Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Obama Doctrine, Libya's New Face

Nicholas Kristoff

GOP Hopefuls On The Attack:
Michele Bachmann
Mit Romney
"Michele Bachmann says she will launch her Presidential campaign in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire as soon as she figures out which is which. There could be some eligibility problems for her. She has her birth certificate, but nobody can produce her high school diploma." – Jay Leno
"If Bachman and Palin get in to the presidential race, that's two bimbos. And there there's Mitt Romney, the millionaire and Newt Gingrich, a professor. We just need a skipper and a buddy and we've got 'Gilligan's Island.'" – Bill Maher

"We're fighting three wars now. Imagine how many we'd be fighting if President Obama hadn't won the Nobel Peace Prize." – Jay Leno
"Congress is mad at President Obama because he didn't consult them before the war in Libya. Congress got us into two other wars and put us 14 trillion dollars in debt. I can't imagine why he didn't consult them." – Jay Leno
"Instead of calling our mission in Libya a war, the White House is calling it a 'kinetic military action,' which sounds better than 'potentially endless quagmire.'" – Jay Leno

I forgot in yesterday's post to talk about how we have been sending in CIA operatives into Libya for the past several weeks. Then, on the news last night, it was reported that Obama officially signed a secret agreement allowing the CIA to send in the clowns to gather information. Many people who have been blindly supporting Obama during these last two years are finding it difficult to believe that Barack is getting us into another war. Ever since he made the decision to send more troops into Afghanistan, I've noticed how easily swayed Obama is by the Pentagon... So, if you start hearing stories of atrocities made by people other than Qaddafi's minions, you'll know that the CIA has arrived, to screw things up again for the military...

Now, the Wolf Blitzer's of this world are trying to define the "Obama Doctrine," and how it relates to all future military actions, or quiz questions by news anchors for potential candidates come this next election cycle... The Economist has a good analysis of the philosophical roots, saying that it is more a repudiation of Colin Powell's justifications for going into Iraq: "As soon as a president does something new in foreign policy, the world wants to know whether he has invented a new “doctrine”. The short answer in the case of Libya is that Barack Obama has not invented a new doctrine so much as repudiated an old one. What he is also doing, however, is challenging an American habit of mind."

The main cornerstone of Obama's orders into the dark heart of Libya, is that we will now be a cog, with the leadership coming elsewhere, from NATO. This is driving the hawks who feel that the US should strut proudly with its military footprints crazy and frustrated: "In Libya Mr Obama is challenging the assumption of global leadership America has taken for granted ever since the second world war. America has joined coalitions before, but never under a president quite so adamant that America is not in charge—even if the military burden-sharing is indeed a bit of an illusion.

Most Republicans and quite a few Democrats hate this. Mr Obama’s hope is that America’s low profile will make the war more palatable not only to the Muslim world but also to the economy-fixated voters at home who question whether America can still afford to play its traditional leadership role. What he may soon discover is that modesty extracts a price of its own. By sharing the leadership with others, he has made his policy hostage to the limited mandate (no use of force for regime change) imposed by the United Nations and the limited means of his allies in Europe and the Middle East. It may not be a doctrine, it should not be a surprise, but nobody can deny that it is a gamble." I look forward to many more happy nights watching CNN...

As it stands now, the Libyan rebels cannot win on their own. They don't have enough armaments and the Qaddafi mercenaries have more training. The rebels can dance and chant a lot better, and are really good at firing into the air. Unless the Qaddafi family turn on each other like rabid dogs, which could happen from being in such close quarters with their old man, they won't be giving up anytime soon. Unless we promise to hire new nurses and let Moammar keep his uniforms, which no diplomat has tried so far as I know... Has anyone suggested that it would be better if Qadddafi made a living as a clothing designer instead of being a dictator?

I'm just as conflicted on the Libyan issue as most people. I want the underdog rebels to win, and they shouldn't have had to turn into armed rebels from peaceful protesters. I hate it that the US is helping and I also love it that we are helping; I just wish that there were solutions other than military and causing the deaths of innocent civilians by both sides.

As an aside, have you noticed how bad Qaddafi's face looks lately? Worse than Michael Jackson's, right? I read where a plastic surgeon was boasting that he was the one who worked on Moammar's face, as if he were proud of his work. Poor old Qaddafi's lower lip looks like it's about to melt and run down to his chin, the rest makes him look like a space alien posing as a human being. Unless, that was the plastic surgeon's intention all along, and he wanted to be known as a hero for f**king up Qaddafi's face... OK, ok, the surgeon did say that the procedure was only good for a few years and after that he would look worse, as told to the AP:

"His assignment: to shave years off Moammar Gadhafi's appearance by removing fat from his belly and injecting it into his wrinkled face. The Libyan leader also got hair plugs.
"He told me that he had been in power for 25 years at that time, and that he did not want the young people of his nation to see him as an old man," Dr. Liacyr Ribeiro recalled. "I recommended a facelift, but he refused."

The secretive four-hour procedure in 1995 was done, at Gadhafi's insistence, with local anesthesia because he wanted to remain alert. Midway through, the Libyan leader stopped to have a hamburger.
Gadhafi was worried a facelift would be too noticeable, so he opted for the less radical procedure, the plastic surgeon told The Associated Press.
"I warned Gadhafi that the effects of the operation I performed would last for about five years, that it had an expiration date after which the skin would sag and the wrinkles would reappear," Ribeiro said.
"He said he would call me if he needed me to come back," and about five years ago there was such a request, but Ribeiro had a family obligation. "They never called me again," he said."

Which gives Qaddafi yet another excuse to leave Libya, he has another appointment with his Brazilian plastic surgeon... I wonder how he would look if the doctor didn't take the fat for the facial injections from his belly, rather used the fat around his butt crack... oh, I just know there's a fatwa in there, somewhere...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Will US Nuclear Industry Ever Glow As Brightly As Japan's? Libyan Baby Steps

Thomas Friedman

"Previous Congresses would have noticed that millions of people are still struggling in an economic downturn and tried to help, but Republicans have succeeded in shutting off that conversation." - NY Times Ed
"But I am deeply dubious that our allies can or will handle it without us, either. And if the fight there turns ugly, or stalemates, people will be calling for our humanitarian help again. You bomb it, you own it." - Thomas Fridman

Two facts emerged from nuclear Japan. The first idea, of dropping planeloads of water into the reactors during the first couple of days was the wrong thing to do. It produced a lot of radioactive steam that has condensed into the surrounding land and pooling in places inside of the reactor that should have remained dry. A lot of radioactivity was spread around the inside, making the job of containment that more difficult. This decision will be made the fault of the utility and poor management, not consulting outside opinions until it was too late.

And in testimony before Congress yesterday, it was revealed that the backup batteries in all 104 of our nuclear sites only have a life of four hours, and not enough juice to control the pumping of cooling water, just enough battery life to read a few gauges. The next step we will take is to make a backup system that can run a plant on its own for 48 - 72 hours, including the use of diesel generators... The more I read up on the testimony of the nuclear industry, the more it becomes clear that it ain't rocket science. The design of even the most sophisticated reactor and containment domes resemble the winner of the 1965 high school science fair than something designed by a so-called professional. The style that is used in Japan and is being proposed for Pueblo, Colorado, was suggested it be banned back in 1972 for its design flaws, none which were ever corrected or looked at until after 9/11. Be afraid, be very afraid...

Bit by bit, in small increments, we will win the war in Libya. First, we established a no fly-over zone. Then, the airspace included landspace, as planes bombed weapons depots and tanks, and the Qaddafi compound in Tripoli. Now, in today's paper, is the fact that we will probably end up giving arms to the rebels. and, if we give them arms, we will send along some trainers to show how to use them. Next will be advisors to work with the rebel leaders on how best to use the arms we gave them. After that, anything goes as long as it is rubber stamped by NATO... Take a good look at what we are fighting for:

Wait, I think I see a Starbuck's in there...

The beginning of a larger piece in Politico shares the facts that: "Scott Brown (R-Mass.) inked the deal for his memoir 50 days after his upset victory. Christine O’Donnell didn’t even come close to winning her Delaware Senate bid but had a book deal even faster — in just 31 days. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) set a land-speed record with his contract, landing a book just three weeks after his Tea Party-powered win.

Call it premature memorization. There was once a time when a public figure like Richard Nixon or Gen. Colin Powell would compile a record in politics, government or military before telling their life story. To establish their seriousness, a younger figure might have written about a topic of interest or extolled the accomplishments of others in the fashion of John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage.”

I haven't read any of these books, and I doubt I ever will. I'm so far behind on my reading list that I'm two years behind and I don't think I will ever catch up... The question was asked, do you think that this is a quick cash grab, or do quickie books like this answer the questions people might naturally have about these politicians. Did you like Barack Obama's book, or Sarah Palin's? One thing is for sure, business is booming for ghost-writers... That someone can follow me around for two weeks with a tape recorder, and then we can say with a straight face that I am the author...

Another poll has the popularity of the tea party dropping to 23%. Yet another poll suggests that local conservative grass-roots activism is on the rise. As an old hippie I am glad to see this trend, where folks take more satisfaction in doing something than sitting around drinking orange pekoe as if it were a wise thing to do... And even though I disagree with each disturbed individual, I respect the fact that they are willing to organize and work for their misguided, wrongheaded goals. I'd invite them in for some orange pekoe, but I make it a policy never to invite Mormons, evangelicals, and right wing conservatives into my home. I'd rather watch them harangue the crowd where I can jeer in anonymity...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libyan Freedom Fries, Assad's Abusive Relationship, GOP's Muslim Questions I Answer...

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Eugene Robinson

"Public officials who have failed spectacularly in office should have the common decency to retire in disgrace. But even if modern-day officials know no shame, why in the world would opinion pages, network talk shows and reputable journals give them a forum to offer their opinions, when they have shown that their advice isn’t worth the air it disturbs?" - Katrina vanden Heuvel
"Heck of a job, Brownie!" - Bush the Younger

The problem may soon become, what will we do with Libya once that Qaddadfi agrees to leave? Other than oil and sand, Libya never was a tourist destination like its neighbors Tunisia and Morocco. The only reason you would be staying in Libya is if you were an oil executive or a spy. And not a very good spy, since you were sent to Libya... About the only people who are excited to go to Libya are the French. Or, maybe just Nicolas Sarkozy. In recent opinion polls, the far-right National Front, under the new leadership of Marine Le Pen, won about 20%, which is about the same the other two dominant parties got... The National Front is the tea party taken to an extreme level, made up of people who were too young to have experienced being under Hitler's thumb, but naively long for it just the same: "The party’s strength depends on the general dislike for mainstream politicians. But it also feeds off the social unease felt by people in poor, formerly industrialized cities like this one, near Lille in northern France. Jobs are scarce, immigrants are many, and France seems submerged in a larger world of competition from China, India, Brazil and even the new member states of the European Union.

Ms. Le Pen has played down criticism of the Jews, a hallmark of her father, in favor of criticizing Muslims and their supposed unwillingness to assimilate into French society and accept French values, including secularism. She has also attacked the power of the European Union and its “shared sovereignty,” presenting Brussels as an enemy and vowing to pull France out of the euro, restoring the franc. In last Sunday’s first round of municipal elections for local councils, the National Front did well nationally, aided by a record abstention rate of more than 55 percent."

Anyway, Sarkozy's race to be the first to aid the Libyan rebels is his way of trying to counteract the rising anti-Islamic feelings in France, hoping that the rest of the population goes along with him in supporting the underdogs just in time for the next set of elections... Who knows, maybe Libya will soon be serving freedom fries along with the camel burgers... The realtors in the south of France are getting some old villas refurbished in the area that used to be known as Dictator's Row, in case Qaddafi and Mubarak may need a new place to live. It's where Baby Doc Duvalier went after leaving Haiti, and had other bad boys from African countries there as well...

There are those who say that Libya is unimportant except for making a few brownie points, when more important crisis are developing in Syria and Iraq.

In a classical abusive relationship, the male, or in this case, Bashar al-Assad, is very possessive and jealous because he sees himself as inadequate to rule wisely. If the female, or the rest of the Syrian population, acts independently, or gets tired of his controlling behavior, or demands more rights for themselves, the abusive ruler reacts by beating the crap out of the population, and may even commit homicide to bring her back under his control.

Then, the males ruler becomes very apologetic, and makes all kinds of promises, saying how much he loves her, he really will change, if only she will forgive him. Things go fine until the next time she pisses him off and he explodes again in typical violent fashion... Bashar's latest attempt at change was firing the Syrian cabinet and promising to rescind the state of emergency that allows the secret police to arrest anyone without a stated reason, and making those police immune from prosecution for their crimes. But, this promise has been made again and again for the past 30 years, so nobody is taking it very seriously. Unfortunately, you can't do an intervention with the ruler of a country like you can with an abusive person in America, unless you wind up with a crazy Qaddafi and make all kinds of other reasons why you should intervene... So, our abusive pattern is reforming each time the population demonstrates and Assad  has the police use real bullets when they shoot...

It's even more of a mess in Iraq, the same old story of who belongs in northern Iraq around Tikrit, and the principles are ready to bomb and shoot among themselves over it, just like they have for at least 500 years. Making it more intense, the winners get the majority of oil revenue, even from the amount that's smuggled and sold to Iran. So far, the only real losers have been the Coptic Christians, who have been threatened and intimidated to leave it to the Kurds and Arabs... Tensions are building faster than an outraged Pakistani Taliban, whose daughter came home with an ipod, and a civil war may break out after the US forces leave...

We'll now take some questions. The first comes courtesy of TPM: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) wants to know much more about the Libyan rebels the U.S. and NATO allies have been aiding with air strikes and humanitarian assistance for more than a week. "There have been several reports about the presence of al Qaeda among the rebels," Inhofe said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. "What do we know about this?"

James is asking because he doesn't want the Libyan rebels to be controlled by al-Qaeda or even Hezbollah, since they are listed as enemies in our war on terror. He's whining here, looking for something to hit Obama with later on down the line. The answer Jim, is yeah, probably. There probably are some young men that had earlier signed up with al-Qaeda and who hurried back to Libya to help liberate their home, something that they never thought would happen. They might become more tolerant sharing a cause that has nothing to do with al-Qaeda... Last week I watched an interview of a young Libyan rebel, who was risking his life on the front line carrying a plastic gun, he didn't have a real one. During the interview, there was a mortar strike nearby and everyone took cover. All of the rebels then ran towards their pickups to move away from the area, and the young man stopped to pick up his toy gun and took it with him as he jumped on the back of a truck that sped off. This image made me want to cry, it was so sad, yet I admired his desire and dedication, even if it meant his assured death. Does it matter if in his past he sympathized with al-Qaeda? Or id he were a Confederate? How about if he were a Native American from Oklahoma?

Josh Marshall at TPM contributes that: "GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain had told Think Progress that he would not appoint any Muslims to federal jobs. But it seems even this stalwart may be going soft. Cain now says he'd consider appointing Muslims who made a special pledge not to try to sneak any sharia in on the sly and keep extra special loyal to the Constitution." My only answer here is who in the f**K is Herman Cain? These GOP maybe candidates are beginning to come out of the woodwork, each one kookier than the next. I used to be joking when I said that the right wingers were all mentally ill, now I, too believe it. And what possesses them to act out their illness in public? At least we know that Charlie Sheen fried his brain from too much drugs and booze, these guys don't even have that excuse. God knows ya don't want any sharia law being snuck around these parts... Maybe Herm got confused with the 70's white guy song My Sharona, and wants to make sure it will never get played again...

Finally, we have a question asked over and over again by Mr Happy, John Kyl (R-AR), also brought over from TPM: "Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) asked a representative of the group Muslim Advocates on Tuesday why the organization's website didn't specifically condemn violent rhetoric. At the first Senate panel on the civil rights of Muslim-Americans, Kyl asked a representative of the group Muslim Advocates why their website didn't condemn rhetoric aimed at other religious groups.

"I wonder if you've made any public pronouncement or statement condemning those religious leaders who employed violent or hateful rhetoric or promoted hateful views of other religious groups. Have you done that or has your website done that?" Kyl asked Farhana Khera, the executive director of the group.

"So you haven't condemned the hateful speech of those who have criticized others in the way that I mentioned?" Kyl asked Khera. "Let me ask you this. Would you, today, criticize threats of death or physical harm directed at writers or commentators who criticized Islamic extremism -- you would condemn that today, would you not?"

Well, John, they don't use violent rhetoric on their website, perhaps you might infer that they don't support others who do. The reason they don't go out of their way to condemn others on their website is because they aren't mean spirited, old white bigots like the white cracker asking them stupid and rude questions. John, remember,

You may be a Redneck if ...
You and your dog use the same tree...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rand Paul's Alien Love Call, The Pickup Truck Revolution

Aaron David Miller
Gail Collins

"If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Israelis and Palestinians watching the historic changes in the Arab World just can't stand not to be the center of attention." - Aaron Miller
"We are so focused on these individual countries, I think that we have lost sight of the extraordinary story that is going on in the Middle East. We are in dark territory." - Robert Gates
“You don’t care about the consumer, really. Frankly, my toilets don’t work in my house and I blame you.” - Rand Paul

I wanted to begin expanding on the quote above from Rand Paul, spoken at an Energy Committee hearing, and how much fun for a person like myself if he became president. Because he will run for the office if his dad doesn't first. His daddy, Ron Paul is an interesting character in his own right, basically a conservative Republican with dashes of wild Libertarian thought running through like fat marbled in a good steak; that occasionally produces flashes of insight, but mostly is something you can chew on if cooked right. If he were elected, say goodbye to the Federal Reserve and other established sacred cows...

But Rand doesn't play well with others, and is often out there in his own version of planet Libertarian, muttering and whining incomprehensibly to himself. I would love to watch him melt down when confronted with a crisis such as what is going on in the Middle East, or even to see how he would rebel and botch simple ceremonies, but I certainly don't want him anywhere near enough where he could give the command to launch a nuclear missile. So, we should have a Fantasy League Presidency and Congress, where we can imagine to vote for candidates that would have no real bearing on the major leagues, just like fantasy sports does...

While the new coalition forces are trying to entice Moammar Qaddafi to set up his tent in the desert outside of Tripoli, I'm amused by the argument that now that there's a no-fly zone established, the rebel forces have a more equal chance of winning, like this is some kind of board game. My turn to roll the dice?.. And if Qaddafi's bunker just happens to be in range of our big guns floating offshore, will we paddle over some rustic rebel to light the official fuse?

The amusement over the weekend has been watching how people are scrambling to line up and label whether they support Obama's actions or condemn them, often making strange political bedfellows. For those who are unapologetic hawks, we have John Bolton, John McCain, and Bill O'Reilly applauding as we bomb the town Qaddafi was born in. I wonder how many of these guys, besides John McCain, who is working from a North Vietnamese brainwashing program, how many of them were misfits as kids, tore the wings off of flies and set their toy soldiers on fire? Even if supporting the smallest international coalition of the willing in the world, certain conservatives who cannot accept anything that Obama does is correct, even if it were there idea, are trying hard to come up with articles such as: Obama's Arrogant Plunge Into Libya - A Nuanced Call to Arms - and Is America Supporting Jihadis in Libya? Because there's nothing worse than supporting someone who later turns out not to love you...

If the Libyan rebels, who have yet to come up with a catchy name for fundraising purposes, actually win, it will be the first time that an army of small Japanese made pickup trucks won a war. It will take a politically correct amount of time before we see them in car commercials, perhaps during the next Superbowl... Don't tell me there isn't a single truck owner in the US, who has ever placed an actual rifle in the rack, hasn't hunkered down before CNN with a beer in his hand, rooting for the Libyan cowboys televised driving over the desert and roads, and began humming from the Bob Seger song Like a Rock...? Freedom, beer, and pick-up trucks, what could be a better marketing tactic or country song? Your turn Toby...

While an examination of the blowout preventer used in the BP oil spill found that the equipment worked as it was supposed to, BUT: "The finding that an off-center pipe blocked a blowout preventer from sealing BP's Macondo well tightly enough to stop last year's oil spill may prompt renewed calls for design changes in the devices intended as the last defense against disaster.
The government-backed forensic investigation found the blowout preventer's blind shear rams — a pair of blades designed to cut through pipe in the well and seal it off in an emergency — activated as they should have at the time of the accident.

The shears failed, however, to cut completely through a section of drill pipe that likely moved when the well went out of control, leaving the pipe partially opened and spilling crude in one the nation's most disastrous oil spills."

So, the Interior Department decided to take a second look at the design of the blowout preventers and see if they are adequate or what needs to be fixed in the design. A few days ago the Rachel Maddow show did a report on the fact that the Department of the Interior is still giving out drilling permits based on the old, flawed preventer design:

It looks like the government thinks that if nobody else hears about the report, then any controversy will go away. there hasn't been any coverage in the newspapers or on any other television show, and complaints have been made by the Interior to the Maddow program... I often find interesting articles in the NY Times that are later taken off of their website, which tells me that the government complaint has worked, and that I may be the only person in America who cared...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Westboro Baptist, Terry Jones And The Devil, War On Drugs, Looking Up To Iraq

Dan Balz
Dana Milbank
Paul and Anne Erlich
"We're at war? Again? Don't we already have two? Wars aren't like kids, where you don't have to worry about the youngest one because the other two will take care of it." – Jon Stewart

"And aren’t we out of money? You can’t simultaneously fire teachers and Tomahawk missiles." – Jon Stewart

"Remember when President Obama said we can’t fight two wars and vowed to change our policy? Well, he did. Now we’re fighting three wars." – Jay Leno

Elizabeth Taylor was known for her activism in fighting AIDS. A friend of mine testified to that in a Facebook post: "One day, out of the blue and unsolicited, came a check from Elizabeth Taylor for our HIV work in Bangalore. Hope this helps you get a good part in the Big Screentest... Bijapuri Smackdown" Now, fresh ofrom their Supreme Court decision that allows them to do such odious things, the Westboro Baptist Church is planning on protesting at her funeral... Now would be a good time for all of those who favor carrying concealed firearms to gather and greet them. We could have it filmed by E! and choreographed like Gunfight at the OK Corral. Now, I'm not advocating violence or saying that James O"Keefe should show up in his pimpsuit, but it sure would be fun, living la vida loca...

Speaking of wacko Christian splinter groups, did you know that renegade preacher Terry Jones went ahead and fulfilled his promise to burn a Koran in public? As Dan Amira wrote in his Daily Intel blog for New York Magazine: "A controversial US evangelical preacher oversaw the burning of a copy of the Koran in a small Florida church after finding the Muslim holy book "guilty" of crimes.

The burning was carried out by pastor Wayne Sapp under the supervision of Terry Jones, who last September drew sweeping condemnation over his plan to ignite a pile of Korans on the anniversary of September 11, 2001 attacks. Sunday's event was presented as a trial of the book in which the Koran was found "guilty" and "executed." The jury deliberated for about eight minutes. The book, which had been soaking for an hour in kerosene, was put in a metal tray in the center of the church, and Sapp started the fire with a barbecue light."

Before, when Terry merely threatened to burn the book, there was an outcry from all over the world, protests in Pakistan, members of congress speaking out, the Secretary of Defense calling him and asking him politely not to, lots and lots of media attention. When he actually burned the book, there were maybe 30 people in attendance, and no national media was around to document the dastardly deed. O wonder if he feels strangely fulfilled, or depressed that his small flame in the darkness illuminated nothing at all...

“I finally figured out that I’m just an attention-seeking jerkwater idiot.”

Because President Obama vacationed south of the border, the NY Times ran an article on the changing face of drug smuggling in South and Central America, but, geographically, it could be anywhere, sounding right at home in South and Central Los Angeles: "Mexican cartels have taken over from Colombians in recent years, recruiting local gangs to help bolster shipments, increasing consumption by paying with drugs and expanding extortion and kidnapping networks to round out their enterprise.

“This is David versus Goliath,” said Marlon Pascua, Honduras’s defense secretary. “And we are David fighting the giant.”

The issue took center stage when President Obama, during a visit to El Salvador on Tuesday and Wednesday, announced a plan to fight organized crime in the region by strengthening civilian institutions and providing training for local authorities, weapons and equipment.

But such promises have been made before, and many Central American leaders are frustrated by the wait. Of the $1.6 billion in law enforcement support promised under the antidrug Merida initiative announced in 2007, $258 million was assigned to Central America. Yet only $20 million of it had actually been spent by April of last year, according to the Government Accountability Office." and, of the $20 million, less than $5 million actually went to any police agencies, the rest going divided up between the usual graft suspects... The real question is what is happening with the rest of the money?

Everytime I read a news item involving billions of dollars of our government's money - the billions pledged to Afghan charity projects, the billions pledged for Pakistani flood relief, billions pledged for Haitian reconstruction, probably billions will be pledged to Japan, then find out how much of that pledged money has actually been released to that country, I'm convinced that we really are not broke, we're just stingy. Nope, I'd hate to have a needed program that depended on aid from the US, especially a program that mattered in the life or death for some other poor souls, say, feeding starving children or keeping hospitals full of medicine...

Click to enlarge image

If we ever get past the Middle Eastern countries that like to kill their citizens when they protest, like Libya, of course, but also Yemen, Bahrain, Syrai, and probably Saudi Arabia, the newly democratic ones may look to Iraq for help and inspiration on how to implement this new concept called democracy. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Iraq had democracy forced upon them by some rogue nation that just seems to like to fight, and the fact that Iraq is currently rated by Transparency International as the fourth most corrupt country in the world, ahead of Afghanistan, Myanmar, and North Korea... Then, Iraq is still having that pesky little problem of suicide bombers blowing up its citizens... Good luck, guys...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Miso Soup And TEPCO's Past Mismanagement, Turkey Winner In Mid East Crisis, James O'Keefe Sends His Regards

Thomas Friedman
Dana Milbank
Michelle Cottle
"We're at war? Again? Don't we already have two? Wars aren't like kids, where you don't have to worry about the youngest one because the other two will take care of it." –Jon Stewart

"And aren’t we out of money? You can’t simultaneously fire teachers and Tomahawk missiles." –Jon Stewart

"Remember when President Obama said we can’t fight two wars and vowed to change our policy? Well, he did. Now we’re fighting three wars." –Jay Leno

"Obama said we will send economic aid to Libya to help the Libyan people reach their dreams. And if that works, they’ll try it here." –Jay Leno

"The Pentagon held a press-conference about the military operation in Libya. They are calling it Odyssey Dawn. I believe it's the first military operation named after a stripper." –David Letterman

Japanese citizens were unhappy with their government, felt that it wasn't being honest with them over the dangers that the damaged nuclear reactors posed. Now, they are getting too much information, and they are complaining about the government drawing grim scenarios for them. One such warning came yesterday, when the Japanese government warned that the escaped radiation had contaminated the water supply and posed a risk for infants in the area.

Back in the 1960's, when the health food industry was in its infancy, I remember reading how a diet containing lots of miso soup was credited for saving people's lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more recently there have been articles touting the wonders of the fungus drink kombucha. Now would be a good time to put those folk rumors to the test, to see if there is any truth to the wonders of miso fighting the ravishing of radiation, or if they are stories laid out for the gullible hippies seeking to buy enlightenment by the bowlfull...

Another area that may affect jittery Americans, is how the tsunami affected the Japanese sushi market: "SEAFOOD supplies in northern Japan were devastated by the tsunami that destroyed the region’s fishing fleets and aquaculture farms as well as the ports themselves. The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported on Tuesday that fishermen in the area are living in shelters, transportation to the famous Tsukiji market in Tokyo is not possible, and there is no ice to keep fish fresh.

So far, this grim picture is not causing serious shortages in American sushi bars, but how the situation will evolve remains to be seen. “It has definitely affected the market,” said Jack Lamb, an owner of Jewel Bako in the East Village, where most of the fish is imported from Japan. But he said that the restaurant had made adjustments and was now buying fish from Kyushu Island in the south, far from the affected area, and was obtaining mackerel and octopus from sources in the United States.

Tadashi Ono, the chef and a partner at Matsuri in Chelsea, also said he is buying from Kyushu, as well as from Australian and New York waters. “Today fish comes from all over the world, so we’re O.K.,” he said." Whew, dodged a bullet on that one...

Adding to the government's problems have been the lying bastards who are the operators of the nuclear plants, TEPCO. Der Spiegel reports that the utility has had a history of falsifying reports and lack of maintenance and repair of equipment: "In 29 incidents the year before, nuclear power plant maintenance documents had been falsified and Tepco had been forced to take 17 nuclear reactors temporarily offline as a result. Tepco CEO Hiroshi Araki and four other top executives resigned.

In unflinching words, Katsumata took his company to task for its shortcomings and announced no less than a new corporate culture, one with a strict code of ethics and a policy of open and honest communication with the public. Today, though, those words must ring hollow to the people who have received high levels of radiation following the accident at the Fukushima I power plant, and to those who have been evacuated and may never be able to return to their homes located near the plant again.
The tone of Katsumata's speech was clear: The numerous past incidents were in no way isolated mistakes made by individual employees. Instead, they were the result of a corporate culture at Tepco that had allowed hair-raising breaches in safety to occur.

"First, we must admit that we had no clear rules to judge whether equipment was fit for service," Katsumata states in his speech, which is still available on Tepco's website today. He said that there were no rules addressing the fact that machinery and equipment generally wear away or crack with the passage of time, so equipment was used as long as such flaws didn't pose "safety hazards."

And therein lies the problem: When something was unclear, Tepco engineers apparently made arbitrary decisions. "They repeatedly made personal decisions based on their own idea of safety," Katsumata said. But it is clear that those ideas of safety weren't stringent enough. "Nuclear division members tended to regard a stable supply of electricity as the ultimate objective," he said."
"This disaster is 60 percent man-made. They failed in their initial response. It's like Tepco dropped and lost a 100 yen coin while trying to pick up a 10 yen coin."
Begin with unsafe designs for a nuclear plant that should have been banned in 1972, add the mistakes and poor maintenance by the operators, and it's a wonder that these reactors are still standing at all...

Well, France's leadership in the Libyan operation Odyssey Dawn lasted maybe half a day? While NATO forces are bickering over who's not in charge, Germany pulled its naval ships out of the Mediterranean, the slack seems to be picked up by Turkey. Look for Turkey to be a big winner in all of the Middle Eastern conflicts, as sage mentor for Egypt and Tunisia, and major trading partner for a new Libya.

What about the other powerhouse in the region? What has been dominating the newspapers in Saudi Arabia? Pretty much ignoring their soldiers vacationing in neighboring Bahrain, the emphasis has been on how humble the King really is, according to all of the commentators on this story: "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Tuesday urged all Saudis not to describe him as “Malik Al-Qulub” (king of hearts) and “Malik Al-Insaniya” (king of humanity). “I request you all not to use these titles. The real king is Allah the Almighty and we are His slaves,” King Abdullah said," I wonder if there has been a suck-up contest. to see who can come up with the most flattering alternate nickname for the King. After all, calling yourself Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is quite a mouthful. I wonder if the others in his family get their own titles, or do they have to share and call themselves Son of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, or Brother to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Do you always have to spell out the full title, or can you abbreviate for business cards into CTHM King Abdullah? I admit to total ignorance on the etiquette of addressing a royal family, meaning that I have spent my whole life in the company of peasants, but an inquiring mind wants to know... While I,m at it, why do all of these old rulers feel they have to dye the hair on their heads, of their beards, even their eyebrows? I know the tradition is to appear younger and supernaturally vital, but putting shoe polish or some crappy dye job ends up making them look vain and foolish. I notice a lot of folks in Washington DC do the same thing, even some of the younger journalists. In a younger person, dying your hair makes you look unnatural, like some marionette whose strings have recently been cut. Try again, Dave Weigel...

Wow, talk about being a con man, the conservative's merry prankster James O"Keefe, the man who pimped out ACORN and recently embarrassed NPR, has sent his supporters an email asking them to help pay off his debts. TPM reports that James sent out an email, saying: "Up 'til now, my friends and I have financed all of our work on our own -- running up major credit card debt," O'Keefe writes. "We made a lot of sacrifices -- personally and financially -- because we fight for what we believe in."

"But, now we've hit a wall. This has gotten a lot bigger than we ever imagined. The multi-billion dollar major media Goliath is embarrassed by their failure to make a meaningful impact like we have -- that's why they're attacking us," he writes.

"It cost us about $50,000 when all is said and done to produce the NPR video," O'Keefe said. "If you help us raise over $50,000, it will go toward our next video -- after we pay off our credits cards, of course."

"If you help us pass $100,000 -- we can do two new videos..." O'Keefe said. "...And if by some chance, we raise $1,000,000 -- we could expose 20 disturbing cases of government abuse and corruption. But, all I'm worried about is $50,000 right now."

"Give what you can and take the Survey on Media Responsibility and Ethics. America needs The Project Veritas to grow quickly. But, we can't continue, much less grow, unless we receive financial support soon."

The survey implores readers to donate and ask questions like "Do you think the mainstream media will have to embrace the tactics used by James O'Keefe's The Project Veritas to be credible in the future?"

"We're ready and waiting to expose more government corruption. But -- it all comes down to money,"

Poor James. He will spend the rest of his unhappy life trying to get back at the bullies who terrorized him when he was a small child...

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

She was dumber than a stump, but she sure wuz purdy,,,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trump's Foreign Policy, Rant On GOP And Their Next Candidate, Barack Obama

Eugene Robinson
Josh Dzieza

"Anyone looking for principle and logic in the attack on Moammar Gaddafi’s tyrannical regime will be disappointed. President Obama and his advisers should acknowledge the obvious truth: They are reacting to the revolutionary fervor in the Arab world with the arbitrary “realism” that is a superpower’s prerogative" - Eugene Robinson
"They said on the news today 10,000 to 15,000 people each day are coming across the border from Libya into Egypt. Or as we call it in California, a 'trickle.'" – Jay Leno
"President Obama told middle school students that he was always in trouble in the 8th grade. In fact, he was once sent to the principal's office because he said the dog ate his birth certificate." – Jay Leno

Maybe what we need is someone with a different perspective to become President, unless it's Obama's plan to send us into a third war so we will quickly get out of Iraq and Afghanistan... But if we had someone like Donald Trump, who brings the cocky, self-centered, arrogant approach that he says he brings to his business deals. As Donald explained to Fox News and CNN: "I think I probably have more experience of anybody -- whether I sell them real estate for tremendous amounts of money. I mean, I've dealt with everybody," the billionaire real-estate mogul told Fox News Monday morning, touting his supposed foreign policy credentials. "And by the way, I can tell you something else. I dealt with Gaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn't let him use the land."
"That's what we should be doing. I don't want to use the word 'screwed', but I screwed him," Trump continued. "That's what we should be doing."

"I leased him a piece of land for his tent. He paid me more than I'd get in a whole year. And then, eh, he wasn't able to use the piece of land. So people would say did I take advantage, did I-so I got, in one night, more money than I would've gotten all year for this piece of land up in Westchester and then, didn't let him use it. That's called being intelligent." I'm not sure if screwing your opponent is a sign of intelligence, unless you happen to be Newt Gingrich, but maybe we could convince Donald Trump to tell us more stories from the world of high finance during monthly fireside chats. And if he were president, at least the amount of Eastern European brides would increase, that can't be a bad thing, right?
I wonder how many people actually take Trump seriously, he has made himself into a mockery after making himself a brand-name. The real fun would come watching him fire his cabinet each month, then watching their replacements try to accomplish the impossible tasks he would set for them: "Hillary, you're fired!" Or, when talking to Iran's Prime Minister: "What do you mean I'm fired? Mahmoud, you're fired!" Cue the applause...

Let's see, besides The Donald, other presidential wannabees but are too afraid of committing are:

Mit Romney - Who is handsome and likable, but will never win because he's a Mormon, and then we'd have to have a national dialogue on Mormonism and their squirrelly beliefs and shady history, along the lines of what might happen if the children from Lord of the Flies grew up and started a religious cult...

Haley Barbour - Too caught up in being a Southern Good Old Boy, with all of its racist undertones. He comes across more like a goober than an intelligent Mr Peanut Head, as if nobody would like him if he showed how smart he really is. But making all of the public gaffes about how it was in the South when he was a kid shows that when you try to repress something, it will leak out at the most inappropriate moments.

Newt Gingrich - is not really running for president, just like he didn't during the last two elections. Newt uses the media to lure people to his website to test the water to see if there's enough interest, and by the way, please donate generously to the cause. His publicly announcing that he is looking to see if there is enough interest in his candidacy is a scam to get money to live on. If he were to become a candidate, the money that his website generated would be subject to election laws and he would have to report where the money went.

Sarah Palin - I originally thought that Sarah would run with Michelle Bachmann as her running mate, but now I see her as trying to pull off something similar to Newt Gingrich in acquiring money, more money, and even more money! She has no plans or strategy to run, she's all over the place in making her criticisms through twitter and Facebook. To be brutally honest, there is something very wrong in her family dynamic, which may explain her white trash popularity. She never forgets a criticism and will get back at the person, she has tried to put down Katy Couric in print every chance she gets.

Tim Pawlenty - Tim is a boring guy from Michigan or someplace up there, he doesn't have any charisma to speak of. He is currently making a lot of criticism of Obama and his policies lately, saying we need to change yet again, but hasn't explained why he never instituted any of these new changes when he was governor, guess he just thought of them.

Michelle Bachmann - the poor girl's Sarah Palin, yet nuttier. How she ever got elected is beyond my expertise. I think the people in her district find that sending a right wing wacko to Congress is their way of flipping off the system. Life is so boring back home, they know that she will generate headlines from her bizarre behavior, and they can have a good few days chuckling and passing around her clippings. I shudder to think there may be many more pod people with similar mindsets out there beyond the Alex Jones website...

.Rand Paul - the newest baby to jump through the hoop. I like Rand because he is so incomprehensible when he tries to explain an idea, and he tends to ramble erratically down obscure paths looking for the markings he left to find his way back home... It looks like he will end up just like his dad, who also may run. If so, they will be the first father and son presidential tag team, who will run at each election even if they don't have a chance in hell of garnering very many votes. Their not so bad in print, Ron Paul makes sense when he has time to think ahead of what he will say, but all hope is lost when both father and son open their mouths and remove all doubt we had about them...

I know I've missed a couple more Republicans out there who think that it will be easy to beat Barack Obama, but they will find out at the first debate how much they have discounted him. I am not enjoying the direction where Obama is taking us these days, why every president thinks they have to have their own personal war to make their mark in history, also is beyond my expertise. You would think that George Bush had illustrated enough the folly of this kind of aggression, but no, Obama had to follow him into the Big Muddy, and the big fool says to push on... He is coasting right now, slipping farther and farther towards the right, that it looks like the next candidate the GOP will have to run, the only one who can beat Obama in 2012, will be the newly changed Barack Obama himself... What if Obama came back from South america and said "Screw it, folks, I, too,am joining the tea party..."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Liberating Libya The Tattooed Lady.. Rise of Africom

Paul Krugman
Stephen Stromberg
Niall Ferguson
"Everyone knew that the real purpose of the attack on Ms. Warren was to ensure that neither she nor anyone with similar views ends up actually protecting consumers." - Paul Krugman
"Obama, a novice in foreign affairs, is a president without a strategy." - Niall Ferguson

I had a filling fall out of one of my molars, and I've been whacked out on extra painkillers over the weekend. I thought about posting, but couldn't gather enough energy or coherent thoughts as I sat in front of the computer. Thankfully, I don't belong to any gambling sites... I have been wanting to write about Elizabeth Warren and her Congressional hearings last week. She is probably the only person involved in the government who is an honest person, and she has been tapped to run the newly formed consumer credit protection agency. Paul Krugman does a great job on those hearings and the mean-spirited, self-serving attacks on her by the conservatives members of the House Financial Committee: "The fact that she’s so well qualified is, of course, the reason she’s being attacked so fiercely. Nothing could be worse, from the point of view of bankers and the politicians who serve them, than to have consumers protected by someone who knows what she’s doing and has the personal credibility to stand up to pressure.

The interesting question now is whether the Obama administration will see the war on Elizabeth Warren for what it is: a second chance to change public perceptions."

When our financial system had crashed and burned, taking almost every country in the Western banking system along with it, many fingers were pointed to how the regulators ignored doing their jobs, while the legislatures were busy trying to rescind all previous rules, for a true "free" market economy. No rules, we can police ourselves ... suckers. Now, those who were at fault are trying to rewrite history, trying to get you to believe that the reason everything crashed was because of too much government interference, neatly weaving the lie into the fabric of populist tea party beliefs.

When the UN and Hillary Clinton announced that they had approved a "no fly-over" zone for Libya, how many people believed that it involved using a few planes? Hold up your hands... How many believed that France was chomping at the bit to be released to send ships and planes so they could be the first to liberate Libya? (sounds like a Groucho Marx song, we're going to liberate Libya, the tattooed lady...) As the members of the Arabian league are complaining hey, wait, that's not what we meant, the press focuses on Barack Obama wanting to know what his plans have been all along...

The Arab League: “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”

The French reacted by using 20 planes and a nuclear powered aircraft carrier armed with cruise missiles to create a safe haven for the city of Bengazi, where the rebels had been centered and were about to be wiped out by Qaddafi's mercenaries. I'm still waiting for the US to send in some of their mercenaries to fight against the Libyan mercenaries, then it would better resemble war as we know it - on a video game.

Ironically, the structure of the military command who's jurisdiction Libya falls under is pretty brand spanking new, and totally untested. As the NY tines describes it: "When the United States Africa Command was created four years ago, it was the military’s first “smart power” command. It has no assigned troops, no headquarters in Africa itself, and one of its two top deputies is a seasoned American diplomat.

Indeed, the command, known as Africom, is designed largely to train and assist the armed forces of 53 African nations and to work with the State Department and other American agencies to strengthen social, political and economic programs in the region including improving H.I.V. awareness in African militaries and removing land mines.

Now the young, untested command and its new boss, Gen. Carter F. Ham, find themselves at their headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, setting aside public diplomacy talks and other civilian-military duties to lead the initial phase of a complex, multinational shooting war with Libya." You already can see the difference it has made by how stable Africa has become in the last four years, yep, I know I feel better and can sleep at night. Yeah, my new painkillers work too well... Let's ask them how many land mines have been removed in four years, comparable to the amount left in Vietnam and Cambodia that still are active and blow off the limbs of unsuspecting farmers? Somehow, I don't think these guys have done much besides sit on their hands for four years and collect their paycheck, but maybe it's because I'm very grumpy today.

Were the French right to jump the gun, and go off before the declarations had been signed by the security council? Were they trying to apologize for their past sins when they were trying to create a French Empire, or are they hoping to gain a more favorable rating among their Arab trading partners? After all, the money they were hoping to get from future nuclear reactor contracts may dry up soon, and they need to be #1 in the hearts of Middle Easterners everywhere, not the stodgy old British or impetuous americans who can't keep their hands and feet out of the cookie jar that is war... or they can't stop themselves from gorging on that delicious camel's milk chocolate, sold at upscale stores near you... Anyway, Qaddafi feels downright comfortable in his bomb-proof bunker, after all, he got the plans from Saddam...

Hillary Clinton is happy that Obama is listening to her more and taking her advice, even if he seems like an unlikely hawk... but Obama has always been ambivalent towards being Commander in Chief, and is where his inexperience shows the most. Hillary is known to be a war-hawk, almost as much as John McCain is, except he has seen war up close. Hillary tends to imagine scenes and place herself in a more central role than she actually had, like at the airport in Kosovo... Ronald Reagan was infamous for doing this, and it would have been cute behavior from a senile old man, except he was President of the United States at the time...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

US Foreign Policy Sucks, Obama's Birther Jokes

Dana Milbank
John Avlon
Nicholas Kristof
"Sarah Palin runs the risk of being little more than the thinking man’s Michele Bachmann." - John Avlon
"It is heartbreaking to see a renegade country like Libya shoot pro-democracy protesters. But it’s even more wrenching to watch America’s ally, Bahrain, pull a Qaddafi and use American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement — as we stay mostly silent." - Nicholas Kristof

There is something rotten in the American foreign policy towards countries in the Middle East, and something even more rotten in the foreign policies of each Middle Eastern country towards each other. Here we think that the small kingdom of Bahrain is fairly civilized, we have a contract with them to house a naval fleet, then to watch on television as the country explodes into a violent religious war, without lenience or mercy.

How complicit are we? Our Secretary of Defense visits Bahrain, supposedly to get them to be patient and lenient towards the unarmed protesters. As soon as Gates leaves, and god knows what was really decided on, Saudi Arabia sends in its tanks and military, the pitiful excuse being how afraid they are at an Iranian response. Then, the tanks, guns, and military are used to force the protesters to stop. People are beaten, killed, jailed, and disappear. Stories drift out of the smoke telling of the deliberate hunting of Shiites, and the arrest of anyone known to be an organizer for the protesters. The cruel irony here is that the Sunni rulers have just enacted a page out of the Iranian playbook, this scenario was drawn up in Tehran. But, what it really shows, is how close together all mean and vindictive thoughts, actions, and minds are. Scratch an erudite, educated Arabian prince to find the snarling barbarian underneath. Have you donated to that new charity yet, Qaddafi's Kids?

Then there is the horrible situation of watching Qaddafi massacre his fellow citizens, when every US General is itching to jump into the fray. It's one thing to watch someone be a bully and reveling in it, when we can easily join in and show him who the real bullies are...

Of course, that could never happen here. Because we wouldn't let it... Even if we considered burning down the compound at Waco an aberration, our police conduct raids on homeless encampments on a regular basis all around our country, and I haven't heard or read of one complaint, of giving these folks a little dignity and respect, they are treated worse than the Sunni Bahrains are treating their fellow Shias.

Politico has been documenting President Obama's stand up comedy routines in regards to his birther certificate. At a St Patrick's Day luncheon today, he riffed:

“Now, speaking of ancestry, there has been some controversy about my own background. Two years into my presidency, some are still bent on peddling rumors about my origins. So today, I want to put all those rumors to rest. It is true my great-great-great-grandfather really was from Ireland. It’s true. Moneygall, to be precise. I can’t believe I have to keep pointing this out.”

"At a Boston fundraiser on March 8, Obama told supporters: “There’s no weakness in us trying to reach out and seeing if we can find common ground. Now, there are going to be times where we can’t. I was born in Hawaii, what can I say? I mean, I just – I can’t – I can’t change those facts.”

And, at the Gridiron Club dinner this past weekend, Obama took the stage and ordered the band to switch from playing Hail to the Chief to Born in the USA, by Bruce Springsteen."

So, once again, back by popular demand, here it is:

Click to enlarge
Funny, I have a copy of the President's birth certificate on my computer, but haven't the faintest idea where mine is. That old bundle of documents has been packed up and moved several times, so much that I've lost track of them. And I'll bet there are millions of Americans who also cannot produce their birth certificates upon request....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Send In The Egyptian Army? Japanese Reactor Design Recommended Being Banned In 1972, One Term Good for Hillary

David Ignatius

"They say that Japan's rigorous building codes and regulations saved thousands of lives. Or as Republican here saw it, it fostered a socialist anti-business environment that's worse than being dead." –Bill Maher

"It turns out that the Republican budget that they submitted for next year slashes funding for the agency that issues tsunami warnings and organizes responses to the tsunami. In their defense, Republicans say that tsunamis are just a theory, they are not a real threat like ACORN, the Black Panthers, NPR, and math teachers in Wisconsin." –Bill Maher
"Due to the recession, there are now 15,000 fewer lawyers in the U.S. No one ever talks about the good things that come from a recession." –Jay Leno

"Al-Qaida is now publishing a magazine for women. They already have one for men, called 'Car Bomb and Driver.'" –David Letterman

There are four NY Times journalists who have disappeared inside of Libya, including the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Anthony Shadid. Anthony's articles were always among the best, he had a clearer picture of what was going on in the Middle East, and his articles were always illuminating. Here's hoping that none of them are harmed and some Libyan jailer will set them free...

One of the questions that has been asked during the Libyan crisis, is why doesn't the Egyptian Army invade Libya to support the rebels? After all, they would have a more legitimate excuse than Saudi Arabia does for entering Bahrain and setting off a state of emergency. The reason why is pretty simple: for all of their bluster and preening, the armies of the Middle Eastern countries haven't been to war. The last time the Egyptian army engaged someone was in 1967, and they lost. Since then, most of the army personnel in Egypt, Syria, and Iran, have become the merchant middle class, more intent on trade agreements than military contracts. But they had better come up to speed real quick, because Qaddafi's mercenaries may not be content to rout the rebels inside the borders, and follow them as they escape into Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt...

And Iran keeps on trying to smuggle arms and munitions into Gaza. Israel stopped a ship last week that had come from the Syrian port that the two iranian warships visited. It's thought that they unloaded the weapons in Syria, which were then put on the cargo ship, which sailed to Turkey, on its way to Egypt. It was stopped and boarded by the Israeli navy in international waters, which meant they were tracking it since it first left port... I remember reading an op-ed piece last week, where the author asked an Iranian diplomat why they spent so much time, energy, and money on disrupting the region, when they could have used that same amount of money and sent Palestinian children to schools and colleges, built libraries and hospitals, and generally improved their lives. The Iranian diplomat looked puzzled, then replied, "But, what would be in it for us?"

Double--click on image to enlarge
Most of the damage from the tsunami happened to rural areas in Japan, that the rescue workers haven't been able to reach yet. The incredible amount of rubble poses a problem, where to put it all? Cities are running out of body bags, and that is one item you don't want to make a call for as a charity. Blankets, clothes, powdered milk, yes, body bags, no...

Looking at the plans of the reactors, I'm struck by how old and archaic the technology seems to be. The reactor design hasn't changed in over 40 years, and this particular one has had criticisms since 1972...: "In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission, said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.”

Thanks, Joseph. Because you were such a shill for the industry, this type of reactor became popular because it was cheaper to build. Because you didn't ban this type of reactor, it may mean the death of the nuclear industry as a whole (along with the silly idea of clean coal technology), and the island of Japan may become uninhabitable if the worst-case scenario occurs. Right now, it looks like at least one of the four problem reactors is sliding towards meltdown.

So, if you have any friends who are physicists, and they are supposed to be among the smartest among us, ask them why they have been sitting on their thumbs for the last forty years and haven't come up with a safe way to build and maintain a nuclear reactor, much less find a safe way to dispose of the uranium pellets after they have been used. Currently, we bury them in the ground and hope that nobody will stumble across them in the next 10,000 years. Europe used to put them in leaky 55 gallon drums and dump them off the coast of Somalia, but the growing pirate industry put a stop to that...

Well, I'm pretty much lifting this next article from TPM, who got it from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, when he was interviewing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton: "Q- Would you like to be president of the United States?


Q- Why not?

Because I have the best job I could ever have. This is a moment in history where it is almost hard to catch your breath. There are both the tragedies and disasters that we have seen from Haiti to Japan and there are the extraordinary opportunities and challenges that we see right here in Egypt and in the rest of the region. So I want to be part of helping to represent the United States at this critical moment in time, to do everything I can in support of the president and our government and the people of our country to stand for our values and our ideals, to stand up for our security, which has to remain first and foremost in my mind and to advance America's interests. And there isn't anything that I can imagine doing after this that would be as demanding, as challenging or rewarding.

Q- President of the United States?

You know, I had a wonderful experience running and I am very proud of the support I had and very grateful for the opportunity, but I'm going to be, you know, moving on." Cue the music, A Place in the Sun, by Stevie Wonder:

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin' towards a dream
Movin' on, movin' on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin' to be free
Movin' on, movin' on

'Cause there's a place in the sun
Where there's hope for ev'ryone
Where my poor restless heart's gotta run
There's a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun