politics, hypocrisy and meanness in public affairs, alligators, anti-empire-ism, occasional personal stuff

Monday, February 28, 2011

from The Associated Press

[Thousands of weapons are LEGALLY purchased in the U.S. and taken into Mexico because of our loose gun laws:]

ATF: Gun in US agent's death traced to Texas man 
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DALLAS (AP) -- Federal investigators say the gun used to kill a U.S. immigration agent in Mexico has been traced to a Dallas-area man.

Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested the man and two other suspected gun smugglers in Monday raids in Lancaster, Texas, a southern Dallas suburb.

ATF spokesman Tom Crowley is referring questions about further details to the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. The agency plans a news release.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata was killed in the Feb. 15 attack at a roadblock in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. Agent Victor Avila was wounded.

from Talking Points Memo

A new report from a bipartisan commission set up to scrutinize the unprecedented use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan concludes that the United States has wasted tens of billions of the nearly $177 billion that has been spent on those contracts and grants since 2002.
The report, titled "At What Risk? Correcting Over-reliance on Contractors in Contingency Operations," said its estimate may even understate the problem because it may not take into full account ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, as well as criminal behavior and blatant corruption by both government and contractor employees.
"For many years," the report says, "the government has abdicated its contracting responsibilities - too often using contractors as the default mechanism ... without consideration for the resources needed to manage them."
The commission, chaired by Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) holds a hearing Monday to review the new report's findings.
About 200,000 contractor employees are working in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a number roughly equal to the American military forces deployed there, according to the report. Their work includes guarding bases, building facilities, providing food and laundry services, escorting supply and personnel movements, and translating local languages.
The current unprecedented reliance on contractors reflects a reduction in support functions the military provides and urgent needs in the two combat zones, but it occurs at a time when federal capabilities for managing and auditing contracts have suffered from years of staffing cuts and weak inter-agency coordination, the report says.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Regarding Raymond Davis in Pakistan, & the NY Times

If a plumber works for the CIA, we don't call him/her "a contractor," but rather "a plumber." If a spy, or a killer, works for the CIA, he is a spy or a killer, not "a contractor." Call him that.

It seems obvious that people in Pakistan - public and government - knew that Davis was CIA. A confirmation in the Times would affect that belief/knowledge - one word: Baloney.

What was news that was not treated with skepticism was The President's statement that Davis was "our diplomat." This was patently euphemistic; additionally, "our diplomat" would have been employed by the U.S. government, not "a contractor."

Regarding Times relations with the government: Remember Judith Miller & Iraq.

I swear I did not make this up.

STL Rams News
Rams scout charged with public nudity
It could have been worse - he could have been charged with pushing for tax cuts for the super rich.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Whoah -

WASHINGTON -- Members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) gave President Obama a rare push on Saturday, adopting a resolution attempting to encourage the administration to move toward a speedier withdrawal from Afghanistan.

What about those who DID, by deception, send a land army into the M-E?

[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates says anyone sending land US army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should "have his head examined"

Is there EVER any payback for the rich and powerful in America who do horrendous, murderous acts?

Franklin: "A Republic, ... if you can keep it."

Elmer Fudd: "B'dyah, b'dyah, b'dyah ... that's all, folks."

When it's over, it's over.

It's over: Gadhafi's Nurse Says She's Going Home

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finally, we know ... [from The Daily Beast]

Gaddafi: Al Qaeda Behind Protests

Well, that's one way to explain it. Embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said during a phone call to state TV on Thursday that al Qaeda is behind protests that have rocked the country and threatened to unseat him. He argued that ringleaders were "loyal to [Osama] bin Laden" and—in a warning to parents—said they'd recruited teenagers to join them by drugging them with "hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

from a longer article in WSJ

A new study led by researchers at the University of Memphis and the University of Michigan extends this theme. The scientists measured the success of 60 undergraduates in various fields, from the visual arts to science. They asked the students if they'd ever won a prize at a juried art show or been honored at a science fair. In every domain, students who had been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder achieved more: Their inability to focus turned out to be a creative advantage.
And this lesson doesn't just apply to people with a full-fledged disorder. A few years ago, scientists at the University of Toronto and Harvard gave a short mental test to 86 Harvard undergraduates. The test was designed to measure their ability to ignore irrelevant stimuli, such as the air-conditioner humming in the background or the conversation taking place nearby. This skill is typically seen as an essential component of productivity, since it keeps people from getting distracted by extraneous information.
Here's where the data get interesting: Those undergrads who had a tougher time ignoring unrelated stuff were also seven times more likely to be rated as "eminent creative achievers" based on their previous accomplishments. (The association was particularly strong among distractible students with high IQs.) [emphasis added]
According to the scientists, the inability to focus helps ensure a richer mixture of thoughts in consciousness. Because these people struggled to filter the world, they ended up letting everything in. They couldn't help but be open-minded.

from Dean Baker's Beat the Press Weekly


Let's all have a hearty round of laughter at David Brooks' expense. He doesn't know that employer side payments for benefits like pensions and health care come out of workers' wages. In his column today, he tells his readers that public employees in Wisconsin should have to pay for these benefits just like private sector. Apparently he doesn't know that they already do.

Go into any economics department and tell the faculty that you think employers should have to pay more for workers' Social Security benefits. The ridicule with which that suggestion would be greeted should be heaped on Mr. Brooks for failing to understand basic economics. And of course, we actually have data that show that the higher benefits received by public sector workers in Wisconsin are more than fully offset by lower pay.

Of course the bigger mistake in Brooks' column is the assertion that we are looking at a decade of austerity. This may prove true, but this is a policy choice. We had unbelievably incompetent economic policy in the last decade. The Fed and the Bush administration allowed (arguably encouraged) the growth of an $8 trillion housing bubble. It was fully predictable that it would collapse and lead to a serious recession.

Unfortunately, economic policy continues to be guided by people who were too incompetent to recognize this bubble and the danger it posed. The route out of this downturn is simple: the government needs to spend money to create demand. This is the economy's problem at the moment, not a scarcity of resources. However, the incompetents control the debate and are now promising us a decade of austerity rather than taking the simple steps that would be needed to get back to full employment.

Monday, February 21, 2011

This is not novel, but pertinent & illustrative of our former republic.

The NYT's journalistic obedience

Earlier today, I wrote in detail about new developments in the case of Raymond Davis, the former Special Forces soldier who shot and killed two Pakistanis on January 27, sparking a diplomatic conflict between the U.S. (which is demanding that he be released on the ground of "diplomatic immunity") and Pakistan (whose population is demanding justice and insisting that he was no "diplomat").  But I want to flag this new story separately because it's really quite amazing and revealing.
Yesterday, as I noted earlier, The Guardian reported that Davis -- despite Obama's description of him as "our diplomat in Pakistan" -- actually works for the CIA, and further noted that Pakistani officials believe he worked with Blackwater.  When reporting that, The Guardian noted that many American media outlets had learned of this fact but deliberately concealed it -- because the U.S. Government told them to:  "A number of US media outlets learned about Davis's CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration."
Now it turns out that The New York Times -- by its own shameless admission -- was one of those self-censoring, obedient media outlets.  Now that The Guardian published its story last night, the NYT just now published a lengthy article detailing Davis' work -- headlined:  "American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With the C.I.A." -- and provides a few more details:

The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials. . . . Mr. Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial private security firm (now called Xe) that Pakistanis have long viewed as symbolizing a culture of American gun slinging overseas.
But what's most significant is the paper's explanation for why they're sharing this information with their readers only now:

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis's work with the C.I.A.. On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication, though George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined any further comment.
In other words, the NYT knew about Davis' work for the CIA (and Blackwater) but concealed it because the U.S. Government told it to.  Now that The Guardian and other foreign papers reported it, the U.S. Government gave permission to the NYT to report this, so now that they have government license, they do so -- only after it's already been reported by other newspapers which don't take orders from the U.S. Government.
It's one thing for a newspaper to withhold information because they believe its disclosure would endanger lives.  But here, the U.S. Government has spent weeks making public statements that were misleading in the extreme -- Obama's calling Davis "our diplomat in Pakistan" -- while the NYT deliberately concealed facts undermining those government claims because government officials told them to do so.  That's called being an active enabler of government propaganda.  While working for the CIA doesn't preclude holding "diplomatic immunity," it's certainly relevant to the dispute between the two countries and the picture being painted by Obama officials.  Moreover, since there is no declared war in Pakistan, this incident -- as the NYT puts it today -- "inadvertently pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A. "  That alone makes Davis' work not just newsworthy, but crucial.
Worse still, the NYT has repeatedly disseminated U.S. Government claims -- and even offered its own misleading descriptions --without bothering to include these highly relevant facts.  See, for instance, its February 12 report ("The State Department has repeatedly said that he is protected by diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention and must be released immediately"); this February 8 article (referring to "the mystery about what Mr. Davis was doing with this inventory of gadgets"; noting "the Pakistani press, dwelling on the items in Mr. Davis’s possession and his various identity cards, has been filled with speculation about his specific duties, which American officials would not discuss"; and claiming:  "Mr. Davis's jobs have been loosely defined by American officials as 'security' or 'technical,' though his duties were known only to his immediate superiors"); and this February 15 report (passing on the demands of Obama and Sen. John Kerry for Davis' release as a "diplomat" without mentioning his CIA work).  They're inserting into their stories misleading government claims, and condescendingly summarizing Pakistani "speculation" about Davis' work, all while knowing the truth but not reporting it.
Following the dictates of the U.S. Government for what they can and cannot publish is, of course, anything but new for the New York Times.  In his lengthy recent article on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller tried to show how independent his newspaper is by boasting that they published their story of the Bush NSA program even though he has "vivid memories of sitting in the Oval Office as President George W. Bush tried to persuade [him] and the paper's publisher to withhold the eavesdropping story"; Keller neglected to mention that the paper learned about the illegal program in mid-2004, but followed Bush's orders to conceal it from the public for over a year -- until after Bush was safely re-elected.
And recently in a BBC interview, Keller boasted that -- unlike WikiLeaks -- the Paper of Record had earned the praise of the U.S. Government for withholding materials which the Obama administration wanted withheld, causing Keller's fellow guest -- former British Ambassador to the U.N. Carne Ross -- to exclaim: "It's extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government."  The BBC host could also barely hide his shock and contempt at Keller's proud admission: 

HOST (incredulously): Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the Government in advance and say: "What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that," and you get clearance, then?
Obviously, that's exactly what The New York Times does.  Allowing the U.S. Government to run around affirmatively depicting Davis as some sort of Holbrooke-like "diplomat" -- all while the paper uncritically prints those claims and yet conceals highly relevant information about Davis because the Obama administration told it to -- would be humiliating for any outlet devoted to adversarial journalism to have to admit.  But it will have no such effect on The New York TimesWith some noble exceptions, loyally serving government dictates is, like so many American establishment media outlets, what they do; it's their function:  hence the name "establishment media." [Salon.com]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Public Policy poll -

70% - yes, SEVENTY PER CENT - of Repugnicans have a favorable opinion of the Alaska former half-term, quit in the middle, governor.

51% of Repugs believe that Obama was born outside the country; 28% are NOT SURE.

Nothing more needs to be said about the idiocy and insanity (not to mention "inanity") of that party.

And The Prez believes he can have a dialogue, and negotiations, with this group - illustrative of his delusions.

Sad. Dangerous to what remains of our republic; recall the reported words of Benjamin Franklin, when asked what form of government had been crafted, immediately upon leaving the last day of the meeting of the constitutional convention: "A republic, if you can keep it."

Look around you - see the military-industrial-wealth complex. We failed to "keep it."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I am receiving NO feedback. Is anyone reading this stuff?

Bill Moyers: America Can't Deal With Reality -- We Must Be Exposed to the Truth, Even If It Hurts |..

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both." -Brandeis

Forbes (Forbes!) wonders "how long it will take for to realize how badly they are being used."

Friday, February 18, 2011

So tired & frustrated w/Obama & Clinton expressing their distress ...

... "condemning," expressing "concern" over Middle Eastern dictatorships that U.S. backs is NOT SUFFICIENT! If you are not going to actually DO something, shut up.

And, by the way, why do you continue to have Immigration agents seize the laptops and cell phones of American citizens returning to the U.S.?  Is this part of a FREEDOM AGENDA?  How about cutting off heating oil assistance to poor, elderly people? More freedom.

And why was 71-year old Ray McGovern (27 year veteran of the CIA) arrested at Clinton's speech merely for standing up and turning his back to her while wearing a tee-shirt w/an anti-war slogan on it?

This is not Change, and it is not Change We Can Believe In. This is, instead, BULLSHIT, brought to us by people masquerading as reasonable and moderate. This is NOT moderate governing. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back to America -

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld can't even go out in their own backyard: Ron Paul supporters heckled them at CPAC Thursday. Rumsfeld was greeted by boos and then a walkout of many young attendees. Cheney was peppered with taunts of "Where's Bin Laden?" and "draft dodger." Cheney's supporters replied by yelling "shut up" and chanting "USA!" Rumsfeld was presented with the "Defenders of the Constitution Award." [The Daily Beast]

Why does chanting "USA" do/mean anything? Who are these people who believe that shutting up any opposition is the same as winning an argument? Is this what the Founders thought was the purpose of 'free speech?'

And, Rumsfeld receiving the "Defenders of the Constitution Aware" - who ARE these people? The Constitution means nothing to them but a chant - "Ommmmmm."

Egypt seems to have made progress; we are withering.  Defenders of the Const., my ass. Say anything you want, distort its meaning; after awhile, people will be believe it. This is a symptom of totalitarianism.[1984]

Hallelujah - now, hold your breath.

Hopefully, the Army will move towards a constitutional democracy, not a renewal of the old government with a new (old) man in charge... and renewed oppression.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

With Mubarak staying, yielding power to V-P (clone & torture monster) -

I fear a march tomorrow being met by a Tiananmen Square massacre. I do not see how or why the Egyptian people see the army as good - what has it ever done to earn their respect or trust. The regime is the army, not just Mubarak or Soliman. Regimes rarely - if ever - give up their power voluntarily.

Hope I am wrong.

Tweets from an Egyptian blogger I've been following -

Read from the bottom:
They will never agree to a fully civil state, which is what the people want, and they have all the guns. We just have each other.

Now, they are trying their hardest to secure a dignified exit for their commander in chief, not for any reason than their survival
A VP that used to run his intelligence services and a PM who sued to be an army general. The Army is in control, & it ain't leaving
The army runs this country, and they are the pillars that his rule stands on. He knows this more than anyone, hence his appointments.
If there is one problem with the jan 25 protests, it's that they are not leaving the Military with a clear exit strategy.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Apparently, some (DoD) think we don't have enough old ones -

DOD requesting $113 billion in FY 2012 for new weapons ($7 billion less than was forecast last year) Bloomberg

U.S. is continuing its habit of spending as much on arms as the whole rest of the world.
[Proud to be an American]

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Truth -

Clive Crook in the Financial Times on Monday:
The US need to come to terms with its impotence at times such as this, and so does everybody else….
In Egypt and throughout the Middle East, the west is seen (not without reason) as a cultural and political oppressor….The US would most likely discredit whatever pro-democracy factions it moved to support. Again, give timidity its due.
The Obama administration {wants} to steer Egypt to stability, prosperity, democracy, peace with Israel…Wishing does not make it so, and the people who think it does should grow up.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

From a column by NYT's David Sanger

The mixed messages have been confusing and at times embarrassing — a reflection of a policy that, by necessity, has been made up on the fly. “This is what happens when you get caught by surprise,” said one American official, who would not speak on the record. “We’ve had endless strategy sessions for the past two years on Mideast peace, on containing Iran. And how many of them factored in the possibility that Egypt,” and presumably whatever dominoes follow it, “moves from stability to turmoil? None.”

Friday, February 04, 2011

Too much pain

Been glued to news & Twitter about Egypt.

"We did not know we had so much left in our hearts to be broken."
Fouad Ajami quoting a friend in Egypt (February 3, 2011)