Saturday, January 24, 2009

Commentary: It's time to choose right over wrong

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/23/2009 | Commentary: It's time to choose right over wrong - Commentary
.....It will fall to Mr. Holder and his renovated and reinvigorated Justice Department to plumb the depths of lawbreaking by the previous administration and its leaders and followers.

Nothing less will suffice. Nothing less will convince the American people that we live in a nation where no man is above the law.

Our farsighted forebears had reason to fear and hate the capricious rule of kings and emperors, and they sought in virtually every line of our Constitution and Bill of Rights to ensure that no man was ever above the law; that no man in America could ever appropriate absolute power for himself.

We've lived through a long national nightmare — a time when those in power played on our fears to emasculate constitutional protections and individual rights in the name of security. Taking away freedom to protect freedom is akin to that Vietnam War officer who famously said: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

The only way we can repair all the damage they did is to confront those who led us astray, led us far from our roots and our hopes and our dreams and into a dark nether world where in order to save freedom we were willing to surrender it.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, after all, is for good men to do nothing

[bth: Galloway gets it right. Worth reading in full]

Town mourns death of soldier

Rockland mourns death of soldier in Iraq - The Boston Globe




....Pollini, a private first class in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, planned to buy his new wife a home. But the 21-year-old, who was married just four days before leaving Rockland for his first tour of duty in Iraq, died recently while riding in a Humvee there, according to family members.

Military officials yesterday would not provide details of his death, which the Board of Selectmen's office said the family learned about on Thursday.

Pollini, who began his 10-month tour of duty Dec. 26, had been overseas for less than one month.

At the Pollini home yesterday, mourners crowded inside the small ranch-style house, providing support and even dinner for parents Frederick and Carolyn and their other five children.

Pollini's 17-year-old brother, Joey, who is a private in the Army National Guard, believed his brother's sharpshooting skills led to his death.

"If he wasn't the gunner, he'd still be alive," Joey said. "They wanted him as the gunner because he had the best shooting scores." The gunner typically sits atop the Humvee.

A tearful Joey recalled playing the popular video game Guitar Hero with his brother on Christmas just before he left for Iraq.

"He was my best friend," Joey said. "We used to do everything together. Whatever he wanted to do, I always followed him. And now I have nobody to follow, no older brother. It's hard to cope with making that transition."

Joey said he and his brother joined the military out of loyalty and service to country.....

[bth: the country acts as if the war is over and it isn't. It only shows up in local news intermittently around the country.  National news has virtually no one covering the war in Iraq anymore. Our family extends its deepest sympathies to the Pollinis'.  Our paths will be crossing soon.  Best regards]

AFP: Two ex-Guantanamo inmates appear in Al-Qaeda video

AFP: Two ex-Guantanamo inmates appear in Al-Qaeda video: "WASHINGTON (AFP) — Two men released from the US 'war on terror' prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a jihadist website, the SITE monitoring service reported.

One of the two former inmates, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or prisoner number 372, has been elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, a US counter-terrorism official told AFP.

Three other men appear in the video, including Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an Al-Qaeda field commander. SITE later said he was prisoner No. 333."....

[bth: this seems to confirm several Gitmo guys have returned to the fight]

Zombie Hummers Roam The Desert

Procurement: Zombie Hummers Roam The Desert
January 24, 2009: The U.S. Department of Defense is speeding up a program to refurbish hummers (HMMWV) and transfer them to Iraq. The total number of vehicles is 8,500, and all are to be delivered by July. Currently, only about 40 percent have been turned over. Iraq is paying about $24,000 for each vehicle. Most of the hummers have served in Iraq, and many are being refurbed locally. Some have armor, and Iraq is getting the "like new" refurbs at less than half what they would cost brand new. The U.S. expects to meet the July deadline.

[bth: this practical solution for Iraq and the US was dismissed by the Pentagon for  years.  Besides the ability to economically provide a cost effective and timely fleet to Iraq it also inexorably links our defense industry with theirs just as we did with Europe after WWII, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam (ironically).]

Crude Oil Price Forecast
The following table provided by the Bank of Kuwait gathers current reported break-even prices of major oil producing nations:

Oil Break-Even Prices     Nation US$/Barrel
Bahrain                        40
Kuwait                         17
Saudi Arabia                 30
U.A.E.                          25
Oman                          40
Qatar                          30
Canada's oil sands        33


Burns victim vows to be suicide bomber while Israelis ask: 'Was it all worth it?' - Times Online

Burns victim vows to be suicide bomber while Israelis ask: 'Was it all worth it?' - Times Online: ...."The stated goal of Operation Cast Lead was to end Hamas’s constant rocket fire on southern Israel and weaken the Islamists’ grip on the territory. It has failed to achieve either. Hamas kept up its barrage of rockets to the very end of the campaign and has won new recruits for its cause.

In Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Sabah Abu Halima, her body covered with burns from what are believed to be phosphorus shells, her husband and four of nine children dead, dreams of becoming a suicide bomber."

...

“I pray to Allah that I will have revenge, I pray and dream of killing myself among the Israelis,” she says. “I hope that on the last day of my life I kill as many of them as possible and make myself a martyr.”

Israel had hoped that its offensive would sow discontent with the Hamas movement, which had promised to turn the coastal territory into “a graveyard for Israeli soldiers”. Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were killed and thousands more wounded, according to local medics, while only 13 Israeli soldiers died — a statistic which allowed Israel to proclaim itself the victor of the war.

The casualties have failed to dent support for Hamas, with many in the hardest-hit Gaza neighbourhoods pledging their allegiance to the Islamists. There have been muted calls for Hamas to show more flexibility in its ceasefire negotiations with Israel and allow time for residents to recover and rebuild their homes but most feel that Hamas has gained political and international legitimacy in recent weeks.

“Hamas has reached a certain standing on the world stage. It is receiving attention and praise for what it did from other Arab nations,” said one Hamas activist.

“Hamas’s political and military leaders are with the civilians. We are with the people. This is the victory of Hamas against the occupation,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman.....

[bth: February elections in Israel. Was it worth it?]


Gaza: the lies of war by Henry Siegman

2009-01-29-lrb-gaza-the-lies-of-war - Google Docs: "Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties."...

...Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control. Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War.[*] They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

Middle East observers wonder whether Israel’s assault on Hamas will succeed in destroying the organisation or expelling it from Gaza. This is an irrelevant question. If Israel plans to keep control over any future Palestinian entity, it will never find a Palestinian partner, and even if it succeeds in dismantling Hamas, the movement will in time be replaced by a far more radical Palestinian opposition.

If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas – one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost – and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities. ‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’

[bth: I render no opinion on this other than it is an article worth reading in full and with consideration]

Ice Cirlces

Kung Fu Monkey

Pakistan's shift alarms the US

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan
....Mindful of this, US Central Command commander General David Petraeus paid a one-day visit to Pakistan on Tuesday. In meetings with senior officials, including army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, Petraeus said that the US and the international community would continue to support Pakistan, but it needed "to put its house in order" on the issue of militants.

The US is already looking ahead to this year's round of fighting in Afghanistan against the Taliban-led insurgency once winter passes. Petraeus has committed to a surge in US troop numbers to about 60,000, but Pakistan's cooperation in dealing with militants based in its tribal areas is essential. The militants use these bases to support their operations in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Petraeus announced a partial solution to another problem that has dogged the war efforts in Afghanistan. He said a new supply route to Afghanistan had been agreed on with Central Asian states and Russia as an option to the one that passes though Khyber Agency, the Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan through which nearly 80% of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) supplies pass on the way to landlocked Afghanistan....

NATO supplies through the agency have increasingly been under attack since
early 2008 and the agency, once a peaceful area, is a new war theater between
the Pakistani security forces and the Taliban.




NATO has repeatedly urged Pakistan to do something about protecting the route,
but it has been helpless because of a serious lack of human resources as many
of its forces are engaged in combating the Taliban in Bajaur Agency and in the
Swat Valley.




And significantly, following the Mumbai attack, Islamabad has moved troops from
the border with Afghanistan to the border with India, where Indian troops are
also mobilized. On Tuesday, India tested a cruise missile close to the Pakistan
border. An Indian Defense Ministry spokesman said a Brahmos supersonic cruise
missile had been successfully fired. The missiles have a range of up to several
hundred kilometers.




It is Pakistan's focus on India that has Washington concerned, yet the
heightened tensions between Islamabad and Delhi suit both countries. India has
to hold general elections before May, and the ruling Congress-led government
needs to be seen as doing something about the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan,
meanwhile, has an excuse to bail out its highly demoralized troops on the
western borders with Afghanistan by moving them to the Indian border.




Relations between the countries are likely to remain frosty for some time.
Pakistan has now agreed to the trial of leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the
terror group linked to the Mumbai attack. Delhi has handed over files of
evidence which range from Pakistani-manufactured shaving cream used by the
gunmen to the Pakistani-manufactured boat engine the men used to get to Mumbai.




In another development, shortly before Petraeus met with Pakistani officials,
Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the head of his own faction of the
Jamaat-i-Ulema-i-Islam political party, met with President Asif Ali Zardari and
received a military backed green light to negotiate truces with Pakistani
militants.




Rahman did this job successfully in 2005, which resulted in a ceasefire between
the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani security forces in April 2006.
Consequently, the Taliban made a successful comeback in Afghanistan in the
spring of 2006 - their first powerful offensive since their regime was driven
out of Kabul in 2001.




This will be of grave concern to Petraeus ahead of the next real battle against
the Taliban that starts in April. The foremost concern is over the most
effective deployment of the additional troops in Afghanistan. Permanent ground
deployment comes with problems, as the Pakistani military has learned in Bajaur
Agency, where its troops become sitting ducks at the hands of guerrillas
operating from safe mountain sanctuaries. Yet if the troops are not deployed on
the ground, the whole exercise of bringing in more of them and making
additional arrangements for their supplies will be a waste of time and money.




The last thing Petraeus needs now is for Pakistan to continue with its focus on
India while effectively handing over its western borders to the Taliban, yet
this process is already underway.
....

[bth: so based on what we've been reading from open sources and stitching the pieces together,  the situation looks something like this.  NATO allies are pulling out some of their troops, most of whom will not fight (like Germany's) from Afghanistan after years of "supporting" their US ally (Canada, UK, Netherlands and France noted exceptions).  The Afghan war is becoming a US war with 20-30,000 US troops being added.  Those troops need supplies.  We've reduced our bribes to the Pakistani military so they've been allowing those supply lines to be cut off and raised the cost to NATO of keeping them open. The official nature of this could be noted by the lack of guards posted on the supply convoys especially when they were in depots in Paksitan. Petraeus just flew in to Pakistan this week to let the Paki government know that we have other route alternatives now hence we set a limit to the extortion.  They then announce the same day that they are going to negotiate a truce with the Taliban which means more fighters attacking US troops in Afghanistan this coming year.  The Paki terrorists attacked Mumbai last year to enrage India causing the Paki government which just moved troops from against the Taliban in Pakistan toward the Paki-Indian border - a response to terror that worked for the terrorists.  So now the US has more expensive supply routes, more troops that will be increasingly attacked in 2009 with less and less help to us from the Pakistani government and military which largely functions on bribery. Somehow we've got to get on top of this nonsense.]

Iran in scramble for fresh uranium supplies

Iran in scramble for fresh uranium supplies - Times Online: "...Iran’s stock of yellow cake, acquired from South Africa in the 1970s under the Shah’s original civil nuclear power programme, has almost run out. Iran is developing its own uranium mines, but does not have enough ore to support a sustained nuclear programme."...

Seton Hall Law: Department of Defense Wrong Again on guantánamo “Recidivism”

Seton Hall Law: Department of Defense Wrong Again on Guantanamo “Recidivism”
The Seton Hall Center for Policy and Research has issued a report which rebuts and debunks the most recent claim by the Department of Defense (DOD) that “61, in all, former Guantánamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight.”

Professor Denbeaux of the Center for Policy & Research has said that the Center has determined that “DOD has issued 'recidivism' numbers 43 times, and each time they have been wrong—this last time the most egregiously so.”

Denbeaux stated: “Once again, they’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, the DOD has been forced to retract their false IDs and their numbers. They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantánamo—much less were they released from there. They have counted people as 'returning to the fight' for their having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for their having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. The DOD has revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning—except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men.

"Forty-three times they have given numbers—which conflict with each other—all of which are seriously undercut by the DOD statement that 'they do not track' former detainees. Rather than making up numbers “willy-nilly” about post release conduct, America might be better served if our government actually kept track of them.”


Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school, and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching, with a strong focus on clinical education. The Center for Policy and Research enables students to gain practical experience while engaging in research and analysis that promotes respect for the rights of individuals worldwide. The students examine primary sources pertaining to national security law and practices of the U.S. government, as well as the reliability of forensic evidence for criminal investigations and prosecution. Seton Hall Law is located in Newark, NJ and offers both day and evening degree programs. For more information, visit http://law.shu.edu.

[bth: here is a link to the report itself.  The problem the government has is that its lied so much over this issue that is has credibility to a very real problem.  This is a regrettable result of the loss of public trust.]
 


Latest Report (01/15/09)

RELEASED GUANTÁNAMO DETAINEES
AND THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE:
Propaganda by the
Numbers?

US Marines ready to deploy up to 20,000 troops to Afghanistan

The Raw Story | US Marines ready to deploy up to 20,000 troops to Afghanistan
Up to 20,000 US Marines could be deployed to Afghanistan after an expected Marine withdrawal from Iraq within six to eight months, Marine Commandant James Conway said Friday.

"The time is right for Marines to leave Iraq," the top Marine officer said, reflecting on the improved security situation there.

As part of the drawdown in Iraq, Conway said he expected "20,000 or less" Marines to be deployed to Afghanistan, although he cautioned against sending too many troops from the corps to Afghanistan.

That deployment would help fulfill the up to 30,000 troops military planners have proposed to inject in Afghanistan within the next 18 months to bolster the approximately 33,000 US troops already there, including 2,200 Marines. Another 142,000 US troops are in Iraq.

Marines "have been steadily removing equipment from theater in Iraq," he said. "The timeline we think today is down to six to eight months to get the rest of our equipment out of Iraq."

There are currently more than 20,000 Marines deployed in Iraq.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Taliban rule Pakistan’s 'valley of death'

Taliban rule Pakistan’s 'valley of death' - The Long War Journal
The Pakistani government has promised to restore its writ in the Taliban-controlled settled district of Swat in the insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province.

Swat, once renown as Pakistan's vacation paradise that has been described as the Switzerland of South Asia, is now referred to as the "valley of death" by the fearful Pakistanis still living there. The district has become the model Taliban police state. The Taliban have full control of the district and have implemented their austere version of sharia, or Islamic law.

The Taliban consolidated control in Swat over the past several months after nearly two years of fighting. Led by Mullah Fazlullah, the Taliban have defeated the Army, destroyed the police force, established a shadow government, and imposed sharia.

The government has lost complete control of the district, according to reports from the region. The government controls the main town of Mingora but has no presence outside. And inside Mingora, the Taliban have cowered the population....

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. Frightening.  The Taliban has terrorized the population and overwhelmed the Pakistani government]

Osama's son coordinates call between Zawahiri and Iran's Qods Force - The Long War Journal

Osama's son coordinates call between Zawahiri and Iran's Qods Force - The Long War Journal: "Osama bin Laden's son coordinated communications between al Qaeda's second-in-command and Iran’s Qods Force, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Sa'ad bin Laden facilitated communications between Ayman al Zawahiri and Qods Force, the notorious special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, in September 2008 after the deadly attack on the US embassy in Yemen.

Sa'ad entered Pakistan’s northwest to meet with Zawahiri in Pakistan sometime in early September, according to Mike McConnell, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence. Sa'ad's whereabouts is currently unknown, but he is still thought to be with al Qaeda’s senior leadership inside Pakistan. Sa'ad, his brother Hamza, and other senior al Qaeda leaders are known to routinely travel back and forth between Iran and Pakistan."....

[bth: so if we know this why haven't wee killed or captured him?]

Saudi al Qaeda operative involved in London bombings detained in Pakistan

Saudi al Qaeda operative involved in London bombings detained in Pakistan - The Long War Journal
A Saudi al Qaeda operative believed to have been involved with the July 2005 London bombings was detained by Pakistani security forces during a raid on a village near the northwestern city of Peshawar. Six other al Qaeda operatives were also detained.

The Saudi was identified as Zabi ul Taifi and was described as a senior operative in the July 7, 2005, bombings in London that killed 52 civilians and wounded more than 770 others. Three suicide bombs struck on underground trains while another bomber detonated on a double-decker bus.

Taifi and his cohorts were captured in a "militant den," Geo News reported based on a tip from Pakistani intelligence sources. The al Qaeda operatives were holed up in the village of Bara Qadeem.

"The men were believed to have planned attacks on trucks taking supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan and they included four Arabs and three Afghans," Reuters reported. The attacks on NATO supply convoys and shipping terminals have forced the Pakistan government to shut down the vital Khyber Pass four times since September 2008....

Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide - NYTimes.com

Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide - NYTimes.com: .."One intriguing clue left by the malware authors is that the first version of the program checked to see if the computer had a Ukrainian keyboard layout. If it found it had such a keyboard, it would not infect the machine, according to Phillip Porras, a security investigator at SRI International who has disassembled the program to determine how it functioned."...

Pa. defense firm raided by FBI

TheHill.com - Pa. defense firm raided by FBI
Federal agents raided the offices of a Western Pennsylvania defense contractor that has received millions in federal earmarks at the request of Rep. John Murtha, according to local media reports.

The offices of Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems were shuttered for the day following the raids, the chief financial officer told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. The companies' phone system says they will open again Friday morning, and e-mails sent to top company officials went unanswered.

Based in Windber, Pa., just outside Johnstown, Kuchera won $8.2 million in federal defense earmarks in the 2008 budget. The earmarks came at the request of Murtha (D-Pa.).

Murtha's spokesman declined to comment, and an agent in the FBI's Pittsburgh office did not return calls seeking clarification.

The company has been active in politics, with top officials donating more than $100,000 in campaign contributions over the past decade, to both Democrats and Republicans....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

US manufacturing vs. government jobs

Army accuses KBR contractors of 'negligent homicide' for electrocution

The Raw Story | Army accuses KBR contractors of 'negligent homicide' for electrocution
United States Army investigation has accused former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, along with contractors the company used and two of the firm's supervisors, of 'negligent homicide' in the electrocution of a soldier, according to a published report.

"[A]n Army criminal investigator says the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, has been changed from accidental to negligent homicide because the contractor failed to ensure that 'qualified electricians and plumbers' worked on the barracks where Maseth died," reports the Associated Press.

"Maseth, 24, of Shaler, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, was electrocuted on Jan. 2 when an improperly grounded electric water pump short-circuited and flowed through the pipes," reported ABC in March 2008. "Since the coiled hose was touching his arm, he was hit with an electrical jolt and went into cardiac arrest and died."

On July 1, New York Times Investigative Reporter James Risen, author of the 2006 book "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," took up the subject. According to Risen, General David Petraeus stated to Congress that 13 Americans had been electrocuted since the invasion of Iraq: 12 soldiers and one contractor.

As recently as July 11, KBR Inc. electricians told a Senate panel tasked to investigate the deaths that their employer used inexperienced, non-English speaking workers to install electrical systems. Many experienced contractors, they claimed, were dismissed after raising cautions over the work.

"Time and again we heard, `This is not the states, OSHA doesn't apply here. If you don't like it you can go home,'" said Debbie Crawford, a journeyman electrician with 30 years experience, in a report by the AP.

In a follow-up report by James Risen in the New York Times on July 18 states that the problem is far worse than General Petraeus stated, and the military has known about the systemic problems since 2004.

Since the invasion, over 283 electrical fires on US bases have been reported, along with two deaths in 2006 at a base in Tikrit, the death of Sgt. Maseth, and innumerable painful shocks dealt to Americans....

[bth: we know one of these families.  Ridiculous.  All KBR had to do was fix the damned problems.  Instead they waiting until people got killed out of their own gross negligence and KBR depended on its political cover from the Administration to allow this mess to continue.  So how to you deal with a company like this?  The only way I know is to  hit them in the pocket book.]

Whistleblower: NSA spied on everyone, targeted journalists

The Raw Story | Whistleblower: NSA spied on everyone, targeted journalists
Former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice, who helped expose the NSA's warrantless wiretapping in December 2005, has now come forward with even more startling allegations. Tice told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday that the programs that spied on Americans were not only much broader than previously acknowledged but specifically targeted journalists.

"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."....

Monday, January 19, 2009

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - No Bush moving trucks needed Inauguration Day « - Blogs from CNN.com

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - No Bush moving trucks needed Inauguration Day « - Blogs from CNN.com: "...'There won't be … the moving trucks for the Bushes coming here,' McBride said, adding, 'the only things really left for President and Mrs. Bush are their personal belongings and luggage that they'll take that day.'

McBride said Mrs. Bush directed residence staff early - in the summer of 2008 - to prepare the White House for the personal transition.

'It's probably the librarian in her,' McBride said of Mrs. Bush, a former librarian. 'Maybe we've got a bit of a Dewey decimal system of move-out process, but that certainly made it easier for the residence staff, and they very much appreciate it.'"...

[bth: Mr. Bush don't let the door hit you on the way out]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - I like the fight here better [Afghanistan]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "After four weeks of talking to soldiers and Marines stationed throughout Afghanistan, I discovered a secret: U.S. troops who have fought in Iraq before arriving in Afghanistan often say they like fighting here better."

Time and time again, they would tell me this – in the battlefield, at the chow hall, even in their offices. They always offered their views without me asking the question, usually in a hushed tone. “Can I just say I like the fight here better.” or “These guys fight. This place is better.” Their reasons usually fell along one of two paths: 1. The Afghan security forces are more apt to fight the rogue forces moving into their country, or 2, The Taliban play fairer than the Iraqi insurgency. Let me explain.

When violence spiraled out in Iraq, it was not uncommon for Iraqi forces to run away from the fight. Now to be fair, the fighting was brutal for the most sophisticated Army. And while Afghans have faced the Taliban before, the Iraqis had never faced an insurgency. But nonetheless, there was a time when the Iraqi forces ran, sometimes while turning to their American counterparts and saying, “ What are you doing to do about this?” But Afghan forces are eager to jump into the fight. They don’t always have battle plan, mind you, but they are ready to go. And this appeals to American troops.

On the other side, the Taliban attacks far differently than the Iraqi insurgency. While their use of IEDs and other asymmetric tactics is rising, they also employ more conventional tactics. They mount platoon and company-sized attacks. Where the Iraqi insrugency somtimes hid behind civilians, the Taliban clears an area of women and children, even though it costs them the element of surprise. That is, they take fewer cheap shots by military standards. Moreover, they recover their wounded. They fight in a way more familiar to American troops.

One Marine put it to me bluntly: “I respect the enemy here; I don’t respect him in Iraq.” We will see whether U.S. troops still feel this way six months for now, but from what I saw, there is a greater mutual understanding here.

[bth: curious. I'm surprised]

Fresh attacks on Pakistan schools

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Fresh attacks on Pakistan schools: "Taleban militants have blown up another five schools in north-west Pakistan, officials say, despite a government pledge to safeguard education.

The schools were destroyed in the town of Mingora in troubled Swat district.

The Taleban issued an edict in December that private schools must close by 15 January as part of their campaign to ban education for girls.

Meanwhile the Khyber route for supplies into Afghanistan was temporarily closed on Monday after a militant attack."...

The militants have destroyed more than 150 government schools over the past year, most of them for girls.

The Taleban want to impose their austere interpretation of Islamic law and oppose education for girls - which they say is un-Islamic.

Winter holidays began on 1 January but some private schools stayed open to catch up with lost classes.

But school owners in Mingora have now complied with the ban and say that the schools will not reopen until the Taleban revoke it or the conflict in Swat is resolved.

They say that even if they keep the schools open, parents are unlikely to send their children in view of the Taleban threat.

Mr Yousafzai said teachers were refusing to work. "I try to convince them but they're scared. They doubt the government's ability to protect them."...

[bth: are the reasoned minds of Pakistan so fearful that they allow this to happen? It appears so.]

Think Progress » Israel prepares post-war battle for public opinion.

Think Progress » Israel prepares post-war battle for public opinion.: "Earlier this month, NBC’s war correspondent Richard Engel reported that Israel was waiting until Barack Obama’s inauguration to let reporters into Gaza, when viewers “simply won’t care.”"...

[bth: did Israel lose more than it gained from all this? I think so.]
Think Progress » Home Page

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Daily Kos: State of the Nation: "Q But Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4,500 Americans have died, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?

CHENEY: I think so.

Dick Cheney
Interview with Jim Lehrer
January 14, 2009

I guess the son of bitch was telling the truth for once. It WAS worth it -- to him and his cronies.

Just consider it an extreme example of the modern American practice of socializing the risks and privatizing the profits"...

[bth: worth a full read and vomit]

487 Days At Camp David For Bush - Political Hotsheet

487 Days At Camp David For Bush - Political Hotsheet: ..."Yes, that's 487 days. And Camp David is not even where the president has spent the most time when not at the White House: Knoller reports that Mr. Bush has made 77 visits to his ranch in Crawford during his presidency, and spent all or part of 490 days there."

Most see Bush presidency as a failure, poll shows

Most see Bush presidency as a failure, poll shows - CNN.com: ..."Sixty-eight percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Sunday said that Bush's eight years in the White House were a failure, with 44 percent saying this was because of his personal shortcomings and 22 percent blaming the failure on circumstances beyond his control.

Thirty-one percent said they consider Bush's presidency a success.

Half of those polled say the United States could be better off today if Al Gore had been elected president in 2000 rather than Bush, with 27 percent saying the country would be worse off if Gore had won. Twenty-two percent say things would be about the same."....

[bth: Just leave please.]