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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/20/2008 - 04/27/2008
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Earthquakes in northern Nevada

from my son's email on friday morning about what's been happening in reno...
[We] had two (4 total, only felt 2) fairly big quakes yesterday 4.2 & 3.8, rocked the hospital at about 3:45 and 3:55. There was another about 6 pm and 1 am this morning but I didn’t feel those. If you go on to the USGS web site, you will have to do some poking around but you can see that we actually have been having up to as many as 50 small quakes a day in the area for the past couple of weeks. Those were the first quakes [my wife] and I had been in so they were both fun and scary at the same time.

this greeted me this morning on yahoo news...
Scientists urged residents of northern Nevada's largest city to prepare for a bigger event as the area continued rumbling Saturday after the largest earthquake in a two-month-long series of temblors.

More than 100 aftershocks were recorded on the western edge of the city after a magnitude 4.7 quake hit Friday night, the strongest quake around Reno since one measuring 5.2 in 1953, said researchers at the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The latest quake swept store shelves clean, cracked walls in homes and dislodged rocks on hillsides, but there were no reports of injuries or widespread major damage.

Seismologists said the recent activity is unusual because the quakes started out small and continue to build in strength. The normal pattern is for a main quake followed by smaller aftershocks.

"A magnitude 6 quake wouldn't be a scientific surprise," John Anderson, director of the seismological lab, said Saturday. "We certainly hope residents are taking the threat seriously after last night."

here's the usgs earthquake chart for the past 2 1/2 hours, all of them in the reno area...
MAP 3.1 2008/04/26 20:56:00 38.538N 117.217W 0.0 52 km (32 mi) N of Tonopah, NV
map 0.7 2008/04/26 20:46:43 39.550N 119.939W 4.0 4 km ( 3 mi) NNE of Verdi-Mogul, NV
map 1.7 2008/04/26 20:43:07 37.781N 122.199W 9.5 3 km ( 2 mi) ESE of Oakland, CA
map 1.5 2008/04/26 20:37:26 37.568N 118.867W 8.4 12 km ( 8 mi) SE of Mammoth Lakes, CA
map 1.0 2008/04/26 20:36:56 38.848N 122.773W 1.4 5 km ( 3 mi) WNW of Cobb, CA
map 1.4 2008/04/26 20:36:46 39.530N 119.886W 8.0 6 km ( 3 mi) W of Reno, NV
map 0.7 2008/04/26 20:33:51 39.509N 119.938W 0.0 2 km ( 1 mi) ESE of Verdi-Mogul, NV
map 0.8 2008/04/26 20:18:57 39.491N 119.859W 0.0 5 km ( 3 mi) SW of Reno, NV
map 0.7 2008/04/26 19:55:35 39.530N 119.886W 0.0 6 km ( 3 mi) W of Reno, NV
map 1.4 2008/04/26 19:36:25 32.637N 116.040W 10.5 12 km ( 7 mi) SSW of Ocotillo, CA
map 1.7 2008/04/26 19:35:04 39.551N 119.835W 8.0 3 km ( 2 mi) NNW of Reno, NV
map 1.1 2008/04/26 19:27:51 39.510N 119.886W 0.0 6 km ( 4 mi) WSW of Reno, NV
map 1.0 2008/04/26 19:09:04 39.510N 119.912W 4.0 4 km ( 2 mi) E of Verdi-Mogul, NV
map 0.6 2008/04/26 19:06:24 39.550N 119.939W 0.0 4 km ( 3 mi) NNE of Verdi-Mogul, NV
map 0.5 2008/04/26 18:47:10 39.510N 119.886W 0.0 6 km ( 4 mi) WSW of Reno, NV
MAP 3.0 2008/04/26 18:37:55 39.901N 115.707W 16.0 48 km (30 mi) NNE of Eureka, NV

it was only a little less than two months ago that the 6.0 quake hit wells in northeastern nevada...
The quakes around Reno began a week after a magnitude 6 temblor in the northern Nevada town of Wells, near the Utah border.

"around reno" is a relative term, given that wells is nearly 400 miles away...

ah, well... something to look forward to when i get back there in early june...

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What's the matter with Afghanistan?

this nyt article about afghanistan president hamid karzai's speech yesterday gives me the opportunity to say something i've been wanting to say for the past several weeks...

read the excerpt first...

President Hamid Karzai strongly criticized the British and American conduct of the war here on Friday, insisting in an interview that his government be given the lead in policy decisions.

Mr. Karzai said that he wanted American forces to stop arresting suspected Taliban and their sympathizers, and that the continued threat of arrest and past mistreatment were discouraging Taliban from coming forward to lay down their arms.

He criticized the American-led coalition as prosecuting the war on terrorism in Afghan villages, saying the real terrorist threat lay in sanctuaries of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The president said that civilian casualties, which have dropped substantially since last year, needed to cease completely. For nearly two years the American-led coalition has refused to recognize the need to create a trained police force, he said, leading to a critical lack of law and order.

The comments came as Mr. Karzai is starting to point toward re-election next year, after six years in office, and may be part of a political calculus to appear more assertive in his dealings with foreign powers as opponents line up to challenge him.

But they also follow a serious dip in his relations with some of the countries contributing to the NATO-led security force and the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and indicate that as the insurgency has escalated, so, too, has the chafing among allies.

Complaints have been rising for months among diplomats and visiting foreign officials about what is seen as Mr. Karzai’s weak leadership, in particular his inability to curb narcotics trafficking and to remove ineffective or corrupt officials. Some diplomats have even expressed dismay that, for lack of an alternative, the country and its donors may face another five years of poor management by Mr. Karzai.

it's interesting that the writer points out that karzai is looking toward next year's elections but she fails to mention that his speech was given yesterday, two days before afghanistan national independence day... i wouldn't have known about it if i didn't happen to be here, but, then again, i'm not a "journalist" for the nyt either...

ever since i arrived here in kabul a month ago, i've been soaking up sights, conversations and observations just as fast as i can... whenever i'm in a new place, i immediately become a sponge and my learning curve goes up exponentially... then, when i've got enough raw material, i begin processing what i'm experiencing...

this is the first serious conflict/war zone i've been in since i arrived in vietnam forty years ago this coming july... before i got here, i was intensely curious to see what had changed about the dynamics of being in a hostile area in the intervening time and what remained the same... interestingly enough, my curiosity in that waned immediately upon my arrival and was replaced by something altogether different...

from the time i emerged from immigration and customs at kabul international airport and was driven in to town, i've been struck by just how virtually nonexistent the basic infrastructure is in the city... (i haven't been outside of kabul, so, right now, that's my only point of reference...) roads are shit... water and sewer is shit... the kabul river that flows through town is nothing but a sewage canal cum garbage dump with stone wall embankments... municipally-supplied electric power is spotty at best, most everybody has a back-up diesel electric power generator and most of the compounds housing internationals are powered exclusively by generators...

landline telephone service is a joke... there are 4-5 cellphone providers and they have done a relatively decent job of blanketing the country with service... thank god, because, without them, telephone communication wouldn't exist... internet service is provided by satellite downlink providers who beam service via microwave to those who can afford their usurious rates... needless to say, international organizations are paying through the nose... i know internet cafes are relatively plentiful but, because i'm not allowed to get out and about without an armed escort, i can't speak to that first-hand...

the pollution is ghastly, combining the exhaust of dense traffic with dust from mostly unpaved roads, the exhaust of the generators, the smoke and fumes of the wood and kerosene that's used for heating and cooking, and the general dust of a very dry climate... the city infrastructure might have been adequate at one time, pre-war, 35 years ago, for a population of 250,000 max., but now there's 5 million people trying to survive here...

food, fuel and basic supplies are mostly brought in over one highway from pakistan... afghanistan produces maybe 30% of its own food and much of that is seasonal... now that the taliban and pakistani militants are attacking that route in order to disrupt supply distribution and now that pakistan is restricting food exports (as are so many other countries), afghanistan is in a world of hurt...

i've found myself thinking (never a safe thing for me to do) over the past few weeks that, one, the u.s. has been here in afghanistan since almost immediately post-9/11, late 2001/early 2002... it's now 2008... question - WTF have we been doing here...?!?!?!? the additional question that springs to mind is, "ok, mr. smart guy, so what would YOU have done if YOU had been the BIG DECIDER in 2001/2002 and YOU got to tell everybody what to do now that the U.S. conquered itself another country...?" i came up with my own answers, but i've been asking some of my afghan counterparts the same question just to see what they think about it... interestingly enough, they agree with me (or i agree with them, whatever)...

i don't think any of this is necessarily rocket science... what i would have done immediately following the fall of the taliban, just as soon as the city was reasonably secured, is to set to work on these things, in priority order...

  • restoring and extending full electric service throughout the city
  • reconstructing and/or restoring clean water supplies and sewer service
  • setting up and/or restoring basic health care services
  • repairing and paving the roads and insuring adequate public transportation
  • insuring adequate food supply and distribution
  • restoring and/or setting up public education
once the above was taken care of for kabul, the focus could then move to the secondary cities and towns, moving down the main highways in concentric rings, eventually covering the major populations centers of the entire country...

what's so hard about that...? surely, the billions we've dumped into afghanistan and iraq would have covered all of that many times over... now it's six years later and very little of it has been done... i've talked to a number of folks here and they all say the same thing... if people were getting their basic needs met, nobody would be giving the time of day to the taliban or any other insurgents or drug lords, period...

what's not to understand...?

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i confess, i'm fascinated by the turn of events in paraguay...

Counting ballots in Paraguay
Even before [the] official results were announced, Lugo supporters were in the streets celebrating what many called a dream come true.

"I came here to vote for Lugo, and now I'm here for him. I came here to vote, and I voted, and now I'm here, present for my president. President Lugo, President Lugo!" chanted an elderly Graciela Bogadin in both Spanish and Guarani. The people around her cheered. Bogadin is a Paraguayan who has lived in Argentina for many years. She is one of the thousands who came back to vote in yesterday's historic elections and who descended on Asuncion's Heroe's Pantheon last night for the victory celebration.

i'm liking what i'm hearing so far...
In a pre-election interview with the LA Times, Lugo noted Washington"s sometimes-contradictory role in Latin America saying “The United States . . . has sustained the great dictatorships, but afterward lifted the banner of democracy.” He went on to say that Washington must acknowledge a new scenario in which Latin American governments "won"t accept any type of intervention from any country, no matter how big it is."

we should all be paying attention to this one...

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Light posting day

it's 8:10 p.m. saturday evening here in kabul, 8:40 a.m. saturday morning on the u.s. west coast, 9:40 a.m. u.s. mountain time, 10:40 a.m. u.s. central time, 11:40 a.m. on the u.s. east coast, 12:40 p.m. in argentina, and 5:40 p.m. central european time... that pretty much covers the times zones of the people near and dear to me...

it's been a very sunny, slow and lazy day for me... my one-day "weekend" is friday but this week, tomorrow and sunday are afghan national holidays because, as i explained in a previous post, sunday is afghanistan independence day, the day afghanistan celebrates getting rid of the brits in 1919...

in celebration of actually having a decent amount of time to refresh and re-charge (altho' i will keep working on and off anyway as is my wont), i'm not going to knock myself out posting... for one thing, my internet service was down all morning and half the afternoon, which forced me to do some unaccustomed leisure reading and - no kidding - to lie in the sun for an hour or so on the balcony... it was just the ticket and i've slowed my pace considerably... this is a very good thing because it's the first time i've actually seriously kicked back since before i left buenos aires on march 24...


if brother tim or jim is so moved, they can put up some posts... for me, i'm going to go read some more and then hit the sack...

p.s. check out how my colleagues and i arrange skype conference call times...

World Meeting Planner

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hugo Chávez on the world food crisis - a "massacre" of the poor

and it ain't by chance either... it's by design...
Soaring food prices are a "massacre" of the world's poor and are creating a global nutritional crisis, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday, calling it a sign that capitalism is in decline.

His comments came only hours after the United Nations' World Food Program called more expensive food a "silent tsunami" that threatens to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger.

"It is a true massacre what is happening in the world," Chavez said in a televised speech, citing U.N. statistics about deaths caused by hunger and malnourishment.

"The problem is not the production of food ... it is the economic, social and political model of the world. The capitalist model is in crisis."


Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, visiting Caracas to meet with Chavez and other allied leaders on Wednesday, accused developed countries of spurring food prices through biofuels.

"Developed countries want to feed the cars of the rich with food -- this is the irrational world we live in today," Lage said, echoing Chavez's frequent accusations that Washington's promotion of biofuel is boosting prices of staples like corn.

don't think for one single second that this wasn't planned...

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Prepping us for martial law by handing out traffic tickets under the guise of "fighting terrorism"

fear-mongering, plain and simple, aided and abetted by our ever-helpful news media government propaganda outlets...

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Oferchrissake, Hillary, just GO AWAY, will you please...?

i don't like her, i don't want her, she's killing the democratic party, she's boosting mccain, she's out for herself and herself only, she's going to destroy obama come hell or high water, and, to top it all off, she's married to bill...
Clinton says she can win
White House for Democrats

Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:32am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama entered the final phase of an increasingly nasty U.S. presidential fight on Wednesday, with Clinton saying her decisive Pennsylvania win proved she was the best candidate to lead the Democrats back to the White House.

Clinton's victory boosted her depleted bank account and gave new hope to her struggling campaign, but the New York senator still faced a nearly impossible task trying to overcome Obama's lead in pledged delegates who will help pick the Democratic presidential nominee at the party's convention in August.

Clinton said Obama's failure to knock her out of the race, despite outspending her in Pennsylvania more than 2-to-1, cast doubt on his ability to capture the big states Democrats need in November's election race against Republican John McCain.

"I've won the states we have to win -- Ohio, now Pennsylvania," Clinton told CNN. "If you look at the broad base of support that I have accumulated, it really is the foundation on which we build our victory come the fall."

she's really, REALLY starting to piss me off...

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"The Iraqi war is a war for Israeli territorial expansion" - Paul Craig Roberts on why the U.S. is bankrupting itself for Iraq

roberts' explanation strikes me as too simplistic and it also begs another question... what's in it for the u.s...? or, to be specific, what goodies does "greater israel" offer to the mostly-jewish neocons here in the u.s. who are so hell-bent on supporting iraq and, in roberts' view, buttressing israel...?
The fact is that Bush invaded Iraq with the intent of turning Iraq into an American colony. The so-called government of Maliki is not a government. Maliki is the well paid front man for U.S. colonial rule. Maliki's government does not exist outside the protected Green Zone, the headquarters of the American occupation.

If colonial rule were not the intent, the U.S. would not be going out of its way to force Sadr's 60,000-man militia into a fight. Sadr is a Shi'ite who is a real Iraqi leader, perhaps the only Iraqi who could end the sectarian conflict and restore some unity to Iraq. As such he is regarded by the Bush regime as a danger to the American puppet Maliki. Unless the U.S. is able to purchase or rig the upcoming Iraqi election, Sadr is likely to emerge as the dominant figure. This would be a highly unfavorable development for the Bush regime's hopes of establishing its colonial rule behind the facade of a Maliki fake democracy. Rather than work with Sadr in order to extract themselves from a quagmire, the Americans will be doing everything possible to assassinate Sadr.

Why does the Bush regime want to rule Iraq? Some speculate that it is a matter of "peak oil." Oil supplies are said to be declining even as demand for oil multiplies from developing countries such as China. According to this argument, the U.S. decided to seize Iraq to ensure its own oil supply.


The more likely explanation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the neoconservative Bush regime's commitment to the defense of Israeli territorial expansion. There is no such thing as a neoconservative who is not allied with Israel. Israel hopes to steal all of the West Bank and southern Lebanon for its territorial expansion. An American colonial regime in Iraq not only buttresses Israel from attack, but also can pressure Syria and Iran not to support the Palestinians and Lebanese. The Iraqi war is a war for Israeli territorial expansion. Americans are dying and bleeding to death financially for Israel. Bush's "war on terror" is a hoax that serves to cover U.S. intervention in the Middle East on behalf of "greater Israel."

i'm going to stick with the explanation i've been touting for several years...

yes, the bush administration supports israel, but it's for a much larger purpose than the creation of a "greater israel"... first of all, keeping in mind that the rulers of israel and their neo-con brethren in the u.s. do not equate with the jewish religion any more than the fundamentalist christian nut-jobs in the u.s. equate with christianity, the "unholy alliance" that's playing out here is for nothing more and nothing less than the full global consolidation and control of power and money...

the folks that pull the strings of the bush administration, the israeli government and the neo-cons, are the same super-rich elites you will find behind the defense industries, the mega transnational corporations, the global investment houses, the giant banking organizations, and the governments of many other countries... they're not necessarily all working as a bloc, but they have, nonetheless, been slaving away ceaselessly for years to insure that they have the first, last and only say about the direction of global affairs...

these people learned a long time ago that war and the resultant chaos present extraordinary opportunities to increase their power and wealth... now that it's possible to maintain war and chaos as permanent conditions across the globe, they are finally able to consider fulfilling their dream of bringing all global wealth and power into their hands... war and chaos are merely strategic tools to achieve that dream as are world-wide food shortages which can, in turn, serve to provoke more war, more chaos and, thus, more opportunity...

also, let's be clear on one point... when roberts says americans are "bleeding to death financially" for israel and iraq, he fails to point out that the super-rich elites who are calling the shots - not just in the u.s., but around the world - are raking in the cash like there's no tomorrow... it may be trite and it may be a cliche, but, hey, it's true... follow the money...

what's not to understand...?

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Don't get me wrong, I love Argentina, but...

they do have this extremely annoying habit of shooting themselves in the foot...
Frustrations over travel delays and flight cancellations, plus the fact that foreigners pay double what locals do to fly, could dent a tourism boom in Argentina, a consumer rights group said.

Briton Tara Sabi complained she paid USD$447 for a round-trip flight from the capital Buenos Aires to the Tierra del Fuego tourist destination Ushuaia, while Argentina residents pay USD$237 for the same flight.

"Why should I have to pay double for the same service?" she said.

what this article doesn't mention is that, in addition to the double domestic airfares for non-argentinos, prices for every possible thing that would interest a tourist is going up at TRIPLE the inflation rate which is - unofficially, natch - already hovering at 12%+...

argentinos are what i call victims of "learned helplessness"... they believe that the cycle of boom and bust that their economy has experienced for over a hundred years is their fate, somehow decreed by the gods, and is completely impossible for them to change... so what they're doing is trying to "make hay while the sun shines," fleecing everybody in sight - particularly the turistas estúpidos - for every last peso, thinking that the bottom will probably fall out of the whole goddam mess tomorrow... but, guess what...? by behaving as greedy bastards, they're practically GUARANTEEING that's EXACTLY WHAT WILL HAPPEN...

i happen to be in a very fortunate situation in argentina... for one thing, i don't give a crap about most tourist-type stuff, so i'm not out there getting my pocket picked at every turn... for another, my living situation is paid a year at a time, and i'm in a place where i've developed an almost family-type relationship with my landlady and her various relatives that live next to and above me... the fact that i'm generally only in residence six months out of a year and happen to be an extremely good tenant also means that i'm not as vulnerable to getting killed by rapidly-rising rents... my expenses are primarily food and, since i do my own shopping and cooking and rarely eat out, i'm not getting beaten over the head with escalating restaurant prices either, prices that are particularly outrageous at the popular tourist spots... yeah, i'm seeing food prices climbing in the supermercados and the "el chinos" (the small neighborhood market in argentina has come to be a near-monopoly of chinese immigrants), and, yes, i have to pay the increased fares on the buses, subway and commuter trains, but that's really small change...

i fervently wish that argentinos would get a clue... i don't wish any of them a repeat of the financial nightmare that descended on the country in 2001, but that's where it's headed if they don't wise up...

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Afghanistan Independence Day helicopter practice fly-by

sunday is afghanistan independence day when they celebrate regaining their independence from the brits in 1919... i've had choppers doing practice fly-bys, two-by-two, 10 at a time, followed by screaming jets, at tree-top height directly off my balcony at 6 a.m. for the past 10 days (the parade ground is two blocks from where i'm staying)... the fuel consumption alone must be staggering... this morning, for good measure, they added in "cannon practice"... 12 major blasts in a row rocked the entire bldg... 'course i'm usually already awake thanks to the muezzin who chants the morning prayers from a loudspeaker at the top of the minaret of the mosque around the corner starting at 4:15 every morning... guess i'm going to have to drag out the ol' earplugs...

here's a youtube clip i took this morning right outside my room of two of the choppers...

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Why would Saudi Arabia want to get its embassy employees killed in Iraq? Oh, yeah, and then there's the political reasons...

o-o-o-o-oooooh no-o-o-o-oooo, there's NO reservations about contact with the iraqi government, absolutely NONE, unless, of course, you want to consider that the saudi government thinks the iraqi government is biased against sunnis... but, really, that's just a teeny-tiny little thing... pay it no mind...
The Iraqi capital isn't secure enough yet for an embassy, Saudi Arabia said Wednesday, insisting its diplomatic absence there doesn't reflect a lack of support for the country.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal's comments following months of urging by both Iraq and the United States for the kingdom to establish an embassy.

His statement was an apparent retreat from September comments that his country would open a Baghdad embassy soon.

"There aren't any reservations at all regarding contact with the Iraqi government by Arab countries," Saud told reporters.

"The real reason why there's no embassy in Baghdad is not for political but for security reasons," said Saud. "When secure conditions are present, then embassies ... will go to Iraq."

Iraqi and U.S. officials have been pushing Baghdad's Sunni neighbors to open embassies in Iraq as a sign of support for the Shiite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia has kept al-Maliki's government at arm's length and has criticized it as biased against Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.

i don't know what their problem is... isn't the green zone safer than washington d.c...? i must remember to ask mccain about that when i see him again...

speaking of embassies and security, the employees of denmark's embassy here in kabul were "evacuated" to "undisclosed location" here in the city yesterday... it seems there's been a little flap over another cartoon...

The Danish Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it has evacuated its staff from embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan because of threats after newspapers reprinted a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Embassy employees have been moved to secret locations in both countries' capitals but continue to work, Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Laursen said.

The announcement comes after Danish intelligence officials warned of an "aggravated" terror threat against Denmark since newspapers in the country in February reprinted a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The warning specifically singled out North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The threat "is so concrete that we had to take this decision," Laursen told The Associated Press. "The decision is based on intelligence," he said, declining to elaborate.

sunday is the day afghanistan celebrates gaining its independence from britain back in 1919... damn near every morning at the ungodly hour of 6, choppers are doing practice fly-bys right past my window, at least ten of them, two-by-two, followed by another ten screaming jets... as soon as it finishes its agonizingly slow upload, i will post a youtube video of two of the choppers on the fly-by that i took about 45 minutes ago...

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are war crimes charges being readied...? Certainly one of the more interesting headlines of the day...

this would be the answer to one of my most fervent prayers...

from the politico...

Could war crimes charges be Oct. surprise?

It’s early October 2008, and Democratic nominee Barack Obama maintains a steady lead in the presidential race, although Republican standard-bearer John McCain, the most dogged campaigner in American politics, remains within striking range.

Suddenly, something happens overseas that throws the presidential campaigns off the TV screens entirely: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on vacation in Italy, is arrested and brought to The Hague to face war crimes charges.

Presidential campaigns try to prepare for these “October surprises,” late-breaking events and crises that can radically alter the race for the White House, such as the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000. But now there’s a new element in the mix, something presidential campaigns have never had to plan for. What if the October surprise is the greatest legal conflict between America and Europe since the creation of the Atlantic alliance?

Don’t think it can’t happen. I think the arrest abroad of an American is only a matter of time and, between now and November, is at least as likely as another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. As a former Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Paul X. Kelley, reminded the nation in a July 2007 Washington Post op-ed, written with a University of Virginia law professor: “Violations of Common Article 3 are ‘war crimes’ for which everyone involved — potentially up to and including the president of the United States — may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions.”

accountability... it's not just for breakfast any more...!

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Why are we not surprised that Bush would nominate a toady like Petraeus to replace Fallon?

as gagging as it is to see, could anyone possibly have doubted that george bush would replace an honest-to-god, professional, integrity-filled military man with a propaganda-spewing shill whose lips are permanently attached to his ass...?
Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has commanded United States troops in Iraq for the past year, will be nominated to head the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations across a wide swath of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced on Wednesday.

Mr. Gates said that he and President Bush and settled on the four-star general for the post because he is best suited to oversee American operations, not just in Iraq but also in Afghanistan and other areas where the United States is engaged in “assymetric” warfare, a euphemism for battling terrorists and non-uniformed combatants.

“I am absolutely convinced he is the best man for the job,” Mr. Gates said.

The necessary paperwork to make General Petraeus’s new assignment a reality will be speeded to the White House, and from there to the Senate, where the Secretary said he is confident of quick confirmation.

and in the 13th paragraph of a 13-paragraph story, the nyt reluctantly reminds us of petraeus' successor and why he was unexpectedly and unceremoniously cashiered...
The previous Central Command chief, Adm. William J. Fallon, was ushered into retirement in March after rankling the Bush administration with public comments that seemed to suggest an emphasis on diplomacy over confrontation in dealing with Iran.

george bush is such a flaming asshole...

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CDC: vaccines trigger autism in people with mitochondrial disorders

a little bit of truth escaping here...? some very disturbing truth for those who have been concerned with this issue all along, and even MORE disturbing for parents of autistic children who have been trying to get some answers...
Julie Gerberding, the head of the CDC, went on CNN's House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta to discuss the Hannah Poling case and admitted that vaccines trigger autism in a subset of the population with mitochondrial disorders.

It is time for Dr. Gerberding to answer some hard questions before congress.

Call for congressional hearings into the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund autism cases, so we can find out what the government knows about the relationship between vaccines and autism.

visit Adventures in Autism...

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al Qaeda accuses Iran of planting 9/11 conspiracy theories

really...?!?!? are they fucking SERIOUS...?!?!?! if i've ever read ANYTHING that's led me to believe that al qaeda is a bogus organization, it HAS to be THIS...

from the ap...

Osama bin Laden's chief deputy on Tuesday denied a theory that Israel carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and blamed Iran and Shiite Hezbollah for spreading the idea to discredit the Sunni al-Qaida's strike against the U.S.

The comments in a recording posted on an Islamic Web site reflected the increasing criticism by al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri against Iran. Al-Zawahri has accused Iran in recent messages of seeking to extend its power in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and through its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.

The authenticity of the two-hour audio recording could not be independently confirmed. But the voice sounded like past audiotapes from the terror leader, and the posting where it was found bore the logo of Al-Sahab, al-Qaida's official media arm.

It was the second of two messages answering questions that were posted to Islamic militant Web sites earlier this year.

One of the questioners asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor.

"The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.

oh, my freakin' lord... this is absolutely the most drop-dead hysterical thing i've read in a very long time...

here's how prison planet (not the most reputable, objective or fact-based resource, for sure) views the story...

Al-CIAda Sock Puppet Zawahiri Claims Iran
Behind 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Intelligence stooge unleashes another PR stunt on behalf of Neo-Cons, AP unable to verify tape, past examples faked

although we would all be advised to look at prison planet with a jaundiced eye, a story like this one moves me ever-closer to the same point of view...

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George Bush...? Contempt for the law...? NO-O-O-O-OOO...! Say it isn't so...!

at 1:05, it's a bit longish, but damn well worthwhile...
Bush has a sneering contempt for the law

He says that on his say so alone he can identify anyone in the United States as creating a "significant risk of undermining reconstruction program in Iraq, or political reform by creating a risk that an act of violence might be committed." And when he identifies you, he doesn't inform you. But you are instantly subjected to a financial death penalty. All your assets are frozen; no one then can do any business with you.

A Must Watch - Video Discussion -

Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda
Bruce Fein and former United States
Congressman Bob Barr

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Well, I figured Hillary would win PA but I ain't happy about it [UPDATE]

i'm watching al jazeera who, through its u.s. partner, nbc, is reporting hrc 53% and obama 47%... the wapo is reporting 55-45 with 42% of the precincts reporting... the percentages may vary slightly but that looks like the final neighborhood... i don't think this gives hrc any more viability than she had going in... unfortunately, the win will undoubtedly give her the ammunition to stay in the race, and that's NOT a good thing...


i just finished watching hillary's speech live on al jazeera...

al jazeera's comment...

"I won, send me money!"

yeah, that about covers it...

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two views of Obama: one is the truth and the other is Bob Novak

let's go with novak first...
Traveling the country the past few months, I have encountered habitual Republican voters so entranced by Barack Obama's potential to lead the nation that they plan to vote for him in November. Once Hillary Clinton's supporters return to the fold, Obama Republicans could produce a Democratic presidential landslide. But Obama's recent missteps jeopardize their support and imperil his election.

These apostate Republicans were never deluded into considering him anything other than a doctrinaire liberal who wants a more intrusive government, with higher taxation and tougher regulation. But they have leaned toward him as an exceptional candidate in the mold of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, a post-partisan leader and a welcome contrast to George W. Bush's failed presidency. That impression is threatened by Obama's performance the past 10 days, climaxing in Wednesday night's debate with Clinton.


Democratic pros feel that the San Francisco incident [Obama's declaration at a closed-door fund-raiser in San Francisco that "bitter" small-towners in Pennsylvania and elsewhere "cling to guns or religion"] halted an Obama surge in Pennsylvania that might have won him the state and ended Clinton's campaign tomorrow. What really worries them, however, is the impact on independents and Republicans who had been entranced by the young man from Chicago. Now, they wonder whether the appealing unifier is really a divider.

novak is the quintessential role model for self-important pundits everywhere, using polished and articulate language and an oh-so-reasonable argument to convince even the most discerning of readers among us that he's making trenchant observations from a perch high above us mere mortals, and dispensing those observations with a wisdom hard-earned through many years of immersion in the world of political reality...

it takes a fair amount of time surfing our fabulous internet, bouncing from news site to blog to news site to blog, to even begin to see through what a guy like novak is really doing - namely, presenting a well-crafted piece designed to unobtrusively force-feed us the prevailing opinion of the elites who really call all of the shots in this country... there are many bloggers out there who rail against novak's b.s... speaking for myself, i prefer to ignore it, unless, as in this particular instance, it serves to instruct and allows us to compare and contrast novak's high-minded drivel with the plain-spoken truth...

now, let's look at that truth, as contained in a letter to the wapo...

from yesterday's edition...

When Sen. Barack Obama made his "bitter" comments at a recent fundraiser in San Francisco ["Opponents Paint Obama as an Elitist; Clinton, McCain Try to Score Off 'Bitter' Remark," news story, April 12], he neglected to name two behaviors that blue-collar people in Pennsylvania have turned to -- abusing alcohol and drugs -- probably because his mother brought him up to be polite.

Visiting my northeastern Pennsylvania home town of Athens over the decades, I have seen exactly what Mr. Obama described -- a result of the grim realities of life in a dying culture in a dying place. Many a meth lab exists in those rolling hills, and many people are struggling with alcoholism. And, yes, many do love their guns, many love Jesus and many are trapped in an economic hell created by the neglect and marginalization they have suffered at the hands of Washington.

Mr. Obama got it right, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to stop pandering to the media's desire for sensationalism. Perhaps she should consider a trip north of Scranton and her comfort zone -- up some winding, poorly paved roads past empty farmhouses to where she will find the very folks Mr. Obama talked about. I'm sure that they have some questions for her about where she was while they slid off Earth's edge into apathy and, yes, bitterness.

i don't need to point out the difference... it leaps out and hits you right in the face... funny how truth usually does that...

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Oh, crap...! Here we go again...! The U.S. holds another German citizen in Bagram without any solid evidence...

oferchrissake... don't we EVER learn (see khalid al masri and murat kurnaz)...? if i was a german high government official, i would be VERY PISSED...!

here's the lead-in...

A German soldier on patrol
near Bagram in Afghanistan

For the past three months, the United States military has detained a German citizen in Afghanistan on suspicion of terrorism. German security experts are convinced that the man, who has a history of psychological problems, is innocent.


An employee of the [ICRC] visited Gholam Ghaus Z., a German citizen, at the US air base in Bagram near Kabul, where he has been held under inhumane conditions since early January. The Americans believe that the 41-year-old man is a terrorist.


Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has carefully investigated the man, who is from Afghanistan but holds a German passport and lives in the western German city of Wuppertal. They have also investigated the unmarried man's family members and acquaintances, but have not found any evidence of extremist activities or dubious contacts with Islamists.

now, here's the REAL low-down...
Gholam Z. claims that he traveled to the Afghan capital Kabul to visit members of his widely scattered family in early January. While he was there, he heard that Western-quality goods could be obtained in a supermarket on the grounds of a US military base in Kabul, and that he, as a German citizen, could go shopping there without any problems.

Gholam Z. borrowed a relative's car to go on what a security expert has called his "fatal shopping trip," during which he planned to buy a razor, among other items. According to his version of events, he drove up to the military base on Jan. 4, showed the guard his German passport in its red cover and was then allowed to pass through several security checkpoints without incident.

But then US soldiers must have suddenly noticed Gholam Z., and he was detained. To the soldiers, it looked like a terrorist had managed to enter the well-guarded camp by posing as part of a group of visitors. It was the sort of suspicion that would automatically put guards on edge, as the number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan had increased substantially during the year 2007.

The Americans searched Gholam Z.'s clothing and found cash in various currencies, with a total value of about €1,000 ($1,580), as well as telephone cards from several countries. For the US military, these items were strong evidence that they were dealing with an Islamist terrorist who was part of an international network.

Gholam Z. was also carrying a brochure for London's Tower Bridge, fueling suspicions that the landmark could be the target of an attack.

US military interrogators spent hours trying to extract information from the presumed terrorist. They refused to believe his attempts at an explanation. He had not planned an attack on Tower Bridge, he told them, but had merely visited relatives in London and gone on a sightseeing trip that included the landmark. But the man's story seemed confused to the interrogators.

The US military interrogators also considered the suspect's justification for the foreign currency he was carrying to be implausible. He told them that he had stopped in Iran on the way to Afghanistan, where he had sold a large number of used mobile phones from Germany.

The soldiers locked him up and continued to interrogate him, but without yielding any results. They also refused to allow the German to contact a lawyer.


But totally clean apparently isn't clean enough for the US military in Afghanistan, which is under permanent threat of attack. The Americans dealt with the man from Wuppertal in the same way they had proceeded in other cases where innocent people had come under suspicion -- they kept Gholam Z. locked up.

lock 'em up and throw away the key and who cares about evidence, lawyers, speedy trials, or any other vestige of due process... it's the AMERICAN WAY...!

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The "carpet-bombing" of Obama continues and has even spread to Germany and France

check out how germany's spiegel seems to have signed up for the destroy-obama campaign...
Hillary Clinton has succeeded: Her rival Barack Obama has lost his shine, and now even he looks susceptible to campaign-season dirty tricks. Both candidates are attacking each other in the hope of a clear victory on Tuesday in Pennsylvania. But are they also handing ammunition to John McCain?

Obama's voice sounds erratic, impatient, almost angry. His microphone fails. "Hello? Hello?" And his voice lacks its usual melody; his orchestrated cascades of words sound dull. At one point he stanches the flow of applause -- "People, listen!"

Obama reads for 20 minutes from a piece of paper, sounding tired and laconic. He evokes, as usual, this "defining moment in history." And he fulminates against "war without end." He condemns "the broken politics of Washington … the politics that's all about tearing each other down when what we need is to lift this country up."

But then that's just what he does. The second half of his speech consists of attacks on his rival, Hillary Clinton. "She has taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any candidate in this campaign," he says. Clinton is running a "negative campaign," just like "the Republicans would do it." And now, when Obama mentions Hillary's name, the crowd boos.

Until now, Obama has stood aloof from political mudfights, renouncing ad hominem attacks and generally playing the grown-up.

But he started to bow deep into the muddy trenches after Clinton finally managed, in the last few weeks, to bring him down with biting personal attacks.

It's having a visible effect on his usually calm demeanor; his lighthearted moments come less often and his bearing is grimmer. He seems to be bearing a weight, perhaps the weight of someone not living up to his own claims.

here's france's afp via breitbart......

Democratic White House contender Barack Obama could not hide his irritation Monday when asked by a reporter what he thought about former president Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas last week.

"Why can't I just eat my waffle?" the Illinois senator said as he ate breakfast in Scranton, Pennsylvania, according to MSNBC television pictures.

Pressed again for an answer, he replied: "Just let me eat my waffle."

and, of course, on the domestic scene, fox leads the charge... fortunately, robert greenwald and brave new films are all over fox like flies on shit...

THE FOX IS WRONG! (Obama version)

FOX’s objective is clear: carpet bomb Barack Obama with negative stories, distortions, and smears before the Pennsylvania primary in an attempt to skew the outcome toward the Republicans’ preferred adversary, Hillary Clinton. But did FOX imagine that the “liberal” media would be such willing accomplices?

Check out our latest episode of the gameshow sensation that’s sweeping the nation — THE FOX IS WRONG: OBAMA! Play along as FOX guests and personalities distort and misrepresent the statements of Obama and those around him, only to have that pesky “liberal” media pick up the smears and keep on running! For the finale, watch in wonder and amazement as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos allows Sean Hannity to actually spoon-feed him a question on Hannity’s radio show, then parrots it almost word-for-word a day later during ABC’s infamous Democratic debate in Pennsylvania!

obama's only human, after all... weathering constant, ugly, mean-spirited, attacks 24/7 is something nobody should have to face, but, unfortunately, that's his reality for the time being... the best we can do is to send our encouragement, our good wishes, our warm and unconditional support (money works too!), to let him know that we are behind him and sending good thoughts to help him rise above the tawdriness that characterizes u.s. politics in the modern age, a tawdriness that we are putting our faith in him to dispel...

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Have I mentioned lately how much I hate U.S. airlines?

especially u.s. airlines...?

  • walking onboard and catching the SMELL, especially of the "legacy" carriers (american, united, usairways, etc.) whose interiors are often just plain dirty...
  • navigating boarding passengers both upstream and downstream in order to grab one of those few wads of synthetic fiber they dare to call pillows that they've conveniently stuffed into one overhead baggage compartment at the rear of the plane...
  • blankets...? fuhgeddaboudit...
  • trying to get comfortable in a seat designed by a chiropractor with a taste for torture and lots of bills to pay...
  • watching the doors on the overhead baggage compartments pop open from the vibrations of the aircraft as it accelerates down the runway on takeoff...
  • watching a few pieces of luggage from the suddenly-opened overhead baggage compartments fall out into the aisle, narrowly missing the heads of passengers in aisle seats...
  • carrying on a conversation with a passenger from another country who sits there open-mouthed and incredulous when the flight attendant offers to RENT him earphones to listen to the in-flight video entertainment for FIVE DOLLARS...
  • attempting to turn on the reading light only to find it doesn't work...
  • listening to the flight attendant announce that she regrets to inform us that there's a problem with the in-flight entertainment system and that it won't be available on this flight...
  • using the lavatory and finding that an entire plastic wall panel is loose, has pulled away from the wall and is making a flopping noise with every slight movement of the aircraft...
  • carrying on a conversation with a passenger from another country who sits there doubly open-mouthed and incredulous when the flight attendant offers to SELL him liquor, beer or wine for FIVE DOLLARS...
  • carrying on a conversation with a passenger from another country who sits there triply open-mouthed and incredulous when the flight attendant offers to SELL him the same tasteless, overpriced "food" with questionable nutritional and even more questionable chemical content for FIVE DOLLARS that they used to GIVE AWAY FOR NOTHING...
  • pulling down the tray table to find an advertisement for a las vegas hotel tastefully affixed...
  • retrieving checked baggage at the end of the flight as i look at my watch for the 50th time and answer a cell phone call from my son asking how much longer it will be before i meet him curbside...
and NOW, i will be able to experience a BRAND-NEW TREAT...

  • watching a passenger checking in a second bag, staring open-mouthed and incredulous as the agent tells him it will cost him $25 to do so...
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, airline passengers might want to think twice about how much they bring along for the ride, starting next month.

Five of the seven major US airlines (Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Air) plan to charge most customers $25 each way to check a second bag starting May 5. Of the largest carriers, only American and Southwest have decided not to go along - for now. Airtran is adding a $10 second bag fee for travel on or after May 15. Spirit Airlines already had a $10 fee if paid online, or $20 at the airport.

But the new fees do not apply to all passengers, advises Those buying first-class or business-class tickets, or flying on frequent flyer awards in those classes, will typically be exempt, as will frequent-flyer program members who have achieved upper tiers with their airlines (such as United Mileage Plus Premier customers). Military personnel flying "with orders" are off the hook.

These fees are in addition to those for excess, oversized and overweight bags, so a passenger traveling on United, for example, with three checked bags weighing 50 pounds or less will be charged $25 for the second but $100 for the third.

however, this is one of the very few articles i've read that actually offers some decent advice about how you can go about BEATING this latest airline fleecing scam...
There must be a better way, and there is: UPS, US Postal Service, or FedEx. Flying from your home in Manhattan to a convention in Long Beach? UPS will send your 51 pounds of trade-show samples each way for $59.34, when last checked at, with four-day service. Or ship that 60-pound suitcase from Miami to San Francisco for $63.78 each way.

Not only will you avoid having to lug your luggage through endless airport concourses, but chances are that UPS will do a better job of not losing your shipment than your airline will (and if UPS does misplace it, at least the company will feel bad about it.)

So tell your airline "No, thanks," next time it tries to hit you with baggage fees. Plan ahead, tell your hotel (or branch office or family) that you're expecting a shipment and to hold it until your arrival, and save yourself some money and a backache.

for the past four years, i've been traveling great distances across three continents and usually end up staying in a place for two to three months at a time... this has led me to carefully select my travel items because whatever i have with me has to serve to create a "temporary home"... this, in turn, has led to essentially making my "home" consist of those things that go with me everywhere... it's not a bad existence, really, and i've not only gotten quite used to it, i LIKE it...


i use one large bag primarily for clothes, shoes and a few toiletries... a smaller bag carries everything else, not the least of which is a large stock of various electronics gear - cables, adapters, gizmos, etc... the combined weight usually pushes 70 lbs... advance shipping internationally is not an option... for one thing, the cost would be prohibitive and, for another, shipping to countries like the one i'm sitting in right now - afghanistan - would not only be prohibitively expensive, but i'd have to pretty much kiss my stuff goodbye permanently...

in short, my friends, unless i'm able to check-in for my first flight leg on a non-u.s. carrier - not likely when my flight originates in northern nevada, more likely when i'm headed back INTO the u.s. - i'm going to have a minimum $25 B.O.H.I.C.A. (bend over, here it comes again) every time i fly...

have i mentioned lately how much i HATE u.s. airlines...?

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Monday, April 21, 2008

"Grain prices are rising to their equivalent level in oil" - more from Al Jazeera English on the food crisis

i just finished watching this al jazeera special, ... without a doubt, it's the clearest, most honest look i've yet seen at what's happening with grain, ethanol and the rapidly worsening global food crisis... i highly recommend watching both parts start to finish...

People & Power - Food Shortages -20 Apr 08 - Part 1

People & Power - Food Shortages -20 Apr 08 - Part 2

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Jimmy Carter: "The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet with someone who must be involved"

i'm watching an interview with jimmy carter in jerusalem conducted a short while ago by al jazeera...

Jimmy Carter, the former US president, has called for Hamas to be included in peace negotiations, saying they are willing to "live as a neighbour next door in peace" with Israel if Palestinians approve a deal.

Carter said on Monday that Hamas leaders told him they would accept a negotiated peace agreement, if voted for by the Palestinian people.

His comments, delivered in an address to the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and a subsequent news conference at the King David Hotel in West Jerusalem, came after he met several Hamas leaders, including Khaled Meshaal, the group's exiled political bureau chief, in Syria last week.

Carter said Hamas leaders had told him they would accept a peace agreement negotiated by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president whose Fatah faction controls the West Bank, if Palestinians approved the deal in a vote.

carter doesn't beat around the bush when describing the worthless duo of george and condi, who coupled with israel, have zero intention or desire to seek peace...
Carter, who has angered Israel by meeting Hamas, also said the peace efforts had "regressed" since a US-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November.

"The problem is not that I met with Hamas in Syria," he said.

"The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet with someone who must be involved."

and that's to say nothing of the fact that israel continues to flip the middle digit to palestine, despite the agreements of annapolis a few months ago...
The Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry yesterday [April 18] published construction bids for 100 homes in two Jewish settlements, one of them deep inside the West Bank, in violation of its pledge to freeze settlement expansion.

Palestinian officials said the new construction in the settlements of Ariel and Elkana is undermining US-backed effort to reach a peace deal by the end of 2008. According to the bids, 52 new residential units will be built in Elkana and 48 in Ariel.

The Housing Ministry said that the 52 housing units in Elkana would replace the old ones built there when the settlement first began, while in Ariel 48 units would be built within an existing neighborhood. Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman said the residential units had been approved for construction eight months ago.

According to Nachman, the plots are in the center of the settlement and some of them are intended for the construction of permanent residences for settlers evacuated from Gush Katif settlement in 2005.

Since a US-hosted Mideast peace conference in November, Israel has announced several new building projects in areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians for their future state. However, yesterday’s announcement marked the first time the Israeli government approved construction deep in the West Bank.

i'm increasingly of the opinion that, after he passes on, jimmy carter should be considered for sainthood...

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Doing an end-run around the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on torture

great god... it just gets worse and worse and worse...

General Richard Myers, chairman
of the US joint chiefs of staff from
2001 to 2005

from saturday's guardian...
America's most senior general was "hoodwinked" by top Bush administration officials determined to push through aggressive interrogation techniques of terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, leading to the US military abandoning its age-old ban on the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, the Guardian reveals today.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff from 2001 to 2005, wrongly believed that inmates at Guantánamo and other prisons were protected by the Geneva conventions and from abuse tantamount to torture.

The way he was duped by senior officials in Washington, who believed the Geneva conventions and other traditional safeguards were out of date, is disclosed in a devastating account of their role, extracts of which appear in today's Guardian.

In his new book, Torture Team, Philippe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London, reveals that:

· Senior Bush administration figures pushed through previously outlawed measures with the aid of inexperienced military officials at Guantánamo.

· Myers believes he was a victim of "intrigue" by top lawyers at the department of justice, the office of vice-president Dick Cheney, and at Donald Rumsfeld's defence department.

· The Guantánamo lawyers charged with devising interrogation techniques were inspired by the exploits of Jack Bauer in the American TV series 24.

· Myers wrongly believed interrogation techniques had been taken from the army's field manual.

The lawyers, all political appointees, who pushed through the interrogation techniques were Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and William Haynes. Also involved were Doug Feith, Rumsfeld's under-secretary for policy, and Jay Bybee and John Yoo, two assistant attorney generals.

there simply aren't words to adequately describe just how DESPICABLE these people are...

here's a thought from juan cole who, rightly, bemoans our country's failure to hold these criminals to account...

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, is quoted as saying that the perpetrators of torture could well be arrested and tried in other countries as war criminals if they travel abroad. It is an index of the despotism to which the United States has fallen victim that we must hope for other, more civilized countries, to try our war criminals. Why can't public officials be prosecuted for violating the Bill of Rights' guarantee against cruel and unusual torture? Why can't an International Military Tribunal be set up as at Nuremberg?


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$100B USD = £50.4480B GBP

uh... i'm confoozed... here's a story from today about a £50B BofE bail-out...
Bank details £50bn lending boost

The Bank of England has announced details of a plan to help prevent the credit crisis causing more damage to the UK banking system and economy.

Banks will be able to swap potentially risky mortgage debts for £50bn of secure government bonds to enable them to operate during the credit squeeze.

The Bank's governor, Mervyn King, said the scheme aimed to improve liquidity in the banking system.

It should also increase confidence in financial markets, he added.

Under the scheme, banks will be allowed to swap their "high quality" mortgage debts for government securities.

The swap will be for a period of one year and may be renewed for a total of three years.

and here's a story i posted on saturday about a $100B BofE bank bailout...
The Bank of England is planning to provide around $100 billion of support to British banks and lending institutions.

The cash package is designed to help banks cope with the after effects of the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States.

Britain's banks have for years raised vital finance by selling tens of billions of pounds of mortgages to international investors.

But last August the market closed down which is why mortgages and other loans have become harder and more expensive to obtain.

The Bank of England plans to fill the breach, and next week it will announce a proposal to pump new money into the banking system for up to three years.

It will offcer to swap government bonds with a maturity of up to a year for the bank's unsellable mortgage assets.

i'm assuming it's the same story, only one is expressed in u.s. dollars and the other in british pounds... here's the conversion based on today's dollar/pound exchange rate...


$100B USD = £50.4480B GBP

United States Dollars United Kingdom Pounds
$1 USD = £0.504480 GBP £1 GBP = $1.98224 USD

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "The tens of thousands of young voters who have flocked to the Democrats were not attracted by Hillary Clinton"

the philadelphia daily news endorsed obama the other day... in today's edition, they were joined by the pittsburgh post-gazette...
Obama's moment: On Tuesday,
Democrats should dare to be different

The tens of thousands of young voters who have flocked to the Democrats in recent months were not attracted by the magic of Hillary Clinton. The great mass of defecting Republicans, many of them women, who in their hunger for leadership changed their registrations, did not come for her either.

They came for Barack Obama, a history-making African-American man of all the people. Those who fear him -- not just Republicans but, sadly, other Democrats -- have been furiously trying to come up with a plausible narrative to diminish him. With Lilliputian zeal, they try rope after little rope to tie down the unexpected giant in their midst. This pathetic impulse feeds on the internecine war of the interminable primaries.

Tuesday can put a stop to it. If Mrs. Clinton loses, she loses the last justification for keeping her candidacy alive.

With Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama differing little on the issues, Democrats can dare to be different and vote for the truly fresh force in this race, the one who has sparked an excitement and energy not seen since the Kennedy years. The bold choice is Barack Obama, who is uniquely placed to bridge America's most bitter divisions. History now calls on Pennsylvania to lead this nation into the future -- and all it requires is the courage to believe.

i'm here to tell ya, the "courage to believe" is a lot bigger deal than it sounds...

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Oh, those annoying and inconvenient "imaginary privacy concerns"

read this and then tell me if you think these "privacy concerns" are "imaginary"...
[S]tates are moving to conduct familial searches of criminal databases, looking for close-to-perfect matches with DNA from crime scenes. A partial match with a convicted criminal could implicate a brother or daughter or father of the convict. Such searches, advocates say, constitute a powerful law enforcement tool that, experts say, could increase by 40 percent the number of suspects identified through DNA.

As things stand in some states, lab analysts who discover a potential suspect in this way may not be permitted to share that information with investigators. Such a policy, said William Fitzpatrick, a New York state district attorney, "is insanity. It's disgraceful. If I've got something of scientific value that I can't share because of imaginary privacy concerns, it's crazy. That's how we solve crimes."

But the technique is arousing fierce objections from privacy advocates, who maintain that it turns family members into genetic informants without their knowledge or consent. They complain that it takes material collected for one purpose and uses it for another. And with the nation's DNA database disproportionately comprised of minority offenders, they say, it amounts to placing a class of Americans under greater scrutiny merely because their relatives have committed crimes.

"If practiced routinely, we would be subjecting hundreds of thousands of innocent people who happen to be relatives of individuals in the FBI database to lifelong genetic surveillance," said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union.

here's the money quote - "it turns family members into genetic informants without their knowledge or consent"... no shit... and there's NOTHING IMAGINARY about that kind of concern...

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An open letter to the Obama campaign

Dear Colleagues,

I am currently working on a USAID-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, but I am closely following the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in the U.S.

For a number of years, I have become increasingly distressed over the actions of the Bush administration, a distress that has grown enormously since the 2006 elections after watching the Democrats both in Congress and the Senate abdicate their responsibilities and make a mockery of their oath of office. Our Constitution has been systematically shredded, and not one of our elected leaders, with the possible exceptions of Senator Dodd and Representative Kucinich, has addressed that issue with anywhere near the forceful response it deserves.

I have given Senator Obama's campaign ever-closer scrutiny over the past few months, and have actually begun to shed some of the entrenched cynicism over my country's "American Idol" election process, at least where Senator Obama is concerned. I appreciate more than I can say being spoken to like an adult with good sense, and to see the Senator not only rise above, but positively leverage the repeated and, in my opinion, well-coordinated attacks from the media, republicans, the corporate and business elites, and members of his own political party, gives me a sense of hope I haven't felt in a long, long time.

I have two thoughts to offer to Senator Obama.

One is that I would greatly appreciate it if the Senator would directly address the abuses of executive power and, arguably, the unconstitutional actions engaged in repeatedly over the seven years of the Bush administration, from approval of torture, to initiating a war in Iraq based on lies, to the manipulations of executive signing statements, to a refusal to respond to Congressional subpoenas, to the politicization of the Justice Department, etc., etc. By "addressing" I mean "renouncing" and, moreover, pledging to roll back those levers of unfettered executive power as part of the Senator's agenda for his first days in office. They must not be allowed to stand.

Second, on a slightly different subject, since Senator Clinton seems bound and determined to destroy Senator Obama's credibility, his campaign, his chances to win the Democratic nomination and any hope he has of being elected President, I would like to suggest that Senator Obama's response should simply be to ignore her and to begin campaigning against Senator McCain. By constantly responding to Senator Clinton's allegations, innuendos and accusations, the Senator, although I admire greatly the quality of his responses, only serves to reinforce her power over him. Reinforcement is reinforcement, be it positive or negative, and Senator Clinton does not deserve to be reinforced. Yes, I fully realize that there WILL be those occasions where responses are required, but, as a general strategy, I think it would serve the Senator and all of us who support him much better if, as much as is practical, he could just let her attacks roll off his back and go on with his campaign.

Best regards,

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Right hemisphere, left hemisphere, the corpus callosum and the perception of reality

terrific stuff...

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

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Great news: meet Paraguay's new president, Fernando Lugo

i posted yesterday about paraguay's presidential election... voting concluded last night with fernando lugo the resounding winner... this is great news and means that the entire "south cone" of south america now presents a solid bloc of center-left, populist leaders... after the 35-year stroessner regime ended in 1989, paraguay had continued to be ruled by members of stroessner's colorado party, but that era died a long overdue death yesterday...

Fernando Lugo
Former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo won a historic victory in Paraguay's presidential election Sunday, ending more than six decades of one-party rule with a mandate to help the nation's poor and indigenous.

His rival, Blanca Ovelar, conceded defeat after a closely fought race to lead this poor, agrarian nation where Ovelar's Colorado Party is the only ruling party most people have ever known.

News of the win by Lugo, dubbed the "bishop of the poor," set off massive parties in cities across Paraguay with horn-honking caravans of cars blaring music. Others stamped on torn-down banners of the Colorado Party, which many Paraguayans blame for decades of corruption by political elites.

The triumph by Lugo's eclectic opposition alliance also marked the latest in a series of election wins by leftist, or center-left, leaders in South America.

great news on a monday morning, unless of course you're george bush, who had plans for a safe haven in paraguay in case he's ever brought up on war crimes charges...

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Obama, whistle-stopping on the way to the Pennsylvania primary, in Paoli, PA

i'm excited about obama and, quite honestly, it scares me... it's taken me this long to cautiously overcome my cynicism enough to "dare to hope," but, goddam it, it SCARES me...

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Paraguay votes today - could a left turn scuttle Bush's military (and personal) plans?

paraguay is still shaking off the lingering aftereffects of the 35-year dictatorship of alfredo stroessner* who ruled the country with an iron hand from 1954 to 1989... since then, paraguay has been presided over exclusively by presidents from stroessner's colorado party up until, perhaps, today... we'll have the results of today's election, hopefully, by late tonight, paraguay time... (see my previous posts about the bush administration and paraguay here...)

from afp...

Fernando Lugo
Paraguay votes Sunday in a landmark presidential election in which a woman is competing for the first time but polls indicate the favorite is a suspended Catholic bishop.

Voters will also select a new congress in the relatively new democracy, which emerged from a 35-year military dictatorship in 1989 and elected its first civilian president in 1993.

The winner of the presidential poll will replace outgoing President Nicanor Duarte who constitutionally cannot seek re-election after serving a five-year term.

Fernando Lugo, a 56-year-old former bishop suspended by the Vatican for his bid to take over from Duarte, is seen as the frontrunner.

"We are going to win," a confident Lugo told reporters Friday.

Lugo represents the opposition Patriotic Alliance for Change, and is an avowed admirer of Latin American leftwing firebrands Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia and their programs to empower the poor.

However the race has been close, with opponents Blanca Ovelar, 51, a former education minister, and Lino Oviedo, 64, a retired army chief who helped stage a coup, mounting a serious challenge.

The latest polls show Lugo is favored by 34 percent of voters, while Ovelar has 28.5 percent and Oviedo 29 percent. There is no runoff vote.

Ovelar, the anointed candidate for the conservative Colorado Party which has ruled Paraguay for the past six decades, this week asked voters to show her the same consideration as her male counterparts.

"If I lose the election, I will accept the result. But I ask for the same openness and the same objectivity as the other candidates," she said.

Oviedo, who helped overthrow dictator Alfredo Stroessner in 1989 and who has spent much of the past decade in and out of military prisons, told AFP he was optimistic of a "triumph."

Oviedo was released from his last stint behind bars last September by a court that found he had been the victim of political persecution, leaving him able to pursue his long-held ambition of becoming head-of-state.

Political analyst Francisco Capli said that despite the closeness of the race, Lugo was likely to cling to his advantage.

"Lugo has had a five point lead over the others for three months," Capli said. "He could win."

if lugo wins, it will mean the entire "south cone" of latin america - argentina, bolivia, brazil, chile, paraguay, and uruguay - will have shifted to center-left leadership over the past ten years... in fact, it's really only colombia and ecuador - and not so much ecuador - in the entire continent (which excludes the mixed bag of central america, the caribbean, and mexico, AND those other countries ON the continent that no one ever seems to mention or know anything about, suriname, french guiana, and guyana) that remain in the u.s. camp... i won't conceal my delight over this turn of events... a left turn in paraguay might even mean that u.s. troops will be shown the door and the bush family's hopes for a sanctuary in paraguay** could be dashed...

* [Stroessner's] regime is also blamed for torture, kidnappings and corruption, of which the "terror archives", discovered in 1992 in Lambaré suburb of Asunción, gave proof; he did not dispute charges of corruption at some levels in his government. Corruption even extended to the highest echelons of the government, including Stroessner himself; estimates of the Stroessner family fortune run as high as $300 million. He did become more tolerant of opposition as the years passed, but there was no change in the regime's basic character.

Furthermore, Stroessner's Paraguay became a haven for Nazi war criminals, non communist peaceful opposition was crushed and the indigenous population was persecuted including forcibly assimilating the Ache population, a policy which ended in bloodshed, sexual slavery and servitude.


Paraguayans remain divided on Stroessner and his controversial legacy. Most feel a strong sense of distaste toward him, perceiving him as a widely corrupt, authoritarian dictator. Those who defend his legacy cite the political stability and economic progress that prevailed under his rule, despite the gross violations to human rights that his regime promoted and encovered, such as the infamous Operation Condor.

** now, about u.s. troops and that planned bush family "sanctuary"...

from august of last year...

Controversy is raging in Paraguay, where the US military is conducting secretive operations. 500 US troops arrived in the country on July 1st with planes, weapons and ammunition. Eyewitness reports prove that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the US military. Officials in Paraguay claim the military operations are routine humanitarian efforts and deny that any plans are underway for a US base. Yet human rights groups in the area are deeply worried.

White House officials are using rhetoric about terrorist threats in the tri-border region (where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet) in order to build their case for military operations, in many ways reminiscent to the build up to the invasion of Iraq.

The tri-border area is home to the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's largest reserves of water. Near the Estigarribia airbase are Bolivia's natural gas reserves, the second largest in Latin America. Political analysts believe US operations in Paraguay are part of a preventative war to control these natural resources and suppress social uprisings in Bolivia.

and this...
The land grab project of U.S. President George W. Bush in Chaco, Paraguay, has generated considerable discomfort both politically and environmentally.

The news circulating the continent about plans to buy 98,840 acres of land in Chaco, Paraguay, near the Triple Frontier (Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay) is the talk of the town in these countries.

Although official sources have not confirmed the information that is already public, the land is reportedly located in Paso de Patria, near Bolivian gas reserves and the Guarani indigenous water region, within the Triple Border.

things continue to look gloomy for george... if he loses his safe haven in paraguay, goodness knows, he might just have to face those dreaded war crimes charges...

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Pimping war, torture and political ideology for prestige and personal profit

i find it positively fascinating how, little by little, things that have been apparent to anyone with two brain cells to rub together, are now being confirmed as fact...
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

spin... lies... manipulation... bribery... corruption... propaganda... < yawn > what else is new...?

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