Oh, Brother

The bro comes home.  (yeah, yeah, I know it’s Fox but in this rare case, it happens to be accurate. The footage has not been digitally retouched):

Check it out here.

Cool.

**********************************

Some of the comments I’m reading are encouraging readers to jump on the “Let’s pin the Benghazi disaster on Obama right before the election!” bandwagon.  Nah gunna do it.  Here’s why:

1.) It has been our policy here at The Confluence since 2008 to not propagate either party’s memes or propaganda.

2.) In this case, it would be disrespectful of the four embassy staff who died there to cynically use their deaths as a way to score political points.  I’d rather keep the investigation free of electoral politics.  There *is* a story there and people should be held accountable if they neglectfully or knowingly ignored warnings that put these people in danger but we must weigh this against the diplomatic mission and the current events and developing situation in Libya.  That will require a thoughtful investigation so that the State department and the CIA benefit from learning what went wrong and who spilled the beans, etc.  It will NOT benefit from a cynical election year ploy to undermine the State department and foreign policy in order to disgrace Obama.  Let him take himself down, he seems to be doing a pretty good job of it without any assistance.

3.) Hillary Clinton is a big girl.  Yes, she is.  This is her job.  Let her do it.  If she gets called to Capital Hill to testify, she can handle it.  The Republicans have inadvertently screwed themselves here.  She’s a seasoned veteran of cynical, hypocritical, politically motivated investigations.  I hope they won’t call her up before the investigation is complete but even if the House Republicans rush her, I feel confident that she will do her homework and do the best that she can.  Let’s not undermine her mojo by trying to protect her.  We overcome sexism and misogynism by taking on challenges and rising to the occasion.

4.) We let Bush get away with a lot of really nasty s%^&.  He started an unnecessary war in Iraq based on lies, he and his party drained the Treasury to reward their contractor cronies, they increased the deficit, refused to “cut and run” (it doesn’t get more cynical than THAT phrase) and the whole fiasco has destabilized part of asia and cost thousands of military servicepeople their lives and limbs.  If you weren’t upset by all that by demanding accountability from Cheney and Bush but you’re getting your knickers in a twist over Benghazi, then you have your priorities seriously messed up.  You need to do some soul searching.

The foreign policy debate is coming up between Romney and Obama and I suspect that much will be made of Benghazi.  Or not.  I think this could backfire on the Republicans because there is a way for Obama and the Democrats to go on the offensive here that might win them back a bunch of Clintonistas.  It would require Obama to fake passion about something.  And that’s the problem.  He’s not a passionate guy and he doesn’t appear to believe in much of anything so any attempt at passion will look forced.  I dunno, maybe one of the debate prep team members will slap him around and knock some sense into him.  We’ll see.  But if they’ve been paying attention, they will know what to do.  This could be the Republicans third rail if they’re not careful.

Thursday: Rhetorical Talk about Rhetorical Jobs for Non-Virtual People

Words, words, words, yeah!

So, Obama gave a speech last night about removing troops from Afghanistan and bringing some home by the end of the year and blah-blah-blah.  Didn’t we hear this kind of crap before about Iraq? And how did that turn out?

Let’s examine What Obama REALLY Said last night:

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as president, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al-Qaida; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

First, we stopped combat operations in Iraq as well.  How many troops are still there?  More importantly, how many of those same troops are still under fire and presumably have to fire back?

Second, what is the definition of a “steady pace”?  100 troops per month?  1000 troops per month?  For how many months?  If planes carrying 100 troops leave Baghdad twice a week and planes carrying 300 troops leave Kabul once a week, how many months would it take to reduce the total number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by 50%?  You may use a calculator and a scratch paper to complete this problem.  Please show all work.  Partial credit will not be given for incomplete or incorrect answers.

Third, who says Obama is even going to be in office in 2014?  But more than that, are we going to increase the number of contractors and mercenary types in Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the troops we are removing?  If not, *prove* it.  If so, how much are the contractors going to cost?  Imagine Iraq and Afghanistan are cylinders of unequal height and diameter.  What must be the rate of replacement to remove US military troops from these two cylinders and refill them with Blackwater Soldiers of Fortune?  (Do saddle points make you nauseous?.)

I only ask.

As Greg Sargent notes at The Plum Line, Obama chose his words carefully to suggest that the money saved in Afghanistan would be used to solve problems here at home:

* Was Obama’s Afghanistan speech persusasive? One of the key political challenges Obama faced last night was to persuade the public that he’s winding down the war fast enough at a time when its costs are skyrocketing even as we face chronic unemployment and a fiscal mess at home. Hence his claims that “the tide of war is receeding” and that it’s time for “time for nation building here at home.”

The deliberate choice of the latter phrase seemed designed to persuade Americans that the Bush-initiated post-9/11 war era is slowly but inevitably coming to an end, in order to buy some political space to continue the mission at levels that are (not quite) acceptable to the military commanders and won’t draw sustained attacks from Republicans.

Nice try.  But one of the first things that my mom said when she heard of the drawdown bringing troops home  was “And where are THOSE people going to find jobs?”  Good question.  Barry??  Bueller?  Bueller?

A bit of a cart before the horse, eh?  Maybe the best thing to do is to propose a real jobs program for real people.  But Dave Dayan at FDL says the idea in Congress is to say the right words, sprinkle some magic fairy dust on the jobs program, whine about how mean the Republicans are and get back to ignoring the unemployed:

The Senate Democratic leadership – all of them, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow and Mark Begich – planned a morning press conference today where they will call for job creation measures, or stimulus, to be included in any debt limit deal. They will say that deficit reduction cannot bring Americans back to work, and that recent soft numbers for the economy demand that jobs get the primary attention. According to the press release “they will urge the negotiators to consider new proposals to boost hiring in the short term at the same time that they pursue a plan to bring down the debt in the long term.” The phrase “equal priority” is in there as well.

Before Democrats let the narrative completely get away from them, this was the basic idea – stimulus now, doing no harm and even helping the economy through the rough patch over the next year or two, with deficit reduction to come later. But obviously, Democrats and the White House thought that the rough patch had ended with a few decent months of job creation, and so job creation was put on the back burner, at least in the context of the debt limit talks and the deficit deal. Now, with the new numbers, it’s clear that reducing the deficit will just put the country in a bigger hole.

There’s a sense that this is mainly rhetorical. Democrats have seen Republicans obstruct even the most piddling of jobs bills in the Senate. Yesterday the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration, an old Great Society program, failed to break a filibuster. The reauthorization gave just a few hundred million more to the program, and was more than offset by the successful passage of the elimination of ethanol subsidies. Republicans still didn’t vote for it. Sen. Reid said yesterday,
“I don’t like to question my colleagues’ motives, but whether they work with us to pass these policies, or continue opposing ideas they once supported, will tell us a lot.”

I guess I can tell the bank that I am going to pay the mortgage too but in a couple of months, they will realize I was just being rhetorical.  I can only hope that the foreclosure documents are rhetorical as well.  Luckily for prospective employers, the Supreme Court has now made it safe to stiff female employees in the wage department because, after all, how are you going to prove it?  We all know that enlightened management treats all employees equally regardless of gender.  Anyone who is making less must be doing something wrong, Scalia seems to say.  For the knuckle draggers, the new Supreme Court Paycheck Fairness and Non-Discrimination policy should save some money.  How very Dred Scottian of them.  Whose going to an employer now for discrimination?  Maybe Dems can use it as a selling point in the new jobs program!

In the meantime, the job prospects of the liberated R&D professional are not going to get any better for, ohhhhh, I don’t know, about 9 years?  Check out this graph that Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline found on the “Patent Cliff” for the major pharmas:

That, my droogs, is a seriously scary picture for two reasons.  (Three, actually) One, it means that there are very few new and innovative drugs coming to market that will take the place of the older, more toxic ones, and that current drug shortages should be expected to continue.  Two, it signals that the system is broken.  There have been plenty of submissions, very few approvals.  Three, it means that things won’t start leveling out for us displaced sciencey geeky types until 2020 or longer.

Now, it might be the case that a lot of little companies, and the NIH roadmap for translational research, will pick up some of this slack. But that roadmap is in its infancy, no one knows quite how to implement it and it still takes years and years to develop a drug.  The R&D professionals will be trying to tough it out in smaller companies with less modern equipment, fewer resources and lower overall compensation.  It will be like moving the clock back on research by several decades.  Yeah!  That’ll make the young’uns want to study math and science more!

My offer still stands: we’re here, Democrats and Republicans.  Give us some retired lab space, decent salaries and all the reagents we can eat and we’ll make you antibiotics, CNS drugs and work on the other therapeutic areas that the bigger companies have abandoned.  All we ask is that you get rid of the merger and acquisition folks and let us decide how to use the money without the pressure of the quarterly earnings report.  We sell the patents to the US government.  Voile!  You can’t get a better value than that.

You want to concentrate on nation building here at home?  Save your scientific infrastructure.  We can even train some troops to work in the labs.

It could happen.  And that’s not just rhetoric.  That’s a jobs program.

Sunday: Lori, Noam, Libya and Paywalls

Lori

Lorenda Starfelt passed away last Tuesday.  She was 56.  Her death was announced by her husband Brad Mays yesterday on Correntewire where Lori posted under the name Basement Angel.  Long time readers of this blog will remember Brad and Lori as the filmmakers who documented the dispossessed of the 2008 primary elections.  I met them on several occasions.  Brad was a loose cannon and Lori was his voice of moderation.  She was beautiful with a dazzling smile and captivating eyes.  Brad says she died of uterine cancer that had spread to her liver.  I never knew she was sick.  I am very sorry to hear that she has died.  Her voice will be missed.

Lori intuitively understood the people who defected the Democratic party for the Tea Party.  She knew that racism had very little to do with it.  She knew that the Tea Party is rallying its supporters with false messages but at least it gives them answers.  The Democrats have abandoned its base, liberals and working class and the well educated unemployed.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the movement conservatives behind the Tea Party are picking some of them up.  In one of her last posts at Corrente, she posted this clip from an interview that the Commonwealth Club did with Noam Chomsky:

I have mixed feelings about Noam.  I can’t argue with the points he made in this segment.  He understands the way the powerful elite has used language to pit the working people of the world against each other while they make off with the loot.  And he’s right to criticize those of us on the left for failing to get our act together to deliver a different message.  But in an ironic way, he’s part of the problem.  For all of his justifiable criticism of the failures of the Obama administration, which he must known were coming if he was paying attention to the language of Obama’s 2008 campaign, he was willfully blinded to considering any of the other Democratic candidates as better options.  He didn’t like any of them, he says.  Noam reminds me of the people back in 2000 who thought there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats.  Well, there isn’t much difference now but back then there was.  Maybe Bill Clinton didn’t turn out to be the uber liberal that Chomsky and others like him were hoping for but there was a world of difference between him and the Republicans.  In the same manner, there was a world of difference between the top two Democrats who ran.  One lead from deeply held left of center principles; the other was just a brand who walked and talked like the finance industry that footed the bill for his campaign.  The difference between them had everything to do with who was backing them.  (Next time, pay attention.)

Noam’s weakness seems to be that he’s stuck in the 60′s, reliving the civil rights movement, Cold War and Vietnam.  Sometimes, I just want to smack him.  No one likes war and no one on welfare would prefer it to a well paying job.  The last thing we should do to help people on welfare is make it necessary for them to receive it.  Has he forgotten that poor people on welfare tend to live in the low rent parts of town, because that’s all they can afford?  That concentrations of poor people tend to perpetuate generational poverty, substandard educations and hopelessness?  No, Noam, we don’t want that.  We want government to help poor people by helping them get jobs.  There is a role for government but welfare isn’t a goal.  It’s a stop gap on the way to something better.

What would Noam think of the air strikes on Libya?  For the most part, he’s right about the unnecessary wars we’ve been saddled with.  Iraq was a sham that many Americans were tricked into pursuing.  But the war in Afghanistan?  I’m sorry, we needed to go into Afghanistan after 9/11.  The fact that the Bush administration screwed up the country after the invasion does not alter the necessity of going there.  A country can’t allow a ragtag group of terrorists to attack it and then turn the other cheek.  It sends a bad signal to the rest of the world, which despite our civilizing evolution of the past century is still barely holding itself in check from ripping itself to pieces for power and natural resources.

This morning, we  joined the French and other countries in attacking Libya as an impressive cultural shift continues to ripple across north Africa and the middle east.  Radio Free Europe sums it up:

The British and U.S. strikes came after French warplanes fired the first shots on March 19, destroying government tanks and armored vehicles in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The campaign, called “Odyssey Dawn,” currently involves forces and equipment from the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Italy, and Denmark. It is the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It followed a decision on March 19 in Paris by Western and Arab leaders to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya in order to prevent Gaddafi from carrying out attacks on civilians and opposition forces.

In an audio message broadcast on state TV, the 68-year-old Qaddafi remained defiant, saying he was prepared to defeat the Western forces in what he said would be a “long, glorious war.”

“You are unjust, you are the aggressors, you are beasts, you are criminals. Your countries are against you. There are protests everywhere in Europe, in America against the steps you’re taking against the innocent Libyan people,” Qaddafi said. “The people are with us, even your people are with us. All the people on Earth are against you. You will fail like how Hitler failed, Napoleon failed, Mussolini failed. All tyrants fall under the feet of the people. This is the era of the people and the great [Qaddafi] revolution.”

Uh-huh.  Maybe Qaddafi should cut back on the hot sweet tea.

If you are a person of principle, ideally, you want to allow the peoples of these countries to determine for themselves what their government should be and encourage them from the sidelines.  But the possibility that civil unrest threatens to destabilize the world’s economies might also make you want to act when a divided country starts to spiral out of control towards years of violence.  Better to pick a side, preferably the anti-dictatorship one, and aid it.  In this case, timing is everything.  Be swift and thorough.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which American politician has been the driving force behind arguing for and assembling the allies for an air strike.  Hint: Ditherers don’t do it.  Unfortunately, unbiased reporting on foreign policy at the NYTimes is spotty, which brings me to the paywall issue announced last week.

While I admit to being a regular NYTimes reader, lately, I have been disappointed and a little shocked by what I read there.  Last week’s coverage of Japan’s struggle with their nuclear reactors was breathless and hyperbolic while reports of the dead, missing and displaced was muted.  For the “paper of record”, it was disgraceful.  Meanwhile, anti-government bias there is becoming obvious.  Maybe the editors aren’t aware of the degree to which they have conformed to the anti-government point of view.  But today, their blurb on the frontpage to their editorial on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget parrots the movement conservative line that “Governor Cuomo is right to argue for spending cuts” even while it laments that the wealthy in the state are not going to be compelled to cough up more in taxes. Who decided that the spending cuts are the right thing to argue?  Did we poll the residents of New York, consult with leading economists, call up some historians?  And this article on the sea walls of Japan that didn’t hold back the tsunamis is just downright bizarre.  Not only is the “government programs are wasteful; private industry initiatives are dazzlingly perfect!” messaging obvious, it’s worked into the piece in particularly awkward ways.  It’s almost like the editors took the original writing from the bureau in Japan and made it work for the Goldman Sachs readers.  Sometimes, I read an article and think *I* could have written it.  Recent writing in the NYTimes doesn’t have the same quality as it did even a couple of years ago.  The prose seems clumsy and amateur, even a little bit dumbed down.

So, while I love Paul Krugman and will find a way to get my fix, I’m not inclined to pony up more money for a paper that seems to be evolving towards the clueless “creative class” readers and Wall Street crowd.  For one thing, soon I won’t be getting a steady paycheck so wasteful government spending in my house is strictly forbidden by real budgetary constraints.  Besides, it’s not like the NYTimes has gone out of its way to cover those of us educated unemployed or working class stiffs.  The union busting moves in Wisconsin were definitely downplayed and even Krugman is puzzled over the way we, the degreed unemployed, are being ignored and forgotten.

The NYTimes is marginalizing itself.  It’s becoming a paper for Mike Bloomberg types and their minions.  The little people who still get the “dead tree” version will have access at no additional charge but if you have internet access, why the heck would you get a hard copy?  It just piles up in the recycling bin.  And if you’re not printing on as much paper, why charge $15.95/month for the electronic version?  Presumably, with the exception of the bandwidth, the costs of printing the paper have gone down.  Is the NYTimes just following the herd of other corporations that have given in to MBAs and consultants who don’t know the business they are asked to manage?  Cater to the money and tell them what they want to hear.  Screw the news, even if it is your core business.  By the time journalism is just a fleeting memory at the NYTimes, the business guys will have taken the money and run.

The NYTimes lost my subscription with the Judy Miller incident.  They’re not getting it back simply because they have international news bureaus, especially if those news bureaus can’t write what’s going on without passing through a political filter.  I’ll have to get my news from more international sources from now on.

Thank goodness Brooke is a budding polyglot.

Wikileaks the State Department

Click on pic for the game "Diplomacy"

The cables are out and now is the time to sift through them and come to our own conclusions about what they contain.  For those of you who want a running commentary, Peter Daou recommends Greg Mitchell’s blog at The Nation.

I’m not surprised that we’re spying on UN officials  and gathering intelligence from around the world.  Didn’t we learn from Joe Wilson that diplomats are sometimes deployed to get information about uranium shipments?  Even a Democrat must understand that keeping tabs on foreign nationals who reside in our country and are operating at a high level in world affairs should be monitored.  We legitimately object when our government spies on American citizens but I’m pretty sure that even Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson understood the value of keeping your foreign friends close and your enemies closer.  Let’s not be naive and let the world head for the smelling salts.  If Hillary authorized some of the surveillance, it shouldn’t come as a shock.  That’s her job.  What’s more important is how discriminant she or her predecessors were in applying it.

What is more surprising is how the NYTimes reports a remarkable lack of agency with these cables.  There is no indication who sent them or with what authority.  Are we to understand that no one in the Bush White House was responsible?  Things just happened?  Who should get credit for negotiating hard bargains in the current administration?  Specific people cause specific things to get done or not get done.  The NYTimes is cheating the casual reader of knowing who is responsible when the agents are referred to so vaguely.  The paper needs to clarify when the actions were taken and by whom.  I think we will all wait in vain for level headed analysis.  The reader is advised to dig into the cables and consult multiple sources for discussion.

In the wake of 9/11 and the Bush administrations heavy handed approach to diplomacy, we shouldn’t be surprised if American foreign service is in the midst of some serious rebuilding years.  A 2007 report that appeared in the Washington Post blamed Condoleeza Rice for poor morale at the State Department:

The report from the Foreign Affairs Council, which includes retired ambassadors and senior diplomats, also said morale is dropping among diplomats.

“In the first two years of Secretary Rice’s stewardship almost no net new resources have been realized,” the report said. It noted that Congress has twice denied money for Rice’s plan to rearrange diplomatic postings away from the Cold War model, which was heavy on jobs in Europe, and toward modern challenges in places like China and India.The council found a severe staff shortage and holds Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice partly responsible. The State Department needs 1,100 more employees, especially since recent staff additions have gone to fill jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and other difficult posts, the report said.

Back in the Bush era, when conservative ideologues started permeating the State department, some career diplomats quit in disgust and some of them quite publicly. Some were given an ultimatum: to serve in Iraq  during the most dangerous period of the insurgency or resign.  As the WaPo article reports, Rice had a hard time getting funding.  None of these problems have gone away.  The Secretary still has to ask Congress for money.  The ideologues are still there. Let’s keep this in mind as we read through these cables.  Bush screwed up.  Putting it back together requires hard work and ingenuity.  The question is, will the people now in charge take responsibility?  How much is the fault of Rice/Bush/Cheney?  How much is still salvageable?  Who has stepped up and who hasn’t?

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.

Lazy Saturday News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!! I don’t know what’s wrong with me this morning–I just can’t seem to get myself going. I don’t know if it’s all the bad news or just a hangover from my long trip home. Anyway, I’m going to throw out a grab bag of news stories and hope you can help me out with some more. Here are the stories that caught my eye so far this morning.

From the New Scientist: 24-week fetuses cannot feel pain

Fetuses aged 24 weeks or less do not have the brain connections to feel pain, according to a working party report published this week by the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Its conclusion is the latest to challenge the rationale for a law introduced in the US state of Nebraska in April. This law, which bans almost all abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, was introduced primarily on the grounds that the fetus feels pain.

The report, which reviews recent scientific literature on the subject, also concludes that the fetus is sedated throughout pregnancy by chemicals such as adenosine contained in the amniotic fluid that surrounds it.

This probably won’t convince the anti-science crowd though.

The NYT on the endless BP gusher: How Much Has Spilled, and How Far? Seeking Answers as Questions Mount This piece is in question and answer format and provides basic info on the current state of the emergency.

The Seattle Times on Tropical Storm Alex: Storm could be latest problem in spill cleanup

Forecasters can’t say yet if Alex – which blew into a tropical storm early Saturday – will hit the northeastern part of the Gulf, where the spill has spread over the past 10 weeks.

Somewhere between 69 million and 132 million gallons of crude have spewed into the water since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.

Most storm prediction models show it traveling over the Yucatan Peninsula over the weekend and into the southern Gulf by Monday. Where it goes next is the question.

CNN: Tropical storm plus oil slick equals more fear and uncertainty

The disaster thousands of feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico may be exacerbated by a different type of calamity in the coming week — a tropical storm — that could push the oil farther along Florida’s pristine Panhandle beaches.

Tropical Storm Alex — the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season — formed in the Caribbean on Saturday. Alex had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was about 250 miles away from Chetumal, Mexico. It was moving toward Belize and over the Yucatan Peninsula.

“The greatest nightmare with this storm approaching is that it takes this oil on the surface of the Gulf and blows it over the barrier islands into the bays and the estuaries,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, told CNN. “And that is where you really get the enormous destruction, because it’s just very difficult to clean up those pristine bays.”

Will that make it a National Emergency, President Obama? Will anything shake your inertia or will you continue to fight for your right to par-tay?

The Wall Street Journal: Judge In Moratorium Case Sold Exxon Stock This Week

The U.S. federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling sold stock in Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on the same day he issued his ruling, according to documents released Friday.

Exxon Mobil was among the companies affected by the administration’s moratorium. It used a rig whose operations were suspended under the ban, according to Exxon spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman White.

The judge in the moratorium case, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, says he only learned of his holdings in Exxon Mobil on Monday, the day before he issued his ruling.

Global Post: Troops wonder what McChrystal was thinking

Soldiers knew more than anyone else what damage had been done when news broke that their commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the U.S.-led international force’s 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, had criticized his commander in chief in an inflammatory Rolling Stone article.

They knew because they abide by the same rules McChrystal has to: the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice. The code subjects an officer to a court martial if he uses any “contemptuous words against the President, Vice President, Congress,” and other civilian leaders in the U.S. government. Any one of the soldiers in Afghanistan would be removed from their positions, if not face a court martial, for a similar offense.

At No Quarter, Larry Johnson opines on the McChrystal firing: McChrystal versus Obama

Consider this–Barack Obama has taken more vacation days in the last 18 months than Stan McChrystal has taken in the last seven years. Why? Stan put his mission above all else, including family. This stat alone tells you the difference between the General and the manchild who inhabits the White House.

And why the hell do pundits and the media continue with the absurd meme trying to compare General McChrystal to General Douglas MacArthur. Mac actually challenged the authority of Harry Truman. McChrystal never did. Although he is reported commenting to his staff that Obama appeared intimidated by the roomful of Generals (and the boy from Hawaii was) at no time and in no way did McChrystal ever suggest or state that Obama was not legally entitled to be President. Never did he refuse to obey an order. And never did he suggest the policy he was implementing in Afghanistan was any other than that ordered by Obama.

McChrystal also is getting blamed for the Rules of Engagement, which have imposed strict conditions for shooting suspected insurgents in Afghanistan. Those rules did not originate with Stan McChrystal. Nope.

They were the result of demands from the Afghan leader, Karzai and Ambassador (retired General) Eikenberry. But it is McChrystal, charged with implementing the guidelines, who gets the blame.

Found at Truthdig:

Is the BP gusher really the worst ecological disaster in American history? Well, we really don’t know yet, but here are a couple of articles that debate the issue: From Reuters and The Seattle Times.

I have to say, I think this disaster could end up being on the scale of the 1930s Dust Bowl, forcing people to set out in search of jobs in other parts of the country. Since there are no jobs most places, lots of people could be in for really tough times. Grapes of Wrath, anyone?

So what are you reading this morning? If you can snap me out of my daze, I’ll be very grateful! Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!! TGIF!!!!!!

I got back to Beantown last night around 7PM, after having been in Indiana for more than a month. The drive was very pleasant, with nice weather and minimal traffic through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The first shock to my system came when I approached the end of the NY thruway and headed toward the Mass Pike. Suddenly, I was surrounded by lots of traffic, with cars switching lanes crazily and driving way too fast.

The Mass Pike is mostly a steep downhill grade for miles through Western Massachusetts. Just after I got on it, there was a sudden downpour–so intense that cars were pulling off the road. I turned into a rest area to wait it out. When I got back on the pike, I saw a magnificent rainbow arching over the highway–it accompanied me for miles as rain alternated with sunshine. The rainbow helped cushion the blow of returning from the rural beauty of Indiana to the urban gridlock of the Greater Boston metro area.

I already miss all the green open spaces of the Midwest. At the same time, I feel that I’m embarking on an adventure. Here I am, a woman in my early 60s, alone and unemployed, with no idea what I’ll be doing next. It’s a bit frightening, but also exhilarating.

Anyway, enough about me and on to the news!

As Dakinikat reported last night, the Senate once again rejected a jobs bill that would have provided some relief for desperate unemployed Americans and extended tax breaks for individual and small businesses. But the House and Senate have reached an agreement on a Wall Street “reform” bill. I’ll leave it to Dak to break down the contents of the bill, but I tend to be skeptical these days about what our “leaders” mean when they use the word “reform.” CNN has an analysis of the bill at the above link. And here’s the NYT take.

At The Nation, William Greider writes about the failure of our “leaders” to deal with the epic economic disaster they helped create when they sold their souls to the banks and corporations: Goodbye Keynes, Hello Hoover

Washington faces…a starkly underperforming economy in which 10 percent of the workforce are without jobs and income. Yet the President and Democratic Congress, spooked by the swollen federal deficits, are unwilling to do what Keynes prescribed in these circumstances—pump up federal spending enormously and run even larger budget deficits in order to force-feed a stronger recovery.

The results of this political decision will be tragic for millions of struggling families, but also potentially devastating for the Democratic party. Democrats are implicitly choosing to do nothing more to rescue the country from the deepening dislocations and lost output. Making mistakes can be forgiven, but not giving up.

The president and his lieutenants have evidently decided they have already done enough. Indeed, they keep reminding us they saved the country from something worse. Millions withhold their congratulations, since something worse is what they are now experiencing. The losses will last longer and multiply more widely so long as Washington declines to act more forcefully. Americans who never heard of Keynes will make their own judgments about whom to blame.

There’s lots of gossip in the news today. We already discussed the Enquirer story on Gore and the masseuse, but it is now hitting the corporate media. Howard Kurtz writes that the woman who accused Gore of attacking her tried to tell her story for $1 million, but the Enquirer refused to pay. Kurtz:

The executive editor of the National Enquirer says that the Oregon masseuse who made a sexual assault allegation against Al Gore asked the tabloid for $1 million but that the Enquirer did not pay her or anyone else in reporting the story.

Barry Levine said in an interview Thursday that the woman offered to sell her account through her lawyer but that “no money exchanged hands” and the paper conducted only a brief interview with her.

The Enquirer story was based primarily on documents.

Asked why the Enquirer published the piece despite the woman’s two-year delay in agreeing to be interviewed by authorities, Levine said: “We felt, if this was in legitimate police documents, that was a story that should be brought to the surface. We felt this was a significant story involving a very powerful man.” He said he had former police officers examine the reports to make sure they weren’t a “forgery” and felt “vindicated” Thursday when Portland authorities confirmed the authenticity of the documents.

The tabloid confirmed that Gore, who had just released the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” was in Portland at the time of the alleged incident to give a speech on global warming. The paper obtained the $540 bill — including a 20 percent gratuity — that the masseuse submitted to the Hotel Lucia, which retained her, along with her subsequent e-mail correspondence with the hotel.

Is it true? Who knows? But The Enquirer did help bring down John Edwards. Gore will probably have to deal with this somehow.

The other big gossip story concerns the “JournoList,” the e-mail list that all the big “progressive” blogger boyz belong to. Someone leaked some embarrassing comments from Dave Wiegel, who now blogs for the Washington Post.

Wiegel apologized for comments he made about Matt Drudge:

I’m a member of an off-the-record list-serv called “Journolist,” founded by my colleague Ezra Klein. Last Monday, I was deluged with angry e-mail after posting a story about Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) that was linked by the Drudge Report with a headline intimating that I defended his roughing-up of a young man with a camera; after this, the Washington Examiner posted a gossip item about my dancing at a friend’s wedding. Unwisely, I lashed out to Journolist, which I’ve come to view as a place to talk bluntly to friends….

- “This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

I apologize to Matt Drudge for this — I was incredibly frustrated with the amount of hate mail I was getting and lashed out. If he wants to link to this post with some headline accusing me of wishing death on him, I suppose he can do so. But I don’t wish that. I was tired, angry, and hyperbolic, and I’m sorry.

Politico writes that this is the third time “confidential” information has been leaked from the JournoList, and members are worried.

“People are feeling betrayed by whoever the leaker is, once again,” said Eric Alterman, the Nation columnist and journalism professor who is a member of the listserv. “I think it’s unwise to put anything on that list that you can’t defend in public. There’s no such thing as off-the-record with 400 people.”

But the off-the-record nature of the listserve has been closely guarded, to the point that a previous article by POLITICO’s Michael Calderone on JournoList last year got only a handful of the three dozen listserv members he contacted to share even basic elements of how the list functions.

“The list is confidential,” said one member who, in typical fashion, declined to be named for this article. “Whoever broke the confidentiality of the list obviously has no respect for some pretty basic journalistic norms. But I can’t talk about it because it’s supposed to be confidential.”

Here is the Fishbowl story that started this whole tempest in a teapot.

Honestly, who cares what these people say to each other on their hoity-toity e-mail list? This story just emphasizes how self-important these people are and how highjacked our “news” really is. Here are these people who consider themselves to be “intelligensia”–keep in mind that Kos is a member of this list–and they are deciding with each other in secret about what to report or blog about. As Katiebird might say, I spit on these people!

Back to some more important news. The Afghanistan war is back in the headlines after the McChrystal firing, and the WP thinks Petraeus will have a difficult time replicating his “success” in Iraq.

This week’s confrontation between a senior Army general and the president of the United States may have signaled the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan. In a year or two, President Obama will be able to say that he gave the conflict his best shot, reshaping the strategy and even putting in charge his top guy, the general who led the surge in Iraq — but that things still didn’t work out.

Then he can begin pulling out.

This is not a vote of no-confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom the president has selected to lead the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, replacing the disgraced Gen. Stanley A McChrystal. It is a simple recognition that the conditions Petraeus enjoyed in Iraq are far from present in Afghanistan, and that the key skills he brought to bear in the first war won’t help him as much in the second.

But Obama says he’s “confident” in his “war leadership.” And Politico claims that “Obama [is] losing Hill liberals” on
Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal, of all places, has an editorial on President Obama being “missing in action” on gay rights.

President Obama celebrated Gay Pride Month earlier this week by telling guests at a White House reception that he still favors full equality for gays and lesbians. But despite a steady trickle of small steps Mr. Obama has taken to promote gay rights, on the big issues he is a disappointment.

First and most obviously, Mr. Obama has not made good on his campaign promise to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing the military to continue stalling. Despite his earlier assertion that leadership was the only thing required to abolish this long-discredited policy, the administration’s efforts have been lackluster.

The rest story is subscription only–if you subscribe, please share.

To me, the top story is still the BP oil gusher. I don’t believe we have even begun to see the ultimate effects of this ecological and economic disaster on our country and the world. We have now seen the first known suicide linked to the gusher. Alabama boat captain Allen Kruse shot himself a few days ago on board his boat.

Kruse put a bullet through his head this morning at a marina in Fort Morgan, Alabama. His boat was about to launch today and he was reportedly upset with the oil leak, the cleanup efforts and loss of income, and wondering how he would be paid for taking part in the Vessel of Opportunity program.

The local coroner ruled that the gunshot was self-inflicted. Kruse was found right on the captain’s bridge. He had no known health problems, and leaves behind a wife and four children.

“He had just let his deckhands off the boat and sent them to get something,” Baldwin County Deputy Coroner Rod Steade told the local newspaper, the Press-Register. “He was going to meet them at the fuel dock. They heard a pop and when the boat didn’t come around, they went back and found him.”

CNN has a story and video with interviews of Kruse’s friends and family.

those closest to him say Kruse’s life unraveled when the oil spill hit the Gulf waters where he worked. Authorities say deck hands found the 55-year-old dead in his boat’s cabin, with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, before he was scheduled to head out on the water Wednesday morning.

Friends, family and local officials say his death is another tragic casualty of the environmental disaster that has sent crude gushing into Gulf waters. And they’re worried others may be suffering in silence.

“There’s a lot of people on the edge. We feel hopeless. We feel helpless. We don’t feel like there’s an advocate out there,” said Tony Kennon, mayor of Kruse’s hometown of Orange Beach, Alabama.

Kruse was upset because he felt he and his boat were being used by BP not to help clean up the oil, but as a PR prop.

Marc and Frank Kruse said their brother would still be alive today if he had believed he was making an impact against the oil that was threatening the waters he loved.

Instead, he told them, cleanup boats were placed close to shore, just so onlookers would think work was being done.

“Madness. It’s just a dog and pony show,” Marc Kruse said. “Send them out. Ride around. Let everybody see them. Bring them back in.”

Government spokesman/coordinator Thad Allen originally claimed Kruse’s death was not linked to the BP oil gusher. My guess is this won’t be the last story like this we have to read.

Perhaps President Obama will say a few words after each tragedy before head to the golf course, the latest DC gala, or his next vacation. The rest of us are expected to live vicariously as we watch our “betters” having fun. I for one refuse to accept it! I won’t be beaten down by self-important prog bloggers and full-of-it politicians! Somehow we will survive all this.

What are you reading this morning? Let us know in the comments, and have a fabulous Friday!!!!!!
Wil

Tuesday Mid-Morning News and Views

A confused-looking President Obama meets with NSC chief Denis McDonough about failed underwear bombing

Good Morning Conflucians!!! Dakinikat has jury duty this morning and Riverdaughter is tussling with the charts at Survey Monkey, so I’m going to get us started today with a few links to stories that interested me this morning. As always, post your own choice links in the comments.

First up, Joseph Cannon has provided more information and background on the Afghan bombing that I was speculating about yesterday. My head is spinning after reading that, but I plan to keep following this story anyway.

President Obama has finally returned from vacation and will be getting updated on all the latest crotch-bomber intel, according to CNN.

Obama will meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Tuesday, an administration official told CNN.

Obama will get an update from Mueller on the FBI’s investigation. Obama will get information from Holder on the prosecution of the suspect in the botched Christmas Day airline bombing. And he will get an update from Napolitano on her review on detection capabilities, the official said.

After the meeting, Obama will make public statements about his findings and an initial series of reforms to improve the country’s ability to thwart future attempts to carry out terrorist attacks, according to the official.

The president met with Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan for 90 minutes on Monday and is scheduled to meet with him again Tuesday, the official said.

And then I suppose Obama will be headed back to the golf course?

Mickey Kaus wants to know: Wherein lies the greatness of Janet Napolitano?

She gave an awful public performance in the wake of the Flt. 253 terror incident–assuring air travelers that “the system worked” when the one obvious thing was that for whatever reason the system didn’t work, as President Obama acknowledged a few days later. She then seems to have panicked and pressed the “Friends, Save Me” button.

Then he links to a lot of articles by smarmy villagers like David Broder and MoDo defending Napolitano. Will she stay or will she go?

The U.S. embassy in Yeman is open again, according to the LA Times.

U.S. officials said they reopened the embassy today because a Yemeni counterterrorism operation on Monday “addressed a specific area of concern.”

Yemeni officials reportedly killed two and injured two suspected Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives Monday. The Interior Ministry today said it had arrested five other “terror elements” in and around the capital and Hudaydah province.

The ministry said it had beefed up security measures around foreign embassies and residential districts favored by the international community in Sana, according to Yemen’s official Saba news agency. An unnamed official told Saba that security forces had imposed a “cordon” and round-the-clock surveillance around Al Qaeda militants.

Commenter Laurie posted this piece by John Pilger in the New Statesman: Welcome to Orwell’s world Pilger argues that the US is Oceania and I guess Obama is Big Brother. It would be hard to pick an except from this piece–you need to read the whole thing.

Here’s an interesting piece by Professor James Petras on how China and South Korea are beating the pants off U.S. in economic terms while our government focuses on military power and empire building.

The story told by the articles and headlines in a single day’s issue of the Financial Times reflects a deeper reality, one that illustrates the great divide in the world today. The Asian countries, led by China, are reaching world power status on the basis of their massive domestic and foreign investments in manufacturing, transportation, technology and mining and mineral processing. In contrast, the US is a declining world power with a deteriorating society resulting from its military-driven empire building and its financial-speculative centered economy….

[....]

To become a ‘normal state’ we have to start all over: Close all investment banks and military bases abroad and return to America. We have to begin the long march toward rebuilding industry to serve our domestic needs, to living within our own natural environment and forsake empire building in favor of constructing a democratic socialist republic.

When will we pick up the Financial Times or any other daily and read about our own high-speed rail line carrying American passengers from New York to Boston in less than one hour? When will our own factories supply our hardware stores? When will we build wind, solar and ocean-based energy generators? When will we abandon our military bases and let the world’s warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists face the justice of their own people?

What are you reading this morning?

HAVE A TERRIFIC TUESDAY, CONFLUCIANS!!!!!!!

What’s Going On Between Obama and the CIA?

President Obama speaking at CIA Headquarters

A kind of war of leaks appears to be going on between Obama administration and the CIA. I realize that it is nothing new for Presidents of the U.S. to have conflicts with the CIA–Presidents since Truman have struggled to control the intelligence apparatus he set in motion after World War II.

I’m certainly no expert on this kind of thing, and I’m hoping someone like Joseph Cannon will be able to explain it eventually. But for now, I thought I’d just post some of the things I’ve been reading in the hopes that together we can make some sense out of the situation. So here’s the deal.

First we had crotch bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who managed to get through multiple airline security systems and come close to detonating a bomb in his underwear on Delta Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. For a full examination of what is know about the crotch bombing incident, you can’t beat the two excellent posts that Joseph Cannon has written so far. Scroll down for the earlier post on the many strange questions about case.

President Obama’s first response to the aborted bombing attempt came on December 31. Here is a portion of the statement from the White House web site:

I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.

There appears [sic] to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.

Obama then went on to praise the intelligence community and to say that he understood that even the best people weren’t infallible. This was apparently interpreted by members of the CIA as an attack by Obama on their competence. Continue reading

Federal Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Blackwater Guards in 2007 Shootings of 17 Iraquis

Blackwater plainclothes contractors

Just a short time ago, Federal Judge Ricard Urbina dismissed all charges against five Blackwater contractors who opened fire in a crowded square in Bagdad on September 16, 2007.

From the BBC News service:

District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the US justice department had used evidence prosecutors were not supposed to have.

The five had all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. A sixth guard admitted killing at least one Iraqi.

The killings, which took place in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, strained Iraq’s relationship with the US and raised questions about US contractors operating in war zones.

The disputed evidence consisted of statements the five men gave to State Department investigators shortly after the shootings.

Judge Urbina said prosecutors should not have used those statements in the case, and that the US government’s explanation for this was “unbelievable”.

The five guards were Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough – all of whom are decorated military veterans.

As well as the 14 counts of manslaughter, they had faced 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence.

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative reporter who has done more than any other writer to reveal the activities of Blackwater (aka Xe) head Erik Prince and his mercenaries in their roles as contractors for the U.S. government. He is the author of the book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. In October, 2007, Scahill appeared on Bill Moyers Journal to discuss the killings in Bagdad. You can listen to the interview here.

Here is Scahill’s blog post on today’s outrageous dismissal of the case against the five Blackwater guards.

A federal judge in Washington DC has given Erik Prince’s Blackwater mercenaries a huge New Year’s gift. Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed all charges against the five Blackwater operatives accused of gunning down 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007. Judge Urbina’s order, issued late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve is a stunning blow for the Iraqi victims’ families and sends a clear message that US-funded mercenaries are above all systems of law—US and international.

In a memo defending his opinion, Urbina cited a similar rationale used in the dismissal of charges against Iran-Contra figure Oliver North—namely that the government violated the rights of the Blackwater men by using statements they made to investigators in the immediate aftermath of the shooting to build a case against the guards, which Urbina said qualified for “derivative use immunity.”

Scahill provides links to the decision a the Judge’s 90-page memo explaining it.

In this recent post, Scahill provides statistics for the government’s use of private contractors in Afghanistan alone. As of December 17, 2009, according to Scahill, there were “189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.” Other Blackwater employees are deployed in Iraq and have been used by the CIA in Pakistan. They are representing us and are being paid with our tax dollars.

I for one do not want these men representing me. I think it is disgraceful that Blackwater “contractors” are allowed to get away with committing murders in the name of the people of the United States of America.

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