Sunday, May 31, 2009

Political Dynasties,Iran and the Internet, it's a Nuclear Summer!

George Bush, Bill Clinton
David Frum
Kevin Drum
Richard Clarke

One of the interesting thing about politics is the tendency to create family dynasties, with more than one generation climbing out on the branch, reaching for that political plum. Here in Colorado we have elected Mark Udall and appointed the East Coast carpetbagger Michael Bennet, not to mention such national heavyweights such as Kennedy and Bush. Internationally there is the Ghandi brand, not to mention Little Kim Il...

This is especially the case throughout Asia, recently discussed in the Times of India after 25 children, brothers, or wives of former representatives were sworn in after the recent elections: "Indian politics appears to be a family business, with a parliamentary seat almost an heirloom to pass on.

But while much fuss is made about money's influence on politics, another form of privilege - blood or marriage - is taken for granted. Like money, blood is not enough to guarantee victory, but it improves the odds. "
I don't know if it's because we are a simple people and prefer name the recognition of politicians we know and treat like B movie actors, which explains Jessie Ventura and Arnold Schwartzenegger being voted for Governors, or a polymorphous perverse masochistic tendency to do it to ourselves until it hurts, like the dear old banana slug... Heh, heh, or, it could be worse, we could always do like the Europeans and Arabs and call them royalty.

Elections are coming up in several countries, oh, wait, Saudi Arabia postponed their provincial elections until the people get used to the idea of having elected representatives... The Jerusalem Post wonders what would happen if Hizbollah won in Lebanon? : "It would mean a reduction or elimination of US aid to the Lebanese military.

In the 2005-2008 period, the US gave more than $250 million to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Such largesse would be unlikely to survive the formation of an openly Hizbullah-dominated government.
Aid to the ailing Lebanese economy from international bodies might also be removed or reduced. The meetings between Hizbullah representatives and officials of the International Monetary Fund should be seen against this background.
A Lebanese government clearly dominated by Hizbullah would also have implications regarding the ongoing war with Israel to which the movement is committed."
And with Fatah's killing of a couple Hamas leaders in the West Bank, relations among all of the supposed friends are going to be incredible strained at the next round of peace talks.

This next article is supposed to be a summary of the Iranian election. It also shed more light on why Iran tried to ban Facebook recently: "The vast majority of Iranians only have access to seven government-run TV channels. This has led opposition candidates - Karroubi, Moussavi and Mohsen Rezaei - to text messages, email, blogs and online social networking websites as platforms to reach Iranian youth.

"Ahmadinejad and his rivals are not on the same playing field in terms of accessing public media," Bastani said. "We do not have private radio and television in Iran, so reformists must look for other alternative media."

As of October 2005, there were an estimated 700,000 Iranian blogs, representing a demographic largely critical of Ahmadinejad's leadership.

Karroubi has used the Internet to openly criticize Ahmadinejad for the suppression of press freedom, heavy filtering of the Internet, violation of women's rights and execution of juveniles, all taboo subjects on state media. The candidate's visits with young Iranian musical groups have also been publicized online.

Facebook has found itself host to a lively debate among supporters of the two principal reformist candidates, Moussavi and Karroubi. Hundreds of blogs and websites providing a platform to the opposition candidates, including Twitter and Facebook, have been blocked recently.

"The government knows that it cannot compete in the virtual space," Bastani added. "This is why the government tries to intervene in this fight and control the internet."
Who would have thought that the Internet would come to play such a major role in elections worldwide?

Did you know that Russia and the US were in negotiations over nuclear armaments? Here is an article from al Jazeera on the latest talks: "Russia remains strongly opposed to US plans to place elements of a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The United States and Poland signed a deal over a missile defence shield in 2008 [EPA] Moscow insists that the locating of 10 interceptor missiles in central Europe compromises its national security.
The former Bush administration, originally behind the missile shield plan, say the system was always planned as a deterrent for 'rogue nations' such as Iran.

Russia has also been accused of sending mixed signals to Washington. In March, Medvedev announced sweeping plans to upgrade the country's crumbling armed forces. The plans also include improvements to the nation's nuclear capabilities." Ahh, the old time smells of leather, shaving soap, and the Cold War; makes me nostalgic. Interesting that we don't trust Medvedev negotiating by himself, without Putin, and they don't trust us not to invade them like a bad case of the German measles...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Continuing Wiretapping, Abu Ghraib Porno, and Obama's Cairo Visit

Kathleen Parker
Joeseph Lieberman
Matthew Yglesias

"In partisan warfare, it's never too soon to open fire." - K Parker

"Politicians really don't think that they can survive with voters hating them. I, of course, have proven that you can prosper when people hate you. But then again, I'm not a politician." - Rush Limbaugh

If you want to slog through Justice Sotomayor's rulings on certain issues, the Washington Post has them in pdf form. I would rather wait for the peer review and report from the Bar Association... The good thing from all of the talk and accusations of racism, gender bias, and affirmative action, is that it opens a national dialogue where everyone can join in, and proves how much farther we have to go to make these topics irrelevant...

While we've all been distracted by the trash talking over Sotomayor, another American tragedy has occurred: the fate of 1000 Obama bobblehead dolls. The Christian Science Monitor has the story: "This shocking, and perhaps terrifying story of potential government abuse, comes from Charleston, West Virginia. It seems that the town’s minor league baseball team (the West Virginia Power) ordered 1,000 presidential bobbleheads to be given away at their home game on Saturday night.

The bobbleheads arrived in Los Angeles from an unknown country on May 20. They then remained under lockdown at the hands of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency for nine straight days.

Despite numerous calls from the baseball team, they couldn’t get the bobbleheads released. The team reportedly even tried calling the White House perhaps hoping th
at the president would get the Navy SEALS involved (they had great success last time)." 1000 Obama bobbleheads, 1000 corrupt officials threatened to be arrested in Iraq. Coincidence? I think not...

Well, the fumbling of the wiretapping football is continuing on through Eric holder's tenure. The classified documents that the Bush administration mistakenly gave the defense, then took back, are now the subject of a court order to produce them. Holder thinks they are too incriminating and embarrassing to release, but the judge is adamant. From the N Y Times: "The Al-Haramain case has been a focal point for civil liberties groups questioning the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program, and has become one of several instances where the current administration has taken its cue from the Bush administration in citing national security as justification for keeping secrets.

Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a review of all state secrets used by the Bush administration to protect anti-terrorism programs from lawsuits. But the Obama administration is also fighting the court-ordered release of prisoner-abuse photos and is reviving, in a revised form, military tribunals where suspected terrorists have limited access to information.

The Bush administration inadvertently turned over the top secret document to Al-Haramain lawyers, who claimed it proved illegal wiretapping by the National Security Agency.

The document was returned to the government, and the lawyers have argued they need the document back to prove their case."

It gets worse - the reason that the Justice Department isn't releasing the Abu Ghraib pictures, is because they are sexually degrading and explicit. You would want to hunt these guards down and bring them to humiliating justice. Much of the unofficial blame has been given to the former head of Guantanamo prison, who came with his team to Abu Ghraib with the express purpose to torture and humiliate people he deemed second class, barely above animal status. From the Daily Beast: "A senior military officer familiar with the photos told me that they would likely provoke a storm of outrage if released. The well-informed source confirmed, just as reported in the Telegraph, that many of the photographs are sexually explicit, including those mentioned above. The photographs differ from those already officially released. Some show U.S. personnel engaged in sexual acts with prisoners and each other. In one, a female prisoner appears to have been forced to expose her breasts to be photographed. In another, a prisoner is suspended naked upside down from the top bunk of a bed in a stress position.

The Telegraph article quoted retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who directed the official inquiry in 2004 into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Taguba told the Telegraph that the “pictures show torture, abuse, rape, and every indecency.” The Telegraph reported: “At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee. Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire, and a phosphorescent tube. Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.”

Finally, the media begins to write about Obama's trip next week to the Middle East and concerns over his speech at the University of Cairo: "But that is not the only message he will be sending, say many Egyptian democracy activists. They worry the visit signals the new administration's support for Egypt's autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for 28 years, and that the man who came to office promising "Yes, we can," did not include Arabs in that promise.

Human rights have long been the electrified third rail of the Egyptian-American relationship. The Bush administration pressured Egypt on democracy and human rights in 2005, only to later reverse course, seeming to choose stability over human rights and democracy. Activists now express concern that Mr. Obama's choice of Cairo shows his intent to carry on that policy.

"Delivering a message to the Muslim world from a capital whose ruler is authoritarian does not speak very well of Obama's stand on democracy and human rights in Egypt or the Arab and Muslim world"

And the world dialogue over Israel and the Palestinian problem spins off from there. Obama has amended his trip to include Saudi Arabia, probably to talk about making changes in the 2002 Saudi Peace Plan. From the BBC: "The West Bank was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war and all efforts to plant Israeli population centres there contravenes international law, although Israel disputes this.
The 2002 Arab peace initiative has been embraced by the Obama administration, although Washington may be seeking amendments, correspondents say.
The Saudi-authored document offers Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967, creation of a Palestinian state and a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees.
Mr Netanyahu has proposed immediate negotiations but backed away from questions of Palestinian independence or permanent deals over land withdrawals.
On 11 May, King Abdullah of Jordan said the US was working on a "57-state solution" including the 57-member Organisation of The Islamic Conference to recognise Israel in return for a halt in construction and expansion of settlements, and its agreement to withdraw from land seized in 1967."

late night jokes:

"Hey, last night at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, people paid $30,000 to attend a dinner and a discussion with President Barack Obama. The subject of the discussion? The struggling economy." --Jay Leno

"Let me tell you something, if you spend $30,000 on dinner, aren't you legally a Republican at this point? I think so." --Jay Leno

"There were actually two fundraisers last night -- a higher priced celebrity dinner and a second, cheaper dinner. See, that's what I love about L.A. Even when we all come together as one nation to support our leader and face the most difficult challenges, you never forget that there's always an A-list and a B-list." --Jay Leno

"In fact, you know who was there? Kiefer Sutherland. I saw him down there. His job was to head-butt Joe Biden if he got near a microphone." --Jay Leno

"Actually, there was a performance by Earth, Wind & Fire, which ironically is also the Democratic energy policy -- earth, wind and fire.'" --Jay Leno

"President Obama flew back to Washington this morning. And you can tell even he's feeling the economic pinch. Show him leaving today. Here he is getting on the plane. Can we pull out? Look at the plane. Look, see? It's Southwest." --Jay Leno

"Oh, you see that video online of the wind knocking down Joe Biden's teleprompter at the Air Force graduation? See, that's when you know you're talking to too much -- when even Mother Nature goes, 'Shut up. Okay? Just shut up.'" --Jay Leno

"The big story here in California -- the Supreme Court has decided to uphold the ban on gay marriage. However, gay unions are still legal. See, that shows how little I know about this subject. I didn't even know gay people had their own union." --Jay Leno

"Well, actually, according to a new Gallup poll, 52% of people say they're opposed to gay marriage, 45% of people say they're in favor of it. That means the remaining 3% are for gay rights, they just hate going to weddings." --Jay Leno

"President Obama has picked Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor as the Supreme Court nominee. So that means the Supreme Court will have seven men and two women. Like speed dating night at the Burbank Holiday Inn." --Jay Leno

"Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will appear together in Toronto, on Friday, for a two-hour conversation, where George Bush plans on being the first person ever to lose a conversation." --Jimmy Fallon

"The Illinois Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to legalize medical marijuana. The bill was passed after the state senator said, 'Come on, dude, pass it. Come on.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"You could tell that the senators were determined that afternoon. They passed the same bill five times. They were just like: 'Seriously, pass it again. That's a pretty good bill.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Burger King is adding a new kids' meal that's lower in fat, sodium and calories. It's called the 'I Don't Want That.'" --Jimmy Fallon

Friday, May 29, 2009

George Bush Speaks, We Wish Tom Tancredo Didn't

Paul Krugman
David Brooks
Michael Kinsley
Eugene Robinson
Dana Milbank

"Since liberalism is a mental disorder, should putting a racist on the Supreme Court really be a big deal?" - anonymous

"It's almost as if the Republicans don't want to be in power anymore." - Deepee

"There's this 'big tent' business again. What is that? Would somebody give me the policies associated with a big freaking tent?" - Rush Limbaugh

I see that on my links above, it's pretty much all men talking about one latina woman, except for Paul Krugman, who talks clearly about economics. I thought the entertainment factor was going to be high during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing, but it will be anti-climatic after all of the internal combustion generated by the GOP. It is a good illustration of the crisis facing the Republican Party, the old school attack weasels who go for the pound of flesh no matter what the situation versus the more balanced, cooler heads who can pick their battles...

George W Bush is beginning to do the lecture circuit now that winter is over in Dallas. From CNN, reporting on a lecture at the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan: "Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney's assertion that the administration's enhanced interrogation program, which included controversial techniques such as waterboarding, was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks. Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 -- the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January -- that, after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."

In his speech, Bush did not specifically refer to the high-profile debate over President Obama's decision to halt the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Bush also didn't mention Cheney, his former vice president, by name.

Instead, he described how he proceeded after the capture of terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003. "The first thing you do is ask what's legal?" Bush said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."

Bush avoided the sharp tone favored by Cheney in recent weeks and stressed he does not want to disparage Obama. "Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor," Bush said. "There are plenty of people who have weighed in. Trust me, having seen it first-hand. I didn't like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best."

After his opening remarks, Bush engaged in a nearly hour-long back-and-forth with audience members that touched on nearly all aspects of his presidency, from the September 11 attacks to his ban on embryonic stem cell research, to his consultations with advisers as the economic crisis hit last year.

He strongly defended his Troubled Asset Relief Program in response to the economic crisis at the end of his presidency, calling it crucial to preventing capital markets from freezing up, which he said would have led to another Great Depression. However, he said he remains "a free-market guy."

Asked what he thinks about conservative pundits who say the Obama administration's fiscal policies are opening the door to socialism, Bush said: "I think the verdict is out. I think people are waiting to see what all this means."

The former president received a noisy standing ovation when answering a question about what he wants his legacy to be.

"Well, I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity," he said."
I couldn't find the transcript of this speech, and the two reporters covering this speech emphasized different subjects. It was interesting to me that he supported Dick Cheney on the interrogation techniques, I didn't know if he'd throw him to the wolves or not.

You have to remember that George was not a "hands on" guy. He doesn't read very much and most of his information came to him orally from his advisors. If he was told that lawyers approved certain methods, it wouldn't occur to him that they are making it up to please him or Cheney. Same with the phrase that it saved lives, he didn't read any interrogation transcripts, just was told that they were successful, and that was good enough for him.

The CIA at that time was in disarray, according to their own history. People were leaving in droves for other jobs, the number of agents recruited was at an all-time low, and they didn't have any assets in the Middle East, didn't have anyone who spoke the languages, and didn't have any good way to gather intelligence, much less interpret it comprehensively. The head of the CIA, George Tenet, was a major suck up whom nobody respected, had decided in 1999 that one way to revive the company was to focus on rogue states and create a war on terror. His bending of Bush's ear helped create much of the ensuing foreign policy, and he scrambled to find evidence for links between al Qaeda and Iraq. He didn't find anything real, so he made junk up, hired outside consultants to engage in torture, and made sure that both parties in Congress were culpable if the shit ever hit the fan...

It saddens me to realize that most often the news out of Colorado is either violent or embarrassing. Glen Thrush reports in Politico on former rep Tom Tancredo: "Anti-illegal immigration crusader and former Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo was on CNN this afternoon whacking Sonia Sotomayor for her association with the National Council of La Raza, which was listed in a 2000 American Bar Association bio of the judge.

"If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case... which is from my point of of view any way... nothing more than a ... Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that's going to convince me and a lot of other people that it's got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is "All for the race. Nothing for the rest." What does that tell you?

La Raza is not well liked by conservatives for its stances on immigration -- and has been accused of Hispanic separatism over the years. But it is also one of the nation's oldest mainstream Hispanic advocacy groups, with 300 neighborhood affiliates and corporate sponsorship that includes Citigroup." Ok, he got the slogan wrong in the translation, plus it belonged to a different group. So, it tells me that Tom is a brain-dead opportunist trying to call attention to himself. Hmmm, what does that tell us?

Here are some reader reactions to Tom: "Wow, who knew white men were so delicate and sensitive. Grow a pair. Everyone out there calling this woman a reverse racist is just a Republican who has done NO reading on this woman's professional history; they're just opposing JUST BECAUSE she was nominated by a Democratic president that talking-point puppet fanatics have been demonizing" - hollyglightly

"It frightens me to see so much anger and misinformation. Tom Tancredo has always been a fanatic and an idiot. The fact we are discussing this actually gives him more credit than he deserves. There are idiots that are conservatives and there are idiots that are liberals. He oviously has done no googling about La Raza or he ould not appear so ignorant but that's his way. He spouts off at the mouth and brings out the worst in the people who listen" - rpagan

"Mr. Tancredo has been the number 1 recruiter for the Democratic party when it comes to Hispanic voters, I was one of the 42% of Hispanic Americans who voted for George Bush and the GOP in 2004, after I heard Mr. Tancredo (and others in the GOP) bigoted remarks in 2006 about Hispanic Immigrants, I left the GOP and many millions of other Hispanic Americans did as well, we will never go back, in 2008 I voted for president Obama and the Democrats and will continue to do so until I die, and so will the rest of my family members and relatives, Mr. Tancredo open our eyes as to how much bigotry & racism there is in the so called "conservative base" of the GOP" - jacaver

And from a discussion group in TPM comes an insightful comment by Lars Thorwald: "Well, he was a leader of the Colorado term limits movement, so maybe he didn't think he could run again.

however, note this from wikipedia: "On February 3, 2009 the Denver Post revealed that Tancredo has probably lost a significant amount of money invested in hedge funds with Agile Group, a Boulder-based investment company with substantial investments in Bernie Madoff's investment firm."

So, maybe, yeah, jzap...he probably is looking for a big payday. Maybe from where he's standing Steve Doocy's seat doesn't look too bad..."

Since we are rushing to embrace socialism, let's ask the government to nationalize the oil companies! The demand for gasoline is down, there is plenty being produced, yet gas prices have risen over 40 cents per gallon, well on its way up to $3 per gallon for the summer holidays. And they will post record profits again...

late night jokes:

"President Barack Obama's in Los Angeles tonight for a huge fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Actually, one awkward moment -- as Obama was entering the Beverly Hilton, he bumped into John Edwards, who was sneaking out." --Jay Leno

"People in Beverly Hills had a lot of questions for the President about health care. They wanted to make sure that tummy tucks and Brazilian butt lifts were covered under Medicare." --Jay Leno

"And we're learning more and more about Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She grew up in New York City, close to Yankee Stadium. And she is still a lifelong Yankee fan, which works out great for her because the Supreme Court's next session doesn't begin until October, and by that time, the Yankees are usually done with it." --Jay Leno

"Let me tell you something. These Supreme Court nominees have it a lot tougher being interviewed by President Obama because he used to be a constitutional law professor. So he knows what questions to ask. See, when Bill Clinton had female nominees, he just had the one question: 'Let's see how you look under that robe.'' --Jay Leno

"And during her confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor is going to get tough questions from the senators. But I think she'll be fine. I mean, this is a woman who spent her whole life in the courtroom, so she's used to being around criminals." --Jay Leno

"I read in the -- this seems a little scary -- in the paper today, President Obama had less than a one-hour warning of North Korea's nuclear tests. Yeah. Well, that's not bad when you realize he has absolutely no warning when Joe Biden's going to go off." --Jay Leno

"And during a speech at a high school, former President George W. Bush said he's really enjoying the fact that he's no longer president. Hey, join the club." --Jay Leno

"The American College of Sports Medicine announced its list of the fittest cities in the United States. It's surprising — you know what the number one fittest city is? Washington, D.C. Number one. Yeah. I wouldn't have guessed that. But, see, it's from all of the Democrats running away from Nancy Pelosi, and all of the Republicans running away from Rush Limbaugh. So they all stay in shape. That's how it works." --Jay Leno

"Even with the recession, the price of gas continues to go up. And some economists say that's because speculators think the economy will turn around soon, and when things are good, gas prices are high. But you know, when things are bad, gas prices are high. I'm not an economist, but here's a wild thought. Maybe the oil companies are just trying to screw us." --Jay Leno

"I tell you, the economy's in bad shape. Today, a group of Somali pirates attacked a Gorton Fisherman. That's how bad it is." --Jay Leno

"President Barack Obama's in Las Vegas. So, if things go well at the table, General Motors just might make it." --Jimmy Fallon

"Meanwhile, after running out of options, Chrysler headed to bankruptcy court this morning. That isn't good. They headed there in a brand new Mitsubishi. That was even worse." --Jimmy Fallon

"On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh called supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a 'reverse racist.' I got to hand it to Limbaugh. That guy is a reverse genius." --Jimmy Fallon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Those 32 Words...

E J Dionne
Dana Milbank
Hannity interviews Orrin Hatch
Kudlow interviews Dick Cheney

"Republicans would be foolish to fight the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court because she is the most conservative choice that President Obama could have made." - E J Dionne

"She's an angry woman, she's a bigot. She's a racist. In her own words, she's the antithesis of a judge, she is the antithesis of justice, in her own words. She does not deserve to be on the US Supreme Court. " - Rush Limbaugh

The media works awfully fast these days, maybe that's the reason why newspapers are folding all across the nation... Two days after President Obama announced his nominee for Supreme Court, and the amount of negative press is amazing, piled higher and deeper, as it were.

I think that Obama made a clever choice, a woman initially appointed by George HW Bush, appointed again by Bill Clinton for the bi-partisan flavor he keeps seeking. Someone who is more moderate in her judgements and maybe neutral on the hotpoint items such as abortion and gender rights, as close a fit in her approach to the law as the outgoing justice...

From the Christian Science Monitor: "But the debate may ultimately be far less aggressive than many conservative stalwarts would like. Short of a revelation of personal scandal, Sotomayor is almost certain to be confirmed with a solid Democratic majority in the Senate. And an aggressive campaign against her by Republicans could harm the party, already reeling from a poor performance last November and a decline in support among Hispanics.

Senate Republicans responded cautiously on Tuesday to the Sotomayor announcement, calling for "fair" hearings rather than launching aggressive attacks.

"We will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences," said Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"The American people deserve a full and thoughtful debate about the proper role of a judge in the American legal system," added Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee." Pretty reasonable approach from the Senate, right?

That's because there are plenty of others who can be the attack weasels, as Josh Marshall at TPM shows: "While elected Republicans are keeping their powder mainly dry and avoiding -- in all but a few cases -- racial charged remarks. But you can't say that for professional Republicans. We've heard that her taste for 'ethnic' food might throw into question her judicial reasoning, that she's a product of affirmative action, that she's a racist, that she's challenging English language dominance by insisting on an alien Spanish pronunciation of her name, that she belongs to a scary group called 'la raza' that might want to help Mexico reconquer the southwestern United States and make it Mexican again and on and on. All told, there's a chorus from the right that Sotomayor is a scary Mexican, understood in the sense of 'Mexican' as anybody with a Spanish last name who isn't actively working to keep the Cuban embargo in place.

And to the extent that there's political calculation at work it seems more likely that it's the realization that any Latina nominee would bring out the rightwing crazies like moths to a flame. They simply can't help it."

It turns out that the White House had been working on selecting a list of contenders for a Supreme Court nominee for over the last six months. The NY Times tells about that process: "Even before Justice David H. Souter publicly announced nearly four weeks ago that he was retiring, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff who lived through two nominations during Bill Clinton’s presidency, commissioned a strategy memorandum from Mr. Klain intended to dictate the process. Secrecy was paramount. As the decision neared, aides disguised meetings on the subject even on the president’s internal schedule by blocking out time under the label “Chief of Staff Strategy.”

From the beginning, Mr. Obama had been focused on Judge Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge from New York, officials said Wednesday. She had a compelling life story, Ivy League credentials and a track record on the bench. She was a Latina. She was a woman. She checked “each of the grids,” as Mr. Obama’s team later put it. And by the time the opportunity arrived, it became her nomination to lose.

Over the course of the last four weeks, Mr. Obama nursed doubts about Judge Sotomayor and entertained alternatives, aides said. He called around, asking allies about her reputation for brusqueness. At times, he grew increasingly enamored of other candidates, particularly Judge Diane P. Wood, whom he knew from Chicago. But by the time Judge Sotomayor left the White House last Thursday after what Mr. Obama told aides was a “dense discussion” of constitutional law, he was pretty much sold.

“You had to knock her off the pedestal,” Mr. Emanuel said, “and nobody did.”

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said in a 2001 speech."

These 32 words are the crux of the argument against her so far, the molehill being photo'ed with wide angle lenses to look like an insurmountable mountain. Many of my fellow Colorado bloggers use this quote and are pretending to be "outraged" at how awful the woman is. Politico has a lengthy group of reactions to this statement a couple excerpted here: "There's a very clear reason why this statement has half of the nation up in arms. Ironically, the other half, which is brushing this aside and saying it's no big deal, would be calling for the head of any white male who said his race and gender made him more qualified to judge than any "Latina woman." The difference in that situation is that, had a white male said such a thing, conservatives would be condemning it as well -- something race-and-gender-obsessed liberals simply can't bring themselves to do with regard to Sotomayor's statement, despite the obviousness of the double standard. - Jeff Emanuel

"Where the statement gets her into trouble is that many people would like to believe that justice is blind, thinking about that famous sculpture in which the figure of Justice is blindfolded while holding the scales in her hand. Most of us, I think, would wish that those who judge our rights are doing so impartially, not nursing any historic or ethnic grievances against those whose rights are hanging in the balance.

If all Judge Sotomayor meant to imply is that her life experience has made her sensitive to the effects that the law has on other people's lives, we can all rest easy. If what she meant to imply is that she views the world through lenses tinted by her history, then the statement is worrisome." - Diane Ravitch

She's been dissed as a racist by Newt Gingrich, who says she should withdraw her nomination. Of course, a middle-aged White Guy from Georgia knows what racism smells like, right?

And Tom Tancredo, who has been supported by the American Nazi Party, also called her a racist. Not to mention that closeted guy Karl Rove writing in the WSJ...

The next step in the process is a peer review, as reported in the Washington Times: "Immediately upon her nomination to the Supreme Court this week by President Obama, a peer review of Judge Sotomayor was launched by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. explains that every member of the standing committee will participate in the evaluation. In addition, "hundreds of lawyers, judges and members of the community" who have known Judge Sotomayor professionally will be asked to assess her on three key criteria: integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament.

In addition, two panels of legal scholars from respected law schools, and a third panel of pre-eminent lawyers with Supreme Court and appellate experience "at the highest level," will examine her legal writings for quality, clarity, knowledge of the law and analytical ability.

Finally, Judge Sotomayor herself will be interviewed "at length" by members of the standing committee, who will then evaluate the nominee as either "well-qualified," "qualified" or "not qualified." The peer review is then sent to the Senate, where members will weigh it along with whatever they have compiled."

late night jokes:

"Well, the big story is the Supreme Court. President Obama has found his nominee. She is a Federal appeals judge. Sonia Sotomayor, I think her name is. A Latino woman, how about that? So, you know what that means. Ruth Bader Ginsburg no longer the hot chick on the court." --Jay Leno

"No, if confirmed, Sotomayor would be the country's first Hispanic judge. In fact, her first order of business, deporting Lou Dobbs." --Jay Leno

"Actually, the Republicans were a little disappointed. When they heard Obama said he might appoint a minority, they went, 'Oh, great, a Republican!'" --Jay Leno

"Of course they're still waiting to see where Judge Sotomayor stands on a lot of the important issues. You know, are Heidi and Spencer really married? You know, who's Jennifer Aniston dating now, huh? Should Adam Lambert have won 'American Idol'? There's so many issues that concern the American people." --Jay Leno

"Judge Sotomayor said she seemed overwhelmed today, and she said it really won't sink in until she hears Rush Limbaugh say he hopes she fails." --Jay Leno

"Well, over the weekend you know, there was some more back and forth between former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Rush Limbaugh. It's getting nasty. I don't know, General Powell versus Rush Limbaugh. You know, unless it's a pie eating contest, I gotta go with Powell, okay?" --Jay Leno

"North Korea tested another nuclear bomb. The fear is that North Korea will sell this nuclear weapon to some unstable, volatile world leader, you know, like Dick Cheney." --Jay Leno

"Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi over in China right now. Her office says the speaker will not be bringing up human rights abuses to the Chinese. She said that she's going to try to focus on common ground with China, like the fact that they both call the CIA liars." --Jay Leno

"Actually, John Kerry is over there with Nancy Pelosi right now. This is part of the Democrats' new plan to put all the people who say the wrong things in one place, you know? In fact, Joe Biden flying in as we speak." --Jay Leno

"Well, the big story here in California -- California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8. That's the ban on gay marriage. They upheld the ban, which is bad news, unless you're a gay guy that doesn't want to get married, you see. Now you can go, 'Bob, the courts have spoken.'" --Jay Leno

"The economy's in bad shape. In fact, the economy is so bad, Gov. Schwarzenegger had to take a second job narrating 'Hooked on Phonics' CDs." --Jay Leno

"As you know, Governor Schwarzenegger, our guest here tonight. Actually, he's not here as a guest. He's here to pass the hat. 'Da state is broke. Give generously here. Yah, we need da money here to help.'" --Jay Leno

"Well, a new study has found that having a cat makes you 40% less likely to die of a heart attack. Not that the cat could care less either way, really." --Jay Leno

"History was made today when President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first female Hispanic justice to serve in the U.S. Supreme court. Obama said this should help keep the court from leaning too far to the white." --Jimmy Fallon

"There's a lot of local pride in Obama's pick because Sonia Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx. Yeah, when reached for comment, she said, 'Don't be fooled by the robes that I got, I'm still, I'm still Sonia from the block.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, but that's not all. The court also upheld Prop 9, which allows metrosexuals to continue using too much bronzer." --Jimmy Fallon

"Larry King said the one person he would most like to interview is Osama bin Laden. Not because bin Laden's so fascinating, just because they both lived in caves." --Jimmy Fallon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Axle of Evil Squeaking Loudly

Kathleen Parker
Joe Conason

With Monday's test by North Korea, the United States can no longer pretend that the country is not a nuclear power. It is from this position of power that Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is sending a message that he wants to negotiate with the US one-on-one. At the same time, he's looking after his own succession. - Donald Kirk

Despite widespread condemnation of North Korea's nuclear test by the world's major powers, there is nothing they can do to stop Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The bigger question is whether South Korea and Japan will decide to go nuclear - a move that would undermine the influence of the United States and China in Northeast Asia. - Santaro Rey

North Korea's recent nuclear declaration is fully in line with Kim Jong-il's "military first" policy, giving priority to military development. The army has accumulated more power and even supersedes the ruling Korean Workers Party. Kim depends on the military for his rule, and giving up nukes could jeopardize his grip on power. - Yoel Sano

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is a big fan of Hollywood movies. So, just as former Soviet leader Nikita Khruschchev loved Disneyland, maybe a trip for Kim to Tinsel Town, even a screen test, could be just the thing to ease US-North Korea political tensions. The nuke crisis could be an opportunity in disguise. - John Scherb

Welcome back to the early 1950's, when we built bomb shelters in our backyards and at school had bomb drills where you had to get under your desk and cover your neck with your hands for protection... The NY Times is reporting that North Korea is threatening to invade South Korea: "North Korea, facing international censure for this week's nuclear test, threatened on Wednesday to attack the South after it joined a U.S.-led plan to check vessels suspected of carrying equipment for weapons of mass destruction.

In Moscow, news agencies quoted an official as saying that Russia is taking precautionary security measures because it fears mounting tensions over the test could escalate to war.

Adding to mounting tension in the region, South Korean media reported that Pyongyang had restarted a plant that makes plutonium that can be used in nuclear bombs... The North's next step may to be resume operations at all of Yongbyon, with experts saying it could take the North up to a year to reverse disablement steps. Once running, it can produce enough plutonium to make one bomb a year.

The hermit state has also threatened to launch a long-range ballistic missile if the Security Council does not apologise for tightening sanctions to punish it for an April launch widely seen as a missile test that violated U.N. measures."

Threatening us to get our attention, where have I seen this before? So, who can go in and talk sense to the little buggers? We've been trying to figure out what to do with North Korea for 60 years, and they keep producing these strange, inadequate, paranoid leaders. What can we threaten them with? Anybody even seen or talked to Kim Jong Il? As pointed out in another piece in the NY Times, that also is a problem: "In dealing with North Korea, American officials are reduced to studying two-month-old photographs of its reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, to calculate how long he is likely to live. The new administration’s North Korea team includes a special emissary who works part time as an academic dean and a State Department official who has yet to be confirmed by Congress.

And as President Obama tries to find a way to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test and missile launchings, his senior aides acknowledge that every policy option employed by previous presidents over the past dozen years — whether hard or soft, political or economic — has been fruitless in stopping North Korea from building a nuclear weapon.

For a lengthy response to what we should do now, Foreign Policy magazine has a few ideas: "I think the Obama administration has come up with a novel way of dealing with the North Koreans -- get everyone to talk about something else.

Half-seriously, this is not a bad idea, because I'm not sure that anything else is going to work better (beyond my modest Britney Spears proposal). For this decade, the following facts have held:

1) North Korea wants to be able to trade its nuclear program for security guarantees and cash -- and then be able to do it again a few years later.
2) The leadership in Pyongyang is perfectly willing to starve its own population rather than concede a smidgen of autonomy.
3) No one is entirely sure about the internal politics of the DPRK elite. This includes China, by the way.
4) None of the actors in the region want North Korea to collapse. China and Russia likes the buffer, Seoul doesn't want to pony up the cash for reunification, and Japan (and China) doesn't want a unified Korean peninsula.

5) None of the actors in the region really want North Korea to proliferate either, but that's less important than a collapsing North Korea. Proliferation is Somebody Else's Problem -- i.e., the Middle East rather than Northeast Asia.

So, oddly enough, the ideal short-term solution for the region is for the continued existence of the DPRK regime, the absence of any new nuclear activity, and some kid of "strategic ambiguity" regarding North Korea's nuclear status.
The alternatives to the repeated short-term carrot strategy are even less appealing. There is no viable military option unless everyone is comfortable with the destruction of Seoul; there is no viable sanctions option unless China decides to cut off the energy tap, and they'll only do this if they're sure it won't lead to a stream of North Korea refugees entering Manchuria.

I think the best way to defuse the situation is to have a special envoy like Pam Anderson or Stormy Daniels go and talk to the Dear Leader, with special cameos by Madonna and Britney Spears, and we'll get him to agree to anything we want. Why yes, we do take you seriously...

late night jokes:

"There are some people who are saying that maybe Dick Cheney is setting himself up to actually run for president. You know, it makes sense. Republicans are looking for fresh blood, and Cheney just had some yesterday." --Bill Maher

"The other day George Bush gave a speech at a graduating high school class. He wondered why they didn't give him an honorary degree, but that's another story. It's interesting, he said he finds not being president liberating. Agreed." --Bill Maher

"He told the kids it's interesting the way life turns out, and now he finds himself walking the dog and picking up poop. Finally, something he can actually find. He couldn't find Osama, he couldn't find the weapons of mass destruction. If only we'd be attacked by dog s**t, we'd be OK." –Bill Maher

"Oh, poor George Bush, picking up after some unthinking creature's mess. Well, now he knows how Obama feels." --Bill Maher

"They put a provision in the credit card bill to let people carry guns in national parks. So when you're buried under a mountain of debt, at least you have a scenic place to go kill yourself." --Bill Maher

"Nobody knows debt like California. We had a special election, and they rejected all the proposals Gov. Schwarzenegger suggested to save the state from going under. Very bad day for him. He said he has not been this humiliated since the '80s when he took an acting class." --Bill Maher

"We're $26 billion in the hole. I don't want to say it's bad, but today Mexico announced they're building a border fence." --Bill Maher

"Happy Memorial Day, everybody. As you know, the banks were all closed today. And tomorrow, surprisingly, some of them may actually reopen." --Jay Leno

"Barack Obama and Dick Cheney have been going at each other all week. This is like big-time wrestling, isn't it? Man, it's like charisma versus arrhythmia." --Jay Leno

"I can't believe Dick Cheney keeps giving speech. He's appearing on TV news shows. It's like he thinks he is still president, you know?" --Jay Leno

"Before she left for China, reporters repeatedly questioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about her claim the CIA lied to her. But Pelosi remained tight-lipped. She also remained tight-foreheaded and tight-eyelided." --Jay Leno

"North Korea tested a nuclear bomb today. I don't want to say this is a big deal, but it actually knocked 'Jon & Kate Plus 8' right off the front page." --Jay Leno

"Osama bin Laden's former cook -- I believe his name was Goatgang Puck if I'm not mistaken -- is coming to New York to face charges. You know, we also got his driver. And here's the good news. I understand we're closing in on his pool boy and his aroma therapist. Yeah, we are closing the net." --Jay Leno

"After a report that he called for shutting down Facebook in his country, the president of Iran, Mahmoud I'manutjob -- is that how you say his name? Ahmadinejad. He's now denying he ordered a ban on Facebook. He said, no, he did not. You know? That shows you the real power in the world is these days. Here's a guy calling for the destruction of Israel, openly supports terrorism, denied the Holocaust, and then he's accused of shutting down Facebook. 'Nuh-uh! No way, not me.'" --Jay Leno

"The mayor of San Angelo, Texas, has quit because he fell in love with a Mexican man who does not have legal status in the United States. It got a little awkward when they were first going out. Like the mayor would pick him up for a date and the guy would jump in the trunk." --Jay Leno

"And researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said getting herpes can give protection and prevent bubonic plague. Let me tell you something, okay? If you're dating people who have herpes and bubonic plague, you might get a refund from your online dating service." --Jay Leno

"A new pentagon report says that 1 in 7 inmates released from Guantanamo Bay has gone back to terrorism. Surprisingly, the other 6 are working in customer service." --Jay Leno

"According to the Social Security Administration, the most popular girls name in America right now is Emma. The least popular girls name: Pelosi." –Jay Leno

"Have you heard about North Korea? They've detonated an underground nuclear weapon today, so I guess they'll be ready if they're ever attacked by gophers." --Jimmy Fallon

"Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is in Shanghai to debate climate change with Chinese government officials. I think she'll do fine because these negotiations always come down to whoever blinks first." --Jimmy Fallon

"Honolulu just conducted our nation's first all-digital election. This is so cool. No voting booths, people cast their votes online or by phone. Everyone here at 'Late Night' would like to congratulate Honolulu's new mayor, a piano playing cat." --Jimmy Fallon

"Ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell went on CBS to reaffirm that he's still a Republican. And just to prove it, he promised to lose an election right there on the show." --Jimmy Fallon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sotomayor, WWCRD?, Colorado's Checkbook to Victory

Durbin vs Gingrich
Roger Simon
Wesley Pruden

Well, sharpen your long knives and scalpels, ladies and gentlemen, because it's finally time to cut up and dissect the new Supreme Court nominee! Just because the nominee is a woman and a Hispanic, no need for sensitivity, let's find out the dirt in her past or be creative and make some up... I'm surprised how fast the media is coming up with reactions to Obama's anouncement of Sonia Sotomayor. Those that favor her are stressing her judicial experience, with the phrase "more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years" will be repeated in an endless Mobius loop. To her detractors, she's an obvious activist judge, whatever that means, since the interpretation can only be subjective, and they warn against "legislating from the bench."

Why he chose Sotomayor, from Politico: "President Barack Obama called Judge Sonia Sotomayor at 9 p.m. on Memorial Day to say she was his pick for the Supreme Court.
Obama showed he was willing to pick a fight with his choice — Republicans do not consider her a “consensus” choice and had telegraphed that they considered her the most liberal of the four finalists.

He played smart base politics with the historic choice of a Hispanic (a first) and a woman.

And he fulfilled his pledge to pick someone with a common touch by nominating someone who was raised in a Bronx housing project, and lost her father at age 9.

As the most arguably liberal of the four finalists, Sotomayor provides the most fodder for conservative groups, which have vowed to spend millions of dollars on television advertising. Leaders hope a court brawl will help rebuild their movement.

Democrats like that Justice David Souter is being replaced by a Hispanic woman, and feel sure she’ll be confirmed. As insurance, they note that when she was confirmed for the federal appeals court in 1988, among those voting for her were then-Sen. Bill Frist and then-Sen. Rick Santorum, both of whom are abortion opponents.

Democrats contend that Sotomayor does not have a long paper trail on hot-button social issues, especially abortion. In one case, the administration will argue she came down on the side of judicial restraint."

Here are two reactions as reported from the Boston Globe, the opinions are the reverse of what I thought they'd be:

William Redpath, Libertarian National Committee chairman: “While Judge Sotomayor deserves a fair and impartial hearing, Supreme Court justices should be nominated for their thorough knowledge of and adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law. By nominating Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama has made it clear he prefers an activist for his personal causes over a rational interpreter of law."

Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch: "While I would have liked to see a more conservative libertarian type on the high court, President Obama's selection of New York federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayer, was a very prudent and wise decision from a far left liberal like Obama."

Normally, the nominee is treated with respect from the judicial committee, then the gloves come off during the full Senate hearing. It won't be as rough and tumble as the current Lakers versus Nuggets basketball series, but there should be enough embarrassing gaffes by stupid Congress members, get ready for Michele Bachmann and John Boehner everybody, I sense another drinking game being created!!

Boy, everyone wants to be a comic and cynically comment on events like North Korea's atomic bomb tests. Now I give you Wesley Pruden in the Reverend Moon backed Washibngton Times: "Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, is "deeply worried," and President Obama is "gravely concerned" about North Korean behavior. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the test not only "erroneous," but "misguided." China is "resolutely opposed" to such nuclear explosions, and the Japanese foreign minister said the test "cannot be tolerated," whatever that means, and suggested that the U.N. might consider using its penultimate weapon, a resolution of concern. Such a resolution could even "regret" and "lament." If that doesn't work, the U.N. could unleash its "doomsday weapon," a resolution going far beyond mere regret to "deploring" international naughtiness. Take that, you naughty guys."

Roger Simon in Politico looks at what might happen if we had Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh in charge of the crisis: "Blah, blah, blah, blah. All this must sound pretty weak to a Cheney-Limbaugh ticket. That ticket would be for direct, swift, concrete action, the kind of action that can routinely be found on the TV show “24” and other fantasies.

So there are four key questions to be asked today, questions that Cheney and Limbaugh certainly will ask in the weeks ahead:

1. Why didn’t U.S. commandos grab some high-ranking North Korean official, smuggle him out of the country by submarine, take him to Guantanamo and subject him to “enhanced interrogation techniques” until he spilled the beans about
the nuclear tests? That way, the United States could have done … something. We do not know what. But something.

2. Why hasn’t Cheney been consulted on a daily basis since leaving office? As Cheney pointed out in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, “Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions.” (His experience with national security and freedom from political distraction did not lead him to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but, hey, nobody is perfect.) The point Cheney was making is that he has this terrific résumé and even fewer distractions today, seeing as how he is out of work. “Today, I’m an even freer man,” Cheney said in his speech. So why don’t we have him under contract before somebody — Libya, Syria, Disneyland —
snaps him up?

3. Why isn’t Rush Limbaugh’s radio show currently broadcast in North Korea? Why does our government not beam Limbaugh’s show into that country? It would be an instant hit. North Koreans know all about being “dittoheads.”

4. Why isn’t somebody being waterboarded right now? It has worked so well in the past."

Breakout your credit cards and checkbooks, Colorado Republicans, because you can now buy your way to political victory come next election. according to an article in the Reverend Moon backed Washington Times: "Colorado voters swung for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, ousted Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave and kept Democrats in charge of the state' General Assembly. Given that Colorado already had a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators, the election effectively erased the Republicans' last hold on what was once a bright red state and moved it into the purple - or even blue - column.

But unlike the national Republican Party, which is fighting among itself as it tries to find a voice to counter a popular president, party leaders in Colorado have jumped into action.

"They have to add money and think tanks - in other words, try to reverse-engineer the infrastructure that the Democrats put in over the last four years," said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. "The good news is that the old guard recognizes the problem and is trying to help." This means that there are opportunities to get money without working for it from rich Republicans by using the tried and true scams: creating think tanks and activist organizations with words like Taxpayers, Liberty, Independence, and American in them to begin the salivation, with greenbacks not far behind...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Colin Powell, French Scientologists,Rigging the Lebanese Elections

Paul Krugman
Colin Powell
Michael Mullen

“Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican.” - Colin Powell

"California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America." - Paul Krugman

OK, so I am done with the Obama - Cheney controversy, but I guess I have to weigh in on the Powell - Cheney snarkfest. Yesterday Colin Powell was interviewed on Face the Nation, click on the link above for full transcript. The NY Times has the story: "Mr. Powell’s appearance underlined an extraordinary public struggle among Republicans over the future of the party and the legacy of the Bush administration, particularly on national security. Mr. Powell broke with Mr. Cheney on the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying that he agreed with President Obama that it should be closed and that Mr. Cheney disagreed as much with his former boss as with Mr. Obama.
“Mr. Cheney is not only disagreeing with President Obama’s policy,” Mr. Powell said. “He’s disagreeing with President Bush’s policy. President Bush stated repeatedly to international audiences and to the country that he wanted to close Guantánamo. The problem he had was he couldn’t get all the pieces together.”
This follows what I've thought all along, that George Bush became disenchanted with with Cheney and his bulldog tenacity to a few beliefs that produced the low ratings and lack of trust in the Bush administration. It is also why George Bush is smart and ignoring the arguments and is not coming to Dick Cheney's defense. I can almost hear him quoting Oliver Hardy: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into..."

Say what you will about the French, in many ways they are leading the world. Here, we have the story of France taking the church of Scientology: "The Church of Scientology's French branch went on trial on Monday on charges of organised fraud, in a case that could lead to the group being dissolved in France.
Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.
The French branch of the group said on Monday religious freedom was threatened.

Its Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in the case. If found guilty, they could be fined 5 million euros ($7 million) and ordered to halt their activities." Scientology was founded by the science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard as a joke. More to his credit he helped found Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Scientology gained momentum in the '60's and '70's and was legally declared a church in California. They have systematically taken to court anyone who has ever criticized them, and held L Ron Hubbard a virtual captive on his yacht, keeping him drunk and stoned, during his later years. He was secretly put in a nursing home in San Luis Obispo until he died, and then didn't tell the public or members of his family that he had died...

First we had Joe Biden going to Lebanon and bumbling his way about, telling them to vote the way Washington wants them to, or kiss foreign aid good-bye. Now we have the Christian Science Monitor writing about a revelation that Hezbollah was behind the assassination of a former Prime Minister: "A bombshell revelation tying Lebanon's militant Hezbollah to the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister has generated a rare consensus among rival political camps less than two weeks before crucial parliamentary elections.
The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported this weekend that the Netherlands-based international tribunal established to trace and judge the killers of Rafik Hariri has uncovered evidence that Hezbollah was responsible for the February 2005 truck bomb assassination.
Hezbollah described the allegations as "evil fabrications" aimed at "influencing the election campaign" and called on the international tribunal to refute the allegations.
A spokeswoman for the tribunal refused to discuss Der Spiegel's claims, saying, "We don't know where they are getting the story from. The office of the prosecutor doesn't comment on any issues related to operational aspects of the investigation."
The revelations, coming just two weeks before Lebanon holds closely contested parliamentary elections, have the potential to ignite simmering Sunni-Shiite tensions here. On Sunday night, a Shiite supporter of the Hezbollah-led opposition was killed during a clash with partisans of the Western-backed March 14 coalition."
It's pretty obvious that Western intelligence forces don't want Hezbollah to win the upcoming Lebanese election... and the ploys being used seem petty, how can anyone fall for such gross manipulations? But we have blinders on when it comes to these same forces trying to manipulate us, uh uh, I came up with the socialist idea all by myself...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sabotaging Iran's Nukes, Paki Drone Wars

Fareed Zakaria
David Ignatius
Mark Thompson

"I think one of the biggest mistakes that is made in Washington is this notion you have to dumb things down for the public." - Barack Obama

"Dick Cheney sitting down with Fox News is like Mrs. Butterworth sitting down with the Pancake Channel." - Jimmy Kimmel

I can't believe that people are still writing, and talking trash about the recent Obama and Cheney speeches on the closing of Guantanamo. Partisans each say their guy won while the women roll their eyes and sniff, " there's too much testosterone in the room..." I thought that Dick Cheney had been angling for a talk show somewhere, but it turns out that he just wanted a book deal with a $2 million advance, because that's what Laura Bush got for hers and he has to save face... I'll leave the debate with a remark from Josh Marshall at TPM: "Why is Dick Cheney's daughter the only person he can find to go on TV to defend him?"

The US military has already solved most of the interrogation and torture problems, we just let others do it for us... According to the NY Times: "The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials.
The change represents a significant loosening of the reins for the United States, which has worked closely with allies to combat violent extremism since the 9/11 attacks but is now pushing that cooperation to new limits.

In the past 10 months, for example, about a half-dozen midlevel financiers and logistics experts working with Al Qaeda have been captured and are being held by intelligence services in four Middle Eastern countries after the United States provided information that led to their arrests by local security services, a former American counterterrorism official said.
In addition, Pakistan’s intelligence and security services captured a Saudi suspect and a Yemeni suspect this year with the help of American intelligence and logistical support, Pakistani officials said. The two are the highest-ranking Qaeda operatives captured since President Obama took office, but they are still being held by Pakistan, which has shared information from their interrogations with the United States, the official said."
And don't forget the private contractors like Xe, Triple Canopy, or DynCorp who like to perform sadistic acts as private armies...

One of the more sane people writing on foreign relations is Fareed Zakaria, and the topic today is Iran. From Newsweek: "Iranians aren't suicidal. In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as "a messianic, apocalyptic cult." In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when necessary. The Iranians allied with the United States and against the Taliban in 2001, assisting in the creation of the Karzai government. They worked against the United States in Iraq, where they feared the creation of a pro-U.S. puppet on their border. Earlier this year, during the Gaza war, Israel warned Hizbullah not to launch rockets against it, and there is much evidence that Iran played a role in reining in their proxies. Iran's ruling elite is obsessed with gathering wealth and maintaining power. The argument made by those—including many Israelis for coercive sanctions against Iran is that many in the regime have been squirreling away money into bank accounts in Dubai and Switzerland for their children and grandchildren. These are not actions associated with people who believe that the world is going to end soon."

David Ignatius follows up on covert operations that may have been carried out against Iran's nuclear program, from the Washington Post: "The rationale for a sabotage program against Iran is obvious enough. Here's how one former CIA officer lays out the case, in theory: "A nuclear program is technically complex, requires a lot of precision materials, a steady flow of technical parts, and is inherently dangerous. Accidental fires, mechanical mishaps with equipment, technical failures, etc. slow the program, and most importantly, at some point will increase counterintelligence concern from within Iran."
The latest story about sabotage appeared May 16 in The Wall Street Journal, in an article by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman titled "Israel's Secret War With Iran." Bergman reported that when Gen. Meir Dagan was named director of Israel's intelligence service in 2002, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told him to build "a Mossad with a knife between its teeth." Dagan's chief target was Iran, according to Bergman, who is a reporter for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
"The results have been tremendous," wrote Bergman. "During the last four years, the uranium enrichment project in Iran was delayed by a series of apparent accidents: the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes carrying cargo relating to the project, and two labs that burst into flames."

And here is a report from the current Iranian presidential campaign, with a feminist overtone, from CNN: "On this day, the deafening cheers were not for presidential hopeful Mir Hossein Mousavi, but rather for his wife -- a woman some are calling Iran's Michelle Obama.
The comparisons to the first lady of the United States stem from the role Zahra Rahnavard is playing in her husband's quest for the presidency.
"Never in the history of Iranian presidential elections has a candidate put his wife in the forefront of his campaign. This is the first time after the Revolution we see a lady behind the president," said Farhad Mahmoudi. "And this is why we're so happy because we can have a first lady."
The median age of Iranians is 27. I wonder what would happen if they suddenly realized that they were grown up and could stop taking the imported Afghan drugs and start make their own decisions, say, like voting in this upcoming election...

Finally, Mark Thompson talks about the drone wars being fought in the wilds of Pakistan, from Time: "If al-Qaeda and the Taliban could not be eliminated by tanks, gunships and missiles, then perhaps they can be stamped out by CIA-operated unmanned drone aircraft, the Predator and the Reaper.
That was the bet President George W. Bush placed during his final months in office, when the CIA greatly increased drone sorties and strikes in Pakistan. The accelerated attacks have been stepped up under President Barack Obama. Nowadays, the low hum of the drones has become a familiar sound in Waziristan, where tribesmen call them machay, or red bees. Their lethal sting has been felt in villages and hamlets across the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). The main objectives of the campaign: to take out al-Qaeda's top tier of leadership, including Osama bin Laden, and deny sanctuary in FATA for the Taliban and those fighters who routinely slip across the border to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Combining high-tech video surveillance with the ability to deliver deadly fire, drones allow joystick-wielding operators on the far side of the world--Creech Air Force Base, near Las Vegas--to track moving targets in real time and destroy them. All this, without spilling American blood and for a small fraction of the cost of conventional battle."
Pakistan is receiving their own drones from Washington, and many other countries in the region have drones of their own; it seems to be the hot, new commodity...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nigerian Pimping, Iranian Elections, Cairo Calling Not So Fast...

Dina Guirguis

"Resolved, that we the members of the Republican National Committee recognize that the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals." - RNC

"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus ... we hunt them down," - Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan,

First, there were the Nigerian email scams that asked Americans to send money for a bribe so that they could receive millions in a money laundering deal, then our local Episcopalians withdrew from the official church to join one headquartered in Nigeria, and now there is this highly creative style of pimping from the NY Times: "The Spanish police say they have broken up a human trafficking ring that forced Nigerian women into prostitution by threatening them with voodoo curses.

The police said Thursday that they arrested 23 people this week in raids in several Spanish cities after a Nigerian woman in Seville claimed she was a victim of the ring and reported its activities to the police in February. The traffickers lured their victims with promises of a better life in Europe and took them to a voodoo priest before departure, the police said in a statement. The traffickers then smuggled them to Spain, where they told the victims they had to become prostitutes to repay a hefty debt for their journey or face the wrath of voodoo spirits."

Good article on the upcoming Iranian elections in the Washington Post: "Ahmadinejad's main challengers advocate better relations with the United States. They promise to ensure that Iran's nuclear program will have strictly peaceful purposes, and they say the Holocaust should not be an issue in Iranian politics.

"Ahmadinejad's comments on the Holocaust were a great service to Israel," Mehdi Karroubi, a cleric and the most outspoken opposition candidate, told a group of students in April. "What has happened that we now have to support Hitler?" he asked. "This is none of our business."
There are going to be televised presidential debates, interviews, and campaign mudslinging very much like what happens here, except the real winner has to obey the Ultimate Khomeni, the top dog in religious marketing... There is a lot of national pride when Ahmadinejad stands up to the US, but the many opponents he has this time tells that folks are also getting fed up with the crazy-ass posturing and don't want to be isolated as a country anymore.

Yesterday I found the story that the White House had leaked its Mideast peace plan, and it had gotten mostly bad marks from all over for being naive and not understanding the nuances of the region more. So, today, the Jerusalem Post reports: "The White House denied on Friday that details of a new Middle East peace plan will be publicly revealed by President Barack Obama during his upcoming trip to Cairo next month.

Speaking to reporters during a briefing at the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that although remarks about the peace process will be impossible to avoid, the main thrust of the president's speech will be America's relationship with the Muslim world.

"The goal is to be - I guess, partly to clear some of this up, this is a - this will be a broader speech about our relationship with Muslims around the world," he said. "I know there has been some conjecture that included in this speech will be some detailed comprehensive Mideast peace plan, and that is not the intention nor was it ever the intention of this speech."

"As I said a few days ago, I mean, obviously it would be difficult to give a speech and not touch on this subject," Gibbs continued. "But the notion that it will be the sole focus of the speech is not the case." There has been a lot of criticism for Obama choosing Cairo as the site for his speech because Hosni Mubarak has been a thuggish dictator more along the lines of a Saddam Hussein instead of being a dictator claiming fake royalty for his family like many other countries in the area... Dina Guirguis represents a group wanting more democracy in Egypt, click on the link at the top for the argument. Of course, the US pressured the Palestinians into having democratic elections and look what happened - Hamas won, Israel pulled out of Gaza, and now the world has to deal with Hamastan in all of its bluster and bombed out glory. These guys are still lobbing the occasional bomb over into Israel... Ahh, well, Mubarak may use the death of his poor grandson as an excuse to cancel the whole thing...

Back in the Dallas suburbs, TPM reports on George Bush's transition back to being a normal guy: "It was a humbling moment for the former commander in chief: President George W. Bush was walking former first dog Barney in his new Dallas neighborhood when it stopped in a neighbor's yard for relief.

"And there I was, former president of the United States of America, with a plastic bag on my hand," he told a group of graduating high school students in New Mexico on Thursday. "Life is returning back to normal."

Bush, in one of his few public appearances since leaving office in January, told the students that leaving office lifted a heavy burden.

"I no longer feel that great sense of responsibility that I had when I was in the Oval Office. And frankly, it's a liberating feeling,"
And there is the difference between George Bush and Dick Cheney; George can let go while Cheney is still obsessed and throwing himself against the fence like a mad guard dog...

Late night jokes:

"Today, President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney gave speeches on torture. Now, is it me or have we seen more of Dick Cheney in the last week than we did in the past eight years? Anyway, the President spoke out against torture, while Cheney's speech was more of a how-to discussion." --Jay Leno

"Yesterday, during a speech, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the CIA misleads us all the time. You know, unlike Congress." --Jay Leno

"Hey, did you know we had another earthquake the other night? You know, California is the only state where you don't know what is going to bounce first, the ground from the earthquake or your check from the state government." --Jay Leno

"I tell you, the economy's in bad shape. Oh, the economy's hurting; economy is so bad, Joe Biden was outside the White House, selling maps to politicians' secret locations." --Jay Leno

"Economy's so bad, I saw an illegal immigrant deport himself. That's how bad it's gotten." --Jay Leno

"Well, a bankruptcy judge has denied a chapter 11 proposal submitted by former NFL star, Michael Vick, after he filed a bankruptcy plan that allowed him to keep three cars and two houses. The judge argued you can't keep three cars and two houses if you're really bankrupt. And several AIG executives said, 'Oh, yeah?'" --Jay Leno

"Well, here is a shocking statistic. This is shocking. One in four Americans admit to texting while driving. The other three are illegal immigrants who are texting while driving." --Jay Leno

"How about that Dick Cheney. I mean talk about a guy who's gone crazy, you know? Talk about a bearcat, a bulldog. I mean, he's -- he gave a big speech today on terror in the United States and how the Obama Administration better be careful, they don't want to go soft on terror. And the speech was, I don't know, I guess it was well-received. And Cheney was so excited, at the end of the speech he goes out into the lobby and he waterboarded folks." --David Letterman

"But the speech went over pretty well. I mean, Cheney was interrupted five times by applause and 50 times by people screaming, 'Stop! I'll tell you everything! What do you want to know? Just stop, please! Don't go on!'" --David Letterman

"The National Archives lost a hard drive with massive amounts of valuable data from the Clinton Administration. It contained Bill Clinton's to-do list, 500 people long." --Jimmy Fallon

"Michelle Obama's on the cover of Time magazine this week. She says she has dinner with Barack and the kids every night, and then -- oh, it's so cute -- Joe Biden jumps up and tries to lick the plates." --Jimmy Fallon

"Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been in the news a lot this week, attacking President Obama. For eight years, this Dick Cheney never said two words, now all of a sudden he's like Regis, all over the place. He's been making so many speeches lately I'm starting to think he's not really dead." --Jimmy Kimmel

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama vs Cheney, Beautiful Baghdad, Mideast Peace Plan

Paul Krugman
David Brooks
Jonathan Spyer
Dana Millbank

"The difference between Obama and Cheney-Bush on national security and foreign policy issues is simply put: it's the difference between a moderate and an extremist, the difference between a leader and a bully." - Joe Klein

Back to a more serious tone after yesterday's fun, click on the David Brooks article above, he makes an interesting point on the later years of the Bush administration, and below Joe Klein responds in Time's Swampland: "I would give Obama more credit than Brooks does: this President understands, in a way that Bush never did, that a new sort of enemy--stateless terrorists--requires new policies that must be ratified by the Congress. That is no small thing. His decision to stop the enhanced interrogation techniques still available to the CIA was a clean and dramatic break from Bush. It is true that this set of issues has proven far more difficult than candidate Obama anticipated (the availability of detailed intelligence on the individual cases at Guantanamo forces a more nuanced reaction), and it is also true that he is still working his way through the best ways to change the laws to accomodate this new reality. But the transparent act of making these issues and the factors influencing his decision-making public is both courageous domestically and crucial internationally. Unlike Bush and Cheney, who treated the American people as blithering idiots and--disgracefully--used terrorism to question the strength and patriotism of their opponents, Obama is betting that people will understand the complexity of these issues...
...In fact, the thrust of Obama's national security policy is dramatically different from Bush's. His emphasis on a comprehensive regional approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the opposite of Bush's feckless abandonment of this far more crucial fight in the war against Al Qaeda. His decision to engage Iran, his decision to push forward in the Middle East (including the demand that Israel stop building illegal settlements), his decision to participate in global climate change talks, his decision not to indulge in the disdain--manifested by Cheney yet again in his speech--for our European allies. These are all dramatic turns for the better."

We are supposed to be pulling troops out of Baghdad in June. The streets are safer than a few years ago, but there is violence daily. Bombings are still popular, 23 were killed today, 40 were killed yesterday when cars, garbage cans, or people with explosives strapped to themselves detonated in crowds. It's feared that once we leave, the police and army are so corrupt that the situation will devolve into chaos again. From the BBC: "Iraq's anti-corruption committee, leaked to the Western media, which reveals the magnitude of the problem facing the Iraqi government.
The report, which is a result of the committee's investigation into some 12,000 complaints of government corruption, says that that among the worst offenders are - in no particular order - the ministries of defence, interior, finance, education and health.
One of the cases, says a defence ministry official, involves tens of thousands of dollars made by illegally charging young recruits up to US $500 each to join the army.
"The report does not even scratch the surface of what goes on. Millions, billions of dollars are being stolen," says Alia Nusaif, an Iraqi MP and member of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.

After she publicised evidence of corruption in the trade and defence ministries, Ms Nusaif says that both filed law suits against her. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Maliki has recently called on his government to declare a war on corruption. But Ms Nusaif says for her it has been a lonely battle.
"He made the same promises last year. The problem is that senior officials are never punished in Iraq," she said
." Where is that paragon of virtue, Paul Bremer, when we need him now? At least he used cash when he bribed, shipped in over $1 billion in unmarked bills. When we leave their economy will take a nosedive along with their black market in arms and explosives. So perhaps the car bombs will stop after the American money to buy the explosives dries up?

President Obama's Mideast Peace Plan was leaked to Arab and Israeli news sources to get critical feedback before making any public announcements. The response has not been good, accusing Obama of being too naive, not thoroughly knowing the dynamics of the different parties involved, and will be doomed to failure. Jonathan Spyer has an interesting report in the Jerusalem Post, click on it at the top of this post: "Above and beyond the details, the plan revealed in Al-Quds al-Arabi fails to acknowledge the salient fact of current Middle East strategy: namely, the division of the region into an Islamist "resistance" bloc led by Iran, and a loose coalition of all those states opposed to this bloc.
There is a conspiracy theory according to which Obama, with Machiavellian cunning, knows that his plan is unworkable, and intends to use its failure to cast blame and accusation on Israel. Who knows? Perhaps evidence will yet emerge in support for this thesis.

It seems more likely, however, that the president remains enthralled by the sunny illusions of the peace process of the 1990s, and is about to give them another run around the block. He has four years to follow the well-trodden path from innocence to experience. The problem is that further afield, there are other, more urgent clocks ticking..."

Finally, Myanmar is holding the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, for breaking house arrest by letting the crazy Ugly American into her house. She is charged of breaking house arrest and conspiring to make the government look bad. The government is mad because their soldiers had to go into the lake to arrest John Yettaw swimming away from her home, and they can't swim. Ms Kyi's lawyers responded that they really didn't have any problems because scum always floats on top of the water...: "Everyone is very angry with this wretched American," Kyi Win, one of Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers, told reporters as the trial began.
"He is the cause of all these problems. He's a fool."

Late night jokes:

"I had the most frustrating night the other night. I watched the season finale of '24' with Nancy Pelosi. You know, she couldn't remember the first 23 hours. Didn't remember any of the torture -- none of it!" --Jay Leno

"Hey, President Obama has found a way to quickly close Guantanamo Bay. He's going to turn it into a Pontiac dealership." --Jay Leno

"Vice President Joe Biden is on a trip to Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo. The White House is calling it 'Operation Keep Biden Away From the Microphones.'" --Jay Leno

"And the price of gas, that keeps going up. I'll tell you how bad it is. Today, I saw Dick Cheney driving a Prius." --Jay Leno

"The economy is so bad, Bill Maher is going to church just for the free bread and wine." --Jay Leno

"And according to a Massachusetts educational official, 73 percent of the people who take the state elementary school teacher licensing test fail the math part. In my home state, Massachusetts, 73 percent of teachers taking the math test fail. That's almost half." --Jay Leno

"And according to a Rasmussen poll, when asked if English should be America's official language, 85 percent of the people said, 'Si.'" --Jay Leno

"Here's something to think about. A new study says that legalizing gay marriage in the state of Massachusetts has pumped an additional $111 million into the state's economy. Isn't that amazing? In fact, it's been so good for the state, you know Bunker Hill? Now renaming it Brokeback Mountain." --Jay Leno

"Both President Obama and Dick Cheney will give competing speeches tomorrow on national security and terrorism. It's kind of like 'American Idol' except one of them got voted off months ago." --Jimmy Fallon

"The Somali pirate on trial in Manhattan was indicted on 10 charges of piracy yesterday. His bail was set at 100 doubloons." --Jimmy Fallon