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      There isn’t much to say that others haven’t, but let’s go through it anyway: There was never any chance that Darren Wilson would be charged; the prosecutor acted as defense attorney, not as prosecutor; A grand jury, for all intents and purposes does what the prosecutor tells it to; Doing the announcement at 8pm at [...]
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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.

Liveblog: President’s State of the Union Address

This time he's serious.

All you non-recovering Conflucians can get a little tipsy while you watch TOTUS and POTUS put their best feet forward for the SOTU. I have to watch it stone cold sober. Here are a couple of places to watch the speech and listen for your trigger words or phrases:

CNN Live

C-Span coverage

Unfortunately, the POTUS has no plan and is afraid to commit to one anyway. Will the Democrats leap to their feet for multiple standing O’s for O anyway? Or will they sit on their hands? Will President Obama say even one thing of substance? We’ll soon find out.

If you can’t stand to listen to the voice of “The One,” here are a couple of good articles to read while following the comments of those of us who force ourselves to watch and/or listen.

Robert Scheer: The Sorry State of the Union

The state of the union is just miserable, no matter how President Obama sugarcoats it. He will claim that progress has been made in stabilizing the markets, increasing national security and advancing toward meaningful health care reform, but he will be wrong on all three counts.

A Duped President’s Wasted Year

The fatal complacency of the Obama White House and Democratic Party leadership concerning last week’s Massachusetts senatorial election outcome, together with that upset’s probable consequences for health insurance reform legislation, produced a drama in which the president has never seemed a player. He has seemed to have never himself known the reforms he actually wanted, leaving it to Congress and the lobbies to fight over whatever legislation they, undirected, might be able to produce….the president recently told Time magazine that he “overestimated our ability to persuade (Israelis and Palestinians to agree to ‘meaningful conversation’) when their politics ran contrary to that.”

This astounding statement by a president of the United States, after nearly 40 years of futile U.S. efforts to convince Israelis and Palestinians to agree—from the time of Henry Kissinger’s “shuttle diplomacy” in the 1970s to the useless 2009 missions to Palestinians and Israelis by George Mitchell—alone disqualifies President Obama as a maker of American Middle Eastern policy.

Ezra Klein: Waiting for Barack

Every Hill office I’ve spoken to in the past week has had the same complaint. “Where,” they ask, “is the White House?”

There’s been no clear message on the way forward for health-care reform. No clear articulation of preferences. No public leadership to speak of. The administration is taking temperatures rather than twisting arms. The White House press team is blasting out speeches where the president says he’ll never stop fighting on health care but pointedly refuses to throw a punch. The president is giving interviews where he seems to endorse paring the bill back and also seems to argue against doing anything of the kind. The daily message has run from banks to freezes, and early leaks suggest that tonight’s speech will focus on education.

According to multiple sources, there’s an easy answer for the confusion: The White House is confused.

And for a change of pace, I was able to find one blog post that put a positive spin on Obama’s first year. You guessed it–at the Cheeto, where there are still a few half-hearted Koolaid drinkers:

Keeping the Faith

Have at it. Document the atrocities….

Monday Morning News and Views

Ida

Hurricane Ida batters coast of Cancun, Mexico

Good Morning, Conflucians! This morning more than ever, I’m so grateful for all of you, and so glad we have this blog where we can discuss, argue and rant about politics and news events. I can’t begin to imagine what I would have done with out TC and all of you Conflucians over the past couple of years. Thank you all for being here! I hope you have a marvelous Monday, despite the bad news.

This has been a very tough weekend to be a liberal who saw through Obama from the beginning when so many other other people who previously seemed sane and reasonable just gulped down the Koolaid and adjusted their blinders so as to see only “hope ‘n change” filtered through their rose-colored glasses. I don’t enjoy saying “I told you so” anymore. The consequences of electing an inexperienced, narcissistic, apparently amoral, misogynistic, homophobic man to the presidency are becoming all too clear. And those results are tragic.

From where I sit, the pain of the unconscionable betrayal of women by the President and the U.S. House of Representatives still feels fresh. Stateofdisbelief said it so well yesterday in a comment on Quixote’s post:

Yep. Last night was it for me. They can all pound. F#$K Sestak, F#$K Specter, F#$K Holden. I am done. No help. No phone calls. No canvassing. No money. No vote.

I hate them all.

There is no one that can argue with a straight face that women should vote for Democrats. There is nothing. They burnt the bridge.

It’s over for me too. I can never again consider myself a Democrat. We need a new party to represent those of us who were FDR, JFK, LBJ, WJC, HRC Democrats–there is no longer room in our former party for liberals who believe in equal rights for all and compassion for our fellow humans. Both of the parties now represent only the superrich and giant multinational banks and corporations. We’re on our own now. As Quixote wrote so eloquently:

But women are just, as always, the expendable canaries in the coal mine. Their rights are toast, which means so are everyone else’s.

I’m going to shout that: WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE TOAST WHICH MEANS SO ARE EVERYONE ELSE’S.

Rights are for all. When only some people have them, they’re just privileges. And privileges can be taken away….

The right to control one’s own person is fundamental. Even the right not to be murdered is secondary, since killing is allowed in self-defence.

So what’s happening in the news this morning? It’s hard for me to work up much enthusiasm for surfing the ‘net right now, but I’ll post a few links and you can add your own in the comments.

It looks like Hurricane Ida has weakened to a Category 1, so I hope Dakinikat and her fellow N’awlins citizens will be able to safely weather the storm. Fingers crossed.

Hurricane Ida chugged toward the Gulf Coast, and despite warnings extending more than 200 miles across several states, residents seemed to take the first Atlantic hurricane to target the U.S. this season in stride.

Authorities said the hurricane weakened early Monday to a Category 1 storm, with 90 mph winds, and could make landfall as early as Tuesday morning.

The New York Times has a very good story on the background of the shooting at Fort Hood.
Fort Hood Gunman gave signals Before his Rampage

Major Hasan’s behavior in the months and weeks leading up to the shooting bespeaks a troubled man full of contradictions. He lived frugally in a run-down apartment, yet made a good salary and spent more than $1,100 on the pistol the authorities said he used in the shootings.

He was described as gentle and kindly by many neighbors, quick with a smile or a hello, yet he complained bitterly to people at his mosque about the oppression of Muslims in the Army. He had few friends, and even the men he interacted with at the mosque saw him as a strange figure whom they never fully accepted into their circle.

It is beginning to look like Major Hasan was a very likely suffering from clinical depression at the very least. He had turned to his religion for solace, but he needed much more help than any religion could provide. Sadly, it appears that many of his superiors either ignored or simply did not notice the ominous signs and they did not listen to those who tried to warn them. Continue reading

Promises, Promises

Via Lambert:

Here’s the transcript:

I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” (applause) “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.” (emphasis added)

Well gee, we already took back the White House, the Senate and the House. What’s the hold up?

So-Where-s-My-Fucking-Pony

Wait! Obama promised to computerize our medical records, and the big bucks medical insurers are gonna kinda-sorta-maybe-notta hold down cost increases. We’re saved! Avedon Carol:

Obama, as far as I can tell, is just in it for the kabuki – pretend to give Americans a better healthcare option, but don’t actually do it. (Sort of like withdrawing from Iraq without actually doing it, closing Gitmo without actually doing it, forbidding torture without actually doing, etc.)

Arthur Silber:

It’s what I expected, because Obama lies. He lies all the time, on every matter of consequence. It’s what he does.

(Cue the Obots Failbots whinging “McCain would have been worse!)

.

——————————————————————————————-

For a peek at how those poor Canadians suffer through with Marxist medicine, check out Debunking Canadian Health Care Myths by Rhonda Hackett:

Because if the only way we compared the two systems was with statistics, there is a clear victor. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes.

[…]

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

[…]

Ten percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage.

Poor commie bastards. Aren’t we the lucky ones?  Better dead than red.

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Whiplash Warning: Obama Issues First Signing Statement

whiplash_intro012

You had to know this was coming–but just one day after Obama announced that he’s not going to use signing statements the way Bush did?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two days after criticizing his predecessor for issuing guidelines on how to put legislation into practice, President Barack Obama issued such a directive himself.

Out of public view Wednesday, Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill that includes billions for items known as earmarks, the targeted spending that lawmakers direct to projects in their districts. Obama promised during the presidential campaign to curb such spending.

He also issued a “signing statement” in which he objected to provisions of the bill that he said the Justice Department had advised “raise constitutional concerns.” Among them are provisions that Obama said would “unduly interfere” with his authority in the foreign affairs arena by directing him how to proceed, or not to, in negotiations and discussions with international organizations and foreign governments.

Another provision, Obama said, would limit his discretion to choose who performs specific functions in military missions.

Here is the signing statement (Warning: PDF file) At Talking Points Memo, Elana Schor notes that Obama is claiming the right to “reallocate money as he sees fit without abiding by the spending bill’s requirement to first get approval from Congress.” Here is the relevant portion of the statement:

Numerous provisions of the legislation purport to condition the authority of officers to spend or reallocate funds on the approval of congressional committees. These are impermissible forms of legislative aggrandizement in the execution of the laws other than by enactment of statutes. Therefore, although my Administration will notify the relevant committees before taking the specified actions, and will accord the recommendations of such committees all appropriate and serious consideration, spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees. Likewise, one other provision gives congressional committees the power to establish guidelines for funding costs associated with implementing security improvements to buildings. Executive officials shall treat such guidelines as advisory.

Yet another provision requires the Secretary of the Treasury to accede to all requests of a Board of Trustees that contains congressional representatives. The Secretary shall treat such requests as nonbinding.

{{ Sigh! }} This is starting to get kind of routine. Can’t he do something to surprise us? Or how about not making the promises in the first place and just going ahead and doing whatever Bush did?

And doesn’t the House control the purse? I thought they were supposed to determine how money is spent.

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