Friday, January 04, 2008

YouTube - Huckabee Press Conference

YouTube - Huckabee Press Conference: ""

So Huckabee says he's not going to run a negative ad, he shows the press the ad, he gives them a transcript and they air the press conference all for free. ... See Donald Trumps comments below.

Trump: 'Genius' Huckabee played press for suckers

The Raw Story | Trump: 'Genius' Huckabee played press for suckers: "Reality TV star, author and business mogul Donald Trump pronounced Mike Huckabee a "genius" who took advantage of "suckers" in the media to air negative attacks against Mitt Romney without having to purchase television time to do so.

Trump, appearing on Fox & Friends the morning of the Iowa caucuses, criticized the war in Iraq and high taxes in the US while commending Huckabee's performance last week. The former Arkansas governor called a press conference Monday at which his disavowed an attack ad produced by his campaign only to then show the ad to the assembled reporters.

"I thought it was genius," Trump said. "He played the ad for the press and you suckers are ... playing his whole ad for him."...

[bth: sure beats paying for ad time. See Red State Update video below for color commentary]

Jackie 09 Goes Negative

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Seven al Qaeda killed in Miqdadiyah

Seven al Qaeda killed in Miqdadiyah - The Long War Journal: "The region north of the city of Miqdadiyah remains al Qaeda in Iraq-controlled territory. Raids against al Qaeda in Iraq occur in the Miqdadiyah region on a daily basis, while al Qaeda continues to launch attacks into Baqubah, the provincial capital of Diyala on an almost daily basis.

The latest Coalition raid in Miqdadiyah occurred on Jan. 3, resulting in seven al Qaeda fighters killed. Coalition special forces, part of Task Force 88, the hunter-killer teams assigned to hunt al Qaeda's networks, "targeted associates of an al Qaeda in Iraq leader allegedly responsible for coordinating and directing a large terrorist group, and carrying out executions in the Diyala River Valley region." Coalition forces called in an airstrike on a safe house, killing two al Qaeda operatives. Five additional al Qaeda terrorists were killed in a follow-on raid.

In other operations on Jan. 3, Iraq soldiers captured "a high ranking commander in al Qaeda's network" in Diyala province, Voices of Iraq reported. The "Iraqi Army 5th Division, 2nd Brigade troops managed to capture a high ranking commander in al Qaeda's network called Nu’aman al Ubaidi in a military operation conducted at Tahweelah village belonging to Khalis, 15 [kilometers] north of Baqubah," said Staff General Salem al Mandalawi, the 5th Division commanding officer. Ubaidi "worked as a lieutenant in the 5th Division, before leaving the army and joining al Qaeda members." Two US soldiers were also killed and one wounded during operations in Diyala province, Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

The day prior, an al Qaeda suicide bomber, dressed as a woman, flung himself on the hood of a car and killed four Iraqis and wounded six. His target was Sheikh Abu Sajaad, a leader in the Baqubah Awakening Council. Sajaad was killed in the attack.

The Long War Journal recently identified Diyala province as one of the most dangerous regions in Iraq. Miqdadiyah was singled out as a "haven" for al Qaeda in Iraq. The situation in Diyala has deteriorated so badly that an indefinite provincial-wide curfew has been imposed. "Owing to the bad security situation in Diyala province, the Diyala operations command will impose an indefinite vehicle curfew on Friday all over the province from the morning," provincial military operations chief Brigadier General Raghib al Omeiri announced in a statement late today, AFP reported.

Brigadier General James Boozer, the Deputy Commander of Multinational Division North, stated that Miqdadiyah, Baqubah, and Mosul are the most dangerous cities in Iraq, and 60 percent of the violence occurs in the North. "Diyala is a crucial line of communication that the enemy wants to keep and that they were using to go to Baghdad," said Boozer. "That line is now pretty sealed." But the violence continues in Diyala as al Qaeda in Iraq attempts to destroy the Awakening and related Concerned Local Citizens movements fighting the terror groups.

Since the New Year, Iraqi and US forces have killed at least nine al Qaeda operatives and captured 20 during operations in the Baqubah and Miqdadiyah regions. On Jan. 1, US soldiers killed two and captured seven members of an al Qaeda IED cell in Buhriz and captured four more north of Miqdadiyah. On the same day Iraqi security forces captured an al Qaeda leader in Khalis and arrested four members of Buhriz's popular committees for involvement with al Qaeda. On Dec. 31, police captured a senior al Qaeda leader and two associated in Baqubah.

US and Iraqi forces continue to work to dismantle al Qaeda's network in Diyala and nationwide. Multinational Forces Iraq identified 51 senior al Qaeda members as killed or captured in December, Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq said in a Jan. 2 briefing. Among them were "8 regional, city and functional emirs, 9 cell leaders, 6 that were involved in media and propaganda activities, 5 foreign terrorist facilitators, 7 vehicle bomb and improvised explosive device facilitators, and 16 other facilitators, such as religious advisors, financiers, intelligence gatherers and weapons traffickers," said Bergner.

Included in the 10 most significant al Qaeda operatives identified in December was Salam Hadi Alwan, al Qaeda in Iraq's media emir, who was killed in a Dec.-4 raid in Khan Bani Sa’ad, just south of Baqubah. "He was new in this position having replaced the previous Emir who was killed in November," said Bergner.



[bth: it would appear to me that the al Qaeda forces in Iraq were kicked out of Anbar and driven out of most of Baghdad and they converged in Diyala.]

Al Jazeera No Longer Nips at Saudis

Al Jazeera No Longer Nips at Saudis - New York Times: "DUBAI United Arab Emirates — When a Saudi court sentenced a young woman to 200 lashes in November after she pressed charges against seven men who had raped her, the case provoked outrage and headlines around the world, including in the Middle East.

But not at Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s leading satellite television channel, seen by 40 million people. The station’s silence was especially noteworthy because until recently, and unlike almost all other Arab news outlets, Al Jazeera had long been willing — eager, in fact — to broadcast fierce criticisms of Saudi Arabia’s rulers.

For the past three months Al Jazeera, which once infuriated the Saudi royal family with its freewheeling newscasts, has treated the kingdom with kid gloves, media analysts say.

The newly cautious tone appears to have been dictated to Al Jazeera’s management by the rulers of Qatar, where Al Jazeera has its headquarters. Although those rulers established the channel a decade ago in large part as a forum for critics of the Saudi government, they now seem to feel they cannot continue to alienate Saudi Arabia — a fellow Sunni nation — in light of the threat from Iran across the Persian Gulf.

The specter of Iran’s nuclear ambitions may be particularly daunting to tiny Qatar, which also is the site of a major American military base.

The new policy is the latest chapter in a gradual domestication of Al Jazeera, once reviled by American officials as little more than a terrorist propaganda outlet. Al Jazeera’s broadcasts no longer routinely refer to Iraqi insurgents as the “resistance,” or victims of American firepower as “martyrs.”

The policy also illustrates the way the Arab media, despite the new freedoms introduced by Al Jazeera itself a decade ago, are still often treated as political tools by the region’s autocratic rulers.

“The gulf nations now feel they are all in the same boat, because of the threat of Iran, and the chaos of Iraq and America’s weakness,” said Mustafa Alani, a security analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. “So the Qataris agreed to give the Saudis assurances about Al Jazeera’s coverage.”

Those assurances, Mr. Alani added, were given at a September meeting in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, between King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and top officials in the Qatari government. For the meeting, aimed at resolving a long-simmering feud between the nations, the Qataris brought along an unusual guest: the chairman of Al Jazeera’s board, Sheik Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani.

Al Jazeera’s general manager, Waddah Khanfar, did not reply to phone and e-mail requests for comment. But several employees confirmed that the chairman of the board had attended the meeting. They declined to give their names, citing the delicacy of the issue. The governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia have remained silent on the matter.

Repercussions were soon felt at Al Jazeera.

“Orders were given not to tackle any Saudi issue without referring to the higher management,” one Jazeera newsroom employee wrote in an e-mail message. “All dissident voices disappeared from our screens.”

The employee noted that coverage of Saudi Arabia was always politically motivated at Al Jazeera — in the past, top management used to sometimes force-feed the reluctant news staff negative material about Saudi Arabia, apparently to placate the Qatari leadership. But he added that the recent changes were seen in the newsroom as an even more naked assertion of political will.

“To improve their relations with Qatar, the Saudis wanted to silence Al Jazeera,” he wrote. “They got what they wanted.”

The changes at Al Jazeera are part of a broader reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In December, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, announced that Saudi Arabia would send an ambassador back to Qatar for the first time since 2002. Also in December, the Saudis attended the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Doha, Qatar’s capital, which they had refused to do the last time it was held there. The Saudis have also indicated that they may allow Al Jazeera to open a bureau in Riyadh.

The feud between Qatar and its much larger neighbor, for all its pettiness, has had real consequences. It led to the creation of Al Jazeera in the first place, which in turn helped shape perceptions — and, perhaps, realities — across the Arab world and beyond over the past decade.

The feud began in the mid-1990s, when the Qatari leadership accused the Saudis of supporting a failed coup attempt. Soon afterward, Al Jazeera was founded with a $150 million grant from the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and began reshaping the Arab media. The station was helped when the BBC’s Arabic-language television station, co-owned by a Saudi company, collapsed, thanks in part to Saudi censorship demands. The BBC journalists flocked to Al Jazeera.

The mere establishment of the station was a challenge to the Saudis, who since the 1970s had used their oil wealth to establish control over most of the pan-Arab media in an effort to forestall the kind of populist media campaign led in earlier decades by Gamal Abdel Nasser when he was Egypt’s president, said Marc Lynch, a professor of political science at George Washington University and the author of a book about Al Jazeera’s role in reshaping the Arab media. ...

Saudi Arabia’s Promised Reforms

Saudi Arabia’s Promised Reforms - New York Times: "King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia did the right thing when he pardoned the “Qatif girl.” The perfect injustice of the case, in which a young woman was gang raped and then sentenced to 200 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married, left him no choice. Now another ugly face of Saudi justice has been revealed, one that cannot be explained by religion, ancient tradition or culture. The detention last month of an outspoken blogger, Fouad al-Farhan — only confirmed by the Interior Ministry this week — is an act of thoroughly modern despotism and one the king should immediately overrule.

Mr. Farhan’s Web site, www.alfarhan.org, has posted a letter from him in which he said he was being investigated because of his writings about political prisoners. If King Abdullah is really serious about reforming his kingdom’s legal system, as he has indicated that he is, then he must change not only the Sharia-based courts but also the organs of state security that silence critics in his name.

King Abdullah’s announced reforms include the creation of a Supreme Court as well as specialized courts for criminal, commercial, labor and family matters, and the training of legal staff. These plans have been especially welcomed by foreigners doing business in Saudi Arabia, who have been hamstrung by the capriciousness of the religious judges.

The case of the woman from the Eastern town of Qatif should make clear to the king that his reforms cannot stop at making life easier for businessmen. They must also make life far better for women, who are denied basic legal and social rights, and they must give more legal protection to those who criticize the government.

Defenders of the existing Saudi system argue that change in this traditional society must come slowly. Many Saudis are clearly eager for more and faster change. A Gallup poll conducted last year showed that a majority want more freedoms for women. King Abdullah has demonstrated a laudable desire for reform. He must understand that cruelty, sex discrimination and censorship cannot be part of a modern legal system or a country that wants to participate in the modern world.

When President Bush visits Saudi Arabia this month, he should remind the king of that.

[bth: what do we stand for?]

Huckabee, Obama Win in Iowa - Red State Update

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Invictus - William Ernest Henley

"Invictus"

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.



© William Ernest Henley, (1849 - 1903).

YouTube - Obama's Victory Speech

YouTube - Obama's Victory Speech: ""

Townhall.com::Blog - Huckabee Chairman Ed Rollins Trashes Romney

Townhall.com::Blog: "Amanda Carpenter files this report from the ground in Iowa:

At a hole-in-the wall Des Moines eatery, Mike Huckabee’s campaign chairman loudly bashed their top rival presidential candidate Mitt Romney and made several predictions to two national television reporters.

I overheard Rollins’ conversation while dining in a restaurant called Winston’s located close to Huckabee’s Iowa headquarters and took notes on my computer. Below is a compilation of what I heard:

-He distinctly talked about going negative in South Carolina and told someone on the phone to “put some good in there if you have to, with the bad. Do what you gotta do.”

-Rollins let the f-bomb fly twice and told his blonde female dining companion a joke about flying the Confederate flag in the South Carolina state capitol.

-Rollins indicated several times their campaign was the victim of “dirty tricks” and that they were being unfairly outspent.

-Rollins also criticized another candidate as believing the Presidency was “their birthright.”

-Rollins made a phone call to Lou Dobbs and said he would ready to have drinks with him after Iowa to talk about Hillary. There also was a reference to Rollins’ recent comments about wanting to knock Romney’s teeth out, as Rollins told Dobbs “they are all porcelain.”

-Rollins also called Andrea Mitchell and predicted Obama would take Iowa tonight. He called Mitchell “sweetie” several times.

-Rollins believes Rudy Giuliani is “done,” “has no money,” and was “hurt terribly by those police cruises with his girlfriends.”

-Rollins called said Fred Thompson was “as disgrace as a candidate. Fred has been a friend a long time, but has never converted a single vote. No one is taking him seriously.”

-Rollins indicated he feels good about Iowa and that “all the sales are made, the customers just have to show up.”

-Rollins ate a tuna melt and carrot cake. His female companion picked “marbled rye” bread.

[bth: I grow weary of evangelical hypocrites.]

Wars Cost $15 Billion a Month, GOP Senator Says

Wars Cost $15 Billion a Month, GOP Senator Says: "The latest estimate of the growing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worldwide battle against terrorism -- nearly $15 billion a month -- came last week from one of the Senate's leading proponents of a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"This cost of this war is approaching $15 billion a month, with the Army spending $4.2 billion of that every month," Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, said in a little-noticed floor speech Dec. 18. His remarks came in support of adding $70 billion to the omnibus fiscal 2008 spending legislation to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as counterterrorism activities, for the six months from Oct. 1, 2007, through March 31 of next year.

While most of the public focus has been on the political fight over troop levels, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported this month that the Bush administration's request for the 2008 fiscal year of $189.3 billion for Defense Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and worldwide counterterrorism activities was 20 percent higher than for fiscal 2007 and 60 percent higher than for fiscal 2006.

Pentagon spokesmen would not comment last week on Stevens's figure but said their latest estimate for monthly spending for Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism was $11.7 billion as of Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2007.

One reason for Stevens's larger cost figure may be that U.S. troop levels in Iraq peaked at 180,000 in November, which is part of the 2008 fiscal year, and will fall only slightly in the next three months. In addition, in its December report, the CRS noted that the Pentagon does not include intelligence operations and other classified activities in its cost estimates, nor does it tally congressional add-ons for the National Guard and reserve forces.

"Stevens is being realistic," said Gordon Adams, who served as the senior national security official at the Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1997, in the Clinton administration.

Pointing out that Bush's request comes out to $15.8 billion per month, Adams said: "Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror are not getting cheaper. . . . This will go down some, as the surge comes home, but not as much as people think."

He added: "More and more of these so-called emergency funds are being used to repair and buy new military hardware," because "the Pentagon is worried that defense budgets will start to go down next year."

The CRS reports that a good part of the increased spending is not only for replacing lost equipment but "more often to upgrade and replace 'stressed' equipment and enhance force protection." It noted that a recent Congressional Budget Office study "found that more than 40% of the Army's spending for repair and replacement of war-worn equipment" was "spent to upgrade systems to increase capability, to buy equipment to eliminate longstanding shortfalls in inventory" and to convert new combat units to more flexible organizational structures.

Stevens made it clear that the $70 billion in the omnibus bill for the wars will cover only costs for the six months ending March 31, when Congress will again have to wrestle with a supplemental spending bill to pay for the wars. By then, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, will have presented Congress with their update on the situation in Iraq.

Last Friday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that he hopes troop levels, which drive costs, could continue to go down in 2008. But he warned that they would continue only "if conditions on the ground" permit sustaining "the gains we have already made."

One indication of how fast costs are rising is that operations and maintenance costs for all of fiscal 2007 were $72 billion, and the entire fiscal year 2008 request was $81 billion, according to the CRS.

The Pentagon has anticipated rising war costs before. In January, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England told a House Budget Committee hearing that, nearly four years into the war, the Pentagon's war costs were rising because it had to replace big-ticket items such as helicopters, airplanes and armored vehicles, which were wearing out or were lost in combat. "We have a backlog and are seeing an increase," England told the panel.

At that time, 11 months ago, Pentagon spokesmen said the monthly costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 would be $9.7 billion -- $2 billion less than their most recent estimate.

One relatively new cost is the $300 monthly payments to almost all Iraqis recruited as part of the "Concerned Local Citizens" (CLC) program, which arms neighborhood groups to provide local security. The latest quarterly Iraq report by the Pentagon puts the program total at 69,000 people.

Since more than 80 percent of the CLC participants are Sunni, the Shiite-led government has hesitated to integrate them into the police force. That means that the United States will need to continue paying them until the Iraqi government "assumes full responsibility for the program," according to the Pentagon report.

Much of the CLC money is coming out of the Commanders Emergency Response Program, which until now has been used mainly for small local assistance or development projects, such as school rebuilding, roads or sanitary systems. The omnibus spending package includes $500 million in these funds.

Another category Stevens identified in the spending bill was $587 million to reset pre-positioned stocks of military equipment taken from U.S. facilities around the world to support Iraq and Afghanistan. Replenishing such stocks, Stevens said, "enhances our nation's ability to respond to contingencies," noting that "we have forces in 141 different places."

Some of the bill's spending figures that Stevens described represent what the administration sought for the full 2008 fiscal year. For example, he listed "$4.3 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund, which will help our troops detect and defeat the number one killer of our troops in Iraq." That is only slightly less than the figure the administration sought for the full year.

Another category that appears to have been fully funded is the military intelligence program. The administration requested $3.7 billion for the full year, and Stevens said there is "$3.7 billion to continue to enhance our intelligence activities in the theater."

[bth: I note this article with some interest. The issue for the US and its enemies in Iraq is financial attrition. We are bleeding out financially. Deferred maintenance or under reporting of costs in prior years has finally caught up with liars like Dov Zackheim who has long since fled the scene of the financial crime. Why the Army is getting such a small percentage relative to the other services deserves an explanation because it robs money from people actually in combat. But the core point I want to make is financial attrition. This war is breaking the bank and what's curious is that it may have had the same impact on the Sunni population in Iraq and their shady Saudi financial backers. But in our haste to find 'victory' we are now paying the enemy, now bought and paid for 'friendly militias' in Anbar. Was our temporary victory actually a financial one? We are paying our enemies. Is that a bad thing? Well it may be cheaper than fighting them, but it should be noted that the Iraqi government is loathe to pick up the tab and until they do our 'surge' victory is temporal. The most cost effective defense in Anbar province might be to leave it. Simply get out of range.]

Armchair Generalist: Bill Kristol's Club

Armchair Generalist: Bill Kristol's Club: "Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute and oft-quoted in the Washington Post, thinks the Cheney-Bush national security record for 2007 has been just great. In particular, he notes:

In August, casualty figures in Iraq confirmed a major decline in violence "at least partly due to a surge of US forces that have been opposed by Democrats."

In September, the Israeli air force destroyed a Syrian facility implicated in the development of nuclear weapons, following consultations with the Pentagion.

In October, the North Korean government agreed to abandon its own nuclear weapons program in return for economic aid and a normalization of relations.

In November, the US intelligence community finished its NIE finding that Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in 2003, perhaps due to the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

Now I would start by saying, improving on the Cheney-Bush national security record of 2001-2006 would (in my mind) be pretty easy. But I think most of us have a slightly different point of view as to these recent events. Specifically, I would suggest:

US troop casualties in Iraq have been the worst in 2007 since the end of 2003, and one can identify the homogenized neighborhoods as driving down the civilian violence rather than the surge.

The Syrian facility hit by the Israeli air force wasn't suspected by the US intelligence facility as being a nuclear weapons facility (and as RE notes in comments, how is this a win for us?).

The North Korean government has not disclosed all the details of its nuclear weapons program as it had promised to by the end of the year (surprise, surprise).

And did the Cheney-Bush administration fight anything more fiercely in 2007 than the public release of the Iran NIE?

So why is it that these commentators who are so wrong on these issues are the ones most sought after by the media for their views?

[bth: the reason the media isn't challenging these views is that they inherently lazy, aren't interested in doing their homework especially if it bucks the conventional wisdom of the time.]

Thursday, January 03, 2008

YouTube - Apocalypse Now - Ride of the Valkyries

YouTube - Apocalypse Now - Ride of the Valkyries: ""

This is the end

TBogg - "...a somewhat popular blogger"

Rasmussen Reports™: The most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a mid-term election.

Rasmussen Reports™: The most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a mid-term election.: "

Favorability Ratings Among Presidential Candidates

Favorable Unfavorable
McCain 53% 27%
Edwards 49% 42%
Clinton 48% 50%
Obama 43% 51%
Thompson 42% 42%
Giuliani 40% 55%
Huckabee 40% 47%
Romney 38% 51%"
 
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Former Head of Army's Body Armor Program Under Criminal Investigation

"Retired Army Colonel John D. Norwood (West Point '80), former head of the Army office responsible for body armor, is reported to be under criminal investigation for alleged violations of federal law related to his taking a post-retirement job with Armor Holdings, Inc., one of the major providers of Interceptor Body Armor to the Army .

Two sources aware of the investigation have told DefenseWatch that at least three federal agencies are investigating Norwood's transition from being the Project Manager for Soldier Equipment under PEO-SOLDIER (from 2003 until his retirement in the summer of 2006) to his post-retirement job as a Vice President of the Aerospace & Defense Group of Armor Holdings.

Editor's Note: Effective August 1, 2007 BAE became the owner of Armor Holdings, Inc., and the new owners assigned components of former Armor Holdings to already existing divisions within BAE. A representative of BAE confirmed to DefenseWatch that Col. Norwood is a current employee with the title of "Vice President for Business Development" of a BAE component. This representative stated that he was "unaware of any investigation involving Col. John Norwood."

(DefenseWatch first exposed Norwood's trip through the revolving door from a senior position in the Army's body armor program responsible for Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) to a senior position with Armor Holdings.)

A third source, a long-time member of the personal protective equipment industry, has told DefenseWatch that one of the specific allegations for which Norwood is being investigated involves possible illegal actions with regard to classified information.

DefenseWatch will continue to pursue this story and keep its readers informed as more information becomes available.

Editor's Note: It is important to emphasize: (1) that Norwood is entitled to the presumption of innocence. To this point a criminal investigation is underway. And, (2) that an investigation means only that federal law enforcement agencies are gathering evidence that will be presented to a US Attorney for determination as to whether the evidence is sufficient to move forward to the next level of legal proceedings, i.e., presentation of evidence to a federal grand jury. A DefenseWatch email to Norwood's personal/home email account has not been answered.

[bth: Soldiers For The Truth has done an outstanding job representing basic soldiers and marines.]

YouTube - Celtic Woman - Orinoco Flow

YouTube - Celtic Woman - Orinoco Flow: ""

Iran no longer aids Iraq militants 

Iran no longer aids Iraq militants - - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Iran's leaders are no longer supplying weapons or training to Islamic militants in Iraq, the spokesman for the top U.S. commander in Iraq told The Washington Times.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, sees Iran as following through on assurances it made to Iraqi and U.S. officials last fall not to assist extremists in Iraq, spokesman Col. Steven Boylan said, adding that other U.S. officials have noted declines in Iranian weapons and funds to Iraqi insurgents.

"We are ready to confirm the excellence of the senior Iranian leadership in their pledge to stop the funding, training, equipment and resourcing of the militia special groups," Col. Boylan said. "We have seen a downward trend in the signature-type attacks using weapons provided by Iran."

In October, U.S. military officials began noticing a decrease in the supply of Iranian weapons and assistance, Col. Boylan added.

The disclosure comes just weeks after a National Intelligence Estimate pruned back its assessment of Iran's nuclear program, saying "with high confidence" that the Islamic republic had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Tehran's aid for Islamic militias in Iraq and its nuclear program have resulted in calls from some in Washington for military action against Iran, and these two developments are likely to dampen such calls.

Some outside analysts have argued, though, that Iran-based aid may be getting to Iraqi insurgents without the approval of the government in Tehran.

But the colonel cautioned that while Iran's efforts are promising, U.S. military officials remain wary, partly over some contrary events on the ground in Iraq.

For example, he disclosed that U.S. troops "recently captured individuals who have been in Iran, training, as short as 45-60 days ago." He did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the captured individuals or the possible investigation.

"We are very much in the wait-and-see mode to see what happens,"
Col. Boylan said.

In July, four terrorists linked to an Iranian smuggling operation — responsible for targeting coalition forces with powerful bombs — were captured in Iraq.

The confirmation of Iran's cooperation also comes at a time when U.S. military officials have confirmed a 60 percent decrease in violence, including improvised explosive device attacks and civilian deaths in Iraq.

Last year, U.S. military officials publicly released evidence of links between Iran and insurgents, including weapons, such as improvised explosive devices and mortars, that bore the markings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The smuggling of deadly explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) — warhead-style weapons that can pierce armor and that have caused the most casualties and damage to U.S. forces — also was traced back to Iran.

In December, the Pentagon issued a report to Congress titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" stating that Iran is continuing to supply weapons and personnel to train insurgents in Iraq. It suggested that the recent declines in violence aren't the result of Iran's claims that it has squelched involvement in Iraq but to other factors, such as the troop surge.

"There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi'a militias in Iraq," the report stated. "Tehran's support for Shi'a militant groups who attack Coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to progress toward stabilization."

Army Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman, said the words from Gen. Petraeus' office on Iran's cutting aid don't contradict the Department of Defense Iraq report, because it was based on information obtained prior to the end of the November deadline.

"The report we issued to Congress is meant to be retrospective in nature," Col. Ballesteros said. "It is meant to cover the last 90 days of data and provides a snapshot of that period on the ground."

Col. Boylan stated that despite Iran's current cooperation, Islamic radicals and terrorist groups still pose a serious danger to stability in the region
.

[bth: the colonels simply don't know which way to spin the stories, facts be damned. Gen. Petraeus probably doesn't know either. It's really intersting to see. Earlier in the year Iran seemed to be dubbed the only place in the world with an exclusive license to make EFPs. Now their not? My guess is that the Pentagon was overstating Iranian involvement and is now understating it, both for political purposes in the U.S.]

YouTube - The Last of the Mohicans

YouTube - The Last of the Mohicans: ""

Iraq War Taking Back Seat to Domestic Issues

Iraq War Taking Back Seat to Domestic Issues - New York Times: "DES"MOINES — The Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are navigating a far different set of issues as they approach the Iowa caucuses on Thursday than when they first started campaigning here a year ago, and that is likely to change even more as the campaigns move to New Hampshire and across the country.

Even though polls show that Iowa Democrats still consider the war in Iraq the top issue facing the country, the war is becoming a less defining issue among Democrats nationally, and it has moved to the back of the stage in the rush of campaign rallies, town hall meetings and speeches that are bringing the caucus competition to an end. Instead, candidates are being asked about, and are increasingly talking about, the mortgage crisis, rising gas costs, health care, immigration, the environment and taxes.

The shift suggests that economic anxiety may be at least matching national security as a factor driving the 2008 presidential contest as the voting begins.

The campaigns are moving to recalibrate what they are saying amid signs of this changing backdrop; gone are the days when debates and television advertisements were filled with references to Iraq....

[bth; out of sight out of mind.]
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Sacked for sheep sex prank

Sacked for sheep sex prank | British oil workers | Eid Al Adhha | sacrifice | The Sun |HomePage|News: "TWO British oil workers have been sacked after simulating sex with sheep due to be slaughtered for a Muslim festival.

The animals were being killed for 30 foreign workers to celebrate Eid Al Adhha in the Algerian oil town Hassi Messaoud.

The men, who have not been named, were reported by stunned restaurant workers and guards — then sacked by their employer, US industrial giant Schlumberger.

They were accused of “sheep violation”.

A spokesman for the company — which provides services to oil firms — said: “The individuals have been dismissed because their behaviour was totally unacceptable.”

Meanwhile a police spokesman warned that local Muslims saw the sacrificing of sheep at Eid as “some-
thing very sacred”.

One ex-pat living in Algeria told The Sun: “If you relate this to teacher Gillian Gibbons they can thank their lucky stars.

“All she did was name a teddy bear Mohammed
 
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Saudi Authorities Detain Popular Blogger - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Saudi Authorities Detain Popular Blogger - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "RIYADH Saudi Arabia — Saudi authorities have detained a popular blogger for violating the kingdom's laws, a senior Interior Ministry official said Tuesday. It was the first known arrest of a Saudi online critic.

The blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, was being questioned by security authorities, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Monsour al-Turki said. He added the blogger might be released on Wednesday but did not elaborate.

The Saudi English daily, Arab News, said al-Farhan had "violated non-security regulations." The paper said the 32-year-old Jeddah resident was arrested at his office Dec. 10 and taken to his home where police conducted a search. There were no other details.


Al-Farhan's family has contacted the governmental Human Rights Commission, asking for help in the case, the paper said.

Al-Farhan is one of the few bloggers who uses his real name. His blog headline reads: "Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, shoura and all the rest of lost Islamic values." Shoura is Arabic for public consultation.

Following the arrest, al-Farhan's friends who are now running his Web site, posted a letter allegedly from the blogger claiming he was told by an official there was an Interior Ministry order "to investigate me and they will pick me up anytime in the next two weeks."

In it, he also said he believed Saudi authorities were after him because he "wrote about political prisoners in Saudi Arabia."

Al-Farhan added that officials asked him to sign an apology but that he wasn't ready to do that.

"An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is liar when it accused those people of supporting terrorism," he said.

Another Saudi blogger, Ahmad Al-Omran, told Arab News that al-Farhan's arrest could have been an attempt to intimidate other bloggers.

Soldier dies weeks after roadside bombing in Afghanistan

Soldier dies weeks after roadside bombing in Afghanistan | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle: "WOODBURN Ky. — A soldier from south-central Kentucky who suffered severe burns when the Humvee he was riding in rolled over a bomb in Afghanistan has died, his father said Wednesday.

Army Spc. Brian Gorham, 23, of Woodburn suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his face, legs, and arms in the Dec. 13 explosion. He died Monday, 18 days after the blast.

"My son was a fighter," his father, Toney Gorham said. "He fought the whole time."

Gorham served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy, and had been in Afghanistan for six months. He was being treated in a hospital in San Antonio.

Gorham was remembered as a likable man who was always willing to help his neighbors.

"If you were around Brian for very long you would like him," Jack Wright, a Sunday school teacher at Woodburn Baptist Church, told the Bowling Green Daily News. "I'm proud to have known him."

Frances McKinney, who lived across the street from Gorham and his family, said Gorham was like a big brother to her daughter.

"When my dad was sick, Brian and his mother would come over and help him up and get around the house," McKinney said.

McKinney said when she first heard about Gorham being injured by the roadside bomb, "I thought that it can't be hitting this close to home, but it was."

When the McKinneys moved into a house across from the Gorhams 15 years ago, the future soldier and his family helped welcome them to the community.

McKinney's husband spent eight years in the Army, so when Gorham enlisted, he was able to talk to someone who had military experience.

"I remember him coming over and saying he was really excited about doing something meaningful," McKinney said.

Debbie Brown, a secretary at Woodburn Baptist Church, said Gorham would often arrive at Wednesday church services wearing his Army ROTC uniform.

"I remember that he looked very distinguished and I'm sure he was proud to wear that uniform," Brown said.

Gov. Steve Beshear directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff in Gorham's honor.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Map of War

Informed Comment

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: "Bhutto's Murder" Richard Sale

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: "Bhutto's Murder" Richard Sale: "The chief suspects in the Bhutto assassination, as of forty eight hours ago, were lower and mid-level officers of Pakistan’s ISI, intelligence agency, and the Pakitani army.

Bhutto’s history with the ISI is long, tangled and, on the ISI’s side, murderous. The ISI or Inter-Service Intelligence agency was created in 1948, manned by officers from the three armed services. Pakistan became a fundamentalist Islamic state under the 1980s leadership of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq who assigned it to keep an eye on Bhutto’s Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) among other things. In fact, according to an Indian counterintelligence source, B Raman, with whom I used to stay in close touch, the ISI’s Internal Political Division poisoned two of Bhutto’s brothers on the French Rivera in 1985, to try to scare her out returning to Pakistan in order to run not only the PPP but another group she had started, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD). She ignored Zia and returned.

When Bhutto entered her first term as PM in 1988, she tried to reduce the ISI’s powers and boost the clout of the Intelligence Bureau or IB founded in 1947. Usually a Lt. Gen. heads the ISI, but Bhutto put in a major general close to her father. This was bitterly resented.
When she became PM again in 1993, Bhutto followed the custom of letting an Lt. General of the Army head the ISI. But she transferred the handling of operations supporting the Taliban from ISI to the Interior Ministry. It was at this time she began to work with Gen. Musharraf who was ISI’s DG of Military Ops. But factions within the ISI detested her, and in 1996, assassinated her only remaining brother outside his house Karachi in September, according to former US officials. A former ISI station chief in New Delhi hatched a plot to assassinate her in 1995, but the plan was foiled. Once Bhutto was in exile, Musharraf toppled PM Narwaz Sharif in 1999, and in the tradition of Zia, Musharraf, tied to weaken the PPP which has its chief base in Sind, the Sindhis basically a group with a lot of Sufi influence and given to religious tolerance. Musharraf set up a secret task force to wreck the PPP and scatter the Sindh nationalists. To do this it began to collaborate with the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI), which is a jihadi group with ties to bin Laden.Musharraf also boosted collaboration with other dangerous terrorist organizations in aiding the Taliban. In fact, in 2001, US intelligence analysts had targeted Gen. Mohammad Aziz of ISI, Lt. Gen. Hami Gull, Lt. Gen. Avid Nadir and others. All had ties to al Aida and after the attacks of 9/11, they were removed thanks to US pressure.


I remember talking to a State Dept official about these generals, and he said, "That’s interesting – fifteen minutes ago those names were on my classified briefing screen."
There were other groups just as dangerous such as the Hizbut-Tehrir that has many followers in the lower levels of the army does the Harkat-ul-al-Islami

September 11 changed everything,.and Musharraf had to abruptly stand his policy towards Afghanistan on its head. The ISI still supported the Taliban, but by then bin Laden had bought the group for $100 million, according to CIA officials. Suddenly Pakistan was a major front in the war on terror and the US soon installed and still maintains four military bases on Pakistani soil that no Pakistani can set foot in. Naturally, many of the old Zia loyalists and bin Laden sympathizers saw Musharraf as a turncoat and they have tried to kill him for being an American tool.

But for many ISI segments its closeness to othe jihadis hardly changed because of America’s tragedy. As a serving US intelligence analyst said to me in 2003, "It’s worrying when half of your lower and mid-level Pakistani intelligence analysts have bin Laden screen savers on their computers."

In any case, attacks on Musharraf were stepped up. When he visited Rawalpindi in December of 2003, rockets were fired at his car. In early 2007, there was an attempt to shoot down plane using anti-aircraft fire. After Musharraf ordered a bloody commando raid on the Red Mosque in Islamabad last July, there were two suicide attacks on the army’s general HQ and two attacks on the ISI offices. Following the attacks, lower ranking army and air force officers were arrested and it was revealed they had ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a jihadi group. But the investigations stopped at the bottom. No senior officers were arrested and the probe is dead is as dead Julius Caesar.

Bhutto was certainly a marked woman from the time she returned to Pakistan. If parts of the ISI detested Musharraf, they abominated her. She said two things that sealed her fate. She said that if elected PM, she would allow US forces to hunt for bin Laden on Pakistani soil, and that she would allow the Vienna-based IAEA to interrogate the rogue nuclear scientist, AQ Khan about his nuclear smugglings to North Korea, Iran, Libya, etc. After those statements, she had no chance of surviving. Pakistan’s deteriorating internal situation and its role in helping to destabilize Afghanistan were part of the reason the US wanted to reinsert Benazir Bhutto as the new prime minister. According to the South Asia Analysis think-tank, incidents of suicide terrorism in Afghanistan increased from 17 in 2005 to 123 in 2006 and has already touched 140 so far this year. The fact that these assaults were launched and coordinated from Pakistan was their most ominous element. Pakistan was known to be providing camps for terrorists and helping to train them, allegedly with ISI assistance, US officials said.

But worst of all was the fact that within Pakistan terrorist incidents had dramatically increased. There has been an average of four acts of suicide terrorism per month in Pakistani territory as against 12 per month in Afghan territory, and some of those in Pakistan were particularly grisly like the attack of Dec. 17 where nine members of the Pakistan Army soccer team were killed in Khoat in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).

In all, there have been within Pakistan 54 attacks to date. Thirty four of these were against military targets, including one against the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) in Tarbela, the two against the Inter-Services Intelligence, the two against the General Headquarters of the Army in Rawalpindi, one against the Air Force in Sargodha. Ten attacks were made on the police, and four were made against civilians, including the Oct. 18 attack on Bhutto that killed 140. The NWFP was Bhutto’s political base, and her main strength was in the rural Sindh. Bhutto used to have strength among the the Seraikis in the Punjab but she lost ground among the Pashtuns when Musharaff seduced from Bhutto’s ranks one Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a pro-Musharraf Pashtun leader of the NWFP. As his reward, Sherpao got the interior ministry and set up his own PPP in rivalry with Bhutto. Two attempts were then made to kill him, along with Amir Muqam, another pro-Musharraf Pashtun leader who was targeted by a suicide bomber. Both escaped.

The Pakistani armed forces have been waging bloody clashes in the Swat valley in NWFP but Pakistani control there is tenuous at best. Not only were the terrorists gaining ground in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but jihadi activity had in fact spread to the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the Northwest Frontier Provinces NWFP.

Bhutto was to change this as prime minister. She would get additional US intelligence assistance, and the NWFP would be the base for a new counter offensive against jihidi groups such as the new pro-Al Qaeda Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) of Maulana Fazlullah, popularly known as Maulana FM Radio
But Bhutto had profound enemies in the army and air force where she was seen as a front man for American interests, a proxy, "a bought dog," as one former Pakistani official said to me.

If I can offer an opinion, I think the Bush diplomacy that resurrected her was purblind to the point of dense stupidity, and, under the guise of promoting democracy, she was misled by her own sense of vanity and invulnerability and her liking to be liked by Americans.

When I think of her dying in the way she did, one can only fill with painful sorrow.

With greetings to all,

Richard Sale

Suicide Blast at Baghdad Funeral of Bomb Victim Kills Dozen

Suicide Blast at Baghdad Funeral of Bomb Victim Kills Dozens - washingtonpost.com: "BAGHDAD Jan. 1 -- By the time he reached the front gate of his neighbor's house, just minutes after the blast, Adil Ahmed saw flames leaping off the funeral tent. The guests' cars parked outside were blasted and burned. Some of the mourners were screaming with grief and rage, and many others were scattered on the ground, dead or dying.

The chemistry professor recalled bending down to one man who had saliva running down his chin. He pumped his chest and breathed into his mouth, again and again, in a vain attempt to save him.

He ran to other, less seriously injured men, and helped drag or carry them to cars waiting to rush them to the hospital. He noticed that some of the dead were still sitting upright in the burning tent on their plastic chairs. After an hour of this, his clothes were messy with blood.

"I failed," Ahmed said. "I couldn't help them." ...


An Iraqi army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Qasim Ata' Zahil, blamed the attack on the Diyala network of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. Authorities here nearly always blame suicide bombings on the al-Qaeda in Iraq group, because the tactic is not generally used by other militant groups.

Zahil said the funeral took place at the home of Muataz al-Azzawi, a former brigadier general in the Iraqi police who subsequently worked at the police sports club.

The bomber was a man known by the relatives of the deceased, Zahil said. "When the suicide bomber got inside the funeral, he shook hands with everybody," he said. "When he arrived at Muataz, he blew himself up." ...

Gunmen Kill U.S. Diplomat, Driver in Sudan's Capital - washingtonpost.com

Gunmen Kill U.S. Diplomat, Driver in Sudan's Capital - washingtonpost.com: "CAIRO Jan. 1 -- Gunmen fired on a car carrying a U.S. diplomat home from a New Year's Eve party in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, early Tuesday, fatally wounding the American and his Sudanese driver.

U.S. officials said it was too early to determine whether the attack was a political killing, coming the day after the formal activation in Sudan's troubled Darfur region of a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force that is opposed by Islamic extremists. Sudanese authorities called the killings an isolated criminal attack.

The U.S. diplomat worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to Walter Braunohler, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Khartoum. Braunohler declined to give the diplomat's name, but USAID identified him as John Granville, 33, and the driver as Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, 39, according to the Reuters news agency.

News agencies quoted the Sudanese Interior Ministry as saying gunmen in another car fired on the American's vehicle. The driver died immediately or soon after the shooting. The diplomat died Tuesday afternoon while receiving medical treatment in Khartoum, Braunohler said.

Alfred Taban, editor of the independent Khartoum Monitor newspaper, said the American was returning home in his official vehicle from a New Year's Eve party hosted by the British Embassy. The attack took place near the diplomat's home, Taban said. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said the time was about 4 a.m. ...

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, long resisted U.S. and other international pressure for deployment of a U.N. force in Darfur. Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, in messages released from the al-Qaeda figures' hiding places, have promised attacks against any U.N. peacekeepers who set foot in Darfur.

But this summer, Bashir agreed to allow a joint peacekeeping force of the United Nations and African Union.

The United Nations formally began its Darfur peacekeeping responsibilities Monday. Also Monday, President Bush signed legislation that allows local governments in the United States to prohibit the investment of public funds in companies that do business with Sudan.

The deployment has heightened tensions in Khartoum, Taban said. "The military considers the U.N. part of the U.S. . . . so their anger has been directed against the Americans," Taban said.

"There are people who are very close to the government who are really not happy with this U.N. thing," he said
.

[bth: it's hard to understate how loathsome the Sudanese government really is.]

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Military Use of Unmanned Aircraft Soars

My Way News - Military Use of Unmanned Aircraft Soars: "WASHINGTON (AP) - The military's reliance on unmanned aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes kill insurgents has soared to more than 500,000 hours in the air, largely in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

And new Defense Department figures obtained by The AP show that the Air Force more than doubled its monthly use of drones between January and October, forcing it to take pilots out of the air and shift them to remote flying duty to meet part of the demand.

The dramatic increase in the development and use of drones across the armed services reflects what will be an even more aggressive effort over the next 25 years, according to the new report.

The jump in Iraq coincided with the build up of U.S. forces this summer as the military swelled its ranks to quell the violence in Baghdad. But Pentagon officials said that even as troops begin to slowly come home this year, the use of Predators, Global Hawks, Shadows and Ravens will not likely slow.

"I think right now the demand for the capability that the unmanned system provides is only increasing," said Army Col. Bob Quackenbush, deputy director for Army Aviation. "Even as the surge ends, I suspect the deployment of the unmanned systems will not go down, particularly for larger systems."

For some Air Force pilots, that means climbing out of the cockpit and heading to places such as Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where they can remotely fly the Predators, one of the larger and more sophisticated unmanned aircraft.

About 120 Air Force pilots were recently transferred to staff the drones to keep pace with demands, the Air Force said....

[bth: like it or not UAV systems are cost effective, have more time on target and can be operated by non-pilots. We need to expand on this advantage to the maximum extend possible. Extraordinary opportunities present themselves here if we don't let large lobbying groups and air force generals screw it up. The air force has virtually priced itself out of the manned fighter aircraft business.]

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Medal snub for civilian 7/7 heroes

Medal snub for civilian 7/7 heroes - Times Online: "GORDON BROWN’S pledge to honour members of the public for heroism during terrorist attacks has been labelled a sham after dozens of civilians who went to the rescue of the 7/7 bombing victims were snubbed for awards.

Pleas to honour ordinary civilians have been rejected as undeserving - even though more than two dozen public sector staff, some of whom were doing desk jobs, have been honoured for their conduct on 7/7.

Martin Bell, the former independent MP who has called for a review of the honours system, said: “It is the usual - senior people are rewarded and the little guys are not.”

Brown made the pledge last July at the launch of a book he wrote on heroism, titled Britain’s Everyday Heroes. He said: “It is right that we look at how our honours system can recognise those in our emergency services and members of the public who showed such bravery and heroism in the face of the recent terrorist attacks.” ...

Daily Kos: The Death of the Bill of Rights: A Timeline of Infamy

Daily Kos: The Death of the Bill of Rights: A Timeline of Infamy: "In the modern era, America’s had her share of "days of infamy" – proclaimed and observed as such in memoriam, i.e., Pearl Harbor, 9-11 -- and others understated but equally significant like the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK; the three most sorrowful, memorable days in the lives of a certain generation of which I am a part. Add to that January 21, 2001 and you have six of the most horrific days in modern American history, and they’re all linked.

Without distinction, all were horrific, debilitating days in American life that forever changed history. But, we survived those "days of infamy" and some may even argue that we became stronger from experiencing every one of those earth-shattering events; both as a country, and as a people.

But, at the time, what we Americans failed to notice about the latter five of those aforementioned "days," was what they stole from us, and I’m not just talking about our collective innocence, although each one certainly managed that as well...

markthshark's diary :: ::
What I speak of is America’s future; or the potential thereof. What I’m talking about is a future that could have been radically different than the one we face now; one bearing the fruits of peace, freedom and equality for all; not oppression and oligarchic class warfare, which, I fear -- barring some kind of timely intervention -- we are heading for on our current course.

Yes, electing a Democrat as POTUS might mitigate the pitfalls of coming days, and if we’re extremely fortunate, electing a good Democrat may even grant us a reprieve in time to right this listing ship of state before its swallowed up by the roiling seas of authoritarianism.

But, significant damage is already done. Our current pResident and his soulless minions have seen to that. With all the diabolical subtlety of a serpent – and operating under the guise of incompetence -- this administration has performed in seven years what no administration has ever attempted to do, or at least to this extreme. They’ve managed to eviscerate our cherished Bill of Rights right before our eyes. And, we did nothing.

We simply weren’t paying attention.

I don’t mind saying that compiling a timeline of the death of the U.S. Bill of Rights was not an enjoyable task. When I looked at it in the context of 9-11, so many parts stood out as pure exploitation of that dastardly deed, and I see how we could have let some of it slip by as genuine earnest efforts at keeping America safe. But, BushCo began way before September 11, 2001, and why that fact alone doesn't spark outrage with the American people, to me, is perplexing to say the least. I just wonder how many focus groups Karl Rove conducted prior to Bush taking office in order to find the very best way to find our weaknesses and exploit them just as much as they exploited the tragedy of the WTC attacks.

They hit the ground running in January 2001 and took the insidious path to power; taking a little at a time, so we unwitting Americans wouldn’t notice.

And, we did not notice -- as expected.

Anyway, I’m expecting one of the Bushies to write a book someday with a title something like this: "Taking Down a 210-year old Democracy in Seven Short Years Under the Guise of Incompetence for Dummies."

Think it'll sell?


For what its worth, here it is: .....

[bth: worth the full read]

Army Postpones New Body Armor Tests

Army Postpones New Body Armor Tests: "The"Army has opted to delay testing of new body armor designs that can stop powerful armor piercing bullets and vests that contain flexible plating much like the controversial Dragon Skin armor.

Citing industry requests, the Army's top gear buyer told Military.com the test firing on so-called "XSAPI" and "FSAPI" armor would be held off until March 2008.

"Some body armor manufacturers told us they needed a little more time to get long-lead materials and to test new designs before they could submit them to us," said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, head of the Fort Belvoir, Va.-based Program Executive Office Soldier.

Brown said the new armor designs would likely be tested at Aberdeen Test Center, Md., beginning in March and finished up by June. Testing on the new designs was previously set to begin last fall.

Defense Tech: Army Seeks Body Armor for New Threat

The Army was pressured into launching a new solicitation for body armor designs after lawmakers held hearings on Capitol Hill to delve into the debate surrounding Dragon Skin, which is made by Fresno, Calif.-based Pinnacle Armor. An NBC News investigative report in May claimed that the flexible Dragon Skin armor was far more protective than the current Interceptor system, which uses two rigid ceramic plates to stop armor-piercing bullets.

The Army came out swinging before the NBC report aired, claiming Dragon Skin had catastrophically failed several make-or-break tests it had conducted -- the same kinds of tests used to certify all body armor systems submitted to the Army for fielding.

Related Article: Army Refutes Dragon Skin Claims

But that didn't stop some Dragon Skin advocates from claiming the fix was in, prompting a House Armed Services Committee hearing June 6 that pitted Pinnacle chief Murray Neal against the anti-Dragon Skin Army brass.

Nevertheless, the committee's ranking member, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., called for a side-by-side test of Dragon Skin and the Interceptor run by government engineers and overseen by both congressional and Pentagon auditors. That led to the Army's June 20 request to industry for both flexible armor designs like Dragon Skin -- which incorporates a series of interlocking ceramic disks rather than a single rigid plate -- and for a so-called "XSAPI" plate which could stop armor piercing rounds the current ESAPI can't.

Brown said part of the delay in testing comes from industry's inability to create an XSAPI plate that comes in under the weight limit of about seven pounds for a size "large" plate, about a pound more than the current ESAPI.

"One thing troops in the field have told us is they don't want any more weight with a new armor system," Brown said, adding that preliminary submissions for XSAPI have been too heavy.

For his part, Pinnacle's Neal says he plans to submit Dragon Skin samples for the upcoming test and is glad the Army is finally taking his technology seriously.

"The extensions, as we have been told by several Army personnel, are primarily for the current manufacturers to fix the plates that have been run through preliminary testing and that are not passing with enough percentage to guarantee passing the [final] testing," Neal said in a email to Military.com, adding he's only too eager to pit his flexible -- otherwise known as "scalar" -- system up against any comers.

Another top body armor designer who has a scalar system of his own said he doubts many companies other than Pinnacle will submit a flexible vest. Allan Bain, president of Evolution Armor, said the Army is right to delay the process to make sure any new submissions have realistic chance of success, though his company has declined to participate.

"The Army is looking for a state of the art system, and there is a lot of pressure by Congress to make every effort on a major purchase like this to ensure that the armor purchased is truly the best," Bain said via email. "So they are not rushing it."

[bth: so if the Army's claim that its armor was better than Dragon Skins in the first place is true, why the need to delay audited side by side testing so that manufacturers could make improvements? This is bullshit. For reasons that defy the better interests of our soldiers this shit continues.]