at Jesus' General

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

Are We Almost There Yet?

In Iraq, where we had, it seemed, decided that enough was enough and we should simply depart, the calls from a familiar crew for us to stay are growing louder by the week.

The Iraqis, so the argument goes, need us.


As 2009 ended, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was suggesting that new negotiations might extend the U.S. position into the post-2011 years. (“I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see agreements between ourselves and the Iraqis that continue a train, equip, and advise role beyond the end of 2011.”) Centcom commander General David Petraeus agrees. More recently, Gates added that a “pretty considerable deterioration” in the country’s security situation might lead to a delay in withdrawal plans (and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed that this is a possibility). Vice President Joe Biden is already talking about re-labeling “combat troops” not sent home in August because, as he put it in an interview with Helene Cooper and Mark Landler of the New York Times, “we’re not leaving behind cooks and quartermasters.” The bulk of the troops remaining, he insisted, “will still be guys who can shoot straight and go get bad guys.”


In Iraq, only one thing is really known: after our invasion and with U.S. and allied troops occupying the country in significant numbers, the Iraqis did descend into the charnel house of history, into a monumental bloodbath. It happened in our presence, on our watch, and in significant part thanks to us.

  Tom Englehardt

The Bush Administration never had an exit plan, because there was never any plan to exit. That was only in Obama's campaign speeches.

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

The Decline and Fall of the US Empire

This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.

Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs — in the form of Treasury bonds — which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg's municipal offices.


Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn't be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come.

  Social Security

Bad planning on the government's part. If you can't afford a war, don't get into one.

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

Speaking of Afghanistan...

The Old Taliban of Mullah Omar hit Qandahar late Saturday with the largest coordinated bombing campaign since 2001, killing at least 35 persons and wounding 56. A spokesman said that the movement had targeted Qandahar on hearing the plans of Gen. Stanley McChrystal pledge that the US will mount a major campaign to clear Qandahar of the Taliban.

  Juan Cole

Bring 'em on.

It's Sunday

Surprise! Joe "the Pope" Ratzinger covered up priest pedophilia.

Germany's sex abuse scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI: His former archdiocese acknowledged it transferred a suspected pedophile priest while Benedict was in charge and criticism is mounting over a 2001 Vatican directive he penned instructing bishops to keep abuse cases secret.


Boy, that's unprecedented in the annals of the church.

The archdiocese said there were no accusations against the chaplain, identified only as H., during his 1980-1982 spell in Munich, where he underwent therapy for suspected "sexual relations with boys." But he then moved to nearby Grafing, where he was suspended in early 1985 following new accusations of sexual abuse. The following year, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors.

Because, guess what? When you cover for an abuser, he goes on abusing.

The pope, meanwhile, continues to be under fire for a 2001 Vatican letter he sent to all bishops advising them that all cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to his then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.


An Irish government-authorized investigation into the scandal and cover up harshly criticized the Vatican for its mixed messages and insistence on secrecy in the 2001 directive and previous Vatican documents on the topic.


In the United States, Dan Shea, an attorney for several victims, has introduced the Ratzinger letter in court as evidence that the church was trying to obstruct justice. He has argued that the church impeded civil reporting by keeping the cases secret and "reserving" them for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"This is an international criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice," Shea told The Associated Press.

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Go Get 'Em, Bernie

[T]he White House decided that it had to use reconciliation to pass a final health care reform bill. That meant that any changes to the Senate bill (which had passed with 60 votes) -- including the addition of the public option -- would only require 50 votes, which Democrats assured progressives all year long that they had. Great news for the public option, right? Wrong. As soon as it actually became possible to pass it, the 50 votes magically vanished. Senate Democrats (and the White House) were willing to pretend they supported a public option only as long as it was impossible to pass it. Once reconciliation gave them the opportunity they claimed all year long they needed -- a "majority rule" system -- they began concocting ways to ensure that it lacked 50 votes.


Faced with the dilemma of how they could possibly justify their year-long claimed support for the public option only now to fail to enact it, more and more Democratic Senators were pressured into signing a letter supporting the enactment of the public option through reconciliation; that number is now above 40, and is rapidly approaching 50. In other words, there is a serious possibility that the Senate might enact a public option if there is a vote on it, because it's very difficult for these Senators to vote "No" after pretending all year long -- on the record -- that they supported it. In fact, The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim yesterday wrote: "the votes appear to exist to include a public option. It's only a matter of will."


[A]ny one Senator can introduce a public option amendment during the reconciliation and force a vote -- and it now seems that Bernie Sanders, to his great credit, is refusing to go along with the Democrats' sham and will do exactly that: ignore the wishes of the Senate leadership and force a roll call vote on the public option.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

What He Said

Dennis Kucinich opposes the corporate-coddling health care boondoggle pushed by the White House -- and he is called an accomplice in mass death by progressive paladin Markos Moulitsas. Kos even levelled the most dread epithet in the entire progressive canon at Kucinich's opposition: "It's definitely a very Ralph Nader-esque approach .. a very unrealistic and self-defeating approach."

So this is where we've come to. Ralph Nader, who has spent decades fighting corporate power, often successfully (which is more than Kos can say), is now a figure of scorn and derision -- his very name a perjorative term -- among our leading "progressives."

And why? Because Nader dared to offer an alternative to the bipartisan consensus of Militarism and Money in the 2000 election. And this, according to the unrealistic and self-defeating mythology of serious progressives, is what threw the Florida vote -- and thus the election -- to George W. Bush. This fairy tale persists despite the fact that the recounts carried out by the media consortium after the election clearly showed that Al Gore received more votes than Bush in Florida, regardless of Nader's total. It was Al Gore and his fellow establishment Democrats who "threw" the election to George W. Bush by refusing to challenge the result in Congress, by refusing to confront the transparent fraud and corruption at the very heart of the political process, and to use the tools provided them by the Constitution to uphold the will of the electorate.

  Chris Floyd

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

There'll Be No Leaving Afghanistan

Aside from Patrick Kennedy's angry lament that the media was not present during the heated debate on Dennis Kucinich's move to end the war in Afghanistgan by the end of the year, it turns out that there are 65 representatives who voted with Kucinich. I'm actually quite surprised that there were that many.

The vote was 65-356, with vast majorities from both parties opposing the resolution to end the war. Rep. Kucinich and his 19 co-sponsors delivered impassioned pleas to end the conflict, but they appear to have ultimately fallen on deaf ears.

In fact, much of the debate from the “no” side came in the form of questioning whether the debate should have happened at all, including speculation that Rep. Kucinich and others had “forgotten about 9/11″ and that they were deliberately trying to undermine America in seeking to end the eight and a half year war.


Sickening, but not surprising.

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


Obama's Mideast policy lies in tatters this morning and US credibility as a broker of any future settlement was deeply wounded.

  Juan Cole

I don't know how you can wound a dead animal.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, announced Wednesday that he had been informed by Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that the latter has pulled out of indirect talks with Israel. Late Wednesday, the Arab League itself reversed its earlier cautious endorsement of the proximity talks, recommending that that support be dropped.


The talks were likely deliberately sabotaged by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had his Interior Minister announce the construction of 1600 new households in Occupied East Jerusalem the day before they were scheduled to begin. In fact, Israel is actively planning 50,000 further housing units on occupied Palestinian territory.


Since 1949, the US has given Israel over $100 billion in direct aid, and the indirect forms of aid are orders of magnitude greater. That the vice president of the United States (and therefore the president himself) were ambushed by the prime minister in this arrogant and nearly sadistic manner raises the severest questions about why US taxpayer money should flow in such enormous amounts to a country that is actively and on a massive scale violating the Hague Agreement of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of populations by occupiers.

Sort of like dealing with the Republican party.

The security implications for the US are enormous. Many European allies feel strongly that Israel is an aggressor state in the region, and when Obama asks them for help in the fight against al-Qaeda, they may feel that Washington's coddling of Israeli colonialism produced much of the radicalism that they are now asked to spend blood and treasure combating.

And they would be right.

Maybe we are seeing the beginning of the outing of the damaging relationship the US has with Israel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What He Said

RIP Granny D

But I bet she won't be resting.

Monday, March 08, 2010

No Wonder It Didn't Turn into a Falluja

There was nobody there.

For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a "city of 80,000 people" as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand.


It turns out, however, that the picture of Marja presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict.


"It's a collection of village farms, with typical family compounds," said the official, adding that the homes are reasonably prosperous by Afghan standards.


Richard B. Scott, who worked in Marja as an adviser on irrigation for the U.S. Agency for International Development as recently as 2005, agrees that Marja has nothing that could be mistaken as being urban. It is an "agricultural district" with a "scattered series of farmers' markets," Scott told IPS in a telephone interview.

The ISAF official said the only population numbering tens of thousands associated with Marja is spread across many villages and almost 200 square kilometres, or about 125 square miles.


Marja has never even been incorporated, according to the official, but there are now plans to formalise its status as an actual "district" of Helmand Province.


So how did the fiction that Marja is a city of 80,000 people get started?

The idea was passed on to the news media by the U.S. Marines in southern Helmand.


The rest of the news media fell into line with that image of the bustling, urbanised Marja in subsequent stories, often using "town" and "city" interchangeably.


As "Operation Moshtarak" began, U.S. military spokesmen were portraying Marja as an urbanised population centre. On Feb. 14, on the second day of the offensive, Marine spokesman Lt. Josh Diddams said the Marines were "in the majority of the city at this point."

He also used language that conjured images of urban fighting, referring to the insurgents holding some "neighbourhoods".


The COIN manual asserts that news media "directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counterinsurgents, their operations and the opposing insurgency." The manual refers to "a war of perceptions…conducted continuously using the news media."


I swear you can't believe a thing these sunzabiches tell us.

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

The Very Definition of Irony


  Juan Cole

Nothing good can come of this.

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

Sunday, March 07, 2010

It's Sunday

The American Taliban in Texas:

An evangelical Christian hate group called “Repent Amarillo” is reportedly terrorizing the town of Amarillo, Texas. Repent fashions itself as a sort of militia and targets a wide range of community members they deem offensive to their theology: gays, liberal Christians, Muslims, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, “spring break events,” and pornography shops. On its website, Repent has posted a “Warfare Map” of its enemies in town.


The group, which is associated with Raven Ministries, collaborates with other Christian groups as well as forced pregnancy advocacy associations like “Bound 4 Life.”

  Think Progress