Saturday, February 20, 2010
The fall of the government, just two days short of the coalition's third anniversary, all but guarantees that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be brought home this year and will eventually prompt new parliamentary elections.
The collapse, the fourth for a cabinet led by Balkenende in eight years, throws into doubt the scope and timing of planned budget cuts for next year as the Dutch economy battles to emerge from the global downturn."...
Ronald Asmus' A Little War that Shook the World, published last month, says that in August 2008, as the South Ossetia War between Russia and Georgia was raging, the White House looked at the possibility of taking military action to prevent Georgian forces from being routed by Russian troops.
Georgia's leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, was seen as an ally of Washington and had pushed for NATO membership for his country."...
[bth: Cheney that draft dodging son of a bitch is just nuts. He is all for sending other people to fight and would venture to put the US on a collision course with Russia; something we managed to avoid for nearly sixty decades. Nuts.]
Friday, February 19, 2010
Army Investigates Alleged Attempt by Soldiers to Poison Food at Fort Jackson - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - FOXNews.com
The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News.
The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, 'there is no credible information to support the allegations.'
Five suspects, detained in December, were part of an Arabic translation program called '09 Lima' and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim. It wasn't clear whether they were still being held.
Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report."
[bth: this looks like a Fox fake news story. "There is no credible information to support the allegations" There doesn't appear to be anyone held in detention. So after 2 months with no credible information shouldn't this be written off as hysteria instead of Faux News?]
"Does it matter?-losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter?-losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be gald,
And people won't say that you’re mad;
For they know that you've fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.
Newly-minted Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) appeared on Fox’s Neil Cavuto and showed none of the outrage and concern about terrorism that he exuded during his Senate election campaign. Asked for his reaction, Brown said he felt for the families, but quickly shrugged off the attack and transitioned to say that “people are frustrated” and “no one likes paying taxes.”"...
Thursday, February 18, 2010
A BBC correspondent in Kandahar says that from eavesdropping on Taliban communications, Nato understands militants have called for support."
Statements by Pakistani officials to journalists prior to the arrest indicate that the decision to put Baradar in custody is aimed at ensuring that the Taliban role in peace negotiations serves Pakistani interests. They also suggest that Pakistani military leaders view Baradar as an asset in those negotiations rather than an adversary to be removed from the conflict.
Pakistan has long viewed the military and political power of the Taliban as Pakistan's primary strategic asset in countering Indian influence in Afghanistan, which remains its main concern in the conflict."...
Latest Drone Strike Targets Haqqani: Officials Say It's Not Clear if Powerful Taliban Leader Was Hit - Declassified Blog - Newsweek.com
Have Obama's federal government weatherize your home for only $57,362 each | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times
Based on the initial Obama-Biden program promise that it would create 87,000 new jobs its first year, that would be about 10 jobs for each home weatherized so far. Makes for pretty crowded doorways.
ABC News reports that the General Accountability Office will declare today that the Energy Department has fallen woefully behind -- about 98.5% behind -- the 593,000 homes it initially predicted would be weatherized in the Recovery Act's very first, very chilly year.
The Energy Department is run by Steven Chu, like President Obama a Nobel Prize winner. You'll never guess what the federal government blames for the lack of significant progress.
Not duct tape. Not weatherstripping. But that infamous RED tape. In the form of, well, forms."...
The Energy folks did tell ABC they've so far spent $522 million Recovery Act dollars on the program. Which works out to, let's see, about $57,362 worth of very expensive weatherstripping for each home fixed up so far.
Seems about right for a federal program.
Only a third of US voters think their Congress members have earned the right to get sent back next year -- a record-low number, a poll released yesterday shows.
Thirty-four percent of voters queried think members of the House and the Senate ought to be re-elected -- while an astonishing 63 percent were in favor of throwing the bums out, the new CNN poll showed.
That's the worst performance for Congress in the history of the network's polling -- the latest red flag for the floundering Democratic leadership as it heads into an anti-incumbent voter wave just eight months before the midterm elections."...
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
If 'enemy combatant' is a term that denotes a captured person as someone to be held indefinitely pending the end of hostilities does that not make this person subject to the international law of war, the law covering prisoners of war?
Prisoners of war are not criminals. Acts of war do not make them criminals Prisoners of war are not tried for anything unless they have violated the law of war or have broken a law after capture, for example, murder of a guard in an attempt to escape. If they are tried for something like that then they have to be tried under the military law of the detaining power and if convicted punished as a member of that country's armed forces would be punished. Such persons could not be tried before anything other than a court-martial.
I hear the mob crying out for the trial of captured terrorists before military commissions. Why not courts-martial or civilian courts? Is it because the mob imagines that military commissions will function as 'kangaroo courts' ignoring due process and the rules of evidence? Is that why?
Is it because the mob thinks that the officers who would serve on military commissions would ignore the evidence of coercion of confessions and torture? If the mob thinks that, then they are fools who hope for national disgrace.
Better to treat our enemies as 'common criminals' and try them in Article Three courts or to hold them indefinitely without trial as detainees under the law of war. pl"
Has life on earth always existed in its present form? Republicans are more likely to agree (29 percent) than Democrats (16 percent). They're less likely to believe that life evolved over time with no guidance from God (8 percent to 24 percent). Democrats are slightly less inclined to believe in evolution with a 'guiding hand from God' (50 percent to 55 percent).
Republicans are less likely to believe that humans developed from earlier species of animals; 26 percent agree, while 60 percent disagree. Among Democrats in the survey, 46 percent agree that humans evolved from earlier species; 42 percent disagree. Perry's voters were most hostile to this premise — 67 percent disagree.
About the same numbers of Democrats and Republicans — 43 percent — disagree with the idea that dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time. Republicans were slightly more likely to agree with the idea (31 percent to 27 percent). Perry had more voters in each group on the GOP side, but Kay Bailey Hutchison had the largest share of voters who believe in that coexistence.
Prindle says the results recall a line from comedian Lewis Black. 'He did a standup routine a few years back in which he said that a significant proportion of the American people think that the 'The Flintstones' is a documentary,' Prindle says. 'Turns out he was right. Thirty percent of Texans agree that humans and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time.'"
Mr Hoenig said that rising debt was infringing on the central bank’s ability to fulfil its goals of maintaining price stability and long-term economic growth. “Stunning” deficit projections were putting political pressure on the Fed to keep interest rates low, infringing on its independence at the risk of inflation, he said."
“Without pre-emptive action, the US risks its next crisis,” Mr Hoenig said in a speech at the Pew-Peterson Commission on Budget Reform.
He was the only Fed member who dissented at last month’s meeting against language indicating that interest rates should remain near zero for an “extended period”.
On Tuesday he said that the worst option for the US was a scenario where the government “knocks on the central bank’s door” and asks it to print more money. Instead, the administration must find ways to cut spending and generate revenue. He called for a “reallocation of resources” and noted that the process would be painful and politically inconvenient....
[bth: hold the phone here. Let's see where is there inflation in the system that this guy fears? Is it because of full employment? No. Is it wage increases? No. Is is failing productivity? No. Is it home prices? No. Is it skyrocketing short term interest rates in anticipation of inflation? No. Is it sky rocketing commodity prices? No. And so what if the fed printed more money right now? They might in fact do just that to pay off bonds that were dumped by China. Again so what? So the Chinese can sit on cash instead of bonds? I don't think so. And let's face it, tax rates for upper income individuals and large corporation are going to go up - probably to the Clinton rates and less than the Reagan rates. Who said we could fight two wars and give rich folks a tax cut anyway? The best way to raise taxes is to get people jobs so they can pay taxes and get them off the unemployment rolls.]
Obama's approval rating slid to 49 percent in the survey, down from 76 percent around this time last year. Fifty percent today hold a negative view of his job performance, up from 23 percent a year ago."...
'We have strict orders not to fire at civilian areas,' said Ghori.
A Taliban spokesman denied their fighters were exploiting civilians."...
[bth: if the US military's propaganda operation had its wits about it, it would take photos of these human shields and post them to world news medias. Photos of Taliban fighters hiding behind women and children would go a long way toward debunking the myths the Taliban has created about their fighting prowess and courage. It might also impact their fund raising ability and recruitment. So why aren't we doing this? What am I missing? I assume the incidents are real and being witnessed. So why no published photos of human shields?]
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The reductions in holdings, if they continue, could force the government to make higher interest payments at a time that it is running record federal deficits.
The Treasury Department reported that foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities fell by $53 billion in December, surpassing the previous record of a $44.5 billion drop in April 2009.
The big drop in China's holdings meant that it lost the top spot in terms of foreign ownership of U.S. Treasuries, dropping to second place behind Japan.
Japan also reduced its holdings of U.S. Treasuries, cutting them by $11.5 billion to $768.8 billion in December, but that amount was still more than China's December total of $755.4 billion.
The $53 billion decline in holdings of Treasury securities came primarily from a drop in official government holdings, which fell by $52.3 billion. The holdings of foreign private investors fell by $700 million during the month of December.
For all of 2009, foreign holdings of U.S. Treasuries dipped by $500 million. In 2008, foreigners had increased their holdings of U.S. Treasuries by $456 billion as a global financial crisis triggered a flight to the safety of U.S. government debt.
That flight to safety had driven down the interest rates that the government was having to pay on its debt to record lows with rates on some short-term securities dipping into negative territory for brief periods."...
[bth: people need to keep this in perspective. There was a huge surge in foreign holdings in 2008 and interest rates have no where to go but up. It seems likely that in 2010 foreign holdings will be flat to declining and interest rates are likely to rise a little. One has to consider what alternatives are out there and I don't think its the Euro or ruble this year.]
An American rocket fired into a mud-walled compound during a firefight killed at least 11 people. After the strike, the American military said the rocket had struck the wrong house and apologized for the civilian loss of life.
On Monday, however, American officers said that the rocket, fired from miles away, had in fact hit the compound it was intended to hit. American Marines were taking fire from that compound, officers said, so the compound was attacked. They did not realize that there were civilians inside.
“The rocket hit the house that we wanted it to hit,” an American officer said at a briefing the briefing with General McChrystal and Mr. Wardak. “We didn’t know there were civilians there.”
But that explanation did not square with accounts from Marines on the ground. The Marine company commander said that he and his men were startled by the missile strike, of which they had no prior warning. Earlier in the day, the company commander said, he had requested a rocket to be launched at a building next to the one that was eventually hit, from which the Marines were taking small-arms fire. The permission was denied, he said"...
[bth: these weapons hit what they are aimed at. Someone in the chain of command is a liar.]
Photo Release -- Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial System Demonstrates Critical Resupply Capability (NYSE:NOC)
[bth: this frankly is a very practical mission for this technology. Too bad the government isn't going in this direction.]
Monday, February 15, 2010
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.
It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group’s spiritual leader.
Disclosure of Mullah Baradar’s capture came as American and Afghan forces were in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan....
[bth: well done. Note he was in Karachi not Quetta]
bth: I highly recommend following the link to this wonderful speech by Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 with regard to economic freedom and listening to it. It is a speech for our time.
Climategate U-turn: Astonishment as scientist at centre of global warming email row admits data not well organised | Mail Online
Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.
Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.
The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.
Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.
And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.
The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.
Professor Jones has been in the spotlight since he stepped down as director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit after the leaking of emails that sceptics claim show scientists were manipulating data."...
[bth: Global warming is science and not religion. There must be data, not faith that guides us in our actions on this matter.]
The infantrymen and engineers who moved in vehicles on Monday to support Company B took close to five hours to travel a little more than a mile, due to the constant threat of buried explosive booby-traps.
But Company B itself has faced the most determined opposition. 'We're fighting an offense from a defense,' said 1st Lt. Mark Greenlief, the company's executive officer.
The Taliban shot at medical helicopters evacuating the wounded from Company B's outpost. 'They'd love to have a Blackhawk Down,' said Lt. Greenlief.
On Sunday, insurgents tried to breach the outpost, barraging the main entrance with rocket-propelled grenades and dispatching suicide attackers to rush the compound. The Marines and Afghan soldiers repelled the attempt to the assault.
The insurgents appear to be trying to take advantage of rules that they know constrain how much force the Marines and Afghans can use around civilians. On Monday, Marines spotted 10 or so fighters approaching the Pork Chop area, with women and children carrying their weapons in bundles.
'They have weapons caches in mosques,' said Lt. Greenlief."...
[bth: note the rate of vehicular advance is 1 mile in 5 hours.]
Neither side wants to be guilty of starting the next war, but people in Lebanon say tension is now so high the smallest incident may provide the trigger.
And the next round of hostilities, they warn, will be much broader and more terrible than the last war when Hezbollah battled the Israeli army in 2006.
There are old scores to settle. Hezbollah wants to avenge the assassination of its military mastermind Imad Mugniyeh. Last Friday marked the second anniversary of his mysterious car bombing death in Damascus. Hezbollah also claims Israel still occupies a sliver of Lebanese territory in the south. It is ideologically opposed to Israel's very existence."...
[bth: to what end?]
Coalition troops found 727 bombs in January compared with 276 in the same month of 2009. Blasts killed 32 U.S. and allied troops and wounded 137 others, compared with 14 deaths and 64 injuries in January 2009, according to the data. These bombs are the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
In previous years, winter was a slow season for Taliban and insurgent attacks in Afghanistan."....
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Recession Continues to Batter State Budgets; State Responses Could Slow Recovery — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
* New gaps in 2010 budgets. An increasing number of states are struggling to keep their 2010 budgets in balance as the mid-point of the fiscal year approaches. Because revenues have fallen short of projections, mid-year shortfalls have opened up in 41 states — some of which have already addressed them — totaling $35 billion or 6 percent of these budgets.
These new shortfalls are in addition to the gaps states closed when adopting their fiscal year 2010 budgets earlier this year. Counting both initial and mid-year shortfalls, 48 states have addressed or still face such shortfalls in their budgets for fiscal year 2010, totaling $194 billion or 28 percent of state budgets — the largest gaps on record
* Additional large gaps for 2011. States’ fiscal problems will continue into the next fiscal year and likely beyond. Fiscal year 2011 gaps — both those still open and those already addressed — total $102 billion or 17 percent of budgets for the 41 states that have estimated the size of these gaps. These totals are likely to grow as revenues continue to deteriorate, and may well exceed $180 billion.
* Combined gaps of $350 billion for 2010 and 2011. These numbers suggest that when all is said and done, states will have dealt with a total budget shortfall of at least $350 billion for 2010 and 2011. (This includes both gaps already closed and gaps projected for the future.)
* Role of federal assistance. The federal assistance to states provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is lessening the extent to which states need to reduce services or raise taxes. But it now appears likely the federal assistance will end before state budget gaps have abated. The federal government could avert state actions such as deep additional budget cuts that would further harm the economy by phasing out assistance more gradually over the period during which state fiscal distress is expected to continue."...