Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rethink Afghanistan- Contractor Failings Left U.S. Kabul Embassy Safety Gap

Rethink Afghanistan

TheStar.com | World | U.S. troops admit fending off the Taliban a tough task

TheStar.com | World | U.S. troops admit fending off the Taliban a tough task: ..."Taliban fighters set up beyond the tree line hundreds of metres away and wait for American patrols.

'Sometimes they dig a hole in the main asphalt highway, put in the bomb, fill it in, melt tires overtop, and then spread dirt over that section,' says Lt. Alvin Cavalier, whose platoon scours roads for improvised explosive devices. 'No one can say they aren't effective.'

Besides the threat of IEDs, soldiers say they're constantly targeted by mortars and gunfire, and efforts to cultivate relations with villagers are meeting with difficulty.

'We took out this high-value insurgent target a month or so back, and people here were acting like he was Robin Hood,' says Sgt.-Maj. Dewayne Blackmon. 'The whole town was in mourning over his death. They closed all the stores like he was a local hero. How do you change something like that?

'I understand it, I really do,' Blackmon continues. 'The Taliban shows up and says, `If you cooperate with the Americans, we will kill you.' They don't know how long we are really going to be in Afghanistan. So what choice do they have?"...

YouTube - Israel Develops Spy Robot Snake with Suicide Capability

YouTube - Israel Develops Spy Robot Snake with Suicide Capability

The week's 10 best political jokes - 6/12/09 - OhMyGov! - Political Humor

The week's 10 best political jokes - 6/12/09 - OhMyGov! - Political Humor: "6. 'Iran is bracing itself for their upcoming presidential election. President Ahmadinejad is behind in the polls. I think it's because of his campaign slogan, 'Vote for me, and I won't cut off your hand.'' --Craig Ferguson

5. 'A new report just came out that says President Obama has mentioned Jesus Christ in more speeches than President Bush did. Can you believe that? Still, neither has used the phrase 'Oh God, oh God,' more than President Clinton.' --Conan O'Brien

4. 'So, here we are in Baghdad. I have to say, I'm surprised. I thought the whole Iraq thing was over. I haven't seen any news stories about it months. So, I naturally assumed you soldiers had moved onto the new war between wise Latina women and old white men [on screen: a photo of Sonia Sotomayor and Newt Gingrich].' --Stephen Colbert

3. 'He's been acting up a lot lately, Kim Jong-Il. Yesterday he sentenced two American journalists to a labor camp. And a couple of weeks ago, he tested another nuclear weapon. I think he thinks he's a Bond villain. The next thing you know, he'll be living in a hollowed-out volcano with an army of robot skeletons and he'll be stroking a large cat.' --Craig Ferguson

2. "Earlier today, President Obama spoke at a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Yeah. Yeah, half of the Wisconsin crowd had never seen an African-American, and the other half had never seen a skinny person." --Conan O'Brien

1. "But you know, it must be nice here in Iraq, because I understand some of you keep coming back again, and again, and again. ... The good news is, you've earned enough frequent flier miles for a free ticket to Afghanistan." --Stephen Colbert

Political soldiers? « Kings of War

Political soldiers? « Kings of War:A week earlier, it was the turn of head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, to argue the case for the Navy’s new aircraft carriers. ‘I am not volunteering for the second division,’ he said. ‘While Afghanistan is rightly our priority it is not the only show in town.’

His adversary here is his senior Army colleague, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, who argued in May that the defence capabilities

we will field over the next decade are largely a legacy of decisions taken 20 years ago rather than a true reflection of what we need today. [...] At present I can only take the view that Defence is over-investing in the far future at the expense of relevance for the threats we face today and in the medium term.

And so, a three-way argument about the future of Britain’s armed forces is underway at the top of the services. This debate is increasingly playing out in public, as the service chiefs adapt their bureaucratic skills to the cut and thrust of public argument. Richard Dannatt might have been reading Strachan’s paper as he drafted his speech:

the degree of public understanding and awareness of the nature and extent of the threats we face, now and in the future, and the role of the Armed Forces in tackling those threats, is probably as low as I have known it to be – and that is not the fault of the general public.

The debate between the service chiefs has partly been a response to that lack of public understanding and engagement, coupled with two aggravating factors:


First, there has been an acute lack of political direction from the government of the day. Earlier, I posted about the Korean War dispute between President Truman and General MacArthur. One of the enduring lessons of that episode was Truman’s recognition of the need for sustained and informed civilian input in shaping strategy. In the UK, the sixth Defence Secretary in the last decade has just begun work. With a half-life of about a year, it will be a considerable achievement for him to acquire the necessary experience and influence to shape the military for the longer term.

Second, the stagnant or declining resource base available for defence spending is concentrating minds. If strategy is about choice, tough choices are coming the way of the British military. With a new national security strategy in the works, a Strategic Defence Review likely, and a general election too, we should expect more overt politicking from the armed forces than we have been used to.

Whilst attention is focused on what sort of platforms we should procure, the debate between the services might not seem that important. But the issue is far more profound – it is about the role that Britain should aspire to in world affairs, about the utility of force, and the character of war. The more heated the argument between the Chiefs gets, and the more openly politicized the military becomes, the better for all of us.

Ezra Klein - Should California Get a Bailout?

Ezra Klein - Should California Get a Bailout?: ..."California's legislature is in a strange position: It needs a two-thirds vote to raise taxes but also has to fund ballot propositions that require a simple majority of an uninterested public. The majority party in the legislature, in other words, can neither control how much money it raises nor how much money it spends. That's not a sustainable state of affairs."

[bth: better to bail out the states and local governments of our country than to bail out the IMF]

When organized crime meets terrorism

Foreign Policy: This Week at War, No. 19
....Officials at USJFCOM won't discuss the results of the war game until at least July; many of the most interesting conclusions may remain classified. But the commander of USJFCOM, General James Mattis of the Marine Corps, described his vision of the future while delivering a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mattis discussed how today's adversaries have adapted to U.S. conventional military superiority by forming disaggregated networks of small irregular teams that hide among indigenous populations. United States military forces, by contrast, have only come under greater central control. According to Mattis, this shift is due to evolutions in intelligence-gathering and communications technologies. Call it the new iron law of military bureaucracies: when commanders gain the technical ability to micromanage, they will micromanage.

Mattis, a four-star general at the top of command pyramid, sdeplores the trend. First, he asserts that the U.S. military command and control system is the most vulnerable such system in the world. Second, Mattis observes that throughout history and regardless of the type of conflict, military forces that centralized control and suppressed initiative at lower echelons have invariably been defeated.

Mattis believes that in order to defeat modern decentralized networks, U.S. forces will have to become decentralized themselves. This will entail giving autonomy to and requiring initiative from the youngest junior leaders in the Army and Marine Corps. High-performance small infantry units, "a national imperative" according to Mattis, will need to operate independent from higher control, finding their own solutions to local problems as they implement broader policy guidance.

For this approach to succeed, the recruiting, selection, and training of soldiers will have to fundamentally change. Mattis has created a "small unit center of excellence" at USJFCOM to improve the performance of lower-echelon combat units and their leaders. The focus of the center is on the human factors of success since U.S. infantrymen should not expect to enjoy any technological advantages over future enemy infantrymen.

Perhaps the most interesting question raised by Mattis's speeech is not whether the youngest soldiers can rise to the new demands that would be placed on them, but whether the colonels and generals -- and their civilian masters above -- will be able to relinquish the tight control technology has given them and to which they have become so accustomed. Will they ever acquire the courage necessary to trust a decentralized and distributed force of independent small units to find its own way of achieving the goals of a campaign? Mattis believes that this is the only path to success against tomorrow's enemies. What general or politician will have the nerve to take it?

Zero Intelligence Agents » Mimicking the Operational Structure of Terrorists to Defeat Them

Zero Intelligence Agents » Mimicking the Operational Structure of Terrorists to Defeat Them: "The current This Week at War at Foreign Policy has an interesting summary of USJFCOM commander General James Mattis’s talk at CSIS on the future of irregular warfare. The central thesis of his talk is that the U.S. military should alter its operational structure to reflect that of the enemy; that is, move from a highly structured hierarchal organization to a decentralized network. As FP puts it:

Mattis believes that in order to defeat modern decentralized networks, U.S. forces will have to become decentralized themselves. This will entail giving autonomy to and requiring initiative from the youngest junior leaders in the Army and Marine Corps. High-performance small infantry units, “a national imperative” according to Mattis, will need to operate independent from higher control, finding their own solutions to local problems as they implement broader policy guidance."...

Commander Maps New Course in Afghan War - WSJ.com

Commander Maps New Course in Afghan War - WSJ.com: ...."After watching the U.S. try and fail for years to put down insurgencies in both countries, Gen. McChrystal said he believes that to win in Afghanistan, 'You're going to have to convince people, not kill them.

'Since 9/11, I have watched as America tried to first put out this fire with a hammer, and it doesn't work,' he said last week at his home at Fort McNair in Washington. 'Decapitation strategies don't work.'

In the interview, Gen. McChrystal noted he's unsure whether the planned troop levels for the job he envisions will be adequate -- despite the Obama administration's commitment to raise the U.S. presence to 68,000 by year's end, to go along with 35,000 allied forces. Iraq surge commanders had more than 170,000 U.S. forces.

'I know that I want it to be an effective traditional or classic counterinsurgency campaign by getting people down in among the population,' the general said. 'I know that's easier said than done with a limited-sized force.'"...

[bth: the question on my mind about McChrystal is not competence but trust. Can the public trust him to tell truth? That didn't happen with the Tillman affair. It is one thing to lead a black-ops program where secrecy and deception are the rule. Its another to be the face of America in Afghanistan.]

Dispute Over Afghan Deaths in Strike - NYTimes.com

Dispute Over Afghan Deaths in Strike - NYTimes.com: ...."Tuesday’s attack came as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander for Iraq and Afghanistan, said this week that violence here had reached a new high and warned of increasing difficulties.

Last week, there were about 400 insurgent attacks compared with about 50 per week in 2004. Tensions have been especially acute recently after an American military investigation concluded that its personnel made significant errors in carrying out airstrikes in western Afghanistan in early May that killed dozens of Afghan civilians in Farah Province.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said that operation killed up to 97 civilians, most of them children, while the Afghan government’s figure was 140. The Americans said the number was 20 to 30."

Defence of the Realm - A leadership crisis

Defence of the Realm: "Tucked away at the very end of a piece in The Guardian is a short comment. It notes that the much-touted plans for an extra 2,000 British troops to be deployed to Helmand had been rejected by Gordon Brown, 'partly because of Treasury concern about the cost, and partly, say Whitehall officials, because the plans were not convincing.'

This is amplified slightly in Defence Management which tells us that it has 'emerged' that Prime Minister Gordon Brown rejected plans for a permanent surge of 2,000 troops earlier this year because the proposal was 'not convincing' enough. Downing Street, we are told, wanted to see a co-oordinated effort between combat and reconstruction efforts."...

British troops take brunt of huge rise in Taliban attacks in Helmand | World news | guardian.co.uk

British troops take brunt of huge rise in Taliban attacks in Helmand | World news | guardian.co.uk: "A huge increase in insurgent activity has been recorded in Helmand, the Afghan province where British soldiers are based and where the Taliban is concentrating its attacks, according to Nato figures released today.

Deaths of foreign troops across Afghanistan rose by 78% over the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2008. The number of British soldiers killed continued at a high rate, with 12 killed last month.

During the first quarter of 2009 there was an average of more than 11 attacks in Helmand a day, many of them improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This was far more than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Neighbouring Kandahar province accounted for the second highest number with just over four daily attacks on average."...

Plans drawn up by UK defence chiefs for an extra 2,000 British troops to be deployed to Helmand have been rejected by Gordon Brown, partly because of Treasury concern about the cost, and partly, say Whitehall officials, because the plans were not convincing.

[bth: Jez. Note that little paragraph at the end of the article. The Brits are backing off their commitment to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. That is fucking great. The Brits now have an army smaller than our marine corp and their political leadership can't be trusted to stand up. They nearly lost Basra and what can only be described as a cut and run scenario and they are about to screw it up in Afghanistan except as noted there are 12,000 Americans coming into the province to bail them out. Also of note is that their MOD is giving these excellent British infantry crap vehicles with flat hulls that are death traps for IEDs. No wonder the Taliban is concentrating on them. They intend to chase the Brits out and given that the British infantry is given shit vehicles that are death traps one can see how the Taliban strategy is going to succeed. ... Also of note you will see recent headlines that the decline of the British navy air power is such that the British air force has offered to take it over. What the fuck is wrong with the British government?]

The emerging US counter-insurgency air force

Offiziere.ch » The Emerging U.S. Counter-Insurgency Air Force
...In the last six years, the USAF has had a chance to build a new, foreign air force, practically from scratch, tailoring it to fight exactly the kind of war Gates believes will be more common in coming decades. Beginning in 2003, the U.S. Air Force has led efforts to build a new Iraqi air service, after effectively destroying Saddam Hussein’s Soviet-style air force, during the course of two bombing campaigns.

The new Iraqi air force is designed for sustained COIN operations. Its major equipment includes twin-engine King Air turbo-props, equipped with sensors and data-links, and intended to provide intel to ground forces. Looking forward, the USAF is supporting the Iraqi air force’s program to buy armed light-attack aircraft for close air support. These might take the form of single-engine Super Tucanos, a type popular with COIN-focused militaries.

Not coincidentally, the USAF has launched purchases of similar aircraft. Encouraged by the U.S. Army’s successful use of modified, surveillance-optimized King Airs, working in tandem with armed drones, the Air Force is buying an initial batch of 36 MC-12W King Airs, under the so-called Project Liberty program. Each MC-12W costs around $15 million, compared to at least $100 million for an F-22 or F-35 fighter. The MC-12W’s first combat sortie is slated for this month.

Light attack aircraft are also on the horizon. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said the air service is considering arming its fleet of T-6 turbo-prop trainers, so that specially-trained instructor pilots can double as light-attack pilots for COIN missions....

DefenseLink News Article: Gates Stops in Alaska to Talk with Troops

DefenseLink News Article: Gates Stops in Alaska to Talk with Troops:... "He said that even a future conventional conflict likely would involve some kinds of asymmetric fighting, and that with the current funding programs in place, the United States will remain dominant in the air for at least the next two decades.

“In 2020, the United states will have roughly 1,200 fifth-generation combat aircraft. The Chinese will have zero,” Gates said. “In 2025, the Chinese will have a few hundred. We will have 1,700, … plus another 1,000 fourth-generation aircraft. So both our numerical and our technological edge will remain extremely strong and far superior to that of any potential competitor for at least the next 15 to 20 years.

“I’m confident we will have the country protected and prevail wherever along that spectrum of conflict we end up fighting,” Gates said."...

Border Bots from War Is boring blog

War Is Boring
...To accommodate its new robot fleet, CBP has invested in extensive infrastructure. For southern operations, a portion of the Predator force flies out of Sierra Vista, near Tucson. A facility near Grand Forks, North Dakota, support patrols along the Canadian border and also hosts CBP’s Predator schoolhouse. For future maritime patrols, CBP is planning a Florida location, too. But these permanent facilities do not represent the limits of Predator’s “deployability.” “You can take them anywhere, so long as the FAA allows,” Stanton says. Hurricane season often sees CBP Predators head to the Gulf Coast to assist in disaster relief.

While the Predators are scattered across the country, their human operators are concentrated at a new facility in Riverside, California called the Air and Marine Operations Centers, which ties together 450 military and FAA radars to provide unprecedented coverage of U.S. airspace. The CBP Predator team at AMOC includes two Coast Guardsmen, who represent the vanguard of the rescue service’s campaign to acquire its own robots.

“We watch their Predator program closely,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral Gary Blore says of CBP. For its Florida-based maritime patrols, CBP is modifying one of its existing Predators to a new, “marinized” standard, including a special sea-scanning radar. The Coast Guard is considering buying this model and flying them alongside their CBP counterparts. The Coast Guard crews would share CBP’s AMOC control facilities. “We don’t want to duplicate CBP command and control,” Blore says.

Stanton says the partnership with the Coast Guard is also helping the rescue service build up a cadre of trained operators before it buys any robots. In that way, the Coast Guard might prevent the crew shortage that plagues CBP’s Predator operations.

Despite the difficulty in recruiting sufficient operators, CBP would like to add more robots to its fleet. Stanton says the agency originally wanted to buy around 14 Predators, and could make use of as many as 20, but the new presidential administration and the global recession have halted near-term additions. “We’re happy to have what we have, and seek to increase the number of trained crews, so each one [of the Predators] can be flying 18 hours a day. … We have plenty on our plate.”
predator.jpg

Liz and Dick Cheney’s Disrespect of the Military Continues | TaylorMarsh.com

Liz and Dick Cheney’s Disrespect of the Military Continues | TaylorMarsh.com

M of A - Afghanistan: Northern Supply Lines Under Attack

M of A - Afghanistan: Northern Supply Lines Under Attack

http://www.moonofalabama.org/images2/afglogroutes-s.jpg

DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Suicide bomber kills anti-Taliban cleric Allama Naeemi

DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Suicide bomber kills anti-Taliban cleric Allama Naeemi: "LAHORE: Allama Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, a renowned religious scholar of the country and principal of the Jamia Naeemia, was killed, in what police believe was a targeted suicide attack at his seminary’s office in Garhi Shaho on Friday."...

Capital City Police Officer Pervez Rathore said Dr Sarfraz had supported military action against Taliban militants and also issued a decree calling suicide attacks ‘Haram’ in Islam.

He told Dawn that Mr Naeemi had also arranged an Anti-Taliban seminar in his madrassa two weeks ago....

It's the Tribes, Stupid - Steven Pressfield

IT'S THE TRIBES, STUPID, by Steven Pressfield
... These are just a few of the characteristics of the tribal mind. Now: what to do about this?

How to deal with the tribal mind.

You can't make deals with a tribal foe; they won't be honored. You can't buy them; they'll take your money and despise you. The tribe can't be reasoned with. Its mind is not rational, it's instinctive. The tribe is not modern but primitive. The tribe thinks from the stem of its brain, not the cortex. Its code is of warrior pride, not of Enlightenment reason.

To deal successfully with the tribe, a negotiator of the West must first grant it its pride and honor. The tribe's males must be addressed as warriors; its women must be treated with respect. The tribe must be left to its own land, to govern as it deems best.

If you want to get out of a tribal war, you must find a scenario by which the tribe can declare itself victorious. The tribal mind is canny; it knows when it's whipped. But its warrior pride is so fierce, it cannot admit this. The tribe has to be allowed its face.

How Alexander got out of a quagmire.

It took Alexander three years, but he finally got a handle on the tribal mind. (Perhaps because so many of his own Macedonians were basically tribal.) Alexander produced peace by marrying the daughter of his most powerful enemy, the princess Roxane. The tribe understands such an act. This is respect. This is honor.

Alexander made the tribesmen his equals. He acknowledged their warrior honor. When he and his army marched out to their next conquest, Alexander took the bravest of his former enemies with him as his Companions. They rode at his side in stations of honor; they dined at his shoulder in the royal pavilion. (Of course he also beat the living hell out of the Afghans for three years prior, and when he took off he left a fifth of his army to garrison the place.)

The outlook for the U.S. in Iraq

In the end, unless we're ready to treat them they way we did Geronimo, the tribe is unbeatable. They're just too crazy. They're not like us. Tolerance and open-mindedness are not virtues to them; they're signs of weakness. The tribe is too rigid to bend, and it can't be negotiated with.

Perhaps in the end, our leaders, like Alexander, will figure some way to bring the tribal foe around. More likely in my opinion, they'll arrive at the same conclusion as did Lord Roberts, the legendary British general. Lord Roberts fought (and defeated militarily) tribesmen in two bloody wars in Afghanistan in the 19th century. His conclusion: get out. Lord Roberts' axiom was that the farther away British forces remained from the tribesmen, the more likely the tribesmen were to feel warmly toward them; the closer he got, the more they hated him and the more stubbornly and implacably they fought against him.

[bth; worth reading in full]

Soros slams 'instruments of destruction'

Ban CDS as "instruments of destruction" - Soros - Jun. 12, 2009
BEIJING (Reuters) -- Credit default swaps are "instruments of destruction" that should be outlawed, billionaire investor George Soros said on Friday.

Soros said the asymmetry of risk and reward embedded in CDS exerted so much downward pressure on the bonds underlying the contracts that companies and financial institutions could be brought to their knees.

"Some derivatives ought not to be allowed to be traded at all. I have in mind credit default swaps. The more I've heard about them, the more I've realized they're truly toxic," he told a banking conference.

"CDS are instruments of destruction which ought to be outlawed," Soros told a meeting of the Institute of International Finance, many of whose member banks and financial institutions are active participants in the huge CDS market.

Going short on bonds by purchasing a CDS contract carried limited risk but almost unlimited profit potential. By contrast, selling CDSs offered limited profit and practically unlimited risk, Soros said.

This asymmetry, which encouraged investors in effect to sell corporate bonds short, was reinforced by the fact that CDS were traded and so tended to be priced as warrants, which could be sold at any time, and not as options, he added.

Credit default swaps are used to protect against nonpayment of debt or to speculate on a company's credit quality.

But Soros said: "People buy a CDS not because they expect an eventual default but because they expect them to appreciate in response to adverse developments."
Skewed incentives

He said one financial institution that discovered to its cost the risk/reward distortions of CDS was insurer American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500), which was a big seller of CDS, offering banks protection against a deterioration in their bond portfolios, especially mortgage-linked securities.

The U.S. government stepped in to save AIG from collapse under bad mortgage bets last September, and has put up to $180 billion at the company's disposal since.

[bth: banning credit default swaps and usury with credit card companies would be the two solutions I'd recommend.  Banning credit default swaps as Soros points out has strong logic.  As to credit card usury, the best investment middle class Americans have now is buying down the usurous and unilaterally jacked up rates imposed on them by the very companies the feds are bailing out.  So no wonder consumer spending is in the tank.  It won't stop until credit card debt is fully paid which is going to be a very long time at rates in the 20s and 30s.  So as things stand, bond holders have an incentive through credit default swaps to bankrupt companies like GM rather than convert to equity at reasonable rates and consumers have no choice but to contract spending and reduce debt resulting in a very steep decline in the economy.  Obama has the authority to remedy both problems but lacks the courage to do so.]

Option ARMageddon » Blog Archive » Fed Slows Printing Press….For Now

Option ARMageddon » Blog Archive » Fed Slows Printing Press….For Now:... "Over the last two weeks, while purchases of Treasurys have continued ($16 billion this week, $9 billion last week), purchases of agency debt have been small ($4 billion total) and in MBS the Fed has been a seller (-$3.5 billion).

One reason asset purchases may have slowed is that the Fed doesn’t want to waste the $1.75 trillion worth of ammunition it has. Besides $200 billion of Fan/Fred debt, they’ve committed to buying $1.25 trillion of MBS by the end of this year and $300 billion of Treasurys by August. They’ve already bought $157 billion of Treasurys, according to WSJ, and $556 billion of mortgage securities. There’s no reason the Fed needs to limit itself to $1.75 trillion, of course. It can print as much cash as it wants. But if central bankers spend too much too soon, they may have to increase their purchase commitments later.

Remember when Hank Paulson said his “bazooka” would save Fan and Fred? Bondholders called his bluff and forced the government to take the two into conservatorship.

My point is that the bond market is bigger than the Fed. If the Fed makes an open commitment to print money, inflation expectations may get out of hand quickly. That’s unlikely to be sure. Giv"

Washington - Bush Lawyer Ordered to Testify - NYTimes.com

National Briefing - Washington - Bush Lawyer Ordered to Testify - NYTimes.com: "A federal judge has ruled that John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer who wrote crucial memorandums justifying harsh interrogation techniques, will have to answer in court to accusations that his work led to a prisoner’s being tortured and deprived of his constitutional rights. The government had asked Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco to dismiss the case filed by Jose Padilla, an American citizen who spent more than three years in a military brig as an enemy combatant. Judge White denied most elements of Mr. Yoo’s motion and quoted a passage from the Federalist Papers that in times of war, nations, to be more safe, “at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”"

[bth: Yoo should probably be disbarred. Will that happen? Probably not.]

The Phoenix: Co-opting the Media: White-supremacist code printed nationwide

The Phoenix: "The white supremacist who is accused of shooting an African-American man at the US Holocaust Museum on June 10 has taken advantage of journalists' normal reporting practices to publish a white-supremacist code praising Adolf Hitler in every newspaper in the country.

As every media outlet dutifully reported, the suspect, James von Brunn, is 88 years old. Of course, it is standard practice when identifying a criminal suspect for reporters to find out, and publish, the suspect's age. But his age is no accident. (And he really is 88, according to federal Bureau of Prisons records.)"

Because von Brunn is 88, in printing that otherwise innocuous piece of information, news organizations around the world have printed and broadcast what white supremacists know is a numeric code meaning "Heil Hitler." The letter "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and hatemongers around the world have long used "88" to mean "HH," or "Heil Hitler," honoring the leading historical icon of hate and intolerance, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Von Brunn himself knew and used this code often. He signed many of his Web postings "James von Brunn 88" - which, eerily, differs only by a comma from how most newspapers and online news sites identified him after the shooting: "James von Brunn, 88."...

[bth: Nazis. They just keep showing up with their baggage of hate and evil.]

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Daily Weekly - Boeing Has Friends in High Places - Seattle Weekly

The Daily Weekly - Boeing Has Friends in High Places - Seattle Weekly: ..."Back to this whole threatening foreign governments thing. You may remember Rick Anderson's story on how Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen was the preferred carrier of non-consenting Muslims for the US Government's extraordinary renditions program, or—in plain language—its torture kidnappings. One Jeppesen passenger, British citizen Binyam Mohamed, filed suit against the company in the US and against the British secret service for its complicity in British court.

Like the Bush Administration before it, The Obama Administration demanded that the American lawsuit be dismissed on 'state secret' grounds. (The court declined.) Then the administration allegedly told Great Britain that if it wanted to continue to get military intelligence from the US, it'd better not disclose the facts about Mohamed's torture. Well, 'allegedly' no longer: this week, the letter got out (pdf), confirming the threat. (Read more here.) See what happens when go poking around in Boeing's business? (If you don't see any more posts from me today, just assume I had a Jeppesen flight to catch.)"

White House Browbeats Dem Freshmen On War Money: "You'll Never Hear From Us Again"

White House Browbeats Dem Freshmen On War Money: "You'll Never Hear From Us Again": ..."'Nancy's working with it. It's going to be a very close vote,' Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Penn.), a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday. 'We don't have any Republican leeway, so far we have no Republican going to vote for it.'

'We'll pass it, but it'll be a close vote. Every vote will count,' Murtha said.

Woolsey and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are both ardent opponents of the war and no friends of the IMF, which is in line for a $100 billion extension of credit in the same bill. Both pointed out that the Democratic leadership didn't bring the bill up for a vote on Friday, indicating they weren't confident they had the votes.

'It says something that this hasn't been brought up yet,' Kucinich said. 'I will tell you there's a good number of members holding solid. That's why this thing hasn't passed yet.'"...

Veterans memorial made in China creates controversy | NECN

Veterans memorial made in China creates controversy | NECN

Robert Fisk: Iran's old guard are poised to crush any hope of revolution - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The Independent

Robert Fisk: Iran's old guard are poised to crush any hope of revolution - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The Independent: "All the world wants to know the results of today's presidential election in Iran, not least the Republican Guard supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But will it make a difference, either to the Iranians or to the rest of the world?"

Of course the West wants to be told that this dramatic poll will change Iran's desire for nuclear facilities. Whatever it is, this election is not about nuclear power. It may be about presidential arrogance and stupidity and fear, or about responsible government or unemployment or the economy. But the West should abandon hope of any real change in Iran's nuclear strategy. Mirhossein Mousavi may talk more sense to the Americans – if he wins – but the nuclear facilities will keep functioning. It is all a matter of pride in Iran – where pride is a special quality.

And the thick, dark skin of clerical rule that covers Iran will remain, scratched occasionally perhaps, but unable to bleed or to re-imagine history or to reform a nation which so badly needs the change that only Mousavi, among the candidates, dreams of. Government for and by the dead – symbolised in the continued "supreme leader" ethos that old Ayatollah Khomeini constructed before his death, has effectively sealed off Iran from those human rights which obsess the West.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Military Ground Robots Market Strategy, Market Shares, and Market Forecasts, 2008-2014 - Business Market Research Reports

Military Ground Robots Market Strategy, Market Shares, and Market Forecasts, 2008-2014 - Business Market Research Reports:... "Roboticists are more advanced in their training and in the tools available to create units. Military robots have evolved from units used in the field to manage different situations that arise. Robots save lives.

Defense and homeland security systems have an emphasis on causality reduction during combat. This has resulted in investment in robotics technology that is useful. Robotic research is on the fast track for government spending. Congress passed a law making it an Army goal that by 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles are unmanned. The US Navy and Marines have similar initiatives underway.

Military ground robot market forecast analysis indicates that vendor strategy is to pursue developing new applications that leverage leading edge technology. Robot solutions are achieved by leveraging the ability to innovate, to bring products to market quickly. Military purchasing authorities seek to reduce costs through design and outsourcing. Vendor capabilities depend on the ability to commercialize the results of research in order to fund further research. Government funded research is evolving some more ground robot capability.

Markets at $145 million in 2007 are anticipated to reach $6.9 billion by 2014"

Terror alliance takes credit for Peshawar hotel assault - The Long War Journal

Terror alliance takes credit for Peshawar hotel assault - The Long War Journal: "A terror alliance based out of the South Waziristan and Arakzai tribal agencies took credit for the June 9 suicide assault on the Pearl Continental Hotel in a high security zone in Peshawar.

Hakeemullah Mehsud, the cousin of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, and a group called the Abdullah Azzam Bridge both claimed responsibility for the deadly attack that has killed 17 people and destroyed a large section of the hotel.

Hakeemullah teamed up with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Omar group and carried out the attack from the lawless city of Darra Adam Khel, according to a report in Adnkronos International. The attack was allegedly carried out because the Taliban believed the US was running intelligence operations from the hotel."...

[bth: I think it equally likely that they wanted to disrupt western aid programs]

U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Given More Leeway - NYTimes.com

U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Given More Leeway - NYTimes.com:... "General McChrystal is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan."...

UN halts operations in NWFP after PC blast

DAWN.COM | Provinces | UN halts operations in NWFP after PC blast
PESHAWAR: The United Nations has suspended its activities including humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons till Monday next in the wake of devastating bombing at Pearl Continental Hotel, sources say.

According to sources, the UN has communicated to all its employees to stay away from offices till Monday. A meeting of the UN will be held on Monday to review the situation and decide about resumption or stoppage of relief work for IDPs.

Sources said that the UN had evacuated its entire expatriate staff to Islamabad and the local employees had been asked to stay home till further orders.

Sources in the UN told Dawn that they had cancelled all their activities in Peshawar an elsewhere in NWFP due to the blast at a local five-star hotel on Tuesday night.


Refugees International: Peshawar Hotel Attack: A Bomb With Rippling Effects

Refugees International: Peshawar Hotel Attack: A Bomb With Rippling Effects:... "The Pearl Continental bombing was evidently targeting foreigners - and indirectly the humanitarian community for whom the hotel was a transit hub of sorts. Two of the casualties were working for the United Nations - one with the UN Refugee Agency and the other with UNICEF. They had come as part of emergency teams to support the relief effort for displaced Pakistanis.

While it's too early to have a clear picture, it's likely that UN agencies and most international aid organizations will have to curtail their operations. Already some staff have been evacuated from the region. The delivery of basic services will probably be compromised because of limitations on field visits and the difficulty of monitoring remotely. The extent of the impact on civilians will depend on the ability of aid agencies to adjust to a new security paradigm. Today, most agencies were regrouping and trying to determine how to run their existing operations under more stringent security constraints.

Working in such a complex and insecure environment is not an impossible feat - as ongoing relief operations in Afghanistan and Somalia have proven. Sadly, perhaps humanitarians can also say: 'déjà vu.'"

California nears financial meltdown as revs tumble | Reuters

California nears financial meltdown as revs tumble | Reuters: ..."'Without immediate solutions from the governor and legislature, we are less than 50 days away from a meltdown of state government,' Chiang said in a statement.

California's revenues have been on a dramatic slide as a result of recession, rising unemployment and its lengthy housing downturn.

The state's revenues from personal income taxes tumbled by 39.3 percent in May from a year earlier while revenues from corporate taxes fell by 52.1 percent and revenues from sales taxes sagged by 7.6 percent, according to a report released by Chiang's office.

'A truly balanced budget is the only responsible way out of the worst cash crisis since the Great Depression,' Chiang, a Democrat, said."...

Russia May Swap Some U.S. Treasuries for IMF Debt (Update1) - Bloomberg.com

Russia May Swap Some U.S. Treasuries for IMF Debt (Update1) - Bloomberg.com: ..."About 30 percent of Russia’s international reserves, which stood at $401.1 billion on May 29, are currently held in Treasuries, Ulyukayev said. Kudrin said on May 26 that Russia planned to buy $10 billion of IMF bonds using money from its foreign reserves."

The IMF securities would give countries a different way to contribute to the fund and are unlike traditional bonds because they pay an interest rate pegged to the IMF’s basket of currencies, known as Special Drawing Rights.

China is expected to buy as much as $50 billion of the bonds, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said yesterday.

The IMF, which has rescued economies from Pakistan to Iceland in the past year, has never issued bonds before and is seeking more cash to finance loans and aid to member countries during the worst economic slump in the fund’s 64-year history.

[bth: well this explains the long-term US bond situation earlier this week. The thing is, who guarantees the IMF funding? It certainly isn't deadbeats like Pakistan. So if Russia and China want to bash the dollar around and buy IMF bonds, let them. Watch to see that the IMF funding in the US defense supplemental bill gets pulled just to re-establish whose the boss. Also note Russia is talking up $250 bbl oil right now which of course directly links to their currency's strength. A lot of gaming going on all the sudden between governments.]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

West blamed as aid agencies threaten to desert Pakistan's Swat valley | World news | The Guardian

West blamed as aid agencies threaten to desert Pakistan's Swat valley | World news | The Guardian: "Cash shortages and bottlenecks in delivering supplies to people uprooted by fighting in Pakistan's Swat valley have triggered the biggest humanitarian funding crisis in a decade, relief organisations warn today.

A group of nine international aid groups including ActionAid, Islamic Relief and Oxfam said efforts to help more than 1 million victims of the fighting were in jeopardy. The agencies face a cash shortfall of more than £26m.

'This is the worst funding crisis we've faced in over a decade for a major ­humanitarian emergency. Some 2.5 million people have fled their homes,' said Jane Cocking, Oxfam's humanitarian director. 'One month into this emergency, Oxfam is £4m short and will have to turn our backs on some of the world's most ­vulnerable people.'"...

[bth: keep in mind that during the earthquake and then the tsunami, the aid money was stolen by 'religious' charities in Pakistan. I'm sure the government skimmed a fair share as well.]

Cheney still in crosshairs of Senate Intelligence probe

Raw Story » Cheney still in crosshairs of Senate Intelligence probe: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney isn’t out of the woods yet for his role in briefing Congress on the Bush Administration’s secretive harsh interrogation program.

In a carefully worded statement to Mother Jones’ David Corn for an article Wednesday, a spokesman for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein indicated that the conduct of individuals who briefed Congressmembers on the CIA’s interrogation program is under review."...

[bth: could this be what has Cheney all wound up lately?]

Pentagon won’t name 60 percent of detainees it says returned to terrorism

Raw Story » Pentagon won’t name 60 percent of detainees it says returned to terrorism: "According to an analysis by a New Jersey law professor, the Pentagon’s recent survey alleging that one in seven Guantanamo Bay prisoners return to terrorism is deeply flawed.

His analysis also reveals the Pentagon has refused to identify 60 percent of the men they claim have returned to terrorism, saying the information is classified.

The latest Pentagon recidivism analysis documents 74 recidivists, but lacks 45 names, adding that of the 29 names given, only half are labeled “confirmed” recidivists. Seton Hall University Professor Mark Denbeaux, who wrote the report, also alleges the analysis includes men who were never held at Guantanamo.

All told, 45 of 74 is 61 percent."...

[bth: sadly the Pentagon hasn't gotten these figures right even once over the years.]

Afghanistan Grenade Attack: U.S. Releases Footage In Defense Of G.I. (VIDEO)

Afghanistan Grenade Attack: U.S. Releases Footage In Defense Of G.I. (VIDEO)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Focus Shifts to Afghanistan, With Fleet Designed for Iraq

Focus Shifts to Afghanistan, With Fleet Designed for Iraq - WSJ.com
Armored MRAPs are being retrofitted for Afghanistan's tough terrain.


....The work at Aberdeen reflects the military's growing realization that the current versions of the $1 million trucks don't work in Afghanistan. The MRAPs are a good fit for Iraq, which has well-developed roads and highways, but the vehicles are so wide and heavy that their axles literally snap in half in Afghanistan.

"The MRAPs were bought for Iraq," said Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, who is leading the effort to install the new suspension systems. "They weren't bought with any vision of needing to handle the rough terrain that's common in Afghanistan."

The problems with the $28.2 billion MRAP fleet highlight the challenges facing the military as it shifts its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan.

For the past six years, the bulk of the military's training and equipping efforts have been devoted to Iraq, while Afghanistan was relegated to the back-burner. The U.S. bought vehicles, body armor and other equipment designed for Iraq's urban war zones. It sent soldiers and Marines to desert training grounds that simulated Iraq's temperatures and topography, and had Iraqi-Americans pretend to be imams and tribal leaders in extensive role-playing sessions.

Pentagon officials began ordering MRAPs to protect U.S. soldiers in Iraq in response to the mounting casualty toll from roadside bombs there. The military, still stung by criticism that it had failed to supply troops with adequate body armor early in the war, moved to deploy the vehicles quickly.

The military eventually purchased nearly 16,000 MRAPs, in what would become the Pentagon's largest wartime buying effort since World War II.

Today, the Pentagon is scrambling to reconfigure itself for a very different kind of war. Military officials are experimenting with new, lightweight body armor to aid troops faced with trekking through Afghanistan's mountainous terrain. It also is moving ahead with plans for a $2 billion fleet of armored off-road vehicles that are being specially designed for Afghanistan. The military hopes to award the first contracts for the next-generation vehicles this summer.

In the meantime, the military wants to retrofit nearly all 1,000 MRAPs being used in Afghanistan, at a cost of about $100,000 per vehicle. The Pentagon's cumbersome bureaucracy, and a complicated ramp-up for manufacturers, has slowed the effort -- to date, only five trucks have received the new suspension system.

MRAPs were developed in South Africa in the 1970s and have been used by armed forces around the world for decades. The enormous trucks sit high off the ground and are designed to come apart in an explosion, dissipating the force of the blast. An MRAP had a cameo in the 2007 "Transformers" movie as an evil robot named Bonecrusher.

Military officials first began receiving reports of problems with the MRAPs in late 2007, shortly after sending some of the trucks to Afghanistan. Troops in the field said the trucks were regularly breaking down when they went off-road or along one of the country's dirt paths.

U.S. officials realized that the problem stemmed from the MRAP's basic design. Both sets of wheels on the trucks were connected to a single axle, preventing the tires from moving independently in response to uneven terrain. When the trucks went off road, the axles often snapped.

"The axles began failing at an alarming rate," said Kim Yarboro, a civilian program manager overseeing the Marine MRAP effort. "We'd normally only need to replace one or two per year, but we suddenly had 20 or 30 down for an axle at a time."

Working with contractors like Force Protection Inc., military engineers experimented with independent suspension systems, which allow each wheel to move on its own to better absorb shock. In an early test, a vehicle that that had been outfitted with the new axles reacted badly in a controlled explosion. The engineers solved the problem by installing additional shielding on the bottom of the trucks.

"It's not going to be as maneuverable as a Humvee or other vehicles that are designed to go off-road," Gen. Brogan said. "But it will be able to take a lot more abuse."

[bth: there is nothing unpredictable about the need for rougher terrain MRAP type vehicles or that the axles will fail at a very high rate whether in Iraq or Afghanistan.  It is more about very poor planning, failure to supply sufficient replacement parts to known weaknesses and failure to adapt in real time.]

US releases Iraqi Shia terror group leader - The Long War Journal

US releases Iraqi Shia terror group leader - The Long War Journal: "The US military has released a senior member of a deadly terror group backed by Iran that has been directly implicated in the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in during a complex operating in early 2007."

Laith al Qazali was freed last weekend "as part of a reconciliation effort" as well as an attempt to secure the release of captive British hostages, according to a report in The New York Times.

Laith is the brother of Qais Qazali, the commander of the Qazali network which better known as the Asaib al Haq or the League of the Righteous. Qais Qazali was a spokesperson and senior aide to Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al Sadr. The terror group, which was part of the Mahdi Army until the spring of 2008, has received extensive financial and military support from Iran's Qods Force, the external division that backs Hezbollah and is tasked with supporting the Khomeinist Islamist revolution.

The League of the Righteous was directly implicated by General David Petraeus as being behind the January 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala as well as other high-profile terror attacks in Iraq. Five US soldiers were killed during the Karbala attack and subsequent kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

The attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center was a complex, sophisticated operation. The assault team, led by tactical commander Azhar al Dulaimi, was trained in a mock up of center that was built in Iran. The unit had excellent intelligence and received equipment that made them appear to be US soldiers. Some of the members of the assault team are said to have spoken English.

The US military caught a break when it detained Laith and Qais and several other members of the network during a raid in Basrah in March 2007. Also detained during the raid was Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative who was tasked by Iran to organize the Special Groups and "rogue" Mahdi Army cells along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Daqduq is a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah and commanded both a Hezbollah special operations unit and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s security detail. Azhar al Dulaimi was killed in a raid in Baghdad in May 2007.

Laith's release part of hostage exchange

The US military claimed Laith's release is part of a reconciliation effort with the League of the Righteous, but the real aim appears to be the release of five British hostages who were captured by the group.

"As part of a reconciliation effort between the government of Iraq and Asaib al Haq, the decision has been made to release Laith Qazali," Lieutenant Colonel Brian Maka told The New York Times. "Asaib al Haq has pledged to representatives of the Iraqi prime minister to give up violence and move the group towards peaceful integration into Iraqi society. An unconditional cease-fire will be undertaken by the group."

But the League of the Righteous has long demanded the US military release Qais, Laith, and other members of the terror group in exchange for the five Britons captured in March 2007 during another complex operation at Iraq's Finance Ministry.

The real purpose of the release of Laith was explained by Sami al Askari, a spokesman for Prime minister Nouri al Maliki. The issue of reconciliation is merely a pretext for a prisoner / hostage exchange.

"This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners," Askari told The New York Times. "So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join in the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned."

A one-to-one exchange of Shia terrorists for the British hostages will take place over the next week. It is unclear if Qais or Daqduq will be released in the exchange, but the League of the Righteous has been adamant that they be released in the past.

The release of the League of the Qazalis and other senior leaders of the terror group does not bode well for the improved security situation in Baghdad and wider Iraq as the US prepares to withdraw from Iraq's cities. The Iraqi military dealt the terror group and its Iranian backers a deadly blow during the offensive against the Shia terror groups in central and southern Iraq that began in Basrah in March 2008 and resulted in thousands of Mahdi Army fighters killed and thousands more wounded, and the death of several of its senior military leadership. The movement itself was fractured and was forced to pull out from provincial elections.

The League of the Righteous still conducts operations against Iraqi and US forces in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq. The group has not honored previous ceasefire agreements, and the release of its senior leadership may give the group new life....

[bth: just fucking great. Having met one of the fathers of one of the abducted and killed soldiers I can only sympathize with the emotional turmoil of this decision. So much for not dealing with terrorists. One wonders if this is the last step in Britain's full withdrawal from Iraq.]

Yet another review ordered of Afghan policy — fifth this year | McClatchy

Yet another review ordered of Afghan policy — fifth this year | McClatchy: "WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has given the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan 60 days to conduct another review of the American strategy there, the fifth since President Barack Obama took office less than five months ago."...

[bth: ?]

IDF developing battlefield robot snake

Israeli military developing battlefield robot snake | Israel | Jerusalem Post
A robot snake, capable of recording video and sound on the battlefield, is the latest addition to the IDF's technological achievements.


 The new IDF robot snake
According to a Channel 2 report - click here
to watch video - the spying robot, about two meters long and covered in
army camouflage, mimics the movements and appearance of a real snake,
slithering around through caves, tunnels, cracks and buildings, sending
images and sound back to a soldier controlling the device through a
laptop. The snake has a single camera on front end.


Monday, June 08, 2009

U.S. Will Consider Returning North Korea to Terror List - washingtonpost.com

U.S. Will Consider Returning North Korea to Terror List - washingtonpost.com: "The United States will consider reinstating North Korea to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast yesterday as the Obama administration looks for ways to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang after recent nuclear and missile tests."...

[bth: I've no love for N. Korea but I do have a simple question. What terrorist group are they supporting? Is it the exchange of nuclear material and technology with Pakistan we are worried about? Only a few years ago, military aircraft we were supplying Pakistan were being used to fly missiles back and forth to N. Korea/Pakistan over China. And if you remember there was that horrible train fire in N. Korea where rocket fuel in transport ignited killing Pakistani scientists along with many others in the area.]

The Public Editor - What Happened to Skepticism? - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

The Public Editor - What Happened to Skepticism? - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com: ..."But the article on which he based that statement was seriously flawed and greatly overplayed. It demonstrated again the dangers when editors run with exclusive leaked material in politically charged circumstances and fail to push back skeptically. The lapse is especially unfortunate at The Times, given its history in covering the run-up to the Iraq war.

The article seemed to adopt the Pentagon’s contention that freed prisoners had “returned” to terrorism, ignoring independent reporting by The Times and others that some of them may not have been involved in terrorism before but were radicalized at Guantánamo. It failed to distinguish between former prisoners suspected of new acts of terrorism — more than half the cases — and those supposedly confirmed to have rejoined jihad against the West. Had only confirmed cases been considered, one in seven would have changed to one in 20."...

[bth: this was obvious within days of the story and should have been obvious to the editors before the story ran. It was a planted 'anonymous Pentagon source' parachuted in just in time to influence the Gitmo discussion. As if the NYT's Miller and Gordon hadn't already been discredited years before regarding the justification or lack thereof of the war. So weeks later the NYT addresses the issue - the false figures - instead of immediately as well informed bloggers identified right away. NYT and WaPo have lost credibility as a voice of the people and have let themselves become tools of politicians and bureaucrats. Small wonder that people are turning away from them as a credible news source.]

APNewsBreak: Major problems found in war spending - Yahoo! News

APNewsBreak: Major problems found in war spending - Yahoo! News: ..."U.S. reliance on contractors has grown to 'unprecedented proportions,' says the bipartisan commission, established by Congress last year. More than 240,000 private sector employees are supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more work for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

But the government has no central data base of who all these contractors are, what services they provide, and how much they're paid. The Pentagon has failed to provide enough trained staff to watch over them, creating conditions for waste and corruption, the commission says.

In Iraq, the panel worries that as U.S. troops depart in larger numbers, there will be too few government eyes on the contractors left to oversee the closing of hundreds of bases and disposal of mountains of federal property.

At Rustamiyah, a seven-acre forward operating base turned over to the Iraqis in March, the military population plunged from 1,490 to 62 in just three months. During the same period, the contractor population dropped from 928 to 338, leaving more than five contractors for every service member.

In Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama has ordered a large increase of U.S. troops, existing bases will have to expand and new ones will be built — without proper oversight"...

Stephen Colbert Iraq Show: Gen. Odierno Shaves His Head

Stephen Colbert Iraq Show: Gen. Odierno Shaves His Head: ..."Claiming the war must be over because nobody's talking about it anymore, Colbert invoked the power of cable television to 'officially declare we won the Iraq war.'

He offered a list of successes and commentary to bolster his point.

They included finding weapons of mass destruction, which was deemed 'easier than we thought,' and telling the troops that President Barack Obama should deploy them to the struggling General Motors."...

[bth: fantastic! Greatly appreciated visit by Colbert to refocus attention.]

US Unemployment Rate Gallops Ahead of Expectations

VOA News - US Unemployment Rate Gallops Ahead of Expectations: ..."U.S. unemployment jumped a half percent in May, to 9.4 percent prompting this comment by Austan Goolsbee, a member of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors:

'The economy clearly has gotten substantially worse from the initial predictions that were being made, not just by the White House, but by all of the private sector,' said Austan Goolsbee.

Economists point out that the current jobless rate is already higher than the hypothetical rate that was used to calculate the health of banks and other financial institutions in so-called 'stress tests' earlier this year. And, the upward unemployment trajectory is expected to continue in coming months, even if the overall economy begins to recover."...

[bth: no kidding. This has been obvious to anyone willing to look at the earlier economic indicators or even employment trends. Furthermore, if you let the manufacturing base of, say the automotive industry, get trashed which then pulls down its supplier structure, your going to see the higher paying US manufacturing jobs go right down the toilet. But ivy league economists more interested in protecting their investment banker classmates than average Americans really don't care. So the automotive industry goes down the tubes while the 'service sector' of finance, the new government welfare babes get bailed out on the backs of the taxpayers.]

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Commentary: What’s up with Dick Cheney? - Politics AP - MiamiHerald.com

Commentary: What’s up with Dick Cheney? - Politics AP - MiamiHerald.com: ..."It's fairly obvious that if he or many of the others named above ever set foot outside the United States, they're likely to end up like Chile's Augusto Pinochet or worse.

That begs the question of why men such as Cheney and his friends are still able to thumb their noses at the law, public opinion and our Constitution with impunity here at home, in the land of the free and home of the brave?

That question comes to my mind every time I see President Barack Obama sharing the airwaves with Cheney; every time I see congressional leaders who have the power to investigate the criminal behavior of these men; every time I hear Dick Cheney on the Sunday news shows or the evening news.

I hear testimony that one of the al Qaida high-value targets who was subjected to waterboarding more than 80 times in less than a month was tortured after he'd already given up everything he knew under normal, legal interrogation."

also hear testimony that the highest-ranking terrorist we ever got our hands on was subjected to waterboarding eight times a day for a grand total of 183 sessions of near drowning, near-death.

While Cheney proclaims that such actions helped keep us safe from terrorist attacks, there are others, who were either present in the room or read the transcripts, who say we got nothing of actionable value. Nothing worth a pitcher of warm spit.

If Dick Cheney has so much that he wants to confess, then why doesn't somebody on Capitol Hill subpoena him to testify under oath before an investigating committee or a truth commission. Or maybe we need a special prosecutor who can put him in a chair in front of a grand jury.

Enough already.

[bth: Galloway asks the right question but I'm not sure we have an answer. One concern I have is that the reason congress isn't investigating him is because congress was in the know.]

Taliban feel Pakistani wrath after mosque blast - Yahoo! News

Taliban feel Pakistani wrath after mosque blast - Yahoo! News: "Hundreds of Pakistani tribesmen furious over a deadly suicide bombing at a mosque laid siege to several Taliban strongholds in their troubled northwestern region, killing at least 11 militants, officials said Sunday.

The weekend clashes appeared to be the latest evidence of growing anti-Taliban sentiment in U.S.-allied Pakistan, a shift that comes as suicide attacks have surged and the military wages an offensive in the nearby Swat Valley."....

Newt Gingrich: Americans "Are Surrounded By Paganism"

Newt Gingrich: Americans "Are Surrounded By Paganism": ..."Both men railed against abortion rights, gay rights and the lack of religious influence in American public life, however Gingrich upped the ante in his attempt to stir up the crowd with this line:

I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism.

However, Huckabee was not to be outdone in the use of hyperbole. The former Republican presidential candidate called the United States a 'blessed' nation whose victory against the British in the Revolutionary War was 'a miracle from God's hand,' indeed the same type of miracle that defeated the legalization of gay marriage in California."...

[bth: too much demagoguery. ]