Sunday, September 30, 2007

Endless war means endless victories and endless unquestioning cheerleading

Glenn Greenwald notes that it has been Admiral Fallon who has declared there will be no attack on Iran on his watch and the military is saying no to Cheney's desire to bomb Iran:

For obvious reasons, it is not a positive development to have the U.S. military serve as the primary check on the crazed warmongers who have control of our government. In a country that lives under civilian rule, that really is not and should not be the role of the military. Priest's claim that "the military would revolt" if it was ordered to bomb Iran is, at least in one sense, disturbing.

At the same time, the reason this is happening seems clear. Neoconservative extremists want endless war, and they are supported by the most powerful faction in our government, led by Dick Cheney, who has prevailed in every significant conflict over the last six years. And their radicalism has eroded not only the standing and strength of the United States as a country, but is close to shattering our military forces as well. Even with Iraq draining away all of our resources, they are eager, hungry and increasingly impatient for a new war with the much more formidable Iranians.

They crave regime change in Iran, and, sitting safe and protected in the U.S., they do not care at all what the aftermath is, certainly not for the 160,000 American troops sitting in Iraq. There has been a long-simmering conflict of interests between the war-crazy neocons and the U.S. military -- evidenced, by among other things, the intense hostility of Gen. Franks towards Douglas Feith. Eventually, as neocons push their war agenda further and further, that conflict will inevitably grow, since the neocons' ideological obsessions comes at the expense of the military, which serves as pure cannon fodder for their goals. It is the American military that pays the real price for the neocon's pursuit of their endless war agenda.

What is most striking about all of this is that even after all of this time, even after it has become more or less conventional wisdom that the Iraq War is an unparalleled disaster, no real political checks on their extremism exist. The Cheney-led neoconservatives are still the most powerful force, by far, in the American government.

And via Pygalgia, Daniel Ellsberg talks about what an attack on Iran could bring to this country:
I think nothing has higher priority than averting an attack on Iran, which I think will be accompanied by a further change in our way of governing here that in effect will convert us into what I would call a police state.

If there’s another 9/11 under this regime … it means that they switch on full extent all the apparatus of a police state that has been patiently constructed, largely secretly at first but eventually leaked out and known and accepted by the Democratic people in Congress, by the Republicans and so forth.

Unaccountable, untraceable, untrackable....


Whig at Cannablog has a hour long talk by Jeremy Scahill about Blackwater's rise to prominence. An hour well spent scaring yourself to death.

More information on Blackwater by the Citizen's Oversight Projects.

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial on Blackwater that finishes with this:
The Blackwater debacle suggests that at the very least, outsourcing the protection of U.S. diplomats operating in war zones -- a national security imperative -- is a bad idea. Military officers complain that Blackwater's cowboy tactics reflect its mission, which isn't to win Iraqi hearts and Iraq but to protect the diplomats in their care, no matter how many Iraqis are terrorized or harmed in the process. The State Department admits that without Blackwater, it can't safely escort its diplomats even around Baghdad. So it's disturbing that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insists on relying on the firm instead of asking Congress to expand funding for the experts at protecting diplomats without antagonizing the local population, the professionals who are trained to used deadly force with restraint and who understand the standards and mission of the U.S. After all, they work for her -- in the department's own Diplomatic Security unit.

If the U.S. is to calm volatile Iraq, it should start by requiring that those permitted to wield deadly force in America's name at least work for the U.S. government. Critics who fear the cost might consider instead the consequences of the "hollowing out" of the government's capacity to protect its own, and of losing to the private sector the security know-how that is essential in a world ever more dangerous for Americans.
Blue Girl, Red State has more links about Blackwater.

Update: Via Steve Bates at The Yellow Doggerel Democrat, Phoenix Woman at Firedoglake discusses the latest Blackwater rumor:

In fact, according to some of the scuttlebutt going around town, it looks like that they might be the security force of choice for the GOP during next summer’s Republican National Convention in Saint Paul.

The really interesting thing about this is that for some time now, various right-wing bloggers and their favorite meme transmitters in the “respectable” broadcast and print media (transmitters such as StarTribune columnist Katherine Kersten, who claimed that violence at a recent Critical Mass bicyclist event was a harbinger of things to come) have been trying to stir up their followers with lurid tales of the horrible, hideous violence that will be inflicted by Evil Scurvy Lefty Protesters at the sacred RNC Convention next year — unless Something Is Done To Stop Them.

We can only pray this is true

We've been on the brink of a theocracy in the United States these last few years: a government that has no wall between church and state, controls women's bodies, controls scientific research, controls what was taught in schools, declares the Iraq war a crusade and eggs on Israel to activate the Rapture. Yet now there seems to be a lessening of focus on a grab for governmental power and a shift by some to other things:

With the GOP having controlled the White House and the House for the previous six years — and the Senate for the previous four — social conservatives expected much more progress on their agenda in Washington. Although they are happy that Bush has used his veto power to stop an expansion of federal stem cell research, signed a law banning the procedure opponents call “partial birth” abortion and won confirmation of two solid conservatives to the Supreme Court, the Christian right’s rank and file say they’re frustrated that Washington has not pushed for more-sweeping restrictions on abortion and gay rights.

Meanwhile, the president’s support for granting a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally has further strained the GOP’s relations with the evangelical base — a voting bloc Perkins estimates as one-third of voters in the GOP primaries, enough to make or break any candidate. And the past year’s trio of Republican A-congressional sexual scandals — centered on Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho — has only fed the climate of disillusion. “Certainly,” Perkins said, “there is reason to be concerned about the future of the relationship” between social conservatives and the Republican Party.

And that has led Perkins and other religious leaders to push for the closer-than-usual examination of the GOP aspirants. “What I hear and see is that if you were a Republican candidate in the past, you got a pass on close scrutiny on key issues,” Perkins said. “I don’t think that’s going to be the case anymore. They are going to have to verify their credentials in order to gain the support of social conservatives.”

While these leaders hope that a consensus candidate will emerge, they are also openly concerned that evangelicals are now in danger of fragmenting at various points on the political spectrum. That’s because more than the composition of the Republican field has changed; evangelical voters are changing as well. Some, while still traditionally conservative in their beliefs, are weary of what they see as a pattern of disrespectful treatment from GOP candidates: lip service during campaigns followed by a dim interest in their agenda once in power. But other religious voters are embracing causes not traditionally identified with American conservatism, such as global warming, human rights and poverty relief.

For those faithful who still see a theocracy being achievable, their demands are a cause for rejoicing:

Now then, your evidence of a new hope? Your reason for rejoicing? Right here: It seems the remaining core of politicized evangelicals, far from realizing its diminished influence and far from realizing the GOP has largely imploded and far from sensing, therefore, that it might perhaps be time to dial down some of its more unpopular, virulent agenda items, this group is actually aiming to step up its dogmatic demands from various GOP candidates this next election.

That's right. They want more. Or rather, less.

Apparently, Bush's GOP has let them down. They have not been content with BushCo's anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-sex, pro-abstinence, anti-women, anti-science, pro-war, God-hates-Islam stance, nor have they been content with having their trembling hands around the throat of the preceding Republican Congress for half a decade and clearly they have been insufficiently humiliated by the happy slew of right-wing preachers and politicians who've been revealed as meth-loving, restroom-lurking, boy-fetishizing gay hypocrites.

According to the new plan, any current GOP candidate who now wants the valuable evangelical vote will have to prove himself not merely guided by conformist religious zealotry in all things (Hi, Mitt!), but will have to prove his unflappable support for the GOP stance in key issues across the evangelical board, primarily regarding the Big Duo: abortion rights and gay rights. Or, more specifically, the total annihilation of both.

Do you see? This is exactly why we can now rejoice. Because this is the delightful thing about the fundamentalist worldview (and, for that matter just about any strict religious worldview you can name), the thing that absolutely and forever guarantees its frequent and eventual downfall: It can never be sated.

It's true. No matter how clamped down we as a culture become, no matter how much misinterpreted Biblical dogma we're forced to swallow, no matter how many insidious laws are passed limiting behaviors and restricting independent thought and repressing sexuality and banning dildos in Texas, it will never be enough.

And the faithful are disappointed in their choices:

It definitely is a moment of crisis for the Evangelical Right. When you style yourself the GOP's ground army (and they are), yet your presidential forum attracts only Huckabee, Brownback, John Cox (who?), Alan Keyes Ron Paul, Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, you know you're getting the dredges of the GOP field.

They're not just losing the ideological and "culture" war (yes, people love Queer Eye and Gay-Straight alliances are popular in high schools these days) in broader America, they are losing it from within as they bleed activists to progressive causes. Some of their highest profile leaders have been brought down by scandal -- Ralph Reed and Ted Haggard (former head of the National Association of Evangelicals), as well as political allies like Sen. Larry Craig -- while also losing one of their biggest champions, Jerry Falwell, this year.

It's a movement in disarray and their increasing disenchantment with politics may prove yet another headache for an already-reeling Republican Party.

Praise the Lord!

Update: Rook of Rook's Rant observes:
In terms of the Republican party, they pretty much charted a path towards destruction when deciding to take advantage of the political power of the conservative Christians. It was in direct conflict with the corporate arm of the Republican party.

In many ways, It seemed an act of desperation. The major political players in the Republican party could not attract a majority with their policies and stances. Co-opting the divisive and destructive policies of the conservative Christians was a quick fix, towards a quick grab of power.

But it was bound to burn them in the end. Hatred always creates a wall, resulting in isolation. Eventually the hatred, having no target, turns inward and creates self-loathing. This is what we are witnessing with the Republican party -- and the conservative movement. The policies of the last 6 years has caused the once powerful Republican minority to become isolated, with the country moving away from them. All they have left to focus their hate on is each other.

We could have saved so many lives and so much money

If we had just bought Saddam off for one billion dollars. But then Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld wouldn't have realized their glorious PNAC wet dream of owning all of Iraq's oil.

Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars:
On March 17, 2003 President Bush issued the warning: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing ,” yet now thanks to a transcript leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, we learn that more than three weeks prior to that Bush had told former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that “The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion …” When confronted about the leaked transcript yesterday, Whitehouse spokeswoman Dana Perino did not dispute its accuracy.

Just last week we learned from former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan that the real reason behind the war in Iraq was oil , and now we are finding out that the entire war could have been averted for letting him get away with $1 billion. That’s just than one tenth of 1% of what this insane invasion and occupation of Iraq, that continues claim the lives of our country’s bravest men and women, has now been forcast to cost. Think about that just for a second. Every single death, Iraqi and American coalition alike, could have been saved and Bush could have had Saddam’s oil, but apparently he didn’t even seriously consider it. Topping that, he then lied in public to the entire world about it just so he could have his war regardless. How’s that for compassionate conservatism?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Oh yeah? Well I double dog dare ya!

Via Pygalgia:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's parliament on Saturday approved a nonbinding resolution labeling the CIA and the U.S. Army ``terrorist organizations,'' in apparent response to a Senate resolution seeking to give a similar designation to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The hard-line dominated parliament cited U.S. involvement in dropping nuclear bombs in Japan in World War II, using depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting the killings of Palestinians by Israel, bombing and killing Iraqi civilians, and torturing terror suspects in prisons.

``The aggressor U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror,'' said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio.
We know Cheney is just waiting to triple dog dare Iran....

The diplomacy of Blackwater in Iraq

Obviously helps win hearts and minds....

While the shooting in Nisour Square has put the issue of private forces in Iraq -- and Blackwater's name specifically -- on the front pages of newspapers around the globe, this is hardly the first deadly incident involving these forces. What is new is that the Iraqi government responded powerfully. Within twenty-four hours of the shooting, Iraq's Interior Ministry announced that it was expelling Blackwater from the country; Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the firm's conduct "criminal."

The next day, the State Department ordered all non-US military officials to remain inside the Green Zone, and diplomatic convoys were halted. The Iraqi government, acting as though it was in control of the country, announced that it intended to prosecute the Blackwater men responsible for the killings. "We will not allow Iraqis to be killed in cold blood," Maliki said. "There is a sense of tension and anger among all Iraqis, including the government, over this crime."

But getting rid of Blackwater would not prove to be so easy. Four days after being grounded, Blackwater was back on Iraqi streets. After all, Blackwater is not just any security company in Iraq; it is the leading mercenary company of the US occupation. It first took on this role in the summer of 2003, after receiving a $27 million no-bid contract to provide security for Ambassador Paul Bremer, the original head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Since then, it has kept every subsequent US Ambassador, from John Negroponte to Ryan Crocker, alive. It protects Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visits the country, as well as Congressional delegations. Since its original Iraq contract, Blackwater has won more than $700 million in "diplomatic security" contracts through the State Department alone.

The company's domestic political clout has been key to its success. It is owned by Erik Prince, a reclusive right-wing evangelical Christian who has served as a major bankroller of the campaigns of George W. Bush and his allies. Among the company's senior executives are former CIA official J. Cofer Black, who once oversaw the extraordinary-rendition program and led the post-9/11 hunt for Osama bin Laden (and who currently serves as GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's top counterterrorism adviser), and Joseph Schmitz, the Pentagon Inspector General under Donald Rumsfeld.

So embedded is Blackwater in the US apparatus in Iraq that the incident in Nisour Square has sparked a crisis for the occupation that is both practical and political. Now that Blackwater's name is known (and hated) throughout Iraq, the bodyguards themselves are likely to become targets of resistance attacks, perhaps even more so than the officials they are tasked with keeping alive. This will make their work much more difficult. But beyond such security issues are more substantive political ones, as Blackwater's continued presence on Iraqi streets days after Maliki called for its expulsion serves as a potent symbol of the utter lack of Iraqi sovereignty.

Maliki has been under heavy US pressure to back off his initial demands. While Rice immediately called the Iraqi prime minister ostensibly to apologize, she made a point of emphasizing publicly that "we need protection for our diplomats." A few days later, Tahseen Sheikhly, a representative of Maliki's government, stated, "If we drive out this company immediately, there will be a security vacuum. That would cause a big imbalance in the security situation." Given the carnage of September 16, it was a difficult statement to wrap one's head around.

Maliki then agreed to withhold judgment on Blackwater's status, pending the conclusion of a joint US-Iraqi investigation. If he ultimately goes along with the United States and tolerates Blackwater's presence, the political consequences will be severe. Among those calling for the firm's expulsion is Muqtada al-Sadr. A cave-in by Maliki could weaken his already tenuous grip on power and reinforce the widespread perception that he is merely a puppet of the US occupation. Clearly aware of this, while visiting the United States a week after the shootings, Maliki went so far as to call the situation "a serious challenge to the sovereignty of Iraq" that "cannot be accepted."


Iraq's anger would be understandable even if the only incident involving Blackwater was the Nisour shootings -- more so if you take into account the past year of the company's actions. But this is a four-year pattern that goes beyond Blackwater. The system of "private security" being paid billions in US taxpayer dollars has not only continued despite rampant abuses; it has flourished. Blackwater and its ilk operate in a demand-based industry, and with US forces stretched thin, there has been plenty of demand. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are as many as 180 mercenary firms in Iraq, with tens of thousands of employees. Without the occupation and continued funding for the war, these companies would not be in Iraq.

Even though this scandal is about a system, not about one company or "a few bad apples," Blackwater does stand out. While it has no shortage of US and British competitors in Iraq, no other private force's actions have had more of an impact on events in Iraq than those of the North Carolina-based company. Blackwater's primary purpose in Iraq, at which it has been very effective, is to keep the most hated US occupation officials alive by any means necessary. This has encouraged conduct that places American lives at an infinitely higher premium than those of Iraqi civilians, even in cases where the only Iraqi crime is driving too close to a VIP convoy protected by Blackwater guards.

It isn't just the Iraqi government and the country's civilian population that are angered by Blackwater's conduct. Col. Thomas Hammes, the US military official who once oversaw the creation of a new Iraqi military, has described driving around Iraq with Iraqis and encountering Blackwater operatives. They "were running me off the road. We were threatened and intimidated," Hammes said. But, he added, "they were doing their job, exactly what they were paid to do in the way they were paid to do it, and they were making enemies on every single pass out of town." Hammes concluded they were "hurting our counterinsurgency effort."

It is always good to know what is done in our name with our tax money for our country. We should demand our money back.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hopeful, as always

Phila of Bouphonia at his usual best.

Phony cyst

As only Morse can illustrate.

Limp balls, indeed.

Update: renouncing the bloated one.

Update 9/29: Ripley of Zen Cabin lists the crimes.

Update 9/30:

Fridaiz kat blogin

Wid sumbude elz' kat:

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Drift net fishing is illegal

You've got to leave some to grow up and have little fish, right?:

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An air patrol mission has discovered nearly 100 foreign ships apparently illegally fishing with drift nets off Canada's West Coast.

Cameras on a Canadian air force plane captured images of 90 fishing vessels suspected of breaking a 15-year-old United Nations ban on using drift nets in international waters — fishing meshes as long as 50 kilometres.


Earlier in September, fisheries officers from Canada and the United States spent two weeks aboard the Canadian Forces aircraft, scouring millions of square kilometres over the North Pacific. Operation Driftnet concluded last week.

When the plane began monitoring one Chinese vessel, the active radio chatter they had been listening to suddenly became "dead silent," Bard said.

"As soon as we showed up, the radios became dead silent. The only thing we heard — or our translator heard — was, 'We're getting out of here.' "


The Aurora crew found that in some cases, ships could be spotted dumping material overboard and trying to cover markings that identified their boats.

"Ten vessels were observed by Canadian Aurora long-range patrol aircraft either rigged for or engaging in high seas drift-net fishing", said Capt. Jeff Manley of the Canadian Air Reserve.

"These vessels typically sail with few or obscured markings, so without actually boarding them, it's difficult to ascertain their nationality," said Manley. "These vessels target species such as salmon, albacore and neon flying squid."

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly put a moratorium on drift net fishing, which has been blamed for the indiscriminate destruction of marine life.

The Chinese government takes the problem seriously, and has its own enforcement officers on board U.S. Coast Guard ships, said Ted McDormand, an ocean law expert from the University of Victoria.

"China's had this memorandum with the United States since 1993, which came right after the General Assembly resolution on the moratorium, so China's stepped up here to be a reasonably responsible fishing state," he said.

Using the Canadian surveillance, the U.S. Coast Guard was able to intercept a Chinese trawler, board it and then turn the boat over to Chinese authorities.

International surveillance of the waters is a collaborative effort with Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea and the U.S. The seasonal surveillance mission over the North Pacific has been conducted every year since the 1992 UN moratorium
Leave some fish for the rest of us, please.

Blackwater's cover is pulled back just a bit more

As Cheney's shadow government retreats more into the dark side. Via Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat, Naomi Wolf of Firedoglake:

The New York Times reported today that Blackwater, the infamous organization that has been accused of killing civilians in Iraq, “has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms.” A mercenary firm in Iraq with an itchy trigger finger is bad enough. But it now appears that Blackwater’s activities may be massively expanded — and not in Iraq.

In little noticed news, Blackwater, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Arinc were recently awarded a collective $15 billion — yes, billion — from the Pentagon to conduct global counter-narcotics operations. This means that Blackwater can be deployed to engage with citizens on a whole new level of intimacy anywhere around the world — including here at home. What is scarier than scary is that Blackwater’s overall plans are to do more and more of its armed and dangerous ‘security’ operations on U.S. soil.


The Founders knew from their own experience of standing armies, responsive only to a tyrant, how dangerous such a situation was; King George’s men — armed with blanket warrants — invaded the colonists’ homes, trashed their possessions, and even raped Colonial women. It was that bitter experience that led them to insist on the second amendment — ‘a well regulated militia’ that was responsive to the people and could not be deployed against the people of the United States by would-be despots. The founders knew that American tyranny was not only possible, it was likely, in the event of weakened checks and balances; and they knew a mercenary army was the advance guard of despots.

Blackwater is available to anyone who can write the checks. If there is a need to ‘restore public order’ in the next Presidential election — a power that the President now can define as he sees fit — Blackwater can be deployed. If the President declares an emergency, Blackwater can be deployed. And history shows us how very quickly citizen dissent and democratic processes close down when physically intimidating men — who are armed and not answerable to the people — are abroad in the land.

Blackwater has a huge base in North Carolina and has been trying to set up camp in the San Diego area.

Wanna bet these camps have a few ... dungeons set up and ready to go in them?

Update 9/29: Jurassicpork of Welcome to Pottersville has the political overview on Blackwater. Also via jurassicpork, Paul Krugman:
Which raises the question, why are Blackwater and other mercenary outfits still playing such a big role in Iraq?

Don’t tell me that they are irreplaceable. The Iraq war has now gone on for four and a half years — longer than American participation in World War II. There has been plenty of time for the Bush administration to find a way to do without mercenaries, if it wanted to.

And the danger out-of-control military contractors pose to American forces has been obvious at least since March 2004, when four armed Blackwater employees blundered into Fallujah in the middle of a delicate military operation, getting themselves killed and precipitating a crisis that probably ended any chance of an acceptable outcome in Iraq.

Yet Blackwater is still there. In fact, last year the State Department gave Blackwater the lead role in diplomatic security in Iraq.

Mr. Singer argues that reliance on private military contractors has let the administration avoid making hard political choices, such as admitting that it didn’t send enough troops in the first place. Contractors, he writes, “offered the potential backstop of additional forces, but with no one having to lose any political capital.” That’s undoubtedly part of the story.

But it’s also worth noting that the Bush administration has tried to privatize every aspect of the U.S. government it can, using taxpayers’ money to give lucrative contracts to its friends — people like Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, who has strong Republican connections. You might think that national security would take precedence over the fetish for privatization — but remember, President Bush tried to keep airport security in private hands, even after 9/11.

So the privatization of war — no matter how badly it works — is just part of the pattern.

Objects in mirror are closer that they appear

This is what science does so well, reconsider, recalculate, reassess. The desire of those fundamentalists to declare this process indecisive or changeable exposes their own inability to understand.

The most accurate catalogue of the distances to more than 100,000 stars has just been released.

Cambridge astronomer Dr Floor van Leeuwen has spent the past 10 years checking and recalculating data gathered by the Hipparcos satellite.

It collected the information in the 1990s, but questions were raised about apparent errors in the results.

Dr van Leeuwen, who saw a flaw in the way Hipparcos worked, has now corrected the star distances.


"The discovery of the problem with the satellite left me with no option but to recalculate the data," Dr van Leeuwen explained. "I knew that it could be done and I knew that the existing data could be significantly improved in all aspects, so I had no choice.

"It was an extremely painful process. You can spend a whole weekend examining one small part of the data, and making the resultant corrections can take two weeks. But the result is that we now have a catalogue more accurate than ever before, and one in which we know that all the calculations work."

Ultimately, Hipparcos' astrometric data has altered our view of the cosmos. Its distance scale found the Universe to be bigger and younger than some thought.

Can Pakistan survive Musharraf?

The world is watching with bated breath:

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Pakistan's Supreme Court is in conflict with the Pakistan government:

Islamabad, Pakistan (AHN) - The government of Pakistan was ordered by the country's Supreme Court to release at least 100 opposition workers who were arrested at the weekend to stop protests against President Pervez Musharraf, officials said on Friday.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry gave the order after summoning officials to the high court. Chaudhry is well known opposition icon since Musharraf failed to sack him in March.

The activists ordered released were seized after threatening to hold demonstrations against Musharraf's plans to be re-elected as president for another five years in a poll on Oct. 6.

Javed Hashmi, the acting chief of exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party, and several key leaders of hard-line Islamic parties is expected to be freed a senior police office, who was present during the special hearing, said on Friday.

The police officer said the detainees were taken into custody for the maintenance of public order. The move was highly condemned by the United States, a well know Musharraf ally, stating that such arrest were extremely uncalled for and disturbing. The European Union and Canada also expressed concern.

The government justified such move claiming that the opposition had threatened institutions including the Supreme Court and the Election Commission.

During Musharraf's filing of nomination for the presidential election on Thursday Pakistani authorities clamped tight security on the capital blocking all roads into the capital.

Yet Musharraf has obtained 'permission' to keep his uniform:

Pakistan's Supreme Court says President Pervez Musharraf can stand for election next week despite still being head of the country's army.

It dismissed a number of legal challenges to his right to hold both posts at the same time.

Gen Musharraf registered for the forthcoming ballot on Thursday.

The main opposition alliance say it will boycott the poll. The president is chosen by the national parliament and the four provincial assemblies.

Friday's verdict is a serious blow to opposition parties, especially as the Supreme Court has handed down a number of key verdicts against the government in recent years.

And Musharraf's opponents wait eagerly in the wings:

By announcing her return to the country a month in advance, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto seems to be taking one last chance with the government.

For a year she has been talking to the country's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, to work out a formula for free and fair elections and the return of democracy to the country.

But talks have stalled.

On Friday, her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) announced that she would return to the country on 18 October, deal or no deal.

Even though the end result might be forced and immediate deportation like what Sharif experienced.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and the Taliban grow stronger:

Islamabad, Pakistan (AHN) - A soldier was killed, while 12 others were wounded after a roadside bomb hit a Pakistani security force convoy on Friday in the northwestern region.

Major General Waheed Arshad, Chief Military Spokesman said the convoy was travelling between the towns of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan when they it was attacked.

If Pakistan explodes, the nukes will be up for grabs. Just so you know....


Well, that's right big of them: (Via Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat) (my bold)
Reversing course, Verizon Wireless announced today that it would allow an abortion rights group to send text messages to its supporters on Verizon’s mobile network.
“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect,” Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon, said in a statement, adding that the earlier decision was an “isolated incident.”

Last week, Verizon rejected a request from the abortion rights group Naral Pro-Choice America for a five-digit “short code.” Such codes allow people interested in hearing from businesses, politicians and advocacy groups to sign up to receive text messages.


Nancy Keenan, Naral’s president, expressed satisfaction today. “The fight to defeat corporate censorship was won,” she said. But Ms. Keenan added that her group “would like to see Verizon make its new policy public.”

Verizon did not respond to repeated requests for copies of the policy or an explanation for why it is withholding it.

Text messaging is an increasingly popular tool in American politics and an established one abroad. In his statement, Mr. Nelson acknowledged that the technology is “being harnessed by organizations and individuals communicating their diverse opinions about issues and topics.” He said Verizon has “great respect for this free flow of ideas.”

But the company did not retreat from its position that it is entitled to decide what messages to transmit.

Legal experts said Verizon’s position is probably correct under current law, although some called for regulations that would require wireless carriers of text messages to act like common carriers, making their services available to all speakers on all topics.

“This incident, more than ever, shows the need for an open, nondiscriminatory, neutral Internet and telecommunications system that Americans once enjoyed and took for granted,” said Gigi B. Sohn, the president of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group.

Well, the way people tell the corporation of their displeasure is to drop their service, not buy their products, not support their business. At least that part of our freedoms hasn't been negated.... yet.

Update: Sprint Nextel also has a problem listening to their customers... all 30,000 complaints.

And do cell phones have a trigger to fail if any moisture at all gets near the battery?

This also explains how torturers can be indifferent

To the suffering they are causing:
CHICAGO, Sept. 27 A study suggests physicians shut off the portion of their brain that helps them appreciate the pain their patients are experiencing.

Instead, the University of Chicago research indicates physicians activate a portion of the brain connected with controlling emotions during such patient encounters.

Because doctors sometimes have to inflict pain on patients as part of the healing process, they also must develop the ability not to be distracted by the suffering, said Jean Decety, a professor of psychology and psychiatry and co-author of the study.

"They have learned through their training and practice to keep a detached perspective; without such a mechanism, performing their practice could be overwhelming or distressing, and as a consequence impair their ability to be of assistance for their patients" said Decety.

The research that included the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans shows for the first time that people can learn to control such a response.
I've said before, we need to know who the 'doctors' are who are 'assisting' in the torture at Gitmo and Abu Gharib. They will melt back into our society and continue their work among us. How would you like to be one of their patients?

What we've known all along, part two

Marjorie Cohn of the Huffington Post:

My cousin Larry Russell, a travel writer, spent three weeks (May 11 through May 31 of 2007) in Jordan as a guest of the Jordanian Tourist Board. He was invited to dinner at the home of Karim Kawar, Jordan's ex- ambassador to the United States (2002-06), in Amman. Dick Cheney and his daughter were Kawar's guests two nights before Larry arrived. Kawar confided to Larry that "Cheney's mission was to sound out the reaction to a forthcoming bombing of Iran's nuclear sites (no ground invasion planned) by the U.S. from Jordan's King Abdullah and President Mubarak of Egypt. They both rejected the idea."

When Larry pointed out that Jordan and Egypt receive regular economic and military equipment assistance from the United States so any resistance to this plan on their parts would probably be of a token nature at best, Kawar just smiled.

I doubt Cheney was asking permission as much as telling them what was going to happen. Is this what Cheney was being told to do when he was commanded to report in Saudi Arabia?

What an idea!

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Britain is planning on getting rid of the old light bulbs and saving the earth:

LONDON - High-energy light bulbs will not see the light of the day in Britain by 2012, the government has announced. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced the new policy, which is another step taken as part of efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

Energy efficient light bulbs will take the place of these high-energy bulbs on shelves from the next few years. The main aim of the scheme is to save 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the government added.

"Britain is leading the way in getting rid of energy-guzzling light bulbs and helping consumers reduce their carbon footprint," said Secretary of State Hilary Benn. "Choosing energy saving light bulbs can help tackle climate change, and also cut household bills, with each bulb saving up to £60 over its lifetime."

How strange... a government that actually does things that help people. But wait, Bush is on top of things! He's going to have a .... meeting!!:

NEW YORK - President George W Bush is all set to hold his own climate change meeting in Washington on Friday even as he wrapped a fresh round of meetings at the United Nations.

Delegates of 16 of the top polluting nations have gathered in the US for the meeting, which has been called a show of leadership on climate change by Bush. The meeting will also be attended by representatives of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as the European Union.

The White House said in a statement that the main aim of the meet was to set global goals as well as "nationally defined mid-term goals and strategies, and sector-based approaches for improving energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

More hot air from politicians? I think I've found a source of global warming...

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

What we've known all along

What some of us predicted the day Bush was selected president.... we would be at war with Iraq during his time in the Oval office:
El Pais, the highest-circulation daily in Spain, today published what it said was the transcript of a private talk between President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on February 22, 2003, concerning the coming U.S. invasion of Iraq. It took place at the ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The conversation took place on the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas. The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States, Javier Ruperez, the paper said.

Bush purportedly said he planned to invade Iraq inf March "if there was a United Nations Security Council resolution or not....We have to get rid of Saddam. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March."

He said the U.S. takeover would happen without widespread destruction. He observed that he was willing to play bad cop to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's good cop.

Aznar pleaded for patience and replied that it was vital to get a U.N. resolution, noting that public opinion in Spain was strongly against the war.


BUSH: When within years History judges us I do not want that people ask themselves so that Bush, or Aznar, or Blair did not face their responsibilities. In the end, which people wants is to enjoy freedom. ..

AZNAR: The only thing which it worries to me about you is your optimism.

BUSH: I am optimistic because I believe that I am in the certain thing. I am peacefully with me same.

(I think the last line should translate: I am at peace with myself.) Georgie has destroyed two countries, polarized the world community, and created generations of terrorists. But he's at peace with himself.

And sleeps well at night.

I feel so much better.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the cross-hairs

Al-Qaeda has big dreams:

The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Pakistan's post-September 11, 2001, about-turn into the camp of the United States led to a marriage of convenience among the flag-bearers of Ibn Taymiyyah's ideology, zealots of al-Qaeda and experts in Giap's guerrilla strategy - former officers of the Pakistani armed forces who were upset with Pakistan's policy reversal, which included abandoning the Taliban.

These groups joined forces to take control of the state through a popular revolt or by using violent means, or force on the state apparatus to support the battle against the Western coalition in Afghanistan. The alliance has had some success, notably in the Waziristans, where in effect a rigid Islamic state prevails beyond the control of the central authorities in Islamabad. Indeed, the highest level of casualties in the history of the Pakistan Army has forced Pakistani leaders to speak of stopping operations in the Waziristans, saying it is a wrong war.

But while there have been several serious popular outbursts against President General Pervez Musharraf - and attacks on his life - his military government remains in power since staging a coup in 1999.

Meanwhile, after a long lull, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden resurfaced recently with three video and audio tape messages. His emergence on the horizon of the jihadist audience came at a time when Islamic militants of varied backgrounds (in the Waziristans) had finally sorted out their conflicts on issues such as revolt against a Muslim state and fighting Muslim armies.

Those groups include the Taliban (led by Mullah Omar), the command of the Pakistani Taliban (led by a shura - council - of mujahideen in the two Waziristans), leading Arab scholars in the Waziristans, such as Sheikh Essa, Abu Waleed Ansari and Abu Yahya al-Libbi, the command of Pakistani jihadist organizations in the Waziristans under Maulana Ilyas Kashmiri and its allied group of former officers of the Pakistan Armed Forces who resigned to join the Afghan resistance.

Bin Laden has always spoken out against the Western world, but in his most recent audio message last week, for the first time he urged Pakistanis "to fight against Musharraf, his army, his government and his supporters". This was the first endorsement of his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri's anti-establishment theory under which war should be waged first against the un-Islamic Muslim states before fighting infidel armies. In the past, Mullah Omar and bin Laden have always avoided stirring revolt within countries such as Pakistan.

Pakistan immediately dismissed bin Laden's call. Army spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad was quoted as saying, "If Osama bin Laden has spoken to the people and urged them to rise, and the people were really following him, they would have done so much earlier. He doesn't have much following here."

However, this was clearly for public consumption. Asia Times Online has learned that these new developments were so seriously viewed on the intelligence radars of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that they devised a joint strategy.

Islamabad is so concerned over the latest developments that it asked Saudi Arabia to approach al-Qaeda to abandon its anti-establishment policy.

The Saudis are concerned that should their erstwhile son bin Laden succeed in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia would be one of the next logical targets. So a joint strategy was devised to confront the threat.

According to a witness who spoke to Asia Times Online, last month a Saudi consul visited North Waziristan in the first such interaction with the al-Qaeda command since the US invasion on Afghanistan in 2001. The consul was meant to meet Zawahiri or bin Laden, but he was not allowed to see them and instead met second-tier al-Qaeda leaders.

The consul wore traditional clothes of the region and a Pashtun-style hat, and carried several gifts, mostly food items, especially dates and figs. He also carried with him messages from Saudi royal family members. He spent two days in North Waziristan before returning safely to Islamabad. Immediately after, the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awad al-Asiri, went to Saudi Arabia. He was not carrying good news - the Saudi offer of a ceasefire with al-Qaeda for both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had been rejected, as the al-Qaeda leadership is determined to pursue its policy of bringing down "un-Islamic" governments and imposing their own policies or alternatively getting Pakistan to change its policies in favor of the militants.

Pakistan is the first stepping stone in al-Qaeda's global strategy. Once the organization and its allies take control of the country or force the decision-makers to promote global Islamic resistance, the first direct impact will be on the Afghan insurgency, where support would multiply against Western coalition forces there.

Maybe Osama read the PNAC treatise on how to take over the world?

Is the ethanol party over?

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Because these German scientists are saying something that a lot of us were thinking:

Biofuels, once championed as the great hope for fighting climate change, could end up being more damaging to the environment than oil or gasoline. A new study has found that the growth and use of crops to make biofuels produces more damaging greenhouse gases than previously thought.

German Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen and his team of researchers have calculated the emissions released by the growth and burning of crops such as maize, rapeseed and cane sugar to produce biofuels. The team of American, British and German scientists has found that the process releases twice as much nitrous oxide (N2O) as previously thought. They estimate that 3 to 5 percent of nitrogen in fertilizer is converted and emitted, as opposed to the 2 percent used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its calculations.

Crutzen is widely respected in the field of climate research, having received the Nobel Prize in 1995 for his research into the ozone layer. The study, published in the scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, finds that the growth and use of biofuels produced from rapeseed and maize can produce 70 percent and 50 percent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.

We're going to have to invent solar cells on everything we use, wear, and build..... That or have an army of hamsters in exercise wheels to run our public transport systems.

I guess you shouldn't mess with 80 year olds

They damn well won't put up with any shit:
PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- Bette Miller may move slowly, but at 80 years old her mind is still sharp as ever.

And when it comes to getting her money, this sweet, soft-spoken woman is not about to back down.

"A $5,000 bond, you don't throw over your shoulder and forget about it," Miller said. "They seem to think they've got the upper hand, and I've got a story that beats theirs all to heck."

Bette's story starts back in 1984, when she and her husband Laurence purchased a $5,000 bond from Rainier National Bank.

They put the bond in a safe deposit box, where it stayed until 2005 when Bette moved out of her home and into an assisted living center in Port Orchard.

Rainier Bank is long gone -- sold to Security Pacific Bank in 1987, which was purchased by Bank of America in 1992.

Two years ago, Bette and her son Greg took the bond to a Bank of America branch, but the bank refused to cash it.

"I'm pretty hot about them trying to take advantage of my Mom; trying to rip her off," Greg Miller said.

Greg and his sister, Pam, have been fighting the bank ever since.
Bette says she never cashed the bond, and never received a notice from the bank saying it had been turned over to unclaimed funds.

Bank of America spokeswoman Colleen Haggerty said the bank can't say exactly what happened to Bette's money because the bank's records only go back seven years.

"This situation may serve as a reminder to your viewers to keep close track of all their investments, especially older accounts," Haggerty said in a written statement.

Bette, however, is not giving up. Her lawyer has prepared a lawsuit, so a jury may get to decide this one.

"I'm not going away," Bette said. "I want my money."
And here:

An attempted home invasion in Sterling Heights, Mich., went awry when an 80-year-old homeowner decided to take action against intruders.

The unidentified homeowner said she had been heading to her front door this week when she heard someone crawling through her kitchen window, Detroit's WDIV-TV reported Wednesday.

"His foot was in my sink. He knocked all my little figurines off my window sill," the woman. "I picked up that foot and I shoved the whole body out of the window. He fell right out of my window."

The would-be robber and an accomplice immediately fled, but the alert senior citizen had already called 911 -- and police arrested two suspects, who have since been linked to a series of burglaries in the area, the TV station reported.

Go Grandmas!

Update 9/28: Go Grandpas, too! Bank of America's screw the elderly policy isn't working out too well:

77-year old Peter Gossels won his 8-year lawsuit against Bank Of America for $10,000 in undisclosed fees the bank assessed when he deposited a large check drawn on a German bank. The elderly lawyer argued that the bank failed to disclose the exchange rate when he conducted the transaction. He might not have won had the bank not accidentally stapled to a deposition a "secret rate sheet" that was handed out to tellers daily and told not to show to customers.

The case cost Gossels well over the disputed value, but he said, "This is the only way banks will learn not to cheat its customers."

If people insist on using condoms

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Make them afraid of them:

The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately.

Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected "in order to finish quickly the African people".

The Catholic Church formally opposes any use of condoms, advising fidelity within marriage or sexual abstinence.

Aids activists have been angered by the remarks, one calling them "nonsense".

"We've been using condoms for years now, and we still find them safe," prominent Mozambican Aids activist Marcella Mahanjane told the BBC.

The UN says anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have proved very effective for treating people with Aids. The drugs are not a cure, but attack the virus on several fronts at once.

How on earth did someone think this was a good idea in the first place, socially awkward celibates advising sexually active people on sexual activity?

How can you restore confidence when the dollar and house prices are tanking?

Bet you retail's counted-on-to-keep-in-the-black Christmas spending spree will be a dud, too:

The dollar has fallen to yet another all-time low against the euro, after further weak US economic data.

Figures showed that US consumer confidence has fallen to a near two-year low, while house prices have seen the sharpest drop in 16 years.

Analysts said the data boosted expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates still further.

In early trading on Wednesday, the euro hit a high of $1.4162, before pulling back to $1.4131 by 2230 GMT.

'Anti-dollar momentum'

The Fed cut US interest rates to 4.75% from 5.25% last week, in a move aimed at restoring confidence in both the housing and financial markets.

And then this by Max Fraad Wolff of The Asia Times:

New data for September are available now - after all, it is September now. These data suggest rising prices led by surging oil, wheat, gold and foreign-currency prices. Not to worry, the Fed will monitor that while pumping money into banks and slashing rates to prevent the economic downturn that has already arrived!

In early August it was clear that foreclosures were spiking, markets were boiling over and panic was rife. Bernanke decided that it was time to sound the all-clear with a cautionary note on inflation risks. After all, oil was a whopping and scary US$70 a barrel back then. Now it has settled down to $82, and so the worry has lifted?

Food costs - especially wheat - have surged in the month since the Fed worried about inflation. I guess that is why we are now worried about financial-market conditions. Across the one month and one week between the meetings, the broadest US stock-market index, S&P500, went from 1,476.71 to Monday's close of 1,476.65. This must have been the radical deterioration that caused the about-face!

Bernanke is ideally focused on inflation-fighting, price stability and economic growth. It would seem he is concerned about bank demands for liquidity and equity-market indices. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. I am saying the talk, the action and the statements are not anywhere near to being on the same page.


The truth is that Tuesday's reassurance and logic are as frightening as the logic and all-clear sounded on August 7. Buckling under Wall Street pressure and slashing rates help stock prices. The way and timing in which the discount rate was cut - twice now - attack market shorts and artificially push up stock prices.

Thus it will be seen as genius by those you hear on TV, radio, and many newspapers. I am concerned that the Fed acted late, is confused about where we are in the calendar year, pays no mind to its recent statements, and is acting to head off future economic trouble that everyone else knows is already here.

Now... just exactly how do I go about changing my dollars into Euros?

Quick! Look while he's unGitmoed...

A judge who actually realizes what is at stake:

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."


The ruling probably won't have any immediate affect on enforcement under the Patriot Act, according to legal experts who predicted the government would quickly appeal.

"But it's an important first step," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security project.

Jaffer noted that the Patriot Act carries dozens of provisions and that several have been challenged - but that this is one of the first major rulings on Fourth Amendment rights.

"This is as clear a violation of the Fourth Amendment as you'll ever find," Jaffer said.

Garrett Epps, a constitutional law expert at the University of Oregon, said the ruling adds to the poor record that the Bush administration has piled up in defending the Patriot Act.

"It's embarrassing," Epps said. "It represents another judicial repudiation of this administration's terrorist surveillance policies."

Sunday, September 23, 2007's petition

First's statement:
The U.S. Senate just told you to sit down and be quiet. They passed a resolution condemning and it has one purpose: to intimidate all of us who care about responsibly ending this war. They wanted to send a message that anyone who speaks unpleasant truths about this war will pay. To make everyone--especially politicians--think twice before they accuse the administration of lying.

We can't let that happen, so we're letting Congress know that they're not going to intimidate us. Can you sign on to this statement?

A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to your Senators and Representative.
Then the petition.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Off on vacation again

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Where we will indubitably frolic amid the pine trees and watch the sunsets against the craggy mountain tops. I will post again in a few days.

While I slowly build up a head of steam from not blogging, I leave you with this observation:

When you look at the twits in office:

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Oops, sorry Marty, I mean:

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You realize that when you let idiots:

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Run the country, they'll drive it into the ditch:

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Because all of this to them is a big game:

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Of winner takes all:

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And these people are so taken up with power and hubris that they don't realize we have seen them for what they really are:

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Narrow mind, wide stance

Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo notices a pattern:
I think there's a pattern here for conservatives and their social attitudes. They don't mind restrictions on free speech, until they have something provocative to say. They want to restrict reproductive rights, until someone close to them has an unwanted pregnancy. They want to break down the church-state wall, until they feel like their faith is in the minority. They want to treat embryos as people, until they suffer from an ailment that could benefit from stem-cell research.

And they balk at the idea of equal rights for gay people, until it's their daughter who is looking for equality.

The key to social change in this country seems fairly straightforward: wait for conservatives to have more life experience.

Some people just sail through life oblivious to the humanity and needs of others, others are born with innate empathy and tolerance. Some start out with a kind heart which is broken by life's experiences, others lurch from a home of intolerance and hate and are able to love.

What helps keep people tolerant and understanding?

Education. Education teaches respect and understanding of other religions, other ethnicities, other countries. Education teaches tolerance and appreciation for nuance and subtlety. Education allows one to see the entire picture and where one fits into it.

This explains why there is the mockery of the sciences and the universities, the vilifying of gays, the letting loose the hounds of fanatical religion, the rising up of racial hatred, the celebration of war: all these things are activated to force progressives into a defensive crouch.

Luckily you can educate people out of stupidity... sometimes. Conservatives need educating.

Friday, September 21, 2007

General Betray Us

The Washington Post fact checks's ad about Petraeus:
The data provided by Gen. Petraeus on sharply declining Iraqi casualty rates is certainly open to analysis, debate, and challenge. We plan to take a closer look at them in a future post. However, does not provide adequate factual support for its larger assertion that Petraeus is "constantly at war with the facts" and is "cooking the books" for the White House. In the absence of fresh evidence, we award three Pinocchios.

Politicizing the military

(Via whig at Cannablog):

Friday Hope Blogging

What a wonderful world. Phila of Bouphonia presents the data.

Because of the Senate vote, raises $500,000

Via John Aravosis at Americablog:
From Eli Pariser, the Executive Director of MoveOn.
Dear MoveOn member,

Yesterday, an amazing thing happened. After the Senate's shameful vote, and after President Bush called MoveOn "disgusting," our email started to fill up with messages like this one:

I'm currently in Iraq. I do not agree with this war, and if I did support this war, it would not matter. You have the RIGHT to speak the truth. We KNOW that you support us. Thank you for speaking out for being our voice. We do not have a voice. We are overshooted by those who say that we soldiers do not support organizations like MoveOn. WE DO.

YOU ARE OUR voice.

And then came the donations. By midnight, over 12,000 people had donated $500,000—more than we've raised any day this year—for our new ad calling out the Republicans who blocked adequate rest for troops headed back to Iraq.

The message from MoveOn members was loud and clear: Don't back down. Take the fight back to the issues that matter.

So today we're shooting for a very ambitious goal: Reach $1 million so we can dramatically expand the campaign we launched yesterday going after politicians who support this awful war. Can you chip in $25 toward our goal?

Fridaiz kat blogn

Wid sumbudi elz' kat:

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Time for a nap.

Asses of evil

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A top American commander on Friday accused Iran of supplying powerful roadside bombs to militants in Afghanistan and said the U.S. would "act decisively" if the cross-border flow continues.

Heavy battles in the violence-plagued south, meanwhile, killed 75 Taliban and at least six civilians, and a suicide car bomb in the capital killed a French soldier and an Afghan bystander.

Adm. William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran's Revolutionary Guard is supplying roadside bomb parts for the type of sophisticated and deadly bombs found in Iraq known as explosively formed penetrators.

"The Iranians are clearly supplying some amount of lethal aid," Fallon told The Associated Press during a trip to Afghanistan. "There is no doubt ... that agents from Iran are involved in aiding the insurgency."

Why would it be Iran? Remember this?:
Iran was not on good terms with the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan and sheltered hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Iranians publicly endorsed the U.S.-led fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida and cooperated with the United States in trying to limit the spread of narcotics from Afghanistan.
And this?:

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards fought alongside and advised the Afghan rebels who helped U.S. forces topple Afghanistan's Taliban regime in the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the guards' former leader says.

In an interview by e-mail, Mohsen Rezaie, a candidate in Iran's presidential elections next week, says the United States has not given Iran enough credit. He says Iran played an "important role in the overthrow of the Taliban" in 2001.

But if Iran is involved in helping the hated Taliban or the fanatical al-Qaeda, could it be because of this?:

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

Just exactly who is the terrorist, Mr. Bush?

China's at it again

Lanzhou, China (AHN) - Over 250 kindergarten children were briefly hospitalized in China's northwestern province of Gansu on Thursday in what authorities suspect is a case of food poisoning.
The 147 boys and 113 girls, between the ages of 4 and 6, are students of Shiyan Kindergarten in Wuwei City. They were taken to the city's two hospitals starting on Wednesday for vomiting, fever and stomachaches.
Government officials said on Thursday that 244 have recovered and 16 are still suffering from a fever. The management of the kindergarten refused to comment on what happened.

Vicente Fox didn't like him either

I think the sharks in the water smell blood and are beginning to circle:

Although, the Bush administration has often painted a rosy picture of the relations between the two leaders, Fox's new book is full of information that challenges that assertion. Although, Fox does admit to having forged a "kinship" with the U.S. leader, much of Fox's memoir reveals that the political relationship between the two leaders was not nearly as smooth as proclaimed.

Fox, who left office in December, questions Bush's reported love of horses and calls his one-time U.S. counterpart, a "windshield cowboy"-a cowboy who prefers to drive, saying, ''A horse lover can always tell when others don't share our passion."

In his book, Fox calls Bush "the cockiest guy I have ever et in my life," and blasts the president's stance on immigration, along with the GOP's platform on the issue in general. Fox also holds Bush and the White House responsible for the war in Iraq, blaming Bush's stubbornness for the international backlash the war has sparked. He also calls his former friend's Spanish "grade-school level" and admits his own surprise in the former Texas governor's rise to the top of the U.S. political scene.

"I can't honestly say that I had ever seen George W. Bush getting to the White House," Fox writes in his book.

We could have told you, Mr. Fox, that Georgie doesn't like horses, and why would you be surprised at his 'grade-school level' Spanish if he can't even conjugate properly in English?

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Maybe this is why?:

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Could this happen in reverse?

You fall over a Segway perhaps and you lose the ability to speak your native language?

A CZECH speedway driver knocked unconscious in a crash stunned ambulance drivers when he woke up speaking perfect English.

18-year-old Matej Kus was out cold for 45 minutes after the crash, but when he woke up he conversed fluidly in English with paramedics, even speaking in an English accent.

The teenager had just begun to study the language and his skills were described by friends and team-mates as “basic at best”.


"Matej didn't have a clue who or where he was when he came round. He didn't even know he was Czech.

"It was unbelievable to hear him talk in unbroken English."

Unfortunately, the speedway driver's new found skills didn’t last and he remembers nothing of the accident or the following two days. He is now keen pursue studies in English.

He told the Daily Mail, through an interpreter: "It's unbelievable that I was speaking English like that, especially without an accent.

"Hopefully I can pick English up over the winter for the start of next season so I'll be able to speak it without someone having to hit me over the head first.

"There must be plenty of the English language in my subconscious so hopefully I'll be able to pick it up quickly next time."

I mean... It would explain a lot....

Update 9/22: It happened again, although this time it was just the accent:

A 10-year-old boy has woken up with a posh English accent after undergoing life-saving brain surgery.

William McCartney-Moore's usual northern England accent was replaced with a much more refined tones complete with elongated vowels after he had an operation to remove fluid on his brain.

William, who is from York, needed the surgery after falling ill with a rare strain of meningitis last March.

"He survived the operation and the most amazing thing is that he came out of surgery with a completely different accent,'' his mother Ruth McCartney-Moore told the York Press newspaper.

"He went in with a York accent and he came out all posh.

"He no longer had short 'a' and 'u' vowel sounds. They were all long.''

Mrs McCartney-Moore said doctors initially thought her son was going to die.

He lost everything, she said, including his ability to read, write and recognise different objects.

But William began to recover after the operation and was out of hospital in about a month.

"We went on a family holiday to Northumberland and he was playing on the beach and he said,
'Look, I've made a sand castle' but really stretched the vowels, which made him sound really posh,'' Mrs McCartney-Moore said.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

History will not be kind

No matter which way Bush tries to buff his legacy:
Bush's unyielding personality would have been best suited to the endless trench warfare of World War I, as a true compatriot of the disastrous British Gen. Douglas Haig. His mind is geared toward a static battlefield. For low-intensity warfare, such as in Iraq, "an authoritarian cast of mind would be a crippling disability," wrote British expert Norman F. Dixon in his classic work, "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence." "For such 'warfare,' tact, flexibility, imagination and 'open minds,' the very antithesis of authoritarian traits, would seem to be necessary if not sufficient."

Bush's ever-inflating self-confidence hides his gaping fear of failure. His obsession with deference demands exercises of humiliation that never satisfy him. His unwavering resolve is maintained by his adamant refusal to wade into the waters of ambiguity. "You can't talk me out of thinking freedom's a good thing!" he protests to his biographer. For Bush, even when he is long out of office, presiding at his planned library's Freedom Institute -- "I would like to build a Hoover Institute" -- victory will always be just around the corner.

It's not a small price

When it's your life that's lost.

Think Progress:
Americans United for Change launched this ad today, criticizing Rep. John Boehner’s (R-OH) recent remarks that the U.S. troop casualties would be a “small price to pay” to stay in Iraq over the long-term.

What is that whistling sound?

Via Sorghum Crow at Sorghum Crow's General Store, The Telegraph:

Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time, signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.


"This is a very dangerous situation for the dollar," said Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas.

"Saudi Arabia has $800bn (£400bn) in their future generation fund, and the entire region has $3,500bn under management. They face an inflationary threat and do not want to import an interest rate policy set for the recessionary conditions in the United States," he said.

The Saudi central bank said today that it would take "appropriate measures" to halt huge capital inflows into the country, but analysts say this policy is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to the collapse of the dollar peg.

As a close ally of the US, Riyadh has so far tried to stick to the peg, but the link is now destabilising its own economy.


There is now a growing danger that global investors will start to shun the US bond markets. The latest US government data on foreign holdings released this week show a collapse in purchases of US bonds from $97bn to just $19bn in July, with outright net sales of US Treasuries.

The danger is that this could now accelerate as the yield gap between the United States and the rest of the world narrows rapidly, leaving America starved of foreign capital flows needed to cover its current account deficit - expected to reach $850bn this year, or 6.5pc of GDP.

And also from The Telegraph, China gets in the act:

The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.


Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.

Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.

Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.

Via JJ at Unrepentant Old Hippie, the Canadian 'loonie' dollar:

TORONTO - Boosted by high commodity prices and a weakening U.S. dollar, the loonie reached parity with the greenback Thursday for the first time in nearly 31 years, promising to boost the energy and import sectors and give consumers cheaper vacations but spelling more trouble for Canada's industrial heartland.

The loonie, which has been gaining on its American counterpart since bottoming out below 62 cents in early 2002, has recently been on a spectacular run, up from 95 cents at the start of September and from under 90 cents last spring.

And via Atrios at Eschaton:

Losses from sub-prime mortgages have far exceeded "even the most pessimistic estimates", US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has said.

His comments to a US finance committee come two days after the Fed cut base interest rates to 4.75% from 5.25%.


Mr Bernanke told the committee that US mortgage woes were set to continue - especially with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).

Proceedings for about 320,000 foreclosures - or repossessions - were begun in each of the first two quarters of 2007 he said, against an average of 225,000 per quarter in the past six years.

"With house prices still soft and many borrowers of recent-vintage sub-prime ARMs still facing their first interest rate resets, delinquencies and foreclosure initiations in this class of mortgages are likely to rise further," he said.

Mr Bernanke added that it was difficult to be precise about how many repossessions would take place, but he said that in normal circumstances about half of homeowners who were given repossession notices ended up losing their homes.

"That ratio may turn out to be higher in coming quarters because the proportion of sub-prime borrowers, who have weaker financial conditions than prime borrowers, is higher," Mr Bernanke said.

Do we start stuffing our mattresses with Euros? Or do we start burying jars of gold coin about our backyards?

Can anyone tell us how much trouble we are in?