Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Russian Spies, Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad - Twins Separated At Birth?, BP Update

Bob Herbert
Dana Milbank
Geoffrey Dunn

"Mr. Obama had campaigned on the mantra of change, and that would have been the kind of change that working people could have gotten behind. But it never happened. Job creation was the trump card in the hand held by Mr. Obama and the Democrats, but they never played it. And now we’re paying a fearful price." - Bob Herbert
“They couldn’t have been spies, look what she did with the hydrangeas.” - Jessie Gugig, 15

The most improbable thing happened yesterday - 10 Russian couples were arrested for being spies. Not just any common, contemporary spy, but real, old-fashioned, cold-war moles. Or illegals, as the Russians call them: "The suspects, who are not accused of espionage, have been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying U.S. authorities, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Nine of the suspects also have been charged with money laundering, which carries a conviction of up to 20 years." This is seen as a direct embarrassment to Vladimeer Putin, who is an ex-head of the KGB, and loves this kind of stuff.

Russian officials are saying that the arrests were orchestrated by domestic foes of Obama, who seek to discredit the rebuilding of US-Russia relations and to undermine the recent trip to Silicon Valley by Dmitry Medvedev. As reported in the Moscow Times: "But Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB counterintelligence official who serves as deputy head of the State Duma's Security Committee, said the spy allegations threaten to upset the "reset" by tarnishing Russia's image in the eyes of the American people and could have been masterminded by opponents hoping to discredit Obama. "Now millions of Americans will think that Russia was only pretending to be a partner of the United States but is in fact still going after U.S. secrets like during the Cold War," he told The Moscow Times.

He said the timing of the arrests sharply departed from a time-honored tradition by intelligence services to lay low before, during and immediately after major foreign policy efforts by national leaders in order to avoid spoiling them. "It looks like the work of someone who is very powerful and in the political opposition to Obama, or a hawkish military and intelligence group not happy with the reset of relations with Russia," Gudkov said."

Planting and nurturing this kind of long term spy takes many years and a lot of money, with no promises of getting any important intelligence in return. What could these 10 people do that Dmitry Medvedev can't find out with a call to the White House or to the Pentagon? But they are popular in Russian fiction and television: "Illegals, unlike most spies, live in foreign countries without the benefit of a diplomatic cover, which would have offered them immunity from prosecution if they were caught. Soviet intelligence services began training a corps of these agents shortly after the October Revolution in 1917, when few countries had diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and it came to be seen as a particular Soviet specialty.

It is both risky and very expensive work, since agents often spend years just developing a fake life story, known in Russian as a “legend,” and because the K.G.B. would often keep an agent in place abroad for years or even decades before he or she was able to gather useful information.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many career spymasters began to speak publicly about the adventures of the illegals, but several recent arrests have come as reminders that the tactic is still in use." We'll see in the coming days if it is a real or bogus case. In the meantime, I will start wandering around my townhouse complex, listening for accents in the speech of my neighbors, perhaps try to find out where that suitcase of money would have been dropped off by the spymaster. I just know that several of our local tea party individuals are Russian spies, after all, how else could they obtain a perverted interpretation of the US Constitution?...
"President Obama met with the Russian president at the White House and afterwards, took him out for a burger. It was a bit awkward because Gen. McChrystal was working behind the counter." –Jay Leno

"The Russian president wanted to pick up the check, but Obama said, 'Don't worry about it, just charge it to our grandchildren.'" –Jay Leno

I came across an article in Haaretz, that expands upon one of my favorite talking points, that if the tea party won all of the elections and ran our country, it would become a right wing hell, and that extreme right wingers are in every culture and country. Bradley Burston does it for Israel: "That distinctive brew of left-baiting, Obama-hating, poorly veiled racism, clergy-driven jingoism, clergy-fanned derision of the Supreme Court, the Luddite insertion of anti-government bile where an ideology should go, a majority which feels victimized and discriminated against and threatened by minorities of indeterminate legal status – it's all here. It just speaks Hebrew.

In fact, for a far-right segment of U.S. Jewry which, since the rise of Barack Obama, has mushroomed in volume and impact if not in numbers, anti-government animus has taken what may have been an inevitable next step: finding ways to betray in one stroke the policies and, in fact, the national interests of both the United States and Israel."

Bradley focuses on the undermining of reconciliation efforts by those who finance and plan building Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and one of the biggest bankrollers happens to live in Miami, Florida, who is being accused of creating acts of sabotage by real estate: "... no one comes close to the Grand Old Man of befouling Jerusalem and U.S.-Israeli relations by remote control, the retired physician-turned-bingo parlor mogul Irving Moskowitz of Miami Beach.

For years, Moskowitz has played godfather to what may be called the Inpost Settlements – moving Jews into East Jerusalem enclaves of dubious legality but unquestioned incendiary impact on the Palestinian population and the prospects of a future peace." Irving is financing the razing of 22 Palestinian houses project that is fronted by the mayor of Jerusalem, and threatens to halt the proximity talks hosted by the US. The ball is in Israel's court regarding the talks, and even though Netanyahu says that he is interested in their success, he is fudging and taking his time in giving the answers to Richard Holbrooke, coming up with as many excuses as Iran's Ahmadinejad over nuclear talks. In fact, I wonder if Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad aren't twins who were separated at birth...

Now that the Gulf oil spill is moving along the coastline, into alabama and Florida, the odds that it could wrap around the Florida coastline and move up the Atlantic seaboard doesn't sound like fiction. BP is waiting and hoping that the relief well will do the trick. So far, all of their plans centered around eventually being able to go back to the well and re-open it up and get at the oil. Ideas that would render the site inaccessable and immediately halt the flow of oil  have been ignored.

Gone are the full page ads to come and visit Florida's coast, because somewhere there may be a decent beach. Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to use this disaster and turn it into electable honey, which takes a real magician. Even Mississippi's Governor Haley Barbour has changed his tone now that tarballs have to be removed at his expense, just as he was ramping up a possible presidential campaign run. BP says it has spent 42.65 billion so far on containment and cleanup, received 80,000 claims and made 41,000 payments. The oil spill now covers over 80,000 square miles, or about one third of federal waters in the gulf.

I saw one report on television that said that BP is paying people to go out in boats to help with the boom and cleanup. They are paying $1,400 per day, and that is more than most fishermen can make in a day, so good thing, right? Except now there are guys who won sport boats and have come over from Florida to get in on the action, and have been crowding out the locals, as no effort is made to give locals preference in hiring. So, do we have a bunch of newbies who go out and party on their boats all day, come back and collect a fat paycheck, while the locals have one more injustice to complain about as their economy goes to flaming, oil-slicked hell...

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