Monday, January 31, 2011

Mubarak Still Denies Reality, Hillary Not Helping, Bank of Kabul

Mansoura Ez-Eldin

"We will accept no change other than Mubarak's departure," - an anonymous protester

"We want a complete change of government, with a civilian authority."

Hosni Mubarak swore in his brand new cabinet this morning, thinking that the change should be enough for the protesters. Almost all of the new guys are from the security side of government, including one who used to be in charge of prisons. He might as well have surrounded himself with an armed militia while telling the television cameras "Come and get me, suckas!" It's not just that Mubarak is older than dirt, but having ruled for over 30 years without hearing any criticism, because the critics end up in jail, he tends to see the world through a distorted lense. He thinks that his decisions bear wisdom and that they are right for his country. If he receives affection from a family member, then everyone else loves him, too. His befriending the Americans and taking their money, has kept them from meddling in other Islamic countries...

OOPS US President Barack Obama, who in private has assured Mubarak that we are on your side, made a public statement about supporting a democratic government that can hold free elections, while Hillary Clinton is going on about there should be a clear, non-violent transition of governments. Political gobbledegook, speak indistinctly while carrying a big spear for stabbing in the back... Well, Hoss, looks like you may be on your own... Mubarak will not flee the country like his son Gamal has done, quickly flying to London to view the riots from a flat-screen at the bar. The opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei has flown in to Cairo from his home in Vienna, I wonder if they got to wave at each other as their paths crossed in the air... Mubarak feels that if he keeps making these false promises, the people's rage will die down, which means that he hasn't been out walking through the poorer neighborhoods in over 40 years or so. Again, a lot of the protests are about human dignity, where a fruit vendor can be daily harassed by the police, have his cart upended by the police, his fruit stolen by the police, and beaten up by the police when he doesn't pay them bribes for protection. Multiply by 365 days over 20 years by god know how many other vendors are out there trying to make a living, and you get an idea why people want Mubarak, or at least his police, to go.

To show how other world leaders are also out of touch, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu tried to tie everything together with Iran, his largest imaginary foe. He warned that an outcome in Egypt could be an Islamic republic like Iran. He really was hoping for an excuse to invade and liberate, to restore the kind of order where Egypt has been such a good friend to Israel over the years. He can't see that this protest has nothing to do with Israel, just as it has nothing to do with the US, and nothing to do with Iran, China, Russia, Brazil, or India. It might have something to do with Syria and Algeria, and is the region's biggest antidote to al Qaeda style extremism, something that the rich power brokers in Saudi Arabia should have been backing instead...

After the Day of Rage has cleansed everyone of bad karma, tomorrow's protests are being called the Million's March. Hosni's best crony, the new, vie-president, has said that he has permission to talk to the opposition, so get your decoder rings and have them handy...

So far, there have been about 1200 of the 25000 files released to the public from the latest wikileak dump, and some of the cables gave us interesting background that set the stage in Tunisia and Egypt. Cables about the Afghanistan National Bank showed how a few shareholders were using it as their personal piggybank, taking money out in loans as fast as money for payrolls could pour in. As a result, the NY Times reported that there is still over $900 million missing with little chance to recover it. Well, they could. One of the scams uncovered is that a wealthy person who wanted a multi-million dollar loan would go to his gardener and get him to sign for the loan. When investigators went to the gardener's home they would find a poor man living in a poor house, with barely over $100 in assets, which made the investigators throw their hands up in frustration and walk away. Never bothered to ask the gardener who he signed the loan for...

Wikileak cables say that NATO and IMF bank monitors knew of this corruption for years but trurned a blind eye because they were more interested in learning how terrorists were being funded. Now, bank officers are fleeing the country as new investigations are being made public, and the bank is about to fail. This story first hit last Fall, and a new president of the bank was put in place. He hasn't recovered one penny to date, and the person he replaced caused a branch in Kandahar to close after he took out $1.3 million in cash..."So far it is only Kabul Bank — where what amounts to an enormous fraud scheme was conducted over a period of years — whose troubles are sending tremors through the Afghan business community and worrying Western donors.

Deloitte, a top United States accounting firm that had staffers in the Central Bank under a United States government contract over the last several years, either did not know or did not mention to American authorities that it had any inkling of serious irregularities at Kabul Bank." Every international monitoring system has known about this problem for years, the US has known about it but chose not to care, and the only time an investigation is launched is after the story goes public and everyone is publicly humiliated?

Perhaps we should start checking the personal bank accounts of every company that has been contracted for work in Afghanistan if we want to get all of the money back... Along with every military general and colonel and every Afghani government official who has their family squirreled away in a house in Dubai... Except most of this money went into people's pockets as cash, not electronic transfers. Maybe we need to send Rep Henry Waxman over there to conduct a few hearings, although admittedly he didn't get much out of L Paul Bremer when he asked him what happened to the $1 billion in cash that was sent on a jet to Iraq for Bremer to use as bribery... Bremer said he was so gosh darned busy at that time he couldn't remember a thing. Makes you wish that we could send a few Americans to Guantanamo, the new place for white collar crime...

I'm beginning to wonder if the unreleased stuff is any good, or if they're going to see if the US is successful in putting Assange in jail for some trumped up fictional charges. If it were myself, I'd release everything because I'm an old guy in pain every day, don't care as much if I live or die these days, and I sure don't have any kind of public image. The only satisfaction I get nowadays is seeing some analysis I posted come back a few days later in a story in the Times or Washington Post, or even Arabic News... It's the nature of journalists and pundits to act even worse than magicians and comics and steal material wherever they can. It's enough to make me listen to my old Mort Sahl records for solace, pretend that its myself walking on Ed Sullivan's stage with a copy of today's newspaper and a silly grin...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Of My Favorite Phrases, NAMBLA In Afghanistan, Eatin Jesus Chikin

Paul Krugman
Elliot Abrams
John Barry
"Which brings me back to Paul Ryan and his response to President Obama... Mr. Ryan is widely portrayed as an intellectual leader within the G.O.P., with special expertise on matters of debt and deficits. So the revelation that he literally doesn’t know the first thing about the debt crises currently in progress is, as I said, interesting — and not in a good way." - Paul Krugman
"A social networking revolution has started in Saudi Arabia. Over 10 million Saudis are now online. In fact, the most popular social networking site for women in Saudi Arabia: 'Cover-Your-Facebook.'" – Jay Leno

"Egypt is in the second day of angry street protests. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for calm. Because nothing calms an enraged Arab country like a powerful woman ordering it around." – Conan O'Brien

I didn't post anything last Friday, but still wanted to link to Paul Krugman's column, because he always has interesting critiques, this one is on Rep Paul Ryan, who gave the GOP response to the State of the Union speech. He reiterates what I keep saying, that even at their best and brightest, the extreme conservatives are not too bright after all. But, then, we knew that. During the last two years, when they could have come up with comprehensive legislature to help solve our economic problems, they were content to do nothing, take the lazy way out and criticize Obama for every sentence he uttered. Then, they sit around complimenting Mitch McConnell for his genius, where did you ever think of such strategy Mitch, Senator from Kentucky, home of almost every maker of bourbon whiskey sold in America... Elliot Abrams' opinion piece proves what arrogant dumbasses George Bush surrounded himself with, although I will grant George with having some good intuition on some things that happened in the Middle East, it's been proven that even a monkey throwing darts randomly at stocks taped to the wall can come up with a winning Wall Street profile now and then... And John Barry profiles the State Department's reaction to the news in Egypt and Tunisia, think of those same monkeys running around and throwing their feces against the wall...

Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech saying that change had to come to Egypt, and the papers commented on her lack of mentioning any strategy regarding Hosni Mubarak. Hillary is a bit of a hawk, she has an aggressive nature that hates to lose, and can best be summed up in this quote:
"If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it."
So, of course she's a bit disgruntled to be losing someone whom she has successfully negotiated with before. In this, she's more old school Democrat, from the Lyndon Johnson frame of mind: "He may be a sonovabitch, but he's our sonofabitch!" Mubarak is a known entity, what may replace him we don't know how friendly they will be. Certainly, our relationship will change, but as long as we don't send any condescending bastards over to negotiate with the new government, things should work out fine. The whole Middle East will work out fine, with more people interested and taking part in their governments, protecting human rights, they may become a beacon for the rest of the world. Let them deal with Islamic extremism in their own way, let them tackle the root causes, and all we have to do is support them in a real and honest fashion...

The NY Times interviewed representatives from the other, non-democratic countries in the region, who were attending the economic summit in Davos, Switzerland: "Few of the executives present expected a revolution to spread across the oil-rich nations of the Gulf, where the governments are monarchies, which often do not create the types of expectations that accompany a democracy. Rulers in these countries use their oil wealth to invest in social stability by ensuring that their own people lead comfortable lives through subsidies on things like electricity, education and food. “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are going to be spared because they are not democratic regimes,” said Jamal Khashoggi, the general manager of Al Waleed 24 News Channel. People in those countries “don’t feel cheated because there are no elections,” he said. By contrast, he said, “I can feel the agony of an Egyptian when he sees how democracy is mocked.”

On Thursday, the Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud had this answer when asked whether a wave of democracy across the Middle East might be even more destabilizing than a nuclear Iran: “I don’t know; in Saudi Arabia, we have neither nuclear weapons nor democracy.”
“What counts is jobs. This is not just a problem in the Arab world; it’s a global issue that’s hitting the United States and Europe, too.” - Sheik Mohammed

Then we can begin to point out instances where certain traditions conflict with human rights and dignity, such as the time honored practices of pedophilia in parts of Afghanistan.: "The government will for the first time officially acknowledge the problem of child sex slaves. As part of the Afghan tradition of bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” boys as young as 9 are dressed as girls and trained to dance for male audiences, then prostituted in an auction to the highest bidder. Many powerful men, particularly commanders in the military and the police, keep such boys, often dressed in uniforms, as constant companions for sexual purposes.

United Nations officials say they believe that there are hundreds of cases of under-age boys in the police, “mostly because of falsification of papers, also bribes, and there’s been a big push to get the numbers up,” one official said.

Afghanistan hopes that its participation in the action plan will lead to the removal of the Afghan National Police from the list of organizations condemned by the United Nations for using children in armed conflict. The others in Afghanistan also include the Taliban, the Haqqani network and the Islamic Party, insurgent groups that often use children to hide bombs, and in some cases to act as suicide bombers." Creepy, huh? Yet the use of young boys goes back 300 years and at one time widely spread throughout Central Asia. Gives a new meaning to the phrase Old Asia Hand... to the Taliban's credit, they, too, were against this practice. I never heard of this contemporary practice of having boy toys, only read about it in history books and the fiction of Gary Jennings, and wonder why it has taken the newspapers nine years to getting around to reporting this story. Perhaps softening us up for the time when we withdraw our troops??? Makes one wonder if Afghanistan is a member of NAMBLA...

I have to admit that I don't get out much, and we do tend to eat fast-food at our house. And I watch a lot of television at night, and I am just as susceptible to the lure of commercials. MMMMMmmm, that looks good, let's go to burger King and try that, or, I wonder if there's a Sonic drive-in nearby... I have to admit that I had never heard about the fowl clashes between gay advocates and Evangelical Christians over Chik-fil-a.. I had never heard their sandwiches referred to as "Jesus chicken" and hoped it wasn't in the same way that Michael Jackson referred to "Jesus Juice..." I began to worry that those shadowy cow-like creatures weren't really Jesuit enforcers dispatched from the Vatican, adding another cryptic layer to the marketing phrase of:

Especially since it quickly becomes indoctrination for our younger generations:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egyptian Chaos

I have been going to a lot of news web sites, looking for some good punditry that's not condescending. There's a lot of why didn't anyone in our government or think tanks or intelligence agencies see this coming in Egypt? A lot of second guessing, and ignoring the main flaming indicators, the number of men who also set themselves on fire in the Egyptian streets... The utter dismissal by Mubarak of the protesters on Tuesday, of their concerns and his lack of self-introspection. Maybe we should send Baby Doc Duvalier to Cairo to give this man some advice, what might and what can happen when you are so blind to reality... The same goes here, when opinions veer from very hawkish to very racist, to very acceptance. Mostly, it's young people who support these protests, and us older folks who are fearful what may happen once the old law and order falls apart. All of these revolutions are ones for basic human rights and dignity. More and more it looks like Turkey has gotten it right...

To watch any live, streaming coverage from al Jazeera in English, go to this link. Right now, chaos is ruling the streets of Cairo. There are gangs looting storefronts, and anyone with money isn't safe to walk around. The police are only in the main streets, and the Army is non-existent. Neighborhoods have created their own protection committees, with young men checking each car and will only allow people in if they know who they are. Rumors that the police are the ones doing the looting, or at least directing the looting. Other rumors that the government's security service have been terrorizing to make the situation more violent, so that people will welcome whatever the government imposes next to create order. Confrontation is taking place between the roving looters and the neighborhood watchers, as there isn't enough army to protect the entire city.

Hosni Mubarak will only leave and give up power unless he dies, and this scenario may happen over the next couple of days. Mubarak appointed the ex-head of intelligence to be his vice-president, and also appointed a crony of his son to be the new prime minister, thinking that might be enough change to appease Egyptians. It's plain to see that this man and his close circle have been living in their own virtual la-la land for quite some time. Like all leaders, they have lost contact with public opinion, isolated from the problems of the middle and poorer classes of people, who cannot find jobs or put enough food on the table for their families. Unfortunately, it won't matter what kind of government that takes over, the economic problems are global, and shortages of food and water may get worse in the next few years all over north Africa and the Middle East as the water table slowly dries up.

As long as the US coddles and supports the wrong people, gives billions of dollars in foreign aid to buy the friendship of these dictators and propping up their governments, we will be seen as hypocrites. The US needs to keep its big nose out of these events and let the people of Egypt and Tunisia and whomever is next to sort out their own problems. Predictions are that the "people's democracy bug" may strike next somewhere in Asia, though it would be welcome in China and Russia...

Soon, we maybe seeing an ex-dictator's club. right now it looks like it will be centered in Riyadh, though that may also be an ill omen for the Saudi Royals. I understand there is some extra space at the bin Laden family compound in the outskirts of Tehran...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Human Rights Movements, O'Keefe And Rose Show

William Gibson
Gail Collins
“The shooter wins if we, who’ve been elected, change what we do just because of what he did.” - Mike Lee (R)Utah
"Obama's focus tonight was on the economy. He talked a lot about how he wants to create jobs and then announced a plan to freeze government spending. He's promising to put people to work without spending any money to do it, which is what happens after you get a visit from the president of China." –Jimmy Kimmel

Wow. The spotlight is on the Middle East, right now specifically Egypt and Yemen, two countries that are experiencing thousands of people taking to the streets in protest against the dictator in charge. In Egypt's case, Hosni Mubarak has been entrenched since 1981, and has his military behind him. To their credit, though, so far the military and police have used rubber bullets and truncheons to beat the crap out of their children. Mostly, the protesters here want Mubarak to resign and to abide by actual election results, and for more personal freedoms like a free press, and free expression of ideas and music.

In Yemen the situation is more serious, because the man in charge is more vicious and unstable. In recent years he has been fighting a secessionist group in the north, a rebellious group in the south, and then there are other groups like al Qaeda, though many feel the latter was formed just to get money and arms from the gullible Americans. Like the protesting groups in other countries, the protesters are divided on the goals they want, plus there is the fear of what might really happen if the government does fall, can they take over peacefully or will one of these militant groups take advantage of the situation?

There were protests of a sort in Afghanistan. People weren't taking to the streets, and not for fear of targeting drones, but the newly elected parliament did demand to be seated and for Hamid Karzai to open the first seccion, making it legal along with the results of the election. The picture above is one of my favorite, it's from the NY Times and is of the Afghan parliament. None of them look very happy, there is a stubborn resignation on their faces, and also there are quite a few female faces. Karzai wanted to hold off on the opening session until he could finagle some more supporters into parliament, but he lost the support of the elected Pashtuns, and now he is more isolated than ever. Look to him making more deals with the Iranians just to piss off the US, his way of saying f**k you...

The remarkable thing is how cellphones, computers, and websites like Facebook and Twitter have helped plan the protests, and then report on them while they are happening. You know that when the companies were reciting all that marketing bullshit that they would revolutionize how the web was used, that they actually would revolutionize countries. And if these peaceful revolutions succeed, we have won more points for the forces of truth and light, that we have enough educated people in the world now to throw out the old paradigm of might makes right, and the best form of government is from the few to the many. I can just see the hawks in our Pentagon and State Department looking on in frustration as they realize that their way of looking at the world is no longer viable, do they retire with some shred of dignity, or will they have to jump out the window...

What's even more remarkable, how the action of one man, driven to the end by humiliation, poverty, and the lack of justice, in ultimate frustration and despair, poured a gallon of gasoline over himself and set fire where members of the government and the whole town could see. And that act of self-immolation sparked off the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of people, who saw themselves in the flames and decided to change their world for the better. Even if they don't topple every government right now, in a few years they will become the government and they will make changes, so they have already won... or at least that's what we told each other in the '60's and 70's...

Well, let's talk about some stupid people for a change. No, I'm not referring to the statement that Sarah Palin made that Barack Obama was wrong in his SOTU speech. She went on to say that the reasons the Soviets went bankrupt was because we won the Space Race, when any 6th grader can tell you the correct answer is the Arms Race. No, instead let's talk about the incredibly dumb James O'Keefe, who like to dress up as a cartoon version of a black pimp from the 70's, and his equally misguided friend, Lila Rose.

TPM reports that the FBI has been notified by Planned Parenthood that: "In the course of five days this month, eight Planned Parenthood clinics in five states and D.C. reported getting the same visit: A man said he needed treatment for a sexually transmitted disease and then, once alone with a staff member, implied that he ran an interstate sex trafficking ring that involves minors and illegal immigrants."

Why, oh why does one think that such a lame story would remind one of James former videos, like the one he filmed against ACORN, where he pretends to be a pimp needin help with his hoes and underage girls he's bringing in across the border..? "A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood would not reveal the identity of the man, or men, who visited the clinics. The group does, however, suspect he has ties to Live Action, the pro-life, anti-Planned Parenthood group run by O'Keefe associate Lila Rose.

Live Action's mission is to stop abortion, and its favored tool is undercover videos which the group says proves Planned Parenthood's "willingness to repeatedly tell medically inaccurate misinformation," "willingness to repeatedly violate mandatory reporting laws for statutory rape" and "racism."

Rose, who runs the group, worked with O'Keefe on her first series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos in 2006 after the two met at the Leadership Institute. Neither Rose nor O'Keefe returned calls from TPM for comment. Rose told the Associated Press that Planned Parenthood's letter is "very interesting."

Proving that Lila Rose also isn't the sharpest crayon in the box, she responded way too defensively, mixed with bragging and paranoia: "She didn't confirm her involvement in the incidents, but said, "The story that speaks loudest will be in the evidence," she said. "I can't comment until we release the visual evidence." According to the LA Times, Ms Rose is: "the UCLA student who poses as a pregnant teen with a 31-year-old boyfriend to show that Planned Parenthood does not always follow statutory rape reporting requirements."

If these stories of Lila and James are true, looks like they will be getting to punk some prisoners in the federal pen in the near future... oh, those wacky kids, if only some responsible adult had read them the riot act when they were pulling their lame stunts against ACORN, but, that's the problem when you hang out with other extreme-repubs...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brief Reaction to State of the Union Speech and It's Rebuttals

Eugene Robinson
Dana Milbank
State of the Union Full Text
"It was OK" - John Boehner
"Every Republican in Congress voted to repeal the health care legislation. They admitted it was symbolic, but it does enable Republicans to brag in campaign ads next year that they voted to let poor people die." – Bill Maher

"Next week Boehner will be sitting behind Obama at the State of the Union address. I think Obama should purposely try to embarrass him by telling the story of Old Yeller. The State of Our Union is strong, but not so good for one special dog.'" – Bill Maher

How did you like the President's State of the Union speech? You can read the full text in the link above, or just skip all that and go straight to the dissections in the local papers. The problem with being a good orator is that people expect you to knock their socks off every time. Obama gave a decent speech, tried to keep it upbeat and positive, emphasizing what we need to do in the near future. He didn't tell many jokes, he usually uses the writers from the Daily Show, and this time it looks like he got this one off of the Internet: ""The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

More interesting, was the audience, or should I say lack of response from the audience. Sitting in a new format, one Dem, one Repub, etc, proved to be more formal and produced zero catcalls, with everyone looking at each other out of the corners of their eyes, or in the case of Michele Bachmann, off to the side directly into the tea party express camera, which focused mostly on her reaction than to Obama giving the speech. Priorities... Obama went middle of the road, often co-opting Republican ideas and talking points, not leaving them much room to wriggle. One thing he proposed, and nobody seemed to have noticed, is that he has offered to re-organize the federal government, the actual bureaucratic structure, so that there are no more redundant departments, which will slim down and become more responsive. If he actually does that, he has taken care of the tea party's main complaints, and they will be a party without a cause, have to rename themselves the hemlock tea party or kool aid express...

The problem with the Republican responses are that they are written well before the President gives his speech, so there is always a disconnect, and they often have nothing to do with any content of his speech. It really showed when Bobby Jindal gave it last year, and Paul Ryan didn't come across as an idiot this year. A little Bible quoting and a little quoting from the Constitution. He did an OK job, using only a few cliches and keeping the temper of the speech in the doom and gloom area, showing that the Republicans just don't have an adequate response to Barack Obama. Obama showed that he learned something from the mid-term elections, has changed focus of his actions and speeches, while the Republicans feel that they can rest on the mid-term results and that is enough success for them for the next two years. At this rate, they will lose their shirts in the next election because Obama has taken and used all of their good ideas, leaving them with the ideological dregs...

The tea party has proven to be rather short on ideas and unbending in the few they have. Less government and cutting taxes and repealing health care, that's it, our solutions and our saviors. If Obama restructures the federal government and it becomes more efficient and responsive, and if he fixes the problems with the health care bill, the only thing left on their plate are cutting taxes. Then, they might as well rejoin the Republican Party, lest they sink beneath the waves in motley despair.

One of our local reporters was feeling frisky today, I don't know if this was slipped past the editors or if they, too, have a sense of humor. Anyway, this is one incident I would love to see on Youtube:

By Maria St. Louis-Sanchez
The Gazette
POSTED: 01/25/2011 10:19:56 AM MST
UPDATED: 01/25/2011 10:21:39 AM MST

A Chihuahua's life was saved Monday afternoon when a firefighter pulled the dog from a burning home and gave him mouth-to-snout resuscitation.

In all, three dogs were saved from the blaze at 1920 Chamberlin South, said Darren Pellett, the Stratmoor Hills firefighter who rescued the small dog. No people were in the home when the fire broke out about 1 p.m. and burned the home's main level.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Speeches Tonight, Angry Day

Eugene Robinson
Robert Reich
Henry Waxman
"If the federal budget were organized sanely, it would be divided into three parts: (1) Past obligations, (2) Current needs, (3) Future investments." - Robert Reich
"I am a strong believer in oversight. Done correctly, congressional oversight can help all levels of government function better. Midlevel procurement officials are likely to be more vigilant if they know that Congress might challenge the terms of a boondoggle contract. Cabinet secretaries ask more questions and make better decisions if they know that Congress will scrutinize their initiatives. And billions of taxpayer dollars can be saved through exposing wasteful practices." - Henry Waxman

Obama will give his State of the Union speech tonight, the White House has leaked enough so we already know what he will be saying, the only question is, will it be a hit or a miss?

Hamlet: Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it as many of your players
do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.

Directly followed by the Republican response giver by Paul Ryan:

Oh, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others
praise and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that neither having
the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man,
have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature's
journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated
humanity so abominably.

Followed on the tea party express website by Michelle Bachman:

Oh reform it altogether. And let those that play your clowns
speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that
will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators
to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of
the play be then to be considered. That's villainous, and shows
a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go make you ready.

Who says that you can't inject classical manner into today's rude and blustery politics? After all, all the world's a stage...

Here is the link to al Jazeera's Palestinian Papers. The main papers are under the heading of Key Documents in the right hand column.

This may have proven to be one of the angriest days of the year for the Middle East. Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Egypt, hoping to spark a Tunisian style revolution and toppling of the government. Lots of tear gas and rubber bullets were used... In Lebanon, violence flared as protesters took to the streets against Hezbollah naming a candidate for Prime Minister, after they pulled out of the pact of cooperation that had formed the government of Saad Hariri. This country could erupt into a civil war, but I think that Hezbollah will prevail and their candidate will put a government together... Angry Palestinians took to the streets over al Jazeera's release of the Palestinian Papers, and a crowd invaded their office in Ramallah... If there were justice in this world, Israelis would be taking to the streets and expressing a NO confidence vote in the Netanyahu coalition, resulting in the dissolution of their government, but that has not happened, those old goniffs are too entrenched in charge, kicking back and enjoying the chaos that they have helped cause. May we live in interesting times...

Egyptian protesters

Monday, January 24, 2011

State Of Union, Palestinian Papers, Global Fund Global Corruption

Paul Krugman
Dana Milbank
Andrew Romano
"For whatever reason, however, the teachable moment came and went with nothing learned." - Paul Krugman
"I have a Sarah Palin problem... I feel powerless to control my obsession, even though it cheapens and demeans me." - Dana Milbank
"Beyond all the easily disprovable falsehoods, Bachmann is famous for simply saying outrageous things: that homosexuality is a "dysfunction"; that Obama is turning America into a "nation of slaves"; that conservatives should "slit their wrists" and be "blood brothers" to defeat health-care reform." - Andrew Romano

Tomorrow President Obama will give his State of the Union address, with the GOP's response to be given by Tom Ryan, followed by yet another rebuttal by Michelle Bachmann for the tea party express. Wednesday's papers will be filled with talking points, listed side by side, and it could be used as a drinking game. One drink for each time Obama mentions job creation or competiveness, followed by one drink for the mention of job killing or spending cuts by the opposition. Damn, I'll be drunk before 10 AM... The GOP has already been trying to load the deck, by challenging Obama to be more centrist in his proposed ideas, with the thought that anything he says that isn't left-wing will be a victory for them... except Obama has never been left-wing, he has only been portrayed as one by the GOP. If I hear another middle aged man or woman go off about how he's a Socialist, as if that's a bad word or Sweden is our mortal enemy...

My biggest complaint with the incoming class of legislators, is that they want to do some drastic things without thinking about them first; all they want to really do is cause damage how the federal government works. It's like going to the hospital for a bad cold and ending up with one of your limbs cut off - there, there, don't you feel better? Reducing budgets so that people get laid off and have to go on unemployment seems more vindictive than intelligent analysis. If you really want to balance the budget in a few short years, all you have to do is bring back all of our troops fro Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, and reduce the military's budget by $500 billion dollars, back to pre-9/11 days, and we save over a trillion dollars every two years. You don't have to cut any other programs that help people, and then we can go over the budget line by line and have timely debates over the merits of each expense instead of the slash and burn method the Republican firebrands are straining at the leash toenact. Besides, if we let them off the leash now, how many will just go up and piss on the papers instead of igniting them? ( That was a veiled shout out to the authors of The Dog Ate My Blog, which I have just linked to... check them out, social commentary by those less grumpy than I can ever be...)

While I was watching football and reading the Sunday paper, all of the explosive fun was happening again in the Middle East, and I don't mean the inevitable co-opting of the Tunisian revolution by the established power brokers. Al Jazeera now wants to be known as another rival to wikileaks, and made public the notes on the last ten years of US brokered negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Guess what? Everyone involved in them is now embarrassed and pissed off, making aggressive statements to the press, showing off how macho they really are, not some compromising pussy-cats, meow, meow...: "The cache of documents, the first set of which was revealed by Al-Jazeera late on Sunday night, contain potentially damning revelations on the amount of land in annexed East Jerusalem that the Palestinians were willing to cede to Israel. And the hundreds of documents, dating from 1999 onwards, also reveal that Israel gave the Palestinian leadership advance warning before it launched a devastating 22-day invasion of Gaza in December 2008."

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried to cover his ass with the other Arab countries, assuring them that nothing secret was ever kept from them: "He said Palestinian negotiators had never sought to hide the terms of their peace talks with Israel from Arab neighbors. "With everything we have done — in terms of activities with the Israelis or the Americans — we have given the Arabs details," Wafa quoted Abbas as saying. "I don't know where Al-Jazeera got these secret things from, and there is nothing hidden from the Arab brothers," he added, insisting that Arab countries were constantly updated on developments through the Arab League."

"Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reacted furiously, accusing Al-Jazeera of a smear campaign and alleging the documents contained unspecified inaccuracies and falsehoods. Erekat said the leaked documents were taken "out of context and contain lies. We don't have anything to hide, and I reiterate that Al-Jazeera's information is full of distortions and fraud," he said. "We will examine the documents to reveal the truth and if there is a need to publish all the documents of the negotiations unit, then it will be done."

Al Jazeera has been blamed for trying to foment a Tunisian style uprising, purposely trying to damage the Palestinian negotiators, and taking Israel's side. Also, in the Arab News, writer Linda Heard said that after reading the documents released so far, that : "If they are, indeed, a genuine verbatim record of talks between Israelis and Palestinians brokered by the Americans, they confirm what many already knew:

Israelis are not seriously interested in working toward the creation of a Palestinian state other than one that is diminished, robbed of Jerusalem, toothless, demilitarized to the extent it would be unable to defend its own borders and with no control over its own airspace. Saeb Erekat admitted to US envoy George Mitchell that "The Palestinians know they will have a country with limitations. They won't have an army, air force or navy."

Palestinian negotiators have so little clout and are so desperate to clinch a deal that they are almost at the point of selling-out their own grandmothers - or to be precise their grandchildren.

• The Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority has been closely cooperating with Israel's security forces, was hand-in-glove with Washington and Tel Aviv to bring down Hamas and was advised of Israel's plans to launch "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza in advance of hostilities."

Other commentators have said that the Palestinian negotiations for a two state solutions have been effectively killed. But really, it exposes the facts that Benjamin Netanyahu's government has had no intention of giving the Palestinians anything, they have been jerking their chains, and nothing will ever happen until Netanyahu and all of the other conservative right-wingers leave office, because they are too rigid and prejudiced to make any agreements... Also, the Palestinians need new leaders, younger and smarter than these washed out old hacks that are barely clinging to power. They will never have anything beyond the dream of a Palestinian state until that happens. Maybe al Jazeera is right, that a Tunisian style revolution needs to happen in Palestine, to further shake up the old farts who run the Arab world by using other people's oppression to make money and prestige... It really is too bad that the only time we may get anywhere is by humiliating our leaders in public...

Non profit and charity groups have been taking advantage of war-torn areas and countries hit by natural disasters, taking donated money and pocketing it, thank you very much. The AP uncovered another huge fund that has been taking the money - the Global Fund, a $21.7 billion private organization that advertises to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, now revealed to take as much as 2/3 of grant money that remains unaccountable: "A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, the Associated Press has learned. Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.

The fund’s newly strengthened inspector general’s office, which uncovered the corruption, can’t give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing. A full 67 percent of money expended on an anti-AIDS program in Mauritania was misspent, the investigators told the fund’s board of directors. So was 36 percent of the money spent on a program in Mali to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and 30 percent of grants to Djibouti." Corrupt administrators are currently in jail in places like Zambia, Mali, and Mauritania.

The major embarrassment to this scam is that it was touted as a viable alternative to various UN programs, which were also labeled to be corrupt. Countries have pledged million of dollars in donations, and many Celebrities have been pimping for the fund, among them have been Bono, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Kofi Annan, and groups like the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, which gave them over $150 million per year. Way to go, Bill, I guess we still haven't found what we're looking for... I know that you will be relieved to hear the response from the fund's inspector general, John Parsons, that the global Fund is serious in uncovering the corruption! That's right, when you run a global fund, you have no place you can hide...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Night in tunisia, A Day in Palestine, A Weekend at the Border

"Dick Cheney predicts that President Obama will only last one term. This is coming from the same guy that predicted weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." – David Letterman
"Dick Cheney had to consult his physician today. Not for his heart. Every time the price of oil goes up more than $1 a barrel, Cheney gets an erection that lasts more than 4 hours." – Jay Leno
"New Speaker of the House John Boehner chose not to attend the dinner for Chinese President Hu. In China, they're calling him an orange chicken." – Jimmy Fallon

I was reading a background story in the NY Times about the Tunisian street vendor who sparked a revolution in that country, and realized that it was caused by the everyday casual cruelness that we often inflict upon each other. If someone had shown him a little more attention and sympathy and had tried to solve his problem with the authorities, life would still be going on under a dictator's thumb. Instead, when he complained, he got beat up in public, suffered the humiliation and loss of his livelihood, had no-where to turn: "Mohamed Bouazizi spent his whole life on a dusty, narrow street here, in a tiny, three-room house with a concrete patio where his mother hung the laundry and the red chilis to dry. By the time Mr. Bouazizi was 26, his work as a fruit vendor had earned him just enough money to feed his mother, uncle and five brothers and sisters at home. He dreamed about owning a van.

Faida Hamdy, a 45-year-old municipal inspector in Sidi Bouzid, a police officer’s daughter, was single, had a “strong personality” and an unblemished record, her supervisor said. She inspected buildings, investigated noise complaints and fined vendors like Mr. Bouazizi, whose itinerant trade may or may not have been legal; no one seems to know.

On the morning of Dec. 17, when other vendors say Ms. Hamdy tried to confiscate Mr. Bouazizi’s fruit, and then slapped him in the face for trying to yank back his apples, he became the hero — now the martyred hero — and she became the villain in a remarkable swirl of events in which Tunisians have risen up to topple a 23-year dictatorship and march on, demanding radical change in their government.

... In a series of interviews, the other fruit vendors, officials and family members described the seemingly routine confrontation that had set off a revolution. They said that Mr. Bouazizi, embarrassed and angry, had wrestled with Ms. Hamdy and was beaten by two of her colleagues, who also took his electronic scale. He walked a few blocks to the municipal building, demanded his property, and was beaten again, they said. Then he walked to the governor’s office, demanded an audience and was refused.

“She humiliated him,” said his sister, Samia Bouazizi. “Everyone was watching.”

Sometime around noon, in the two-lane street in front of the governor’s high gate, the vendor drenched himself in paint thinner then lit himself on fire. A doctor at the hospital where he was treated said the burns covered 90 percent of his body. By the time he died on Jan. 4, protests that started over Mr. Bouazizi’s treatment in Sidi Bouzid had spread to cities throughout the country."

Mohamed Bouazizi's story is commonplace, it happens every day throughout the Middle East and Asia, including being beaten up by the cops or minister's officials. We already are seeing manipulated attempts to get people to revolt in places like Albania, Algeria and Jordan, and the economies are only going to get worse for the next few years. If governments like Egypt and Iran would give their younger people more personal freedoms and ways to express themselves, they might be sticking around a bit longer. Instead, they are alienating people even more, making them feel less like citizens of their countries, more willing to turn to alternative forms for identity, because when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose...

David Letterman's "Top Ten Ways President Obama Celebrated His Two-Year Anniversary In Office"

10. Spelled 'Two Years' on the south lawn of the White House with cigarette butts
9. Romantic dinner with his favorite teleprompter
8. Loaded staffers on a party bus and drove to Pittsburgh
7. Surprised Joe Biden with an open heart necklace from Kay Jewelers
6. Watched Miss Arkansas and her dummies on Dave
5. Went on one of those staged 'I'm a regular guy' burger runs
4. Climbed into a hot bubble bath and read Snooki's book
3. Pardoned Brett Favre
2. Same way President Bush celebrated two years in office: invaded Iraq
1. Began his campaign to replace Regis

There is a resolution in front of the UN Security Council that would condemn Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. It's one trick that the Palestinians are using to go around the stalled negotiations to get themselves a recognized Palestinian State. The virtual state has already been recognized by Brazil, Argentina, and Russia... Barak Obama may let this one go up onto the floor of the Council, which means that they would have to consider it as a legitimate issue. Some results could be that: "... building on the West Bank and even in the forty-year old suburbs of East Jerusalem would become illegal, as would also municipal, police and military actions in these places." Or, he could always veto it, like every other US president before him has done. The Netanyahu government sees this resolution as trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. If deciding lines were to go back to the 1967 pre-invasion lines, then Israel would have no real secure border. But an emergency emissary from Israel has made a secret deal to seriously work through the borderline issue and have it ready without waiting for negotiations to resume. So, Obama can veto the motion, unless those pesky Republicans stop scurrying around trying to bring up new legislature onto the House floor... John Boehner having to lie with a straight face, no we really are bringing up all of this abortion and religious stuff because we really are listening to the American people... If the conservative Netanyahu listened to the Israeli people, they want this Palestinian state thing to already be over with so the damned bombings would stop, and maybe they could build some friendships again instead of killing people trying to cross borders...

Speaking of borders, the US spent a few million on building a border fence between us and Mexico. It's only partially finished because the Bush administration was in charge of building it without Haliburton's help, so it never got very close to being finished, they couldn't find enough Mexicans on this side of the border willing to work on it... and so the legislature took away the rest of the funding for it. And still, there will be drug cartels trying to dig tunnels underneath the partially built fence. Maybe it's one way they've found to launder their money by paying for labor; soon they will be cruising by every Home Depot parking lot, spreading their ill-gotten spoils. In fact, last year the only job sector that did better than being a Somalian pirate, was belonging to a Mexican drug cartel. Not only did profits soar, but the amount of innocent people they murdered and killed went sky-high, more than any year past...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Backdoor Men in China, Russia, Afghanistan, Job-Killers

"Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the White House. Fox News said it was a gathering of the world's most powerful communist — and the president of China." – Craig Ferguson
"Chinese President Hu Jintao made his first official state visit to the Unites States. Vice President Joe Biden has been asked not to do his 'Hu's on first' routine." – Jimmy Kimmel
"There was a really awkward moment when the Chinese president met President Obama's daughters and asked them, 'So what factories do you kids work at?'" – Jay Leno

Whenever we have a State Dinner for a foreign leader, it means that the Pentagon has pulled out all of the stops in selling them arms and technology. That is what we did with India, using a Canadian firm as smokescreen to sell them upgraded nuclear technology. Then, India went and visited Russia and got similar offers... It's not clear what kind of back-room deals are going on with China, since they compete with us in selling both arms and technology. We will sell them some passenger jets and maybe beg them to leave us some room in the solar energy market. This is our own fault. While we have trumpeted how beneficial alternative energy sources are, we have done little research and development, letting it become a political football to toss around when we think the press is watching. China went forward and has developed a solar cell that is both cheap and reliable, which can light up both an isolated hut in Nigeria or a whole village. Children can have lights to read and do homework, and adults can recharge cell phones or power a device like a computer or television. If Hu Jintao is merely visiting us because he is coming to the end of his political term, I hope a visit to Disneyworld in Orlando is on the schedule - it's the least we can do...

But the entertainment is in Afghanistan today, while Hamid Karzai is in Russia, hoping to make his own arms and energy deals, as reported in al Jazeera: "Karzai's national security advisor, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, had told an Al Jazeera producer during the flight to Moscow that there were two reasons for the visit.

The first, said Spanta, was to gauge the possibility of contracting military equipment and for Russian training of Afghan security forces, and the second was to explore business opportunities including those in the energy sector.

Spanta also said the move was to secure Afghanistan's own security after the US-led coalition leaves the country, which is scheduled to take place in 2014. Turton said the US ambassador to Afghanistan was unhappy with Karzai's visit to Russia without consultations with any of his coalition partners.

Spanta was quoted as telling Al Jazeera: "If Afghanistan has learned anything from the lessons of Iran it is that we don't want to rely on one country or one group of countries. We want to have alternatives and that's why we want to forge a new chapter with Russia."

Russia would also like to stop the flow of heroin from Afghanistan. Since drugs is the second largest source of income for the country, the Afghanis made agreements on one hand, then protested when a heroin operation was raided by the Russians without warning... Anyway, there is a fight going on over the recent elections, and now between the newly elected parliament and Hamid Karzai. Karzai is ethnically a Pashtun, and the precincts where his strongest support has been is also the area where there were the most complaints about voter fraud and ballot-stuffing. The elections commission, under observation by the UN, basically threw out all of the votes once fraud had been established, with the result of a weakened power base for Karzai. So Karzai appointed a special investigator whose job was to reverse the election commission's decisions and approve as many representatives who were in favor of Karzai.

Which is where things stood until today. Karzai refused to let the parliament begin its first session until things went his way. Parliament then issued its own press release, saying that they would go and hold session anyway on Sunday, and if the police won't let them in, they'll hold session out in the street, if they have to. The Pashtuns already elected said they would sit this one out. So, instead of football, look for riots in Kabul and bloodshed by suicide bombers taking advantage of the situation.

Now that the Republican dominated House has repealed the health care bill, I wonder what other items they can label as job killing, job crushing, or job denying? I have yet to figure out how jobs relate to anything that they have been preaching. Cutting budgets means spending less money, means firing people from jobs, not hiring more... Most of the states have used up their reserve funds and still will have to cut millions this coming year. California is the worst, needing to cut $25 billion to balance their budget, New York will need $13 billion. Which means firing more people unless income taxes are raised somewhere. We will be firing more people than can be absorbed by the private sector, so our unemployment statistics will rise again this coming year.

Pretty soon a backlash against John Boehner and the other people who came up with the anti-healthcare jobs-killing strategy will develop. When you are caught in such an obvious lie, and it's also clear that there are no good plans to create new jobs by any new Congressman, how do you keep the faith with the public? Maybe we should force every member of Congress to go back to their districts after each vote and explain it their constituents, if they are brave enough to weather the crazies... If I were in Congress, I'd hire Circus du Soleil to distract everyone while I gave my speech in a small corner of the stage. It may not be good politics, but it is good entertainment... or we can coin an new phrase:

F**ked Up By Boehner Any Recognition ?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday Rant, From Tucson to Afghanistan, Tunisia to Mexico, Plus the Mayan Calendar...

Dana Milbank
Mohamad Bazzi
Robert Scheer
"With Tunisia's revolution, Obama missed a chance to show the Arab world that he can live up to his lofty rhetoric. He must seize the next opportunity to portray America as a more sympathetic power - a country that sticks up for the little guy and does not tolerate repression." - Mohamad Bazzi
"Over a long academic career, I have researched and written about 21 American assassins, would-be assassins and domestic terrorists. It is pure nonsense to suggest, as some have,that the political environment has nothing to do with the actions of very disturbed individuals - as Jared L Loughner appears to be - who plan and attack political figures in public venues." - James W Clarke

In many ways we are a myopic society, good when tragedy strikes in our backyard, not so good when similar tragedies happen in some other country. The tragic events that happened in Tucson, Arizona has sobered us up, demanding that we treat each other with more respect. On the superficial level, the Republicans have been trying to keep the word "kill" out of their everyday legislative lexicon. It works for about an hour or so on the House floor, as Dana Milbank illustrates, but then some overzealous hotshot freshman gets up and can't contain themselves, or just lack the knowledge of self-restraint.

When American drones make a mistake and strike and kill innocent lives in the same amount of time it took to shoot 30 times from a Glock 9mm, we never question the circumstances or seek to change the parameters so that a tragedy like this will not happen again. Supposedly, we are trying to save Afghanistan from the Talibans, though how our mission changed from finding Osama bin Laden and fighting the few al Qaeda fighters there, remains a modern bureaucratic mystery. But, we know nothing about the cultures of the Afghan people, little of its history, and even less about its present beyond a few stories that have been reported in the news. In essence, we don't really care about the Afghanis and are apathetic over their fate.

Every day there are stories reported on suicide bombings and people being killed and maimed, enough that the booming Iraqi prosthetics market should do quite well in Pakistan and Afghanistan for years to come... Yet, we care more about what programs are on television that night than confronting our failures in waging a civil war. It's another element that adds to the suicide rate of our soldiers who have returned and find it too hard to readjust.

Our new friendships with these countries is based on fortifying their military and police, which ends up weakening the civilian governments. In Pakistan, even the old military dictator Pervez Musharraf feels comfortable enough to move back home. Maybe he sent Baby Doc a postcard and inspired his return to Haiti... We are worried that some terrorist group will get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, yet we also let them buy upgraded nuclear technology, enough for them to resell watered down versions of it on the black market. Ultimately, it is our apathy that lets the Pentagon run amok, allows hiring mercenaries to do the killing we won't do ourselves, and end up alienating the people we have sworn to protect. We talk the talk of democracy, but when it comes down to it, we still support dictators who use their police to suppress the rights of their citizens, and it looks like some of those citizens have gotten tired waiting for us, and have gone ahead to create their own democracies, thank you.

I see no hope in the near future, until we stop this so-called war on terror, which has done more to create terrorists and spawned a new industry of terrorist related weapons and munitions. If we can't find one 6 foot 7 inch old Saudi that was once on kidney dialysis who likes to hide out in caves, then how are we ever going to stop the pirates once they start franchising out around the world? We allow the most vicious drug wars to happen along our borders, yet deny citizenship to immigrants and their children who have been living here for over 30 years, content on finding way to send them back or deny them health services, while letting their governments buy more guns and drones, and we are the buyers of those drugs in the first place...

Perhaps the Mayan calendar isn't really meant for general consumption, witness the many theories why it stops in 2012. I've been thinking about this ever since I read the scientific predictions of a winter super-storm that might develop over California, and end up drowning half of the state. Somehow, this reminds me of predictions of earthquake tremors so violent that half of the state would crack off along the fault-lines and sail off into the Pacific. At that time specific dates were given, and we had surfers lining up along the beaches, waiting for those bitchin' monster waves... No, the Mayan calendar, produced by shamans of their day, is a political document meant for the leaders of our time. Maybe Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution will prove that you don't need a lot of police and military to create and protect a democracy, and it will spread throughout the Middle East first, then on around the world. The year 2012 could men the end of the political city-state and the mechanisms used to prop up the poor thing, instead we will have true democracies created by each country's citizens. Oh, you may say that I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Regulations, No Recession For Piracy, Self-Immolation, Mullah Omar's Heart Attack, Does Julian Assange Dream Of Yemen?

Eugene Robinson
Lisa Armstrong

"Even if demand strengthens enough to create 300,000 jobs per month, three times the average monthly rate in 2010, employment will not regain its pre-recession level until 2015 at the earliest. And this is very optimistic." - Laura Tyson
"In the spirit of civil discourse, I'd like to humbly suggest that Sarah Palin please consider being quiet for a while. Perhaps a great while." - Eugene Robinson

Before I comment on world events, Barack Obama gave orders to all federal agencies to review all of their regulations, and to get rid of the ones that are there to hamper businesses: "Obama laid out a regulatory strategy that aims to walk the fine line between protecting public health and safety and freeing business to pursue profits. Many of its principles are already in use, senior administration officials said. But the formal order puts agencies across the government on notice that, when making new rules, they must avoid "unreasonable burdens on business,"

From today's Wall Street Journal, obama wrote in an op-ed: "Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government," Obama wrote. "This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive."

Reaction from across the aisle is predictable, for example: "Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. "While I applaud his efforts on this new Executive Order today, we must go further." Hmmm, "further" was the sign on the front of Ken Kesey's Merry Prankster bus; I wonder if ol' Eric is referring to flashbacks from his youth, or he is just trying for Young Republican Cool and Hip... If you have ever filled out a federal form, you know how bizarre and weird they often are, so hopefully, they will be reduced to asking commonsense questions in plain English.

The annual report on piracy has come out by the Brits, announcing that 2010 was a very good year to have been a pirate, booty was up 10% from last year, reported in the NY Times: "pirates had taken 1,181 people hostage and killed 8 in attacks on 445 ships over the course of 2010. At least 53 ships were hijacked last year." This is despite the fact that there are more ships cruising around looking for the pirates than ever before... I guess soon they will have amassed enough money to sponsor an official Somalian soccer team...

What's happening in Tunisia is quite remarkable, a spontaneous revolution against corruption that, so far, has been successful. First, the dictator was forced to flee the country. When the prime minister announced that he had formed a unity government, with himself as president, folks took back to the streets and eventually forced him to resign, along with other administrators from the Ben Ali government, as al Jazeera reports: "Mohamed Ghannouchi and Fouad Mebazaa, Tunisia's prime minister and president, have resigned from the (former) ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The move, announced on Tuesday, is seen as a concession to opposition cabinet members. Earlier in the day, Tunisia's junior minister for transportation has said that he and two other ministers with ties to a top labour union have resigned from the newly formed government, leaving the new unity government in limbo.

Anouar Ben Gueddour said that he has resigned along with Houssine Dimassi minister of training and employment, and Abdeljelil Bedoui, a minister dealing with prime ministerial affairs. They are all members of a general national labour union. Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the newly-appointed health minister, has also resigned." Now, the quandary remains in choosing a stable government that can carry out elections in six months, because nobody thought that it would go this far...

During the last week, about six people have doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire as a protest. The first self-immolation is what sparked this Jasmine Revolution. The process of self-immolation was a form of Buddhist protest, I remember watching a monk burn himself to death in front of television cameras. He was protesting the escalation of violence in Vietnam. This was before the war was officially declared, and it had a profound effect on my 10 year old self. Not much has been written about the cross-pollination between Islam and Buddhism, yet we know that Islam spread throughout India and China, and in reverse, that warrior monks came pouring across the landscape with the Mongols. Of course, the common thread throughout all religions is that you must practice meditation if you wish to develop insight in your religion, and the best instructions on meditation come through Buddhism. I wonder if the modern practice of the suicide bomber is a bastardization from self-immolation; going from bringing notice to your solitary death, to dying in anonymity and taking as many with you as you can...

Consider how two countries treat persons they consider to be their enemies: In Haiti, the government finally went to the hotel that Baby Doc Duvalier was staying, and placed him under arrest. Lord knows what twisted movie has been going around in his head, or if the government will take him up on his offer to help. He could be the next public spokesman for Haiti - I can see the commercials now, a smiling Baby Doc encouraging you to buy and drink Voodoo Cola! Or maybe he will go on their equivalent of QVC and urge people to place their order for a Haitian Necklace... I guess even for the criminally insane like Baby Doc, there's no place like home...

Contrast Baby Doc's current space with how Pakistan ended up treating the infamous Mullah Omar, who reputedly had a heart attack oh Jan 7th. Mullah Omar is the undisputed head of the Haqqani Network Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Secret Intelligence Service took him to the best hospital in beautiful Karachi, paid for his surgery and recovery, then took him securely to a safe house, where he can recover poolside by the ocean. This story was reported in the Washington Post, with the caveat that neither Washington nor Islamabad would confirm or deny the story, and the security firm peddling the story is a small one of limited means...

 Ahhhh, I wonder how we will treat young Julian Assange once we finally welcome him to our shores. We are being urged to storm the 600 acre estate where he is being held in Britain and to shut him away before he publishes the Swiss bank account information of famous people who use their Swiss bank accounts as tax dodges. Oh my God, what if there are some Republicans on there, even someone like George Bush or Bill Gates... Julian fears that he would end up forgotten in a jail cell like Manuel Noriega, or have a serial killer or two as cellmates. At best, we'd drag out the process of going to trial for so long, that people would forget that he is a foreign national and not one of ours to mistreat as we see fit. If all else fails, just put him on the President's Assassination List and let him loose in the desert sands of Yemen...