Friday, April 30, 2010

Halliburton = Oil Rig Explosions, Why Do Israelis Think Obama Hates Them?

Paul Krugman
Mark McKinnon
Barnaby Phillips

"In my 25 years in politics, I’ve never seen an issue as explosive or divisive as immigration reform." - Mark McKinnon
"This new law is pretty strict. You can't use the slogan 'what can brown do for you?' anymore. Can't even use that." –Jay Leno

"Ironically, after they passed this new law, you know how they celebrated at the statehouse? Shots of tequila." –Jay Leno

From the initial analysis of the explosion of the oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems that Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton may be responsible. Huffington Post reports: "Though the investigation into the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon site is still in its early stages, drilling experts agree that blame probably lies with flaws in the "cementing" process -- that is, plugging holes in the pipeline seal by pumping cement into it from the rig. Halliburton was in charge of cementing for Deepwater Horizon.

"The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement," said Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer in the oil industry. The problem could have been a faulty cement plug at the bottom of the well, he said. Another possibility would be that cement between the pipe and well walls didn't harden properly and allowed gas to pass through it."
"Halliburton, Halliburton... hmm... why does that sound so familiar? Oh yeah... the corporate beast that leaves deaths and destruction everywhere it goes or around anything it touches." - deparis
British Petroleum has also been criticized for not using the latest technology on the oil rig, and Halliburton has a shaky past track record in working the rigs. They were implicated last year in a similar oil rig explosion off the coast of Australia, which took ten days to cap. Faulty pouring of cement was one of the root causes of that explosion, too.

It's bad enough that BP lied to the world and that the amount of oil leaking from the bottom of the ocean is 10 times the amount than originally stated, and that the spreading oil slick has now reached the coasts of Florida and Louisiana, and President Obama has called a halt to all off-shore oil exploration. Expect major Congressional investigations, tape the events on CSPAN, especially after a second oil rig platform has toppled over near Morgan City, Louisiana...
"I wouldn’t put anything past these buffoons. They performed shoddy work in Iraq and other places and to top if off, they have not been brought to justice in the electrocution deaths of some service personnel." - airforce vet

It may be that lax Federal regulators are partly responsible for allowing a situation like this to develop, especially after the same thing happened in Australia. We have lax Federal regulators letting mines in West Virginia get away with over 200 offenses, and a contemptuous coal company intentionally putting the lives of its workers at risk, no big deal until it resulted in the largest mining disaster in years and the lives of many men. We have Federal regulators looking at porn on their computers instead of looking at Wall Street, resulting in the largest economic meltdown since the Great Depression. I'm beginning to notice a trend here, and maybe we need to have a Congressional hearing asking why the Bush administration condoned hiring these morons as regulators, why they intentionally put people into departments to sabotage their efficiency, and why their official policy was to create a climate of non-regulation. We already know the answers, but it would provide us with some catharsis, to watch the murdering sons of bitches squirm under the hot lights while facing the cameras... Even though I like George Bush as a nice guy, he needs to confront what his avoidance of responsibility under Dick Cheney produced, ruining and even murdering the lives of so many innocent people here in this country, as well as in so many countries around the world. Well, on to Massachusetts and building a farm of wind turbines near the Kennedy compound, close enough to spoil their view and piss them all off...

"When I was young, I was taught that the purpose of religion was to foster compassion through lovingkindness, to seek peace by example, to perform with human hands the work of angels.

Then I moved to the Holy Land." - Bradley Burston
Proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will begin next week, with the US acting as intermediary and running messages back and forth. It's BS, I know, but it's a way to begin the grind again. I was surprised to learn that a lot of my attitude towards the peace talks is similar to those of Zbignew Brezinski's, that the US's lack of follow up and letting Israel do whatever they want has led to a sick atmosphere. So, it's time to man up and cut all foreign aid to Israel and Palestine until they finish hammering out an agreement...

Meanwhile, the Jewish lobby is asking the UN delegates to walk out when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks next week. The US has said that it will not meet with hime while he was here, although that's exactly what Obama should do, if nothing else than to size up the little guy. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer...

There have been demonstrations against Obama in Israel, we may call them the Kosher Partyers, may be more intense than here. Burning him in effigy, calling on him to rot in hell... So many people assume because his demeanor is cool, calm, and collected in public that he hates them. This is a phenomena that goes back to childhood, and speaks more about a person's immaturity, their reaction to criticism than it does about Obama as a person. And just like here in the US, people who ordinarily think of themselves as religious, have taken up the most mean spirited, violent language to protest their imagined slights.

"What is it in the hearts of these people, who call themselves religious, whom the love or the fear of God should have filled with an openness toward humankind, that makes them hate this man with such fury?

Why is this President different from all other presidents?

They call him every manner of names - Communist, Muslim, racist, Jew-hater. They call him all manner of names, and he is none of these.

Curious, isn't it, that they never mention what he actually is. Which is, for many of them, enough reason to revile him, all by itself: Black" - Bradley Burston

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday's Photo Essay

Dana Milbank
Chris Cilliza
Elliot Abrams

"When Goldman executives faced a Senate panel on Tuesday, their performance was so obnoxious, their contempt for lawmakers so palpable, that their appearance had the effect of dissolving the Republican resistance to what Democrats are now calling "Wall Street reform." - Dana Milbank

Dana Milbank tells the story about the Goldman Sachs interrogations in Congress yesterday, with the result that the Republicans let the finance reform bill onto the Senate floor for debate. The Democrats are now calling it the Wall Street reform bill. Hopefully, some good amendments will be attached to make it a better one, wait, has the Republican time limit for earmarks expired? The Repubs really need to change their dumbass tactics that keep blowing back in their faces, stop whining and protesting, and get some good input during the committee process. Then we would have a balanced bill to vote on instead of this long, drawn out process that is strong on stage drama but weak in the script...

I woke up this morning wondering what it would be like if George W Bush was still President. After all, he should experience the aftermath of the financial crisis he got us into. Actually, I kind of miss him ducking responsibility and staying at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, hiding from the press. Chris Cilliza reports on a new poll taken by the Washington Post: "A new Washington Post/ABC poll suggests that most Americans continue to blame the sluggish economy on former President George W. Bush, a development that could complicate Republican efforts to lay it at President Barack Obama's feet this fall... Nearly six in ten (59 percent) of those polled said that Bush was to blame for the current state of the economy while 25 percent put the blame on Obama." If Obama keeps on tackling these big issues, there may be nothing left for Congress to do by the end of his term. In the fourth year he rested...

I haven't heard from Newt Gingrich, or Mit, or Sarah on the idea of increased drilling for offshore oil, especially since the big oil slick is headed towards Louisiana. Jeez, that poor state, now we're going to have to set it and the surrounding sea on fire...

Drill, Baby, Drill, 

Faster, Pussycat, Faster

Swim, Baby, Swim

The price of crude oil, of course, is rising. Expect to see the cost of gas this Summer reach over $4 per gallon. How's that Hummer workin' out for ya?

David Letterman's Top Ten Signs Your Governor Is Nuts

10. Signs a bill outlawing illegal immigration, and also legal immigration
9. Keeps a tip jar on the desk
8. Claims to be governor of Margaritaville
7. After meeting with Schwarzenegger, raves, 'This guy is a genius!'
6. Last-minute iPhone calls to commute death sentences fail because he's using AT&T
5. Signs all legislation with his tongue
4. Just ordered the deportation of guys named Scott or Todd
3. Thinks Ricky Martin just needs to find the right girl
2. Used immigration bill to kick George Lopez out of his time slot
1. Even Rod Blagojevich thinks the dude is crooked

Headlines today say that the majority of Arizonians favor the new anti-immigration bill. Since the governor signs every bill presented before her, special interest groups are swamping to Arizona and lobbying their favorite legislators... Of course, it could all be a ruse by Big Brother Obama and they will all be rounded up and micro-chipped. Easier than putting them in prisons since their lives are such a living hell...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Goldman Suchs, Ahmadinejad Is Coming To Dinner, Palin Hearts Arizona

Maureen Dowd
Dana Milbank

"The whole building is about to collapse anytime now. Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab . . . standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstruosities!!!" - Maurice Tourre
"I don't have regrets about doing things that I think were improper," - Daniel Sparks
"During the economic meltdown, employees at the SEC were using government computers to watch pornography. Ironically, while they were watching porn, the other employees were watching Goldman Sachs screw the entire country." – Jay Leno
"Last week, President Obama gave a speech in New York City about his plan to reform these rules on Wall Street, you know? And one embarrassing moment. When the head of Goldman Sachs was going through security, he was asked to empty his pockets and five Republican senators fell out." – Jay Leno

While Greece had its bond rating reduced to junk level, and the European Union decides if a country is too big to fail, dropping like a domino and taking Spain and Portugal along with it, we had the Goldman Sachs show on CSPAN. The parts that were shown on the news were pretty audacious. The sad part that makes folks angry, is how none of the Sachs employees would admit to doing anything wrong by withholding information designed so that the client buying their security would lose money. We call it fraud, and we would go to jail if we got caught. They call it business as usual, and nobody in the financial industry blinks an eye or sees anything really wrong, because the first rule of investing is buyer beware.

Really, who is surprised that we honor dishonesty and corruption in our culture, make it part and parcel of a free market system. Couple it with natural human greed, and we have a financial engine that will regularly run out of steam on a cyclical basis. So, you can dream about the marvel of compound interest all you want, but the Masters of the Universe will rig it so that you lose it and it gets deposited in their accounts as bonuses. Lloyd Blankfein made over $ 9 million last year during the meltdown. Goldman stock took a rise at the end of the day yesterday, I guess in solidarity to it's officers...
"You know you’re ethically compromised when Senator John Ensign scolds you about ethics."   - Maureen Dowd
Like all bills brought before Congress, the financial reform bill will not solve all of the problems, it will be compromised and amendments will be added. Already the auto industry is asking that their car financing programs be exempted, and the banking industry wants to make sure that if the consumer protection agency becomes part of the bill, it has no powers of enforcement.

So, our political system is corrupt, our financial industry is morally bankrupt, and yet we hold it all up to the world as something positive and to be desired. Enough that we will invade other countries to give them a chance at actually trying to make it work. Except that it doesn't seem to be taking any place else, scratch Iraq, forget it happening in Afghanistan. Ironically, in the Middle East the most progressive societies are the ones with secular monarchies... Except for Saudi Arabia, and it is slowly trying to bring itself into the modern world, only after King Abdullah passes away, it will probably dive back into the Middle Ages thanks to the repressive right wing members of the rest of the royal family...

guess who's coming to dinner?..
The big sideshow will take place in New York next week, as the UN hosts the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty conference. Visas have already been issued for the delegation from Iran, and it will include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who never misses a chance to visit the Big Apple. He is slated to speak after Hillary Clinton. We will see if he will use the time here to try and bait us, make a big stink, or if actual behind the scenes negotiations happen that will give us ambassadors to each other's countries.

The agenda, of course, is all about sanctions: "Ahmadinejad's presence could prove an unwelcome distraction - and provide the Iranian leader with a high-profile platform as sanctions talks continue on the sidelines.

Analysts say the NPT has been battered by North Korea's withdrawal, Iran's insistence on pursing nuclear technology that could help it make bombs and developing nations' charges that big nuclear powers are ignoring disarmament commitments. Western powers would like the NPT review to agree on a plan of action for beefing up the treaty to make it harder for states like Iran and North Korea to acquire sensitive technology and the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Egypt and other Arab states are demanding that any final declaration that might come out of the conference include a renewed call for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East - meaning that Israel, which is assumed to have nuclear weapons - would have to disarm."

It's a badly hidden secret that Israel has their own nuclear arsenal, and they are a leading maker of drones. What is not so well known, is that saudi Arabia probably has some, too, and if the Middle East is o be a nuclear free zone, then all God's children must come clean... If nothing else, a fun time will be had by all. At least no-one is wanting to set up a tent in Donald Trump's backyard...

"Arizona is the meth lab of democracy." – Jon Stewart
We have seen all of the uproar over the new Arizona immigration law, every pundit in the country has talked and written about it to death, and yet we still don't know how it is to be enforced. As it stands right now, unless you have some special papers including your birth certificate on you at all times, anyone can be put in jail for violating the law.
"It's an unbelievable law. And it's already starting to backfire. Today, a group of Native Americans pulled over a bunch of white guys and said, 'Let's see your papers.'" –Jay Leno
Ironically, even Tom Tancredo said that it might be going too far. And the new Republican wonderdog in Florida, Mario Rubio, said that it should be something taken up as federal policy and not the states, taking several GOP'ers by surprise.

Even Sarah Palin has put her two cents worth in, naturally, she twists it to attack Obama, accusing him of pushing the racial myth on the Sean Hannity show: “There is no ability or opportunity in there for the racial profiling,” she said. “Shame on the lame stream media again for turning this into something that it is not.”

Palin then blamed the president for allowing the “myth” that the law allows racial profiling to take hold.

“It's shameful, too, that the Obama administration has allowed...this to become more of a racial issue by perpetuating this myth that racial profiling is a part of this law,” she said.

“I think that President Obama is playing to his base on this one. And I think that's quite unfortunate because this isn't fair to the legal immigrants. It's not fair to illegal immigrants either…many of them want to come here and find that pathway to citizenship.”

Of course, as a Black man, Barack Obama will be more sensitized to things that hint at racist overtones. I learned a long time ago that no matter how hip you think you are, you will always fall prey to racist thoughts. When a friend tells me that what I've said is racist, I don't get defensive, I apologize, because it wasn't my intent to offend. They have had  more experience of that crap on a daily basis and knowing when something has a racist intention. It's just the nature of having differences, and we all do it. The sin is when we do it to be malicious or as an evil act, and this law has the capacity for these behaviors.

Sarah just proves how whitebread she really is, and it seems to be her nature to turn anything into an attack. We all know that Texas, Arizona, and California are bearing the brunt of illegals crossing the border, and something should have been done about it 50 years ago. But we need to have a national debate on this, and come up with some better thought out solutions than Arizona's. Now, I understand that the Mexican government has asked all of the drug cartels to funnel their shipments through Arizona; maybe we will have to cede the state soon to Mexico...

Some reader reaction to Sarah: I am always amused at the fear this woman brings to obamaland and its natives. It seems they are put off by her faith, family, principles and smile... How did she fit that whole statement on the palm of her hand?.. s this the same nitwit that pushed death panels......... I don't know why the lame stream media continues to push this woman. She is a private citizen and grifter, let it go...
"The famous scientist Stephen Hawking says in a new documentary not only does he believe aliens exist, he believes we should not make contact with aliens because they could be very angry beings, especially aliens from Arizona." –Jay Leno

"As you know, Arizona recently passed the toughest anti-immigration bill in American history. The idea behind this bill is to drive illegal immigrants out of Arizona and back to their homeland of Los Angeles." –Jay Leno

And now, for something completely different:

David Letterman's Top Ten Thoughts That Went Through George W. Bush's Mind As He Wrote His Memoirs

10. 'What's a memoir?'
9. 'Is 36 pages enough?'
8. 'You know who was a great band? Foghat!'
7. 'Taco break!'
6. 'How cool is it that I was president? Come on, up high!'
5. 'Jerky break!'
4. 'Chapter Eight: The day I went 5-for-5 in White House T-ball. And no gimmies. All ropes!'
3. 'What? Ricky Martin's gay?'
2. 'Do you spell nucular with 2 'o's or an 'ew'?'
1. 'Shouldn't Cheney be the one writing this?'

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Updates, A Little This, A Little Of That

Flynt Leverett
Roger Cohen
Haggai Alon
Ahmed Rashid
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a black hole that swallows up goodwill ambassadors through the ages.” - Yossi Sarid

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” - General Stanley McChrystal

The graphic above is from a Powerpoint presentation and an article on the good and evil that such presentations embody. General McChrystal has to endure two or three Powerpoint presentations per day... Roger Cohen's opinion piece is on George Mitchell's recent visit to Israel, and why he is optimistic, as related in this quote from an interview with Mr Mitchell: “You asked if I think Netanyahu is serious. They ask the same question. You are an expert on Palestinian and Israeli politics. They are the same. But no one in the world knows American politics better than me, and this I will say. There has never been in the White House a president that is so committed on this issue, including Clinton who is a personal friend, and there will never be, at least not in the lifetime of anyone in this room.” Haggai Alon's piece is on the problems that Gaza presents to the peace process. Ahmed Radhid's piece is on dealing with the Taliban, a thorny problem that is as elusive as a winner to the Iraqi election. I admit to coming away from reading the articles more upbeat. I had made myself depressed and a bit obsessed over the Israeli - Palestinian problem. It must be 100 times more intense living there...

The Army took exception to the article on the Warrior Transition Unit in the NY Times, but didn't deny any of the criticisms of the program. The head of the national program is now on his way to Fort Carson to straighten things out. Yeah, that'll really work, although I have to admit that when the top brass in the Air Force came and looked at the Air Force Academy, they did a credible job in changing the culture there that stopped a lot of date rape and Christian evangelicalism... Every time my town makes the news, its always about something embarrassing. Oh well, it could be worse, I could have moved to Arizona...

Today is the Goldman Sachs inquiry in Congress, with our favorite Congresspeople trying to get them to admit to some degree of guilt or sin, and the executives showing more solidarity than the RNC, ready to join hands and drink the Kool Aid in front of the cameras... Goldman Sachs has been the largest money maker on Wall Street, so there is a lot of ambivalence towards its role in the current financial situation. They have recently been making money hand over fist, but doing it making the same high risk deals that tipped us over into meltdown the first time. Unfortunately, later this week a government report will come out saying that we are still in a job loss market, with over 25,000 jobs lost last quarter.
"Should Goldman Sachs be trying to sell a shitty deal?"  - Carl Levin

european terrorism...
It's good to know that with all of the war and strife, there can be sillyness, too. Turkey was the place you would go to provision yourself before trekking into Kurdistan, which has billed itself for tourism as "The Other Iraq." It only took a couple of Americans to slip over the border and land in an Iranian jail cell to dry up that revenue stream.

Now, Turkey has opened a nudist hotel: "Nudist tourists will be able to work on their full-body tan on the sun-kissed Turkish coast from next week, when the mainly Muslim country opens its first naturist hotel, a report said Sunday. Open exclusively to foreigners, the beachfront nudist-only hotel opens on May 1 near the major southwestern resort of Marmaris, a small revolution in Turkey's conservative society, Milliyet newspaper reported." This small news item has already caused much controversy, as you might imagine. Naturism is pretty popular in Europe and is seen as a sign of freedom and personal liberty in the ex-Russian satellite states, so it may prove to be a good move from an economical standpoint. Turkey is a very mixed and diverse culture, maybe this will be the thing that will get them accepted into the European Union... or, the sudden onslaught of all of that pink flesh could trigger another jihad...

This Fall George Bush is publishing his memoirs, just after the next election. Also, the collected writings of Marilyn Monroe will come out at the same time... Coincidence? I don't think so...

I guess we finally got tired of feeding and clothing Manuel Noriega. We extradited him to France, where they found him guilty of money laundering from when he was ruler of Panama. Poor guy, he keeps asking when he can go home again... little does he know that the next place he will be shipped to is Arizona!!!

I had collected a few pictures for Earth Day, and forgot to post them. Call it what you will, our planet is going through some climate changes and there is nothing we can do about it now. The pessimistic part of me fears that I will live to see many people die as a result of fighting over dwindling resources, and I fear even more for the kind of world the grandchildren will inherit. We are killing this planet, and she is screaming...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Islands in the Persian Gulf Stream...

Paul Krugman
E J Dionne Jr
Meghan McCain

"The danger of judicial activism now comes from the right, not the left. It is conservatives, not liberals, who are using the courts to overturn the decisions made by democratically elected bodies in areas such as pay discrimination, school integration, antitrust laws and worker safety regulation." - E J dionne Jr
“Arizona is ground zero for the wingnuts. There’s a problem with illegal immigration and no one wants to do anything constructive about it so you get crap like this.” - friend of Meghan McCain
"In the White House,you feel like you're in the proverbial bubble. And it's hard to break through." - Barack Obama

President Obama is hosting an economic summit with Muslim leaders at the White House today. I thought it would be interesting to see how other Arab countries deal with the transgressions of Tehran. Not surprisingly, the interaction is a bit more polite.

There are some small islands in the Persian Gulf, or the Arabian Gulf, near the shipping lanes used for oil tankers, which Iran has been occupying since their mighty display of Naval maneuvers the last few days. Iran had established some maritime offices on the islands two years ago, and this fact was rubbed in Arabian noses last week. The foreign minister of the UAE called on Iran to end its occupation of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs. "Last week, Sheikh Abdullah was quoted by the UAE news agency saying: "Occupation of any Arab land is occupation ... Israeli occupation of Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, West Bank or Gaza is called occupation and no Arab land is dearer than another."

Whoa, them's fightin' words, said Iran: "... his explicit comparison of the islands claimed by the UAE to Arab lands occupied by Israel was called "brazen and impudent" by Tehran, which said on Saturday it hoped he had been misquoted."

No way, in your face, replied the UAE minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan. "The UAE's position is one of hope that the Iranian side will end this dispute peacefully and calmly. We hope the Iranian side will look at this dispute and the occupation not only as an obstacle to improving relations between our two countries but also as an obstacle to Iran's relations with Arab states. For the sake of everybody, we hope this issue will be resolved peacefully and as soon as possible."

Not only did the Iranian spokesmodel hope that the UAE was misquoted, but he kicked it up a notch, and darkly warned that: "The repetition of such statements will ensure the intense reaction of the Iranian people."

And that's where the situation stands. No Great Satan was tossed about, no rattling of swords, or threats of nuclear bombs, no dispatching of suicide bombers; this may be the future of how diplomacy works. At least until tomorrow, and we find out what exactly "the intense reaction of the Iranian people" is. Maybe they'll all text bad things on their Blackberrys, or they might just stay at home and watch more Disney cartoons in protest...

In countries like Iran, where officially music is frowned upon, many younger people use the Internet to find and download music they like. For musicians this may be their only source to listen to what is contemporary in other parts of the world, finding inspiration for  creating their own music. In traditional music, Iran used to have some of the best musicians in the world. Most of them are dispersed to other parts of the globe, many live in Los Angeles. In fact, Los Angeles has the largest Iranian community outside of Iran, and is often called Little Tehran...

Oh yeah, it's Monday and I'm bored. All of the news is just a rehash of the weekend, and how many protests and crooked elections can one read about before becoming jaded? Even after two cups of good coffee, its hard to keep any interest up. I could write about the anti-immigration law that was passed in Arizona, but it will soon make its way through the courts, and the only person who will gladly abuse it will be Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Mariposa County. Besides, Arizona also passed a birther bill, requiring all political candidates to show their birth certificates, known as the Taitz Act. I know we have laws now that protect us from frivolous lawsuits, but what is to protect us from frivolous laws?  We should be putting sunset clauses into all laws that are passed. Then the laws will end after a few years, and if it was a good one, we renew it. If it's a weird one or a stinker, we let it ride off into the sunset...

There is an organization whose goal is to give out at least a billion laptop computers to poor kids in developing nations, and they say that even six billion would not be enough. But the whole world is connected to some form of the Internet, and it has changed all of our societies. Cheap solar panels connect to televisions and dvd players, and recharge cell phones.  One of the problems that North Korea has is that with the proliferation of cheap Chinese solar panels, many people now have cell phones and can get connected to the outside world. The government can no longer control all of the information it feeds its citizens. After Kim Jong-Ill dies, so will his authoritarian hold on the lives of the Korean people. Maybe then South Korea will no longer have the world's highest rate of suicide... China is trying to contain this trend by having its own Internet, and filtering and censoring all information in and out of the country. After the US, it has the most amount of computer users, and with that many bored teenagers, their will be countless ways found to by get around the censors. And with thousands of bored teenagers with nothing else to do in their lives, an army of malicious hackers can be born, preparing for the upcoming cyberwar... Maybe Armageddon will be in virtual space and time...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fort Carson WTU WTF?, Pope Benedict Brand Condoms

P J O'Rourke
Mark Hyman MD

"America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects." - P J O' Rourke
"Jan has always been a tough cookie and very partisan. I think what led her to this decision on the immigration bill was political, cold calculation. She felt the Hispanic community would not matter." - Mary Wilcox
T"Here's some depressing recent medical news: Antidepressants don't work. What's even more depressing is that the pharmaceutical industry and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have deliberately deceived us into believing that they DO work. As a physician, this is frightening to me. Depression is among the most common problems seen in primary-care medicine and soon will be the second leading cause of disability in this country." - Mark Hyman MD
The Federal Reserve reported that it turned over $474.4 billion in surpluses to the US Treasury. It seems that the financial crisis and bailing out all of those banks ended up being great business for the Fed. I plan on going to all of the more conservative blog sites in Colorado and posting this factoid. It's turning out that all of the complaints they had about the bailouts are wrong, and the correct actions were taken.
The five biggest banks in the US reported a total of $17 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2010.

Unfortunately, this doesn't translate well as it trickles down to "Main Street." People are still foreclosing on their mortgages, the banks are ending the programs they created to help the owners get by, businesses are still laying folks off from their jobs (41 last week at my brother-in-law's workplace), and next year many cities and possibly a few states will be bankrupt.

The beautiful city where I live is no exception. The lawns and plants in the parks are dying, and it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to eventually replant. City workers are being laid off, police are being laid off, and they are even having trouble finding asphalt to fill in the potholes that blossom every Spring. The quick expansions and contractions of the tarmac when the weather swings over 40 degrees in a day, and the bad habit of throwing a few shovelfulls of hot asphalt into the resulting potholes only ends up making things worse each succeeding year. Much like what our local Army Base does to the soldiers who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical and emotional problems.

In fact, Fort Carson made the front page of the NY Times.: "Created in the wake of the scandal in 2007 over serious shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Units were intended to be sheltering way stations where injured soldiers could recuperate and return to duty or gently process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with about 465 soldiers at Fort Carson’s unit.

But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson’s unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse."

The Army tries to deny responsibility for any problems that soldiers experience during war. Look how long it took for them to be dragged kicking and screaming up to the mirror, and they had to admit that there was such a thing as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or shell shock, as it used to be known. The current experiment, lamely called the Warrier Transition Unit, is failing. It's failing because it refuses to man up and address the situation head-on, and over-medicates instead of providing the right personnel to help the individuals involved. As a result, Fort Carson has the highest suicide rate, and our community of Colorado Springs has the higghest homicide rate committed by soldiers and ex=soldiers. I guess we're supporting our troops by being fodder for their homicidal fantasies.
"For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers... At Fort Carson, many soldiers complained that doctors prescribed drugs too readily. As a result, some soldiers have become addicted to their medications or have turned to heroin. Medications are so abundant that some soldiers in the unit openly deal, buy or swap prescription pills."
“These kids change their medication like they change their underwear, they can’t even remember which pills they’re taking.”
Because the soldiers are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, they bring heroin with them. It may be easier to obtain heroin on the Army base than it is downtown. This is another problem that is largely ignored by the Army brass and bigwigs.
“We’re all on sleep meds, anxiety meds, pain meds. The heroin is all that, wrapped into one.”
Since 2007, the Warrior Transition Units have treated over 50,000 people. That's potentially 50,000 soldiers they have failed. And if it's true that antidepressants really don't work, they just mask the problem, then we have a major problem. Millions of people now take antidepressants on a daily basis, from medicated children up to lonely 90 year old grandmothers, all drugged out and typing on keyboards, using their computers in lieu of any real, human connections. It really is a brave, new world we have created, and this is the mess we have at home, it is much, much worse what we leave behind in the hot desert sand...

gop hopefuls...
I know that you will be disappointed to know that Scott Brown will not be running as a Republican candidate for President come 2012. So far everyone else has been coy, out dancing by themselves before announcing anything final, but Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Mit Romney have shelled out over $600,000 to make web sites.: "The online competition has taken a variety of forms. Palin has hired the two young founders of a fan site that zealously defends her honor and upbraids her critics. Pawlenty has hired online consultants from the 2008 presidential campaigns of Romney and Ron Paul. Gingrich has developed a sophisticated in-house micro-targeting operation. And Huckabee has deployed volunteers to man social networks.

And, though each potential candidate insists the efforts – online and otherwise – are intended to boost conservatives headed into the 2010 midterm elections, their web operations suggest a keen awareness of the Internet’s importance for organizing, messaging and raising money – and certainly could help lay the groundwork for their own prospective bids in 2012."

Remember, there are some places where free elections don't occur:

takin' a poke at the pope...
Some wags in the British Foreign Office were goofing around and created a memo on what kinds of activities they could provide for the Pope's next visit to Britain this September. Then, it was mistakenly put into a press kit and released.

Among the highlights were the suggestions that the Pope could distribute "Benedict" brand condoms, open an abortion clinic, and bless a gay marriage... Oh, those wacky, fun-loving Brits!

The person responsible was given some time off, and the BBC gave out some more of the memo, in all of its stodgy glory: "It suggested Benedict XVI could show his hard line on the sensitive issue of child abuse allegations against Roman Catholic priests by "sacking dodgy bishops" and launching a helpline for abused children.
The document went on to propose the Pope could apologise for the Spanish Armada or sing a song with the Queen for charity.
It listed "positive" public figures who could be made part of the Pope's visit, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and 2009 Britain's Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle, and those considered "negative", such as Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins." Got all that? Have a blessed Sunday...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Israel Has Offered To Ease Gaza Blockades, Chinese Navy, Boy Scout Abuse

Hendrik Hertzberg
Aaron David Miller

The lengthy opinion piece by Aaron David Miller is an example of an old Middle Eastern warrior who has become burned-out and disillusioned. A more tempered look at the history of the peace process is found in Martyn Indyk's memoir, Innocent Abroad. Mr Miller offers these thoughts:
"I can't tell you how many times in the past 20 years, as an intelligence analyst, policy planner, and negotiator, I wrote memos to Very Important People arguing the centrality of the Arab-Israeli issue and why the United States needed to fix it. Long before I arrived at the State Department in 1978, my predecessors had made all the same arguments. An unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict would trigger ruinous war, increase Soviet influence, weaken Arab moderates, strengthen Arab radicals, jeopardize access to Middle East oil, and generally undermine U.S. influence from Rabat to Karachi."
"Obama is clearly determined not to take no for an answer. Fresh from his victory on health care, he's King of the World again and in no mood to let the King of Israel frustrate his plans. This willfulness is impressive, and it makes it even more imperative now that he's engaged in the faith to give that old-time religion a fresh look, based not just on what's possible but on what's probable. We don't have the right to abandon hope, but we do have the responsibility to let go of, or at least temper, our illusions."
I'm sure that more will be leaked out how George Mitchell's meeting with Palestinian leaders went, but Mahmoud Abbas responded to Israel's proposal for a Palestinian state with temporary borders by saying to Obama and the American community that if it is committed to a peace deal, its time to fit action to rhetoric: "Since you, Mr. President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this, it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution - impose it - But don't tell me it's a vital national strategic American interest ... and then not do anything." I believe the ball has been hit back into our court...

Abbas is afraid that any temporary borders would become permanent, and that Palestinians would be seen as temporary inhabitants. Israel has offered this before, and it is a part of the US's plan towards peace, so it may become the first stepping stone, along with an actual timeline with an end goal. For his part, Netanyahu took the US's previous suggestions to heart and to sweeten the deal: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, to remove several roadblocks in the West Bank, and to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip." Abbas would be a fool not to accept, unless his relationship with Hamas has soured and he wants to screw them over again.

Obama wants to publicize his own peace plan, but if he does, Israel will immediately reject it, saying that only a plan that it has a direct part in negotiating is acceptable. We all must retain face... If all of this activity can happen when George Mitchell comes to town, we may have to buy him a permanent residence in Jerusalem... It's evident that both sides hold Mr Mitchell in high regard, now if we could find someone similar for Afghanistan, who can work with Hamid Karzai and help mentor him in the ways of diplomacy...

A commentator to the above-mentioned article by Aaron Miller, J Taylor, opined what we might expect after a successful negotiation:
"A future peace, where Israel and Palestine were at peace, Palestine has open borders with Jordan and Egypt. Arab nations allow reasonably free trade with Israel. Israel's economy expands to products that arabs can use and afford. Refrigerators etc. Israel stop sabotaging arab economies. Probably Egypt would get a democracy pretty quick without the USA propping up a dictator. Would Egypt's economy start to recover? If so, that's plenty of exports to Israel and imports from Israel. Lots of investment possibilities for Israelis all over the Arab world, starting with Palestine. 
It might take two generations for the hard feelings to die out. There are still Finns and Russians angry about things that happened before WWII. (Finland was desperate enough to accept help from the Nazis, which caused them a lot of trouble over the years.) But the old people die off eventually." See? There must be a pony in there, somewhere...

in the navy...
The Chinese own or have business interests in over half of the world. To help secure those interests in future times of strife, China is expanding its Navy: "China calls the new strategy “far sea defense,” and the speed with which it is building long-range capabilities has surprised foreign military officials.

The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or defending the Chinese coast. Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country’s economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas." And, to show their appreciation to the Tibetan Buddhist monks that helped so much during the earthquake, China is offering to take each one for a ride out to sea on a ship...

And a quick comment from the Asia Times: "It's kind of sad to see the Chinese following the American example of filling the seas with expensive targets for relatively inexpensive rockets. There are no racial barriers for stupidity." It will soon be commonplace to see Chinese Navy ships stationed in places like both ends of the Panama Canal, since Chinese "business" interests bought it up long time ago... I'm waiting until they sail into British Columbia or San Francisco to secure the newly declared areas that were previously known as Chinatown, now being declared as part of the Chinese sovereignty, after Taiwan, of course...

on my honor, I will do my best...
As a former Boy Scout, I found this next story quite interesting. It seems that the Catholic church is not the inly organization that knowingly allowed abusing of children within its organization. An Oregon jury awarded a former Boy Scout $18.5 million award because the Boy Scouts allowed a former abuser to associate with boys, back in the 1980's: "When he was aged 11 or 12, Mr Lewis was abused in Portland by a former assistant scoutmaster, Timur Dykes. Dykes, now 53, was later convicted three times of sexually abusing boys, and served time in prison. Timur Dykes has been convicted three times of abusing boys. The jury found that Dykes had been allowed to associate with scouts despite admitting to a BSA official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys."

Even creepier than being molested by your scoutmaster, is the fact that the Boy Scouts organization collected and kept secret files on its members, for security purposes?: "These documents, formally known as "ineligible volunteer" files and nicknamed the "perversion files", have been compiled for nearly a century, since the organisation was formed. They were kept under lock and key at BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas, and the organisation argued in court that its system was put to good use, quietly keeping out molesters for decades."

The Boy Scouts were formed by an ex-military spy for the British, so emulating similar behavior is to be expected. In the past 20 years, the Boy Scouts have increasingly been taken over, er, sponsored by the Mormon Church. Hmmmm. Catholic to Mormon church? I wonder how far the scandals will go, and if our religious infrastructure will fall apart because of the sins unveiled? I'm still wondering at the hidden meanings of certain phrases I had to memorize from Cub Scouts on:
"... to be square, and to obey the law of the pack. "

Friday, April 23, 2010

Palestinian State 2.0, George, Is That You?

Newt Gingrich
David Brooks
Paul Krugman
Charles Brackett

'Everyone knows if a Republican comes out of the closet and sees a gay shadow, it means six more years of a Democratic administration.' – Jon Stewart
"You see this on the news? Gay and lesbian activists chained themselves to the White House fence to protest the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. And when Republican Party officials saw the lesbians chaining themselves to the fence, out of force of habit, they paid $2,000 to watch." - Jay Leno
David Letterman's Top Ten Goldman Sachs Excuses

10. Huh?
9. You're saying 'fraud' like it's a bad thing
8. Planned on using money to buy everyone in America delicious KFC Double Down sandwich
7. Distraught over George Lopez's move to midnight
6. We were framed by evil menswear company Goldman Slacks
5. Since when are financial institutions not allowed to screw their customers?
4. Hey sport, how much to make these questions go away?
3. America needed a villain both Republicans and Democrats can hate
2. Everyone we ripped off got an 'I Got Cheated By Goldman Sachs' tote bag
1. Uhh, it's Obama's fault?

New York Senator Charles Shumer is unhappy with the Obama administration's policy towards Israel. He wants us to stop beating up on Benjamin Netanyahu, and to keep most of the negotiations behind closed doors, not out in the open the way that Hilary Clinton's State Department is doing.
"You have to show Israel that it’s not going to be forced to do things it doesn’t want to do and can’t do. At the same time you have to show the Palestinians that they are not going to get their way by just sitting back and not giving in, and not recognizing that there is a state of Israel,"
"I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk," Schumer told Segal. "Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.

"If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, 'Why should we negotiate?'"
What bothers me is the old-school reasoning that we should blindly support Israel no matter what it does or does not do. That is a co-dependent relationship, and we end up making excuses for any bad or antagonistic behavior our unruly child makes. Now that most Israelis believe in a two-state system, they have to make it happen. They can even do this without the participation of any Palestinian groups if need be, and it can be done over the weekend. Then, both sides will rush to sit down and negotiate the details. What keeps the Palestinians away from negotiating isn't some bullshit definition of Israel as a state, it's the constant offerings of something and never producing anything substantial. It's like Charlie Brown having the football removed by Lucy every time he goes to kick the football; how many times do you make a pratfall before you refuse to make another attempt, despite her constant promises not to take it away.

As Shimon Peres told George Mitchell today, no-one doubts that Israel wants peace, but the Israeli right wing doesn't want to give the Palestinians any land, they don't want to have to remove any illegal settlers from the West Bank, and they also feel that the best solution is if all Palestinians left Israel and immigrated to neighboring lands like Jordan and Lebanon. Having Netanyahu in charge when such historic events are in the making is like Nixon in China. Nixon, a fervent anti-Communist, has been hailed and revered in China for visiting and helping to normalize relations. Similarly, Netanyahu may be lionized and revered by Palestinians for actually creating the Palestinian state, one of the ironies of history.

For his part, Benjamin Netanyahu tried to calm emotions and repair some relations with neighbor Syria, who has been accused of supplying some SCUD missiles to Hezbollah.
"In my estimate, there is Iranian agitation, both direct and indirect, via Hezbollah. With this agitation Iran is trying to persuade Syria, mainly, that Israel is about to attack Syria. This is a lie, and, as you know, if you repeat a lie enough times, even good people and good leaders repeat the mistake ... Israel wants peace. Israel does not want war."
Of course, Israel had bombed a site in Syria a few years ago, where it said that Syria was building a nuclear bomb, so we'll see if any relations can be repaired.

Netanyahu also proposed this morning creating a Palestinian state with temporary borders and leaving the problem of Jerusalem as the last item to ever be discussed, and it was immediately rejected by the Palestinian Authority. This was dissected in the newspaper Haaretz: "The Palestinian Authority finds the idea completely unacceptable. Palestinian officials were quick to protest that possibility anytime anyone on the Israeli side toyed with the thought of a Palestinian state in temporary borders, clarifying that the Palestinians would not accept it. That is also expected to be the reaction in this case, and possibly the reaction Netanyahu was going for: to divert the fire from Israel while focusing international public opinion on the Palestinians refusal to negotiate and even to declare statehood. It is as if Netanyahu is saying: "Gentlemen, Israel agrees to a Palestinian state," taking the sting out of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan to declare a Palestinian state along 1967 borders by August 2011. Netanyahu could then point his finger at PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his aides, saying "You see, I told you. It's their fault. They're not interested, and continue to miss out on chances for peace."

It's understandable why the Palestinians would reject a Palestinian state within temporary borders. They have witnessed the Jewish population in East Jerusalem and the West Bank triple itself since 1993, despite signing the Oslo Accords. As far as they're concerned, that which begins as temporary could quickly become permanent, especially in the face of Israel's settlement policies. But with such an erudite argument at hand, Netanyahu succeeds in creating at least the semblance of a desire to reach a diplomatic breakthrough, while painting the Palestinians as peace deniers. Again."

So, the game continues to be played. The US will continue to play good cop- bad cop, we send our envoy to try and take baby steps towards any semblance of negotiations, the Arab world grows more cynical, and Israel itself becomes a schizophrenic state. I don't see how someone like Martin Indyk, who was our ambassador to Israel twice, and involved in the peace negotiations for over twenty years, could live and work in such an environment, it would drive me crazy... The creation of the Palestinian state, with real borders, will not solve all of the problems in the Middle East, but it would relieve a lot of pressure, and who knows? Maybe people will travel to this region for pleasure and the culture instead of solely for business...

Oh yeah, Iran is applying to be on the UN Human Rights Commission so that they can get the US tried for human rights abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, after we got rid of their two greatest enemies, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. That's gratitude for ya...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good-bye To Human Rights in China, George Mitchell Can Thank The Ayatollah Khamenei

Gail Collins
Joe Conason
Benjamin Sarlin

"People love their doctors, but they tend to hate their bankers. Nobody is going to scare voters by predicting that if the Democratic bill passes, they may not be able to keep seeing the same hedge fund manager." - Gail Collins
"The future of America's children is connected inextricably with that of their generation around the world." - Joe conason
"Well, just four days after Goldman Sachs cost investors $12 billion by failing to tell them that they're being investigated for fraud, they gave out another $5.4 billion in bonuses. Huh? Even Somali pirates are going, 'Come on!'" – Jay Leno

Today most of the news in the US is about the new lovefest between Democrats and Republicans over the finance reform bill that passed out of committee and now goes to the Senate floor. Repubs keep on trying to center themselves around the punch bowl and are shyly asking to take part in the dance, now if only the Dems will accept the glass and hope that its not spiked, and they can waltz of merrily together. Tomorrow, it will be different, when someone wakes up in the morning in bed with the opposition and tries to chew their arm off to get away - yep, coyote ugly...

But paranoia seems to reign down upon the rest of the world like volcanic ash. In China, the government is threatening to permanently disbar two lawyers who defended members of the religious qigong sect, Falun Gong. Licenses are renewed each year, and usually a lawyer looses their license permanently only if they are convicted of a crime. But Falun Gong is one of the big four subjects that the Chinese government is unusually touchy and repressive about: "The Chinese government has been relentless about quashing any defense of Falun Gong, which is considered one of the most sensitive topics in China, along with independence for Tibet and Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. The movement was banned as an “evil cult” in 1999 after followers staged a silent protest at the Chinese leadership’s compound in Beijing. Since then, practitioners have been subjected to imprisonment and torture."

Personally, I don't see how Falun Gong is all that harmful. It misrepresents itself as a spiritual movement based on some qigong exercises cobbled together from three different traditions. It also is racist in that it markets itself only to Chinese people, and doesn't like to include any foreigners. The leader is ex-military and claims gaining spiritual powers from the practice, which is what the government deems dangerous.

Qigong is an energetic exercise, what old school martial art practitioners used to call warm-up exercises. The word qigong was made up by the government to codify the exercises and make it attractive to naive foreigners. It includes moving forms as well as sitting and standing meditations. The traditions that include qigongs are Buddhist, Taoist, martial, and medical. You can practice a qigong form on four levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, the goal is to integrate all four into your practice. I have practiced qigong for over 25 years, and have experienced its benefits and its limitations. More serious is the Chinese government's crackdown on anyone trying to expose or defend human right's cases. It signals that their right wing element is in control and will not brook any criticism.

I kept hoping that Thailand would be different, that they could have civil disobedience this year without it devolving into a blood-bath. Perhaps having the redshirts protesting in the business district for over a month was too long. An impatient, rich group of yellow shirts bought some explosives and five bombs went off today, injuring up to 75 redshirts. Now it gives the Army a legitimate excuse to move in and forcibly remove folks out of Bangkok, because now its for their safety and own good. The sickly King doesn't have to get involved, everyone saves face.

George Mitchell finally got the OK to travel back to the Middle East, to set up the third party talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. So the public drama is behind us, everyone feels better after the recent cathartic events, time to let some common sense prevail. Diplomats have to be patient, if nothing else.

To help get back to the negotiating table, Iran gave everyone a swift little kick in the butt. The Ayatollah Khamenei gave a speech announcing that Iran will play by itself with some war games in the Persian Gulf soon. His speech was a combination of outraged defense and blustery offense, a show put on more to convince the opposition in Iran how cool he is and how can you not support someone who can stick it to the Great Satan like Khamenei does? Yes, with an armed chorus behind him, chanting Go Ayatollah! Go Ayatollah! Almost makes you want to contribute to his personal cashmere goat farm that supplies the material for his luxurious robes: “How can the U.S. president make atomic threats against Iranian people? This threat is a threat against humanity and international peace and no one in the world should dare to articulate such words.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said Wednesday that countries that had nuclear ability were themselves “brazenly lying” about their commitment to nonproliferation. He argued that nuclear-armed states sought to keep non-nuclear states from developing such weapons because they did not want competition. “We have repeatedly said that we do not intend to use weapons of mass destruction, but the Iranian people do not surrender to these threats and will force those who make such threats to come to their knees. We will not allow America to renew its hellish dominance over Iran.” Here he is admitting that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but that they will never use them, they just want to compete with the US as an equal threat to the world. At least we alter the face of our threats every four or eight years... Or, it could be that the good Grand Ayatollah is really an agent for the CIA, and they paid him to put some fear into the peace negotiators, stranger things have happened...

But the worst news involves uncovering a secret prison in Iraq. This time it wasnt run by the Americans, though they knew of it, rather it belonged to an armed squad working out of the Prime Minister's office. It was a sectarian prison, with Shias jailing and torturing Sunnis, whether they posed a threat or not. If Nuri Malecki can extricate himself out of this mess, then he is quite the chameleon, and his tricks to give him the election and form another government will not be a factor. He would win on sheer chutzpah and the size of his balls... If not, he can always emigrate to Kyrzystan, I hear they are looking for a new, autocratic style leader...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Arizona Tea, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, Chinese Navy Exercise

Dana Milbank
John Dickerson

"The problem for the White House is that it's way too early -- about 2 a.m. in this economic recovery. The neighbor's cat is howling, somebody's car alarm is going off, and the nation is irritable and disoriented." - Dana Milbank
"We all know that the rate of job growth is too slow to bring down the unemployment rate, and the continued weakness in the job creation remains a major challenge. Most Americans, at least in the neighborhoods I grew up in, don't feel GDP growth. They don't sit around the table if they've lost their jobs and talk about how the Nasdaq is climbing." - Joe Biden
"Banking is founded on a moral basis and not a financial basis. The trouble today is that you bankers are too narrow-minded. You don't know the country or what is going on in it and the country doesn't trust you. You are not interested in the development of the country. … You take no interest in the small borrower and the small enterprise which affect the future of the country, but you give every attention to the big borrower and the rich enterprise. … You bankers see nothing beyond your own interests. … You should be broader minded and see what is best for the country in the long run." - Woodrow Wilson

It looks like Obama will get his wishes on financial reform, and the resulting packages and votes will be a bipartisan effort, as more Republican Congressmen are making public statements to that effect. Even though the lobbyists for the banking industry and Wall Street firms are pouring millions of dollars into bribes, er, influential meetings with the Senators, public opinion is highly in favor of reform. Anyone who has had to pay a bank fee or late payment interest fee on a credit card, which is just about everyone, would like to see those ripoff policies changed. Yep, soon we will become more like Europe, where they  never had many of the crooked banking fees to begin with...

Banks that trade in derivatives have already seen about $30 billion of potential investment deals pull out of the market since the SEC announced its indictment. The big boys are worried that if more regulation takes place and they have to have a level playing field, more money could be lost. Morgan Stanley estimates that their annual revenues will go down by $3 billion, worst case scenario. The SEC began investigating Goldman Sachs back in 2008, and notified the bank several times on the development of its case, so the Republican claims that the timing of the case was a bit curious doesn't hold up, another incident of wild speculation...

arizona tea...
Arizona has always been a squirrely state, famed for a desert wasteland transformed into a place where old Mafiosa could retire, a place famed as a breeding ground for right wing political thought before hippies began scurrying about the desert looking for peyote; think of Barry Goldwater basting in the hot hot desert sun, feverishly scribbling notes by the backyard swimming pool, and this was in a time before the mass prescriptions of neuroleptic drugs...

Now, the Arizona legislature has passed an immigration bill that has caused its Hispanic Senator, Raul Grijalva, to call for a boycott of his state : "The bill, which would require police officers to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're not here legally, has been approved by the state House and Senate, and will become law if Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signs it. "We're codifying into law, if the governor signs this, racial profiling, discrimination under the Constitution," he said on MSNBC last night, adding that the bill is "fundamentally racist."

"The consequences we can only bring up right now is economic sanctions," Grijalva said. "We're asking organizations -- civic, religious, labor, Latino, organizations of color -- to refrain from using Arizona as a convention site, to refrain from spending their dollars in the state of Arizona until Arizona turns the clock forward instead of backwards and joins the rest of the union." 

al-qaeda in the maghreb...
First came the fatwa issued by a Pakistani cleric against all forms of violent terrorism. It seems to have spurred an opposite reaction, with the Taliban  murdering a popular Kandahar politician while he was kneeling for prayer at a mosque, and Iraqi insurgents  murdering families inside of their homes, including small children, like the serial killers they are... Then came the announcement that al-Qaeda was hurting for money and may have to file for bankruptcy... Now the Saharan countries of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are joining forces to battle the al-Qaeda groups, who have joined with the Toureg and have become well entrenched:
"We have decided to strengthen our intelligence co-operation against all forms of insecurity and, therefore, plan to move towards joint military operations against terrorism, kidnappings and the trafficking of drugs and weapons,"
This has been a desolate, rough terrain, unhospitable to Western aid workers, tourists travel at their own risk: "Al-Qaeda fighters last year killed a British man, Edwin Dyer, who was kidnapped on the border between Niger and Mali... They also shot dead a US aid worker in Mauritania's capital last June, and carried out a suicide bombing on the French embassy there in August that injured three people... Two Spaniards are believed to be in al-Qaeda's hands after they disappeared in November last year from a humanitarian aid convoy in Mauritania... An Italian husband and wife who were seized in Mauritania last year were last week freed in Mali."

Of course, it remains to be seen how serious they are in mounting a successful campaign. Usually, ethnic rivalries and govermental bickering has broken up all past attempts at solidarity. And it may be just a scam to get some attention from the press and more foreign aid from Western countries, especially after the success of the Yemeni government in cutting itself a large piece of the greater economic and military pie... It might also help them if they could get a couple of American-born Muslims to emigrate and set up shop...

in the navy...
Peter Brown reports in the Asia Times that: "Aggressive Chinese war gaming near Okinawa has led to Japanese complaints, particularly after the Suzunami destroyer was buzzed by a Chinese navy helicopter operating from a fleet of warships and submarines. The Chinese exercise, which may have used five surveillance satellites, seems a clear statement of Beijing's intent in securing Taiwan and important lines of trade and communication." Or, it could have been a result from last week's meeting between China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Barack Obama. It might scare the Japanese so much that they will forget all about trying to get the American military base off of Okinawa, heh, heh, heh. Maybe we can renegotiate our contract for the base, and get them to store some of our spent nuclear warheads there. Cruel joke, yes, I know...