Friday, December 17, 2010

Joe Miller Laurent Gbagbo Separated At Birth? Iraq and Belgium? Wikileaks and Italy's Trial of Abu Omar Kidnapping?

Paul Krugman
Steve Benen
Benjamin Sarlin
“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” - Spencer Bachus
"There’s no question that he and his colleagues will do everything they can to block effective regulation of the people and institutions responsible for the economic nightmare of recent years. So they need a cover story saying that it was all the government’s fault." - Paul Krugman
"Is it too much to ask that Republican lawmakers, responsible for helping shape federal policy, do a little homework?" - Steve Benen

Not a whole lot of interesting events going on over the past couple of days, unless you are a political junky glued to the lame duck session in Congress. Yet there are certain trends that have been showing up around the world; we might call this the tear of the contested elections. I don't know if there are any behavioristic parallels between Alaska's Joe Miller and the Ivory Coast"s Laurent Gbagbo, but neither of them will admit defeat, and neither of them are very gracious about it. They both surround themselves with a militia, and it looks like Mr Gbagbo will stay on and begin another civil war in what used to be a stable, affluent country. We'll see if Joe Miller will do the same to Alaska...

Both Iraq and Belgium have been unable to form a government after an election, with both sides opposed to sharing: "Belgium has sunk into political chaos. Following the parliamentary elections six months ago, all attempts to build a new government have failed. The country is divided into two camps that oppose each other, apparently irreconcilably: the socialists, who won the most votes in Wallonia, the French-speaking southern region of the country, and the nationalist conservatives in Flanders, the wealthier Dutch-speaking northern region." We've read over and over again how the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds are having such a hard time getting along, but they seem to unify in torturing and killing Christians, while the divisions in Belgium seem to be more of a tolerant, liberal half, and a moneyed, conservative half from Dutch lineage. I must admit to not knowing which side makes their world-famous chocolates, but my sister will automatically take up their side...

Despite all of the blustering and whining and threatening over the wikileaks by the US, they shed a lot of light on the 2007 CIA renditioning trial in Italy, which was damaging to the US, and it was one factor that lead to Berlesconi having to face a recent confidence/no-confidence election, along with his partying... : "... a court in Milan started trying several CIA agents in absentia for their roles in the 2003 kidnapping of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who had been living in the northern Italian city. When the indictments first came down, the US government tried to intervene -- first in Milan and then in Rome -- so as to influence the investigations of the public prosecutor's office.

At first, the efforts were conducted via diplomatic channels. But, later, they also took place during top-level talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. American diplomats and even the US secretary of defense were assured that the Italian government "was working hard to resolve the situation... Omar, who was known to Italian authorities as a hate preacher at a mosque in Milan, was seized in broad daylight on the open street, hustled into a white van, anesthetized and then flown from Italy to Egypt via Germany. There, Omar claims he was brutally mistreated by Egyptian intelligence officers. He also claims that American officials were present while he was being tortured and interrogated. After being held for 14 months, Omar was finally released, though he continues to live under a type of house arrest."

The leaks showed how the Italian government tried to suck up to the US, and it's amazing that the trial went through to its end: "Although there were verdicts, arrest warrants and extradition requests in the case, the Italian government refused to formally forward the requests to the US, just as Berlin had done. As a result, Abu Omar's kidnappers are still at large.

The only consequence is that Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA station chief in Milan, had to change his plans for his retirement. He can no longer travel to the wonderful property that he bought for himself in Tuscany." Damn, all the more reason to find a way to extradite Julian from the English manor estate that he has been released to as a condition of his bail... And if American agents are successful in abducting Mr Assange and ferrying him to some unkown US jail, will they then use our tax dollars to party like they were with Silvio Berlesconi, like the CIA agents did with Abu Omar: "... a number of agents had rewarded themselves for the successful kidnapping operation by spending a weekend in a luxury hotel in Venice, complete with generous expense accounts." I know there's a commercial for a Hilton hotel in there somewhere, I just can't seem to coaxe it out...

After a hard day of kidnapping and rendition...

Two other events of note: the Nigerian government has withdrawn its lawsuit against Halliburton and Dick Cheney, after Halliburton agreed to pay them $250 million... so the Nigerian scams really do pay off, guess I'll stop forwarding the ones in my email box to the FBI... And it has finally happened, TPM reports yhatthe first drone airplane belonging to the Mexican government has crashed on US soil, in an El Paso neighborhood. I thought that the US Border Patrol would be in charge of all drones along the border, but I guess we like Mexico enough to let them buy and play with our toys: "... it was an unmanned, radio-controlled craft called an Orbiter Mini UAV owned by the Mexican government. Border Patrol was the first to respond to the crash, and has since turned the investigation over the the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes.

But the drone has already been returned to the Mexican government and NTSB officials say they are not visiting the scene of the crash.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway told TPM today that it's is looking at the "safety perspective" of the crash. "What we're looking at is, why the drone crashed," he said. "Not necessarily what it was doing."

Holloway said his agency is working with Customs & Border Patrol and NORAD on the investigation. As he told CNN, "I guess we are investigating, but we don't know what we're going to do with the information at this point."

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