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Pentagon Releases Findings on DADT

Today the Pentagon releaseda long-anticipated surveyregarding military service by gay men and lesbians. The study states, as predicted, that service by openly LGBT personnel would have little to no impact on long-term military cohesion and effectiveness.

The study took place over a period of 10 months, and is expected to have huge implications for the future of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—the 17-year-old controversial law prohibiting military service by openly gay and lesbian citizens. Officials familiar with the results of the study—which was based on responses by about 115,000 service members and 44,200 military spouses—said that a clear majority of respondents indicated opposition to the law, with 70% predicting that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed, or no effect on their units. Furthermore, about 70% of respondents reported working with someone whom they believed to be gay or lesbian, and 92% of these reported having a neutral or positive experience in their unit’s ability to work together. The survey authors write that “both the survey results and our own engagement of the force convinced us that when service members had the actual experience of serving with someone they believe to be gay, in general unit performance was not affected negatively by this added dimension.” Over 60% of respondents said repeal would have a positive or no effect on their personal morale, and 67% believed there would be a positive or no effect on their personal readiness.

Those sneaky gays! Always proving to us that they are human beings and more than their sexuality! It makes it so much harder for us to discriminate against them!

Tuesday Morning: Falling Chips

How to speak to the public without a teleprompter for 15 minutes:

Yes, dear World, we passed her up for this (skip to 1:51 to hear Hillary’s response):

It appears that Obama is following Hillary’s foreign policy.

Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, WaPo is reveling in the damage that Wikileaks has done to our foreign policy.  Instead of investigating how such a breach could have happened in the first place (I am with myiq and Anglachel on this one.  An army private shouldn’t have this much access.  It’s unnatural.), the post is {{GASP!}} appalled that such a thing has ruined, RUINED everything we have tried to accomplish in the past 230 years.  And it was on Hillary’s watch.  Yeah, the paper of Sally Quinn must just love that.  But Benjamin Netanyahu has what seems like a logical assessment of the situation:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the WikiLeaks disclosures will make it harder for American diplomats to be honest in their assessments of political situations abroad and will inspire more caution among foreign leaders when they are dealing with U.S. officials.

“It’s clear this will happen,” he told the Association of Tel Aviv Journalists.

“Diplomacy is built on secrecy,” he added. “Journalism is built on revelations. And the result of what happened with WikiLeaks, in my view, is that it will be harder for you to do your work and it will be harder for us to do our work.”

That pretty much sums it up.  The leaked cables will make everyone more skittish that their every word will be reported.  Stuff will still need to be discussed, non-trivial tidbits passed on, intuition related, but now they’ll have to do it through Skype, where the encryption method has been only partially cracked.  Or they’ll be reduced to interpreting body language.  It’s not fatal and the countries that are “lamenting” the loudest are just taking advantage of an awkward situation.  The fallout reminds me of those days in middle school when one girl finds a note from another girl she thought was her friend and she now realizes that her “friend” has been talking trash about her to someone else and now everyone’s feelings are hurt. Oh, Please. Is this what countries around the world have been reduced to?  Petty sniping between adolescents?  Adolescents with nukes?   But diplomacy will go on, because it *has* to.

Moving on.  I take that back.  We must continue to observe that President Obama does not know what he is doing and that the Obots (who are even more clueless than Palinophiles) pushed him on us without thinking:

Obama Orders Pay Freeze for Federal Workers

Well, that ought to make all those surly clerks more user friendly.  Yes, stick it to virtually the only sector that has any kind of protection at all.  Do not try to impress on the public the consequences of this action, such as decreased spending during a recession, more unemployment and decreased tax revenue.  THERE!  That will show them nasty Republicans.  Obama will triangulate before it’s even necessary to triangulate AND he’ll pursue even more pointless and harmful policies that will add to the deficit and recession.  Take THAT, GOP!  You’re not going to push Barry around, nosiree.

Gawd, this is so depressing.

BTW, for an enlightening podcast on Barry’s childhood in Indonesia, check out this episode of Witness from BBC.  You’ll have to sit through a few painful moments of Barry reading from one of his bestsellers but the recollection of one of his Indonesian childhood friends is very interesting.  We should have seen this coming.

Merrill Goozner has a crack at the new liberal version of a deficit reduction plan.  He suggest that it may represent the “new silent majority”, that would be us, oh Best Beloveds, who no political party wants to be beholden to but who tend to vote anyway.  Here are the money quotes:

Some historical perspective: the debt-to-GDP ratio remained below 50 percent throughout the Great Depression; peaked near 120 percent after World War II; fell steadily to around 33 percent in 1980; but rose quickly after Ronald Reagan became president and continued except for a few years near the end of Bill Clinton’s term in office. It stood at 57 percent when George W. Bush became president and spiked to 93 percent as a result of the Great Recession that began late in his term.

The liberals want to stabilize near this higher number (no new additional debt, but no pay down, either) because they see a long-term role for public investment in rebuilding America. The Bowles-Simpson plan would use some of its new revenue (from eliminating tax expenditures like corporate tax loopholes and all middle-class tax expenditures like the home mortgage deduction) to both pay down debt and lower income tax rates across the board.

The Bowles-Simpson plan also preserves some room for spending on infrastructure and research and development. But it is nowhere near the amounts called for in the liberal plan, which would use the money raised from higher taxes on corporations (they only remove so-called tax expenditures when they benefit high-income households) to invest in “quality child care, infrastructure, public transit, rural broadband connectivity, and research and development.”

The liberal alternative also steps up a number of income transfer programs like the earned income tax credit. The cash comes from eliminating corporate tax loopholes and a new carbon tax. “Despite having a higher-than-average statutory tax rate, because of preferences embodied in the tax code the United States collects just 2% of GDP in corporate tax revenue, compared with 2.5% across other developed nations,” the report says. “We suggest several changes that would broaden the tax base for corporations, including eliminating fossil fuel production tax credits, limiting the deductibility of financial corporate debt interest payments, closing the dividend loophole for foreign source income, and removing active financing tax deferral for financial firms.”

Translation: tax oil and coal companies, big banks, and the overseas operations of multinational firms while discouraging corporate debt. Instead of using all of that money for deficit reduction, transfer some to low-and-moderate income workers, whose increased consumption will stimulate the economy, and invest in infrastructure that promotes long-term growth.

The plan asserts that too much of the public debate to date has focused on Social Security, which plays only a minor role in the long-term deficits facing the country. Then there’s health care, whose skyrocketing costs will turn everybody’s deficit reduction plans into so much confetti unless brought under control.

I like this guy.  Check him out.

Anyway, I have to hit the shower, sports fans.  It’s off to work, for as long as it lasts.  Might as well enjoy it.

I leave you with this ditty from the coolest girl at the lunch table, Gwyneth Paltrow, who in addition to being a talented actress and easy on the eyes, turns out to be able to sing and play a guitar.  The song says it all: we will get through this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Reputation Open Thread

One of the news stations this morning couldn’t stop talking about whether the Wikileaks documents were contributing to a Bad Reputation for the U.S. Well, maybe or maybe (with Fair Game on my mind) it’s our own dumb decisions making the biggest contributions.

Anyway, here’s Freedy Johnston singing Bad Reputation:

The ship of state is the only known vessel that leaks from the top


I’m sure you’re all aware of the Wikileaks kerfluffle. The official story is that this was all the work of a 23 year-old Okie cybergeek:

Bradley Manning: The prime suspect of giving files to WikiLeaks

Bradley Manning, 23, enlisted in the US Army in 2007 and became an intelligence analyst in Iraq, sifting through classified information at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad.

[…]

As he spent his time looking through classified information for up to 14 hours a day, he is believed to have become increasingly disillusioned by US foreign policy, once describing “military intelligence” as an “oxymoron”. Manning is said to have tracked down and communicated with Adrian Lamo, a well known former computer hacker in the US, who he thought would help him get information out.

But Lamo later alerted the US authorities and provided them with a series of online exchanges between the two men.

Manning was alleged to have told Lamo that he had found “incredible, awful things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, DC”. He was also said to have boasted that he had used blank CDs to download classified information while pretending to be listening to Lady Gaga.

Manning’s clearance would have given him access to the Secret internet Protocol Router Network used by US military personnel, civilian employees and private contractors. However, investigators are trying to establish whether he had help, both from inside the military, and from civilians.


I was a nerd but not a geek. I still can’t figure out how to set the timer on my VCR. But apparently I carry the gene because my oldest son is a super-geek. When he was in junior high his hero was Kevin Mitnick. (if you don’t get the reference ask Dandy Tiger)

I was in the army though, so I do know a little about that organization. The Army does not give PFC’s the keys to the officer’s latrine unless they want the toilets cleaned.

Private First Class is the third-lowest rank there is. Most soldiers make PFC after one year in service. (When I was in some people actually started out at that rank, such as graduates of high school Junior ROTC.) If you stay out of trouble a promotion to Spec 4/E-4 is pretty much automatic after two years.

“Intelligence analyst” with a Top Secret clearance isn’t exactly a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for high school drop-outs. The geekier your MOS, the faster you’ll make rank. A G-2 tech job is about as cushy as it gets in the Army. They stay “in the rear with the gear.”

If Manning was in the service working at Divisional G-2 for three years and is only a PFC then he’s had some troubles. It couldn’t have been anything serious enough to get him kicked out but he must have been reduced in rank due to an Article 15 at least once.

Once upon a time the Internet was like the wild west but instead of gunfighters it was ruled by hackers. Those days are long gone. Those 15 year-old hackers from 20 years ago are now highly paid 35 year-old cyber-security consultants

The idea that a PFC stationed in an overseas hot zone could not only access but download about a million documents without anyone noticing what he was doing doesn’t past the laugh test. Bradley Manning is not David Lightman and Siprnet isn’t WOPR.

To access classified government information a person needs two things – the proper clearance and the “need to know.” The government has security programs in place so that if someone tries to go exploring in cyber-places they don’t belong their activities will see off alarms.

I know this is true because I know an IRS employee who got in big trouble when he decided to take a peek at the tax returns of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. If they have these programs for the IRS they have ’em for the military and the State Department too.

We’re not talking about somebody accidentally stumbling across a couple of documents. We’re talking about somebody spending hours and hours searching through classified archives and downloading them.

If it were that easy to do then the rest of the world would have already done it.

Why is this important? Anglachel:


This much information being released does not happen without some serious coordination and power. This wasn’t done by a few outraged whistle-blowers.


I don’t know who was behind this mess but it wasn’t somebody at the bottom of the food chain. Spys like Robert Hanssen and John Walker spent decades getting into positions of trust and they couldn’t have pulled this off.

The person or persons responsible for this are or were occupying high positions in our government. Some people suspect Dick Cheney. I’m not suggesting he had anything to do with this but he probably knows the people who did.



Last but not least, I find this piece of information offensive:

After arriving in Iraq the young soldier, who is gay, complained of feeling socially “isolated” in the military.

What does Manning’s sexual orientation have to do with anything? One of the bullshit arguments against allowing gays to serve in the military and other branches of government was that they could be blackmailed into betraying our nation by a foreign power threatening to expose them.

But that argument only works if being gay is a crime or something to be ashamed of. Throwing that information out there like that reminds me of what the Navy did to Clayton Hartwig.



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?

Monday Morning Palinpalooza

I am almost as sick of hearing about and seeing Sarah Palin as I am hearing about and seeing Barack Obama, but the news is awful, the weather is boo boo, and as a liberal fem I am apparently supposed to go into a screaming emotional PMS induced rant every time her name is even brought up. Why fight it?

I don’t plan on reading or buying her new book. Do any of you? I didn’t think so. But Historiann has the scoop.

Don’t miss Michelle Goldberg’s analysis of the feminist history in Sarah Palin’s new bookAmerica by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag. Apparently, it gets worse after the diabetes-inducing title.  I agree with Goldberg that “[i]n some ways, it’s a good thing that Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist. It means that, even among conservatives, women’s equality has become a normative position, the starting point for debate. It means that feminism has gone from something that the right wants to destroy to something it wants to appropriate. That’s progress, of a sort.”  This is indeed a new development–Phyllis Schlafly’s days are over, for now, and it would be even too intellectually dishonest for Palin to pretend that feminism had nothing to do with shaping the possibilities of her political career.

As an optimist I am also pleased that a woman politician at least has to call herself a feminist to get anywhere, much less conservative woman. But this step forward is not to Bible Spice’s credit. A woman in politics has to call herself a feminist now because of the treatment a certain plucky Secretary of State received not just in 2008 but throughout her entire life in public service. Just sayin’. Let’s continue.

However, Palin is all wet when it comes to American history in general, and as Goldberg explains, feminist history in particular:  she claims Elizabeth Cady Stanton as a devout Christian–a woman who once said that “[y]ou may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women,” and who wrote her own version of the Bible.  (Truly, this is more laughable than the people who try to re-claim Thomas Jefferson as a godbag.)  Palin repeats the flimsy lie that Susan B. Anthony was anti-abortion, and she repeats the distortions of Margaret Sanger’s work and career by claiming that she advocated “Nazi-style eugenics.”  (She cites the esteemed historian Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism on Sanger.)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and another fun fem, Amelia Earheart, also rejected the usefulness of remaining faithful to their husbands. Amelia even passed a petition about it around. Hillary wasn’t the first classy lady to question standing by her man. So far that’s Hillary: 2 Sarah: 0.

Sarah Palin is a huge disappointment.  She could have countered her detractors the right way and continued working for the people of her beloved Alaska, but instead she has allowed herself and her family to be turned into celebrity jokes. Marketing yourself as a pundit on Fox News and giving yourself a reality show on TLC is not the way to prove you’re Presidential material. So much for all that maverick talk about Middle America. She should have taken a leaf out of that crazy bra burning feminist Hillary Clinton’s book instead of Barack Obama’s. Now she and him are like the American Idol clones of Presidential Politics. If they are both running in 2012 we won’t even be able to take a break and watch an episode of House or Dexter without one of them guest starring. They and their brands will be EVERYWHERE. God help us all!

I still don’t believe you have to be liberal or pro choice to be a feminist, but Caribou Barbie stopped caring about standing up to the good old boys a long time ago. It was probably some time in between the grand finale of Dancing with the Stars or a deep philosophical connection with Dick Morris while he was ghostwriting her new book. At least now she is caught up to the President and has managed to write two autobiographies without actually accomplishing much of anything.

Either way, from now on she’s on her own.

Guilty pleasures – Movies that are so bad they’re good


They’re not just bad, they’re stupid. They make no sense. The scripts are bad and the acting is worse.

But we love to watch them anyway.

What’s your favorite bad movie?

This is an open thread.




The Saturday After: Give Thanks for the Sisterhood

November 5, 2010, Wellington, New Zealand. Secretary Clinton places a rose on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

Hey everyone, Wonk here, hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It’s the Saturday after, and my gratitude as always goes out to the Sisterhood out there that has grown around Hilllary and her work–toward a world where families and communities can thrive and individuals–man, woman, or child–have the opportunities to realize their God-given potential.

Here are my reads for this Saturday in Shero news, with an emphasis on Madame Secretary:

World leaders send their condolences… “United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has joined the Queen and other world leaders offering condolences over the loss of 29 lives at the Pike River coalmine. Clinton, who visited New Zealand earlier this month, said New Zealand had lost 29 brave and hard-working men who would be mourned around the world. ‘Earlier this month I visited New Zealand and I saw the famous Kiwi strength and spirit for myself,’ Clinton said. You have come through adversity before, and I know you will do so again. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with you.’

This next link was from the beginning of November– American Samoans give thanks for Hillary Clinton, which I find appropriate to look back on this weekend. A taste of Gov. Togiola remarks at Ava ceremony for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are very proud in seeing Hillary Clinton visiting foreign countries and the diplomacy that you take to them and bring back to us. We feel very much a part of you and the work that you do, and we pray for your safety and your wisdom and everything that it takes to do the job – the very difficult job that you do for all of us.”

Hillary op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, courtesy of the US Consulate General in Vancouver — “Hillary Clinton: Engage men and boys in eliminating violence against womenI often say that we need to empower women because no country can make economic progress if it leaves half the population behind. It’s just as true that no country can stop violence against women with the other half of the population sitting on the sidelines.

Hillary says Resolve, Resilience, and Respect are stronger than Guns and Bombs, in her remarks two years after the 11-26 attacks in Mumbai (via state.gov): “As the people of Mumbai gather in temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, and synagogues to honor those who perished on November 26, 2008, they send a message of resolve, resilience, and mutual respect that is far louder and more powerful than any terrorist’s guns and bombs.”

This is beautiful footage of a woman of strength and substance who LEADS — an hour long conversation between Hillary and the Australian grassroots (H/T to Stacyx aka SCB at sectetaryclinton.wordpress.com, for digging up this fantastic youtube).

H/T to Minkoff Minx on this one , an op-ed from the Buenos Aires Herald by Patricio Navia — Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi: The two most powerful women in the Democratic Party represent two divergent views on what strategy will optimize the party’s chances to stay in the White House after 2012.” ( I couldn’t disagree more with Navia’s designation of Pelosi as moving the party to the left, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.)

Ruh Roh, I have seen the following movie script and cast before and it doesn’t end well. This sequel has “straight to DVD” written all over it … from the blog pages of the US News & World Report: “A Facebook group called Hillary Clinton for 2012!! is organizing a meeting in Washington to talk about plans to coax her into the race. ‘Right now,’ says organizer and publicist Will Bower, ‘we are simply aiming to keep HRC’s strongest supporters united for if and when that day comes when Hillary either challenges in 2012 and/or makes a run in 2016. And, of course, to rally as many people as possible to strongly encourage and petition her to do so— preferably the 2012 option.

NowPublic asks a 64,000 dollar question: Will Hillary Clinton & Lawrence Cannon Be Named By Wikileaks?

This is from the week before — the State Department released it’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2010. State.gov youtube of Hillary’s remarks (about 40 minutes). In Hillary’s words: “This report reflects a broad understanding of religious freedom, one that begins with private beliefs and communal religious expression, but doesn’t end there. Religious freedom also includes the right to raise one’s children in one’s faith, to share one’s faith peacefully with others, to publish religious materials without censorship, to change one’s religion – by choice, not coercion, and to practice no religion at all. And it includes the rights of faith communities to come together in social service and public engagement in the broader society.

Saw a fun Hillary tidbit in a Las Vegas Review Journal piece on Nevada pols and their messages at Thanksgiving time — the Clark County commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has bulldogs named Kennedy and Hillary (for Hillary Clinton). Oh, and on a sidetrack from shero news–apparently Harry Reid is thankful he has another 6 years to destroy the Democratic brand. Judging by Sharon Angle’s Thanksgiving tweet to her nonexistent fanbase (“I hope God blesses you all with a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. May it be filled with great moments, great food and great joy with those you love most!”), she’s hard at work trying to make some “great lemonade” out of her loss… or something.

From a conservative source — the National Interest: “Clinton and the Nuclear Scientist(Information on Hillary’s meeting with Siegfried Hecker seems to be scarce, so I linked to the one actual writeup I could find.)

This pulled up on one of my feeds, and I found it informative — West Virginia politics: “But What About the Women?” (via The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register)“Interesting, isn’t it, that we know lots about the major male candidates – but the four strong women continue to fly under the radar?”

Since there’s no photos of Bill and Hill on this Thanksgiving, a couple of Clinton turkey day flashbacks — this is what public service looks like —

Thanksgiving 2009 — raw video of Hillary in Afghanistan, in that beautiful coat: Hillary to the troops: “At the top of my (Thanksgiving) list is all of you.”

Via Huffpo — Life magazine photo of President-elect Clinton (sorry, it’s Bill not Hillary) serving Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter for battered and homeless women in Arkansas.

On the Friends of Hillary lecture circuit…

Monday at Wellesley (via the Boston Globe): “Developing African economies are the topic for a lecture at Wellesley College by an advisor to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, according to a release. Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way is the title of the lecture by Steven Radelet, who advises Clinton on foreign aid… Radelet will explain why a group of African nations are making a successful transition to sustainable economic growth and development.

While we’re at it, Tuesday in Greensboro, NC (via WRAL news): Bill Clinton will be giving a lecture at Guilford called “Embracing Our Common Humanity.”

I stumbled across this neat footage of Bill Clinton on youtube, from Hong Kong in 2005, responding to a question about UFOs. It’s about 7 minutes long and put a smile on my face.

Excellent piece via The Stir: “Sarah Palin vs. the 1990sThe thing is this — no woman likes to be judged on how she creates her own version of motherhood. And there are still plenty of Murphys and Hillarys just trying to raise their kids and put dinner on the table without someone else judging them. So Palin might want to tread lightly as she implements this new chapter in her quest for stardom, political and otherwise, because it’s got the word ‘backfire’ written all over it.” Agreed!

From the Economist:Bill Clinton: the opera‘Billy Blythe’ —the brainchild of two Arkansas natives, Bonnie Montgomery and Britt Barber—is set on a single day in the Southern life of a teenaged Clinton in the Arkansas town of Hot Springs, where he grew up. It highlights the tribulations that shaped the future occupant of the White House, living with an abusive and alcoholic stepfather and a decidedly colourful mother.”

I have to end this in a hurry–my dog had surgery this week and she needs her antibiotics and pain meds. Hope everything clicks to where it’s supposed to go! If any of the links are broken, please let me know, and as always, feel free to use the comments as an open thread to share what you’re reading and ruminating on this Saturday.

They hate us for our Christmas trees


I’m always leery of these kinds of cases:


Somali-American accused of plotting to bomb Oregon tree-lighting event

A 19-year-old has been arrested in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on Friday evening, the Justice Department announced.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He is a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, and a student at Oregon State University, according to the FBI.

Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree-lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Justice Department said in a written statement. However, “the materials were not explosive,” said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd, who called the device a “mock bomb.”

“The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack.”

The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation during which Mohamud had been monitored closely as his alleged bomb plot developed, the Justice Department said. Officials said the public was never in danger from the device.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by an FBI special agent, Mohamud was in e-mail communication in August 2009 with a person believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December, that person was “located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan,” the affidavit states.

The two communicated regularly, the affidavit states, and “using coded language, they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to prepare for violent jihad.”

[…]

An undercover FBI employee contacted Mohamud in June under the guise of being affiliated with the associate who was in Pakistan, according to the affidavit. Mohamud met with the undercover operative on July 30 in Portland.

[…]

“Mohamud also indicated that he wanted to become ‘operational,'” the Justice Department said. “Asked what he meant by ‘operational,’ Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an ‘explosion’ together, but needed help.”

At a meeting in August, the Justice Department said, Mohamud allegedly told undercover FBI operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15. According to the affidavit, Mohamud then told undercover operatives that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Authorities said an FBI operative pointed out that lots of children would be at such an event, but Mohamud said he was looking for a “huge mass that will … be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.” Officials said Mohamud also stated, “… it’s in Oregon; and Oregon like you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”

According to the affidavit, Mohamud and the undercover FBI operatives traveled to a remote area in Lincoln County, Oregon, on November 4 and detonated a bomb hidden in a backpack as a test. During the drive back to Corvallis, the agents asked Mohamud about whether he could look at the bodies of those who would be killed in the upcoming attack in Portland, the Justice Department said.

Mohamud replied, “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured,” according to the affidavit.

On Friday, Mohamud met one of the FBI operatives at a predetermined location, the affidavit states. Mohamud dialed a number “in an unsuccessful attempt to detonate the device.” Mohamud allegedly dialed the number again before he was taken custody.

Here is yet another case where an aspirational terrorist wannabe needs the help of government agents to become operational. He never was operational, he just thought he was. It may not be entrapment but it’s damn close.

Rather than nip his ambitions in the bud the feds lead him on until they can arrange a more serious offense to charge him with. Does this really make us any safer?

Look at it another way – let’s say you had someone who wanted to make crystal meth but couldn’t because they were unable to obtain the necessary materials. They have the intent, but not the ability.

If things stayed that way they couldn’t commit a crime. But along come the cops who sell the person the necessary manufacturing chemicals. Now that they can commit a crime they are arrested.

What if Mohamud had been arrested for a minor offense of simply questioned and warned by federal agents when he first started making inquiries. Might that have deterred him?



What I didn’t have with my pumpkin pie (Open Thread)

Well, DAMN — I missed the boat on the boozy coffee and now it looks like I might have missed my chance with this:

Alcoholic Whipped Cream Causes Buzz On Campus

The federal government ordered the makers of Four Loko to change its dangerous combination of caffeine and alcohol to something safer. However, it’s not just beverages getting the controversial boost, its whipped cream too.

It might look like a regular can of whipped cream, but if you take a closer look at the label, you’ll see why some university students are really buzzing about whipped lightning.

“I think it’s awesome, you can throw it on some Jell-O shots. It’d be fantastic,” UCF student Bo Frisby said.

The whipped treat comes in different flavors, and it’s infused with alcohol. The alcohol content is fairly high, 18 percent by volume, that’s more than three times the amount found in most beers.

Liquor stores around the UCF area said the new form of booze is flying off the shelves.

For what it’s worth, Cream Alcohol Infused Whipped Cream gets a good review from at least one website:

With this as background, my pretasting opinion of Cream was both very high (way to nail down a demographic and sell to it, dudes: The cans use a font that immediately calls to mind lube and/or a rave flier) and very low—once you’ve decided to sell alcoholic whipped cream to cretins for $10, you don’t really have to deliver on the flavor front.

And yet, shockingly, Cream delivers on the flavor front, at least in one variety. Of the three flavors sampled (chocolate, caramel, and cherry), chocolate seemed to make the most sense: The heavy cocoa bump it packed was a nice counterpart to the mild alcoholic burn. On top of ice cream, floating atop Kahlúa, with fruit, licked straight off a plate … this stuff is far better than you’d hope. It’s rich in flavor, fluffily creamy, neither soggy nor chemical as you might fear.

To me the packaging looks more like something I’d use to shave my legs …. it doesn’t look that appealing to me as a tasty treat.  But, what is the deal with hiding liquor in unrelated foods?  What’s next, bologna beer?