Friday, April 29, 2011

Wha??? Massachusetts???

The Democratic-controlled Statehouse in Massachusetts voted earlier this week to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, as part of the state's budget measure. It passed by a vote of 157 to 1.


"These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected," Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Robert J. Haynes said in a media advisory. "The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions."

He also pledged that the unions would fight this arrangement "to the bitter end."

  Raw Story

But the bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. Senate President Therese Murray said Wednesday that she was pleased the House had “moved the needle” on the contentious issue of health care costs, but she has not endorsed the plan.

Dave Falcone, a Senate spokesman, said Friday that Ms. Murray “has been consistent in her message that something has to be done, that there has to be savings, and that everyone should have a seat at the table.”

While Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has not pledged to sign the bill if it reaches his desk, he proposed a similar plan early this year and praised the House this week for its “important” vote.


We could have told you that the Democrats are just the other arm of the Republican party any more. Now what are you going to do?


This is why I don't "listen" to "news." I turned on NPR this morning, and the first thing I heard was a report on the "Royal Wedding" wherein the reporter declared that the most impressive thing about it (according to himself, AND, he claimed the crowd) was the bomber that flew over.

The next report was regarding the serious conditions in Syria in which the reporter made every statement end with an upturn in inflection, as though she weren't telling us something, but rather asking us about it. Valley Girl reporting on NPR. I didn't even make it past the first minute of that report before shutting off the radio.

Fer crissakes. If this is what we get with public funding, I don't think I care if the Republicans take all the tax dollars away from it. (Which, by the way, is less than 6% of NPR's budget.)

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

Afghanistan: SNAFU

At least nine American members of the NATO occupation force were killed today in Kabul Airport when an apparent argument with a pilot turned into a shootout. The pilot killed eight NATO soldiers and one NATO civilian contractor before being slain himself.

The pilot had been employed as a pilot for 20 years, although the Afghan Defense Ministry claimed today that he suffered from some unnamed “mental illness.”


It is the second time in as many week that eight NATO soldiers have been killed in a single day, and raised the already record April death toll even further.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


What in the name of Sam Hill difference does it make if Obama can produce a birth certificate saying he was born in the US?

Number 1: The Constitution provides that anyone who is a "natural born citizen" can be elected president. And, number 2: Title 8 of the U.S. Code defines "nationals and citizens of the United States at birth" to include:

(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years.

Is Kansas in the United States?

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Residents of a US Gulf town have been told to stay indoors and turn off their air conditioners after power failures at a nearby BP refinery and Dow Chemical plant, officials said.

Texas City Emergency Management director Bruce Clawson, raising fears of a potential blast, said the order was issued to residents after BP lost power to the entire facility at 11:00pm (0400 GMT Tuesday).

"They are taking all the hydrocarbons and flaring them so they don't blow up," he told AFP. "Not everything is burning up. Hydrocarbons are being released into the air."


At least nine tall flares could be seen from a nearby highway, according to the Galveston County Daily News, which first broke the story.


The same facility was the site of a deadly explosion and fire in 2005 that killed 15 workers and wounded another 170.


The Texas City facility is BP's largest refinery. Last August BP agreed to pay a record 50.6-million-dollar fine for safety violations at the refinery, on top of billions in fines and compensation payouts related to that year's massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


Good old BP. How do they stay in business I wonder.

Stay indoors and turn off your a/c. I believe I'd leave town if I'm going to be surrounded by air I shouldn't breathe.

Color me callous: at least Texas City is across the bay. If it burns, there’s water between me and it and the wind blows in their direction.

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meanwhile in Afghanistan: The Greater Escape

Almost 500 Taliban fighters and commanders tunnelled out of a prison in an audacious jailbreak in southern Afghanistan which the government admitted on Monday was a security "disaster".

  Raw Story

More Light on Guantanamo

Wikileaks has farmed out new files to several newspapers around the globe relating to the US prison at Guantanamo.

WikiLeaks is responsible for more newsworthy scoops over the last year than all media outlets combined: it’s not even a close call. And if Bradley Manning is the leaker, he has done more than any other human being in our lifetime to bring about transparency and shine a light on what military and government power is doing.


The idea of trusting the government to imprison people for life based on secret, untested evidence never reviewed by a court should repel any decent or minimally rational person, but [...]vnewly released files demonstrate how warped is this indefinite detention policy specifically.


The NYT describes the case of Omar Hamzayavich Abdulayev – placed in Guantanamo in 2002 when he was 23 (he’s now 32) and one of the detainees just ordered indefinitely detained by Obama. The newly released files reveal what the NYT calls “the haunting conclusion of his 2008 assessment: ‘Detainee’s identity remains uncertain’.” In other words, the person who has been in Guantanamo for 9 years – most of his adult life – and whom Obama just ordered detained indefinitely with no charges, very well may not even be the person we think he is.

  Glenn Greenwald

The documents, more than 750 individual assessments of former and current Guantanamo detainees, show an intelligence operation that was tremendously dependent on informants — both prison camp snitches repeating what they'd heard from fellow captives and self-described, at times self-aggrandizing, alleged al Qaida insiders turned government witnesses who Pentagon records show have since been released.

Intelligence analysts are at odds with each other over which informants to trust, at times drawing inferences from prisoners' exercise habits. They order DNA tests, tether Taliban suspects to polygraphs, string together tidbits in ways that seemed to defy common sense.

  McClatchy via Glenn Greenwald

Because Bush tortured some of the [Guantanamo] detainees, [...] Obama [claims he is] incapable of prosecuting them [since evidence obtained under torture is not admissible], yet because many of those detainees are Terrorists and/or Too Dangerous to Release (even though they can't be convicted of anything), he has no real choice but to keep imprisoning them without charges.


[A]t least people who are prosecuted using torture-obtained evidence have the opportunity to defend themselves in court and to call into question the reliability of that evidence. [...] Anyone who supports indefinite detention on this ground is doing something much worse than justifying the use of torture-obtained evidence to prosecute someone: they're justifying imprisonment without trials based on evidence they know -- and which they admit -- was obtained by torture.

  Glenn Greenwald

Here's a Name I Might Have Changed

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks associate who WikiLeaks claims took, without authorization, many WikiLeaks files when he left.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Manning Disgrace

Supplementing my post regarding Obama’s public declaration of Brad Manning’s guilt before he has even been tried:

[I]in response to [a reporter] raising the case of Daniel Ellsberg, we have this from Obama:

No it wasn't the same thing. Ellsberg's material wasn't classified in the same way.

What Obama said there is technically true, but not the way he intended. Indeed, the truth of the matter makes exactly the opposite point as the one the President attempted to make. The 42 volumes of the Pentagon Papers leaked by Ellsberg to The New York Times were designated "TOP SECRET": the highest secrecy designation under the law. By stark contrast, not a single page of the materials allegedly leaked by Manning to Wikileaks was marked "top secret"; to the contrary, it was all marked "secret" or "classified": among the lowest level secrecy classifications


In response to the controversy created by Obama’s declaration of Manning’s guilt, the White House now says that the President merely was "making a general statement that did not go specifically to the charges against Manning: 'The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act,' [a White House spokesman said] Friday night. 'He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically'.

  Glenn Greenwald

Say what? He specifically said about Manning, “He broke the law.”

Maybe they should just pull a Kyl and say it wasn’t meant to be a factual statement.

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

Don't Even Say the Word

Legislation that prohibits teachers from discussing homosexuality and even saying the word "gay" in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms was approved by a key committee in the Tennessee State Senate on Friday.

  Raw Story

And next come the thought police.

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

Catch the Wave

Several thousand demonstrators marched peacefully in Moroccan cities Sunday to demand more democracy and social justice despite King Mohammed VI's concessions, including the release of political prisoners.

Protest rallies began Sunday morning in Casablanca, Tangiers and Marrakesh, correspondents said, while others were scheduled later in the day in Rabat and Fes in response to a call by the pro-reform February 20 Movement.

  Raw Story

It's Sunday

And it's dry down here in Texas.

Republican Governor Rick Perry has issued an official proclamation urging Texans to pray for rain in the midst of a severe drought that has sparked more than 8,000 wildfires.

  Raw Story

How to spend your time wisely.

Perry proclaimed Friday, April 22 to Sunday, April 24, as days of prayer for rain in Texas, suggesting residents of all faiths ask god to restore Texans' normal way of life.

Supply your own wise cracks. They must be coming to your mind at a furious pace.

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

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Syria Update

Four people have been killed in the Syrian town of Douma, a witness told Al Jazeera, after security forces on the ground and snipers on rooftops opened fire on a crowd of thousands of mourners gathered to bury protesters killed on Friday.

The AFP news agency reported on Saturday, citing witnesses, that two people had also been killed in firing on those attempting to join funeral processions in the town of Izraa.

  al Jazeera

Dear Mr. Obama, surely you can’t allow this egregious humanitarian affront go unanswered, eh? We surely have enough money in the coffers for more drones. If not, we can do away with unemployment insurance. Or have we already?

How about these charts from the Congressional Budget Office (via Wiki)?

Let's assume that they are at least close to correct. Is it just me, or does it look as though Social Security taxes actually just about cover both Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid outlay? And does it appear that individual taxpayers are covering the defense budget, most of which goes into the coffers of corporations, who seem to be paying very little in return? Let's even say that the 9% corporate taxes all goes to the defense budget. That still leaves 11% for individual taxpayers to cover. Taxpayers who are receiving nothing for it, except the false assurance that they are being kept safe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meanwhile in Syria

At least 88 people are reported to have been killed in Syria in the bloodiest day since the uprising began, as security forces use live ammunition and tear gas to quell anti-government protests across the country, according to Amnesty International, the London-based rights group.

  al Jazeera

Well, I guess we have to bomb Syria, too, then.

A Nation of Laws

Following a fundraising speech on Thursday, President Obama was asked about the case of whistleblower Bradley Manning.

He responded, “I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source. That’s not how…the world works. If you’re in the military, and — I have to abide by certain classified information. If I was to release stuff that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law…We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate… He broke the law.”

  Raw Story

You know, guilty until proven innocent, and all that rot.

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

Tell Me Again...Why Do They Hate Us?

An American drone attack killed 23 people in North Waziristan on Friday, Pakistani military officials said, in a strike against militants that appeared to signify unyielding pressure by the United States on Pakistan’s military amid increasing public and private opposition to such strikes.


A government official in North Waziristan told Pakistani reporters that five children and four women were among the 23 who were killed.


And Pakistan is supposedly still our ally.

[I]sn't it painfully obvious that however many “militants” we're killing, we're creating more and more all the time?

  Glenn Greenwald

Well, it is to me, Glenn.

Isn't it obvious that the stated goal of all of this – to reduce the threat of Terrorism – is subverted rather than promoted by these actions?

It is to me.

I wonder if those people around the world who were so excited when Obama took the White House are still feeling that way. And I wonder if the Nobel Peace Prize committee has turned in its resignation.

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update on Brad Manning

He's being transferred from Quantico to Kansas.

Once at Leavenworth, he’ll be placed in a new medium-security facility. Although locked in a cell at night, he’ll have some freedom of movement in an open day room, have contact and take meals with fellow prisoners, shower when he wants and have access to books and TV. He will also have three hours a day of recreation time.

His transfer to Leavenworth comes a bit more than a week after a U.N. torture investigator complained that he was denied a request to make an unmonitored visit to Manning.


Both White House and Pentagon officials grew increasingly concerned by the human rights drumbeat of public accusations and criticism of Manning’s treatment and wanted to put an end to it, they said.


Manning's defense attorney, David E. Coombs, said the timing of the move was not a surprise.

"The defense was in the process of filing a writ of habeas corpus seeking a court ruling that the Quantico Brig violated PFC Manning’s constitutional right to due process," Coombs wrote on his blog.


Officials agreed that Manning's case, which involves hundreds of thousands of highly sensitive and classified documents, is very complex and could drag on for months, if not years.


Defense Department general counsel Jeh C. Johnson said the Leavenworth facility would better serve Manning during a lengthier confinement before his trial. The brig at Quantico is meant for short term stays, usually of one to two months. he said.


Manning’s time there? Eight-plus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taxes Aren't for Everyone

More here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Laws Aren't for Everyone - Part II

After being asked by an audience member [during a 2008 campaign rally] whether [Obama] would "promise" not to use signing statements to override Congressional statutes, he stated simply "yes," and then elaborated. [...]Citing his credentials as a Constitutional Law professor, Obama explained that "Congress' job is to pass legislation," and when that happens, a President has only two options: "the President can veto it or sign it." In contrast to Bush -- who, Obama said, "has been saying 'I can change what Congress passed by attaching a statement saying I don't agree with this part, I'm going to choose to interpret it this way or that way'" -- Obama said he, by contrast, believes "that's not part of [the President's] power." He punctuated his answer as follows: "we're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress."


But on Friday [... when] signing the budget bill into law, he attached a signing statement objecting to some provisions as an encroachment on executive power but still vowing to obey them (such as restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees), but then explicitly stated that he would ignore the provision of this new law that de-funds his so-called "czars" (which are really little more than glorified presidential advisers). [...] In other words, [...] he's going to use funds for exactly the purpose that Congress, in a bill he signed into law, flatly prohibited.

  Glenn Greenwald

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oooooh, Scary

“The chairman of the U.S. Senate’s investigative subcommittee said he believes Goldman Sachs officials made misleading statements about their trading during the financial crisis and should be investigated criminally. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said on Wednesday that he plans to refer Goldman officials, and potentially officials from other organizations, to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

  Jonathan Turley

That’s rich. Considering the Justice Department’s bent and the fact that half the president’s advisors are ex-Goldman Sachs officials.

Another Bush-Cheney-type tactic where you bring the case in order to clear the perpetrators and prevent them any further hassles.

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

Laws Aren't for Everybody

Nor, apparently, common civility.

New released documents from the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that [Senator James Inhofe (R, Ok.)] intentionally landed his Cessna on a closed runway at a south Texas airport. The move reportedly endangered construction workers who had to scatter from his path as he “hopped” over them and at least six vehicles.

None of this was made public and no criminal charges were brought.


[The construction supervisor on the scene] describes Inhofe as showing no sense of guilt. Instead, he seemed angry that his path was not cleared: “He come over here and started being like, ‘What the hell is this? I was supposed to have unlimited airspace.’” In a second call, he added “He was determined to land on that runway come hell or high water evidently.” He added, “I’m still shaking…I was in the middle of the runway, I headed for high country. [...][A truck driver] was scared to death. I mean, hell, he started trying to head for the side of the runway.”

  Jonathan Turley

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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Over There

Remember how we were supposed to leave Iraq in 2011? [...] [N]ow, we have Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Pentagon hinting very strongly that we’ve changed our minds and aren’t leaving after all. The Iraqis aren’t too happy about this, with some of them going out into the streets and demanding the US live up to its agreement and go already.

  Justin Raimondo

Egyptians are back in Tahrir Square, and the sainted Egyptian army is shooting at them. Not only that, but they’re arresting bloggers again – this time for failing to show sufficient respect for the armed forces

  Justin Raimondo

Barack on the Campaign Trail

US President Barack Obama accused his Republican foes of wanting to turn the United States into a "Third World" country Thursday as he rallied support for his reelection campaign.

  Raw Story

And he doesn’t want them to get the credit for it.

Expect more pretty, touchy feely speeches espousing traditional Democratic values from Obama for the next two years. But don’t expect him to actually use his power as president to bring any of those values to fruition. He’s a sweet-talker when he wants a date.

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

WI Governor Scott Walker: Unrepentant Union Buster

And not afraid to admit it.

WI Gov Walker testified in D.C today and admitted his budget plan [to strip workers of collective rights] wouldn't save the state any money.

KUCINICH: Would you answer the question? How much money does it save, Governor?

WALKER: It doesn’t save any.

  First Draft

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

And What Is Significant About April 15?

That’s right. It’s Live Blog: Middle East protests April 15

Plus, a specific report on Syria:

Pro-democracy protests have taken place in several cities in Syria, a day after Bashar al-Assad, the country's president, attempted to calm mounting opposition to his rule [by killing over 25 protesters].

Around 2,500 people marched in the Syrian town of Daraa on Friday, chanting slogans calling for the "freedom" of the southern town, which has been the epicentre of protests against President Assad's rule.

"Between 2,500 and 3,000 people showed up at Al-Saraya area in the centre of the city, chanting slogans in favour of freedom and against the hostile regime," a human rights activist told the AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Protests are also under way in Baniyas, Homs, Latakia and Deir ez Zor, as well as in the Douma suburb of the capital Damascus.

al Jazeera

Speaking of Libya

[Barack Obama:] “The UN mandate “is not to remove Qaddafi by force. [...] However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.”

So we don’t have a mandate to remove Qaddafi by force, but we’ll use military operations to build pressure on his regime until he is out of power. I totally see the distinction.


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

For Your Reading Pleasure

In case you didn't hear the president's proclaimed budget ideas, get the gist from WIIIAI, with parsing, of course.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The World in Reverse

Tax cuts for the rich -- budget cuts for the poor -- "reform" of the Democratic Party's signature safety net programs -- a continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies and a new Middle East war launched without Congressional approval. That's quite a legacy combination for a Democratic President.

All of that has led to a spate of negotiation advice from the liberal punditocracy advising the President how he can better defend progressive policy aims -- as though the Obama White House deeply wishes for different results but just can't figure out how to achieve them.


[O]nce Obama lends his support to a policy -- no matter how much of a departure it is from ostensible Democratic beliefs -- then most self-identified Democrats will support it because Obama supports it, because it then becomes the "Democratic policy," by definition. Adopting "centrist" or even right-wing policies will always produce the same combination -- approval of independents, dilution of GOP anger, media raves, and continued Democratic voter loyalty -- that is ideal for the President's re-election prospects.


That tactic in the context of economic policy has the added benefit of keeping corporate and banking money on Obama's side (where it overwhelmingly was in 2008), or at least preventing a massive influx to GOP coffers.


When does [Obama ever] offer stirring, impassioned defenses of the Democrats' vision on anything, or attempt to transform (rather than dutifully follow) how Americans think about anything? It's not that he lacks the ability to do that. Americans responded to him as an inspirational figure and his skills of oratory are as effective as any politician in our lifetime. It's that he evinces no interest in it. He doesn't try because those aren't his goals. It's not that he or the office of the Presidency are powerless to engender other outcomes; it's that he doesn't use the power he has to achieve them because, quite obviously, achieving them is not his priority or even desire.

  Glenn Greenwald

[H]ere are five policy decisions the president has taken since the 2010 midterm elections that have annoyed the base that propelled him to the White House.
1) Cutting $39 Billion In Domestic Spending [...]
2) Giving Up On Civilian Trials For Terror Suspects [...]
3) Intervening In Libya Without Asking Congress [...]
4) Extending The High-End Bush Tax Cuts [...]
5) Appointing Corporate Executives To Key White House Positions [...]

  Raw Story

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Other Army Is Being Asked to Desist

The New York Times newspaper said Pakistan has demanded that the US steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it put on hold CIA drone attacks aimed at fighters in northwest Pakistan.


The reductions were personally demanded by the chief of the Pakistan army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

  al Jazeera

CIA drone attacks. And you thought the CIA was an intelligence-gathering organization.

Pakistani officials complain that the CIA has been freelancing on its soil, running dozens of US citizens doing low-level espionage missions in their country.


[T]he Pakistanis want the CIA to identify all its employees in Pakistan.


In all, about 335 American personnel - CIA officers and contractors and Special Operations forces - were being asked to leave the country.

About 335, plus the ones that haven’t been identified?

I guess it never hurts to ask, but this is how the CIA spokesperson delivered it:

"The United States and Pakistan share a wide range of mutual interests, and today's exchange emphasised the need to continue to work closely together, including on our common fight against terrorist networks that threaten both countries."


Former Republican senator: We have homophobes in our party

Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson blasted socially conservative members of the Republican Party on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews on Monday.

"We have homophobes in our party," Simpson, who served as a senator from 1979 to 1997, admitted.

Raw Story

That’s okay. A lot of them are homos.

Trumps says he’s Obama’s ‘worst nightmare’

Raw Story

Not just Obama.

Donald Trump appeared on his weekly Fox News segment Monday morning and claimed that the White House is dreading the possibility of running against him.

“I’m leading a lot of polls and doing very well,” Trump told the Fox News hosts. “I can tell you I’m their worst nightmare. I am not the person that they want to run against.”

You’re not really even a person, Donald.

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

Obama Has Lost Cornel West

Princeton professor and famed black intellectual Cornel West has long been a supporter of President Barack Obama, but he’s recently changed his tune.
In an interview last week, he suggested that Obama has sold out and become “a puppet” of powerful interests, merely promising change and not delivering.

  Raw Story

And the man’s an optimist…

West warned that this would thrust the U.S. into a “democratic awakening” the likes of which the nation had not seen in decades.


Amid a very heated discussion of whether President Obama is doing enough for black people in America, he called the president “another black mascot” of “Wall Street oligarchs.” This made civil rights activist Al Sharpton extremely unhappy and the discussion essentially disintegrated from there.

There’s a video at that link, in which, if you can sort out the cross-ranting, West complains to Sharpton that Obama doesn’t say a word about the fact that black men are routinely stopped and frisked when he goes to New York, but that “if it was bankers getting frisked, he’d say something.”

Progressives: They Used to Be Called Democrats

As the focus on Capitol Hill shifts to America's long-run fiscal woes, Congressional progressives are one step ahead of the White House and Democratic leaders in offering a counter-proposal to the House GOP approach.

The broad sketch proposes to end the Bush-era tax cuts on high income earners, enact a surtax on millionaires and billionaires, increase the the estate tax and eliminate corporate tax loopholes and subsidies for oil and coal companies. It also aims to create a public health insurance option, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and invest $1.45 trillion in "job creation," energy, housing and education programs.


"This budget is transparent, straightforward and realistic about where we are in America right now," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the progressive caucus, told Raw Story. "The Ryan plan, for all the credit it gets for thinking big, doesn’t reflect the reality of the American economy. It destroys the successful programs that made this country strong, especially Medicare and education, and doesn't even try to explain how it creates jobs. It reflects a faith that making government disappear will somehow create prosperity."

The plan is a nonstarter in the GOP-led House and would have a hard time winning over more than a handful of Democrats in the Senate. But Grijalva and his progressive caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) wrote a letter urging Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the top Democrat on the budget committee, to consider their ideas in the Democratic counter-offer this week.

  Raw Story

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


A U.S. Marine reservist and a Navy corpsman were killed in a drone airstrike in Afghanistan last week in an apparent case of friendly fire, U.S. military officials tell NBC News.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith and Navy Corpsman Benjamin Rast were reportedly killed Wednesday by a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. Air Force Predator in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity, NBC reported. Smith and Rast were part of a Marine unit moving in to reinforce fellow Marines under heavy fire from enemy forces outside Sangin in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Brad Manning and the US Third World Regime

A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier held in a military prison accused of being the WikiLeaks source. It is the kind of censure that the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world.

Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said: "I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr Manning."


Mendez, who has been investigating complaints about [Manning's] treatment since before Christmas, said the US department of defence would not allow him to make an "official" visit, only a "private" one. An "official" visit would mean he meets Manning without a guard present. A "private" visit means with a guard and anything the prisoner says could be used in the planned court-martial.

Mendez pointed out that his mandate was to conduct unmonitored visits, and that had been the practice in at least 18 countries over the last six years.


He said: "My request for a private, confidential and unsupervised interview with Manning is not onerous: for my part, a monitored conversation would not comply with the practices that my mandate applies in every country and detention centre visited."

  UK Guardian

Late last week, Manning’s counsel, David Coombs, documented that the Quantio brig was failing to follows its own rules, as it denied "official visit" authorization to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a representative of Amnesty International, and Juan Mendez, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture formally investigating Manning’s detention conditions.


The Guardian reports this morning, a letter signed by "more than 250 of America's most eminent legal scholars" that "includes leading figures from all the top US law schools, as well as prominent names from other academic fields" -- featuring "Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who is considered to be America's foremost liberal authority on constitutional law"; who "taught constitutional law to Barack Obama and was a key backer of his 2008 presidential campaign"; and "joined the Obama administration last year as a legal adviser in the justice department, a post he held until three months ago" -- not only denounces Manning's detention but also the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner's personal responsibility for it.

  Glenn Greenwald

The list of professors who have signed the protest letter includes leading figures from all the top US law schools, as well as prominent names from other academic fields. Among them are Bill Clinton's former labour secretary Robert Reich, President Theodore Roosevelt's great-great-grandson Kermit Roosevelt, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union Norman Dorsen and the writer Kwame Anthony Appiah.


The protest letter, published in the New York Review of Books, was written by two distinguished law professors, Bruce Ackerman of Yale and Yochai Benkler of Harvard. They claim Manning's reported treatment is a violation of the US constitution, specifically the eighth amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and the fifth amendment that prevents punishment without trial.

In a stinging rebuke to Obama, they say "he was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency".


[Manning] has been held in the military brig since last July, charged with multiple counts relating to the leaking of thousands of embassy cables and other secret documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Under the terms of his detention, he is kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, checked every five minutes under a so-called "prevention of injury order" and stripped naked at night apart from a smock.


As commander in chief, Obama is ultimately responsible for Manning's treatment at the hands of his military jailers. In his only comments on the matter so far, Obama has insisted that the way the soldier was being detained was "appropriate and meets our basic standards".

  UK Guardian

I think he means our “base” standards.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

They Don't Believe in Science Anyway

Liberals have more gray matter in a part of the brain associated with understanding complexity, while the conservative brain is bigger in the section related to processing fear, said the study on Thursday in Current Biology.

  Raw Story

And just how do we go about decreasing the fear side and increasing the complex understanding side? Or is that hopeless?

So There!

The son of a Wisconsin lobbyist [Jerry Deschane] whose firm heavily donated to Gov. Scott Walker (R) has unexpectedly quit his appointed post just days after media reports criticized the governor for picking him over candidates far more qualified for the lavishly paid state job.


His qualifications: dropping out of college, working for a few Republicans, working for a lobbyist shop and getting busted a couple times for DUI. Other candidates for the job, who sported much weightier qualifications, were not even interviewed.


Walker had previously called Deschane's son a "natural fit" for the job, but the Sentinel noted that after its initial report that Walker's administration claimed it had only just heard of their staffing agency's decision.


Brian Deschane, 27, was initially given a job that earned $64,728-a-year, but within two months was bumped up to a position that earned over $81,000. He was demoted earlier this week, after Gov. Walker came under heavy rhetorical fire in the media for the hire.

Raw Story

So he quit. And don’t expect any donations from him, Walker.

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

Well, That's Settled

Now that you know that the government is not going to shut down (phew!) but that there will be some painful cuts for people (phew! bankers aren't people, so they're safe), I will tell you why I didn't post anything during all the drama of the possibility of a government shut down (gasp!)

It's because there was never any threat of that. It was always and only a matter of how far the Republicans would get the Democrats to bend, and that was never very difficult to do. The only issue was in the bargaining - not in the possibility of an actual shutdown.

We are so addicted to drama.

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

Take Your Pick

From al Jazeera:

Isn't it great that we're not at war?

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

Friday, April 08, 2011

With Friends Like This...

An apparent NATO airstrike slammed into a rebel combat convoy Thursday, killing at least five fighters and sharply boosting anger among anti-government forces after the second bungled mission in a week blamed on the military alliance.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I Want to Believe

Sign of the Times

Yeah, Wisconsin, I hear ya. But it's the way this country rolls.

Downhill to Hell.

It Pays to Remember

Raw Story makes a short list of Obama's broken promises.

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

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's Sunday

Ten foreign UN workers were killed on Friday in an attack on the UN headquarters in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif by demonstrators protesting at the burning of the Koran by a US pastor, police told AFP.


Afghanistan had condemned the "disrespectful and abhorrent" burning of the Koran by evangelical preacher Pastor Wayne Sapp in a Florida church, calling it an effort to incite tension between religions.

  Raw Story

The Rapture can't come soon enough for me. And while God's at it, can he please take his radical Islamic children, too?

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

Friday, April 01, 2011

April Fools

Yesterday, I posted about Obama signing a presidential directive to allow the CIA to conduct secret operations in Libya and scoffed at the idea that he thinks he controls the CIA, saying: “as if they aren’t already there.”

Today, I read in Justin Raimondo’s post that:

[S]omeone in the Obama administration leaked the news that the CIA has had its boots on Libyan ground for at least the past three weeks.

Now I am convinced that those who have been claiming Obama to be naïve are indeed right. He apparently just found out from the leak that the CIA were already there and, by signing that silly directive, attempted to give the impression that he, Benevolent Emperor, gave them permission. What a douche.

[T]his is transnational progressivism in action. This is what [writer Andrew] Sullivan and his fellow fools voted for, and now they’re getting it. All the whining about how its "fantastically contrary to what [Obama] campaigned on" is yet more evidence of cultic blindness.


Of course Libya is crawling with CIA, as well as British, French, and Italian spooks, and what they’re gathering is a lot more than "intelligence": they’re out there collecting potential "leaders" among the rebels, choosing up sides, determining who will go on the payroll and who will be quietly sidelined or eliminated.

No shit. How could anyone who wasn’t born yesterday think otherwise? I’d be more surprised to find out that there is somewhere – anywhere – that the CIA isn’t.

And, back to Obama’s desire to look and be imperial:

The "Arab Spring" that was previously being celebrated and closely watched the world over has now been co-opted and transformed into something else entirely. Faced with the prospect of losing its Middle Eastern allies to a wave of uprisings, the Americans have decided to go with the flow, so to speak, and try to control it as best they can.

Not “the Americans,” Justin. The Empire.

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

The Emperor Is the Law

[Recently], Hillary Clinton told the House of Representatives that "the White House would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission." [...] As Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman noted, Clinton was not relying on the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (WPR); to the contrary, her position is that the Obama administration has the power to wage war in violation even of the permissive dictates of that Resolution.

Glenn Greenwald

Which is, after all, asserting the idea he has long championed - that the President has ultimate power.

I defy anyone to identify any differences between the administration's view of its own authority -- that it has the right to ignore Congressional restrictions on its war powers -- and the crux of Bush radicalism as expressed in the once-controversial memos by John Yoo and the Bush DOJ. There is none. [...] If anything, one could argue that [Bush counsel John] Yoo's theory of unilateral war-making was more reasonable, as it was at least tied to an actual attack on the U.S.: the 9/11 attacks. Here, the Obama administration is arrogating unto the President the unilateral, unrestrained right to start wars in all circumstances, whether or not the U.S. is attacked.

But what Clinton's stated view really harkens back to is the Iran-contra scandal, when the Reagan administration funded the Nicaraguan contras despite an express Congressional prohibition on doing so, and then took the position -- when exposed -- that Congress has no power to restrict its national security decisions. That position was pioneered in 1987 by then GOP Rep. Dick Cheney.


[L]eave aside the fact that both Obama and Clinton as Senators and presidential candidates insisted exactly the opposite when they specifically argued that Congress could legally require Bush to obtain Congressional approval before bombing Iran and generally that Presidents have no power to start wars without a vote from Congress. It was true during the Bush years and it is true now that this is an absolute distortion of the "Commander-in-Chief" power of Article II.


[O]nce a government engages long enough or pervasively enough in a certain form of criminality or corruption, the citizenry is trained to accept it and collectively ceases to resist it, even learns to embrace it. to wage war in violation even of the permissive dictates of that Resolution. And, of course, the Obama administration has indeed involved the U.S. in a major, risky war, in a country that has neither attacked us nor threatened to, without even a pretense of Congressional approval or any form of democratic consent.

Yes, and that’s pretty much where we are. Let me specifically stress a point that Greenwald makes in this article, because it appears to not be very clear to many people:

The "Commander-in-Chief" power means nothing more than, once a war starts, the President is the top General with the power to decide how it is tactically prosecuted.


Alexander Hamilton, the founder most enthusiastic of executive power [emphasized in constructing the Constitution that the] British King could start wars on his own; the American President cannot, as that power is reserved exclusively for Congress.


The one and only safeguard against tyranny is that political leaders are subjected to the constraints of the Constitution and law (we're a nation of laws or a nation of men, said Adams: you must choose).


It may be common, and it may produce good outcomes, and it may be a longstanding problem, but there's no question that Obama's commencement of this war without Congressional approval, and especially Hillary Clinton's announcement that Congress has no power to restrict the President in any way, are acts of pure imperial lawlessness.

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