Monday, November 30, 2009

Rush Most Influential, Creating Jobs in Aghanistan and US, Saddam Channel 24/7

Paul Krugman
Howard Schweber
Matthew Yglesias

"There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers." - Paul Krugman
"But these days, financial news is political news" - Matthew Yglesias
"The problem all along has been that this administration tries to do everything indirectly, whether it's job creation, easing the credit crunch, or rescuing homeowners" - Howard Schweber

Alexander Mooney writes for the CNN Political Ticker: "Americans overwhelmingly say talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh is currently the most influential conservative, according to a new poll. In the new survey conducted by CBS' "60 Minutes" and Vanity Fair magazine, 26 percent of those sampled identified Limbaugh as the leading conservative, followed by fellow media personality Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin followed close behind with 10 percent each. The only Republican who currently holds office to make the list is House Minority Leader John Boehner, who registered 4 percent in the poll. The poll of 855 Americans was conducted November 6-8 and carries a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points."
"I say it every year: I have people thanking me all day long for doing this show, but you have no idea what you have meant to me." - Rush Limbaugh

I'm not that impressed. A poll of only 855 people is not a representative sample. If it were ten or twenty million people it would be more fair, if done in a random fashion. One thing this poll does point out is that many people sampled are not reading very much, and they are getting opinions from the radio. It would be interesting to see how many people surf the Internet looking for sites to read, or what magazines and books they feel influenced their world view.

 I don't listen to the radio much anymore, some blues over the Internet or my local classical station. I spent a few years working all night and listened to talk radio then: Coasttocoastam, National Public Radio, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michaell Savage, and others. I found that AM radio was filled with conservative shows and there weren't any other voices to balance things out. I like a variety of opinions, and became bored quickly with Bill O'Reilly's and Michael Savage's abrasive style, and being rude and abusive to their guests. Way back when he was struggling, Rush used to have a sense of humor and was more fun to listen to. It seems that he has gotten too full of himself, and also has become more abrasive after his addiction to Oxycontin, and with his current addiction to diet pills. It may be that most of his audience is also taking prescribed medications for things like weight loss or depression, and it's the amphetamine-talking Rush communicating to his amphetamine taking audience, and the drugs make everything sympatico... I still think we should know the kinds of prescription drugs our Congressional Representatives are taking, as things like the amphetamine in anti-depressants can lead to problems in critical thinking, or, as the slogan from the '60's said, speed kills...

afghan policy and jobs...

Just about every detail of Obama's Afghan policy has been leaked and published already. There will be a lot of criticism now from both Left and Right who don't like his decisions. It will be hard to justify sending people to risk their lives for government officials who don't care about building a responsible government, they just want to rip off as much money as they can for their families, then move to some other country to live in luxury. I guess we could blame the Chinese for that, institutionalizing avarice in the government for over 1000 years, so that it has become the norm throughout the Eastern world.

So you will have to do it for the poor people, find a way that they can make a viable living other than growing opium or joining a Taliban. So far one of the best programs is the creation of credit unions sponsored by the British: "Some believe the battle for hearts and minds should really be framed in terms of a battle for stomachs. We call unemployment and hunger the underside of the insurgency, but in fact it is the elephant in the room," said Ralph Lopez, co-founder of Jobs for Afghans, a lobby group that believes cash-for-works programs can end the fighting."It is clear that a large-scale jobs program would slow or reverse the insurgency."

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, has urged a shift in strategy which places strong emphasis on the need to protect the population, whom he says make-up 70 percent of the Taliban." Schools have been built that also accepts women as students, and many village-based small business are being supported by civilian groups. Perhaps the added troops will help protect these fragile projects trying to bloom in the arid mountains, and a self-sustaining economy will develop independent of the greedy morons running the government.

Then perhaps we could apply these same strategies to our own economy. We won't be able to truly recover until the small, family run businesses can flourish once again. Maybe we need this village-based stimulus for ourselves, instead of giving money to large institutions and hoping they will loan the money to me and you. Otherwise, we will all turn to growing medical marijuana and it can become our largest export crop, and more angry and frustrated people will join the American Talibans; they are already trying to take over our elections, et tu Sarah?

the angry ghost wanders the airwaves...

Now that the US will be taking most of its troops out of Iraq, the cult of Saddam Hussein is rising again, in the form of a "mysterious" television station dedicated to him. It plays all Saddam, all the time: "It is not clear who is behind the channel which broadcasts the speeches, images and even poetry of Saddam Hussein, backed with patriotic music. It is broadcast from outside Iraq and some analysts suspect his former political supporters of bankrolling it. Saddam Hussein's family and some exiled members of the Baath party he once headed have denied any connection to it. The Associated Press news agency said it contacted a man called Mohammed Jarboua who claimed to be the channel's chairman, in the Syrian capital Damascus. However, his claim can not be verified."

The Saddam Channel is broadcasted through a Bahrain satellite and can be downloaded through a satellite dish or is even streamed on the Internet. It's a comforting reminder of a much more innocent time, a safer time, when all of the nations problems were repressed by the loving hands of a ruthless dictator. Actually, he is looking pretty tame contrasted to the rise of the Revolutionary Guard in next door Iran. It helps to set the tone for the next dictator who will seize control soon after we leave, one less secular and just as brutal. I wonder where Muqtada al Sadr has been hiding lately? I wonder, is listening to Saddam similar to listening to Glenn Beck, do they have the same demographic in both countries?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tom Tancredo's Gun Ballot , Canada - India Nuke Deal, Your Own Personal Jesus

Jim Hoagland
Matthew Yglesias
George Will

"By mocking the idea of lawful behavior, legalization of medical marijuana may be more socially destructive than full legalization." - George Will
"As long as Austinites keep decorating their bodies and cars, we’re going to be fine.” - local yokel

Tancredo Watch...
I must confess that I enjoy news about Tom Tancredo. He is Colorado's answer to Bozo the Clown, and his limited worldview never fails to delight: "Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo has proposed a 2010 ballot measure that would recommend to Colorado's top elected officials that they oppose gun restrictions. The Jefferson County Republican said he was prompted to act because the Obama administration has announced its intent to participate in negotiations on an international arms- trade treaty. The treaty would regulate international trade — not domestic sales — but Tancredo argued Friday that gun owners had a right to be concerned.

"It's a pretty slippery step to gun confiscation," he said."

Ahh, yes, that old slippery slope, a derogatory phrase that Tome picked up from the Vietnam era during his formative years developing his racist thoughts against immigrants... :-)  So what if his proposed ballot measure is frivolous and would be thrown out of court, or if it was a meaningless act that we would get to vote on next election? It's an expression of his opinion, and we could send this message to Washington, that we want our AK-47's! If some Afghan peasant can grow enough opium poppies to buy one, why can't we spend our proceeds from growing medical marijuana on the international arms of our choice?

Which reminds me of a story I want to tell as an interlude. My youngest brother at one time wanted to be a Bounty Hunter. This was in a time before the Dog. He trained with the guy who was the model for the television show, The Fall Guy, who was both a bounty hunter and a stunt actor. I fondly recall the time my brother drunkenly called me up and was so proud that he successfully made it that day by being set on fire... Anyway, my brother had a Mossberg shotgun that was in my father's gun cabinet that I found after my father passed away. My brother had died a few years previously after my other brother went to visit him and played with his new medication. I put the shotgun in the trunk of my car and drove from Los Angeles to Colorado Springs. When my brother-in-law helped move it from the closet where it was being stored, we found out that it was still loaded and had the trigger shaved down; it went off and damned near killed my brother-in-law and blew a hole through the side of my townhouse. I felt so stupid assuming that my dad would keep it unloaded for so many years, and for not checking it before I moved. At any moment I could have hit a bump and blown a hole through the trunk of my car and maybe hit someone else... So I had sympathy for Dick Cheney when he forgot basic safety and shot his friend in the face.

Anyway, the local Republicans want to show a united front for the next election for Governor against Bill Ritter. They convinced all other Republican candidates to drop out of the race, so money wouldn't be spent on a primary election. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong candidate, and he will probably lose. Tom Tancredo was throwing it out to the wind that he wanted to run for Governor anyway, but someone, or group of someones, actually got him to listen to reason and he, too, dropped his informal quest. It's part of a national strategy to show a united front and save money because politics has become so expensive. especially once you start running negative ads and commercials... The only ones who seem not to be onboard with this strategy are the tea-party conservatives, you betcha... On the national level, look for a presidential slate of Dick Cheney and Gen Stanley McChrystal...

from our friends up north...
Ok, we knew that Iran was going to respond to the international nuclear committee's condemnation of their program by upping the ante, saying that they were building ten more enrichment sites. That may be the number of secret installations they have squirreled around their country, and they are giving us info in the guise of protesting.

But more interesting, was that while India came to the US for recognition and to be feted at a state dinner, they also went to Canada to buy nuclear technology: "...the agreement would allow Canadian firms to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipment and technology to and from India." So, we develop the technology, sell it to the Canadians, then let India make a backdoor deal to obtain that technology. Next, because India will have it, Pakistan will have to buy it, too, to keep up with their dreaded enemy. This may explain why Pakistan's President transferred the power to be in charge of their nuclear arsenal to the Prime Minister, and will also be giving up some powers that were bestowed to the former leader, Pervez Musharraf. If they make nice, they will get new toys to celebrate the end of the hajj...

India acted pretty fast, having just had an international ban on them restricting selling them nuclear material, that had lasted 30 years, lifted in September. India still hasn't signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. They have a lot of catching up to do...

Sunday Special: Your Own Personal Jesus:

A Massachusetts woman who recently separated from her husband and had her hours cut at work says an image of Jesus Christ she sees on her iron has reassured her that "life is going to be good."

Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there

Your own personal Jesus...

Feeling unknown
And you're all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I'll make you a believer

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Iran Becomes New Frankenstein, Rise of the Amputees, Jim Bopp's Comet Trail

Ben Bernanke
James Delasantellis
Gary Sick

"I am concerned, however, that a number of the legislative proposals being circulated would significantly reduce the capacity of the Federal Reserve to perform its core functions" - Ben Bernanke
"Those with a more conspiratorial frame of mind would always look at the Fed with a raised eye of suspicion" - James Delasantellis

The article by Gary Sick on Iran pretty much sums up what I think is going on in Iran: "Its insinuation into the economy of Iran had been widely observed for years. It also controlled the nationwide paramilitary force known as the basij. Its association with a radical faction of Iranian clerics, led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who preached that the word of the Supreme Leader in Islamic Iran was absolute—the very voice of God—was well known. But the election of 22 Khordad propelled the pasdaran into an active role in domestic politics, just as it forced Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader who is supposed to remain above politics, to align himself with a specific political faction and thereby sacrifice his legitimacy as an objective arbiter."

Mahmoud Ahmidinejad seems to be losing his hold, and the Ayatollah Khamenei is making pronouncements all over the ideological spectrum. A soft military coup, the culmination of over ten years of planning and slowly maneuvering into place, has taken over the government. The Revolutionary Guard bring an extreme, no-negotiating, kill off your enemies kind of mentality, where dictatorships are freakishly created during the storms of conflict. The procrastination over nuclear negotiations is one result of their being in charge, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is more reasonable and wants to deal with Russia over this. The intimidating, jailing, mock trials, and sentencing to death of their perceived enemies is another aspect, and it is only getting worse. They are worse than any Taliban groups because they are amoral, and soon Iran will look worse than any Communist country at its highest form of repression. It would have gone unrecognized to most of the outside world had it not been for the spontaneous rise of the Green Movement, concerned over the blatant fraud in the last elections.

Iran wanted to become a respected player in the region and in the world, but it created a Frankenstein instead... Unfortunately, sanctions won't get them to reason, and we have no way to communicate to individual members making policy, even if we could identify them. They feel that their nuclear installations are deep enough under the ground, and fortified enough to resist any bunker buster bombs we may have developed, and they reason that they are too big and too populated to be invaded by military. So, do we call their bluff, or what options are left?

One reason that I'm glad that George Bush is no longer in power, was his proclaimed evangelicalism, even though it has been later proven that he really isn't all that religious. But it was once thought by our more conspiracy minded, that he was trying to create events that would fit biblical prophecy, and hasten the second coming of Christ. According to the BBC, Iran's President also belongs to a small Islamic evangelical sect: "But Mr Ahmadinejad belongs to a minority sect called the Hasteners; they believe that it is the duty of the faithful to prepare the way for the return of the Hidden Imam - or Mahdi - and perhaps even to create propitious conditions." The continued machinations of these two could easily have sent us on the path towards the Eve of Destrustion, if they haven't already. I must say, with the damned wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush seems to have done a fine job of it, and with Ahmadinejad, or those shadowy figures behind him, set to light the nuclear fuse...

taking responsibility...
All eyes are on Copenhagen and debating whether there is global climate change or not. My two cents are it doesn't matter what you want to call it, but the polar ice caps are melting, and the seas have risen seven inches. I think the reason may be more from the recent shifting of the magnetic north pole and deforesting of jungles along the equator than carbon emissions, but they all play an intricate, related part. Brazil wants to get paid for the devastation of the Amazon region instead of taking responsibility; becoming a major world power evidently means never having to say your sorry...

Lesser known in the press, on Nov 29 is the meeting in Columbia of the International Campaing to Ban Landmines: "or a major review conference of the ten-year-old Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, which has been ratified by 156 states, according to the ICBL. Large countries such as the United States, Russia, Pakistan and India have yet to sign up, but campaigners hope to persuade them."

The landmine problem isn't just related to backwaters like Laos and Afghanistan, "last year alone, landmines caused 5,197 casualties worldwide, a third of them children" In Afghanistan, where landmines have been left by the Russians, Communists, and Talibans, there have been high casualties: "An orthopedic center run by the International Committee for the Red Cross in Kabul registered 842 amputees in the first 10 months of 2009, three quarters of them victims of land mines."
"When I heard the bang, I suddenly found myself flung nine meters away. May God punish them all," - Moussa Khan, amputee
Even if the major powers in the world refuse to acknowledge the problem, much less take responsibility, thank God there are people who care enough to risk their lives to defuse these mines. With the increase in US soldiers also the victims of IED devices resulting in a larger number of brain injuries and amputees, you would think that we would want to lead the way at this conference. Maybe it's like getting the military to deal with the rising rate of suicides, they have to be embarrassed, first... To our credit, the DOD has developed : "... a hand-held device that combines metal detection with ground-penetrating radar, called a Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS).

What makes the new device so important, according to the announcement, is that HSTAMIDS can screen out the many bits and pieces of metal found in mined areas and on former battlefields that give a "false positive" signal to metal detectors. International mine action standards require land mine removal personnel to dig up every piece of metal found by their detectors to ensure that no land mine has been missed, the State Department says. This metallic clutter now can be ignored and not unearthed, saving time and, by discovering land mines faster, many innocent lives."

be it resolved..

I finally found the resolution that James Bopp is trying to get passed before the Republican National Committee. My source is from the Colorado Independent, and I will still give them credit even if they erased their link to my blog. Gone are the days of being friendly and the camaraderie in the cut-throat world of blogs. So, I stole their picture, too:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee identifies ten (10) key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership; and be further

RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy position of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.

And now, a Washington moment of Zen:
"We have no record of her being a member of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. Does anyone remember her?'"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Colorado Calf Mutilations, Caribbean Weirdness, Special K Street

Paul Krugman
David Harsanyi
Robert Scheer
Eugene Robinson

"Is anyone ever going to be held accountable for the behind-the-scenes sweetheart deals that passed tens of billions of taxpayer dollars through the AIG shell game to the very banks that caused the financial meltdown?" - Robert Scheer
"The purloined e-mail correspondence published by skeptics last week -- portraying some leading climate researchers as petty, vindictive and tremendously eager to make their data fit accepted theories -- does not prove that global warming is a fraud." - Eugene Robinson

I'm starting of with local weirdness, even more mysterious than the colossal toilet-papering of the Colorado Governor's house! What could be more fun than - cattle mutilations! OK, not to the poor rancher who sold off the rest of his calves and is eying his cows nervously: "A creepy string of calf mutilations in southern Colorado has a rancher and sheriff's officials mystified. Four calves were found dead in a pasture just north of the New Mexico state line in recent weeks. The dead calves had their skins peeled back and organs cleared from the rib cage. One calf had its tongue removed.

But rancher Manuel Sanchez has found no signs of human attackers, such as footprints or ATV tracks. And there are no signs of an animal attack by a coyote or mountain lion. Usually predators leave pools of blood or drag marks from carrying away the livestock. Two officers from the Costilla County Sheriff's Office have investigated the mutilations but say they don't know what's killing the calves.

"There's nothing really to go by," said Sanchez, who's ranched for nearly 50 years. "I can't figure it out."

Theorists trying to explain this phenomena take potshots everywhere, from satanic cults to UFO's : "At locations of cattle mutilations there are usually sightings of UFO's or unmarked black helicopters. Some ranchers have even reported seeing a UFO abducting the cattle in their fields. These sightings and the surgical precision of the mutilations have led some researchers to believe that extraterrestrials are to blame. The researchers speculate that the extraterrestrials take the animals' parts and blood to study at their leisure.

Skeptics contend that these cattle mutilations can be blamed on satanic cults and natural predators. They suggest that scavengers like ants and vultures go first for the softest dead tissue like the lips, eyes, and rectum. They argue that once the cow's heart stops pumping the blood will flow to and coagulate in the lowest portion of the body, giving it an appearance of being drained of all blood."

The San Luis Valley is quite large, spanning six counties with the Sangre DeChristo Mountains forming the Eastern end. Originally part of Ute Indian territory, it's now home to ranchers and many artists. It has a history of cattle mutilations that date back to the 1970's, and lots of other incredible strange happenings as well. I've read of everything from black helicopters, to floating orbs of colored light, to sightings of Sasquatch-like beings and dwarf-like creatures, to sounds of howling packs of animals always staying just ahead of the investigators, until they give up looking. Most of this continues today, but the mutilations had stopped for a few years. Now it looks like, cue the sound from the "Twilight Zone," they're baaacckk...

crazy in the caribbean...

Down in the Caribbean: "The queen of England will still rules — formally at least — over the eastern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines after voters in a referendum rejected a plan to replace her with a president chosen by Parliament. Preliminary results showed 56 percent voted against the change, even though both of the country’s parties have sought to replace the queen with a president as head of state. Opposition leaders had urged voters to reject the proposal, arguing that it did not sufficiently reduce the powers of the prime minister, who would remain as head of government." Either this is a rejection of extending democratic principles in favor of an autocratic system, or they just fancy the old lady, or is it a blatant attempt at power grabbing by the local Parliament? This was only a piece of filler in the New York Times, they couldn't be bothered to do more research and analysis.
"They also said citizens, rather than Parliament, should elect the president."

Not to be outdone, one of the poorest and most violent countries in the world, Haiti, took another step back into the medieval period: "Haiti’s electoral council banned Fanmi Lavalas, the influential party of the exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from next year’s legislative elections. It was one of 17 groups, including the Lespwa movement that formed around President Rene Preval, listed as banned because they submitted improper documents. Mr. Aristide, who was overthrown during a 2004 rebellion and is living in exile in South Africa, said in an interview with Radio Solidarit√© that the decision to eliminate Lavalas was “an electoral coup d’√©tat.” Haiti’s legislature chose a new prime minister last week, and tensions remain high over the presence of 9,000 United Nations peacekeepers, who arrived in the impoverished country after the 2004 rebellion."

Jeez, what's next, the reforming of the Tonton Macoute, if they've really ever left: "In 1959, he created the force, which were granted automatic amnesty for any crime committed during any official act.

They were known for wearing dark glasses, wielding machetes, and leaving their victims hanging in a public place as a warning to others. They cultivated the image of being vodun demons or zombies. It is alleged that the death squad continues to operate in Haiti..." Both Papa Doc Duvalier and his son, Baby Doc, were dictators in the worst sense. They deforested 98% of the island's trees, leading to the depletion of the topsoil, fished out most of the surrounding waters, and made millions being a shipping terminal for Columbian cocaine. The only act of justice carried out against them, besides kicking Baby Doc out of the country, was when his wife left him once they got to the French Riviera for safety. The area where Baby Doc lives alone is known as Dictator's Row, where several exiled leaders lived with the money they had ripped off from their equally poor countries. Thank God for aid from the USA...

don't let the door hit your ass on the way out...
Finally, the Obama administration is doing something that is positive reform in Washington. Yes, kicking out the lobbyists from all governmental advisory posts: "The initiative is aimed at a system of advisory committees so vast that federal officials don't have exact numbers for its size; the most recent estimates tally nearly 1,000 panels with total membership exceeding 60,000 people.

Under the policy, which is being phased in over the coming months, none of the more than 13,000 lobbyists in Washington would be able to hold seats on the committees, which advise agencies on trade rules, troop levels, environmental regulations, consumer protections and thousands of other government policies.

"Some folks have developed a comfortable Beltway perch sitting on these boards while at the same time working as lobbyists to influence the government," said White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen."

The whining bastards are not happy about this: "But lobbyists and many of the businesses they represent say K Street is being unfairly demonized by a White House intent on scoring political points with scandal-weary voters. They warn that the latest policy will severely handicap federal regulators, who rely heavily on advisory boards for technical advice and to serve as liaisons between government and industry." Dudes, they will still get advice, just not from you... The Obama administration has also made it harder for a lobbyist to get a job with the government, and there is now a moratorium period when a government official can sign up as a lobbyist once they no longer work for the government. Unfortunately, any former Congressman is free to do so immediately.

Does anybody think that a paid professional for an industry does not have an agenda and could ever be neutral? Unless you are a Republican who worked for the Bush administration? Any member from an interested company is welcome to try and join an advisory committee. This just takes away some of the overpaid, overblown livelihood of K Street's 13,000 registered bloodsuckers. One small step for us honest folks...
"It's healthy to move away from the professional advocates for the special interests and let some new voices be heard."

Now, a moment of Universal Zen:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Immigrants Solve Their Own Problem

E J Dionne Jr
Leslie Gelb
Joe Conason

"It's now official: So in vogue are attacks on President Obama that even his proclamation calling the nation to a day of Thanksgiving has become the focus of criticism." - E J dionne Jr
"I believe that the Obama approach is reasonable, and about the most that can be expected, given the powerful conflicting pressures. The plan deserves the support of the American people." - Leslie Gelb
"The puzzling thing about politicians of either party who claim to be "centrist" or "moderate" is how much they sometimes sound like party-line right-wing Republicans." - Joe Conason

Thanks a lot, Joe. I consider myself a moderate, but next to some of the Blue Dog Democrats I feel like a radical liberal. Living where Libertarianism got started, and the home of focus on the Family, I also feel like I'm surrounded by pod people, who get their beliefs from rote party and pastor lines. I've always enjoyed the eccentric ways of artistic people, with their emphasis on creativity and finding new ways of looking at the world around us. In contrast, I find in many ways my neighbors to be as bleak as the winter landscape. Even the people I worked for at the library I found disappointing in their false intellectual liberalism, not willing to live the ideals they professed to believe.

So, let's solve the illegal immigration problem, so that people like Pat Buchanon, Tom Tancredo, Lou Dobbs, and other Republican hypocrites can give thanks. Actually, it looks like the problem is solving itself. The Border Patrol reports that all arrests have gone down significantly for those trying to cross over illegally. Unemployment has risen drastically for illegals here, as the housing market remains depressed and little construction going on. Economists predict that the housing and job market will take another hit come this Spring. As a result, people are either going back to their home countries, or are asking for help from their families so that they can weather out the recession here.

The bad news in Mexico is that the drug wars are continuing, with people getting murdered left and right. It opens up jobs for the police, but you might have to be suicidal or corrupt to take the job...

a million thanks...
One of the nicest and easiest things to do this holiday season is to write a letter to a service person in the armed forces and thank them for their dedication and risking their lives and sanity in the name of our country. You can go to, or write a letter and send it to:

A Million Thanks
17853 Santiago Blvd., #107-355
Villa Park, CA 92861

moments of Thanksgiving zen:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Minorities in Iraq, OK, I mean the Gypsies... Mercs R Us

Maureen Dowd
Kathleen Parker
Dana Milbank
Thomas F Cooley

"The industry is on the verge of a coup that many would have thought impossible a year ago: an escape from any major reform of financial regulations." - Dana Milbank
"You don't have to be a black helicopter fan to recognize that the proximity of the small world that is Wall Street to the very institutions and public servants who are meant to regulate them can seriously compromise their credibility." - Thomas F Cooley
"Common sense nevertheless tells us that when the economy is pinching people, they’ll take it out on the party controlling the levers of government." - Sean Trende

The US wants to pull out 60,000 troops from Iraq this Spring, leaving 50,000 for "training" purposes. It was going to do this after the Iraqis had another election, proving that their was continuity in their fledgling democracy. Postponing the elections put a monkey wrench in everyone's plans, and what happens if there's no election at all?

One of the fears is that instead of a representative government, another dictator will take power by force, someone who is a religious zealot and will actively repress those whom are felt morally inferior. Because Saddam Hussein was a tribal secularist, minorities within Iraq led safer lives. For example, consider the plight of the Gypsies: "Before 2003, under the Baathist regime of toppled president Saddam Hussein, the situation was much better. The dictator's iron fist did not weigh on the gypsies or Roma.

The men were professional singers or musicians and the women were invited to dance at feasts, weddings and parties in Iraq, having migrated to the Middle East from India centuries ago. With the rise of radical Islamists in 2004 however, they were marginalized, attacked and robbed by the Mahdi army, a Shiite militia loyal to the radical, anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who regarded the gypsies as morally repugnant.

Today, with the war-torn country primarily run by religious leaders, as opposed to the mostly secular society that existed under Saddam, the Roma community feels ostracized.

Despite being Muslims, the "Kawliya" -- as the community is known in Iraq -- are seen as outcasts."
"We live worse than dogs," - Ragnab Hannumi Allawi

Other groups fare just as poorly, and, like all of the Middle East, in Iraq there is much more ethnic diversity than we realize. The tribes of Romany just can't get a break anywhere, it seems. The American concept of freedom and justice for all may not be possible where intolerance has such a long tradition. It's something to think about when considering our own immigration problems and policies, do we really want to institutionalize that kind of intolerance..

legitimizing mercenaries...
Besides the arrests of young Americans who went to Somalia to fight for insurgents, what bothered me, and seems ignored by the media, is their reporting that there were Western trainers in the insurgent training camps. At first thought, was, aha! mercenaries were involved. like they have been in so many conflicts around the globe. After all, what better place to use the skills you learned from serving in the armed forces than by becoming a merc?

But you can't just answer some ad in Soldier of Fortune anymore, the art of the mercenary has become legitimized by the rise of professional security services, who still hire out to whomever will pay them. Very few of the new companies see themselves as evangelical warriors like Xe Services does, they are pretty amoral, in the free market sense. So far, I haven't been able to find out which company is hired by al-Shabab, and they might not be American...

The private security company that was outed at the American Embassy in Kabul a few months ago, by partying and drinking naked under the moonlight and being abusive to their Afghan compatriots, has been hired by the Iraq government to provide security at the Baghdad Airport. Party On, dudes...

And Xe denies that they are in Pakistan, running a tip top secret drone program for the Pakistani government. Both the Pentagon and the Pakistani government have also denied that anything remotely like this is going on, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. The US wouldn't give the drones to Pakistan when they asked for them, like we gave to Israel, so the next best thing is to have a security firm handle the program so there is deniability all around.

These guys make three times as much as an American soldier does, has less accountability, and gets to become spies for the CIA, bodyguards for the Pentagon and State Department, play video war-games with real drones and missiles, kill foreign nationals and get away with it, and bring their favorite drugs back home, no questions asked. Ahh, the Life of Riley...

lou dobbs disease strikes...

Just to prove how the media pundits are all an act, Lou Dobbs, who now wants to run for President, bless his Alzheimer's rattled head, is now taking reverse stance on immigration: "But as the Wall Street Journal points out: In a little-noticed interview Friday, Mr. Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers, a stance he long lambasted as an unfair "amnesty."

"Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now that I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together," he said in a live interview with Telemundo's Maria Celeste."

First, he was going on and on about illegal immigrants on his business show on CNN, so much that he was let go. Then, he announced that he wanted to run for Congress. a few days later he wants to run for President and begins sucking up to the Hispanics. Try apologizing first, Lou. Next, I wonder if he'll support Obama when he announces he will run for God...

I think I need some late night political jokes:

"Sarah Palin launched her book tour this week with a stop in Michigan, where more than 1,000 people waited to meet her. Or, as Fox News reported it, half a million people." –Seth Meyers

"It was reported Monday that food summit, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi spent several hours in the company of 200 Italian women and tried to convert them to Islam. Long story short -- he's a Catholic now." –Seth Meyers

"The design for George W. Bush's presidential library was unveiled Wednesday in Dallas, and features a lantern-shaped roof that will glow at night. Mr. President, I don't want to make any more jokes about you being dumb, but you have to meet me halfway. Don't build a library where the lights are on when no one is home." –Seth Meyers

"This has been quite a week for Sarah Palin. She's been everywhere promoting her new book. She was on 'Oprah,' 'Good Morning America,' ABC 'World News,' 'Nightline,' Barbara Walters. Not to be outdone, next week, John McCain will be the guest corpse on 'CSI.'" –Jay Leno

"Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, reportedly a huge fan of President Obama. He thinks President Obama's doing a great job. Well, Obama hasn't had PR that good since the Reverend Wright was campaigning for him." –Jay Leno

"The alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is gonna be tried in New York City after all, it looks like. A lot of people saying this is too dangerous. And, of course, the big fear, he could escape by disappearing into a sea of cab drivers." –Jay Leno

"This week, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai was sworn in wearing Afghanistan's traditional clothing: Kevlar pants, a helmet and bulletproof vest." –Jay Leno

"The George W. Bush library design was unveiled this week by former First Lady Laura Bush. Did you know that she was a librarian when she first met George? Did you know that? In fact, she's the only thing he ever checked out of a library." –Jay Leno

"Hillary Clinton tells Vogue magazine that she naps on command, like that. Yeah, especially when Bill asks if she's in the mood" –Jay Leno

"Oprah Winfrey announced she's quitting her show. Oprah's quitting. No, crazy. Yeah. This is the crazy thing. Oprah said she used prayer to help her decide to end her show. That's what she said. Yeah, Oprah said she stopped praying when she realized she has more money than the guy she's praying to." –Conan O'Brien

"According to a new poll, more Americans would like to have Thanksgiving dinner with Hillary Clinton than with Sarah Palin. That's what the poll said. Yeah. Mainly because no one wants to eat elk pie." –Conan O'Brien

"It's been reported that CNN got so tired of Lou Dobbs' focus on immigration issues that they paid him $8 million to leave. Yeah, and just to rub it in, they gave it to him in pesos." –Conan O'Brien

"On Friday, President Obama pardons the White House turkey. Mmm-boy. Dick Cheney didn't miss an opportunity. He proves that Obama is soft on poultry." –David Letterman

"Big night at the movies yesterday, 'New Moon' made a record $26.3 million at a midnight screening. Wow. In fact, earlier today, President Obama announced his new stimulus plan, it's called 'Twilight 3.' He's going to give that a shot." –Jimmy Fallon

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is American Military Composed of Martians?, GOP's New 10 Points of Light

David Brooks
Dana Milbank

"This is what happens as nations grow wealthier; they use money to buy civilization." - David Brooks

Besides trying to initiate the next step of trust between the Palestinian Authority and Israel with the exchange of prisoners for Israeli Sargent Gilad Shalit, all the Palestinians really want is the release of Marwan Barghouti, who is enjoying the hospitality of an Israeli prison cell for his leadership in the second infitada. He is seen by many, both Palestinians and Israelis, as the next successor to Mahmoud Abbas, who is tired and wants to step down. Even though there are those in Israel who think he should never walk free again, : "... there is a growing acknowledgement among Israelis and Palestinians that Barghouti's broad appeal and reformist streak offer the best prospects for peace. Politicians in Israel see him as the best hope for strengthening the nationalist camp against Hamas -- ironically, due to his close ties with the opposition party and thus his ability to influence them." This situation reminds me of a young man who was in a Canadian jail until mysterious forces allowed him to walk free before his sentence was over, and he then immigrated to Europe and took on the name of Leon Trotsky...

my favorite martians...
They need to reintroduce dialogue as a tool of command because, although it is easy to speak to Americans face to face and understand each other completely, dealing with them corporately is akin to dealing with a group of Martians. If it isn’t on the PowerPoint slide, it doesn’t happen.” - British Col J K Tanner

Britain is beginning an official inquiry into Iraq, hoping to find out how they got conned into participating in such a mess. It should provide lots of entertainment over the next 18 months, and provide a thorough indictment on the US's style of military and civilian leadership. True to fashion the world over, documents were leaked to the press before the whitewash has even begun, giving us a tantalizing taste of what is to come: “We experienced real difficulty in dealing with the American military and civilian organizations who, partly through arrogance and partly through bureaucracy, dictate that there is only one way: the American way.”

The inquiry will highlight the different paths two military forces took during their occupancy of Iraq. Americans believed in applying force first, then sorting things out afterwards, while the British preferred to negotiate first and use force as a last resort. This resulted in the British often ignoring the orders given by the Americans, as one officer delicately put it:  “we noted the intent but tended to ignore the detail.” He added, “We would follow the ‘what,’ and often ignore the ‘how.’ ” General Stewart, in a similar vein, said that when he evaded American orders to take military action, it was because he believed that using negotiation could “achieve the same result using different means.”

The bitterness persisted deep into the war, with American commanders accusing the British of appeasing the Shiite militias that ultimately took control of Basra, and the British accusing the Americans of resorting too readily to force in cities like Falluja. The recriminations eased only after 2007, when American commanders under Gen. David H. Petraeus adopted new counterinsurgency tactics that British officers saw as drawing partly on lessons Britain had learned in earlier conflicts, leading British officers to say that the Americans had finally grasped lessons missed at the outset of the war." The inquiry should extend to the British military's opinion on our counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, and hopefully, some candid remarks from some of the American military Martians, many whom have retired and are living in Martian colonies near my house...

Meanwhile, President Obama will announce his plans for Afghanistan, probably on Dec 1. This morning he said: “After eight years, some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done, it is my intention to finish the job, and I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, they will be supportive.” It will be nice to have a set of goals, finally. I can tell you already that Dick and Liz Cheney are pissed that they have not been consulted, not one wee little bit... But the pundits are just slamming Obama in the press, they like are sharks circling bloody chum in the water. Right now the thoughtful, intellectual style that seemed a breath of fresh air in Washington is getting ragged on by the bully boys. They are ready to knock his books to the ground and make fun of him for doing his homework, sissy boy...

meanwhile, back on the farm...

Another story that you will read more about in the next few days, is the proposed Conservatives 10 Point Pledge(tm), ready for voting at the next meeting of the small minds, the Republican National Committee: "...what the party should stand for: a 10-point checklist gauging proper adherence to core principles like opposing government financing for abortion and, more generally, President Obama’s “socialist agenda.” In what was being dubbed a purity test when it leaked out to reporters on Monday, the proposal would require the party to withhold campaign money and endorsements from candidates who do not adhere to at least seven principles on the checklist." Yes, the GOP is culling the 1000 points of light down to a dull 10; they have decided to go green, I suppose.

It looks like the RNC is run by Martians, also. The problem is that you don't restore faith in your Party by making a checklist of orthodoxy to the principles and arguments that drove people away from the Party in the first place. Small minds like Dick Armey have jumped on this idea and support it, while others, surprisingly, like: "Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform whose antitax pledge has become generally required signing for Republican candidates, said he was concerned that the proposal would lead the national party to step in where voters should.

“The party has a platform, and that platform and the pieces of it are enforced by primary voters,” Mr. Norquist said. “I think orthodoxy should be imposed from below not above.” Still, he said, forced adherence to 7 of the 10 principles listed “strikes me as eminently reasonable.” Weird to say that Grover is the voice of reason here, but maybe he's just jealous and wants his own conservative pledge to be the one that candidates must sign. If folks keep coming up with off the wall stuff like this, I actually feel kinda sorry for Michael Steele, who has to hear it every day and walk the line between reason and madness, er, tea partyness...

late night political jokes:

"President Obama is getting ready to pardon the White House turkey, the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner." –Jay Leno

"I don't want to say Geithner is not doing a good job. But, today, God asked for his name to be taken off the bill." –Jay Leno

"The White House and the Senate Democrats are working on a new jobs bill. The White House said this new jobs bill could create twice as many non-existent fake jobs as the last one." –Jay Leno

"Now, three weeks ago, [the Administration] said the $787 billion stimulus-thing created one million new jobs. Then, last week, they said it was really only 640,000 jobs. Now, they're saying they really don't know. You know how to create a new job? Fire the guy in charge of counting." –Jay Leno

"There's a lot of controversy over this section of this new health care bill that says if you don't buy health insurance, you can go to jail for five years. They say it'll prevent freeloaders of the system. Yeah, but — well, if they do go to jail, won't they get free health care for five years?" –Jay Leno

"President Obama was in China last week. Today, the Chinese government sent him a beautiful gift. Did you see this on the news tonight? It was a 10% off coupon at Wal-Mart." –Jay Leno

"California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will not run for another office once his term as governor is over. And the amazing thing — do you know what he's going to be doing after this? He'll be a speech therapist." –Jay Leno

"That evil guy, the evil masterminding terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he is going on trial here in New York City. I will tell you something, this guy is nothing but evil. One time he called CNN and told him that his son was floating away in a balloon." –David Letterman

"Khalid is expected to get a tough reception here in New York City because everybody hates him. You know, why not? Here's a guy you can hate. And on top of that, he's a Red Sox fan." –David Letterman

"Legal experts are worried about having [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's] trial here in New York City with this guy because they think he'll use the trial as a soapbox. Use the trial as a soapbox. Have you seen the guy, there he is. If he does, it will be the closest this guy has been to soap in years." –David Letterman

"It's a big week for Chuck Schumer. First his birthday and then being named sexiest man alive." –David Letterman

"Barnes and Noble is running a great promotion on the Sarah Palin book. You buy the Sarah Palin book, they will throw in a free Mayan calendar." –David Letterman

"John McCain, Sarah Palin's former running mate, read the Sarah Palin memoir. After 23 years of military service, five years as a prisoner of war, 22 years as a U.S. senator, I'm sure that John found Sarah's story very inspirational." –David Letterman

"A lot of people are saying that it's too soon for Sarah Palin to write a memoir. They say she should wait until she had at least ten more years of inexperience." –David Letterman

"Sarah Palin's book is now available on kindle, and, coincidentally, I'm using my copy as kindling." –David Letterman

"The ratings just came in for Sarah Palin's appearance on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' It earned Oprah her highest ratings since the episode where she reunited the Osmond family. Yeah, viewers who saw both episodes say Palin's more likable but that Donny and Marie are more qualified to be president." –Conan O'Brien

"Over the weekend, the Senate voted to allow debate on the healthcare bill. Can you believe that? It's like fighting over whether or not to fight." –Jimmy Fallon

Monday, November 23, 2009

Iran Plans Protests in Mecca, Freeing Gilad Shalit, Ahmadinejad in Brazil

Paul Krugman
Leslie Gelb

"The reigning doctrine in Washington appears to be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” - Paul Krugman
"The message for Mr. Obama should be clear: He should stare hard at the skills of his foreign-policy team and, more so, at his own dominant role in decision-making. Something is awry somewhere, and he’s got to fix it." - Leslie Gelb

This is the season to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that over 3 million Muslims perform each year. It gets quite crowded, and this year there is the added fear of the swine flu, where several cases already have been reported.

But it is also the time of year for Shias and Sunnis to come together, though there are the usual clashes. The worst was in 1987 when guards ended up firing into the crowd, leaving 402 dead. This year may top that mark, as Iran promises to agitate it up a notch: "On Oct. 26, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, met with officials from the Iranian hajj organizing committee and seized the occasion to rail against alleged past mistreatment of his compatriots during the pilgrimage.

"Such acts are against the unity of Muslims and contribute to the goals and wishes of the U.S. and foreign intelligence services," he said. "The Saudi government should fulfill its duty in confronting these acts." He received immediate support from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who warned on his Web site that the government in Tehran would respond with a "necessary decision" to defend the dignity of Iranian pilgrims..."
This year's Iranian pilgrims are planning to stage a "peaceful demonstration" calling for "Death to Israel, Death to America."

Mix in the civil war in Yemen, and the fact that an Iranian nuclear scientist  defected to Saudi Arabia during a pilgrimage, then throw in the current problems Iran has trying to intimidate its population into submission by sentencing protesters to death and its childish tantrums to the international community, then yes, Houston, we may have a problem... The Saudis have their own problems with extremists in their midst,  and want to remain the dominant player in the region.

The people on the losing end are the innocent, who just want to perform the one major, life transforming journey in their lives without all of the bs... "Sadly, all the talk of political intrigue tends to hide the salient fact that, for the vast majority of hajjis, the pilgrimage is a life-transforming event that emphasizes peace, tolerance, and the equality of all believers despite racial, political, and national differences." 

confusion in cairo...
There are conflicting and muddled reports coming out of Egypt, Gaza, and Israel over the next steps being taken towards talks together. First, Hamas declares that it convinced the groups that were firing missiles into Israel to stop. Then, messengers from the groups say no, we're just not going to stop, try and make us; which caused Israel to bomb some more smuggling tunnels they said housed munitions factories making the missiles. Ouch.

Second, is the top secret negotiations in Cairo between Germany, Israel, and Hamas over the exchange of prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas captured in an over the border raid in 2006. The deal is supposed to happen this coming weekend, but leaks to the public may make the deal go south. The official leak came this morning from Israeli President Shimon Peres, causing the office of the Prime Minister to go into an uproar. Mr Netanyahu stated:"There is no deal yet, and when there will be, it will be brought for debate in the Knesset and voted on in the cabinet." Other Hamas officials said screw it, any deal is off, so who knows what will happen.

Public reaction is mixed, no-one wants to see the release of any terrorists who have been hardened in jail and will fight twice as hard next time. My favorite reaction comes from Benjamin Netanyahu's brother-in-law, which the Jerusalem Post so kindly published: "Such a deal will lead to a vicious wave of terror. The results are very clear, and out of a great love for Bibi, I call on him not to take responsibility for the possible deaths of hundreds or thousands of Israelis on his shoulders... If he signs the deal, it will prove he has no spine." The Prime Minister had previously written that he will never deal with terrorists... Hope the're treating you well, Gilad...

pele for peace...

Brazil wants to be recognized as a major player, with international influence. Winning the next bid for the Olympics may have gone to Lula's head, as he has been hosting guests like Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and now Iran's own Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He reasoned on his weekly radio show: You don’t move forward by leaving Iran isolated. If Iran is an important actor in this discord, then it is important that someone sits with Iran, talks with Iran and tries to establish a balancing point, so that society returns to a certain normality in the Middle East.”

One of the solutions that he sees, and at first I thought he was daft, but then I realized that I'd love to see: "... a soccer “match for peace” pitting a team of Israeli and Palestinian players against the Brazilian national team. He said he had dreamed of hosting the soccer match for three years, and would hold it in a “neutral” stadium.

“I think it would be an extraordinary coup for Brazil and, above all, a very important signal for peace,” Mr. da Silva said. “Those people are tired of war, they are tired of death, they are tired of attacks.” I'd also like to see Mahmoud bust a move and dance the samba, or maybe have a Carnaval in Tehran, get those women out of those burqas and into something more festive... oba! oba!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Glenn Organizes Like ACORN, the Devil is About Scientology, Hasan Nidal Holds Still

Vincent Carroll
Fareed Zakaria
Dana Milbank

"In the world inhabited by Palestinian children,there is no Israel." - Itamar Marcus
"As Afghanistan opened itself up after the fall of the Taliban, the cuisine, movies, and money that flowed into the country were, naturally, Indian. This is like noting that the United States has had growing influence in Mexico over the last few decades." - Fareed Zakaria

Palinfest '09
Frank Rich
Maureen Dowd
Tina Brown
Bob Franken

I hope you enjoyed last week's Sarah Palinfest. She's still out on her book tour, has sold over 300,000 nationwide so far, and is coming to a small venue near you. If you live in a big town, you'll have to drive to real America and buy her book and have the receipt in order to see her, unless she gets a cramp from signing and takes off in her bus, leaving you in her exhaust where she might see you from her rear window... I'm not going to read it until it appears on the shelves at the library, I'm still 112 on the waiting list for my neighbor Michelle Malkin's tome.

Jealous of Sarah's success, radio pundit and Fox Network opinionator Glenn Beck has announced that he is going to become more of a political/comunity organizer, you know, like ACORN does: “You’re going to learn about finance. You’re going to learn about community organizing. You’re going to learn everything we need to know if you want to be a politician.”

The Times continues: "Glenn Beck, the popular and outspoken Fox News host, says he wants to go beyond broadcasting his opinions and start rallying his political base — formerly known as his audience — to take action. To do so, Mr. Beck is styling himself as a political organizer. In an interview, he said he would promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of seven conventions across the country featuring what he described as libertarian speakers... Mr. Beck provided few details about his plans for the tour, making it unclear if he truly intends to prod his audience of millions into political action or merely burnish his media brand ahead of a book release." The culmination of his tours will end up in Washington and coincide with a new book release. He hasn't said if he will show up at any of his rallies like he didn't show up at his 9/12 rally. With Glenn you never know if he's serious or just posing, pandering huckster that he is... He would make a great member of Barnum and Bailey. See you at his circus, I'll be wearing my clown makeup...

making nice to India...

To make up to India for the supposed slight of President Obama playing nice with the Chinese, the White House hosted a reception for the 540th birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Later this week the White House will host a state dinner for the Indian Prime Minister, Monmohan Singh and he will get to air his opinions and grievances: "As far as Afghanistan is concerned, I'm not sure whether the United States and Pakistan have the same objectives. Pakistan would like Afghanistan to be under its control. And they would like the United States to get out soon. The U.S. objectives are to get Pakistan to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But I don't see Pakistan wholeheartedly in support of action against the Taliban in Afghanistan." Other interviews should be interesting from this man.

the rodney dangerfield of religions...

Seems like Scientology just can't get no respect. Started the year after I was born as a joke by the incredibly bad science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, it has been trying to gain international recognition as a religion and established church by the men who stole the church from Ron by keeping him a prisoner on his yacht and feeding him drugs and alcohol, stashing him away in an obscure facility in San Luis Obispo... But the church has been vilified and challenged in many European countries, and may be the subject of an Australian Parliamentary investigation:"Scientology—the half-century-old religion made famous by celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta—is facing some of its most significant challenges yet as celebrity members themselves protest the church and governments demand investigation. In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has criticized Scientology for "a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality." A former church employee at the Los Angeles headquarters has a new book out about abuse within Scientology. The church was nearly banned in France last month, and in Belgium, Scientology is facing a criminal investigation. In the U.S., the church was abandoned by Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis, who accused Scientology of homophobia. The Guardian predicts that with rising criticism and attention, next year could be even worse for Scientology than this already difficult one."

In another Guardian column about the new book by ex-Scientologist, it dishes about Tom Cruise: "Marc Headley claims that Cruise would talk to inanimate objects "for hours". No, not Nicole Kidman's face, but ashtrays, bottles, books. "You tell the ashtray, 'Sit in that chair.' Then you actually go over and put the ashtray in that chair. Then you tell the ashtray, 'Thank you,'" is Headley's account of Tom's personal teachings" So Tom is exposed as an airhead, but we knew that already. The use of repetition for hours with certain exercises is similar to the brain washing techniques used in the Islamic madrassahs, that has a person rocking back-and-forth for hours reciting and memorizing the Koran. They both produced a state of mind similar to autism...

ft hood shooting...
Maj Hasan Nidal: "will be confined until his military trial, initially staying in a hospital where he is recovering from gunshot wounds, his attorney said Saturday."

Medically: "Hasan has been at Brooke Army Medical Center since the shooting, and his attorney said Hasan has been told he has permanent paralysis...  Hasan has no feeling from the chest down and has limited movement in his arms." This is a good thing, at least he'll be able to hold still while they administer the lethal injection...

Here is a link to a New York Times interactive special on the victims at Fort Hood. Give it a minute to load on your screen. This is for my Sunday prayer and moment of silence...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Guantanamo's Evil Twin, Facing Divorce with Pakistan, King Abdullah To The Rescue

William Greider
Kathleen Parker
Heather Sharp

"Members of Congress who bailed out the bankers with public money are quite terrified of voter retribution in the next election."  - William Greider
"And we're supposed to defend/feel sorry for/protect Sarah from . . . what? Wild success, popularity and riches? You must be joking."  - Kathleen Parker
"Westerners need to stop thinking they are celebrities living out pop-modern lives for us on a stage for all their eastern fans to wish they were them." - Jihad Hashim Brown

While Barack Obama is still dithering on the amount of new troops to send to Afghanistan, and roundly being criticized by impatient hawks who prefer to go with their gut feelings than study the situation, nobody knows where these new troops would be staying. Bagram Air Force base, which we took over from the Soviets and is the largest military facility in the country, is already crowded despite the $60 million just spent on upgrading the detention center alone. Another $23 million is proposed to build new housing.

The detention center, called by human rights activists as "Guantanamo's Evil Twin," also has 700 current detainees, and officials are describing it "... is meant to be part of a new era of openness and transparency," although no-one has defined what is meant by that phrase. Journalists given the grand tour of the place were not allowed to see the prisoners, and one ex-detainee described treatment as: "People were beaten, dragged, tortured in it. There were high places where guards stood with guns. It was a hard, difficult place,I don't think it's the facilities which make the difference, it's the treatment of people inside."

That is supposed to change, under the new rules, and "General Mark Martins, who runs detention operations at the airbase, said the US military was improving its treatment of detainees and had learnt many lessons since occupying the country in 2001.

"Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort. We are a learning organisation ... we believe transparency is certainly going to help the effort, and increase the credibility of the whole process,"

Unfortunately, the prisoners, er detainees, are still being held indefinitely without being charged or given access to a lawyer, just like in all our other military detainee camps. A human rights activist said: "All this talk about transparency, and the US government still won't release a simple list of names of prisoners who are in Bagram," Perhaps the new transparency is that you cannot see the prisoners...
"Perhaps hoping to combat the widespread discontent and months of unrest that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election, the Tehran city council has announced the start of laughter classes." - Robert Mackey

And our allies over in Pakistan are worried that if we send more troops, we will just invade their country over the border and scurry around on military missions without their permission. A recent poll taken in Pakistan shows that they see the US as more of a threat to them than the Talibans are. Their President is seen as sucking up to the US and certainly won't get re-elected... They recently touted on radio and television that they were going to send many troops into South Waziristan, attacking the heart of the Pashtun Taliban stronghold. When they got there, it was pretty much all abandoned, and they took pictures and held press conferences showing what a success it all had been...

Like all Muslim countries, the problem with extremists and the Taliban is really their own problem. It's awfully nice that we fight them, though what they really have to do with our so called war on terror I have no idea. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan they actually offered to give up al Qaeda members because they liked that barbecue in Texas that we had invited them to, when an oil company wanted to build a pipeline through to Turkey... But Bush would rather invade and get bin Laden, and we see the results of his success. Maybe we should appoint George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld to be the ambassador to Afghanistan instead of Karl Eichenberry, it would be poetic justice...

is education the way...

Saudi Arabia is the home of the extremist brand of Wahabism, seen to be the influence behind al Qaeda and various Taliban movements. The major percentage of 9/11 hijackers also came from Saudi Arabia, and funding for these type of activities still comes from here, it is a chaotic mixture of century-old traditions and the best western culture that lots of money can buy.

The monarch of Saudi Arabia just spent $10 billion building the brand new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, whose: "Stated goal is to take a country that consistently ranks among the poorest performing nations in education and, with all the brain power and high-tech equipment oil money can buy, build a world-class research center and university."

The experiment here is: "... a less discussed, yet no less consequential, objective: Can the university help this tradition-bound society become more open to new ideas? Can it help Saudi Arabia stamp out the kind of homegrown extremism that has spawned terrorism?

“We wouldn’t see change without having more things like this,” said Awadh al-Badi, a political scientist at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. “My thought is that they are trying to create a parallel system, that with time would take from others or balance what exists.”

One problem is that the king is 85 years old, and the next in line is one of the extremists, so kiss good-bye this noble experiment in a few years time. One a much lesser scale, a Riyadh film festival was cancelled on opening night because it was deemed too much of a western influence. To the King's credit, he fired a vocal critic who said that the students should not be allowed to mingle and that the curriculum should adhere to the tenets of Islam, or at least his interpretation of it. One wonders though, if anywhere in the Middle East they can combat what British journalist Brian Whitaker describes as: "... stultifying atmosphere where change, innovation, creativity, critical thinking, questioning, problem-solving… are all discouraged... The systematic denial of rights that impinge on the lives of millions: discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or family background; inequality of opportunity, impenetrable bureaucracies, arbitrary application of the law; and the lack of transparency in government." Ah, jeez, this sounds like someone criticizing the problems we have in the US, doesn't it? The struggle against right wing conservatism is a universal problem, part of the human condition...

A cleric in Abu Dubai, Jihad Hashim Brown, says the only way to change has to come from within, if you don't mind what sounds like New Age talk:
"At the other end, for a person without much to lose, it is easier to have a clear conscience and a pure heart. With an illuminated and polished heart he is able to be a healer. With a balanced spiritual constitution his response to social ills is constructive, positive, valuable. He sees that where need be, the application of sufficient force must be governed by the rule of law; and only to the extent that it can prevent harm. He knows that vigilantism is forbidden in Islam."

One, two, three, what are we fighting for...

Yippee! We're all going to die...