Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Finally Passes, Thanks Joe, Felipe Calderon's Lame Duck Sessions

Dana Milbank
Kathleen Parker
Gail Collins
"According to new census data, Falls Church, Va. is the best-educated area in the U.S. Least educated? Sarah Palin's Alaska. " – Jimmy Fallon
"Michelle Obama said that obesity is a national security threat because 1 in 4 young people are too overweight to join the military. Couldn't we just have a separate fat army to fight in countries that don't have hills?" – Jimmy Kimmel

"Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been released from the hospital after undergoing treatment for a kidney stone. He says he's recovering. Good luck, that's what he said about the economy." – Jay Leno

The military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy finally was repealed in both the House and Senate, with today's vote in the Senate 65 - 31, mostly through the hard work of Senator Joe Lieberman. Eight Republicans also voted to repeal, the first time that many have crossed the aisle for a vote during the Obama Administration. It also looks like the nuclear non-proliferation treaty will be ratified if John McCain drops dead, but if you are an immigrant you will still be discriminated against, Feliz Navidad...

Saturday's newspapers are great for collecting interesting tidbits of information that may not make it into primetime. Since the 9/11 attacks, we have spent over $57.2 billion dollars in airport security systems that is supposed to make us all safer. Except for one small quirk - the technology has yet to catch even one terrorist. Nada, not one, zip, zero, the null set. As Anne Kornblut and Ashley Halsey point out in the Washington Post: "In every known recent attempt, terrorists have used a different tactic to evade the latest technology at airport checkpoints, only to be thwarted by information unearthed through intelligence work, or by alert passengers in flight..."
"Let's be honest: We've been lucky the last few times. With the Christmas Day bomber over Detroit and the Times Square bomber and the air cargo attempt, they did not succeed, but that's because of their own inadequacies, not because we were able to stop them." - Joe Lieberman
What's in the works is a better form of hand scanners,  or goggle type scanners, that can do almost the imaging work that a full-body scanner can do. Instead of a pat-down, agents can use the hand scanners to quickly work along a line of passengers, pulling the occasional anomaly off to be full-body scanned. There isn't a date when something like this will be available, or when warp drive will be invented, or even phasers, so, until then, we'll just have to muddle along in sullen insolence... Since the air cargo scare, US officials at OHare airport in Chicago have confiscated of 10,000 Cuban cigars, up from their usual rate of 1,000 per year. I was thinking of offering to dispose of them in the incinerator I just built for government contracts like this; I can guarantee to underbid all others...

So, Chris, I hear you say, how come you never really post about the drug wars in Mexico? The answer is because it's too close to home and it's too damned scary. I've actually written about it before, but mostly regurgitating the numbers and factoids of people who have died in horriblly tragic events, where people are executed, cops are killed, and journalists and politicians sought out for bloody revenge.
At a meeting over a year ago, Mexico's attorney general announced that he was afraid that the government was becoming unstabilized by the war on cartels and drugs, losing hearts and minds in certain regions of the country: "This was before drug cartels killed a gubernatorial candidate and began murdering mayors, before shootings and kidnappings in Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, surged to the point that the State Department ordered children of American diplomats there to leave the country... The United States government provides Mexico with intelligence to pinpoint where top drug lords are hiding out, trains elite troops, and American officials discuss strategy to try to quell the violence in Ciudad Ju├írez, which has become ground zero in the drug war.

But the cables suggest frustration that the military, the police and prosecutors are not up to the task. In a blunt assessment, John Feeley, the deputy chief of mission at the American Embassy in Mexico City, concluded in January that military officials “share the parochial, risk-averse habits that often plague their civilian counterparts in Mexican law enforcement agencies.”

A year later, there have been some notable successes in capturing or killing cartel leaders and their violent lieutenants. Police intelligence appears to have become more effective. But the military continues to play the top role in the drug war, and the violence that so worried Mexican officials at the end of last year has spread, becoming more entrenched than ever."

Mexico's President Felipe Calderone next plans on reorganizing the local police forces and clamping down on money laundering, except the Mexican legislature failed to pass the initiatives to allow him to do this, which may hurt his plans for re-election in 2012. Legislatures said that they don't want to rush things through just because he wanted it, they are tired of his right wing, heavy-handed tactics, and don't want to give him anymore power. So, it looks like Felipe has also entered into his lame duck phase.

But the violence doesn't end overnight. On Friday, over 140 prisoners escaped from a prison near the Texas border, and they had help from employees of the prison. A human rights advocate was gunned down, and it looks like the cartels are still on full-frontal in-your-face mode. I said about a year before that we may have to invade Mexico, perhaps annex it as the next state, making us all Mexicans now... which I don't mind because it's time to go out and search for the perfect Christmas tamales... but not only would Mexico grow most of our hothouse vegetables and fruits, but supply us with our medical marijuana so that we can stop growing it in industrial spaces near our schools, maybe even have the cartels go legitimate so they will stop buying all of those guns in California, Arizona, and Texas. You thought business deals were cut-throat, before... Another little known tidbit - our ATF is so lame that they don't even keep track of the automatic and semi-automatic rifles that are sold in batch auctions. They keep track of handguns sold that way, but have been so scared of the NRA that they can't tell you where the rifles went...

I saw a picture of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul being distributed to an Afghani tribesman, which threw me for a loop. I can't find the picture anywhere, though I suspect it came from the AP. It got me thinking about books that are approved, at the American Embassy in Kabul I found a list of books they have republished and are distributing, though the Chicken Soup books weren't on it. I imagine they would have to rewrite them for the locals: Chicken Soup for the Jihadi Soul, Paula Deene Takes on Taliban Cuisine, Martha Stewart's Holiday Ideas for Your Hut, The Drones Are Singing...

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