Sunday, January 31, 2010

Houthi Peace Ping Pong, Displaced Haitians May Go To Africa, Baptists Abduct Haitian Children

Boms & Arya
Abdul Rahman al Rashed
Mahan Abedin

"In a move perhaps unprecedented in Iranian history, the Islamic regime is systematically intimidating, arresting and even assassinating family members of its outspoken critics." - Boms & Arya

The links above are from foreign newspapers, which I try to catch up on the weekends. The first piece is about the lengthy tradition in the Middle East of hostage taking, and specifically in Iran, in light of the three hikers who wandered over the border from Kurdistan. Their parents can't find out right now any information on their children, how they are being treated, or if they are still alive in prison.

Abdul al Rashed's essay wonders about the Mouse That Roared situation in Yemen involving al Qaeda, pointing out that: "Forty years ago, it was said that the Imam of Yemen proposed entering a war with the United States as a solution to the financial problems from which his country was suffering. The Imam explained that because Yemen would certainly be defeated by America, America would then be obliged to rebuild Yemen." It's possible that al Qaeda in Yemen could be a hoax by the government to get American aid, which has succeeded in garnering $6 billion so far. Drunk with newfound money and the legitimacy of power, the Yemeni government has not accepted the Houthi rebels acceptance of their offer of a ceasefire. Because the area is in deep drought, the Yemeni government has decided to start drinking the blooh of the Houthi's instead. The demands for the Houthi rebels to comply are: "These conditions include removing checkpoints, ending banditry, handing over all captured military equipment, releasing goverment troops and officals as well as an end to all attacks on the Saudi Arabian military and territory." The Houthis acknowledged five conditions, ignoring the sixth one of no longer attacking Saudi troops. Saudi Arabia has declared themselves the victor in that clash.

Back to Iran with the third piece, on the shifting ugliness in the political climate that is currently being engaged in public, with Ali Rafsanjani bearing the brunt of it for his support of the liberal opposition demonstrations: "There is a widespread belief that former Iranian president and a long-time pillar of the establishment, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is at the core of the internal squabbles that are threatening to tear apart the legacy of the Islamic revolution of 1979. Recent weeks have witnessed unprecedented verbal assaults on Rafsanjani, spearheaded by Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a former head of the judiciary and current influential member of the powerful Guardians' Council." Just further proof that the inmates are now running the asylum.

Remember the plane from North Korea that was held at the Bangkok airport as it stopped to refuel, that was full of missiles and munitions? It has definitely been determined by Thai officials that the plane's destination was Iran...

haitians to go to africa?
The Presdent of Senegal has suggested that the next African Union meeting take up the issue of relocating thousands of homeless Haitians to Africa: "The idea was suggested by Abdoulaye Wade, the Senegalese president, who said that the history of Haitians as descendants of African slaves gave them the right to a new life on the continent.

Jean Ping, the African Union (AU) chairman, told African leaders at the body's annual summit that it would discuss the proposal during the three-day event in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. "It is out of a sense of duty and memory and solidarity that we can further the proposal to create in Africa the conditions for the return of Haitians who wish to return after the effect of the disaster that ravaged Haiti," Ping said.
"What happened to Haiti is a tragedy that transcends borders. We have attachment and links to that country.

The ugliness has already started in Haiti. It's not enough that there's not enough relief aid to feed all of the people who need it, or that a bunch of dingy Scientologists are wandering around offering to "touch and heal" people courtesy of wacky John Travolta, or that political infighting between states like Florida and the Feds have stopped shipping injured people to hospitals stateside. Now we have Baptists illegally smuggling children, perhaps trying to turn a quick profit or fill a quota for Haitians back home, which have become quite chic: "Haitian police have detained 10 US nationals for trying to bus 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic.
"This is an abduction, not an adoption"
The US citizens did not have the proper documents from the government to take the children out of Haiti, nor letters of authorisation from their parents. The Americans were identified by Christallin as members of an Idaho-based Baptist group called New Life Children's Refuge. Their plan was to take around 100 children by bus to a rented hotel at a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, where they planned to establish an orphanage.

Laura Silsby, the group's leader, said on Sunday: "In this chaos the government is in right now, we were just trying to do the right thing." I can't really tell if she is naturally this naive or telling a lie on that stack of Bibles.

More credible children's adoption agencies have been quoted: "Amanda Weisbaum, from the non-profit organisation, Save the Children, told Al Jazeera that taking children out of their home country is not in their best interests.

"Experience has shown it is better to keep the children in the place, and with the people, they know," she said. "We trying to make sure that all these children still have parents or families within the area and that hasn't been ascertained yet. The Haitian government was quite right to halt these people at the border if they felt they didn't have the right paperwork." This mess makes those Scientologists seem harmless and quaint...

The UN plans on only giving food out to women they have previously given stamped coupons to over the next 15 days, in an effort to stop the madness and men shoving their way in and grabbing whatever they could. Now, they get to wait until the women get back to the tent camps before taking it away from the more helpless... It has devolved into a bizarre ritual of hunting and gathering...

sarah palin likes tea with her white bread...
Sarah Palin was punditing on Fox News and was asked about what to do about the tea partiers and the Republican Party: "They need to merge," Palin said. "Definitely, they need to merge. I think those who are wanting the divisions and the divisiveness and the controversy -- those are the ones who don't believe in the message. And they're the ones, I think, stirring it up."

She either has forgotten that most tea party activists are drop-outs from the Republican Party, it being not ideologically pure enough for them, or she is trying to justify the fact that she will still be speaking at the for-profit Tea Party Convention, that is charging about $550 per person to attend, charging any other organizations if they want to speak or hold workshops, and has agreed to pay Sarah over $100,000 for her to speak. A working girl has to feed her family...

The various tea party organizations are attacking each other and creating rifts among themselves, that if they did merge with the Republicans,their disharmony would probably do the trick in tearing it apart. Dick Armeyis already trying to sound like the Prophet of Tea in his pronouncements to the Washington Times, I doubt that there is enough room at the tippy top for both him and Sarah.

I have to admit that I get a bit confused trying to follow Sarah's logic whenever she speaks, like a sixth-grader trying to impress adults."We need to ignore that and we need to forge ahead with a cohesive message. It's a common sense message. It, again, is, Government, limit yourself so that the private sector, our families, free individuals can grow and thrive and prosper and enjoy America's freedom!"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dreaming of Bushalot, Mid-East Roundup

Mike Madden

"I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security, they want us to focus on their job security," - Barack Obama
"In some places I kind of felt like I was in my high school assembly being lectured by my principal. In others, I felt like he was listening." - Paul Ryan

There's an empty spot on NBC at 10 pm, now that Jay Leno will be back at the 11:30 slot. Let's fill it with the Barack Obama Show. He's funny and can tell a string of jokes, and on Friday he proved that he can create entertaining and interesting television by taking on questions from 140 Republicans and mopping the floor with them. I don't see anyone else that could take him on, so let his next guests for debate be Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Bill O'Reilly would chicken out, and I would also look forward to Barack versus Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, or anyone else that has presidential aspirations. Obama has found his format niche and this is what he should have been doing at least once a month since he was elected, better than any canned speech and fireside chat.

Obama is great at giving the inspirational speeches with flowery prose, but people with short attention spans from watching too much television can't follow all of that. His State of the Union speech was better, half plain language that even the GOP could understand, and half inspirational speech that had even the Republican leaders dewey eyed and applauding, except for John Boehner, who is permanently soured on all life outside of the tanning booth. His give and take at the Republican Retreat in Baltimore proved that you shouldn't attempt to bait a Harvard Law Professor unless you want to be schooled. And if Obama really would do more events like this, it might open up the political process, inspiring younger folks to go into politics for all of the right reasons.

Did Obama change any minds? Will we have more civil discourse, and less personal attacks? No, I doubt anything was accomplished other than planting some seeds of hope, but that would be audacious. If anything, the Congressional old-school Republicans will continue along being meaner than any junk-yard dog, still not coming up with anything substantial to add, bitter, disillusioned, dreaming of those glorious days of Bushalot... On the other hand, H W Bush and Jeb Bush stopped by the White House to have a friendly beer with Obama, proving that all politics is mere posturing?

mid-east roundup...
Lots of interesting things going on that may not make the local paper. In Yemen, the two pronged attack of the government and the Saudi military has taken its toll on the Houthi rebels. The fighting between the rebels and the Saudi has been declared to be over, and the rebel chief is asking for a cease-fire with the government, though the language used is always aggressive in tone: "Abdel Malik al-Houthi said "It was these forces and the stupidity of the government that led them to launch attacks on its own people... Nevertheless, and for the fourth time, I announce our acceptance of the [the government's] five conditions [for an end to the conflict] after the aggression stops ... the ball is now in the other party's court." There has been no response from the recently beefed up Yemeni government. The longer that they can stretch out the fighting now that they have garnered some money from the US, the more they might be able to get to secure their own personal fortunes. The UN reports that over 250,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes.

The Saudis now get to focus and use their their influence on mediating between the different Taliban groups and the Afghan government. Its a more acceptable arrangement than if the US tried or the Pakistani intelligence brokered an agreement. It may bolster Saudi prestige as a peacemaker if the Palestinian talks ever get started again. If Fatah and Hamas can kiss and make up, then, with the backing of Saudi arabia, turkey, and Egypt, they will have a better chance to give the Palestinians some peer pressure, so that they feel they are on a more equal playing field addressing the Israelis during negotiations. The longer this waits the more danger there is that small flare ups and confrontations will happen and monkey wrench the whole process.

For one or two days it looked like the situation was going to wind down in Iran. Then, the government proved that they were insane by hanging two people they said were members of a violent group that took part in the last demonstration. Except the two people hanged had been arrested months earlier and never could have participated, so they became martyrs. Now the opposition leaders have officially called for another demonstration during the celebration of the Islamic Revolution that ejected the Shah and put the current crop of ayatollahs in power. It's a time when people naturally march in the streets condemning the Great Shaitan USA, only this time the magistrate who ordered the deaths will be the target, along with a select few that seem to foam at the mouth in public.

The iranian government has vowed to crush them like bugs, and this morning put on trial 16 more people who were arrested during Ashura, according to al Arabiya: "Five of the defendants are accused of being mohareb (enemies of God) and corrupt on earth, both crimes punishable by death under the Iranian legal system, which is based on sharia, Islamic law, IRNA said.

The rest are accused of "gathering and conspiring against security, propaganda against the system and seeking to harm security by inciting unrest and riot," it said. The semi-official Isna news agency quoted the deputy Tehran prosecutor as saying that of the 16, one was a member of the outlawed Baha'i faith, one was a communist and some of the rest belonged to the counterrevolutionary group Mojahedin Khalq Organization." Suggesting that their are no cooler heads in Iran to prevail...

Finally, the Nile River delta is drying up. due to climate changes. Saltwater is making its way inwards because there is not enough fresh water flow, and it is affecting farmlands. If something can't be done soon, famine will follow...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Wolf Moon GOP, Lecture from Professor bin Laden, Dead in Dubai

Paul Krugman

"We’re in the aftermath of a severe financial crisis, which has led to mass job destruction. The only thing that’s keeping us from sliding into a second Great Depression is deficit spending." - Paul Krugman
"Americans didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some political steel cage match." - Barack Obama
"But then after the president spoke, the Republicans gave their rebuttal, during which they pointed out that Obama has repeatedly failed to solve any of the problems they created under President Bush." –Jimmy Kimmel

Where in the hell has this Barack Obama been all year? Suddenly, he's feisty, and willing to go to the lion's den and confront the Republican Caucus. They had inviting him to speak, and to their surprise, he accepted and wanted it to be televised and have reporters there. Seeing as how it looked like he got the better part of the exchanges, they might want to rethink trying to debate him one on one... He confronted the over the top way that the Republicans have been demonizing him, and how it ultimately hurts them: "What happens is that you guys don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me,” Obama said, silencing the smattering of Republicans who had applauded when he said “Bolshevik plot.” "The fact of the matter is, many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable with your own base, with your own party because what you've been telling your constituents is, ‘This guy's doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America."

He also accused them of biting off their noses to spite their faces: "I've read your legislation. I take a look at this stuff. And the good ideas we take," Obama said. "It can't be all or nothing, one way or the other … If we put together a stimulus package in which a third of it is tax cuts that normally you guys would support, and support for states and the unemployed and helping people stay on COBRA, that certainly your governors would support … and maybe there are some things in there, with respect to infrastructure, that you don't like … If there's uniform opposition because the Republican caucus doesn't get 100 percent or 80 percent of what you want, then it's going to be difficult to get a deal done, because that's not how democracy works."

It looks like more bad publicity for the GOP, especially if John Boehner and others come back with the same old, tired negative rhetoric. Quite frankly, I don't think that the Congressional GOP leadership has the mental capacity to shift gears and engage in a give and take.They certainly can't use the argument anymore that there is a lack of bi-partisanship in the legislation, because it will be their own damned fault. Not after they have to start attending monthly meeting of the leadership of both parties at the White House, if they don't attend the consequences will be their own damned fault: "Mid-way through the questions and answers, Pence said that there would be just a few more questions.

Obama said he wasn’t in any hurry to leave."

In the meantime, conservative Republican Ben Bernanke was reconfirmed as head of the Fed. He remains as an essential part in Obama's bi-partisan administration...

another bin Laden audiotape...
In a move that is sure to set the credibility back of the environmental movement, out from the dusty caves that evidently must have Direct TV, comes another audiotape from Osama bin Laden. Proving that he must be getting the History and Science Channel, this time Mr bin Laden is tackling climate change and global warming. waxing philosophical on US policies that have contributed towards it. I didn't realize that he had attended the conference in Copenhagen, I wonder what name tag he used.
"Noam Chomsky was correct when he compared the US policies to those of the Mafia"
- Osama bin Laden
Sounding a bit professorial, in a message that may have been cobbled together by students attending university in Riyadh or Beirut, Osama began: "This is a message to the whole world about those responsible for climate change and its repercussions - whether intentionally or unintentionally - and about the action we must take," bin Laden said. "Speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury - the phenomenon is an actual fact."

In his other tape, which Time-Life will put out in a special offer after he issues four more so we can collect the complete set, bin Laden threatened the US with more terrorist threats if it didn't step up and work harder for Palestinian negotiations. I guess he didn't get the nesw that that is exactly what George Mitchell is doing, working with the Palestinians. It certainly is weird that Osama would want the US to resolve the Palestinian question when we are his Great Satan. Instead of telling us to bug out, that it's an Arab problem and solution, he is recognizing that the US is the best hope for helping the Palestinians in getting the two sides to the negotiating table. And that is why I seriously doubt that it is Osama bin Laden making these tapes, and that someone has too much time on their hands. Or else he is auditioning for a teaching job at the new Saudi university of technology and science...

The latest monkey wrench towards the negotiation process was the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, where he had traveled from Syria. He died from a massive electrical shock to the head, and there were ligature marks on his neck. Dubai has turned over to Interpol the nemes of several European passport holders who are suspects, and Hamas is claiming that it's very likely that they were agents of the israeli Mossad. But usually the Mossad are more professional and the thinking may have more to do with a criminal gang and less about politics, despite the loud cries from Hamas. The manner of death implies that torture was involved, so the suspicion goes directly to Dick Cheney... The gentleman had survived a couple of previous assassination attempts, the last one hospitalized him for a month. So, who knows? It's certainly possible that he was victim of a hit squad, or a mafiya squad that followed him to Dubai to whack him during a sex holiday. Ironic, because most businessmen from the UAE go to places like Beirut for their prostitutes...

hillary may retire...
US Secretaries of State usually only last one term because the job is so demanding and exhausting. Hillary Clinton has been globetrotting a lot this past year, and she says that she is looking forward to being able to sit down and read a book, or travel leisurely. Obama's foreing policy towards Afghanistan seems to be owrking well, with many other countries pledging support for reconstruction projects at the conference hosted by Gordon Brown in London today. As reported from the Asia Times: "In an effort to bring stability to South Asia, Washington continues to run from pillar to post in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Even though a "trust deficit" with Pakistan remains, US President Barack Obama has played his cards cleverly with his surge and withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan, leading to near-unanimous support for financial assistance at this week's London conference." - Zahid U Kramet. Here's hoping that more than 5 cents on the dollar actually gets to the projects and not into the hands of corrupt reconstruction agencies and corrupt politicians...

Tracking Obama’s Promises

Promise Kept = 91
Compromise = 33
Promise Broken = 15
Stalled = 87
In the Works = 275
Not yet rated = 2

late night political jokes:

"Tomorrow night, President Obama will give his State of the Union address. The White House says the speech will focus on American jobs. So, I guess he's going to talk a lot about India." –Jay Leno

"Focus on jobs. This is going to be the shortest speech in history. 'Hey, there aren't any. Thank you. Good night.'" –Jay Leno

"President Obama has now been called for jury duty in Chicago. I think he should go. I mean, the economy is in bad shape. We could use five bucks a day. Every little bit helps." –Jay Leno

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that California can save money by no longer incarcerating illegal immigrants and just sending them to Mexico instead. Well, actually, today, the immigrants had three words for Schwarzenegger — 'I'll be back.'" –Jay Leno

"More problems for Goldman Sachs. Did you know the tax rate it paid on its profits last year was 0.6 percent? And of course, the CEO of Goldman Sachs was furious when he heard this. He said: 'What? When did we start paying taxes? This is ridiculous.'" –Jay Leno

"Wal-Mart announced it's cutting over 11,000 jobs. Wal-Mart said it's cheaper to fire people in bulk." –Jay Leno

"That's an amazing amount of people: 11,000 jobs. The problem is they made the announcement in English, so everybody kept showing up for work." –Jay Leno


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama Idealistic Republicans Still Say No, Iranian Insanity, Goodbye Mr Zelaya

Dana Milbank
EJ Dionne Jr

"To understand the State of the Union we must look not only at where we are and where we are going but where we've been." - Ronald Reagan
"One of the bedrock rules of political life is never to blame the American people: we are invariably decent, generous,hard-working, wise and, always, better than the people who govern us." - Steven Berkowitz
"And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change -- or that I can deliver it." - Barack Obama

Did you like President Obama's State of the Union address? I almost wasn't going to watch it because an episode of Househunters was on HGTV. But I did, and ended up impressed, he gave the kind of speech that I would have given if I were President in his situation, but he was much more eloquent and gracious. He hit all the buttons, mentioned all of the reasons that I have been disgusted with the way Congress has been acting. His proposed actions were not over the top, a good mixture of ideas from all ideological spectrums, good first steps that I hope become reality. I like the Federal spending freeze and that he is going over the budget line by line. If the economy continues to recover and some people can get back to work, myself included, then anything else he accomplishes during his term is gravy. If he can further cut back the influence and bribing of Congress by lobbyists, then he will have done a Herculean task, because everyone likes easy money.

He addressed just about all of the complaints that the pundits and critics have flung at him, disarming any Republican response afterwards. In fact, watching the Republican response I felt like I was watching Obama lite, down to the fake applause at inappropriate times. It would have been a decent speech if the Virginia Governor would have listened to Obama's speech, then made remarks specific to it, instead of the bland, canned speech he gave that was written sometime before. At least it was better than the painful to watch one that Bobby Jindal gave that just about ruined his national ambitions... If you are a hardcore liberal, Obama's speech probably disappointed; it goes without saying that if you are an extreme conservative nothing that he could say would make you happy. But all in al, if you are an idealist who still believes that the Republicans need to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way to the negotiation table for some bipartisan action, then you joined with the President's wishes, and were a little bit proud to be an American in times like these.

Twitter responses:
"Obama "Baracked" the house tonight. Last five minutes of his speech, you could hear a pin drop. Even evil McConnell was teary-eyed."  - notgyet13
"In the very least, Obama is attuned to what's being said about him, and good at responding....with words, anyway."   -  marcelius
"Words are nice and all, but back it up with some action!"   -  Sedge68

follow the money... 
Historically, the Haitian government is supposed to be one of the most corrupt, though I'm not sure if we compare it to Iraq or Afghanistan. From the Denver Post comes an article that breaks down for every dollar spent on relief, where the money goes: "Each U.S. relief dollar roughly breaks down like this: 42 cents for disaster assistance, 33 cents for U.S. military aid, 9 cents for food, 9 cents to transport the food, 5 cents for paying Haitian survivors for recovery efforts, just less than 1 cent to the Haitian government, and about half a cent to the Dominican Republic.
The U.S. aid is part of nearly $2 billion in relief aid flowing into Haiti — almost all of it managed by organizations other than the Haitian government, which has been struggling to re-establish its authority since the quake. On Wednesday, a defensive President Rene Preval acknowledged his country's reputation for graft but said aid money isn't lining the pockets of government officials." Hopefully, we can believe them.

I haven't seen too many charity scams for Haiti, it looks like the the crooks are content with the $65 billion dollars they scammed for Afghanistan in the past 5 years, no sense going where their lack of good deeds would be scrutinized...

iran in hell...
A couple of days ago I noticed that Iran had kept out of the news for a few days and that was a good thing. Unfortunately, they have come roaring back, proving once again that their government is insane. I wonder if someone hasn't tainted their drinking water with nuclear waste, because the decisions they are making lack all humanity and common decency.

First, one of the most right wingnuts of their Parliament goes visiting on a tour of the Arabian Gulf states, and in Kuwait, lectures to them not to let the US use their countries to launch missiles at their nuclear bases: "States in the region which house U.S. military bases should know that these bases must not be used against Iran. The region should not become a launch-pad for aggression against Iran," 

Fine as far as it goes, except that Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, all members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, are home to major U.S. military bases. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.  He then went on threaten the US bases that Iran would devastate them if it should ever happen. Crazy talk with low threat level...

Then, Iran tells us that it had arrested two Germans for masterminding the last mass demonstrations during Ashura, the one where government forces shot, then ran over the nephew of Mir Moussavi with an SUV, in a move that was borrowed from busdrivers in Mexico City. Not German diplomats, not German reporters, not even German private contractors or businessmen or cooks or librarians, but maybe they were a couple of German security guards who left their posts at the embassy to organize and incite the demonstrations in Tehran. Crazier talk, with a slightly higher threat level...

Today, Iran announced that they had hung by their necks, two of the eleven protesters that had been convicted of "waging war against god" in trying to overthrow the Islamic Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini had the revolutionary idea that instead of having the religious scholars advise the rulers like in every other Muslim country, why not let the representatives of god take part and rule directly? He did this to justify his own part in taking over the leadership of Iran after the Shah was kicked out, and to serve his own egomania. Anyone who questions the decisions of the ruling ayatollahs can be accused of waging a war against god's representatives, in this case joining in a protest demonstration.

Not only are the charge so entirely bogus that it deserves aa shoe thrown at it, but it proves that the Iranian government has lost its moorings and gone adrift in the sea of madness. I fail to see how demonstrating against secular fraud and then lying about it and trying to ignore it like it never happened translates into some kind of war against god. Unless in their minds they consider themselves holier than thou, similar to the old despot emperors of China where they revered the emperor as the Son of Heaven. The Ayatollah Khamenei must be suffering from Alzheimer's, or it demonstrates that extreme right wing conservatism is the path to insanity. Craziest talk, threat level off the chart... Now I fear what tomorrow may bring.

back to normal...
The liberal elected leader of Honduras was escorted out of the Brazilian Embassy and accompanied to a waiting airplane by the newly elected conservative leader, kiss kiss, hug,hug. The generous leader of the Dominican Republic made it a party of three, and I guess they had a leaderfest (wearing leaderhosen?) in the limosine. Manuel Zelaya will now be living in the Dominican Republic, and might be put to work earning his keep by helping the people in the country next door, though all he knows how to be is a rich landowner, and there isn't much of a call for that in Haiti. I love happy endings, and as someone in Honduras was quoted as saying, maybe they now can get back to normal, what ever that is...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama's Speech, Korean Artillery Incident, Hamas Clears Itself Of All Crimes, Zardari's Goats

Michael Gerson
Jeff Zeleny
Kathleen Parker

"In the run-up to Barack Obama's State of the Union address, the so-called narrative question is whether the president will be -- pick a curtain -- party leader, president, conciliator or fighter." - Kathleen Parker

If you don't want to watch President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech tonight, you can read a synopsis of what he will say in Jeff Zeleny's piece from the NY Times. He spoke to many of the administration's talking heads to piece it together. Many pundits have been saying how Obama's first year has been a disaster because a Republican won the Massachusett's election, a rather weird criterion to be sure. Scott Brown won because he worked his butt off touring the state and asking for people's votes, while his opponent just assumed the Democratic mantle would be passed on. The funny part is watching the two factors within the Republican Party fight over the meaning of Mr Brown's election. Dick Armey, the man who would hijack the tea party movement is even saying: "Right now the Tea Party polls higher than the Republicans and the Democrats." As I've said before, the tea baggies are too anarchic to organize, they remind me of the radical groups back in the sixties, who often argued over who was the purist in their beliefs and adherence to the Revolution...

The big rumpus is over Obama's emphasis now on trying to bring down Federal expenditures, and he will announce a spending freeze at 2009 levels. He also wanted to have a bipartisan group look at other ideas and make recommendations, but they couldn't get along, surprise, surprise. He will try to create another group by presidential decree, but this time he should lock them in a room and only let them out until after they have accomplished the task. Can I choose who I want on the committee? In actuality, the economy is in better shape than it was when Bush passed the reins, and it looks like we are on a good track for the next three years, so what is all the negative whining for? It will take 10 to 20 years for the job market to recover, though it may never recover fully...

deja vu all over again...

Ever since 1953 North Korea and South Korea have been shaking their sticks at each other across the border, which was created by a weary USA. This week tensions between the two countries escalated with them exchanging artillery fire at one another: "... the North's land-based artillery batteries fired several rounds into waters near the border shortly after 9:00 am (0000 GMT), adding there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. "Our military immediately fired back in response." 

At first glance this seems that the two countries migh continue escalating tensions, neither backing down. But then, it seems more of a manufactured story created by South Korea. Last month North Korea gave notice that it was going to have some military exercizes in the area. This morning they fired some shells, and while they were in the air, South Korea fired at them, kinda like skeet shooting, but with artillery shells. The excuse South Korea used was: "Our field manual states that we are supposed to target any incoming flying objects." They then predicted that the North would continue provocations like this for awhile.

Why would the South go to such an extreme to manufacture and incident like this? Economics. Their stock market had been on a downward slide, but after this news happened, their Kospi stock index rebounded because of their being such a macho nation: "The Kospi rebounded to as high as 1,639.78 points after a session low of 1,620.55, compared with Tuesday's close of 1,637.34." Makes you wonder about the US stock market, which also spiked upwards after the announcement of 30,000 more troops going to Afghanistan...

the audacity of hamas...

The Un had issued a report on the Israeli attack on Gaza, basically saying there were crimes committed by both sides, Israel and Hamas. Israel protested the conclusions. And today, Hamas decided to clear itself of any crimes.: "Hamas, which along with other armed groups has launched thousands of makeshift rockets into southern Israel in recent years, said a committee it appointed to follow up on the report found no intention to harm civilians.

"The committee worked around the clock to uncover the facts, despite the certainty that there were no violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law that amount to war crimes," said the committee head, Hamas justice minister Mohammed Faraj al-Ghul. "(The armed groups) struck military targets and avoided civilian targets, and any accusations related to this concern errant fire." I'm sure many other groups will now absolve themselves from crimes they committed, including Germany towards the Jews, America towards the Indians, and the list goes on. Actually, this is a tactic taken from the Chinese, who never admit wrongdoing, no matter which ethnic group they try to wipe off the face of the earth, oh goody, here comes the dalai lama again...

presidents who stare at goats...
So, you are the President of a predominantly Muslim country that has been dragged into violence because you are seen s the weakest link. How do you start your morning? If you are Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari, evidently you begin by sacrificing a black goat.

Ohh, a cut little goat, you say. Couldn't he eat cornflakes instead? Although he sacrifices the goats according to an old Islamic tribal tradition: "A spokesman for the president told the Dawn newspaper the goats were slaughtered as an act of Sadaqah -- meaning "voluntary charity" in Islam whereby one gives out money or the meat of a slaughtered animal to the poor to win Allah's blessing and stave off misfortune.

"It has been an old practice of Zardari to offer Sadaqah. He has been doing this for a long time," the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the paper," his detractors are spreading the rumor that he is doing it to ward off black magic and the evil eye. His detractors have accused him of waging war on fellow Muslims, which is done whenever a Muslim stubs their toe, of conspiring to have his wife murdered, of running brothels, of being a US puppet, and the list goes on. If I was accused of such things, I might be sacrificing a goat a day, too, especially if it worked...

late night political jokes:

"John McCain's wife and her daughter, Meghan, have posed for pictures endorsing gay marriage here in California, although Senator McCain — well, he's still very traditional. He believes marriage should be between an older man and a really hot-looking younger woman." –Jay Leno

"Actually, I saw John McCain today. He and John Edwards were at the same store. They were both buying diapers, but for different reasons." –Jay Leno

"As I'm sure you know, John Edwards has finally admitted he's the father of Rielle Hunter's baby. There's a shock. Who saw that coming? Given how long it took him to admit it, the kid is now old enough not to vote for him." –Jay Leno

"Actually, John Edwards said today he's going to help raise the little girl. He said he's looking forward to teaching his daughter everything he knows about hair care products." –Jay Leno

"And learning more and more about the new Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown. Well, you probably know this. Back in 1982, he posed naked for Cosmo. Yeah, isn't that amazing? He's got it backwards. First you get elected to the Senate, then you get caught with your pants down. It's the other way. He seems to be very confused." –Jay Leno

"Well, this is kind of embarrassing. At a speech to school kids in an elementary school in Virginia, President Obama used the teleprompter. He had a teleprompter set up to talk to the kids. The topic of the speech: Never taking the easy way out by bringing a cheat sheet to school." –Jay Leno

"Congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. They're going to the Super Bowl. The Saints beat the Vikings. Former President George Bush Sr., he was at the game. Now, his son George W. was invited. But you know him, when it comes to New Orleans, he's always, like, two weeks late." –Jay Leno

"The late night wars are finally over. I'm kind of amazed I'm still here, too. Jay Leno said he's going to go on the Oprah Winfrey show and tell his side of the story. I never thought I'd say this, but watch your back, Oprah." –Craig Ferguson

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

John Travolta Flies Scientologists to Haiti, Ahmadinejad Accepted by Opposition

David Brooks
Dana Milbank

"As with the Indonesian tsunami, which was blamed on loose sexual morals in tourist bars; as with Hurricane Katrina, which was attributed to divine revenge on the entire city of New Orleans for harboring a lesbian comedian, and as with other disasters going back to the famous Lisbon earthquake and beyond, so Haiti's tragedy must be payback for human sin." - Richard Dawkins

haitian relief...
The relief effort in Haiti shows both the good and bad in international response. The bravery, and quick actions of the teams digging people out of the collapsed buildings up to ten days afterwards is truly heroic. That they didn't give up after the 72 hour window and continued to save lives days afterward is inspirational. And the rescue teams came from all over, including Israel and Iceland, Brazil and Britain, fire departments from  the US. There was a story on television last night that showed a woman being pulled out of the rubble of the bank where she worked, her husband insisted that he had heard her voice under the rubble, and as they pulled her out she began singing... Clearly, the love shown between these two people transcended the surrounding misery.

What's not so great is the half-assed efforts to get food and water out in a timely manner, especially by the UN. If they are as incompetent during other disasters as they have been in Haiti, then the death tolls during those times may in large part be attributed to them. With thousands of people leaving Port au Prince for the countryside, it's estimated that they can feed about two million people. But there are over three million people in need of food and water, Under these circumstances, do they let that one million people die until the population reaches an acceptable relief level? I fear there will be more stories of misery and horror...

Then there will be the effect of burying tens of thousands of bodies in every free square inch of ground. Will you be able to rebuild over those bodies? You certainly cannot grow a garden or create a park, not to mention the psychic anxiety that people will have, living surrounded by so many corpses thrown together in mass graves. We will see the diaspora of Haitians as their country becomes only fit for ghosts.

The creepiest part of the relief effort, are the many religious and quasi-religious groups flocking to Haiti like a vampire to a spurting artery, all thinking that by spreading their cultish agendas they are offering relief from suffering. A prime example is the bad American actor John travolta, who is dressing up as an airline captain and using his own private jet to ferry in doctors and Scientologist dressed in yellow polo shirts. the Scientologist are offering their version of watered down Chinese qigong healing methods: "The Scientologists will join other members of the church who arrived in Haiti last week and have been offering touch therapy to badly injured earthquake survivors at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince.

One Scientologist from Paris who gave her name as Sylvie claimed that the controversial church’s techniques were working:

“We’re trained as volunteer ministers; we use a process called ‘assist’ to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication,” she said. “When you get a sudden shock to a part of your body the energy gets stuck, so we re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes, and asking people to feel the touch.” Hmmmm, and I'll bet these ministers have a nice place to stay and are eating quite well while they continue to reach out and touch injured Haitians. What I would like to know is, who authorized Travolta to land at the airport when other legitimate organizations have to fly somewhere else because the airspace is too crowded?  Although Mr Travolta means well, he would do better to donate a few million dollars to help buy food than run this fool's errand. Even Baby Doc Duvalier donated eight million dollars of the money his family stole from Haiti... There is enough problems without a bunch of delusional Westerners running around pretending to be helping or indulging the fantasies of rich wingnuts...

Many people don't believe in coincidences, so these next items may be relegated to cause and effect:

In Iraq, just three hours after it was announced that Chemical Ali was hanged to death, bombs went off in Baghdad targeting hotels and restaurants that catered to Western palates and tastes. We don't take showers here, prefer our Baath of destruction...

Just wjen it looked like relations with North Korea were thawing, a US government report was issued that gave a few what-if scenarios should its government collapse. The State Department and Pentagon run these scenarios, often as computer similations, all the time for just about every country in the world. Yes, there is one for you too, Canada... Possibilities included how South Korea might take over the North, or the ways the US and China might step in. Now Kim Jong Il is upset and has announced that they might start testing more missile in the near future, and will continue to throw similar tantrums until an apology is extended with some goodies to make it all better...

iran's low profile...
After complaining about the lack of international help in reducing their poppie progile, and with the world's focus half a world away, Iran idstaking a much needed collective breather, having a few cups of tea, resting up for the next round of confrontations next month when it celebrates the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. But there may not be the large, energetic demonstrations in the streets, as the so-called leaders of the opposition have capitulated. Mir Moussavi, after the death of his nephew, stated that he could accept Ahmadinejad in office, promoting a more peaceful way to change.

Today two other leaders also gave statements that, even though there was fraud during the election, and that prison guards beat the crap out of the students who were arrested, they could also accept Mahmoud's presidency because he was endorsed by the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei. With the government promising to use American methods of wiretapping the telephones and arresting anyone trying to organize a demonstration, the Revolutionary celebration maybe muted. No fireworks. Considering how each new demonstration was escalating with more violence, cooling off is probably a good thing.

Just like President Obama is going to try and address some of the anger and discontent brewing in our country tomorrow, the Iranian government has no plans for open communications, and will try to continue the myth that the Shia theocratic state serves the needs of its people. I'm afraid that there won't be any more elections in Iran anytime soon, as the newly crowned Revolutionary Guards will not allow any democratic challenge to their rule, using the ayatollahs as puppets to their ventriloquism... silence. I will kill you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burma To Free Aung San Suu Kyi, McChrystal Ball Sees Negotiation With Taliban, Opium Flooding Tehran

Paul Krugman
Matthew Yglesias
Fareed Zakaria

"Obama has behaved less like a president and more like a prime minister. He has not outlined a broad vision for the country. He has not embraced the best solutions -- from left and right -- for the nation's problems." - Fareed Zakaria
"But it would merely be a reminder that we are, in fact, in a ridiculous situation and do not, in fact, have a functioning political system." - Matthew Yglesias


This may be all smoke and mirrors, but a high ranking minister in the Myanmar government said that it would release political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi around this coming November. "He reportedly also said that the government would pursue an international-style market economy after holding "free and fair" elections."

The ruling military junta has been in charge since 1962, and last held public elections in 1990, where Aung Kyi won the presidency and was put under house arrest instead: "Last year Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest was extended for a further 18 months after she was found guilty of breaking the terms of her detention by allowing an uninvited American man to stay at her home. Earlier this month opposition lawyers launched a supreme court appeal against her sentence, saying it was unlawful because it was based on a 1974 constitution that is no longer valid.

A verdict had been expected last week, but the court has made no announcement." So the announcement that she will be released was made at a political meeting in a backwater town instead, proving that the generals are not all that willing to let the court make a ruling and then have to stick by that decision. They also want to keep her in detention until after the free and fair elections, so that her political party won't run any strong candidates against them. By putting her in detention was a ruse to not allow her to run in this free and fair election because what would they do if she won this one, too? Who knows, these guys are older than dirt, their Swiss bank accounts have been frozen by the European Union, and it's possible that arguments made by people like Jim Webb have convinced them to come out of their caves and into the real world and accept some responsibility for the welfare of the people of Myanmar... you may call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

from the mcchrystal cave...

In an interview with the British-based Financial Times, General Stanley McChrystal said that he's hoping that with the surge of 30,000 troops, whose official timetable to arrive is later in the year, it will cause the Taliban to weaken enough that they will come to the negotiating table. So don't expect results before the next six months, which coincidentally is how long the Pakistani military has announced they are not planning any further campaigns. So all of the whining in the press about Pakistan not doing enough against the Taliban is hot air, and co-ordinated attacks will begin when all of the US troops arrive: "As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there's been enough fighting," McChrystal said in the article published on Monday. "I believe that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome. And it's the right outcome." If the war in Afghanistan can end by 2011, then General McChrystal can resign his commission and run triumphantly for the Republican nomination for President in 2012, dashing once again the hopes of boring Newt Gingrich, and Mit Romney. Otherwise, think of the bumpersticker and wonder, who is the pitcher, and who is the catcher?:

Newt and Mit in 2012

just say no...

Iran is complaining even more about the amount of opium that is flowing into Tehran from Afghanistan, meaning that they are becoming the main financial source behind funding the drug lords, but it is not the kind of solidarity that they have imagined...

The head of the Iranian anti-drug task force has said, accusing the West of this nefarious tactic against their government: "Those who chase terrorists in Afghanistan, they have left drug traffickers free," he said.

"I think they even guide traffickers. They allow a fifty per cent increase of drug production in Afghanistan's Helmand province, where the headquarters of British forces is located. What does that mean?"

One meaning is that when you oppress your own population so badly that they no longer have idealistic dreams for themselves, they will supplant them with ones manufactured by drugs and alcohol. just ask the Russians or our American Indians. This last year over 400 tons of opium was confiscated going to Tehran, so you can imagine the amount that actually made it there... We could always do our part and recycle some old commercials with Nancy Reagan in them, remember to just say no:

and who can forget that classic, this is your mind on drugs:

 or better yet, this is your brain on radical terrorism:

late night political jokes:
Now that Conan O'Brian is off the air, waiting until he can start a new show on Fox, I can say that he really isn't a very funny guy. I used to think that the best joke writers worked for the Tonight Show, it seemed that most of Johnny Carson's writers stayed on when Jay Leno took over. The humor factor lowered considerably when Conan took over, leading me to believe he brought over his own writers.

Rating the late night comedians from best to worse is Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Conan O'Brian, and bringing up the rear is Jimmy Kimmel, who can't tell a joke to save his life... It will be a dry spell until Jay comes back on the air in March, in the meantime, I hope that the television stations try out some of the younger crop of comedians, there are some pretty intelligent humorists out there like John Olliver and Arj Barker...

"I guess everybody knows that Scott Brown posed naked for Cosmo when he was a law student. See, back then, the GOP stood for 'grand old package.'" –Jay Leno

"Well, in political news, the big upset. A Republican was elected to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, filling a seat once held by Ted Kennedy. So, this could tip the delicate balance of power in the U.S. Senate from the completely incompetent back to the morally corrupt. It is Thursday, January 21st, or as John Edwards calls it, 'Father’s Day.'" –Jay Leno

"Well, John Edwards has finally admitted he is the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby. He issued a statement. Really? Who is the statement for? The only person that doesn’t know he’s the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby is Rielle Hunter’s baby." –Jay Leno

"Well, this is pretty sleazy. According to Edwards' former aide, a guy named Andrew Young, he says in an upcoming interview that Edwards asked him to steal a diaper from the baby to do a DNA test. Apparently, the test shows that both the diaper and John Edwards were full of crap." –Jay Leno

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Got Those Dead bin Laden Audiotapin' Blues

Meghan McCain
Mark Lynch

"Let’s face it—America is obsessed with breasts. " - Meghan McCain

Osama bin Laden, whom many say is actually dead, released an audiotape today to al Jazeera. Not letting an opportunity pass by, he claims credit for the half-baked plan that his group in Yemen thought of, to take the chemicals from a previous bomber who had them in his shoe, and move the source to the person's underwear. Same low technology, different placement, so if the bomber is caught fooling around in his underpants, he will look like he's just doing something inappropriate with his right hand.
"America will never dream of living in peace unless we live it in Palestine. It is unfair that you enjoy a safe life while our brothers in Gaza suffer greatly.

"Therefore, with God's will, our attacks on you will continue as long as you continue to support Israel," bin Laden said.

"If it was possible to carry our messages to you by words we wouldn't have carried them to you by planes."

As Mark Lynch point out in the link above, and I have mentioned before, it's a bit ironic for the dead bin Laden to speak about Palestine because al Qaeda has no presence in Gaza, Hamas is against any other organization that would threaten its hold. They already had a gunfight with an al Qaeda person who came from Yemen and snuck in through the tunnels, took refuge in a mosque, and ended up surrounded and killed by Hamas forces.

Since al Qaeda is about to be ousted from Afghanistan, and possibly Pakistan, this message is like going back to your roots and trying to mobilize sympathizers through saying something very basic: "Azzam Tamimi, a political analyst and the author of "Hamas the Unwritten Chapters", said that bin Laden was simply using the Palestinian issue in an attempt to mobilise Muslims against the US.

"I would say that al-Qaeda has not been able to set foot in many places in the Muslim world despite its rhetoric," he told Al Jazeera.

"In Palestine they failed miserably and that is why I understand this message as a return to the older strategy of waging war against America and the world order in the skies.

"It is very difficult to compete with an organisation like Hamas in Palestine."

Since the current bottleneck to sitting down and hammering out a Palestinian state seems to lie with Mahmoud Abbaas and Fatah, would bin Laden then threaten and bomb Fatah? You have to wonder what Mr Abbas is getting from the status quo here, is it that he is mentally incapable of moving forward, or is it his ego, imagined prestige, or money flowing in from other Muslim groups to support his lifestyle? George Mitchell just came back from trying to prod Fatah into sitting down at the table right now, even though Israel is still building on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The response, from the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat: "The American side wants to resume negotiations now without a complete halt to settlements," Erakat told reporters after the three-hour meeting.

"We want to resume negotiations on the basis of defining the borders of the Palestinian state on all Palestinian lands occupied since 1967 including east Jerusalem, and a complete halt to all settlement activities,"

"I think the validity of this tape should be subjected to scrutiny because we haven't heard from Mr Bin Laden for quite some time."

For over 40 years, whenever conservative Muslims refer to Christians having a bad influence on Islam, they are referring to the US and modern technology, the rise of secular culture. The response to being dragged into the 21st century, is to try and create a simpler time and life, to go back to how life was lived at the time of the prophet, with guidelines on how to live from the Koran. Extreme interpretations of this desire resulted in groups like al Qaeda.

We have similar Luddite groups in America, largely associated with evangelical Christianity, who are obsessed with spreading the way of life from the Bible, and what they interpret to be the traditional ways from an older, simpler time. Both cultures have histories of many groups springing up trying to live in the  traditional ways, some have been harmless, some eccentric, and others have been considered dangerous, especially when led by a charismatic, mentally deranged figurehead like Jim Jones, Juhayman, bin Laden, and  Sun Moon...

For some reason the charismatic figures are able to negate the emphasis on peaceful living and attention on spiritual nurturing of the soul, so that it becomes ok to hoard guns  and explosives, to either force your beliefs on others or go out in a blaze of glory like they did in Waco, and Juhayman did at Mecca. OK, the CIA helped create al Qaeda and supported bin Laden when he was fighting against our new best friend Russia, so we bought into the madness and it turned around and bit us in the ass...

There may never be an accepted resolution between a monotheistic state and a secular one that attempts separation of church and state, The answer to those who resist changes and live in a fantasy of their own making will be the behavior of their children, who now spend up to seven hours per day locked into the Internet and must have a cell phone to text and tweet while listening to hip hop and Islamic or gangster rap music. The only constant is change, and our children will redefine their own beliefs as they make fun of ours, create the next world while we get older and sit around having tea parties fueled by medical marijuana and viagra...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pakistan's Recent Military Coup Attempt, Justice Rules on FBI Wiretaps, Recent Supreme Court Decision

Kathleen Parker
bob Shacochis

"Looking at the images pouring out of Haiti these days, what comes immediately into focus is the near-sighted, irrational nature of what is out of focus in American foreign policy since the Marshall Plan worked its miracles on a shattered planet." - Bob Shacochis

Pakistan had several years of being ruled by its military, until the recent retirement of General Pervez Musharraf and the election of a civilian government headed by Asif Ali Zardari. I'm sure that the military thought they were getting a puppet figurehead that would do whatever they wished him to do, but that has turned out not to be the case. Mr Zardari has proved to be resilient, passionate in his caring for the citizens of Pakistan, and now his popularity is on the rise after the military attempted to get him to resign, according to a report issued by Human Rights Watch.: "Pakistan's powerful military has actively worked to undermine efforts by the elected government to improve human rights in the country... It also tried to destabilize the elected government, and force out President Asif Ali Zardari.

In a critique of the military establishment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the armed forces had opposed efforts to end its intervention in the political and judicial process. It had also resisted attempts to locate some of the scores of people who "disappeared" in the restive province of Baluchistan during the years of General Pervez Musharraf's rule."

Once you have next to unlimited powers, it's very difficult to voluntarily give them up. as the Obama administration is finding out. Pakistan's Parliament and judiciary have become quite vocal in their criticism of perceived military influence in their areas of expertise. Under Musharraf, if a judge didn't go along with a military decision, he was put in prison on trumped up charges, and this even happened to the head of their supreme court... Add to the mix that the US military prefers to work with Pakistan's military instead of the civilian government because its easier bribing them with promises of drones and other military toys and technology. Yesterday, US Secretary of Defense visited Islamabad to pave the way for better relations between the two: "Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has sought to build bridges with the next generation of Pakistan's military leaders and end a "trust deficit" that he said has hampered co-operation between the countries." Believe it or not:
"So let me say, definitively, that the United States does not covet a single inch of Pakistani soil, we seek no military bases here, and we have no desire to control Pakistan's nuclear weapons."

The military responded by saying that it has no plans for any more new campaigns for at least six months, and they approved the current mess of drone strikes by the CIA, who seem hellbent on getting some kind of revenge or other useless, empty gestures of destruction for the bombing of personnel in one of their outposts. One positive thing is that the military has announced that they are reaching out to the North Waziristan Talibans and encouraging them to take advantage of the Karzai government's offer to peacefully integrate them into Afghan society and participating in the government and making policy.

Hopefully, the different factions will find a way to balance and share power, allowing Pakistan to flourish and grow as a true democracy. And since it has weathered this recent clash of wills and is still standing stronger than ever, it looks like they are well on their way, doing it without those pesky US diplomats looking over their shoulders...

And if the Talibans in Afghanistan and Pakistan decide to kick al Qaeda out of their territories, about the only places left for it to go will be to Yemen or Africa. Turkey has just declared them persona non grata and rounded up 16 known members in its country, so making a safe passage across the Middle East may prove difficult. Of course, bin Laden can always choose to visit his wife and children who are still living in a compound outside of Tehran...

warrantless wiretaps...

The Obama administration is having a hard time giving up the extra powers that Dick Cheney and his Machiavellian cohorts amassed for them. Eric Holder's Justice Department seems schizophrenic, going after ponzi schemers and consumer fraud cases, yet ruling that the FBI can continue to wiretap for no stated reason... "Although the FBI has acknowledged it improperly obtained thousands of Americans' phone records for years, the Obama administration continues to assert that the bureau can obtain them without any formal legal process or court oversight.

The FBI revealed this stance in a newly released report, troubling critics who had hoped the bureau had been chastened enough by its own abuses to drop such a position. In further support of the legal authority, however, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel backed the FBI in a written opinion this month." So far, this opinion has not been released to the public, or even Congress, and any focus on this decision seems to have been swept aside by the disaster in Haiti. Though the FBI keeps saying that they haven't done this in years, who really believes them?
"The FBI says that this kind of activity is in the past, but if they're saying that they have a continuing legal authority, that means it's not in the past."  - Michael German former FBI

It's decisions like this that give evidence to the claim that Obama may really just be Bush 11, keeping and extending abuses of power in the name of national security or the war on terrorism. This continuation of the erosion of personal liberties will sour more people to any other plans that Obama may have, no matter how constructive they may be, and drives them angrily towards the nearest tea party, douse mine with some single malt scotch, please.

Let's see, who else can I bash? After President Obama announced his new plan to reign in the too big to fail banks, the scuttlebutt is that Ben Bernanke may not have his term extended, because Obama's plan is more in line of the way Paul Volcker thinks than the more restrained Bernanke. Personally, my choice to replace him is Elizabeth Warren, but that will never happen, she is too compassionate. I have also read that Paul Krugman would be a good choice, then we could have two Nobel Prize winners...

But this is just pleasant daydreaming. Mr Bernanke will get enough votes from Congress to re-confirm him, though the token opposition may give him some food for thought. The Ron Paul bill to have Congressional oversight of the Fed, in the name of transparency, is still a live issue and may also go before Congress...

The Supreme Court ruling that no longer limits the amount of money a corporation may give was being billed as a matter of free speech, that a corporation has as much right as an individual to contribute their point of view. Ever since 1907 legislators had been trying to even the playing field, that large companies giving huge amounts of money may skew opinion because the average individual cannot compete to get their voice heard. The laws were pretty flawed, and ways were found to go around the laws and even create fictional groups in the name of self interest, isn't that right Swiftboaters?

The Court's decision does give more transparency, big money no longer has to hide behind fake names and titles, though they will continue to do so. It takes million and millions of dollars to run any political campaign, which automatically cancels out anyone who's not rich or cannot attract large donations, giving us a limited form of democracy. If we could get corporations to sponsor politicians like they do rock stars, that could be one financing solution. I'm a Pepper, you're a Republican... John Edwards brought to you by Trojan, wrap that rascal...

Anyway, your favorite legislators are going back to the drawing board and will try to come up with something more draconian before the mid-term elections, but it won't pass. Only if the next few elections are too blatantly sucking the tit of the major corporations enough to disgust you and I, will there be a more just campaign law. But the whole system needs to be overhauled so that even a grumpy old man could one day participate in the political process, and run for office despite the small amount of money he receives in retirement...

Friday, January 22, 2010

More Stimulus Requested, Throwing Acid on Muslim Women, ADE-651 Finally Banned

Paul Krugman
Eugene Robinson
Lou Cannon
"A message to House Democrats: This is your moment of truth. You can do the right thing and pass the Senate health care bill. Or you can look for an easy way out, make excuses and fail the test of history." - Paul Krugman
"Thus far, Obama has said nothing that would help calm the waters -- or help the party get out of what now can officially be called the Health Care Mess. If anything, Obama is making it messier." - Eugene Robinson
"in the depths of the recession, millions of Americans responded to Reagan's unflinching optimism and believed he would do the right thing. By that measure, if he can once again display the rousing audacity that marked his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama can make a similar comeback." - Lou Cannon

All three opinion pieces linked above are advice on what President Obama should do now in the wake of the Republican victory in Massachusetts and the bottleneck where the health care reform bill is stuck. Lou Cannon uses Ronald Reagan as an example for Barack Obama to follow; after their first year as President both men had similar lowered results in the polls, and faced daunting economic problems. Reagan was better at blaming the previous administration, he actually started the trend. Both men were/are willing to listen to both sides of an argument. Reagan listened to and championed Paul Volcker, and Obama seems to be listening to him as well. Volcker's policies helped the Reagan era get out of a depression, but he is no longer in charge of the central bank. Ben Bernanke's term ends this month and personally, I would like to see someone like Elizabeth Warren take his place. She was in charge of the Senate watchdog committee that looked at where the TARP money went, and has made some good suggestions on reform.

People were mad at the banks and Wall Street firms that were deemed "too big to fail" and felt that those institutions were just ripping us off in demanding a government bailout. Mr Obama now wants to limit the risk that such an institution would make with our money, adopting a more conservative fiscal approach and not letting them make money in a casino type of atmosphere. His proposed rules would limit the kinds of risks the banks could take, and make them have a certain amount of assets to cover themselves if they do make a mistake. This will set the scenario that if one of these banks or institutions fail in the future, they will no longer be too big to fail, and we can let them sink into the mud while shedding a few crocodile tears...

If Obama can start taking care of the few things that pissed people off for the last few years, targeting Wall Street excesses next, and bribes to Congress by lobbyists after that, he'll go a long way in making up for his current low poll ratings. Though poll ratings don't mean much, phoning and asking 40 people what they think and then extrapolating their answers to have meaning for the whole country is a bogus way to do anything. And with the recent Supreme Court ruling, unleashing corporate money to pour money into campaigns without limits, well, he has an uphill battle all the way. It may be that the military-industrial complex has now officially won, and all of our protests in the future will be in vain...

we need more stimulus...
Politics is played out differently on the national level than it does on the local level. Locally, we have much the same money problems, but less resources to bail our asses out. The recent financial stimulus has worked out pretty well, but, as Paul Krugman has pointed out, it was not big enough to create more jobs, and where that effect is felt the most is on the local level, where the mayor or city council members can't escape from their electorate like members of Congress do. The Council of Local Mayors, which is meeting in Washington this week, is asking for another round of stimulus money aimed at creating jobs: " More than 230 mayors are in Washington for the winter meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, and many said they had been forced to impose layoffs, furloughs, service reductions and fee increases to deal with falling municipal revenue. The next fiscal year looks even worse, they said.

“We are in the middle of a ‘jobs emergency’ that demands decisive and swift action,” said Elizabeth Kautz, the mayor of Burnsville, Minn., and president of the conference. “We need the Senate to pass a Main Street jobs package now.”

This is a bipartisan plea for help. I know that in our Republican controlled city, we have been laying off all kinds of city workers, sold the police helicopters, closed most of the parks, stopped most recreation projects, closed down city hall on Fridays, dipped into hidden funds, and the prognosis for the next two years is even worse. Cities all across the country are in similar dire situations. Save some of that aid to Haiti, we may need it again in New Orleans, Denver, Fargo, and Billings...
"You know, it's hard to believe President Obama has now been in office for a year. Isn't that amazing? It's a year. And you know, it's incredible. He took something that was in terrible, terrible shape, and he brought it back from the brink of disaster: The Republican party." –Jay Leno

smile again, if you can...
There is a horrible tradition in Pakistan and in the Muslim world, of throwing acid on women's faces, and the skin burnes and melts like it has been in a fire, causing permanent disfigurement. There are cases where Talibans have done this to women who attend school, which they say violates sharia law. Most are done by the ones who are supposed to love and support you: husbands, in-laws, brothers, and street gangs. Ok, the street gangs are trying to intimidate, and poring acid on a face works pretty well.

A woman named Musarat Misbah is trying to change this pattern of abuse and help these victims through her Smile Again Foundation: "A woman walked into her office late one evening and demanded her help. She asked her to return in the morning.

"The woman was very insistent and said no, you must help me now. She removed her scarf and I saw a woman without a face. I saw a girl, there was no nose, eyes are gone, she had a contraction from his chin to her chest which meant she could not move her neck. And I sat down. There was no life in my legs. I asked her 'What happened?'"

"I saw a girl, there was no nose, eyes are gone, she had a contraction from his chin to her chest which meant she could not move her neck. She told me acid had been thrown at her by her own family members, her husband, her in-laws. She said she wanted me to help her look beautiful. And no make up could change her features or bring back the eyes, so I told her 'I will help you'".

And Misbah did. Using her own money, she paid for surgery. Word spread and now, almost 400 women and girls have asked Misbah and her Smile Again Foundation for help. Doctors from Italy and the UK have given their services to help with medical treatment. And she tries to direct many of the women into jobs."  Sometimes our inhumanity towards each other is overwhelming, and I despair if the mean spirited people in this world will ever see justice...

all hail bastat, the goddess of cats...

This next item is at the request of my pet cat, Wiley, who is sitting next to the computer, and who often rests his head on the keyboard while I am typing... A 2000 year old temple has just been found in Alexandria, Egypt, dedicated to the cat goddess Bastat.: "The temple is the first trace of the royal quarters of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be revealed in Alexandria. The find confirms the Greek dynasty of Egyptians continued the worship of ancient animal deities.
Many more ruins of the ancient capital of Hellenistic Egypt lie preserved under the modern city, yet to be unearthed, archaeologists say.

Archaeologists found statues of Bastet, worshipped by the Greek-speaking Egyptians as the moon goddess. For thousands of years the Egyptian Pharaohs believed Bastet was a lion-headed goddess, a relative of the sun-god Ra and a ferocious protector." This just proves what my father always used to say about cats:
"The problem with cats is that we used to worship them as gods, and they have never forgotton this..."  - Dad

UK bans ADE-651... 

Extraordinary... Months ago I wrote how the Iraqi government had spend $85 million on a scam, hand-held bomb detectors that also claimed to find elephants, truffles, humans, and $100 dollar bills. They were based on the pseudo-principles of "ionic detection." The Iraqi government loved them because most members of the iraqi government are illiterate with limited education, and they are amazed by bright, shiny objects... The use of the detectors at checkpoints for bombs have resulted in many bombs getting past the checkpoints and killing hundreds of people. The Afghan government has been using them, also. You might have read about the recent spate of suicide bombers that have mysteriously passed checkpoints; it's from using this hand-held dowsing rod... Finally the UK government is stepping in and banning the exportation of these devices: "The device is sold by Jim McCormick, based at offices in rural Somerset, UK.

The ADE-651 detector has never been shown to work in a scientific test.
There are no batteries and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. Critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.
Mr McCormick told the BBC in a previous interview that "the theory behind dowsing and the theory behind how we actually detect explosives is very similar". It's not just the amount of corruption in these govcrnments we have to face, but also their blind, pig-headed stupidity...