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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 03/02/2008 - 03/09/2008
Mandy: Great blog!
Mark: Thanks to all the contributors on this blog. When I want to get information on the events that really matter, I come here.
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nora kelly: I enjoy your site. Keep it up! I particularly like your insights on Latin America.
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"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it."
- Noam Chomsky
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Clinton/McCain ticket


if this presidential campaign is doing anything, it's revealing hillary's (and bill's) true colors... i'd never felt quite right about either one of them, but it was more of a gut feeling than anything based on a solid awareness of what was going on... whatever complacency and intellectual and emotional distance i previously had from our country's politics was shattered by the 2000 election, and, since then, i've been acutely aware of just how much the united states was sold down the river under eight years of the clinton administration... any doubts that remained have been thoroughly dispelled over the past year...

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Surveillance technology moving right along

a surveillance camera that can determine both age and gender...

are we feeling safe yet...?

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Dangerous cracks in the economy and Bush is smoking crack again

c'mon, house of cards, TOPPLE, WILL YA...?
Dangerous cracks appearing in job market

Dangerous cracks in the nation's job market are deepening. Employers slashed jobs by the largest amount in five years and hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the labor force — ominous signs that the country is falling toward a recession or has already toppled into one.

For the second straight month, nervous employers got rid of jobs nationwide. In February, they sliced payrolls by 63,000, even deeper than the 22,000 cut in January, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The grim snapshot of the country's employment climate underscored the heavy toll the housing and credit debacles are taking on companies, jobseekers and the economy as a whole.

"It sounds like the recession bell is ringing for the U.S. economy, although it is still faint," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

On Wall Street, stocks tumbled. The Dow Jones lost 146.70 points, a little more than 1 percent to close at 11,893.69. The Dow was down 370 for the last two days of the week.

The worsening situation will prompt the Federal Reserve to cut a key interest rate deeply — perhaps by as much as three-quarters of a percentage point — at its next meeting March 18, or possibly sooner, to help brace the teetering economy, analysts predicted.

The shower of pink slips was widespread. Factories, construction companies, mortgage brokers, real-estate firms, retailers, temporary-help firms, child day-care providers, hotels, educational services, accounting firms and computer designers were among those shedding jobs. All those cuts swamped job gains at hospitals and other health care sites, bars and restaurants, legal services and the government.

"Losing a job is painful, and I know Americans are concerned about our economy; so am I," said President Bush. "It's clear our economy has slowed."

ah, it's good to know the boy-king with the silver spoon in his mouth feels our pain...

and speaking of dangerous cracks...

Bush to veto waterboarding bill

President Bush is poised to veto legislation that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding — a technique that simulates drowning — and other harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects.

The president planned to talk about the veto in his Saturday radio address.

Bush has said the bill would harm the government's ability to prevent future attacks. Supporters of the legislation argue that it preserves the United States' right to collect critical intelligence while boosting the country's moral standing abroad.

"The bill would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror, the CIA program to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives," deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto said Friday.

The bill would restrict the CIA to using only the 19 interrogation techniques listed in the Army field manual.

The legislation would bar the CIA from using waterboarding, sensory deprivation or other coercive methods to break a prisoner who refuses to answer questions. Those practices were banned by the military in 2006, but the president wants the harsh interrogation methods to be a part of the CIA's toolbox.

it's also comforting to know that our president, the one who is tasked with stewarding our country's fundamental principles, is firmly going on the record in support of torture...

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Latin America shows the rest of us how it's done (as opposed to the way the U.S. would have liked it to turn out)

Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe (R)
and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
talk after they agreed to resolve the crisis
set off by an attack on a FARC guerrilla
camp inside Ecuadorian territory by the
Colombian armed forces last week at the
20th Group of Rio Summit in Santo
Domingo March 7, 2008.

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

the u.s. wanted a clear branding of the farc rebels as "terrorists," and for colombia to square off with ecuador and venezuela by insisting that, just like their patron, the united states, colombia would pursue "terrorists" wherever, whenever and however was necessary to annihilate them, even if it meant violating another country's sovereignty to do it... instead, the latin american countries decided to do it THEIR way with the result being that the farc rebels are now labeled as an "insurgency" rather than as "terrorists," colombia apologized to ecuador for violating its border and said it wouldn't follow through on its threat to seek genocide charges against venezuela at the hague, committed all the countries to work together to preserve national stability, and ended with the president of colombia and the president of ecuador shaking hands...

and THAT, folks, is how it's done...

South America moved away from talk of war as the presidents of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador agreed to end a bitter dispute triggered by a Colombian cross-border raid with testy handshakes and an apology.

After intense regional diplomacy and emotional debate, Latin American leaders Friday approved a declaration resolving to work for a peaceful end to the crisis, which saw Venezuela and Ecuador send troops to their borders and Colombia accuse its neighbors of backing leftist rebels seeking to topple its government.

The leaders at the summit in the Dominican Republic wasted little time in reversing their steps toward conflict.

Colombia pledged not to follow through on its threat to seek genocide charges against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at an international court for allegedly supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which finances its insurgency through kidnapping and the cocaine trade.

Nicaragua said it would restore diplomatic relations with Colombia, broken off only the day before. Chavez said trade with Colombia should "keep increasing," two days after saying he didn't want even "a grain of rice" from his neighbor.

"We're going to begin to de-escalate," Chavez said. "Hopefully this compromise will be honored so this never happens again."

The statement approved by the presidents notes that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe apologized for the March 1 raid inside Ecuadorean territory that killed 25 people including a senior rebel commander, and that he pledged not to violate another nation's sovereignty again.

But it also commits all the countries to fight threats to national stability from "irregular or criminal groups," a reference to Colombia's accusation that its two neighbors have ties to rebels.

latin american countries have their problems, no doubt about it, lots of them, in fact... but i've always maintained that, if they could just figure out how to work together, they would be an unstoppable global force with a tremendous potential for making a positive difference in the world...

what just took place in la republica dominicana is an event of truly historic proportions that should be held up as a model for what ought to be happening in the rest of the world, most notably in the near and middle east... i've never been prouder of being a part-time resident of latin america than i am today...

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Colbert: Democrats = "Donk-Qaeda"

there really isn't much left to do but to laugh... my tear ducts are plumb worn out...

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Employers dumping employees at a record rate - 63K jobs cut in Feb - and FRB considers a FULL POINT rate cut

oopsies... atrios wins again...
The economy unexpectedly shed 63,000 jobs in February, the government said on Friday, fueling fears of a recession as manufacturers and construction companies cut their work forces amid the continuing housing crisis.

It was the fastest fall-off in the labor market in five years, and the report raised anticipation on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates again later this month. Some investors are now predicting a more drastic cut of a full percentage point.


The private sector lost 101,000 jobs last month, the biggest drop-off in five years. Retail, construction and factory jobs were hit hardest.

if the fed cuts interest rates by a full point, it will be a sign to everyone that we are in ever so much more serious shit than we are being told, which, of course, anybody paying the slightest bit of attention has already figured out...

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In 2008, the informed U.S. voter needs to stay on top of the latest bullshit - REALLY!

from - where else? - the onion news network...

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Oferchrissake, NOW the FBI wants telecom immunity

i'd no sooner finished with the previous post than i ran across this totally self-serving piece about fbi director mueller recommending telecom immunity...
At the heart of President Bush's plea to give telecommunications companies legal immunity is the contention that these companies were merely being patriotic corporate citizens when they facilitated the warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

FBI Director Robert Mueller undercut that argument Wednesday, telling Congress that the 'good faith' argument should have nothing to do with whether or not they are let off the hook in dozens of pending court cases.

"I would focus more on the downsides, substantial downsides, of not providing retroactive immunity as being the principal rational of the legislation, providing immunity," Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

go back and re-read my previous post and then tell me if you don't think the fbi is making a big move to protect its OWN miserable, exposed ass...

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Wholesale FBI/NSA domestic information "vacuuming" - first Mark Klein, now Babak Pasdar

looks like we have another mark klein...
A U.S. government office in Quantico, Virginia, has direct, high-speed access to a major wireless carrier's systems, exposing customers' voice calls, data packets and physical movements to uncontrolled surveillance, according to a computer security consultant who says he worked for the carrier in late 2003.

"What I thought was alarming is how this carrier ended up essentially allowing a third party outside their organization to have unfettered access to their environment," Babak Pasdar, now CEO of New York-based Bat Blue told Threat Level. "I wanted to put some access controls around it; they vehemently denied it. And when I wanted to put some logging around it, they denied that."

Pasdar won't name the wireless carrier in question, but his claims are nearly identical to unsourced allegations made in a federal lawsuit filed in 2006 against four phone companies and the U.S. government for alleged privacy violations. That suit names Verizon Wireless as the culprit.

Pasdar has executed a seven-page affidavit for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project in Washington, which on Tuesday began circulating the document (.pdf), along with talking points (.doc), to congressional staffers hashing out a Republican proposal to grant retroactive legal immunity to phone companies who cooperated in the warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

According to his affidavit, Pasdar tumbled to the surveillance superhighway in September 2003, when he led a "Rapid Deployment" team hired to revamp security on the carrier's internal network. He noticed that the carrier's officials got squirrelly when he asked about a mysterious "Quantico Circuit" -- a 45 megabit/second DS-3 line linking its most sensitive network to an unnamed third party.

thanks babak... great info...

and, of course, we remember mark klein, don't we...?

What I observed first-hand:

In 2002, when I was working in an AT&T office in San Francisco, the site manager told me to expect a visit from a National Security Agency agent, who was to interview a management-level technician for a special job. The agent came, and by chance I met him and directed him to the appropriate people.

In January 2003, I, along with others, toured the AT&T central office on Folsom Street in San Francisco -- actually three floors of an SBC building. There I saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public's phone calls are routed. I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room. The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room.

In October 2003, the company transferred me to the San Francisco building to oversee the Worldnet Internet room, which included large routers, racks of modems for customers' dial-in services, and other equipment. I was responsible for troubleshooting problems on the fiber optic circuits and installing new circuits.

While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal. I saw this in a design document available to me, entitled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco" dated Dec. 10, 2002. I also saw design documents dated Jan. 13, 2004 and Jan. 24, 2003, which instructed technicians on connecting some of the already in-service circuits to the "splitter" cabinet, which diverts some of the light signal to the secret room. The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect Worldnet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world.

One of the documents listed the equipment installed in the secret room, and this list included a Narus STA 6400, which is a "Semantic Traffic Analyzer". The Narus STA technology is known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets. The company's advertising boasts that its technology "captures comprehensive customer usage data ... and transforms it into actionable information.... (It) provides complete visibility for all internet applications."

My job required me to connect new circuits to the "splitter" cabinet and get them up and running. While working on a particularly difficult one with a technician back East, I learned that other such "splitter" cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

What is the significance and why is it important to bring these facts to light?

Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.

no WONDER the bushies want to shut down those pesky lawsuits by giving the telecoms immunity... the discovery information might just end up confirming what we all already know...

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U.S. - they love me, they love me not

why is it that damn near every country the united states cozies up to, goes to war with, takes over, or demonizes either has vast energy and mineral resources, is a narco-state or both...?


afghanistan (drugs)
brazil (energy)
canada (energy, minerals)
chile (minerals)
colombia (drugs)
iraq (energy, drugs)
kosovo (drugs)
kuwait (energy)
pakistan (energy, drugs)
peru (energy, minerals, drugs)
saudi arabia (energy)
tajikistan (energy)
united arab emirates (energy)
uzbekistan (energy)


bolivia (energy, minerals, drugs)
ecuador (energy, drugs)
iran (energy, minerals, drugs)
mexico (energy, drugs)
syria (energy, drugs)
venezuela (energy)

quite frankly, i don't know where to stick china, israel, north korea, and russia...

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Batten down the hatches, Ma, there's COMMIES on the doorstep...!

together with


i notice that almost all the propaganda talking points i called attention to yesterday about the potential brouhaha in latin america have been recycled in today's "news" stories, so i'll only bother to post this little, clearly propagandistic EXPANSION of the circle of evildoers that surround arch-fiend, hugo chávez...
Colombia takes more heat from Latin America left

Latin America's leftist leaders heaped more criticism on Colombia, leaving it increasingly isolated on Thursday in a crisis that has threatened political stability in the Andes.

Colombia, the United States' closest ally in South America, set off a major diplomatic crisis on Saturday when its army crossed into Ecuador to kill Colombian Marxist guerrillas just across the border.

OPEC oil exporters and leftist allies Venezuela and Ecuador reacted by cutting off diplomatic relations, moving troops to their borders with Colombia and lambasting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who receives billions of dollars in military aid from the United States.

ain't it interesting...? up until this little kerfuffle, latin american leaders (with the exception of chávez of course) were being called "center-left" or "populist"... suddenly, with the possibility of war stirring the quivering, testosterone-engorged male organs of the neocons and the captains of the industrial war machine, they turn into full-blown "LEFTISTS"... katie, bar the door...! get the children to a safe place, ma...! THERE'S A STORM A'COMIN'...!

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Oil, money and obscenity

OPEC Says Members Won't Pump More Oil
As Crude Price Sets Record, Cartel's Intent Is Questioned

Though OPEC's production decision was widely expected, Naimi's comments and the wording of the group's communique added to concern that OPEC is more worried about pumping too much oil for weakening economies than it is about the possible harm that high oil prices might do to those economies.

In its statement after the meeting in Vienna, OPEC pointed to "the economic slowdown in the U.S.A., which, together with the deepening credit crisis in financial markets, is increasing the downside risks for world economic growth and, consequently, demand for crude oil."

yeah, they're worried about declining revenue... gosh, i would be too if it meant i'd have to forego goodies like this...

Make and Model: Bugatti Veyron
Owner: Sheikh Mohammad's Son, Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum
Cost: $GBP5M/$USD10M
Location, Dubai, UAE
Engine: V16 engine, 1000bhp, 10 radiators
Top speed: 407km/hr

taking obscenity to undreamed-of heights...

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With the police state literally biting them in the ass, the WaPo pretends all is well

once again, the wapo eschews context, a shame really, since all it would have taken is to link up a page one story and a page two story from today's edition with a page one story from december...

page one today...

National Dragnet Is a Click Away
Authorities to Gain Fast and Expansive Access to Records

Several thousand law enforcement agencies are creating the foundation of a domestic intelligence system through computer networks that analyze vast amounts of police information to fight crime and root out terror plots.


Those network efforts will begin expanding further this month, as some local and state agencies connect to a fledgling Justice Department system called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx.


[T]he Tucson police department [is] one of almost 1,600 law enforcement agencies that uses a commercial data-mining system called Coplink.

With Coplink, police investigators can pinpoint suspects by searching on scraps of information such as nicknames, height, weight, color of hair and the placement of a tattoo. They can find hidden relationships among suspects and instantly map links among people, places and events. Searches that might have taken weeks or months -- or which might not have been attempted, because of the amount of paper and analysis involved -- are now done in seconds.

page two today...
FBI Chief Confirms Misuse of Subpoenas
Security Letters Used to Get Personal Data

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told senators yesterday that agents improperly used a type of administrative subpoena to obtain personal data about Americans until internal reforms were enacted last year.


Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reported a year ago that the FBI used such letters -- which are not subject to a court's review -- to improperly obtain telephone logs, banking records and other personal records of thousands of Americans from 2003 to 2005. An internal FBI audit also found that the bureau potentially violated laws or agency rules more than 1,000 times in such cases.

page one from december 22...
FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics
$1 Billion Project to Include Images of Irises and Faces

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement [in Clarksburg, West Virginia].


[I]n the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

now see, that wasn't so hard, was it...? the overlapping is beyond obvious, and i didn't have to do anything more than excerpt from three of the wapo's own stories...

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The classic Bush m.o. - shitcan anybody who disagrees with you

cuz you can't tolerate anybody but yes-men and sycophants around you...
President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as [head of U. S. Central Command, Admiral William "Fox" Fallon] does, and the president may have had enough.

Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon's statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.

Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon's caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don't want a commander standing in their way.

there have been myriad predictions that bush has every intention of attacking iran before he leaves office... this is just more fodder for that story...

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McCain McSame

it pains me to give mcdonalds any free exposure even as oblique as this, but it's still worth posting, particularly after today's endorsement...

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Join me and Brother Tim tomorrow for the And, yes, I DO take it personally radio show

join me, raphael, and brother tim tomorrow, live, for 30 minutes of the "And, yes, I DO take it personally" radio show on blog talk radio, starting at 8 a.m. PST, 11 a.m. EST, 2 p.m. ART (Argentina Regional Time) and 6 p.m. GMT... we'll be kicking around the issues of the day and also hear from a few callers... feel free to call in at 646 200 0056, or +1 646 200 0056 from outside the u.s... we'll have the chat window open if you don't want to use up your long distance minutes or think you might have a little stage fright... in any case, stop by... we don't bite... we promise...!

the above link will take you to the show's page on blog talk radio where you can also listen to all the archived broadcasts or find other great listening material on every conceivable subject...

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Is the U.S. using Colombia to instigate a new proxy war in Latin America?

i've been following the colombia, ecuador and venezuela story which, btw, is one hell of a lot bigger story here in latin america than it is in the u.s...

most americans are unaware of just how much u.s. money goes into colombia, so much, in fact, that it can, for all practical purposes, be considered a client state of the u.s... for starters, check this graphic from today's edition of the argentine newspaper, la nacion that compares the armed forces of the three countries, something you likely won't see in the u.s. media... rest assured those sizable military assets in colombia are heavily subsidized by the u.s...

(Click on graphic for scalable version)

so, if i'm right, and the u.s. is indeed setting things up for a war by proxy between colombia and venezuela, let's see what's being tossed out there by way of inflammatory propaganda...

let's move right into high gear with the title and teaser of an editorial in today's wapo (where else?)...

Allies of Terrorism

The presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador are revealed as backers of the criminals who fight Colombia's democracy.

but wait... it gets better...

the ap from yesterday...

Colombia: Rebels considering dirty bombs

Colombia's vice president on Tuesday defended his country's attack on a rebel base on Ecuadorean soil, telling a U.N. disarmament panel that the leftist guerrillas were trying to acquire radioactive material that could be used to make "dirty bombs."

Vice President Francisco Santos said evidence in two computers found after the attack indicated rebels trying to acquire radioactive material — "the primary basis for generating dirty weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."

got your adrenaline pumping yet...?

still more...

Colombia seeks criminal charges against Chavez

President Alvaro Uribe said today that his government would ask the International Criminal Court to try Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez for financing and supporting Colombia’s main rebel group.

The Uribe government claims documents found in the laptop of a slain commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia indicate Chavez’s government recently gave $300 million to the group known as the FARC.

The United States and the European Union classify the FARC as an international terrorist organization.

and, of course, the bush administration, always eager to take down anybody who doesn't toe the line of united states global hegemony (read: hugo chávez), trots out george to make sure everybody knows how strongly the u.s. backs colombia (read: wants a free trade agreement)...
Statement by the President on Colombia

THE PRESIDENT: This morning I spoke to President Uribe of Colombia. He updated me on the situation in his country, including the continuing assault by narco-terrorists, as well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela.

I told the President that America fully supports Colombia's democracy, and that we firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region. I told him that America will continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence and terror and fights drug traffickers.

President Uribe told me that one of the most important ways America can demonstrate its support for Colombia is by moving forward with a free trade agreement that we negotiated. The free trade agreement will show the Colombian people that democracy and free enterprise lead to a better life. It will help President Uribe counter the radical vision of those who are seeking to undermine democracy and create divisions within our hemisphere.

meanwhile, you have to travel all the way across the u.s. to find something that even faintly resembles genuine news reporting about what's REALLY going on here in latin america...

from the la times...

Neighbors take aim at Colombia over incursion

An increasingly isolated Colombia came under heavy criticism from its neighbors at an emergency Organization of American States session Tuesday for killing a top Colombian rebel leader in Ecuador last weekend.

A sense of crisis has enveloped the region as diplomats worked to avoid an armed conflict that could be devastating to a continent that has successfully transitioned into a mostly democratic region after the military juntas and "dirty wars" of the 1970s and 1980s.

Virtually all South American nations, though urging patience, have denounced the cross-border attack that killed Raul Reyes, the No. 2 commander of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

yes, that's right, folks... the countries of latin america are united in their opposition to colombia's action... but, naturally, the lone voice of support at the oas meeting was ----- well, golly ----- the u.s...
One of Colombia's few backers at the OAS meeting was acting U.S. representative J. Robert Manzanares, who said the Colombian troops ordered into Ecuador had a right to "pursue this terrorist menace."

something else unreported by u.s. media is that argentina's president, cristina fernandez de kirchner, is flying to caracas this afternoon to hold a long-scheduled meeting with chávez to sign a broad agreement exchanging argentine food for venezuelan energy... however, the tension in the region, understandably, is adding a new twist to the meeting...

from an article in today's mercopress...

CK calls for peace and confirms planned Venezuela trip
[CK = Cristina Kirchner]


“There are no changes to the presidential trip to Caracas on Wednesday”, said Casa Rosada [Casa Rosada is the Argentine equivalent of the U.S. White House] sources quoted by the Buenos Aires press.

Argentine analysts don’t discard last minute changes given the rapidly escalating military tension and accusations between the three countries involved.

here's the REALLY interesting part of the above article, information almost guaranteed NOT to be reported in u.s. media...
Argentine government officials revealed that Mrs. Kirchner talked to Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Brazil’s Lula da Silva, among others, trying to cool the situation and in search of a regional diplomatic stance to find a solution.

Apparently following on Brazil’s suggestion, the conflict should not leave the region, should avoid the UN and most important keep down the incidence of United States. The Brazilian president foreign affairs advisor Marcos Aurelio said that the “best way” to solve the crisis is in a “South American environment” and anticipated Brasilia would seek support from Argentina and Chile to join the group of countries interested in “a maximum reduction of tension”, and leaving aside “partners” from outside the region.

translation: dear george... keep your nose the hell out...

my assessment is, given the heavy use of the "terrorism" talking point, the accusations of wmd and genocide, the call to protect "democracy," and the fact that george and the neocons can't seem to get the iran war off the ground, our war-mongering leaders have decided to open up another front, using colombia as a lever to go after two more energy-rich opec countries, both of whom have been telling the u.s. where we can stick it...

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REAL U.S. citizens know and support the U.S. CONSTITUTION

yeah, i know... a radical concept...

scott ritter speaks in new orleans, via brasscheck tv...

it's all about CITIZENSHIP, people...!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The REAL reason why the telcos don't care about immunity and Bush DOES...?

kevin drum offers up blogger bmaz' thoughts about why...
[T]he reason the telcos don't care all that much about the lawsuits being pursued against them is because they almost certainly signed indemnification agreements with the feds back in 2001. Such agreements would force the federal government to pay any legal judgments awarded in suits against the telcos:

It is my contention that the telcos have just such indemnification agreements with the Administration/government, that we do not know about because they are classified and hidden, that so protect them for any liability and losses resulting from the litigation they are faced with; thus they do not need immunity to protect them from potential liability verdicts, they are already covered....As someone that has had dealings with such entities regarding bad/illegal wiretaps, I can attest that they always protect themselves vis a vis the governmental entity they are working for and are not shy about the use of indemnity provisions.

In email, bmaz put it to me even more strongly: "The general counsels and legal departments of telcos are extremely accomplished and always protect their company's interests meticulously. They have been dealing with wiretapping and surveillance agreements with the government and law enforcement for over seven decades, this was not a matter of first impression to them; and in difficult and unique cases, I have never seen them not insist on indemnification. Never."

In the Washington Post today, Dan Eggen and Ellen Nakashima talk to some of the people behind the telco suits, and they don't seem to think that potential payouts are the issue either — which is why the telcos are remaining fairly low key about the whole thing. Rather, it's the Bush administration that wants immunity, and they want it because they're trying to keep the scope of their wiretapping programs secret:

"I think the administration would be very loath for folks to realize that ordinary people were being surveilled," said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the lead lawsuit, against AT&T.

....Peter Eliasberg, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney involved in cases against AT&T and Verizon, said that if the cases proceed, the plaintiffs could submit an interrogatory to the carriers seeking answers to the questions: Did you turn over customer phone records en masse to the government? Did you receive a warrant or a subpoena?

Answers to those questions, he said, might reveal that "everybody in the country" has had their phone calls "combed through, and lots of people will be outraged."

Obviously some of this stuff is guesswork, though pretty well-founded guesswork, and bmaz suggests that the press ought to show some interest in the possible existence of indemnification agreements. I agree. If they exist, it would mean the telcos have never been exposed in any way, and immunity would have no effect on their willingness to cooperate with the government in the future. It would also explain why the Bush administration was able to keep the telcos on board so easily even after the Protect America Act expired three weeks ago. Indemnification might be a good subject for some enterprising national security journalist to start prying into.

fits nicely, doesn't it...? maybe we could get some in-depth info on this before congress takes another shit on the constitution...?

(thanks to smithintheus at daily kos...)

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New rules for major disasters in California pretty much spell out who lives and who dies

here's something to add a cold chill to your day...
[W]hen and if a global pandemic or major disaster strikes, no amount of extra drugs or supplies will be sufficient to manage the impact on an already strained health care system.

That's why the state assembled public health professionals, hospitals, ethicists, nurses and others to hash out guidelines for procedures they hope will minimize red tape and maximize survival rates.

The plan lists, for example, which responsibilities and patient protections can be waived if the governor declares a state of emergency.

Hospitals will not have to report births, deaths, infectious disease outbreaks, medication errors, and suspected child or elder abuse. Existing rules that protect patients' privacy also can be tossed out.


The guidelines say California's strict nurse-patient ratios can be ignored, and nurses can be assigned to jobs for which they have no experience.


During a health care surge, even nonlicensed, or retired health care providers whose licenses have lapsed, will be recruited to provide emergency care.


A hospital janitor, for example, could get an emergency credential to stitch up wounds or start intravenous lines if that janitor had experience as a military medic.

[A] volunteer veterinarian could be asked to mend broken bones, stanch bleeding or jump-start a patient's heart.


It also means that a pharmacist will be able to dole out drugs even without a doctor's prescription.


The plan will allow hospitals to empty beds for higher priority patients, sending ill patients into hallways, make-shift hospitals in tents, nursing homes or even back home.


[I]nstead of starting with the sickest or most critically injured, treatment will go first to those more likely to survive with immediate intervention.

now, this is what they SAY about ability to pay...
The plan emphasizes that treatment decisions must not be based on a patient's ability to pay for care, their perceived worth to society, or whether their past behaviors contributed to their health status.

you can be sure that many of the wealthy elites who have ALREADY set up their own private lifelines for fire protection, health care, security, food, and emergency transportation, won't find this in the least bit disturbing...

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"The US Congress cannot conspire in Bush's destruction of US civil liberty and expect a future restoration of civil liberty"

paul craig roberts articulates the precise issue that bothers me the most about the serial capitulation of our congress, unfolding once again as we watch, aghast...
No matter who is the next president, the Bush Regime has established that the executive branch is no longer a co-equal branch of government. It is the primary branch, armed with unaccountability and the discretion to consult with other branches of government if it so wishes. The US Congress cannot give up the powers it has given up during the Bush years and ever expect to get them back.

The US Congress cannot conspire in Bush's destruction of US civil liberty and expect a future restoration of civil liberty.

Republican federal judges who have aided and abetted the rise of an executive branch dictatorship cannot expect the judiciary to continue as a check on the unconstitutional and illegal behavior of the executive branch.

The Bush Regime, with the complicity of Congress and the judiciary, has destroyed the American constitutional system.


In the November 2006 congressional elections, voters gave Democrats control of Congress in order to rein in the Republican administration, but by then Congress had been reduced to an impotent branch of government and has proven to be incapable of reining in even an unpopular president with a 19% approval rating.

If a Regime that has come to be despised and deplored by a majority of Americans and the world can ride roughshod over law and the Constitution, constitutional government obviously has no future in America.


The only power the House has left is impeachment, and Pelosi is too frightened to use it. Why is the Speaker of the House afraid to use the power the Constitution gives her to remove from office a president who deceived Congress and the American people, who violated US and international law, and who is a clear and present danger to American liberty, to the US Constitution, and to peace and stability in the world?

good question... i'm torn between two possible answers... one is, yes, congress is frightened because something big enough and dark enough is being held over their heads that effectively prevents them from fulfilling their oath of office... the other is simply that they are co-conspirators, that they are getting something for themselves out of this horrible, country-destroying charade...

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"Because executive privilege is also a law, it's sometimes necessary to violate the law in order to uphold the law"

jonathan turley describes the catch-22 of the bush administration, perfected by its newest criminal cabinet member, michael mukasey...
In his twisting of legal principles, the attorney general has succeeded in creating a perfect paradox. Under Mukasey's Paradox, lawyers cannot commit crimes when they act under the orders of a president -- and a president cannot commit a crime when he acts under advice of lawyers.


Mukasey's Paradox appears designed to play tricks with Congress. Its origins date back to Mukasey's confirmation hearings, when he first denied knowing what waterboarding was and then (when it was defined for him) refused to recognize it as torture. In fact, it is not only a crime under U.S. law, it is a well-defined war crime under international law.

The problem for Mukasey was that if he admitted waterboarding was a crime, then it was a crime that had been authorized by the president of the United States -- an admission that would trigger calls for both a criminal investigation and impeachment. Mukasey's confirmation was facing imminent defeat over his refusal to answer the question when Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suddenly rescued him, guaranteeing that he would not have to answer it.

Once in office, Mukasey still had the nasty problem of a secret torture program that was now hiding in plain view. Asked to order a criminal investigation of the program, Mukasey refused. His rationale left many lawyers gasping: Any torture that occurred was done on the advice of counsel and therefore, while they may have been wrong, it could not have been a crime for CIA interrogators or, presumably, the president. If this sounds ludicrous, it is. Under that logic, any president can simply surround himself with extremist or collusive lawyers and instantly decriminalize any crime.


When reduced to its purest form, Mukasey's Paradox is that government officials cannot violate the law -- but that because executive privilege is also a law, it's sometimes necessary to violate the law in order to uphold the law.


Consider that Mukasey took an oath under which he swore to uphold the laws of this country -- even if the violator is the president of the United States or his aides. That oath means that all laws must be upheld without exception. Except, according to his interpretation, that executive power is a form of constitutional law that creates exceptions to the enforcement of laws.

all of which only serves to tell us what we already knew, that, for george bush and his merry band of outlaws, the rule of law is only a subject for the history books...

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Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm John McCain and I approved this message... Grrrrrrrr...

one ad, three candidates...

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American values ... rejected by the U.S. government and by U.S. elites

The United States has become increasingly the most feared and often hated country in the world. Well, that perception is in fact incorrect. It's fed by propaganda. There's very little dislike of Americans in the world, shown by repeated polls, and the dissatisfaction -- that is, the hatred and the anger -- they come from acceptance of American values, not a rejection of them, and recognition that they're rejected by the US government and by US elites, which does lead to hatred and anger.

my experience is that there is VERY little dislike of americans in the world... the only time i have seen dislike or hostility expressed is toward our government or toward those who make a big deal out of proclaiming that our government can do no wrong...

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Bill Moyers Journal: Rick Karr on Government Secrecy

highly recommended...

Clicking on image or here takes you to
Bill Moyers Journal and the website for
the video

(thanks to co-blogger, jburke...)

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson's credibility just went directly down the toilet

it's funny how a well-written, highly articulate, passionately-written, filthy smear can thoroughly trash my impression of someone...

it's long, so i'll just give you the bottom line... i don't want to excerpt any more than i have to...

It is hard to discern whether Senator Obama is a man of principle, but it is clear that he is not a man of substance. And that judgment, based on his hollow record, is inescapable.


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did ANYONE ANYWHERE entertain anything but the most psychotic delusion that this wouldn't happen...?
Lawmakers may consider a compromise bill that would renew the law, which expired last month, and possibly grant some sort of protection to phone companies from lawsuits. But it would differ from a Senate-passed measure backed by the White House that would provide blanket immunity.

"We think we're very close. Probably within the next week, we'll be able to hopefully bring it to a vote," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes of Texas said of efforts to craft and pass such legislation.


Reyes said House Democrats were now reviewing confidential U.S. documents they received in recent weeks about the warrantless electronic surveillance program and were talking with phone companies.

Consequently, Reyes said he now had an "open mind" on whether to shield companies from lawsuits.

keee-f'ing-rist... is there even one of the s.o.b.'s that takes their goddam oath of office seriously...? the country they're screwing with belongs to ME TOO...!

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Still more on the CIA "black site" at Diego Garcia

i've had two posts on diego garcia over the past five months, one in october and the second just last month...

here's more, as the truth slowly trickles out...

Britain's denials that its territories have been used for 'extraordinary rendition' were dramatically undermined last night after the United Nations claimed that Diego Garcia has been used as a detention centre to hold US suspects.

Manfred Novak, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, who is charged with investigating human rights abuses, said he had received credible evidence from well-placed sources familiar with the situation on the island that detainees were held on Diego Garcia between 2002 and 2003.

Novak pledged he would consider a request by the UK government to share his information. 'I spoke to my sources on condition of anonymity and it would take time to trace them; I couldn't do it [brief the UK government] without the explicit authorisation of these people,' Novak said. 'But under this caveat, I could share more information.'

Novak said he had spoken to people who had been held on the atoll, situated in the Indian Ocean and home to a large US naval base. They had been treated well in comparison with the regime some endured at places such as Guantánamo Bay. 'There were only a few of them and they were not held for a long time,' he said.

In 2004, the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, confirmed to parliament that there was a detention centre on Diego Garcia. Planning documents show it was 'upgraded' in December 2001. Ships operating offshore have also been used as floating 'black sites' to hold detainees, according to human rights groups.

eventually, i suppose, we will find out where all of the cia black sites are located...

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The Patriot Act nightmare continues for an innocent man

i posted about this in early january...
read this from the miami herald, a story i was pointed to by emptywheel... not only will it perfectly illustrate the degree to which our country is now behaving like a rogue police state, it will also chill you to the bone... sure, you may say, the government MUST have SOME reason for doing this, right...? RIGHT...?
Lyglenson Lemorin, acquitted of terrorism charges last week in federal court in Miami, is still a guilty man in the eyes of the U.S. government.

Lemorin, 32, a lawful U.S. resident, remains behind bars -- far from his Miami family -- in the tiny town of Lumpkin, Ga., a deportation center 150 miles south of Atlanta.


Immigration experts said that under the USA Patriot Act, adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a lawful U.S. resident such as Lemorin may still be locked up and possibly deported on terrorism-related charges -- even if they cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in federal court.

the nightmare continues, although NOW they're not using the patriot act as a legal basis...
Legally, there is nothing to bar the government from pursuing immigration sanctions against Lemorin, experts said, though such action is rare after an acquittal. The immigration charges are a civil matter, and a judge will apply a less strict standard of evidence to the charges that were brought at the criminal trial.


David A. Martin, a University of Virginia law professor who served as general counsel at the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the late 1990s, said that "the government is perfectly within its legal rights to go ahead in two different forums even after they've lost in one." He added, "Whether it's a sound use of prosecutorial authority is a much tougher question."

however, what i said in january still applies...
the strategy is clear... build a base of precedent on the backs of those who have no way to defend themselves, and, even if the justice system demurs, fall back on unconstitutional laws [and obscure regulations] to insure that the emerging police state isn't obstructed... when there's enough precedent established, you and i are next in line...

it's all about instilling fear...

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No capitulation and no covering Bush's ass with retroactive immunity for the telecoms

amazingly enough, the wapo is offering a small ray of daylight, albeit on page 7...
[I]n the bitter Washington dispute over whether to give the companies legal immunity, there is one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration's surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.

Nearly 40 lawsuits, consolidated into five groups, are pending before a San Francisco judge. The various plaintiffs, a mix of nonprofit civil liberties advocates and private attorneys, are seeking to prove that the Bush administration engaged in illegal massive surveillance of Americans' e-mails and phone calls after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and to show that major phone companies illegally aided the surveillance, including the disclosure of customers' call records.

If the cases are allowed to proceed, plaintiffs' attorneys say, the courts could review, in secret if necessary, any government authorizations for the surveillance. The process might also force the disclosure of government memos, contracts and other documents to a judge, outlining the legal reasoning behind the warrantless wiretapping program.

Perhaps most important, disclosures in the lawsuits could clarify the scope of the government's surveillance and establish whether, as the plaintiffs allege, it involved the massive interception of purely domestic communications with the help of the nation's largest providers: AT&T, Cingular Wireless, BellSouth, Sprint and MCI/Verizon. (Verizon Communications bought MCI in 2006.)

yeah, those would be SENSITIVE, all right... DAMN SENSITIVE... so SENSITIVE, in fact, that the collective hind-ends of the bush administration criminals could potentially be locked up for a long, long time...

dday from daily kos...

[T]here's only one constituency for which this legislation is designed. And that's the Bush Administration itself. As Glenn Greenwald noted the other day, it's not like this is even well hidden.

In his Press Conference yesterday, Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush candidly explained why he was so eager to have Congress grant amnesty to telecoms:

"Allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies, because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance." [...]

Bush is finally being candid about the real reason the administration is so desperate to have these surveillance lawsuits dismissed. It's because those lawsuits are the absolute last hope for ever learning what the administration did when they spied on Americans for years in violation of the law. Dismissal via amnesty would ensure that their spying behavior stays permanently concealed, buried forever, and as importantly, that no court ever rules on the legality of what they did. Isn't it striking how that implication of telecom amnesty is never discussed, and how little interest it generates among journalists -- whose role, theoretically, is to uncover secret government actions?

That's all this is about. The telecoms don't want the amnesty. The overriding goal is to shut down these lawsuits and, most important, eliminate the discovery phase so that the full extent of Administration lawbreaking is permanently hidden. This is about burying the evidence, as every single action by the White House since the Democratic takeover of Congress has been. Bush may have a soft spot in his heart for his corporate buddies, but he's really not interested in indemnifying them. He's interested in immunity for himself.

As the Democratic leadership in the Congress floats trial balloons about capitulating on this bill, it's important to keep this end goal in mind. Official Washington really doesn't want to reveal a lot of its secrets. Immunity has a certain pull for the Democrats as well, particularly those who were briefed about the program, even in part. They either made no objection or failed to ask the proper questions or in some way became complicit to this lawbreaking that has occurred for almost SEVEN YEARS now, and if the truth ever came out, my guess is that nobody would come out looking so noble.

that last statement is certainly an understatement... criminal prosecution is highly IGNOBLE and it's no surprise that the bushies would like to forestall that event once 20 january 2009 has come and gone...

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