Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Rant On Ending Afghan War And Cutting Military Budget, With My Apologies To Barry McGuire

Eugene Robinson
Paul Krugman
Peter Beinart
"Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be." - Mikael Gorbachov

After the election, and after we try to humiliate Iran to soothe our tempers and inflate our egos, we may as well turn our attention back to Afghanistan. None of the candidates have brought up the fate of our military exploits during their campaigns, so it must no longer be an item on the political radar. Because it's really a hot potato that no-one wants to catch, the Republicans for getting us into the mess, and the Democrats for not winning the war. Our troops will come home in another shameful scenario, with the word "loser" painted on their coffins under the American flags. We also would like to thank the nations of NATO - for nothing. I'll bet you'll think twice next time we tell you stories about buried missiles in the desert and, wait for the phrase, weapons of mass destruction...

The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin', bullets loadin'
You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'
You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'

I remember news articles when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, playing up how Afghanistan had never been colonized and its jihadist warriors were some of the fiercest in the world. I even read a book about them and bin Laden, called Kara Kush, by Idries Shah... It's the nature of our world today that winning and losing a war is not as clear cut as it used to be. The US thinks that it went into Iraq and Afghanistan for nobel reasons, not on the whim of some deranged neo-cons and their gullible President. Other countries see us as the aggressors and trying to keep the world perpetually on the brink of war. It's certainly not what you want to tell the families of a slain soldier...

We will never win a military war in Afghanistan. The best way to change the country is through education and building up the local economies. Over 90% of the large economic aid projects are there to siphon off millions of dollars into the pockets of the projects organizers, our way of helping the European economy. We further enable them by not investigating or having oversight of these projects, which, if they are finished, will have to be administered by the properly trained people who will be European and not Afgani... No wonder why Karzai wants the foreigners out of his country...

Don't you understand what I'm tryin' to say
Can't you feel the fears I'm feelin' today?
If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away
There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
[Take a look around ya boy, it's bound to scare ya boy]

As Pepe Escobar points out in the Asian Times, over the course of 10 years we have spent over $5 billion, and used the resources of 16 US intelligence agencies, along with those of every member of NATO, and still we haven't the faintest clue where Osama bin Laden is... All that's happened is that he has graduated from using cassette recordings to MP3's, as his latest threats to France has revealed. Common sense tells us that yes, there are people in Pakistan's intelligence service who know: "In real life, the fact is that a selected few inside the ISI know - as they have followed Osama's every move since the early 1980s in Peshawar. And they are not talking - never will. But for the CIA and the 16-agency alphabet-soup intel community not to know, this speaks volumes about an "intelligence" establishment where 1 million Americans hold top-secret clearances. Those 1 million are absolutely worthless when it comes to gathering on-the-ground intelligence south of the Hindu Kush." So, in reality, someone like myself could possible find out where bin Laden is hiding with one correct trip to Islamabad, if I had that one connection to the people who have been following him for the past 20 years...

Yeah, my blood's so mad feels like coagulatin'
I'm sitting here just contemplatin'
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation.
Handful of senators don't pass legislation
And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin'
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'

What we have accomplished is the polarizing of so many people in Asia and the Middle East against the US and our ideas of "democracy." There is a whole generation who thinks that it's OK to become a suicide bomber and it's sexy to take up jihad against the US, and it's going to take at least 30 years to turn those perceptions around. Iraq is going to have to learn just how messy governing on their own is going to be, Afghanis will have to tell the Talibans how they don't like their interpretations of Sharia law, they are too strict. With the Talibans, it will be their children telling them how out-dated they are, and the US will have no part in that, unless we want to provide the computers and ipads to those Talikids... Within the US, we are going to eventually learn to accept people from all cultures who have moved here, not to get nervous when someone of Muslim dress gets on our plane, or if our children are invited over to their house...

One of the "truths" that conservatives base their beliefs on is that too much government is a bad thing. Well, after we pull our troops out of Afghanistan, we are going to have to come to grips with how much our armed forces branch of the government has grown, and how the military budget is swallowing up our tax dollars, from $350 billion ten years ago, to over $750 billion currently. But if we cut that budget by $500 billion, we also will have to lay off thousands who are currently on military payrolls. On the other hand, saving $500 billion in four years, not spending it and using it to balance our budget, we could cut our deficit by $2 trillion...

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for 4 days in space
But when you return, it's the same old place
The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace
And… tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend
You don't believe
We're on the eve
Of destruction
Mm, no no, you don't believe
We're on the eve
of destruction.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arizona Gets Rid Of Evidence After Supreme Court Ruling, Baiting Iran, Army Corps Negligent In Afghanistan

Gene Lyons
Dana Milbank
Bryan Curtis
"Washington D.C. was under a tornado watch. It was pretty crazy, especially when the White House landed on Christine O'Donnell." – Jimmy Fallon

"Election Day is less than a week away. It's a shame that either of these parties has to win." – Jay Leno
"Election Day is next Tuesday. According to a new poll, one out of three voters is still undecided. It's a tough choice. Do you vote for the people who got us into this mess, or the people who can't get us out of this mess?" – Jay Leno

The state of Arizona didn't waste any time in executing Jeffrey Landrigan., once they got the green light from the Supreme Court, they slipped him the lethal mickey on Tuesday night. The execution had been held up because Arizona would not tell the FDA where it had obtained one of the drugs used in the lethal injection, which is currently in short supply in the US: "Shortages of barbiturates used in executions has led to delays in several states. The only domestic manufacturer approved by the Food and Drug Administration to make sodium thiopental, the barbiturate used in Arizona, is Hospira Inc; it suspended production of the drug a year ago because of supply issues, and is expected to be producing it again in the first quarter of next year.

With no supplies coming from sources approved by the F.D.A., Judge Roslyn O. Silver of Federal District Court had demanded that the state provide information about the origins of Arizona’s drug in order to know whether there were risks of impurity or efficacy that could violate Mr. Landrigan’s rights under the Eighth Amendment barring cruel and unusual punishment."

The weird part of the judge's argument was that, with a non--FDA approved source: “whether the non-F.D.A. approved drug will cause pain and suffering.” Or that the drug would leave the person a comatose vegetable instead of killing him, leaving it to some guard making minimum wage to put a pillow over his head ... Even weirder is that Arizona refused to disclose to a Federal court where they got the drug. They later claimed it came from England, but it could even more easily have come from Mexico, which would have caused some pain and embarrassment to Governor Jan Brewer, who is running for re-election.

The case quickly went through the appeals process in one day, all the way to the Supreme Court, who issued a one-page order, on a 5 - 4 vote, to allow the execution with the mystery drug. They ignored suspicions about the mystery drug, saying that there was no way to prove what was speculation, nor did they insist on knowing where the drug came from. Sodium thiopental has to be used within a short time frame after it has been made, because it goes bad quickly, and that's why there's no stockpile of it anywhere. It's also one reason this case whizzed through the courts so quickly, maybe it's due date was Wednesday morning...

Depending on where you stand on the issue of lethal injection, this was either a victory for how the current injections are done, using three drugs instead of just one, or that, in Arizona's case, crime pays. Or that Arizona got rid of the evidence after the Supreme Court ruling, by injecting it into Mr Landrigan as soon as possible...

The Iraqi foreign Minister under Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz, had been held by the US ever since he surrendered to them. He had said that he would rather die than end up in an American prison. Ironically, he will get his wish. When the US troops began leaving Iraq, Aziz was turned over to the Maliki government, who promptly put him on trial, with the outcome of sentencing him to death by hanging. If the Americans had kept Aziz, we might have been able to have gotten the details of working with Saddam before the US invaded. Now, we'll never know, and Maliki will get the revenge he has always dreamed and salivated over. At least they won't have to worry about the potency of any lethal injection drugs, ol' Aziz will be taken out to the hangin' tree...

I'm not sure what Obama is planning on doing after the elections; it looks like he is going to try to bait Iran and get some public sympathy back, because Iran is always an easy target. The story in the NY Times is stupid and makes no sense, proving that Hillary has surrounded herself with a few too many hawks, and that in the past it has been no trouble getting the gullible Obama to go along.

Last year we came so close, oh so close to actually having a nuclear agreement with Iran, officials say. Now, we are going to enter into another round of negotiations, and because we think we have them by the short hairs after the stuxnet virus melted their controller software: "... the conditions on Tehran would be even more onerous than a deal that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected last year. Iran’s reaction, officials say, will be the first test of whether a new and surprisingly broad set of economic sanctions is changing Iran’s nuclear calculus." No, we want to see if we have broken their pride yet, not seeing if a reasonable agreement can be reached. I hadn't realized that the ghosts of neocons past still ruled in the State Dept. Maybe Obama's detractors are right, that he is too arrogant and therefore gullible to arguments that play into his vanity...

This one threw me. Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been criticized for trying to whitewash Russia's past and by saying that really, Josef Stalin wasn't so bad. Really, because Putin had to work under him and he should know, as the ex-head of the dreaded KGB... On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin comes out with a book review, telling the press that all schoolchildren should read Alexander Solzhenitsyn's book, the Gulag Archipelago. It's a great book, but chronicles many things wrong with the Soviet system, just the opposite of Putin's recent efforts... Maybe he was in some way trying to counter Mr Gorbachov's recent criticisms that his administration has been no better than when it was under Soviet control... Or maybe Mr Putin is stuck in the writing of his own memoirs, looking to some decent Russian writers for inspiration, no matter how distorted his view on history has become...

One last tidbit, supporting my thesis that the Army Corps of Engineers are inept, screw up every project they do, and should have been disbanded after WW11... The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction released a report slamming the Army Corps for lax oversight on construction projects that they sub-contracted out. The Afghan owned company that was contracted to build all of the new police stations has done such a poor job of it that most of the building are already falling apart. They basically were little more than mud huts, about the same quality level that the poorest Afghans live in, with substandard roofing, uninsulated windows, cheap plastic plumbing, and patched together with low-grade cement. The Army Corps were supposed to inspect all of the work and oversee the materials used, instead they must have been partying in the American's compound, keeping well away from any field of combat...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bags Of Money, Steal This Election, Did Jan Brewer Get Lethal Injection Drugs From Mexico?

Bob Herbert
Steve Benen
Ellen Knickmeyer

“They do give us bags of money — yes, yes, it is done,” - Hamid Karzai

Really, it all started when the US kept hiring outside mercenaries to fortify the fighting troops. They didn't have to play by the rules, or be polite, or politically correct. We have mercenaries going out into the wilderness along with the CIA, looking for al-Qaeda members. We have mercenaries, both foreign and Afghan, hired to bring convoys of supply trucks safely through tribal territories. The State Dept still hires Blackwater as security guards for the embassy in Kabul. The military still hires Blackwater to run many of its predator drone programs, so we can blame the killing of innocents on someone other than the US military.

So, Hamid Karzai got tired of the drones killing people, and the US ignoring the complaints. He issued a policy where all foreign mercenary groups were to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year. Immediately, the backlash came from private groups who use mercenary companies for protection while they do their "humanitarian projects." Karzai responded, give me a list of the projects and who is doing them, and we'll review on a case by case basis. It was not good enough.

The State Dept purposely leaked that Karzai has been taking bags of cash from Iran. It was meant to humiliate and embarrass him in retaliation. At a news conference this morning, Mr Karzai was back to his old, tempermental self, and ultimately stalked off. Or was that he stalked off at the meeting with General Petraeus and State Dept officials?
“The money dealing with the private security companies starts in the hallways of the U.S. government. Then they send the money for killing here.” - Hamid Karzai
Most rulers of any other non-Western country sees no problem with accepting gifts and cash, like paying tribute to their greatness. When Paul Bremer was the czar of Iraq, he had a billion dollars in cash sent over there from the US, to spread the good word. When asked later by Congress what happened to it, he said that he couldn't remember and that none of his office kept track of where it went. The State Dept just got done giving two billion to the Pakistani intelligence in an effort to convince them into being more aggressive in finding and killing the targets we ask them to... We constantly alternate between bribery or threatening to get what we want in the world. Our own Congress uses bribery as the lubricant to get legislation done, although lately the Republicans have just used threats and character assassination to wheedle themselves back at the public trough...

Hopefully, the outcome of this stalemate will be the end to foreign mercenaries working in Afghanistan, the US revising its policies towards using them, and the fake humanitarian projects that suck up outside donations will be judged if they are really needed or not. As to Iran, well, it's good to bring their machinations out of the shadows and into the sunlight where everyone can see them. If Karzai isn't careful, Iran will step in after the US leaves, and annex his country as a favor...

Could we consider the outrageous amounts of money spent on political ads as a form of bribery? It's certainly offensive. The latest conservative talking point to be used against your Democratic opponent, is that they are trying to steal the election, or that they are trying to buy the election. Its a form of smoke and mirrors meant to deflect those exact sentiments that have been expressed about themselves. I took these headlines from TPM:

GOP Lawyers And Norm Coleman: George Soros Wants To Buy Election

Angle Campaign To Base: Reid Wants To Steal The Election!

GOP Lawyers Group Warns Of 'Epidemic' Of Voter Fraud


The state of Arizona has been stopped from executing by lethal injection until they tell Federal authorities where they obtained its new supply of the drug, which has been in very short supply. They probably got it over the border in Mexico, and don't want to disclose it until after the election. The news would be one more embarrassing thing for Governor Jan Brewer, who is up for re-election...

I am not in favor of Carly Fiorino as a candidate, but being hospitalized from complications relating to her masectomy and reconstruction from breast cancer is not the way to have to drop out of the race. Let her lose fair and square. But here's hoping that your health is strong and that you will recover enough to finish your campaign, and I end this post with a prayer to you...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh No, We Forgot To Fund The Iraqi Rehab Units! Caution, Catalonian Women At Work

Amy Gardner
Leslie Gelb
Paul Krugman
"Clarence Thomas's wife this week on Saturday morning calls up Anita Hill 19 years later to ask her to apologize. Drunk dial much? And she did the right thing. She apologize. She said I'm truly sorry you're married to Clarence Thomas." – Bill Maher

"Clarence Thomas's ex-girlfriend came forward to say Anita Hill was right, he is a pervert. He was obsessed with porn and big breasts. And that's just a taste of what's in store on the next episode of Real Housewives of the Supreme Court." – Bill Maher
"During a debate on Meet the Press, Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck said that he believes being gay is a choice. Interesting position, Ken Buck. Did your name choose to be gay?" – Seth Meyers

I think I will run in the next elections. No, not here in America, but in Iraq. I would receive about $89,000 upon winning, to help pay for new suits and pencils and stuff I may need. I would get a housing stipend, because I will have to move into a much more expensive house to keep up appearances. And, whether I show up in parliament or not, I will be paid $11,000 per month. Not a bad scam at all, not counting that I could be killed or kidnapped at any moment...

But the party may soon be over. This morning the Iraqi Supreme Court announced that all representatives must report for session, because their recess to make back-room deals over who will become prime minister, has been declared unconstitutional. Once parliament meets, there is a specific time line involved towards picking a prime minister and a working government: "No leading political bloc seemed eager to have Parliament meet again, at least not until the framework for an agreement was reached.

The broadest fault line in those negotiations remains a contest between Mr. Maliki and an alliance led by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and former interim prime minister, whose group won two more seats than Mr. Maliki’s. Both coalitions are soliciting the support of the Kurds, deemed essential for gathering a majority in Parliament. Although Mr. Maliki’s chances seem best, the Kurds have pushed for an inclusive government with Mr. Allawi’s participation, a compromise that would almost certainly require curbing the prime minister’s powers.

The eventual deal will underline the influence of foreign powers — the United States, Iran and Turkey — in Iraq. The sense of machinations and backroom dealings has added to popular resentment, and some analysts hailed Sunday’s decision, at minimum, as a step toward transparency in the negotiations.

“At the very least,” said William Warda, a political analyst, “it will create dialogue inside Parliament, where debates will be open, and not in closed rooms or outside Iraq, where you don’t know what’s going on.” Discussions will be enlivened by the recent Wikileaks documents, a lot of fingers will be pointed, and the public will get madder and madder at their politicians. The mood might be right for Sarah Palin, there, too...

In another news story from the NY Times, after spending over $22 billion training and outfitting the Iraqi army and police,it seems we forgot to include some medical rehab units for when the officers become addicted to drugs and alcohol. It has become a factor why suicide bombers are getting past checkpoints. The officers manning the posts often work over 12 hour days without time off during the week, and so they look to Iranian prescription drugs and Western made whiskeys to alleviate their psychic pain and boredom. It's not inside infiltrators that is letting the trucks full of explosives past them, but stoned soldiers who often are incoherent and can't see straight... It looks like all of our objectives we think we accomplished in Iraq are unraveling and coming undone, and we might want to rethink our strategies towards training the Afghan armies and police, so the same thing doesn't happen the minute that General Petraeus turns his back and walks away...

Prostitution in Spain isn't against the law, but profiting from it is... A bit like what the marijuana laws in the US should be, I guess. Police in Catalonia are making their working girls wear yellow protective safety vests, much like the road crews use, whenever they are standing alongside the highways looking for sex. This makes me wonder about the culture of automobiles and the road in Spain, do men wander from small town to town, checking out the women alongside the highways? How proud are the parents when their darling daughters bring home their first yellow safety vest? Will the highway safety departments put up signs that say: Caution Women At Work

I'm forcing myself to read all of the national press coverage about the elections, expecting the tone of journalism to rise to a fever pitch by Friday. I think Rand Paul is debating tonight, hopefully it will be carried on CSPAN. Rand is just the kind of sanctimonious person that I like to heckle, so I expect to get boisterous in my armchair. Now that my local football team lost to the Oakland Raiders 59 - 14, there's not much left to get excited about... If I were a student of politics, I'd take notes. Thankfully, I am way past that, I just hope I don't set my beard on fire lighting up the after-dinner cigar...

I already filled out my ballot. Like so many other Coloradans, I find myself voting for a mixture of candidates, some Democratic, some Republican, and some from the teeny tiny parties that are just lucky to get a listing on the ballot. Like myself, many others are disgusted by the negative campaign ads, mostly used in the Bennet - Buck senatorial race. It may cost both of them votes, as I think that people won't vote for either on of them in protest to the ads. A piece in the NY times on the attitudes of Northern Coloradans reports on similar attitudes. I am impressed how many older folk actually take the time to research and follow the issues, though I seldom talk to many younger folks anymore. The view from Loveland: "That Americans are angry and anxious heading toward the Nov. 2 elections has become a truism, an assumption built into candidate calculations from the lowest local alderman on up. Plot a voter’s place on the rage scale, and voilĂ , out pops a prediction of the expected anti-Democrat, or anti-establishment, backlash.

Voters like Daryl Pike have a different word for it: lost."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wikileaks Out To Destroy al-Maliki, Christians Sneak Into Iran, If Rand Gets Elected...

Bob Herbert
Kathleen Parker
Jonathan Alter
"For evidence that the United States is letting its claim to greatness, and even common decency, slip through its fingers, all you need to do is look at the way we treat our own troops." - Bob Herbert

Yes, it's all about him. Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki is whining that his opponents, who don't want him to keep on being the Prime Minister, are using information in the latest Wikileaks disclosure against him. There are field reports, never meant for public viewing, that documents how brutal the Iraqi army and police is towards Iraqi civilians. Well, duh... Believe me, Nuri, if we had someone with a little more charisma and honesty, we'd invade your country again just to put them in office. But since it looks like you're all we got right now, we have to put up with your machinations and desire to be the next mini-Saddam. It's just weird and aesthetically displeasing to put up a statue of someone who is going bald and wears glasses...

Almost every international political web site has an article or two on the Wikileaks Iraq documents. The biggest splash is Iranian training and support of insurgents. Will wonders never cease... of course Iran has done as much as it could short of sending in troops to Iraq to fight and harass the US, where do you think all of the roadside and suicide bomb packs have been coming from? Not some cottage industry made by Sunni housewives, but made by Shia companies in Tehran and smuggled into Iraq by supporters of Muktada al-Sadr, with the results that the Americans have turned increasingly to hiring mercenaries to face the threat of getting blown up, and using drones instead of soldiers in the remote areas... and even though the US has condemned the Wikileaks documents, lawyers and US officials went over them beforehand to comb out the really potentially dangerous stuff.

Last week Iranian news reported that the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei left his fortified compound in Tehran for the city of Qom, where he lectured the seminaries there about the dangers of foreign influences. I finally came across some background for this unusual activity, in an opinion piece by Amir Taheri. the Iranian intelligence chief is claiming that: "Foreign missionaries are targeting the best, and the brightest, Shi'ite students of theology, especially in Qom, and have already succeeded in converting some of them to Christianity.

Moslehi does not reveal the nationality of those ' foreign missionaries' but asserts that Turkey has become a base for the conversion attempt. Thus, students of theology from Qom travel to Turkey to receive baptism along with further instruction in Christian doctrine. The freshly baptised students, known as tullab, return to Qom and other Shi'ite seminaries in the Islamic Republic, as secret Christians charged with trying to convert fellow-students." So, it is a double-edged sword, having Iran befriend Turkey. Amir points out the many similarities between Shia beliefs and Christian beliefs, and how it might be easy to make converts: "Like Christianity, Shi'ism, especially in its duodecimal version, fosters a cult of martyrdom. The martyr Imam Hussein is often seen as a Christ-like figure, a defender of the right who is betrayed and ultimately put to death by a tyrannical ruler.

The concept of the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure who comes at the end of times, is also comparable to that of the second-coming of Christ.

Like Christianity, Shi'ism is a cult of saints. In Iran alone, we have more than 7000 locations designated as places of saints. Some places have become saintly because they are supposed to bear footprints of a horse once ridden by this or that imam. Some trees have become saintly because this or that ancient 'saint' is supposed to have rested under their shadow. The latest of these saintly places is the village of Jamkaran, southwest of Tehran, where the Hidden Imam is supposed to maintain a line of communication with the faithful. Every year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Cabinet travel to the village to ' report' to the Hidden Imam. The government's programme for the following year is thrown into a well through which it is supposed to reach the Lord of the Times" A good prank would be to wire this well for sound and record a message to Ahmadinejad the next time he tosses a report down the well. Extra credit if it can be done with Barack Obama's voice...

"Incidentally, there is no polling data that suggests [the voters] love us."- Mitch McConnell, on congressional Republicans

There have been comments made about the lack of campaigning for GOP candidates by John Boehner and Michael Steele. Guess they don't need any more people putting their feet in their mouths, other than the candidates themselves. Rand Paul is showing his lack of humor lately, and what a self-righteous little prick he's become. I joked before what might happen if he got elected, the fights on the floor between himself and his pa, Ron Paul. Will Ron have to send Rand on a timeout, to face the corner? My bet is that Rand will seek to become a super-libertarian and hassle his father for not being as pure in thought and willing to work across the aisle...

With the early polls and votes in from California, pundits are saying that perhaps the marijuana legalization bill may not pass. Would this be from foreign companies and cartels spending millions of dollars anonymously to defeat the bill? In a land where Meg Whitman has spent almost $200 million,filtering drug money for political purposes seems just as likely as Carly Fiorino's demon sheep.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Rant With Apologies To Country Joe And The Fish

Eugene Robinson
Rebecca Dana
Stephen Kurczy

It was only a matter of time until some terrible disease like cholera would break out in Haiti. So far, 135 people have died, and it has not been contained. It's such a cliche to accuse the government of being too slow to clean up the rubble from the earthquake, but who else can we accuse? Too many people are still living massed together in tent cities, without water or sanitation, many of the dead are buried in too shallow graves, all waiting for the mold and rot that comes with the first monsoon rains. Another awful tragedy is that it will replay itself in Pakistan a couple more months from now...

Wikileaks publishes another few thousand pages of classified documents on the American military presence in Iraq. Any time something is classified is because it contains something embarrassing. We would rather you didn't know what they contain, because then we might have to take responsibility for that information. In the case of Iraq, war is hell, and both the US and al-Qaeda committed atrocities that, in a saner situation, they would be put on trial. Usually, the governments involved will either ignore everything, or pay off the victim's families, just like Blackwater did...

Or, we can buy off a whole army, like we are doing in Pakistan, to the tune of $2 billion. And if they behave and stop complaining about who our drones keep killing, we might send over Paris Hilton or Shakira to entertain their troops. Or guarantee to buy their heroin crop, or let them pirate the next 10 Hollywood blockbusters... And if the Talibans become our new BFF's, maybe we can invite them back to Texas for another barbecue, or print up their training manuals on the University of Nebraska's printing press, like we did before when they were in power... Can't you see Hamid Karzai linked arms with general Petraeus, holding hands with the Haqqani family, leading everyone during intermission at the Afghan peace talks in a rowsing rendition of Fixin to Die Rag - my apologies to Country Joe and the Fish:

Come on all of you big strong men
Uncle Sam needs your help again
he's got himself in a terrible jam
way down yonder in Pakistan so
put down your books and pick up a gun we're
gonna have a whole lotta fun

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for
don't ask me I don't give a damn, next stop is Pakistan
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die

It's one of those songs where recruits from all sides can sing and get the same message...

Another woman has come forth to talk about her relationship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas before he was nominated for the court, and she is supporting Anita Hill's description of his behavior at that time: "When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill's allegations.

Lillian McEwen was that woman." Now that she's retired and trying to get her memoirs published, it feels better talking about it than 19 years ago when clarence asked her to keep it under wraps... She dated Thomas from 1980 to 1985, and often heard him talking about the women he worked with. "He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners," McEwen said matter-of-factly. "It was a hobby of his... He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now 63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."

Nobody who is a spokesperson for Clarence or Virginia Thomas got back to the Washington Post reporter on this story, they are hoping that it will die over the weekend. So it looks like Clarence is a big, self-righteous, hypocritical bag of wind, and we can soon read more enough about it, if Miss Lillian's book ets published. Perhaps it will be enpugh to get Mr Thomas to resign, it would be the RIGHT thing to do... "I know Clarence would not be happy with me... I have no hostility toward him," McEwen said. "It is just that he has manufactured a different reality over time. That's the problem that he has."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blackwater Goes Free, Mexican Madonna Ploy

Ruth Marcus
Jacob Bernstein
Johann Hari
"The Obama administration had quite a day today annihilating the people who might vote for them. They appealed the ruling striking down Don't Ask, Don't Tell, even though they are supposed to be for striking it down. And then they said even if California legalized pot, the feds would still come in and bust people. But in fairness to Obama, it is an election year and Democrats can't afford to be seen being for freedom or equality." – Bill Maher
"There is a big difference between a disappointing friend and a deadly enemy. Of course the Democrats are disappointing. That's what makes them Democrats. If they were any more frustrating they'd be your relatives. But in this country they are all that stands between you and darkest night. You know why their symbol is the letter 'D'? Because it's a grade that means good enough, but just barely. You know why the Republican symbol is 'R'? Because it's the noise a pirate makes when he robs you and feeds you to a shark." – Bill Maher

The first two pundits linked above write about the strange phone call from Virginia Thomas to Anita Hill, giving some interesting background. I still think I was right on the reason why she made the call, and why she will keep on making those phone calls in the future, because deep down in her subconscious she knows that her husband was guilty, and it's her way of working things to the surface. It actually would be a good idea for her to meet with Anita Hill; it would legitimize her having doubts and who better to talk around them than the person who originally accused her husband? Whether she will ever admit to the truth is a question only her psychologist or pastor may ever know the answer...

Johann Hari writes about what I wanted to post about today, so I got nothin... If, after the elections, the administration followed England and France's lead and drastically cut back on spending, would our angry tea partyers then get even more angry once they get laid off and people like Sharron Angle's husband's pension shrinks? Will we see riots on the level what is happening in Europe, or will we have a bunch of smug, self-satisfied people sipping tea?

Groups like spies and cops take care of their own, even if you are a mercenary accused of murdering innocent civilians in Iraq. So, the government's legal cases against former Blackwater employees are slowly falling apart and being filed away under no longer prosecutable. Collect two hundred dollars, get out of jail free, and roll the dice again... For example: "In the most recent and closely watched case, the Justice Department on Monday said that it would not seek murder charges against Andrew J. Moonen, a Blackwater armorer accused of killing a guard assigned to an Iraqi vice president on Dec. 24, 2006. Justice officials said that they were abandoning the case after an investigation that began in early 2007, and included trips to Baghdad by federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents to interview Iraqi witnesses.

In September, a Virginia jury was unable to reach a verdict in the murder trial of two former Blackwater guards accused of killing two Afghan civilians. Late last year, charges were dismissed against five former Blackwater guards who had been indicted on manslaughter and related weapons charges in a September 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square in Baghdad, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Interviews with lawyers involved in the cases, outside legal experts and a review of some records show that federal prosecutors have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, of gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecutions in American civilian courts, and of overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials on the scene."
“The battlefield is not a place that lends itself to the preservation of evidence.” - Prof Charles Rose
What little information that was obtained in Iraq was done in such a way that it is inadmissable in a US court of law: "In the immediate aftermath of the Christmas Eve shooting, Mr. Moonen was interviewed, not by the F.B.I., but by an official with the Regional Security Office of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the State Department unit that supervised Blackwater security guards in Iraq.

Mr. Moonen’s lawyer, Stewart Riley, said that his client gave the embassy officials a statement only after he was issued a so-called Garrity warning — a threat that he might lose his job if he did not talk, but that he would be granted immunity from prosecution for anything he said.

The legal warning and protection given to Mr. Moonen were similar to warnings that embassy officials later gave to Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square case. In each case, the agreements presented an obstacle to prosecution in the United States. In effect, the Blackwater personnel were given a form of immunity from prosecution by the people they were working for and helping to protect."

Now, government officials claim that they all aren't idiots who can't collect evidence under difficult situations, they just chose to be ineffective in the cases that involve good Christian warriors. They claim that they successfully have prosecuted over 120 cases of fraud and similar charges against companies owned by Iraqis and Afghans. It looks like the head of Blackwater can move back to the US, and bring his family back from Dubai, which pretty much shows that he values making money over living his good Christian values. In Mr Moonen's case, none of the victim's family agreed to testify in US court because they were happy with the financial pay-off that Blackwater gave them, proving that money talks no matter what language you speak... So, we will only see prosecutions in our country where a foreign Muslim tries to kill our soldiers or citizens, but let the brutality that war unleashes in our own hearts go free...

I don't know if you would consider this sexist or highly manipulative, but it certainly is creepy and totally wrong. The Mexican town of Praxeids G Guerrero, one of the most dangerous towns close to the US border, near El Paso in Texas. has appointed a 20 year old woman and mother of an infant son, as the new police chief. More than 7000 people have died in this area since 2008 because there are: "Two rival gangs - the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels - fighting for control of Praxeids, whose single highway is on a drugs smuggling route into Texas." Either the Mexican government has given up the fight and is offering her up as fodder, or maybe the drug cartels won't kill a young mother with infant - the Madonna ploy - or else this woman is the genius that the mayor says she is and has ideas that might work. God knows the drug wars have been such a fiasco. I wonder if they would be just as vicious if the US actually tried to eradicate the drug cartels in the US. We would have national bank failures because the large banks and investment companies would no longer have drug money to launder, estimated to be 1/3 of our economy...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New EPA Safety Bra, Persian Rugs, Yes Virginia, That Is a Pubic Hair On My Coke Can

Dana Milbank
Larry Flynt
Peter Bergen
"Americans who want to stick it to the man are instead sending money to the man." - Dana Milbank
"They are us." - Glenn Beck
"I am you" - Christine O'Donnell
"Ho-de-ho-de-ho! " - Cab Calloway

I begin today with a report from Fox News, a fair and balanced look at the latest public safety device: "Dr. Elena Bodnar won an Ignoble Award for the invention last year, an annual tribute to scientific research that on the surface seems goofy but is often surprisingly practical. And now Bodnar has brought the eBra to the public; purchase one online for just $29.95.

“The goal of any emergency respiratory device is to achieve tight fixation and full coverage. Luckily, the wonderful design of the bra is already in the shape of a face mask and so with the addition of a few design features, the Emergency Bra enhances the efficiency of minimizing contaminated bypass air flow,” explains the eBra website. It sounds silly, but Bodnar, a Ukraine native who now lives in Chicago, started her medical career studying the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. If people had had cheap, readily available gas masks in the first hours after the disaster, she said, they may have avoided breathing in Iodine-131, which causes radiation sickness." And who said that science can't also be practical, if not elegant?

One of the areas of merchandise that has been hit by the sanction on Iran, has been the global trade in Persian carpets, which, in one way or another, employs about 5 million people.We have had embargoes on Iranian goods for over 35 years, yet it really never stopped the smuggling of carpets by determined merchants, from the Global Post: "The importation of Iranian rugs and other so-called luxury goods into the United States had been banned for most of the 1980s and all of the 1990s with very limited success as the rugs still managed to enter the country through Canada.
“I actually sent rugs during Reagan’s time illegally. We’d send them to Germany, and then to Canada. From Canada they would be loaded on to small trucks and taken over the border at night,” Mehdizadeh said. But this time around, with Canada and other U.S. allies also taking part in, and complying with, the sanctions, Persian rugs are unlikely to again find their way over the border any time soon.

In an apparent goodwill gesture in 2000, during the final months of the administration of President Bill Clinton, an exemption was made for Iranian rugs, pistachios, caviar and dried fruit, which led to a rush by many Iranian rug merchants in both the United States and Iran to fill the longtime void. The market was quickly saturated and large stocks of unsold rugs still remain in warehouses throughout the United States.

Dealers in America had been expecting such a move for some time, and many are hoping that, at least in the short-term, the perception of scarcity might help increase demand. In fact, many rug dealers in the United States, anticipating the sanctions, increased their orders before the embargo went into effect." Unless Obama or the tea partyers get a sudden hankering to drink their tea on authentic Persian carpets any time soon, their production could become a lost art. Of course, I don't think it's an argument that would make the Ayatollah Khamenei change his tactics and become more honest and open. In fact, he has gone to the city of Qom to lecture the clerics there to be more patriotic and less critical of himself and his policies. He is still supportive of Ahmadinejad, but did give indication to what the rest of the country has been complaining about - that the Revolutionary Guard has been taking on more responsibility in the government and taking over many successful businesses. Not enough to start a revolution, mind you, just enough to make the situation plain in Farsi...

The strangest story, along the lines of "what was she thinking?" is the message that was left on the phone of Anita Hill. Twenty years ago, Anita Hill came forward during the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and said that he has sexually harassed her, including describing the contents of several pornographic films. It was the relating of one bizarre story about Thomas, that he complained that there was a pubic hair purposely placed on his can of Coke, going on and on about someone was out to get him and make him paranoid, that many folks decided to dub him Clarence "Cokecan" Thomas, not at all referring to his girth as he hoped they were...

Out of the blue, Ms Hill woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and heard this message: “Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas,” it said. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.” Wacky or creepy, you decide.

Mrs Thomas, doesn't see anything wrong about this, she was just reaching out to put the healing in motion. Ms Hill differs, saying that Mrs Thomas still sees it that Ms Hill lied, therefore it is best that she come clean and confess her past sin. Ms Hill added that she didn't lie, and that it's some weird off-the-wall behavior that compels Mrs Thomas to stick her nose back in after all of these years. "I have no intention of apologizing because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony," said Ms Hill. Clarence Thomes characterized the incident as a left-wing smear attack, in both his speeches at the confirmation hearing and in a subsequent book he wrote.

The Washington Post found the testimony of a woman who had dated Clarence Thomas back then, and she backs up Anita Hill's version of events: "It seems that, by asking Anita Hill for an apology, Clarence Thomas’ wife Virginia has opened the lid on the whole controversy once again: Lillian McEwen, who dated Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, tells The Washington Post, "The Clarence I know was certainly capable not only of doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then.” McEwen is writing her memoirs but has never before publicly discussed her relationship with Thomas. Virginia Thomas also has a history of leaving unsolicited voicemails: She called a Washington Post reporter who wrote an article about a man falsely accused of being a sex pervert, saying it reminded her of her husband’s ordeal; and she defended David Brock after he renounced a book he wrote attacking Anita Hill, saying that no one deserved the smears he was being tarred with."

So, it boils down to, what was Virginia Thomas thinking? Evidently, she has the teeniest, tinyist vestige of doubt concerning her husband, and her subconscious wants her to reach out and get the full story. Its called transference. Perhaps Clarence is having the Secret Service going out and bringing him home some new porno, and she saw it tucked underneath the bed, or found a reiept in his sock drawer. Whatever, it has caused Virgina to stop making speeches about how evil the Obama administration is, and go off into the night seeking truth and justice, no matter how fleeting... May someone hand her a lantern bright enough to sweep away the darkness and illuminate her own face looking back in the mirror...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Letting The Dogs Out...

Gail Sheehy
Meghan McCain

I'm tired today, my mind is a blank, even with the wonderfully dumb remarks made in public by Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, so dumb that their campaign managers won't return messages to reporters. And yet, these people have a good chance of getting elected. At first, I feel like ranting and calling their supporters dumbasses, but then I realized that their getting elected is the voter's way of saying F**K You to Congress and the American way of politics. They are letting the dogs out, and they will go to Washington and crap everywhere they are not supposed to.

So, today I lift my hand to salute you, oh Angry Americans, who will revel in their perverse voting strategy. CSPAN should hurry up and wire all of the offices and hallways in Congress, put up more cameras and make it the next tv reality show. You can't make this up, with Joe Miller and his stormtroopers goose-stepping around town, Sharron Angle in the foreign Relations Committee, or Christine O'Donnell in any committee. Even more fun, when Michele Bachmann, the self-imposed Queen of Tea Party Caucus, tries to get these folks to do her bidding at the first meeting. This is better than any NCIS folks, get out the sodas, pop up the popcorn, it's instructive for the whole family, with extra-credit points for identifying those bleeding heart liberals crying the corners...

Getting rid of some of the other  photo files I've saved up:

South Koreans Stoning Image of Kim Il-Un

Prisoner in Gaza

If Only I could License This Image...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Russian Spies Granted Top Honors, Bin Laden Found Yet Once Again, Or Not...

EJ Dionne Jr
Ross Douthat
Shannyn Moore
''My only regret in creating 23 million new jobs is that two million of those jobs were for right-wing pundits.'' —Bill Clinton
'There a few things in life harder to find and more important to keep than love. Well, love and a birth certificate.'' — President Barack Obama
''In Washington, we know there's a huge difference between a prostitute and a politician. There are some things a prostitute won't do.'' — Sen. Claire McCaskill

Remember those Russian spies who were living like 1950's moles, were caught and traded a few months ago in a spy swap with Russia? Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev bestowed the state's highest honor to them, in a ceremony at the Kremlin: "In June, the group of 10 spies, many of whom had been working undercover for years in the US as sleeper agents, returned to Russia in a sensational spy swap that saw Moscow send four Russian convicts to the West. The spies received a hero's welcome in Russia, with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, leading them in a patriotic sing-along in July.

Anna Chapman, the most famous of the agents, visited the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan this month for the launch of a Russian spaceship, boosting her celebrity status in Russia and abroad. Chapman was in Baikonur ostensibly as the new celebrity face of a Moscow bank. FondServisBank, which works with Russian companies in the aerospace industry, said it had hired Chapman to bring innovation to its information technologies. It did not escape Russians' attention that the initials of the bank, FSB, are the same as Russia's main spy agency.

Many ex-KGB spies have gone on the record slamming the shoddy and apparently antiquated spy craft of the 10, who were working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, a successor of the Soviet KGB. Putin, who served as a spy in East Germany before going into politics, said in July that he had met with the spies to celebrate their return and warned that the "traitors" who exposed them could end up "in a ditch". The US is one of the few countries that will actually do spy swaps, or consider that a spy has value, which may be one reason that Iran wants to try the US hikers in their jail as spies. Israel wanted to use an agreement to extend the construction freeze in the West Bank, in exchange the US would release a convicted spy, who has been in our custody since the Clinton administration... Currently, there has been a rash of industrial espionage, where a Chinese national had been working for a US or Canadian company long enough to steal company secrets, then transfer that knowledge to a Chinese company that had set itself up as a competitor. One Chinese gentleman was caught at the airport with a briefcase full of company documents, while another is awaiting trial in Illinois... China is already the largest producer of fake prescription drugs, the darker side to the Gucci knock-off handbags and Rolex watches...

CNN is reporting that NATO officials are saying that Osama bin Laden is alive and well in northwest Pakistan No, he is not living in a cave, but in a house near his #2 go-to guy, living in relative comfort. Usually by the time a headline like this becomes public, it means that Pakistani intelligence has had them in custody for at least a month. If he is turned over to the US, the Democrats could use him to make a commercial for the November elections, double points if he mentions Ken Buck and Rand Paul by name!

The area mentioned is in the most rugged area of the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with at least four different Taliban militias and other drug traders, who can muster up 30,000 men to protect bin Laden. The Mullah Omar is said to have moved from Quetta to the seaside town of Karachi, much like I was joking in an earlier post, I hope he likes their version of mojitos... Pakistani officials are denying all reports, saying that bogus tales like this surface every so often, all trying to discredit the great state of Pakistan. Personally, I think that bin Laden has recently been where he witnessed the devastation from the recent monsoons and it moved him to make a tape asking for help.

If Osama were in custody, it would explain why the US is moving to talk directly with the Talibans seeking peace, and even including Iran in the equation. Iran has been holding Osama's last wife and her children hostage in a house on the outskirts of Tehran since 2006. Some kind of coalition government  would form in Afghanistan, and hopefully it would last longer than the one in Iraq... If Osama were in custody, it could change the political landscape overnight in southeast Asia and the Middle East. If he were brought to trial in Saudi Arabia, would there be riots? If he were extradited to the US, would they try him in a civilian or military court? And would they keep him in the Supermax facility here in Colorado? Or, maybe Osama has changed his ways and would prefer to speak out on environmental issues from now on, inspiring all al-Qaeda members to drop their guns and plant trees instead, around rural campfires at night they will tell the story of how a mighty fighter became known as Muhammad Appleseed...

Tonite is the debate between Alaska's Joe Miller and his Democratic opponent. Hopefully, CSPAN will carry it, I can't wait to see who he will handcuff next...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jobs Hypocrisy, Back To Square One In Iraq And Afpakistan

Maureen Dowd
Jill Lawrence
Nicholas Kristoff
"We're now into an era of what might you might call Darwinian conservatism -- a fend-for-yourself philosophy advanced by people who are skeptical about federal help, at least for others." - Jill Lawrence
"So far neither party has offered a comprehensive antidote to our economic pain. The Democrats have fallen short, and the cynics leading the G.O.P. haven’t so much as tried. We shouldn’t be surprised that this year even a state as seemingly well-mannered as Connecticut has produced a senatorial candidate best known for marching into a wrestling ring to gratuitously kick a man in the groin." - Frank Rich
"Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint." - Alexander Hamilton

Jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs jobs
is what this election is all about, if you believe what every politician campaigning this year is saying. And it is all bullshit, rhetoric trying to get your vote. Because neither side can provide jobs or stimulate the economy so that the private sector will flourish. That's going to take a few more years, if at all...

The only thing that government can do is just what has been done - it can bail out private companies or it can fund programs to keep federal, state, and local government and school employees from losing their jobs. All of the negative nabobs keep saying that the tarp and stimulus didn't work, but they are wrong. The programs did exactly what they were designed to do, and we have made a profit in the process.

The money we gave to GM and Chrysler helped revive their markets, the cash for clunkers program worked very well to stimulate car buying, and they have a better designed, more popular group of cars that are selling well. The tarp money we lent Wall Street saved some firms, and even AIG looks like it will be able to pay back all $180 billion, with some interest.

Stimulus money went to save the jobs of those that would have been laid off this year - from the police department, the fire department, other government agencies, as well as local schoolteachers. Where it didn't go so well was in state and local construction projects, areas where they always procrastinate and fool around. The bad news is that without any more stimulus money coming into the states and your local cities, they will have to lay off a lot more personnel because the money normally saved for a rainy day is all gone. Colorado had to find a way to balance a $29 billion deficit this year, and next year it will be twice as worse. Colorado Springs sold its fleet of helicopters, response time from police and fire departments are twice as long, and if you have a handicapped or child with special needs, good luck to you, try moving to another place that still can fund their programs. Unless we legalize marijuana and turn our mega-churches into brothels, we may not have a city government two years from now.

Democrats have talked about more federal jobs program. Republicans have offered no ideas al all other than limiting federal government and laying off more workers. Tea party advocates haven't a clue because the Constitution hasn't told them how to create any jobs. Banks may be recovering, but they don't want to give out any small business loans. The SBA only will loan you $35,000. Many larger businesses have had to make do with a leaner work force and don't want to rehire now that they have a larger profit margin. Too bad, because its only with the creation of more small businesses, and the return of mom-and-pop storefronts, which make up the bulk of new hiring, will our economy begin to grow.

It may well be that we will have a globally repressed economy that may never recover past our previous levels. Resources and water are beginning to run out, and our manufacturing bases are vanishing. Natural disasters in the next few years will be intense, especially when next year's monsoons hit India and Pakistan. If drought continues a few hundred miles to the West in Russia, we will see a world-wide shortage in wheat and rice, well over a billion people will starve, maybe to their deaths.

Sorry, didn't mean to get so gloomy, but I wanted to contrast it to the stupid reasons we have given for going to war. Instead of invading Afghanistan and fighting and killing, what if we had used our military and went in and built roads and schools and hospitals? If we got rid of the land-mines and turned those areas into farmlands? Fighting all of the taliban groups was never our job, weren't we after al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?...

It looks like all of Petraeus's work in Iraq has just gone to hell, if the report that the Sunni Awakening groups have pulled out of government coalitions and gone back to supporting al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Guess it did not help when Nuri al-Maliki kept arresting and putting the Sunnis in jail, as well as kicking their leaders out of their government jobs. Oh, well, better luck next time, and there will be a next time if we have a Republican majority followed by a president as hawkish and dumb as Sarah or Newt, or even John McCain...