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Back to the Pipe and the Pole

Here is a letter I received a few days ago from the President of my University.

Last summer, I formed an advisory task force to assist the University in developing a plan to prepare for probable reductions in state funding for higher education and to assist the University in developing a new instructional resource model. The task force consists of faculty, academic deans, administrators, and staff.

On December 18, 2010, the task force held an open forum. At that forum, Provost Mearns, who is co-chair of the task force, discussed the status of the task force’s efforts to assist in developing a contingency plan for next year’s budget. I attended the forum.

Since then, the task force has continued to provide me with additional recommendations. Those recommendations are detailed in a written report that is now available on the task force’s webpage.

This report recommends overall budget target ranges for each of the University’s major sectors: academic colleges, academic support units, and university administrative units. I have accepted these sector recommendations. In December, I provided differentiated budget targets to each of the vice presidents who manage university administrative units, and I directed them to prepare a contingency plan to meet their unit’s respective target. They have submitted their plans to me, which I am currently reviewing.

The task force’s report also provided specific recommendations about differentiated targets for each of the academic colleges. After developing a list of strategic factors and applying those factors to readily available data, the task force assigned each academic college to one of three groups, or bands. As discussed in the report, a college or an administrative unit can meet its proposed budget target through both permanent expense reductions and reliable revenue enhancements.

After reviewing an initial draft of the report, I met at length with Provost Mearns, Vice President George Walker and Tim Long, the University’s Budget Director, to review the strategic factors and the data relied upon by the task force to develop its differentiated recommendations for each of the academic colleges. In making my decisions, I relied upon the same strategic factors developed by the task force, including: how a college’s programs aligned with the University’s primary strategic goals; a college’s financial performance relative to the other colleges at the University; the extent to which a college has programs, including doctoral programs, with relatively few students; an assessment of the productivity and impact of the college’s research faculty; the success of a college’s students as measured by undergraduate retention and graduation rates and post-graduate licensing exams; and the ability of a college to develop differential tuition plans or increase enrollment above existing limits.

After this review, I accepted all of the task force’s recommendations with respect to the colleges’ budget targets, with one exception. I have delegated to Provost Mearns the responsibility of establishing differentiated targets for the various academic support units that report to him.

Provost Mearns has communicated the college targets to the deans, and he has asked them to provide him with their college’s plan by February 22, 2011. He has also directed the deans to consult with their respective faculties and staff in developing their college’s plan.

By early March, I anticipate that our collective strategy for meeting this financial challenge will begin to become more clear. Governor Kasich will present his proposed budget to the legislature on or before March 15. I anticipate that, when his budget is released, we will know much more about two of the most important factors that are driving this process: the approximate amount of any reduction in the state subsidy for higher education, and the limit on any possible increase in undergraduate tuition. By that time, we will also have had an opportunity to evaluate the various college and administrative plans that have been submitted.

When we have more information from the Governor, I will hold an open forum in March to discuss our University plan.

I know that this process is difficult and that it is causing some anxiety and uncertainty. I believe, however, that we have established a collaborative and transparent process that will enable the University to overcome this challenge. Indeed, I am encouraged by the constructive contributions that so many of you have already made to our contingency planning process. Therefore, I am confident that we will emerge from this process as a stronger institution — which is our goal.

Thank you for your service to our students, our University, and our community.

Indeed. To those of you who still believe in the American Dream, let me explain how it really works for you. Say Jane wants to grow up and become a Doctor. But Jane and her family live piss poor, so she works hard in High School, gets good grades in accelerated courses and takes part in track and cheerleading or some such other extracurricular nonsense that will look good on college applications. She gets accepted into a good school and manages to keep from getting pregnant. What a stand up gal Jane is, don’t you think? She gets some scholarships. Good for her! She gets Pell Grants and subsidized and unsubsidized loans through FAFSA. That’s our girl.

Before you know it she is accepted into Harvard Medical School and graduates with honors. Bravo! The problem is, now Jane has upwards of $200,000 worth of student loans to pay back. She gets married and begins practice as a pediatrician, her lifelong dream. But it will be a while before she begins to really rake in the dough and there are medical malpractice lawsuits on the horizon. Nonetheless, she and her husband, a college professor, are living well, having babies and attending church on Sundays. Everything seems fine until disaster strikes. Her mother is still piss poor and has just suffered from a stroke. A neighbor finds her laying face down in her apartment surrounded by urine and her own feces. Jane’s mother is admitted to the hospital and is soon discharged. Incontinent, paralyzed from the waist down and unable to take care of herself, Jane’s mother is just above the income threshold for medicaid and there are limited funds. She has no Health Insurance and therefore cannot afford to live in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility, so Jane has to quit her job to take care of her mother, as her husband is unwilling to quit his. The financial problems caused by the fact that Jane can no longer supplement the family income as well as the demands of taking care of a sick elderly woman takes a toll on their marriage, and Jane’s husband starts banging his secretary. They get a divorce and the children are heartbroken. Jane is now a single mother with no job. She still has student loans and legal fees to pay back, no home because she can’t afford a mortgage, and three kids to put through college. Her oldest daughter Sarah is devastated by the break up of her family and commits suicide. Three months later, Jane’s mother dies due to inadequate medical care. Jane’s American Dream has turned into an American Nightmare.

Sounds extreme, right? Wrong. Things like this are happening everywhere. I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to pay for college, and I will explain why. Most people have an idea of the average college student’s financial situation. A freshman will have mom and dad foot most of the bill and private loans will take care of the rest, right?

Wrong.

Take me for example. I graduated from that Shithole High School a semester early with decent grades and community service. Go me, right? I figured I might as well try to go to college, so I briefly (and by briefly, I mean for about two seconds) thought about going into the military and even told the Hell Hole High School that those were my plans so they would let me graduate early. I took the ASVAB tests and got excellent scores, fielding calls from every military branch recruiter known to man telling me to join so I could become an officer. Of course, I am not going to go into the Military. I am a pacifist. So I changed my phone number to get rid of the recruiters and enrolled at the local junior college, with plans to save money on Gen Eds in mind. Problem was, my Dad makes too much money for me to get FAFSA and we are somewhat estranged. I had to work my tail off and go to School part time so I could get taken off of his tax returns, as a student has to be enrolled in school full time to be on their parents tax returns after they’re eighteen and to still be on their parents health insurance plan.

In any case, I no longer have Health Insurance but now that I’m off his taxes I go to School overtime, supplemented by a hefty financial aid award. But get this!

President Obama and his aides have spent a good bit of time over the last several weeks talking about the importance of education. Now they announce that they plan to cut spending on Pell grants, the big student-aid program that helps students in (roughly) the bottom half of the income distribution. As Jackie Calmes explains:

Pell grants for needy college students would be eliminated for summer classes, and graduate students would start accruing interest immediately on federal loans, though they would not have to pay until after they graduate; both changes are intended to help save $100 billion over 10 years to offset the costs of maintaining Pell grants for nine million students, according to administration officials.

Oh, fantastic! Keep in mind that my situation is not unique. Many students are like me, with families either too poor or too unwilling to help pay for school. I have a friend, for example, who had to run away from home when she was in Hell High School because her Step Father was beating her mother. She supported herself with two jobs and help from family and friends until she graduated, and now she has classes with me. I don’t know how she does it, because she is forced by FAFSA to file as a dependent even though she receives no help from her family and supports herself completely. She is awarded funds based on the assumption that her parents help her when in reality she has to pay for full time school as well as everything else.

And why is it that school is so expensive? Gods only know. The cost of living has increased exponentially since my parents were in college. It is easy for some stuck-in-the past 1950’s holdover to lecture one of us stupid delinquent teenagers about how THEY did it when they were our age so why can’t we? Well, I feel like saying to these idiots, you’re the ignorant fools who elected conservative Presidents and congresses for the past several decades and caused the inflation and budget cuts that led to all of these problems. Get over yourself.

Not only that, but tuition is obscenely expensive since now colleges are run more like businesses instead of academic institutions that shape young minds and prepare the leaders of tomorrow. I have to pay thousands of dollars for Professors to teach me the same bull shit I’ve been learning since the sixth grade (which is not to say I don’t learn a lot in College these days from certain professors, but I digress) and then once I and many students have paid several more thousands to complete an undergraduate degree two thirds of us STILL won’t be able to get a job. And people wonder why our education system is so behind.

Well, one might say, you may not be achieving all of your fancy starry eyed dreams but at least you are bettering yourself for the real world. Maybe you’ll be a hospital administrator instead of a chemical engineer but at least you have the right to a comfortable lifestyle and a reasonable retirement, right? Wrong.

So far, Obama has had the following “bright ideas” and has proposed them to Congress:

(1) Obama proposed (and Congress passed) a $112 Billion REDUCTION in revenues coming into the Social Security trust fund for this year; that is a cut of 30% in workers’ contributions to the Fund. I think we can be pretty sure this $112 Billion annual cut in Social Security taxes will be made permanent with the full agreement of Obama. It won’t take long, at that rate, for Social Security to drain its fund (and current surplus) and go out of business.

(2) Obama has proposed a 50% REDUCTION in federal aid to the program that helps poor people pay heating bills for their homes

(3) Obama is proposing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go out of business, which will make it harder — if not impossible — for lower-income and middle-income people to buy their homes instead of paying endless rents

(4) Obama is proposing that the interest homeowners pay for their mortgages NO longer be fully deductible on their income taxes. In the early years of any mortgage, the bulk of the monthly mortgage payment goes to pay the interest on the mortgage; having that great sum be deductible has made it possible for people to buy homes and not default on their mortgages when finances are tight (as they often are when new homeowners are just starting out).

The result of Obama’s “bright” ideas, numbers (3) and (4), will be to make it harder for current homeowners to SELL their homes, will DEFLATE the value of their homes, will cause more people to default on their mortgages, and will create a situation where communities will take in LESS in the way of property taxes because of the number of vacant, abandoned homes that will become liabilities.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
And Obama is doing all of this cutting less than two months after signing into law tax CUTS for the wealthiest Americans.

The Republicans have the EXACT right Democrat in the White House for their evil purposes. Obama is: (1) helping the Republicans realize their decades-long goal of destroying the Social Security program, (2) proposing policies that will create an even wider division between the “haves” and “have-nots” in America, and (3)proposing policies that will create a sub-class of Americans that the top one percent of Americans will be able to reduce to economic slavery.

That’s right. So long house in the ‘burbs. Bye bye white picket fence, 2.4 children and Labrador Retriever. S’later retirement fund, pensions, IRA. Hi poverty, what it do destitution? We’re the leaders of tomorrow. Nice to meetcha!

It just won’t do. Obama is a Republican Dream, not an American Dream. Why, just look at the cover of one of his famous “books.”

The Audacity of Nope

To Obama, this is the American Dream. Jane’s life would be everyone’s life with the policies he is currently championing. Can you believe this is happening? Well, I can. I’ve been saying who Obama is from the get-go. All it took was reading his idea of the American Dream in the pages of this book, where he talked about cutting Social Security and used Reagan as an example of a President to emulate. He’s stuck to his word, too. And has managed to unite this divided nation of ours- against him. On the 100the anniversary of Reagan’s whatever it was I was subjected to fawning book covers and pages about Obama’s hero for days. And now he is cutting Social Security with his bipartisan Republican pals, just like he promised.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t jive with the Obama the fauxgressives were selling us. This whole thing just isn’t going to work for me. I’m sure it won’t work for a lot of you, either, so run for office instead of electing more morons who will continue to pull this crap on us and expect to get reelected. My plan is to go to Law School and try to change these problems from within instead of sitting here and bitching about it.

But Isis, I can hear some people saying. Law School is expensive. You depend on those Pell Grants Obama and the Tea Party losers are cutting left and right and spending on unnecessary wars, a shitty Health Care Law and Michelle’s vacations in Spain to pay for your tuition, books and other fees. Won’t you be just like Jane, busting your hump for a dismal future? What are you going to do?

Well, shit. Whatever FAFSA doesn’t cover anymore I’ll supplement with scholarships. I just got a job that will pay for my Master’s Degree in Social Work so long as I get a good GPA. And certain agencies and non profits in my field of study will pay back all of my tuition if I end up working for them. As for the rest, it’s back to the pole and the pipe. And don’t think I’ll be the only one.

What’s a “Liberal” Again?


President Obama is considered a “liberal” Democrat in denial by the Village. If you ask Obama about his “shellacking” (can I take the time to point out how lame that word is and how sick I am of hearing it?) two weeks ago he will say that it was a messaging problem. While he was toiling away with legislation trying to help us ingrates he just didn’t have the time to go out and say how all of it was going to benefit our ungrateful behinds so we punished him at the voting booth for not chatting with us enough.
Continue reading

Monday Morning: He’s Baa-aaccccckkkk

Keith Olbermann has returned from exile at MSNBC:

Liberal groups had taken on Olbermann’s suspension as a cause. An online petition calling for his reinstatement, run by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, had exceeded 300,000 signatures Sunday, and Michael Moore had tweeted his support. The committee’s Adam Green said Griffin was repeatedly e-mailed updates on the petition drives.

“Progressives proved that when one of our own are targeted, we will have their backs,” he said.

That’s right. Why fight for REAL Health Care Reform or hold some kind of rally for the unemployed when you can fight to get a screaming moron back on the air?

Oh well. Moving on! Representative Eric Cantor refuses to take another Government shut down or a default on the National Debt off the table.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the #2 Republican in the House, threatened to take the nation’s economy hostage if President Obama does not comply with House GOPers’ as yet undefined demands. When asked if he would take a government shutdown on forcing the United States to default on its debt off the table, Cantor responded that it would somehow be President Obama’s fault if House Republicans press this agenda:

QUESTION: Are you willing to say right now we’re not going to let the country go into default, and we won’t allow a government shutdown?

CANTOR:  Chris, look at this now.  The chief executive, the president, is as responsible as any in terms of running this government. The president has a responsibility, as much or more so than Congress, to make sure that we are continuing to function in a way that the people want.

Wow. Do these imbeciles ever learn? Never mind the fact that the public sector is almost the only place where people actually have jobs now, Obama is ALL READY saying he will compromise on extending the Bush Tax cuts. I wouldn’t worry, folks. No way is Bam going to have the cojones to let it come to a showdown between him and the House GOP. He might actually have to stand on his principles if that happens, and he has none. Even if it’s true that the GOP won’t accept compromise now, he will cave.

Cantor elaborates on The Hill about what message electing Nancy as House Minority Leader would send to Americans:

“I mean, the voters outright rejected the agenda that she’s been about. And here they’re going to put her back in charge,” Cantor, in line to become the House majority leader in the next Congress, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I mean this is the woman who really, I think, puts ideology first, and there have been no results for the American people,” he said. “And that seems the direction they want to take again. It just doesn’t make sense.”

She hardly puts her ideology first. This is a gal who claims to be pro choice and then passed HCR on our uteruses to please her backers in the Insurance Industry. Maybe if she had stuck to her scary socialist ideology more women would have showed up at the polls when she and Harry needed them.

And the  party doesn’t stop there. At least not the Tea party. The GOP also promises to “roll back” HCR.

Republicans, who will control the House starting in January but will remain in the minority in the Senate, acknowledge that they do not have the votes for their ultimate goal of repealing the health law, the most polarizing of Mr. Obama’s signature initiatives.

But they said they hoped to use the power of the purse to challenge main elements of the law, forcing Democrats — especially those in the Senate who will be up for re-election in 2012 — into a series of votes to defend it.

How’s that “New Coalition” working out for ya?

Sunday News – Shadow War Edition

I was planning on a regular Sunday news round up, but I’m running late and some juicy stories have already been covered today. So I thought I’d go after the front page story in today’s NYTimes.

As with some presidents in the past, LBJ and Nixon come to mind, Obama has been pursuing a secret or shadow war for some time. This shadow war has purportedly been against Al Qaeda in Yemen and Pakistan and a few other places, and has been driven by the CIA along with our military. There is often some partnering with various groups where we fight. We saw some of this come out in the wikileaks papers. And we’ve seen some small reporting of this in the main stream media.

Today the NYTimes has a front page article about Obama’s shadow war. I’ll include some passages, but take a look at the article as a whole. One thing that really struck me in the article that includes reports of mistakes or collateral damage including leaders on our side of the “war” (central to fighting Al Qaeda) and large numbers of women and children, is that they don’t appear to criticizes this operation in any real sense. They talk about it as if it were just another policy or some possibly reasonable thing that Obama should be doing. There is no outrage, no holding his feet to the fire, no investigation of it as an illegal war, which it clearly is. It’s yet another clear sign that there is no main stream media that includes actual, real journalism.

Anyway, back to the story:

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Of course with any sort of shadow war with little accountability there are ramifications:

The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.

And:

The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

Remember Obama’s campaign promise, he liked Blackwater’s use in our wars and he promised he would also use them and expand their uses wherever he could. He said it plain as day. He told the truth.

The report continues:

The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.

Notice they are killing people they suspect are “plotting” future attacks. Yes, you read that right. Even more than was true with Bush II, this new nobel peace prize president is mass murdering people he suspects may plot future attacks.

But wait, there’s more. There is a discussion of how this parallels the cold war with the Soviets, and then continues:

And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.

Yes, you read that right. We are using some of the same players involved in creating Al Qaeda are involved in creating the next groups. And in killing other groups. After all, they did such a good job before.

Unfortunately these operations of course have some minor consequences:

The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.

The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.

As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.

A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.

Yes, Obama did that. We did that.

We are conducting a secret, shadow war that is killing countless people, doing immeasurable damage to people’s lives. We are creating generations of new terrorists. We are doing evil. All under Obama. Not because he inherited anything from Bush. But because that’s what he wants to do.

Treat this as a new/open thread. Feel free to discuss this or other topics.

Story of the Week: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Releases Afghanistan War Logs

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

The biggest story in the news today is the massive leak of government documents to three major newspapers: The UK Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel in Germany by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

He has been called “The Robin Hood of Hacking.” As the founder and public face of WikiLeaks, which posts secretive documents and information in the public domain, Julian Assange believes total transparency is in the good of the people. But Assange — who reportedly lives an itinerant existence, traveling the world with a back-pack and a computer — is himself a shadowy figure. Little is known about his life: he has refused to confirm his age in interviews or give a fixed address. But on July 26, mathematically-trained Australian changed the media landscape — and possibly the course of history — by releasing around 90,000 classified U.S. military records from the war in Afghanistan.

In 2006, Assange decided to found WikiLeaks in the belief that the free exchange of information would put an end to illegitimate governance. The website publishes material from sources, and houses its main server in Sweden, which has strong laws protecting whistleblowers. Assange and others at WikiLeaks also occasionally hack into secure systems to find documents to expose. In December, the website published its first document — a decision by the Somali Islamic Courts Union that called for the execution of government officials. WikiLeaks published a disclaimer that the document may not be authentic and “may be a clever smear by U.S. intelligence.”

The website went on to get several prominent scoops, including the release in April of a secret video taken in 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a dozen civilians, including two unarmed Reuters journalists. Assange helped post the video from a safe-house in Iceland that he and the other WikiLeaks administrators called “the bunker.”

From The NYT yesterday: View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War in Afghanistan

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year….

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.

As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.

Here is the NYT “War Logs” page that collects the related stories.

From today’s Der Spiegel article: The Afghanistan Protocol: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It

The documents’ release comes at a time when calls for a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan are growing — even in America. Last week, representatives from more than 70 nations and organizations met in Kabul for the Afghanistan conference. They assured President Hamid Karzai that his country would be in a position by 2014 to guarantee security using its own soldiers and police.

But such shows of optimism seem cynical in light of the descriptions of the situation in Afghanistan provided in the classified documents. Nearly nine years after the start of the war, they paint a gloomy picture. They portray Afghan security forces as the hapless victims of Taliban attacks. They also offer a conflicting impression of the deployment of drones, noting that America’s miracle weapons are also entirely vulnerable.

And they show that the war in northern Afghanistan, where German troops are stationed, is becoming increasingly perilous. The number of warnings about possible Taliban attacks in the region — fuelled [sic] by support from Pakistan — has increased dramatically in the past year.

The documents offer a window into the war in the Hindu Kush — one which promises to change the way we think about the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. They will also be indispensible for anyone seeking to inform themselves about the war in the future.

Here is the UK Guardian page on the war logs with many stories based on the leaked information.

The Guardian has a video of Julian Assange: Julian Assange on the Afghanistan war logs: ‘They show the true nature of this war’

The Guardian has also prepared an interactive map with their selections of the most significant incidents covered in the war logs.

A good summary of the information in the logs at the Wired blog, Threat Level The story quotes the official Obama administration response to the leaks from the NYT:

“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” said White House national security advisory General James Jones, in a statement Sunday. “Wikileaks made no effort to contact us about these documents — the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted.”

At the New Yorker, Amy Davidson highlights one shocking incident:

…an incident report dated November 22, 2009, submitted by a unit called Task Force Pegasus. It describes how a convoy was stopped on a road in southern Afghanistan at an illegal checkpoint manned by what appeared to be a hundred insurgents, “middle-age males with approx 75 x AK-47’s and 15 x PKM’s.” What could be scarier than that?

Maybe what the soldiers found out next: these weren’t “insurgents” at all, at least not in the die-hard jihadi sense that the American public might understand the term. The gunmen were quite willing to let the convoy through, if the soldiers just forked over a two- or three-thousand-dollar bribe; and they were in the pay of a local warlord, Matiullah Khan, who was himself in the pay, ultimately, of the American public. According to a Times report this June (six months after the incident with Task Force Pegasus), Matiullah earns millions of dollars from NATO, supposedly to keep that road clear for convoys and help with American special-forces missions. Matiullah is also suspected of (and has denied) earning money “facilitating the movement of drugs along the highway.”

…..The Obama Administration has already expressed dismay that WikiLeaks publicized the documents, but a leak informing us that our tax dollars may be being used as seed money for a protection racket associated with a narcotics-trafficking enterprise is a good leak to have. And the checkpoint incident is, again, only one report, from one day.

Glenn Greenwald also has a post on the leaks.

Greenwald tweeted a little while ago that if Julian Assange got the Nobel Peace Prize he would be much more deserving than the last guy who won it.

This story is huge! This is the modern-day “Pentagon papers” that could bring down the wars pushed by Obama’s “best and brightest.” It’s terrific that the story came out on a Sunday; this should be fodder for cable news all week. Let’s hope they have the guts to cover it.

Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who released the original Pentagon papers and was targeted by a “White House hit squad” in 1972, fears for the life of Julian Assange. He told The Daily Beast last month

Do you think Assange is in danger?

I happen to have been the target of a White House hit squad myself. On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to “incapacitate me totally.” I said to the prosecutor, “What does that mean? Kill me.” He said, “It means to incapacitate you totally. But you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’”

Is the Obama White House anymore enlightened than Nixon’s?

We’ve now been told by Dennis Blair, the late head of intelligence here, that President Obama has authorized the killing of American citizens overseas, who are suspected of involvement in terrorism. Assange is not American, so he doesn’t even have that constraint. I would think that he is in some danger. Granted, I would think that his notoriety now would provide him some degree of protection. You would think that would protect him, but you could have said the same thing about me. I was the number one defendant. I was on trail but they brought up people to beat me up.

You believe he is in danger of bodily harm, then?

Absolutely. On the same basis, I was….Obama is now proclaiming rights of life and death, being judge, jury, and executioner of Americans without due process. No president has ever claimed that and possibly no one since John the First.

What advice would you give Assange?

Stay out of the U.S. Otherwise, keep doing what he is doing. It’s pretty valuable…He is serving our democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country.

Thank you Julian Assange! And thank you to Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is the probable source for the leaks to Assange and is now under arrest. Free Bradley Manning!!

Conflucians, as you work your way through this material, please post anything you think is important for us to know. This story must be pushed hard!

UPDATE: Here is the data that is posted at the WikiLeaks site. Each of the newspapers made their own choices about what information to reveal and what to hold back. The NYT negotiated with the WH in making their decisions. It will be interesting to see if they left out some material that the foreign papers include. The also claim they asked Assange not to post material that would be harmful to troops in the field, although that probably wasn’t necessary.

Friday Mid-Morning News and Views

For me the biggest news of the day comes from Jeremy Scahill’s revelations about the relationship between Blackwater (aka Xe) head Eric Prince and the CIA. According to Scahill Prince has been working as a CIA asset for years, and that Blackwater contractors with U.S. backing are effectively engaging in a covert war in Pakistan.

In addition, Scahill revealed that there are more than 100,000 contractors in Afghanistan now in addition to the 100,000 U.S. military troops who will be there after Obama’s latest troop “surge.” Scahill wrote the cover story for this week’s The Nation. Unfortunately the story is not yet available on-line to non-subscribers. However Scahill did appear on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program last night. Here is the video.

A few days ago, Scahill also talked about his latest Blackwater research in an interview with Laura Flanders:

There is also a major story on Eric Prince in the January issue of Vanity Fair.

I put myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.

I haven’t had time to read the full interview yet. I hope to get to it over the weekend.


In other news….

Top Congressional Researcher on Afghanistan Fired

The top congressional official who oversees research on foreign policy and defense issues, including the war in Afghanistan, has been fired from his job after publishing a newspaper op-ed criticizing the Obama administration’s recent decision about bringing Guantánamo detainees to trial.

Morris Davis, the assistant director of the Congressional Research Service’s foreign policy and defense division and the former chief prosecutor of the U.S. military commissions, says that the American Civil Liberties Union plans to challenge his dismissal in a letter to CRS’s longtime director, Daniel Mulhollan, on Friday. The letter will contend that Mulhollan violated Davis’s First Amendment rights to free speech by firing him and will threaten the service with a lawsuit if he is not reinstated, says an ACLU spokeswoman.

Politico thinks the Massachusetts Senate Race is boring Could that be because a woman–Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley–is leading the race by double digits? Politico seems disappointed that there are no Kennedys in the race. Massachusetts citizens are more interested in electing a Senator who will be responsive to their needs than having a celebrity studded primary.

Get this–according to Politico, Michael Capuano, Coakley’s nearest rival, is terrified of a “Rick Lazio moment.”

“We all learned from his mistake,” Capuano said in an interview of the former New York congressman’s debate badgering of Hillary Clinton, which has become political shorthand for what male candidates ought not to do against female opponents. “There are certain rules of engagement.”

It’s not just debates where the gender issue has surfaced — it hangs over the campaign because of the otherwise liberal state’s not-so-progressive history when it comes to women candidates….

…in last year’s historic Democratic presidential primary, much of the state’s political establishment — including the governor and both senators — rallied behind the man over the woman.

“That left a bad taste in women’s mouths,” said Marsh, adding that it seems to be playing out again this year, with nearly all of the men in the House delegation backing their colleague.

Oh really? Izzat so. Poor Mikey C., getting beat up by woman because of the “rules of engagement.”

Also from Politico, a number of opinion leaders weigh in on whether Ben Bernacke should get four more years as head of the Fed.

President Obama is running some PR operation and calling it a “jobs summit,” but The New York Times reports that there won’t be any money to speak of to back up any job creation effort by the administration. That’s as to be expected–unlimited funds for bankers and war, while middle-class, working-class, and poor Americans can go f**k themselves.

Mr. Obama said he would entertain “every demonstrably good idea” for creating jobs, but he cautioned that “our resources are limited.”

The president said he would announce some new ideas of his own next week. One of those, he indicated when he participated in a discussion group on clean energy, would be a program of weatherization incentives for homeowners and small businesses modeled on the popular “cash for clunkers” program.

What about the people who have lost their houses Mr. President–and the people who were already homeless? What kind of weatherization program will you recommend for them. I can’t wait for the big speech!

The Wall Street Journal reports that Allentown, PA workers and business people may not welcome President Obama’s “Main Street tour” with open arms.


Main Street Tour Faces Frosty Greeting

When President Barack Obama launches a multicity tour Friday to take Main Street’s temperature, he will likely get a cool reception from business leaders and workers here who say he hasn’t delivered.

Swing voters in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley helped Mr. Obama win this pivotal, populous state. But the region’s jobless rate inched up another half percentage point in October to 9.8%. About 41,000 people are out of work, the highest number since 1984.

Finally, here’s a “just for fun” story:


Cat Cams: What DO Cats Do Home Alone?

Fifty house cats were given collar cameras that took a photo every 15 minutes. The results put a digital dent in some human theories about catnapping.

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats’ time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

What are you reading this morning? Please post links in the comments.


HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!

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