Friday, July 30, 2010

Arab League Supports Abbas, Empowering Native Americans, UN and North Korea

Paul Krugman
Yoel Marcus

"Why does the Obama administration keep looking for love in all the wrong places? Why does it go out of its way to alienate its friends, while wooing people who will never waver in their hatred?" - Paul Krugman
"It will be pathetic if the Palestinians, who have not missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, don't learn the lesson and miss again." - Yoel Marcus

Well, I'm back to being my usual grumpy and cynical self, suffering from erratic sleep patterns. My neighbors two doors down got arrested for burglary, while the cops were cleaning out their house their three cats escaped, and I've spent the last night and this morning trying to round them up. My cat, who thinks that they are invading his territory, helped me find them by attacking one every couple of hours last night. He is quite satisfied with himself, even if he has been fixed...

Yoel Marcus has a good pice on the Palestinian peace talks, punctuated by a missile fired at Israel this morning. The Arab League gave the green light to Mahmoud Abbas and his strategy of demands before sitting down in face to face negotiations. It's as if both sides are waiting to see what Uncle Sam will do next. If he was a good Uncle, he would cancel all funding of both groups until they actually negotiate. The US provides over 80% of the Palestinian Authority's funding and we sent over $3 billion yearly to Israel. Think of it as getting the donkey's attention... And still, no-one is talking about obtaining the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, guess it's more important to get those settler's houses built than one man out of prison...

Not only has BP switched out its CEO's, but its thinking of changing its name to rebuild sales. For some reason people in the US stopped buying their gas, so they might go back to the name Aramco... Turns out that BP refuses to learn from its past mistakes, having had 80% of environmental violations among all of the oil companies working in the Gulf of Mexico. Yeah, changing its name will really help with its credibility... BP has replaced its CEO with an American, who is more used to answering American reporters, and who is better at stonewalling them and telling bald-faced lies. He joins the great tradition of other American companies and should be ready for his close-up at the next congressional hearing. Already less information is being given out, and BP had turned off the cameras pointing at the wellhead for the last 3 days. Something they didn't want us to see, or rapture of the deep...

Ok, we have a glut of intelligence agencies that produce reams of reports that nobody reads, and they all want to do covert operations. Everyone wants to do the sexy stuff, playing James Bond. Imagine trying to get a federal agency like the FBI to investigate or prosecute mundane cases like rape or abuse or even drinking too much in public. Yep, it'll never happen, and that's been the problem for the last 100 years on the Indian reservations. All crime falls under federal jurisdiction, so most crime that happens on the reservations goes unpunished.

Today, President Obama changed that, with the signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act that: "... was hailed by lawmakers from both parties as the first significant update of a system of justice on reservations that dates back more than 100 years — and which took away the rights of American Indians to prosecute serious crime on their own lands." If it has taken this long for the US government to grant this much empowerment to an occupied people, I wonder how long before we allow the iraqis and Afghans to take care of themselves? Probably not in this century...

The Army released a report yesterday, on the rising suicide rate of soldiers, and, of course, put the blame everywhere but on itself: "There were a record 160 active-duty Army suicides in the year from Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009. The report said that if the Army added in accidental deaths, which it said are often the result of high-risk behavior involving drinking and drugs, “less young men and women die in combat than die by their own actions.” It concluded: “We are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy.”

According to the Army, roughly 20 out of 100,000 soldiers have killed themselves, compared with a rate of roughly 19 out of 100,000 for the civilian population.

The report put a large part of the blame on commanders who either failed to recognize or disregarded high-risk behavior among their troops." Yeah, screw it, blame those dumb commanders whom you never taught correctly, it's their fault. And the soldier's fault for being overly-sensitive 19 year-olds, prone to suicide, anyway. Yeah, these are the kind of men I want in the Pentagon, leading my nation's armed forces, while we get rid of the better leaders like Stanley McChrystal... We really do need a purging of our national leadership, and may I suggest we begin with those irresponsible, lazy weenies in the Pentagon...

Which reminds me, things still have been bristly around the Korean peninsula. First, that South Korean ship was sunk, killing 46 onboard, and North Korea was blamed because who else could possibly have done it? The island of Dr No was ruled out years ago, thanks to British intelligence, and the damage looked like it was done by a torpedo.

The NATO troops that have been stationed in Korea since 1953, commissioned to keep the peace, were to have a series of talks with North Korea, topics included the sunk boat. But then the US and South Korea held four days of joint naval exercises, meant to scare the bejesus out of the North. It worked, with the North threatening to launch a reign of terror in nuclear weapons. Thank God that scenario never happened.

You might think that things must calm down after this display. But no, now the Chinese are launching their own air and naval exercises, they are playing with themselves, and hope to cheer up North Korea by making the heathen long-noses quake in awe of their military might. Now, because they can't top the Chinese, South Korea will run silent and run deep with some submarine exercises next week.

Whew. In the midst of all this waste of fuel, the UN Northern Command will hold those talks with North Korea on the border. Hopefully, cooler heads that are not military heads will prevail...

The BBC will air a documentary this weekend on the rise of Brazil as a source of sex tourism. An unfortunate component also is the rise of child prostitution, of boys and girls as young as 12 and 13 cruising the streets to hook up with foreigners. With all of the unrest and recent bombings in Bangkok, Brazil is now overtaking Thailand as the world's number one destination for horny European and American men. Oh, and those Canadians...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Overslept This Morning And Can Only See Good News

Nicholas Kristoff
EJ Dionne Jr
Jason Linkins

"We won our nation’s independence for $2.4 billion in today’s money, the Congressional Research Service report said. That was good value, considering that we now fritter the same amount every nine days in Afghanistan." - Nicholas Kristoff
"Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?" - EJ Dionne Jr

I slept in today, got a good night's sleep despite the heat. Already wildfires are raging in California about a month ahead of schedule. I grew up in the south Bay area of LA, and one of our September past-times was sitting on the beach at night, drinking beer, and watching the canyon fires burning across the bay... It seems that in the last few years over half of the state has burned up, and what must really be burning California Republicans right now is that former governor Grey Davis has a better approval rating than Arnold Schwartzenegger. I give the guy props for really trying. Arnold has given a better performance as governor than he ever has as an actor. What I admire about him is that he is willing to change his opinions, which is rare in politicians. Now, if only he could wrangle a budget... Also, check out Jason Linkins link above, he reports on the latest idea from the Iowa GOP: to repeal the current 13th Amendment and use the original language of that amendment so that we can strip Obama of his American citizenship for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, I think it proves the proliferation of rolling meth labs in America's heartland...

It's been over 15 years since I last visited China, and back then I was struck how they ignored all environmental standards that were practiced in the US and in Europe. Now, the accumulated effect of years of pollution have caught up with them, and Beijing may become one of the world's most polluted cities. They have the added setback that during the summer months, winds blow in from the Gobi desert, bringing a fine coat of yellow sand. Those same winds are now bringing in smoke and pollutants from factories relocated hundreds of miles away, to mingle with the hundreds of thousands of new cars daily roaming the streets.

China does have a Ministry of environmental protection, but it has less regulatory powers than our EPA does, and it's fighting an uphill battle: "The ministry said the number of accidents fouling the air and water doubled during the first half of 2010, with an average of 10 each month. The report also found that more than a quarter of the country’s rivers, lakes and streams were too contaminated to be used for drinking water. Acid rain, it added, has become a problem in nearly 200 of the 440 cities it monitored.

In recent days, the state media have provided a grim sampling of China’s environmental woes, including a pipeline explosion that dumped thousands of gallons of oil into the Yellow Sea, reports of a copper mine whose toxic effluent killed tons of fish in Fujian Province, and revelations that dozens of children were poisoned by lead from illegal gold production in Yunnan Province." China is at a crossroads, and many people are rising in protest over companies that have lax standards. Coupled with the mass depression that many are feeling in their lives, driving some to acts of horrible violence and murder, China may be gearing up for another People's Revolution...

The US issued a statement this morning that it was ready to pursue Iran's offer concerning a nuclear fuel swap. Within the next few weeks senior officials from Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany plan to meet and pick up from where they left off from the last time they met in last October. Hopefully, this won't be another mind game being played by Tehran, and it means that more moderate and pragmatic folks are being listened to. It took sanctions involving the entire European Union, aimed at Iran's largest sources of income, to get them to perk up and pay attention. The strategy is a variation of the journalistic rule of: follow the money.

The Arab League needs to get rid Mahmoud Abbas and have their negotiators sit down for the upcoming face to face negotiations with Israel, also coming in the next few weeks. I say this will happen unless Abbas finds a way to back out and prolong his presidency of the Palestinian Authority. I never thought I'd be wishing that Arafat were still alive and in charge... From the Arab side, they are hoping that direct talks will keep Israel focused enough to not attack either Lebanon or Iran anytime soon. Already there are articles appearing in the US saying that direct talks could be an albatross around Obama's neck...

Here's an interesting ditty, reported in the Asia Times: "The Pentagon will buy some Russian, not American, helicopters so that special forces can "cloak" the fact they are American. No congressional representatives have gotten upset; no pundits have written editorials; and no reporters have yet followed it up." For those who worry about the coming one world global government, be afraid, be very afraid...

Since nobody really goes to the White House web site to see Barack Obama's weekly video address, perhaps we can change the way that they do things in Congress. I know that I would rather see this format on CSPAN than the partisan speeches before an empty Senate chamber, and I think more work would get done:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

America Has Too Many Laws, Too Many People In Prisons, Bohemian Grove Time Of Year

David Brooks
David Sirota
Maureen Dowd

"A new poll shows that Congress' approval rating is at a record low of 11 percent. The other 89 percent are going to withhold judgment until Congress actually does something." – Jay Leno
"Vice President Joe Biden has declared that the heavy lifting is over for the year, and it's time to begin campaigning and talking about the White House's accomplishments. The heavy lifting might be over, but it sounds like the heavy shoveling is just beginning." – Jay Leno
"WikiLeaks has posted over 90,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is outraged, the White House is furious, but British Petroleum is relieved: 'Finally, a leak we had nothing to do with.'" – Jay Leno

I spent most of yesterday standing in lines at Comcast, among other things. I had to replace my router and switch out the cable modem, then wait on the phone for a customer service representative to switch the thing on from their end. Hopefully, they are working fine and I won't have any more interruptions in my Inernet service... While I was at the library getting books for myself and my sister, I was accosted by a man wanting me to sign a petition that would make it harder for people in jail to be released, at least that was his pitch. I didn't read it because I decided not to sign it. He became hostile and started yelling at me after I told him my reasons for saying no to him: that I wanted less people in jail, less laws that could land you in jail, and that I believed in forgiveness and redemption.

More than our political systems are broken, our justice system is bloated, corrupt, and rarely does justice for those who put their faith in it. Our prisons are overcrowded, and, as the linked article in the Economist says: "Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little..."

"Justice is harsher in America than in any other rich country. Between 2.3m and 2.4m Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan. Overcrowding is the norm. Federal prisons house 60% more inmates than they were designed for. State lock-ups are only slightly less stuffed.

The system has three big flaws, say criminologists. First, it puts too many people away for too long. Second, it criminalises acts that need not be criminalised. Third, it is unpredictable. Many laws, especially federal ones, are so vaguely written that people cannot easily tell whether they have broken them"

Our legislatures have spent over 200 years creating laws, yet have never looked to repeal the badly written ones, the dumb ones, or the overly punitive ones. Either laws need sunset clauses on them, or for every law that a legislature now passes, they must also repeal one...

States and counties are finding that they can't afford to keep so many people in prisons, and we haven't produced many successful programs that keeps people from coming back to jail once they are released. We need to think outside of the box. Jails were considered as a last resort during the time when we wrote the Constitution. In many places, moral theory was practiced - that someone could be rehabilitated by living with a decent, churchgoing family. We could translate this into modern times. For example, if a church has more than 100 members and if they wish to maintain tax exempt status, they must establish a program designed to ease ex-cons back into society and accepted as members of the church.... Colleges that accept federal grant money should accept a certain number of ex-cons on scholarships... you get my drift.

We are exporting our broken system to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, grafting a dysfunctional system onto an already crooked tree. These two countries have been recognized as two of the most corrupt governments, not only before we became military partners with them, but corruption has gotten worse since we've occupied them. The Pentagon estimates that there is at least $9.1 billion that it can't account for, it assumes that it all went to projects withing the countries, yet there are no tangible results that can be pointed out. Iraq still doesn't have reliable electricity, or running water, or garbage disposal, or enough medicines in their hospitals. Yet almost every government official has bought a luxury villa in the UAE or in Europe. It's no wonder why they are reluctant to form a new government and let someone else have access to the golden goose... Our American generals, too, like to buy their farms in virginia and ranches in Colorado, be able to put as much in their bank accounts as a neighboring CEO does, graft among our top ranking military is a time honored tradition that is a taboo to look into.

Graft is a problem the world over. In many places it is considered the norm. Russia has the worst corruption of their police officials, and it's a fact of life condoned and encouraged by Vladimeer Putin, so what are ya gonna do? People are upset that the Pakistani intelligence have been playing both sides of the fence, supporting both the US and the Taliban, but they have been doing just that for at least 30 years. They are not going to change overnight because we give them a couple of drones to play with. China has the worst judicial system, the idea of fairness is a farce. And their are still countries out there ruled by cruel military fueled dictators that we sell guns to and sent economic support, others, like Haiti, that we never allow to have a decent and honest government.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, I wanted to bring it around to the idea of graft and dishonesty spawning conspiracy theories. Whenever money is being stolen, by government officials, military generals, or corporations, their is always a conspiracy to do so and to cover up. Most information that is "classified" is to keep embarrassing information from going public. That is why the Pentagon has gone ballistic and wants to find who leaked so many documents to wikileaks.

The NY Times has an article about how there are not many protesters at the Bohemian Grove gathering this year. the gathering takes place every year in the redwoods in Northern California, near the Russian River. Members from international businesses and governments meet here to schmooze, consume alcohol, and partake in fake druid-like ceremonies. The festivities start during the first night with everyone wearing a hooded robe, gathering in front of a 40 foot high concrete owl, and chanting while a wicker man is burned alive as a sacrifice... You used to be able to buy an investigative DVD on this from the Alex Jones website, but they have purged it in favor of their new favorite conspiracies about Barack Obama. People used to line up outside and protest, because it is men only, and there is a high level of security to keep the curious away, and really, just what do 2,500 middle aged men, the captains of industry and leaders of government, do for two weeks alone in the redwoods? Have the elegant, old world pageants devolved into wearing hoodies, stumbling around in the dark and pissing on trees? Does that now pass for tradition?
"A teary-eyed toast, then, to this wooded womb, followed by soulful consideration of one’s connection to greatness while urinating beside a skyscraping redwood. Who knows what titan of industry, what head of government — what Bohemian! — has relieved himself in this very spot?"
Because the rituals are centered around Germanic rituals that also take place during midsummer in the Black Forest, there are theories linking them to the Illuminati and other groups who would conspire to plot out your lives. It is true that both Dick Cheney and George W Bush attended during the same year, and hours afterwards Mr Bush announced that his running mate would be Mr Cheney; so maybe some deals are made in the dark woods after burning effigies, while secret service men make sure there are no prying eyes... Even the satanic leader of the parrot-heads himself, Mr Jimmy Buffet, is a known member, so maybe you can get a cheeseburger in paradise...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Netanyu Taunts Abbas, Russia Stabs Iran In Back, Tancredo Runs, Camel's Milk Is Good

Paul Krugman
EJ Dionne Jr

"It has always been funny, in a gallows humor sort of way, to watch conservatives who laud the limitless power and flexibility of markets turn around and insist that the economy would collapse if we were to put a price on carbon." - Paul Krugman
"If Obama hates the current media climate, he should stop overreacting to it. And the mainstream media should stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda." - EJ Dionne Jr
"So Jeb Bush is running for president. I don't know about the rest of the country, but thank God, ladies and gentlemen, the comedy recession is over!" — David Letterman

As usual, progress on talks for a Palestinian state have bogged down, letting people's cynicism take over. A simpler solution that is making rounds, proposed by former defense minister Moshe Arens, is for Israel to annex the West Bank and grant citizenship to everyone living there, and a recent poll shows that a majority of Palestinians are in favor: "What the poll indicates is that a slim majority of Palestinians in the occupied territories have given up on the idea of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security. Many now prefer the one-state solution, which means Israel would incorporate the remaining parts of historic Palestine, excluding the Gaza Strip, which Arens seems to have ignored.

However, the Palestinians’ reasoning for their decision is totally different from that of Arens, a right-wing Israeli politician. While Arens dismisses the general Israeli concern that granting West Bank Palestinians Israeli citizenship would change the demographic and Jewish structure of Israel, Palestinians believe they would eventually become a majority in Israel in light of their higher birth rate, which means they could eventually take control through democratic and peaceful means." Debate has been sparked over what Israelis want as a Jewish nation.

As for direct talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that they could be sitting down tomorrow if Mahmoud Abbas would agree to it. Abbas has been whining that if he negotiates without getting his preconditions, then he will be committing political suicide. So now the talks are failing because of the shallowness and vanity of one old man, who canceled elections for fear that he would be voted out of office... But wait! Mere hours after Netanyahu made this taunt, Abbas has come back swinging, saying that yes, he is ready for direct talks once again, just like all of the other times there were direct talks and nothing was accomplished... So, place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, will these two gonifs actually make nice and accomplish anything, or will Abbas get new orders from the arab League meeting this Friday, or will there be a bunch of new housing construction by Israeli settlers as an in-your-face snub at any kind of negotiated peace. We'll find out on the next installment of "As The World Squirms"...

In a total turnaround, right after the EU announced their sanctions against Iran, which were tougher than the US's and involved all 27 countries, Iran announce that it would be glad to sit down immediately to talk about its nuclear program and reconsider the fuel swap deal. Proving that the previous fuel swap deal with Turkey and Brazil was just a bogus ruse. The foreign ministers of Turkey, Brazil, and Iran are meeting today to discuss strategy. So, perhaps the idea of hitting Iran's leaders in their pocketbooks, freezing their assets and cutting off future lucrative deals, seems to have worked. At least for this week...

But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad couldn't let an opportunity for a jibe to pass. He accused Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev of stabbing Iran in the back. The Russian foreing ministry didn't take kindly, and, according to the Jerusalem Post: "Russia turned on Iran, accusing it of "fruitless and irresponsible rhetoric" and adding its voice to a diplomatic assault Monday which included unilateral sanctions from both the EU and Canada, as well as warnings from Iran's opposition party that Ahmadinejad's regime could suffer the same fate as the deposed Shah... The Russian Foreign Ministry suggested "Iran's leaders take concrete and constructive steps to work the situation out." Putin's response was to go out into a field and take his shirt off for more photographs... Germany has accepted the political asylum of 50 Iranian dissidents, who fled after things got brutal in the repression of the Green revolution...

Meanwhile, the damned NY Times devoted five full pages to parts of the Afghan war diary published in wikileaks. I haven't read them yet, but of course the view of a war is vastly different seen through a regular soldier's eyes than when it is seen by a general, or a reporter, or a Congressman. Your relationships are more solid, and affect you longer than someone who is just passing through for a short time. So, nothing new is being revealed, just putting a more human face to the experience that is war... As to the news that elements of the Pakistani Intelligence Service is helping the Taliban, well, duh, they have been doing that since the Taliban was first created and supported by countries like the US. There are also elements who support what the US is trying to accomplish, and there are others who try to juggle all parties, depending on who is paying the most at the time...

Yum, Yum, get ready to buy the next chocolate sensation: Camel's Milk Chocolate. The ruler of Dubai has established al-Nessma, a take on Nestle, which is a company that makes chocolate from camel's milk. It is currently sold as a luxury item to private airlines in the Middle East, but they want to take the marketing to Europe and America: "The Gulf is the best place to launch camel milk chocolate since it is home to the best camel breeds and camel milk is part of its diet due to its numerous benefits, said Martin Van Almsick, al-Nessma general manager and former manager of the chocolate museum in Cologne, Germany. "Camel milk is healthier than cow milk," he told Al Arabiya. "It contains five times more vitamin C, less fat, less lactose and more insulin. This makes it perfect for people with diabetes and lactose intolerance." Now if they made it without sugar a diabetic like myself could eat it. Otherwise, I'll just have to watch your reaction as you eat it in front of me, trusting soul that you are...
"We aim to be the Godiva of the Middle East."

Finally, as expected, our own homegrown immigrant hater, Tom Tancredo announced that he is running for governor of Colorado, as an independent. Yep, got into a shouting match with the head of the state GOP, who said that Tom's vain actions would hand the governorship to the Democrats. That would be Denver's mayor, John Hickenlooper. Ever the predator, Tom sees that Scott McInnis has shot himself in the foot and no longer is seen as honest or reliable, so why not split the Party even more? I sent my ballot back in for the primary, and left the spots blank for both governor and senator, as these candidates are self-destructing in front of the cameras and making the dumbest commercials. After Carly Fiorino's demon sheep, of course. Ken Buck, the candidate for state senator, has made the remarks that you should vote for him because he doesn't wear high heels, he wears boots that have real bullshit on them... and can  someone keep those dumbass birthers away from him whenever there's a camera around? Both incidents made into commercials by his opponent in the Republican Party...  Ken shows that he is a John Wayne Man, or tries to speak like one, not the DA that he really is... Next thing you know they will have been abducted by aliens, made to form crop circles, and mutilate cattle in the worst way on John and Ken Salazar's farms...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

War Gamesmanship, The Smearing of Shirley Sherrod

Maureen Dowd
David Ignatius

"We may not have a “nation of cowards” on race, as Attorney General Eric Holder contended, but we may have a West Wing of cowards on race." - Maureen Dowd
"Blaming Obama for this mess, or the NAACP for this mess, is like blaming Martin Luther King Jr. for getting in the way of that bullet that James Earl Ray’s rifle fired." - Kris Broughton
"If you want a handle on what ails the Obama administration (and who doesn't, these days), try thinking about it as the "scripted" presidency. Barack Obama has been very good at following his mental teleprompter -- he has passed health care and much of the rest of the legislative agenda he campaigned on, as his supporters rightly keep stressing. But he has been less successful at responding to the roiling free-for-all of events that is part of governing." - David Ignatius

It was good waking up this morning to a cool breeze and hint of rain. It was good that so far North Korea was just blustering when it threatened to nuke South Korea over the war games being played out with the US. China helped to calm things down by telling the North not to worry, and there were no signs of any military buildup along the border. China also got the war games moved from the Yellow Sea to the sea of Japan, putting some extra distance and breathing room for our hysterical friends.

We were trying to intimidate North Korea because it got a bit too cocky recently, firing off missile tests and torpedoing a South Korea ship that caused the deaths of 46 people. To be honest, it's pretty easy to get North Korea to freak out, and we've had these kind of war exercises with South Korea several times before. For the last 50 years paranoia has become the established norm, as big Kim and now little Kim have based all of their internal propaganda that the evil US is out to destroy them, and all of the droughts, crop failures, and wretched poverty of the North Korean citizens is because of what the US has done or about to do to North Korea.

 The problem whenever a Kim threatens nuclear retaliation is that we don't have enough information on his mental state, and assume that he is crazier than batshit to order a missile strike in the middle of one of his prescription drug infused ramblings... At least I don't have to run outside and try to build a bomb shelter...

"Shirley Sherrod has a platform this week that it looks like she is trying to take advantage of to advance OUR cause, but many of you are already afraid that she will talk too much.

That she will lose her moral authority, or her claim to victimhood, or some other such nonsense, because she is not willing to comport herself as if she is bucking for a promotion for the executive suite at the tight ass corporation YOU work for, instead of being what she is – a sixty something year old black woman who was probably only a couple of years away from retirement in her old job, a level headed woman of at least average intelligence who is availing herself of the chance to tell it like it is, unfiltered, unbought and unbossed." - Kris Broughton, Brown Man Thinking Hard
Along with so many other people, I was appalled at the poor handling of the Shirley Sherrod incident, but didn't want to comment until it had mostly blown over. I see her firing as a pure bureaucratic response, to quickly get rid of the source of any problem or embarrassment in a zero tolerance format. Most bureaucrats don't care about  the accused person's side of the story, they just want them gone and things back to normal. You see this inflexible attitude everywhere there is a bureaucracy, from the Feds on down to the Pike's Peak Library District. Shirley was made to pull her car over to the side of the road, wait until someone from the Ag department caught up to her, and signed a resignation before being allowed to go home. That's how rigid and dysfunctional our system is at the top, not so much that they were afraid of what Rush or Sean or Glenn would say the next day.

That someone in the administration took the time to investigate Shirley's side, and then pass along the information that an embarrassing mistake had been made, attests to the good part of the system. Apologies can be made, and job offers remade... Should Shirley take back her old job? Depends. It would be better to have her as someone who can point out where racism has become institutionalized and who the racists are within the administration, like a roving ombudsman. She can turn those instances into teachable moments. But, if she can't sit down and have a beer with the President, then yes, she should get her old job back...

Was race an issue here? Of course, race is an issue every time two people or more of different races get together.  The good old-boy strategy to discredit Barack Obama on every level has no qualms using dirty tricks, especially after they saw how easy it was to spread lies about Van Jones and ACORN without any defense being raised. The full tape of Shirley Sherrod did not support the impression Mr Breitbart wanted to make, so an edited version that implied reverse racism was used. What has not come out is if Mr Breitbart edited the tape himself, or, if not, where he got the edited version. It tells me that someone is getting paid to scour through old archives of CSPAN and organizations like the NAACP, looking for potential grenades. It was pointed out on the Rachel Maddow show, that producing instances of reverse racism, whether true or not, is aimed at scaring and creating fear in older white folks, especially those who grew up when there was still segregation.

Taken together, Van Jones, ACORN, and now Shirley Sherrod is an attempt to create fear that will express itself at the ballot box. It also was payback at the NAACP for criticizing the tea party and getting Mark Williams fired. It also counted on Barack Obama's reluctance to delve into the race issue, like so many other folks who are half-black. Quite often, children from mixed parentage grow up feeling that not only do they live in two different worlds, but that they are not fully accepted in either world. And the Rovian plot is to make sure that Obama is getting criticism from both the white and black communities, along with branding him an unacceptable radical out to ruin the republic and for which it stands. I suppose that before November rolls around, they will have begun to smear Obama as a husband and father, dragging his children into the mud. Or maybe they will wait for that strategy until 2012, and let Sarah Palin make the comments more stinging, coming from the top Grizzly Mama...

The Andrew Breitbarts of this world will never repent or apologize, and try their hardest to churn out stories profiling Shirley Sherrod in a bad light, and that they really don't have any racist bones in their bodies, much less their web sites. We really need to get rid of ugly people like this, and start putting some principles back into the Republican Party. For example, on Andrew's web site, here are the titles of articles trying to turn opinion:











Saturday, July 24, 2010

BP Presents 350 Safety Violations On Oil Rig, Tomorrow's Nuclear War May Not Be A Game

Glenn Greenwald
Kathleen Parker
Dana Milbank
Zachary Roth

"British Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting the U.S. and yesterday he and President Obama gave each other pieces of art. That really wasn't necessary, Britain. You've already given us a huge oil painting." – Jimmy Fallon
"Apparently BP's containment cap is leaking. When asked if the rumors are true, a BP spokesman said, 'Aren't there any more Mel Gibson tapes?'" – Craig Ferguson
"The oil spill is getting bad. There is so much oil and tar now in the Gulf of Mexico, Cubans can now walk to Miami." – David Letterman

If you have hours to spend online, click over to the Washington Post and read the articles they published all last week on our intelligence infrastructure. Glen Greenwald's opinion piece is on the lack of concern and ho hum attitude it provoked in Washington. We may have become lax in our concerns from all of the television shows, movies, cartoons, and spy novels that celebrate covert activities as an accepted and patriotic fantasy. We should be worried about the number of private companies that have transformed industrial sabotage into government contractual work. Industrial espionage used to be much better than our governmental agencies. My father used to tell the story about the time he was working for TRW, and was working in the newly built, top secret classified room. He had to take off all personal effects before entering, and if he had to use the restroom, he had to be escorted to and from by an armed security guard. The phone rang once when  he was working there for about 20 minutes, and he picked it up.

"Hello, is this Jim Williams?"
"Yes, it is."
"This is Hughes Aircraft. How would you like to come and work for us? "

He declined, and then reported the episode to security, who had to quarantine the building and take the place apart, looking for cameras, bugs, or microphones. Since it was a project for the CIA that he was working on, he was lucky that it was only a rival company involved... It also explained why he could never take any of his children to work with him on Take Your Children To Work day. When we would ask, he always told us that he loved us, but if he took us to work with him they would have to kill us...:-)

As more information gets released about BP, Transocean, and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, it's pretty amazing that there haven't been more accidents and worker's deaths before now. In a secret BP report on safety violations that was presented  to Transocean, there were over 350 known concerns that were ignored. What few safety measures there were seemed to have been turned off regularly by BP, so as to not wake the workers if an alarm went off at 3 am. There are 33 other deep water drilling platforms currently in operations in the Gulf of Mexico, and over 3,500 smaller platforms working closer to shore. If the US suddenly insisted that all platforms have their safety systems working and up to standard, and then inspected them all like they are supposed to, how many would pass and be allowed to continue operating? And you know that it is worse in other countries that have less safety standards... Which reminds me, I have to go onto Facebook later today, and ask my friend in Florida if she has come down with dengue fever yet...

Yesterday the UN announced that all future aid being sent to Gaza use the established land routes, and there would be no problems in getting the humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Right now the UN distributes all aid into Gaza, and there was at least one flotilla still planned from Lebanon by the end of this month. Hamas, who is supposed to be in charge in Gaza, has asked that all future aid still be sent by ships, because they want someone else to do their work and try to break the Israeli naval blockade.
"The UN call to international organisations to use the over-land road to Gaza instead of the sea is unacceptable and illegal," Sami Abu Zahri, a Hamas spokesman, said on Saturday. Groups trying to deliver aid to the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave should "continue to reach Gaza by sea until the blockade is really broken," Abu Zahri said."
Proving once again how outdated and useless Hamas has become, using the misery and poverty of the people in Gaza as political pawns. Yeah, I know that Hamas has declined to participate in the proximity talks, but instead of looking like a bunch of militant hard-asses, they reveal themselves as irrelevant, manipulative old fools. time for an election, anyone?

Expect the resignation of the ultra right winger Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sometime soon. He is clashing with everyone else in the government and keeps making public his off-the-wall solutions that tend to escalate public tensions and hysteria. Even the huckster Netanyahu is too liberal for him...

Even more dangerous than the chess game between Iran and the US is the brinkmanship being displayed on the Korean peninsula. After it was determined that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, the US decided to show its solidarity with the South by holding joint war-game exercises and imposing some more sanctions against the North. The war games begin tomorrow, which: "... will involve the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, 20 other ships and submarines, 100 aircraft and 8,000 personnel."

It doesn't matter asking the question of who is in charge making decisions in North Korea, Kim Il-Jung or his energetic young son, because North Korea at first called such exercises gun-boat diplomacy (which it is), and then threatened to use nuclear weapons in a more hysterical outburst:
"The army and people of the DPRK will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war," it added.
So, thanks, Hillary and Mr Gates. As if the freaking boondoggle in the Middle East and south Asia hasn't been enough, I will get to wake up tomorrow and we'll be in a nuclear war with a schizophrenic nation bent on fulfilling its paranoid self-destructive fantasies, all because you got a little drunk with power after getting your sanctions passed against Iran. Now you are galavanting throughout Asia offering to solve everyone's problems by throwing sanctions at countries like they were Molotov cocktails... She just pissed off the Chinese by offering to mediate between them and the Vietnamese over the use of some islands, but she may not be alive by then, not if this friggin' war starts and it's her damned fault, and she's still in the region... Bill, your domestic issues may soon be resolved...

Friday, July 23, 2010

US - Iran Proxy War In Iraq, Colorado's Republican Ballot

Paul Krugman
Steve Friess
Bob Cesca

Willie Nelson
"After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even to mention the Bush era and its legacy." - Paul Krugman
“In the case of the Pentagon, they have been living very fat and very happy for so very long that they’ve almost lost touch with reality,” - Gordon Adams
"I don't think I've ever said that I was for getting rid of the Department of Agriculture and if I did say that, that's not my position. But I don't think I've ever said that." - Rand Paul

The European Union agreed on sanctions against Iran, aimed at its energy sector. There are French and Russian companies helping to develop Iran's natural gas industry. Instead of packing it up and going home, the employees will now work as consultants for locally set up Iranian shell companies. Whether they will be allowed to get away with this kind of work-around remains to be seen.

Iran's plans to waltz into Iraq after the US troops leave may have been thwarted by recent announcements by the US State Dept and General Odierno: "Administration officials are holding intense consultations with UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon for the US detachment staying on in Iraq to be reclassified as international peacekeepers. This means that not all the American troops due to withdraw in six weeks will in fact do so." If this happens, only about 25,000 troops will return to the US, leaving about 50,000 to guard against attacks by pro-Iranian Shiite militias... "General Odierno named the three Iraqi pro-Iranian militias preparing for attack as Ketaib Hizballah (the Iraqi branch of the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group); Asaib Ahl al-Haq -The League of the Righteous; and the Promised Day Brigade... US officials have confirmed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Al Qods Brigades are training and funding the three militias."

By switching caps, from US troops to NATO troops, they could also help enforce both US and European sanctions against companies dealing with Iran. The other move in this chess match is the presence of US warships and submarines in the Persian Gulf, helping to distract and drive Iranian officials crazy.  If Obama can convince both al-Maliki and al-Allawi to form a jointly controlled government, then the Iranian chess moves will have been neutralized. To be intimidating, there have been bomb and missile attacks in Iraq every day for the last two weeks, making al-Maliki look weak and unable to protect citizens, and only al-Sadr can be effective.

The ultimate goal for the US is a regime change by implosion, replaced by a slightly more liberal one without such a paranoid outlook. Iran could become a major player through friendliness and economic ties, but they are stuck in the stale role of battling against The Great Satan... Hopefully, we can defuse the next Iraqi war, because iran would rather use Iraq and Lebanon as proxy battlefields instead of anything taking place directly on Iranian soil... you know, like the US is doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan...

Thinking that sanctions are a good idea, the US has announced sanctions aimed at Taliban leaders. If the Pakistani banks go along with this, bank accounts will be frozen in Lahore and in Europe. Mullah Omar responded in retaliation by issuing new rules of engagement aimed at attacking and killing civilians who work with US and NATO troops.

The other item that is causing a lot of international debate is the UN's international court ruling that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and did not break any international law. It avoided saying that Kosovo was a legal entity as a country, keeping open that can of worms. Kurdistan may be the next to declare independence from Iraq and Turkey, they are building up funds by selling over 1000 tanker trucks of oil and gasoline to Iran per day, ignoring all sanctions. Tibet, Mongolia, and a few of the satellite terrotories still in Russian control will also attempt a declaration of independence, after all, what have they got to lose?

I got my Ballot in the mail for the Republican primary in Colorado. I don't think I'm going to vote for many people this time. I was hoping that our local parties would open up their tent and bring in some younger people with fresh, new ideas, but that certainly won't happen for many years to come. Ken Buck and Jane Norton are making ads over who gets to wear the high heels instead of talking policy. Since neither has much thought out in advance, and there's not much difference between them, their campaign has devolved into Ken making sexist statements and Jane trying to turn the joke into her advantage. Ken said that we should vote for him because he doesn't wear high heels. He prefers flat pumps when he cross-dresses, evidently.

Jane makes ads saying we should vote for her because she was Lt Governor at a time when budget cuts were made. This is supposed to give her expertise in making future budget cuts in the next few years in Congress, when all she did was hang out and act like a conservative while the legislature dealt with the budget. She didn't get involved in any nuts and bolts issues, Bill Owens took care of that...

So, I won't vote for a Republican candidate for Senator, neither will I vote for the candidates running for governor, as they have trust and reliability issues that they haven't addressed very well in public. I thought that my Representative, Doug Lamborn, couldn't run again because of term limits, but it looks like either the law has suddenly changed or he's decided to ignore it and hope nobody notices. Doug may be way too conservative for me, he joined Michelle Bachmann's tea party caucus, and he's too narrow minded in his views and would never consider changing them. But I will give him credit for being one of the more honest Congressmen, who hasn't received much in the way of lobbyist bribes. Of course, many lobbyists may see him the way that I do and haven't offered much on purpose...

As long as we have people who take Tom Tancredo seriously, and feed into his naked desire to be the candidate for governor, then the Republican Party in Colorado will end up folding its tent and slinking off into the night, somewhere around 2012...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Obama, Merkel, And Low Poll Ratings, Cheerleading Now Officially Not A Sport

Eugene robinson
Mark McKinnon
Dana Milbank
"According to a study by the Brookings institution, Washington D.C. has the highest concentration of smart people in the United States. Lets see; we have a mess in the Gulf, we have a dysfunctional Homeland Security, and we are $13 trillion in debt. Imagine how bad it would be if these people weren't geniuses." – Jay Leno
"Apparently BP's containment cap is leaking. When asked if the rumors are true, a BP spokesman said, 'Aren't there any more Mel Gibson tapes?'" – Craig Ferguson

"Dick Cheney is recovering from heart surgery in the hospital. I understand Fox sent flowers, and MSNBC sent a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese." – Jay Leno

The case of the Iranian nuclear physicist who was abducted by the CIA and later returned to Iran is getting dumber and dumber. Every day Iranian intelligence says how he was a double spy, while the CIA says that he gave better information than he got. Now Iran says they will make a TV movie of his story, wow, now there's a threat. The best way to see which side is telling the truth is to wait and see if Mr Amiri is still around in a couple of years. I have no doubt that he is lying his butt off trying to save it, but I also doubt that he can survive the torture provided in an Iranian prison. For his children's sake, I hope that he gets to be a father for a good number of years. The whole affair is just too stupid, and sounds like it was a script reject from the new show Covert Affairs.

President Barack Obama signed the finance reform bill this morning, another small step to prevent another economic meltdown, or more encroachment of government that strangles a free market, depending on your point of view. Unemployment insurance has been extended, and a federal judge is looking at the case against Arizona and will determine if an injunction will be issued against their immigration law or not. And the climate bill got shelved, as Democrats shy away from opening that Pandora's Box... Pretty full week so far.

Yet Obama's poll numbers continue to sag. I've talked before about how most polls only use about 100 people or less in their polls, so they really don't represent well our opinions. But it's interesting that the polls of leaders in other countries are also below 50%, the lower numbers for the leader who have been longest in power. Angela Merkel's poll numbers in Germany are down to 34%, and she is known as a conservative. About the only leader who is riding a wave of popularity right now is Britain's Prime Minister, but he, too, may sink after his first year in office. The mood in the US seems to be more dissatisfaction with anyone who is an incumbent, so let's throw those bastards out. I think we'll see more independent candidates elected this midterm. If enough Republicans get elected to take over the House, it may be another death knell for them come 2012, especially if they continue rush Limbaugh's and Mitch McConnell's strategy of constant obstruction, whining, just saying no, and race baiting to make old white people scared enough to vote for their safe, white guys. One good thing is that most of these Karl Rovian tactics are being discovered and publicized by the media almost as soon as it happens. The tactics are lame and embarrassing, but even more embarrassing are the people who eat it up like it were candy. I've stopped watching Fox news long ago, and I'm getting pretty tired of CNN's short list of political news hacks. We need a lot of fresh blood with enough energy to pursue stories and do a good job of explaining like Rachel Maddow does... Anyway, we'll see if the perky first family vacationing in the Gulf region doesn't bring his numbers up a bit...

I hadn't realized that we still have troops stationed in the Balkans. Not a whole lot because we share responsibility along with NATO troops, but we have 1,400 troops in the newly legitimate nation of Kosovo. The International Court just ruled that their breakaway from Serbia in 2008 was done legally, congratulations for the predominantly Albanian nation. Of course, Serbia is filing a protest, but at least they haven't started another campaign of ethnic cleansing... But the fact that we still have troops there, over ten years after their civil wars, does not bode well for Iraq and Afghanistan. In most cases there never is a real winner, we are so afraid that once we leave Iraq it will fall apart and reject all of the institutions that we have spent billions trying to establish. Democracy goes down the rabbit hole...

A federal judge just ruled that CHEERLEADING IS NOT A REAL SPORT.  so officially it must be so... Evidently, some universities were trying to: "use competitive cheerleading in their efforts to achieve gender balance in athletics and comply with Title IX," a federal gender equity law. In the case: "... the school planned to eliminate women’s volleyball – as well as men’s golf and outdoor track – to save money. But it added a competitive cheer squad and counted its 30 female members to show that the percentage of athletes who are female is in proportion to the percentage of students who are female – one way of complying with the law.
US District Judge Stefan Underhill agreed with the volleyball coach, ruling that the school discriminated “by failing to provide equal athletic participation opportunities for women.” Competitive cheerleading “is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation,” he conclud

I don't know if this will affect national cheerleading competitions and their television shows, but it does seem sneaky to count cheerleading, even if it does have tumbling and gymnastics as a part of the routines among the top levels of competition. I think that women's softball will make it back to the Olympics before competitive cheerleading, but I have been wrong before.

"Title IX advocates count it as another victory for equal opportunity in sports. Each school’s efforts to meet Title IX have to be judged individually, but they say this ruling sets an important precedent that will influence universities around the country."

But cheerleading advocates are pissed at the ruling, but have a weird way of expressing their opinions. They count the aforementioned gymnastics and tumbling elements to describe its difficulty to master, but then mentions that it has a high injury rate, as if that factor equates it with football and basketball... Then, even more snarkily, the woman being interviewed said that: "... she also disagrees with the decision more broadly, saying that “Title IX has outlived its usefulness.”

To make matters even worse for those condescending, paternalistic, and dishonest coaches, the judge: "... also said female runners on three different teams (indoor, outdoor, and cross-country track) could not be counted more than once. That was one of several ways the school had inflated the number of female athletes or undercounted male athletes, the judge concluded." Jeez, who are the coddled, drunken athletes going to hit on and make derogatory sexist remarks about after a date rape, if they can't have their cheerleader?