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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/27/2008 - 05/04/2008
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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Bushco advised telcos on how to lobby for retroactive immunity

just more gag-me-with-a-spoon-but-why-ain't-i-surprised news from the criminals occupying the white house...
Newly disclosed court papers confirm for the first time that the representatives of the nation's largest telecommunications companies reached out to the White House for advice on how to lobby Congress over a Bush administration proposal to give them retroactive immunity.

The Bush administration is refusing to disclose the contents of those communications, which include e-mails, letters and notes showing lobbying strategy.

and what do you suppose they're claiming as the basis for their refusal...?

aw, c'mon now...

you CAN'T be serious...!

ah, THAT'S better... i KNEW it would come to you...

Administration officials claim

their refusal is based on national security concerns,

but if they were to comply with the Freedom of Information Act request seeking those internal records, it would almost certainly show a deep and unseemly level of coordination between President Bush's advisers and the telecommunications companies they contracted to carry out his warrantless wiretapping program, critics say.

[emphasis added, in case you didn't figure that out already]

the united states doesn't have any more national security... bush and his criminal compadres have pissed it all away...

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More perspective on Afghanistan: "Since the Americans came here, nothing is cheap"

i've been posting on various perspectives of kabul and afghanistan... here's another one that captures fairly well the experience of driving around the city of kabul...
Getting around in some parts of central Kabul is like driving inside trenches: two lanes of road between high walls made of modern versions of sandbags referred to by their brand name: "Hesco barriers." They consist of 4-foot-tall wire mesh containers lined with heavy plastic and filled with sand, gravel or dirt, all topped by concertina wire. Other streets have classic sandbag structures, high walls and/or concrete-like barricades. Every dozen yards along the roads are heavily armed guards -- dead serious, with sunglasses, earpieces and legs menacingly spread.

yes, it sounds formidable and it is... on the other hand, there are also some relatively nice, wide streets, lined with homes or shops, certainly not like what you would experience in the u.s., but not like what she is describing above either... for instance, here's a lovely sunset picture i took from the hotel on a hill overlooking kabul where two afghan friends took me to dinner on thursday evening...

Kabul, looking west at sunset,
with buildings of Kabul University
in the foreground

but there is no discounting the reality that many afghans are experiencing...
Hungry Afghans looking for their next meal eye bread scraps piled up like heaps of trash at a Kabul market as a vendor weighs out fistfuls of the stale crusts on a scale. A Pashtun woman waits with an empty plastic sack.

She isn't scavenging — she's paying for leftovers that in better times were sold for feeding to sheep and cows. The woman said her household of 14 people had to give up fresh bread a month ago as the price spiraled out of reach.

Rising global food prices have hit few places as hard as Afghanistan, where the cost of wheat flour has shot up 75 percent in three months, fueling anger against the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai. In the volatile south, officials fear it could boost recruitment for the Taliban insurgency.


The U.N. World Food Program, or WFP, warns that the situation for the poorest in Afghanistan is dire and deaths from malnutrition are likely to increase. Protests have broken out in at least one city.

Even middle-income professionals are struggling.

"People are not dying of starvation, per se, but that's very rare these days. Usually people die from diseases they never should have died from but their bodies are weakened by hunger," he said.

Even before the food crisis, U.N. data showed 54 percent of children under five in Afghanistan are stunted. An estimated 10,400 people die of nutritional deficiencies each year.

In two of the poorest provinces, Ghor and Badghis, communities are buckling under the double impact of the global food crisis and a drought that wiped out 70 percent of last year's crop, said Mary Kate MacIsaac of the aid group World Vision.

here's the quote of the day...
[A] Pashtun woman, who declined to give her name because of her conservative social code [said,] "Since the Americans came here, nothing is cheap."

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Seems like we've heard rumors about closing Guantánamo before

what i'd like to know is what about bagram (see below) and the other cia black sites...?
The Bush administration could announce plans by the end of its term in January to close Guantánamo prison and an upcoming Supreme Court ruling might be the impetus for this, senior U.S. officials and experts say.

The government is under international and domestic pressure to close the prison, which opened at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay on Cuba in January 2002 to house terrorism suspects caught after the invasion of Afghanistan.

"A decision could be made in this administration to announce the closure of Guantanamo. It is unlikely in the next nine months that Guantánamo could be physically (closed) but it is possible the policy decision could be taken to close it," said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition he was not identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Officials say planning and debate has intensified in recent months over how to deal with Guantánamo, which President George W. Bush acknowledges has tarnished America's image and human rights advocates say has damaged U.S credibility. prison and an upcoming Supreme Court ruling might be the impetus for this, senior U.S. officials and experts say.

The government is under international and domestic pressure to close the prison, which opened at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay on Cuba in January 2002 to house terrorism suspects caught after the invasion of Afghanistan.

"A decision could be made in this administration to announce the closure of Guantánamo. It is unlikely in the next nine months that Guantánamo could be physically (closed) but it is possible the policy decision could be taken to close it," said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition he was not identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Officials say planning and debate has intensified in recent months over how to deal with Guantánamo, which President George W. Bush acknowledges has tarnished America's image and human rights advocates say has damaged U.S credibility.

This photo is said to be the first to be distributed taken from within the Bagram facility. Conditions at Bagram have been reported to have been far more brutal, and primitive, than those at the more well-known Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

first of all, i don't believe for one second that the bush administration intends to close guantánamo... this rumor has surfaced repeatedly and has repeatedly been squashed... besides, even if guantánamo is closed, that doesn't take care of bagram and those other sites where the united states violates the geneva and the u.n. convention against torture... closing guantánamo would only be symbolic and wouldn't at all get to the heart of the matter...

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Olbermann: "The only thing they're even half-way good at is half-assed lying and they're not very good at that"

mission accomplished, celebrating the deadliest month for u.s. troops in iraq since september of last year...

and, lest we lose sight of the true depth of the iraq tragedy, i'm going to do something i'm loathe to do, and that's to re-post one of the saddest photos i've seen in a long, long time, not for voyeuristic purposes, but simply to keep the horror visible...

Ridh Hadi places his two-year old nephew,
Ali Hussein, into a coffin in the Shiite
stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq
on Wednesday, April 30, 2008. The child
died on Tuesday after U.S. forces struck
back at militia fighters with 200-pound
(90-kilogram) guided rockets that
devastated at least three buildings in the
densely packed district that serves as the
Baghdad base for the powerful Mahdi
Army militia.

(AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)

so very, very sad...

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The 2008 campaign - the most shameful display of deliberately manufactured non-issues imaginable

i've come to the belated realization that there is nothing better than the featured headlines of the daily washington post opinion email to gauge the strategic focus of the beltway establishment elites...

Andres Martinez's Stumped
I'm for Obama -- in 2012
Should Obama run against McCain in four years as the I-Told-You-So candidate?

E.J. Dionne Jr.
Fair Play for False Prophets
Do white right-wing preachers have it easier than black left-wing preachers?

Michael Gerson
The Perils Of Patronizing
Obama's lofty explanations provided justification for Wright's media campaign.

Charles Krauthammer
The 'Race' Speech Revisited
Rev. Wright's words didn't change. Obama's response did.

the entire world is spinning out of control... poor people across the globe can no longer afford to feed themselves or their families, people across the u.s. are losing their homes, financial markets teeter on the edge of collapse, innocents continue to die by the thousands in iraq, afghanistan, gaza, the west bank, somalia, darfur, sri lanka and east timor... our so-called president takes a regular dump on the united states constitution... no one who accesses an electronic network anywhere is safe from surveillance and, if you're in a big city, you can be spied on while you're innocently walking down the street... torture has become official u.s. government policy... and what occupies the bandwidth, pixels and column inches of our "news" media...? well, go-l-l-l-leeee... absolutely NONE of those things...

this morning is one of those mornings when i think about publishing this weblog and say to myself, "fuck it... what's the use...?" then i think about the outlet it provides for what might otherwise be white-hot rage, and i plow on...

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Another person with explosive secrets mysteriously commits suicide

pardon me if i'm just a wee bit skeptical...
Deborah Jeane Palfrey, facing a likely prison term of four to six years for running a Washington area call-girl ring, apparently hanged herself Thursday in a storage shed behind her mother's mobile home in this small Gulf Coast city, authorities said.

Dubbed "the D.C. Madam" after a grand jury in Washington indicted her 14 months ago on prostitution-related racketeering charges, Palfrey, 52, repeatedly told journalist Dan Moldea last year that she would rather die than live behind bars, Moldea said.

He said Palfrey -- who was incarcerated for 18 months in California in the early 1990s after being convicted of running a prostitution ring -- told him on three occasions: "I'm not going back to jail. I'll kill myself first. I'll commit suicide first."

"Those were her exact words," said Moldea, who interviewed Palfrey last spring and summer for a possible book.

how very, very convenient for david vitter...
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the "D.C. Madam," making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in the high-profile case.

The statement containing Vitter's apology said his telephone number was included on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates dating from before he ran for the Senate in 2004.

The service's proprietor, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 51, faces federal charges of racketeering for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of homes and hotel rooms in the Washington area. Authorities say the business netted more than $2 million over 13 years beginning in 1993. Palfrey contends that her escort service was a legitimate business.

yes, indeed... VERY convenient...

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Sovereign debt default, inflation and denial - a long overdue update on Argentina

i've posted extensively on argentina in general and particularly its $95B 2001 bond default (see here)... over seventy percent of the bondholders opted for a 2004 swap deal that offered them 30 cents on the dollar, leaving about $20B outstanding... the remaining bondholders, mostly in the u.s., refused the swap, and continued to hold out past the 25 february 2005 expiration date... they're still trying to get all of their money...
A United States judge granted on Wednesday a request by bondholders suing Argentina to extend a freeze on as much as 16 billion US dollars in sovereign bonds issued by the country and which now held by the Depository Trust Co. in New York.

Argentina claims it no longer has any interest in the bonds and that they are worth only 2 billion US dollars. The order stems from a class-action, or group lawsuit brought by bond holders who claim Argentina wrongly failed to pay interest or principal on its 11 percent global notes due in October 2006. The plaintiffs, who claim the bonds are worth as much 16 billion, are seeking more than a billion US dollars in damages.


Argentina defaulted on 95 billion in debt in late 2001. In 2005, then-President Nestor Kirchner offered holders of defaulted debt 30 cents on the dollar. Holders of about 20 billion in bonds rejected that deal. Argentina has since refused to re-open negotiations, preventing the country from being able to directly tap international credit markets. The country has also been the subject of lawsuits by individual bondholders.

imho, these primarily u.s. based bondholders are throwing away their attorney fees... argentina, while it would like to get back in the good graces of the international credit markets doesn't feel any great pressure to do so... for one thing, the country's economy has been pushing forward at an amazing 9% since the default... for another, much of latin america, including argentina, has banded together under the financial assistance umbrella of venezuela and hugo chávez (banco del sur) at considerably more favorable, less restrictive and much less ideological terms than offered by the world bank, the imf or the big transnational banks...

besides, argentina has other things to worry about at the moment...

Inflation has become the main concern of a majority of Argentines, leaving aside other issues such as insecurity and poverty according to the latest public opinion polls from Ibarometro and Hugo Haime & Associates, released this week in Buenos Aires and which refers to the second half of April.

According to Ibarometro, 36.9% of respondents consider their main concern “the hike in prices”, while for Haime 50% of Argentines feel that “inflation is what most impacts daily life”. This suggests a radical change from last January.

At the beginning of 2008, for Ibarometro the main issues were insecurity, education, poverty and fourth rated inflation. But in three months inflation climbed to top of the list. Similarly with Haime, the April 50% was only 31% last January.

To make things even more worrisome, last January 37% believed inflation in 2008 was to be higher than in 2007, but in the latest poll the percentage jumped to 71%. That is 71% believe the current Argentine administration is not considered capable of keeping prices at a reasonable level.

Food, clothing and personal hygiene goods were the most volatile according to the opinion polls.

“Inflation, newspaper headlines almost daily and the discredited image of Indec (the office responsible for calculating consumer price indexes) is fueling the negative perception of the economic situation. We also believe that the camp conflict increases that negative perception”, pointed out Ibarometro.

More specifically compared with January “the inflation issue has jumped 200% from 11% to 36.9%, while insecurity falls ten percentage points. Clearly the increase in prices shadows all other concerns. The education issue also virtually has disappeared from the list of ratings”, added Ibarometro.

As to the overall economic situation, a majority of Argentines have a negative view: 56.8% describe it as “bad” or “very bad”. Only 30% considers it “very good” or “reasonably good”. However in spite of these percentages four out of ten respondents considered positive the sacking of the Economy minister Martin Lousteau.

the argentine government officially claims inflation at just under 10%... my finger in the air calculation is closer to 20%, and, if you're a foreign tourist, it's pushing 30%... it's that inflation, not a suit by disgruntled bondholders, that's going to bite cristina in her expensively-clad tush...
S&P said it had downgraded Argentine bonds’ risk rate precisely because the Kirchner administration refuses point blank to apply any cooling policies and insists that inflation is under control. In spite of the fact that the overall consensus is that inflation contrary to the “official” statistics of just below two digits is in the range of 18 to 24%.

as much as i have a very soft spot in my heart for argentina, it's difficult to let the argentine government off the hook when it's still led by those who think denial is a river in egypt...

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Sami al-Hajj released from Guantánamo: "Rats are treated with more humanity"

"Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values.

"In Guantanamo ... rats are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than 50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges.

"And they will not give them the rights that they give animals," he said.

i've been watching the france 24 video of al-haj being wheeled on a stretcher into the hospital in khartoum, a shell of a man with a big smile on his face...
An Al-Jazeera cameraman was released from U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay and returned home to Sudan early Friday after six years of imprisonment that drew worldwide protests.

Sami al-Haj, who had been on a hunger strike for 16 months, grimaced as he was carried off a U.S. military plane by American personnel in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. He was put on a stretcher and taken straight to a hospital.

Al-Jazeera showed footage of al-Haj being carried into the hospital, looking feeble and with his eyes closed, but smiling. Some of the men surrounding his stretcher were kissing him on the cheek.

"Thank God ... for being free again," he told Al-Jazeera from his hospital bed. "Our eyes have the right to shed tears after we have spent all those years in prison. ... But our joy is not going to be complete until our brothers in Guantánamo Bay are freed," he added.

"The situation is very bad and getting worse day after day," he said of conditions in Guantánamo. He claimed guards prevent Muslims from practicing their religion and reading the Quran.

"Some of our brothers live without clothing," he said.


Attorney Zachary Katznelson of Reprieve, who met al-Haj at Guantanamo on April 11, said he was "emaciated" because of his hunger strike. and had recently been having problems with his liver and kidneys and had blood in his urine.

"Sami is a poster child for everything that is wrong about Guantanamo Bay: No charges, no trial, constantly shifting allegations, brutal treatment, no visits with family, not even a phone call home," Katznelson said Thursday.

"Sami was never alleged to have hurt a soul, and was never proven to have committed any crimes. Yet, he had fewer rights than convicted mass murderers or rapists. What has happened to American justice?"

martin mubanga, a former guantánamo detainee, shares his recollections of sami...

after arriving in khartoum, sami speaks about his experience...

if sami didn't enter guantánamo as a radical, he is surely one now...

as a sidenote, thanks to satellite receiver problems, i am now down to two english language tv news services, al jazeera and france 24... while i rarely turn to any tv news service for my information (usually only for major breaking news or, as i am doing this morning, for background entertainment), i can tell you very honestly that both services are far superior to cnni (and VASTLY superior to cnn's domestic service) in their presentation of broad and deep perspectives on world news that would be startlingly unfamiliar to those accustomed to u.s. tv news outlets... imho, there are only two reasons the u.s. govt is so down on al jazeera... one, it's run by an islamic nation and two, it doesn't toe the u.s. line... france 24 doesn't toe the u.s. line either but one of those reasons - the bigger one - doesn't apply..
Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and is funded by the royal family of the Persian Gulf nation. Its Arabic channel has been excoriated by the Bush administration as a mouthpiece for terrorists including Osama bin Laden.

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The two senior WaPo pundits continue to flog Wright and ignore Hagee and Moon

David S. Broder
A Pastor's Influence
Barack Obama risks political damage by leaving vague what it was that attracted him to Rev. Wright.

Robert D. Novak
Obama's Misplay
Obama's reaction to Rev. Wright's rhetoric may not have been swift enough.

of course, this makes perfectly good sense only if you stop and remember that the mission undertaken by our esteemed "news" media and punditocracy is to destroy obama, discreetly support hillary and lionize mccain... never mind that wright is a truth-teller and hagee and moon are hateful, fundamentalist religious ideologues who are the stark antithesis of compassion, inclusion and basic human dignity...

think progress on hagee...

robert parry on rev. moon...
[I]t’s not news that a viciously anti-American religious figure has invested billions of dollars in financing the U.S. conservative movement and put fat wads of cash into the pockets of many prominent Republicans, including members of President George W. Bush’s own family.

While Sen. Obama has to explain what he knew and when he knew it about Wright’s angry sermons, the Bush Family floats above its financial and political associations with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a South Korean theocrat who had denounced the United States as “Satan’s harvest” and likened American women to “prostitutes.”

In his angry sermons, Moon has gone further than saying “God-damn America” – as Wright did – to vowing to sweep aside American democracy and individualism as he builds a one-world state.

Once his plan to “swallow entire America” is complete, Moon told his followers in one sermon, there will be “some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested.”

But Moon’s hatred of America is not deemed news, in part, because Moon has financed the Washington Times since 1982 to the tune of more than $3 billion, according to former newspaper insider George Archibald.

Moon also has lavished many millions of dollars more to pay for conservative conferences and to bail out key right-wing figures when they have found themselves in financial distress, including Republican direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie and the late Jerry Falwell.

Plus, Moon has paid large speaking fees to former President George H.W. Bush – estimated in the millions of dollars – and has feted President George W. Bush’s brother Neil at recent events for the Moon-sponsored Universal Peace Federation.


Yet, even though Moon has gained influence by funneling huge sums of mysterious money into the U.S. political process – and to the Bush Family – he has avoided the intense scrutiny that has fallen on Rev. Wright, who until recently was a little-known black preacher from Chicago’s South Side.

While the YouTube snippets of several Wright outbursts have become daily fare on U.S. news programs, Moon’s influence on the American Right and his largesse toward the Bush Family have remained virtual non-stories. That’s been the case even though Moon may represent a key nexus between international crime and the U.S. political elite.

When Moon is discussed, he’s usually presented as simply the wacky Unification Church cult leader who somehow parlayed carnation sales by his followers into a vast global fortune.

What is almost never referenced are his long-standing ties to organized crime and international drug smuggling, including the Japanese yakuza gangs and South American cocaine traffickers. Even first-hand accounts of Moon’s money-laundering from insiders like his former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong draw no U.S. media attention.

we in the u.s. are such dupes... we're led like sheep from manufactured scandal to manufactured scandal while the real dark forces continue to do their dirty work, safely protected in the shadows...

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Was Jeremiah Wright's speech set up by a Clinton supporter?

Hmmmmmmmm.........Ya think?

This is the post I promised on the radio show this morning. I found this at the L.A. Times. It's by Andrew Malcom.

Well, here's a most interesting connection we just came across.

Everybody is talking today about how much the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's latest unrepentant militant remarks hurt his most prominent parishoner, Sen. Barack Obama, and his chances to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election. So much so that the Obama camp
realized the latent danger overnight and the candidate was forced to speak out publicly a second time today, as The Ticket noted here earlier today.


But now, it turns out, we should have been paying a little less attention to Wright's speech and the histrionics of his ensuing news conference and taken a peek at................

Wait, now...........Here it comes.....

who was sitting next to him at the head table for the National Press Club event.


Photo Credit ----- Getty

It was the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, a former editorial board memberof USA Today who teaches at the Howard University School of Divinity. An ordained minister, as New York Daily News writer Errol Louis points out in today's column, she was introduced at the press club event as the person "who organized" it.

Man-o-man could I write some captions about what she's whispering in his ear.

And it gets better.....

But guess what? She's also an ardent longtime booster of Obama's sole remaining competitor for the Democratic nomination, none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. It won't take very much at all for Obama supporters to see in Wright's carefully arranged Washington event that was so damaging to Obama the strategic, nefarious manipulation of the Clintons.

Their supporter, Reynolds, helps arrange a speech by the outspoken and egocentric Wright which receives blanket national coverage to the disadvantage of Clinton's opponent. As Louis writes: "The Rev. Jeremiah Wright couldn't have done more damage to Barack Obama's campaign if he had tried. And you have to wonder if that's just what one friend of Wright wanted.

Reynolds has not returned e-mails or phone calls seeking comment, but Louis notes the obvious conflict between her political allegiance and her press club arrangements.

Don't feel alone, Mr Louis, I sent her 3 e-mails from the Blog of Revelation, asking her to comment on this. Surpriiiiiiiiiiise, she didn't answer me either.


Louis notes himself about the Wright appearance: "It's hard to exaggerate how bad the actual news conference was. Wright, steeped in an honorable, fiery tradition of Bible-based social criticism, cheapened his arguments and his movement by mugging for the cameras, rolling his eyes, heaping scorn on his critics and acting as if nobody in the room was learned enough to ask him a question."

Prof posted the videos of the speech earlier. THIS is the problem I have with the event: In typical Neocon fashion, all the questions that were asked of Wright were vetted and pre-screened before the event. When people do this kind of sh*t, it means only one thing: They've got something to hide.

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Hillary campaign stunt goes awry

she wants to show she's just one of the folks...
Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former first lady who hasn't driven a car or pumped gas in many years because of Secret Service restrictions, joined a blue-collar worker at a filling station Wednesday to illustrate how the high price of gasoline is squeezing consumers.

The Democratic presidential candidate and sheet metal worker Jason Wilfing, 33, pulled into the station in a large white Ford 250 pickup truck, Clinton riding shotgun. Never mind that it wasn't even Wilfing's truck — he had borrowed his boss's larger vehicle to accommodate Clinton's security agent and personal assistant, who rode in the back.

Trailing Wilfing and Clinton was a Secret Service motorcade consisting of six gas-guzzling Suburbans, two squad cars and a green SUV bearing photographers and TV cameras. Several other reporters and cameramen stood shivering in unseasonably cold temperatures, ready to capture the multi-vehicle arrival.

Clinton and Wilfing stepped out of the car and approached the pump. Wilfing chose regular unleaded gasoline, and began filling the tank. The two engaged in chit chat, with New York senator mentioning her proposal for a temporary gas tax holiday to ease the price pinch on consumers.

The tank filled, Clinton looked at the price recorded at the pump and shook her head.

"Sixty-three dollars," she said. "For just about half a tank."

Shutters clicked, cameras whirred. Point made.

point made... until she decides to get a cuppa, that is...

geeez, hill... it seemed like SUCH a good idea at the time...

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Why they hate us...

meanwhile, in that country that sits right on the other side of iran from where i'm sitting now in afghanistan...

from yahoo news...

Ridh Hadi places his two-year old nephew,
Ali Hussein, into a coffin in the Shiite
stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq
on Wednesday, April 30, 2008. The child
died on Tuesday after U.S. forces struck
back at militia fighters with 200-pound
(90-kilogram) guided rockets that
devastated at least three buildings in the
densely packed district that serves as the
Baghdad base for the powerful Mahdi
Army militia.

(AP Photo/ Karim Kadim)

from the sf chronicle...
The U.S. Army said they were militants. Sadr City residents said at least some were civilians, and photographs showed the dust-covered body of at least one child being pulled from a mountain of rubble after Tuesday's fighting.

Whatever the facts, at least 28 people were dead after the four-hour battle, the latest deadly showdown between U.S. and Iraqi forces and Shiite Muslim militiamen over recent weeks.

Based on the photographs, it appeared that at least one of the dead was a civilian. In its captions, the Associated Press identified the boy in the bloodied shorts being carried from the ruins of a house as 2-year-old Ali Hussein.

The brother-in-law of an Iraqi journalist who works with the Los Angeles Times also was reported killed. The victim recently had moved his family out of the neighborhood because of the fighting.

The destruction and death toll underscored the intensity of fighting in Sadr City, where U.S. forces are pursuing militants who often operate from the narrow alleyways and crowded residential sectors of the sprawling Shiite stronghold. Clashes have occurred there nearly every day since the end of March, when an Iraqi military crackdown on Shiite militias sparked an uprising by fighters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

With many of Sadr City's main roads peppered with roadside bombs and its side streets too narrow for U.S. tanks or other heavy vehicles to navigate, U.S. forces often call in air strikes or use guided rockets to hit their targets.

Locals say civilians often are caught in the chaos.

the last thing in this world any human being wants to do is to lay a two year-old boy into a coffin... that it took place as a result of being bombed by your so-called "liberators" is painful beyond imagining...

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A tale of seven headlines, Afghanistan, al Qaeda, and media falsehood

mccleans canada...

Afghan intelligence chief says Karzai assassination plot hatched in Pakistan

canada east...

Afghan intelligence chief says Karzai assassination plot hatched in Pakistan

khaleej times...

Afghans link Karzai murder plan to Pakistan

associate press...

Afghans link Karzai assassination plan to Pakistan

kuwait times...

Karzai assassination plan hatched in Pakistan soil


'Pakistan militants plotted Karzai ambush'

ah, but THEN there's the new york times...

Afghans See Link to Qaeda in Plot to Shoot Karzai [emphasis added]

for somewhat obvious reasons, i'm paying closer attention to what's going on in afghanistan than i might otherwise... we received a security warning yesterday about the shoot-out that was going on with this crowd of "pakistani militants" over in the northwest section of the city... not long after, amrullah suleh made this statement...
"We have no evidence whether ... the operation has had any mercy or go-ahead from the government of Pakistan and (its) special agencies," Saleh told reporters in Kabul. "There (is) very, very strong evidence suggesting that Pakistan's soil once again has been used to inflict pain on our nation." The militants involved in the weekend plot were in phone contact with people in Pakistan's Bajaur and North Waziristan tribal areas and the main northwestern city of Peshawar, he said.

did you see any mention of al qaeda there? good... neither did i...

amrullah suleh has a very dirty rep which i won't go into right now because i don't have any facts together, but i do know that there is a great deal of suspicion of pakistan and the pakistani government here, and, from what i can tell, for very good reason... i have heard it speculated that the serena hotel bombing was carried out by agents of pakistan's isi rather than the taliban... for one thing, it was a very technical, highly coordinated, and quite sophisticated operation, unlike anything the taliban could have carried out... but the ever-toadying u.s. press, led by water-carriers like the nyt, slavishly follow the administration line and link everything to al qaeda...

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The Fed is insane

it's all about making sure the super-rich and powerful stay that way... they're the ones that need to be protected... for the rest of us, it's the "on-your-own society" as per usual...
Fed Cuts Rate by a Quarter Point, to 2%

The Federal Reserve's policy-setting Open Market Committee
lowered the benchmark Federal Funds target rate by
one-quarter point, to 2.0 percent. The Fed gave no indication
that its thinking about the economy had changed or that it
planned to stop cutting rates now.

poor...? hungry...? deeply in debt...? tough shit... if you'd just worked harder and kissed a LOT more ass, you could be one of the super-rich welfare elite too...

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Parking a U.S. aircraft carrier right off your shores is only a "REMINDER"? Bollocks...!

yeah, yeah... "they" "say" a lot of things, but since when does what "they" "say" have anything to do with what "they" "do"...?
The U.S. Navy has temporarily added a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf as a "reminder" to Iran, but this was not an escalation of American forces in the region, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Mexico, Gates flatly denied a suggestion that the presence of two U.S. carriers in the Gulf could be a precursor to military action against Tehran.

"This deployment has been planned for a long time," Gates said. "I don't think we'll have two carriers there for a protracted period of time. So I don't see it as an escalation. I think it could be seen, though, as a reminder."

He declined to elaborate on his remarks and provided no details about the deployment.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the second carrier arrived in the Gulf on Tuesday to replace one on duty that was expected to depart the region in two days.

for one thing, the gulf is a small area... even ONE carrier plus all the ships that comprise a carrier battle group parked in the gulf where there's an honest-to-god transit point that's so narrow that it doesn't even contain any international water* (see below), takes up one hell of a lot of space...

* Strait of Hormuz

Ships moving through the Strait follow a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), which separates inbound from outbound traffic to reduce the risk of collision. The traffic lane is six miles (10 km) wide, including two two-mile (3 km)-wide traffic lanes, one inbound and one outbound, separated by a two-mile (3 km) wide separation median.

To traverse the Strait, ships pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman under the transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.[1] Although not all states have ratified the convention,[4] most states, including the U.S.,[5] accept these customary navigation rules as codified in the Convention.

stop and think about this for just a minute... check out the google earth image of the bay of fundy below... now, imagine a russian aircraft carrier on station in the middle, complete with all the ships that make up a carrier battle group... got that...? what do you think the canadian government would think of it...? what do you think the u.s. government would think of it...? how about the residents of nova scotia...? of new brunswick...? of maine...? what do you think of the possibility that it could ever happen before the first snowfall in hell...?


what's endlessly fascinating to me is that we in the u.s. don't stop for a second to think about the over-the-top arrogance of our own country sending an aircraft carrier and an entire carrier battle group to park right in the middle of half a dozen other countries as though we owned the entire chunk of real estate ourselves... imagine the shoe on the other foot...

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More on Rev. Wright and the swiftboating of Obama

i knew as soon as i started reading about rev. wright's interview with bill moyers that wright was being set up to bring obama down, part of the overall, national, coordinated strategy to deny obama both the democratic nomination and the white house... after yesterday's national press club speech, i was positive...

is it working...? oh, yeah... just look at these headlines from the wapo's editorial/opinion email summary from yesterday...

Eugene Robinson
Where Wright Goes Wrong
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright has become Barack Obama's cross to bear.

E.J. Dionne Jr.
The Shrinking Election
The 'change' election was supposed to be about ideas. It is losing focus.

George F. Will
A Pastor at Center Stage
It seems clear that Rev. Wright wants to be a central figure in this presidential campaign. He should be.

Richard Cohen
Words Heard Differently
White and black Americans are separated by a common language.

(Washington Post editorial)
The Audacity of Rev. Wright
A tale of a candidate, a pastor and some repugnant remarks

it's forcing obama on the defensive...
Obama strongly denounces former pastor

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama denounced his former pastor in his strongest language to date on Tuesday, saying he was outraged by Rev. Jeremiah Wright's assertions about the U.S. government and race.

"His comments were not only divisive ... but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate," Obama told reporters.

"Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this," Obama said.

Obama was forced to address the issue again after another appearance on Monday by Wright to combat criticism of his controversial sermons that have, among other things, suggested the United States deserved some blame for the September 11 attacks and had had a hand in spreading AIDS to blacks.

even the so-called "liberal, progressive" bloggers are piling on...
Wright truly crossed over into cuckoo-land yesterday, saying that our government created AIDS, among other things. That's insane conspiracy talk, and it's race-baiting (white people created AIDS to oppress minorities? - give me a break). Obama really blasted him this time. Good. I appreciate the position Obama is in. It's difficult to see someone you once respected turn into a crazy man. A craven politician, Hillary comes to mind, would turn on that person (or constituency) in a flash. A normal person, a good Christian, would struggle with the fact that the now-crazy man has done good in his life as well. How do you reconcile the two? Politicians don't. Real men - and real Christians - do.

thank god there are at least a few sane souls left out there who know that rev. wright is dead-on in what he's saying...
Jeremiah Wright is 5' 10 '' of tightly-packed explosives. He may be the best public speaker since Martin Luther King. He is bright, passionate, insightful and erudite. When he speaks; the sparks fly and the ground shakes. Yesterday, when Wright took the podium at the National Press Club, he knew he'd be taken to task no matter what he said. He knew that every word he uttered would be twisted by the media to make him look like a hate-monger, or worse, a racist. But Wright faced his critics with dignity and delivered another barnburner. By the end of the speech, everyone in attendance was on their feet applauding wildly for the man the corporate media has chosen to destroy.

so, make up your own minds...

the national press club speech...

Rev. Wright at the National Press Club (1 of 3)

Rev. Wright at the National Press Club (2 of 3)

Rev. Wright at the National Press Club (3 of 3)

followed by the q & a...

National Press Club - Rev Wright Q & A (Part 1 of 3)

National Press Club - Rev Wright Q & A (Part 2 of 3)

National Press Club - Rev Wright Q & A (Part 3 of 3)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pepe Escobar wonders what Israel REALLY bombed in Syria and I wonder what the hell's going on in D.C.

pepe's up first...

now, HERE'S some questions and concerns even MORE troubling...

ips' jim lobe via alternet...

Are the latest accusations and tough language leveled against Iran, Syria, and North Korea evidence of a resurgence by the remaining hawks in the administration of President George W. Bush hoping for a final confrontation against one or more members of the revised 'axis of evil' before his term next January?

That's the big question here this week, particularly following Thursday's long-awaited intelligence briefings to Congress about alleged North Korean involvement in the construction of a 'covert nuclear reactor' in Syria that was destroyed in a raid by Israeli warplanes in September last year.

According to some interpretations, the briefing's timing and content appeared deliberately designed to raise tensions between Washington, on the one hand, and Pyongyang and Damascus, on the other, potentially derailing ongoing long-running negotiations between the State Department and North Korea and Turkish-mediated peace feelers between Israel and Syria.

That Vice President Dick Cheney, whose opposition to engaging both North Korea and Syria and support for 'regime change' in both countries is both well known and of long standing, had pushed hard for the briefing to take place has added to speculation that a major power play by the hawks to reverse the diplomacy that has dominated Bush's second term is underway.

Rumours that the State Department's point man on North Korea, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill -- whose latest accord with Pyongyang negotiated in Singapore earlier this month has been the target of fierce right-wing attacks led by Cheney chum, former U.N. Amb. John Bolton -- has told associates that he will resign next month have added to concerns that the hawks have regained the initiative, at least on that front.

Add the promotion of Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq who has overseen the past year's 'surge' of U.S. troops, to take over the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) this summer, as well as the increasingly harsh charges against Iran's alleged interference in Iraq that have been coming out of the Pentagon in recent days.

All these developments are seen by some as an answer to the prayers of neo-conservatives, in particular, who had largely given up hopes that Bush could be persuaded to attack Iran's nuclear facilities before leaving office.

speaking entirely for my un-connected, barely-informed self, i have NEVER figured that bush and his criminal compadres had given up on attacking iran...

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Bill Moyers interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright

i've been waiting to grab this interview and, thanks to ich, i got the full thing from google video...

Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers' Journal (Part 1 of 2)

Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers' Journal (Part 2 of 2)

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We WILL be inured to torture as U.S. policy IF we don't stand up and fight

two-time pulitzer winner, anthony lewis, a true "dean" of journalism in a way his fellow jewish journalist, robert novak, will never be, offers his views on the horror of torture as official u.s. policy...
In these last weeks of turbulent events, the single most significant has not been the financial crisis, not the fall of a governor, not the passing of the fifth year of the war without end in Iraq. It has been an American president's formal blessing of the use of torture.

That was what President Bush did in early March when he vetoed legislation prohibiting the use of brutal methods of interrogation by American intelligence agents. His action was quickly overtaken by other news. But in its redefinition of American values — of the American character — it had profound implications.


The corrupting effects of the adoption of torture as an American practice have been widespread. First of all, on the law. The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which makes binding interpretations of the law for the federal government, issued secret opinions defining torture away to the vanishing point, saying it must be equivalent in pain to "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" — and adding that Congress could not stop the president from ordering the use of torture. (The whole idea of secret official opinions defining the law should be anathema in a free republic, one that has boasted from the beginning of having a government of laws, not men. Secret laws are the hallmark of tyrannies.)

The Justice Department opinions were not abstractions. They were immediately taken up by political appointees at the Pentagon and led directly to the torture of dozens of prisoners and the killing of some at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Torture has had corrupting effects on our politics, too. Most Republicans in Congress have defended President Bush's claim of the right to use such methods, evidently as a matter of political solidarity. The corruption has even touched the man who more than anyone has been a symbol of resistance to torture, John McCain. Senator McCain led Congress in 2005 to pass the legislation reiterating the ban on the military's use of torture. But when it came to extending the ban to intelligence agents in this year's Intelligence Authorization Act, he sided with the president. It was as if he were saying that the North Vietnamese who so cruelly tortured him as a prisoner were war criminals if they were soldiers — but not if they were intelligence agents.


[T]he rest of us do not have to resign ourselves to being a Torture Nation. ... Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, U.S. Army (Ret.), who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, wrote: "We must start now to recognize our crimes and our complicity. We are all guilty, and we must all take action in whatever way we can. Torture and abuse are not American. They are foreign to us and always should be. We need to exorcise them from our souls and make amends."

there is only one surefire way to restore our country's integrity, and that's to insure that the criminals responsible are prosecuted for war crimes in the hague, in full view of the watching world...

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Several different perspectives on the reality of being in Kabul, Afghanistan

here's one (see extended excerpt below)...

"For foreigners in Kabul, the fact they can jump in cars and drive around, take walks in the evening and go out to restaurants..."

we-e-e-e-llll, not exactly... because the project i work with is under usaid, we have some fairly strict security rules, laid down by usaid and enforced by the security company employed by the project... as much as i would love to walk around, i am under orders to fughedaboudit, and the number of restaurants i am allowed to patronize hovers between 4 and 6 depending on the security situation of the moment... we can visit the atm of the afghanistan international bank, make occasional runs to a few approved grocery stores, and i can pretty much go to and from business meetings as needed...

almost all trips outside the guarded, walled, cctv'd compound take place in a 3.5 ton, armored, toyota landcruiser with a project driver... last saturday night, going to and from a dinner attended by usaid and afghan dignitaries, the driver was joined by a "shooter," a rifle-equipped guard riding in the passenger seat... i've occasionally been driven around in one of the project's non-armored vehicles, aptly called "soft-skin transportation," and a few times one of the afghans i've been meeting with was kind enough to give me a lift back in his vehicle...

Tank rumbling down my street
Sunday, April 27

however, the article does capture fairly well the glory of the afghan spring... i've spent a number of hours over lunch breaks, in the evenings and on days off, basking in the sunshine, enjoying the cool breeze, gazing at the snow-covered peaks of the hindu kush mountain range to the northwest, and imagining just how truly wonderful it would be if the country could find peace and get on with exploring its real potential...
While President Hamid Karzai may have narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in central Kabul on Sunday, in many ways the Afghan capital is remarkably calm and orderly for a city in the midst of war.

With the winter past and spring sunshine bathing the surrounding mountains and tree-lined streets, one could be forgiven for thinking a healthy ceasefire was in force if it were not for the checkpoints, very occasional gunfire, and heavy security surrounding government buildings and embassies.

Sunday's dramatic attack by a group of Taliban militants on a military parade, killing three and alarming Karzai and invited foreign dignitaries, was a powerful reminder of the deadly threat insurgents can land in the heart of Kabul.

But by comparison with Baghdad, that other capital at the centre of a war zone where U.S. and British forces are trying to quell an insurgency, Kabul feels far more stable and at ease considering the years of conflict it has suffered.

For foreigners in Kabul, the fact they can jump in cars and drive around, take walks in the evening and go out to restaurants -- even though a five-star hotel was hit by a suicide attack in January -- immediately sets it apart from Baghdad.

In Iraq, the threat of kidnapping or car bombings -- which also occur in Kabul -- makes venturing outside a potentially lethal exercise that most avoid except under the most pressing of circumstances.

Baghdad has become a city of concrete, with 14-foot (four meter) anti-blast walls surrounding many buildings, offices and ministries, blocking off whole streets or districts, and turning even straight-forward journeys into confusing mazes.

It is not uncommon to see heavily armed U.S. troops, backed by armored vehicles and low-flying helicopters, carrying out raids in central Baghdad, fingers nervously on triggers.

By contrast in Kabul, Afghan security forces are the major presence on the streets, politely manning checkpoints, running night-time checks on drivers and even enforcing traffic regulations, although many locals still ignore them.

"Having lived in both Kabul and Baghdad, I can say with certainty that it's very, very different," said a British diplomat, explaining how it would be inconceivable to drive oneself around Baghdad or meet an Iraqi contact at a restaurant, both of which are eminently doable in Kabul.

"People here live in a very normal way. They have dinner parties, they drive or walk around. You can live without excessive levels or security, without a small army having to protect you, as is the case in Baghdad."

look, ma...! it's a STOPLIGHT...!
A surprising recent development on a busy junction in one well-off district of central Kabul has been the installation of a traffic light. As far as long-term residents of the city know, it is the first to be installed in the past six years.

At first no one paid any attention to it. But with a little strict monitoring by whistle-blowing traffic police, the light is now enjoying some success, to the amusement of Kabulis.

The light even has an electronic display telling drivers how long they have to wait until it turns green again, and pedestrians how long they have to cross the road before the onslaught of traffic resumes. For the record, it's 53 seconds.

In Baghdad, the traffic lights that do exist have long since fallen into disrepair or been shot to bits. One resident of the city says her eight-year-old son learned about traffic lights in kindergarten, "and has always dreamed since of seeing one."

i was coming back from a meeting a couple of weeks ago and was surprised to find i was waiting for a stoplight to change... when it turned green, the woman driving the car ahead of us just sat there, obviously not used to paying attention to an electronic signal... the horns started to blow and she finally snapped to attention and got on her way...

note: when the writer says "'well-off' district of central kabul," 'well-off' is a relative term... the light happens to be at a major intersection of streets lined with small shops, only a few of which come even close to sporting an exterior that might entice a westerner, used to the facades of western retail stores, to enter... the only truly 'well-off' places i've seen are what i'm told are "pakistan-style" mcmansions springing up in wazir akbar khan*, a district of the city where the profiteers, the ministers and officials on the take, and the international pooh-bahs hang out...

[* In early September 2003, Karzai's chief of police in Kabul led officers in bulldozing away homes that some thirty poor Afghan families had built for themselves on open land in the posh Wazir Akbar Khan area, to make way for houses for high-ranking Karzai officials.]

Not so 'well-off' street vendor
Central district, Kabul

here's another perspective...
U.S. Marines in helicopters and Humvees flooded into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan's most violent province early Tuesday, the first major American operation in the region in years.

Several hundred Marines pushed into the town of Garmser in predawn light in an operation to drive out militants, stretching NATO's presence into an area littered with poppy fields and classified as Taliban territory.

Helmand province is the world's largest opium poppy growing region and has been a flashpoint of the increasingly violent insurgency the last two years. British troops — who are responsible for Helmand — have faced fierce battles on the north end of Helmand.

U.S. commanders say Taliban fighters had been expecting an assault and were setting up improvised explosive devices. It wasn't known how much resistance the Marines would face in Garmser, where the British have a small base at the town's edge but whose main marketplace is closed because of the Taliban threat.

and still another...

Soldiers of the Afghan National
Army (ANA) stand guard

Afghanistan's national army will take over the security of Kabul as scheduled this autumn despite a brazen attack by suspected Taliban militants at the heart of the Afghan capital, the special UN envoy to the insurgency-wracked nation said Monday.

"The ANA (Afghan National Army) takeover of Kabul is supposed to happen in autumn this year and I expect that to take place according to the schedule they have outlined," said envoy Kai Eide of Norway, who took over about a month ago.

The training of the national army, numbering more than 64,000 soldiers and scheduled to grow to 80,000 by the end of this year, was "not going badly at all" ahead of shouldering its new responsibility, he said.

The upcoming takeover "is an important step in the right direction," Eide said at a Washington forum when asked whether Sunday's attack at a top military parade in central Kabul -- seen also as an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- had cast doubt on the Afghans' role in assuming security responsibility.

it's all part of what's happening...

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A confession about my current state of mind

if i've learned one thing over my many years, it's that states of mind are fluid, so pardon me while i unload about my current one...

it's early morning here in kabul... i woke up about 2:30 and tossed and turned until nearly 5 at which point i grabbed a bit more fitful sleep and got up a little after 6, a bit later than usual... after a little breakfast and coffee, i settled down here at the computer to do my regular morning catch-up on the news... one of the first things that caught my eye was this...

Hayden: Syrian site could have produced fuel for 2 weapons

CIA Director Michael Hayden said Monday that the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in September would have produced enough plutonium for one or two bombs within a year of becoming operational.

U.S. intelligence and administration officials publicly disclosed last week their assessment that Syria was building a covert nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance. They said it was modeled on the shuttered North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, which produced a small amount of plutonium. The Syrian site, they said, was within weeks or months of being operational.

and this...
Farrakhan's Pennsylvania Admirer

Recall last week's ABC debate in Philadelphia and the way Clinton managed to link Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to Obama.

No Clinton mistake there. Wright and Farrakhan are toxic to many voters. Suggesting that Obama and the two men are as close as pages in a book virtually seals the Illinois senator's fate with large voting blocs.

and this...
Former Guantanamo prosecutor says trials tainted

The former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals testified on Monday that the tribunals were tainted by political influence and evidence obtained through prisoner abuse.

Air Force Col. Moe Davis, who quit the war court last year, said political appointees and higher-ranking officers pushed prosecutors to file charges before trial rules were even written.

A supposedly impartial legal adviser demanded they pursue cases where the defendant "had blood on his hands" because those would excite the public more than mundane cases against document forgers and al Qaeda facilitators, Davis said.

He said the pressure ramped up after "high-value" prisoners with alleged ties to the September 11 plot were moved to Guantanamo from secret CIA custody shortly before the 2006 U.S. congressional elections and amid the ongoing U.S. presidential campaigns.

and those are just random samples... i haven't even started digging yet...

i'm totally sick of this shit, folks... i'm sitting less than two blocks from where two members of the afghan parliament and a ten year-old boy were shot to death two days ago at the beginning of an event to celebrate a country's independence, and what is the news i'm reading from my own country...?

- more accusations and deliberate, belligerent incitement toward YET ANOTHER country that chooses not to toe the u.s. line

- a continuing, coordinated effort to smear a presidential candidate via guilt by association and innuendo, in a presidential campaign increasingly divorced from any sense of reality, reinforced by a news media totally devoid of any journalistic ethics

- a reminder that my country has thrown away all pretense of holding on to its prized tradition of human rights and due process under law...

i'm not only sick of this shit, i'm deathly tired of posting about it... while ignoring it certainly won't make it go away, my temptation at the moment is to take a comfortable plunge into denial...

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Just "close enough to steal" - truer words were never spoken

They just have to make it close enough to steal

headline on clammyc's diary, currently on the rec list over at daily kos... a point well worth considering and definitely evocative of the shameful supreme court decision of 12 december 2000...

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IHT headline: "Guantánamo drives prisoners insane"

ya know, sitting here in afghanistan offers a remarkable perspective on what's happening back home... things are bad here, no doubt about it, but when i catch myself thinking about how fortunate we are in the u.s. and then read something like this, it makes me physically ill...
Guantánamo drives prisoners insane, lawyers say

Next month, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was once a driver for Osama bin Laden, could become the first detainee to be tried for war crimes in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. By now, he should be busily working on his defense.

But his lawyers say he cannot. They say Hamdan, already the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, has essentially been driven insane by solitary confinement in a tiny cell where he spends at least 22 hours a day, goes to the bathroom and eats all his meals. His defense team says he is suicidal, hears voices, has flashbacks, talks to himself and says the restrictions of Guantánamo "boil his mind."

"He will shout at us," said his military defense lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer. "He will bang his fists on the table."

His lawyers have asked a military judge to stop his case until Hamdan is placed in less restrictive conditions at Guantánamo, saying he cannot get a fair trial if he cannot focus on defending himself. The judge is to hear arguments as soon as Monday on whether he has the power to consider the claim.

Critics have long asserted that Guantánamo's climate-controlled isolation is a breeding ground for insanity. But turning that into a legal claim marks a new stage for the military commissions at Guantánamo. As military prosecutors push to get trials under way, they are being met with challenges not just to the charges, but to Guantánamo itself.

Conditions are more isolating than many death rows and maximum-security prisons in the United States, said Jules Lobel, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who is an expert on U.S. prison conditions.

Pentagon officials say that Guantánamo holds dangerous men humanely and that there is no unusual quantity of mental illness there. Guantánamo, a military spokeswoman said, does not have solitary confinement, only "single-occupancy cells."

that last line is jaw-droppingly unbelievable for its arrogance if not its outright prevarication...

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Stiglitz puts the blame where it belongs

i'm glad to see someone i respect as much as stiglitz knocking the cardboard guru, alan, off his perch...
"This man (Greenspan) has unfortunately made a lot of mistakes," said former World Bank chief economist Stiglitz, according to a preview of the interview to be published on Monday in profil magazine.

"His first one was to support all the tax cuts which were introduced under Bush -- they didn't stimulate the economy very much ... This task was then transferred more towards monetary policy, though then (Greenspan) created a flood of credits with low interest rates," Stiglitz was quoted as saying.


Stiglitz said Bush's government was also to blame.

"I reproach them, that the economy was not as resilient as it could have been due to the ongoing tax cuts and the huge costs incurred by the war in Iraq," he was quoted as saying.

He said it was a myth that Europe could decouple itself from the United States.

"Especially the weak dollar will continue to hit the European economy hard, because it will make it much harder to export," he said.

where i disagree with stiglitz is that i don't believe either greenspan or bush have made "mistakes"... i think they've followed the script to the letter... it's a trap to make an assumption that either of the sorry bastards have the slightest interest in serving the common good...

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What do insurance companies do when trouble comes...? Stop insuring, of course...

money-grubbing bastards...
MetLife placed a 30-day moratorium on new coverage after a 4.2 quake jolted Reno on Thursday. Until then, the strongest quake in the sequence had been 3.6 on April 16.

what, don't they trust their claims investigators to weed out false and frivolous claims...?


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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ah, yes, torture - back to the sordid reality of my own country

after being a witness to this morning's events here in afghanistan, it's particularly galling to read the continuing saga of the criminals who are in charge of my own country...
The Justice Department has told Congress that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.

The legal interpretation, outlined in recent letters, sheds new light on the still-secret rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that the administration is arguing that the boundaries for interrogations should be subject to some latitude, even under an executive order issued last summer that President Bush said meant that the C.I.A. would comply with international strictures against harsh treatment of detainees.

While the Geneva Conventions prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity,” a letter sent by the Justice Department to Congress on March 5 makes clear that the administration has not drawn a precise line in deciding which interrogation methods would violate that standard, and is reserving the right to make case-by-case judgments.

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.

Mr. Bush issued the executive order last summer to comply with restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court and Congress.

will some european country PLEASE STAND UP AND CHARGE THESE BASTARDS WITH WAR CRIMES so that they can get their asses over to the hague and start being accountable...?

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Attack on Afghanistan's Independence Day

this is one of those times when i wish i didn't have to say "i was there"...

from the bbc...

At least one person has been killed and 11 were hurt in an attack on a military parade in Kabul attended by President Hamid Karzai and other dignitaries.

Security forces whisked Mr Karzai away from the scene and hundreds fled as shots rang out. Two MPs were reported to be among the wounded.

The parade was a celebration to mark 16 years since the overthrow of the country's Soviet-backed rule.

A spokesman for the Taleban said the movement had carried out the attack.

He said six militants had been deployed near the parade with suicide vests and guns. Three of them were killed and the other three arrested, he added.

In a live TV address after the incident, Mr Karzai confirmed that there had been arrests.

"Fortunately Afghan security forces quickly surrounded them," he said. "Some of them were captured."

"Everything is calm, rest assured."

Mr Karzai has frequently been the target of assassination attempts in recent years.

The parade, in central Kabul, was part of Afghan National Day celebrations, marking the capture of Kabul from the Soviet-backed government by the mujahideen in 1992.

here's the bbc video...

we were on the upper balcony where we could just barely see the mosque area across from the stadium... we saw the president's vehicles arrive and saw all the elaborate security precautions... we moved back and forth from my friend's room where it was on live afghan tv to the balcony, but when the president and his entourage moved in and the ceremony started, we clustered in front of the tv... after the opening prayer had been chanted, cannon fire commenced to signal the official start of the parade... it was shortly thereafter that we heard machine-gun or small arms fire open up and saw the dignitaries hitting the deck in the reviewing stands... we couldn't quite believe what we were seeing but after more gunfire and an explosion or two, we were convinced that an attack was underway... i ran out to the edge of the balcony and shot this short video clip that shows people and troops running into the mosque and away from the gunfire...

we moved to our rooms but, when we heard gunfire in the street just outside, we hustled down to the basement with our helmets and armored vests to the "safe room" where we spent the past couple of hours... we were allowed to come back to our rooms just about fifteen minutes ago but warned to stay off the balconies...

in a perverse kind of way, i'm actually glad to have had this experience... it gives me a much better feel for how a lot of people have to live their lives day-to-day...

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Afghanistan Independence Day 2008, celebrating independence with displays of military might

it's 7:30 a.m. here and i'm listening to the band practicing and final preparations being made for afghanistan independence day over at the big reviewing area in front of the main mosque a few blocks from here... at 9, things kick off and i plan to be out on the balcony getting some video clips of the fly-overs...

it's a mystery to me why countries insist on celebrating independence and freedom with displays of their capacity for death and destruction...

but that's just me...

i think the large sums of money spent on those tools of war and the fuel it takes to fly or drive them around for half a day would be better spent offering come-one, come-all picnic buffets in every major city around the country, or something more warm and inclusive like the feeling inspired by the giant billboard that greets arrivals at kabul international airport (see below)...

"Welcome to Afghanistan"
Large billboard that greets arrivals
at Kabul International Airport

but that's just me...

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