Friday, May 14, 2010

Nuclear Arms Race Between Frenemies, Thai Iced Violence, Droning For al-Awlaki

Paul Krugman
Ruth Marcus
Steve Benen

"The crisis in Greece is making some people — people who opposed health care reform and are itching for an excuse to dismantle Social Security — very, very happy."  - Paul Krugman
"It is starting to feel as if everyone on Wall Street is under investigation by someone for something." Nelson Schwartz
"When considering the kind of changes we've seen between this administration and the last, we tend to think about economic, national security, legal, and social policy. More generally, we might also think about the shift away from corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement." - Steve Benen

In the smoky backrooms where deals are made come the military and defense ministers, trying to keep out of sight from the local medias. India's Prime Minister came to the US, a deal was struck to help upgrade that country's arsenal. Same happened when Benjamin Netanyahu came to the US. This time, when Russia's President visited Syria, the back room deals were done to beef up Syria's defenses, as reported in Haaretz: "Russia would supply Syria with MiG-29 fighters and truck-mounted Pantsir short-range surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery systems. He did not specify the kind of anti-tank weapons. The arms deal is likely to be watched with unease by the United States which imposed sanctions on Damascus for its support of militant groups and corruption."

One of the reasons that the US and Russia agreed to reduce their stockpile of nuclear weapons is that they are seen as dated and useless in today's world. Today Obama said that his intentions are to upgrade our nuclear arsenal, make them as sleek and sexy as our predator drones. Russia also plans to upgrade, and they are impressed with our latest technology of hypersonic gliders, the X-37B reusable space plane, underwater drones, and anti-ballistic laser programs that the Pentagon is sparring over. So, we have replaced the arms race of the cold war with today's arms race between frenemies...

Medvedev and his order taking ministers have moved on to court Turkey, once considered a rival in regional influence. The states surrounding Israel see that they cannot take the next step in economic development unless there is peace with Israel, and have also been putting pressure on Mr Medvedev to convince Israel to sit down and hammer out a Palestinian state.

"What if the out-of-control wellhead on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico was belching out 14 times as much crude oil as the government and BP have been saying? It may not be just a "what if."

If we've really got our best and brightest working on this problem, can't we at least get an accurate flow rate of what's coming out of the pipe. I'm no engineer, but that's fairly straightforward math, isn't it?" - David Kurtz

Thailand is one of my favorite countries, so its so sad watching as the protests are devolving into violence. The Red Shirts have boxed themselves into a corner, they have been on the streets of Bangkok for too long, the government has made pledges for an early election, so there's not much else to protest over. Yet they can't bring themselves to go home, perhaps succumbing to the little power that comes with notoriety. A rogue General, nicknamed Seh Daeng, had broken away from the government and used his personal militia to confront the military and police, escalating violence and planting bombs, was was shot and killed while giving an interview to a NY Times reporter.

To the dirt poor people involved, getting free meals while living on the streets may be seen as preferable to trying to eke out a living back home. Protesting has been their job for awhile now, what other future do they now have than to get up each day and put on their red t-shirts? Because they are now seen as expendable, the military is becoming more aggressive, and will soon make sweeps of the city rounding them all up and making them walk home, not even a bus ticket...

As the citizens of New Orleans begin their transmogrification into Swamp Things from the by-product of all of the crazy shot being poured on top of the oil slick, the hawks and predators are circling around the skies looking for easy prey. To help them, the CIA has created a kill list, one that you can keep in your back pocket for easy reference. It includes an American citizen, born in New Mexico, now living in hiding in Yemen: "The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy."
The prevailing attitude seems to be:
“American citizenship doesn’t give you carte blanche to wage war against your own country,” said a counterterrorism official who discussed the classified program on condition of anonymity. “If you cast your lot with its enemies, you may well share their fate.”
I know, I know, his sermons have reputedly inspired at least three wannabe attempts at terrorism in America, therefore he is a very bad man... "He is located far from hostilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the perpetrators of 9/11 are believed to be hiding. He is alleged to be affiliated with a Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. Intelligence analysts believe that only recently he began to help plot strikes, including the failed attempt to bomb an airliner on Dec. 25. Most significantly, he is an American, born in New Mexico, arguably protected by the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee not to be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

What bothers me the most about this is that a person is having a contract to be killed for the words he is saying, not of any actions he did. This is taking the blackballings of the McCarthy era one step further, even worse than having a fatwa issued against you for publishing a critical cartoon or book. We are descending into barbarism over hearsay, and next it will be the bloggers and journalists, just like in Tehran. I thought that democracy created a society based on ideals of freedom and liberty; we should not listen to the psychopaths among us who would shoot at every shadow during the night. Yes, virginia, there really is growing fascism in this country.

The ironic thing is, we probably created al-Awlaki's militancy. He was thrown in jail in Yemen at the behest of the CIA in 2002, and that rough treatment, including the interrogation techniques so coveted by Dick Cheney, probably turned him against any mellow feelings he had towards the US. Now we want to finish the job, for the sin of selling audiotapes to young, naive, urban Muslims, who might understandably be pissed off at the images of drone strikes and bombings coming to them nightly on the six o'clock news... In the meantime, our drones are scoring the mountains and deserts of Yemen, looking for our next great enemy. Spending billions of dollars and we can't get bin Laden; at least we can get al-Awlaki...

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