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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 05/11/2008 - 05/18/2008
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So, now Carlyle gets to control the part of government business it doesn't ALREADY control

well, at least they're keeping it all in the family...
The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton said yesterday it is splitting up, selling its U.S. government business to private-equity firm Carlyle Group for $2.54 billion and spinning off its commercial business into a separate company.

< rolls eyes >

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Who is this guy Paulson, anyway...? Doesn't he work for Bush...?

doesn't that automatically mean his credibility is less than zero...?
Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said yesterday that financial markets have stabilized since March, when the collapse of investment house Bear Stearns roiled Wall Street, and said he expects economic growth to rebound by the end of the year.

A severe housing slump remains "the biggest risk to our economy," Paulson said, adding that he was "very encouraged" to see "bipartisan progress" in Congress on a comprehensive plan to address the downturn.

"The markets are considerably calmer now than they were in March," Paulson said to business leaders gathered at a downtown hotel for a forum sponsored by The Washington Post. "In my judgment, we are closer to the end of the market turmoil than the beginning."

why does our esteemed news media insist on continuing to publish the statements of proven liars and criminals as though they were some kind of believable information that we should all pay attention to...? i'm confoozed...

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Moyers: "Democracy in America ... all bets are off"

all bets were off the day the supreme court handed down the decision of 12 december 2000...
The following is an excerpt from Bill Moyers' new book, "Moyers on Democracy" (Doubleday, 2008).

Democracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. The reigning presumption about the American experience, as the historian Lawrence Goodwyn has written, is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is "better" than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, "The system works."

Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions. A sense of political impotence pervades the country -- a mass resignation defined by Goodwyn as "believing the dogma of 'democracy' on a superficial public level but not believing it privately." We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to bring the corporate state under popular control. There is considerable vigor at local levels, but it has not been translated into new vistas of social possibility or the political will to address our most intractable challenges. Hope no longer seems the operative dynamic of America, and without hope we lose the talent and drive to cooperate in the shaping of our destiny.

i repeatedly said that i have very, very few personal heroes... bill moyers is one of them...

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Oh, swell... A bigger, better Bagram (or, should I say, Guantánamo)...


if you're looking for any clues about whether or not guantánamo will be closed, look no further...
The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, officials said, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come.

The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Until now, the Bush administration had signaled that it intended to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan. It had planned to transfer a large majority of the prisoners to Afghan custody, in an American-financed, high-security prison outside Kabul to be guarded by Afghan soldiers.

it's a heckuva deal... close guantánamo and everybody'll think, hey...! we scored a BIG victory...! we got the government to close guantánamo... WOO-HOO...! meanwhile, on the other side of the world, far away from prying eyes, out of sight, out of mind, with layers of security too thick to penetrate, out in the middle of absolutely no-fucking-where, the u.s. will now be the proud proprietor of a super-sized guantánamo...

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

This AP story could have come from William Shirer's, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. These clowns are following it like it was an NFL Playbook. They think Hitler had the right idea, they can just do it better.

Congressman Questions DOD Presence

Dem. Congressman claims generals watched House vote, demands to know why.

AP News
May 16, 2008 14:57 EST

An anti-war Democratic congressman is demanding to know why there were uniformed Defense Department personnel watching House proceedings from a public gallery Thursday, who they were and what they were doing.

"If they were here on official duty, this was an abhorrent misallocation of our military resources at a time of war," Northern California Rep. Pete Stark asserted Friday in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Stark, an 18-term incumbent known for his
liberal positions and
outbursts of temper, said he observed the contingent of 20 or so officers, apparently Army generals, in the gallery for a couple of hours while the House debated and voted on an Iraq war spending bill.

"At a time when our nation is at war, our troops are overextended, and the administration is literally asking for emergency military spending, what good to the 'war on terror' is having U.S. generals and other top-ranked officers — who were likely accompanied by staff and escorted by their chauffeurs — spending hours sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives?" Stark asked.


Stark said he didn't have a problem if the military personnel were there on their own time, but if they were there on official duty he wanted to know why. He asked Gates for an accounting by Monday of the name, rank, branch and duties of each of the officers as well as how many staff members and drivers were involved.

Good luck with that Congressman. You might have more success writing a letter to Santa Claus.

Thanks, and a tip 'o the hat to:
Betmo at Life's Journey

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Hey... If we can't go to war with Iran, how about Venezuela...?


if the u.s. can't manage to get a war with iran going, there's always venezuela, and ecuador too if they don't mind their p's and q's...

Venezuela's president has warned Colombia against building a US military base on the countries shared border, saying he would consider such a move an act of "aggression".

Hugo Chávez said on Thursday that he would not allow a US military base to be established in La Guajira, a region spanning northeastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.

"We will not allow the Colombian government to give La Guajira to the empire," Chávez said, referring to the US during a speech to a packed auditorium of uniformed soldiers.

"Colombia is launching a threat of war at us."

The Venezuelan leader said that if Colombia built the base, his government would revive a decades-old territorial conflict and stake a claim to the entire region.

The US maintains a military base at the Pacific port of Manta in Ecuador, but Rafael Correa, Ecuador's president and an ally of Chávez, has repeatedly said he will not renew the 10-year leases when it runs out next year.

Chávez said that William Brownfield, the US Ambassador to Colombia, had suggested that the Ecuador base could be moved to La Guajira.

and, of course, the u.s. is still banging the same drum that it's been banging on since the illegal attack by colombia on ecuadorean soil of a couple of months ago...
Diplomatic relations between Caracas and Bogota have come under increasing strain in recent months after Colombia unveiled documents allegedly showing that Chávez sought to arm and finance Farc, an armed anti-government group in Colombia.

Last week the US claimed the documents, contained on a laptop, were "authentic" and showed ties between Chávez and Farc.

Chávez, whose sympathies for Farc are well known, said the files had been faked by the Colombian government.

The computer files were found after Colombian forces mounted a raid inside Ecuador to kill a Farc commander at his camp across the border.

The raid sparked a regional crisis when briefly raised fears of war when Chávez threatened to send troops to the border with Colombia.

"authentic" like the syrian nuclear reactor was "authentic," like the iranian weapons in iraq are "authentic," like saddam's wmd's were "authentic"... horse hockey...

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Yes, it's yet another outrage...

as a vietnam vet who very belatedly submitted my claim of ptsd almost 2 1/2 years ago and received my denial letter approximately 3 weeks ago, i share the outrage on a very personal level...
CREW and VoteVets release email telling VA staff to “refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out”

CREW and released an e-mail obtained from a Veterans Affairs (VA) employee directing VA staff to refrain from diagnosing soldiers and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

On March 20, 2008 a VA hospital’s PTSD program coordinator sent the e-mail below to a number of VA employees, including psychologists, social workers, and a psychiatrist stating that due to an increased number of “compensation seeking veterans,” the staff should “refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out” and they should “R/O [rule out] PTSD” and consider a diagnosis of “Adjustment Disorder” instead:

This week, CREW sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the VA asking for all records pertaining to any guidance given regarding the diagnosis of PTSD. The FOIA request can be found here.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today:
It is outrageous that the VA is calling on its employees to deliberately misdiagnose returning veterans in an effort to cut costs. Those who have risked their lives serving our country deserve far better. First and foremost, they have a right to expect that they receive diagnoses and treatment based on their symptoms and not on the VA’s budget. The VA should immediately reverse this and any other similar directives.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of, added:
This is an issue I take personally. I know of many people who received a diagnosis of ‘Adjustment Disorder,’ who strongly felt they had PTSD, many of whom confirmed that suspicion with an independent diagnosis. Many veterans believe that the government just doesn’t want to pay out the disability that comes along with a PTSD diagnosis, and this revelation will not allay their concerns. It is crucial that we quickly get to the bottom of this, and ensure that misdiagnosing veterans is not part of some cost-cutting policy.

Last month, the RAND Corporation released a report that found that approximately 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and only about half have sought treatment.

just more evidence that our esteemed president and his criminal cronies don't give a flying shit about those who have served their country...

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If I was a terrorist

there is nobody that this guy reminds me of more than wilford brimley...


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

A grab-bag of perspectives and stories about what's happening in Afghanistan


there's been a noticeable increase in violent activity here in afghanistan over the past few weeks as the warm weather takes hold... just like an increase in temperature causes atoms and molecules to move faster, those committed to death and destruction, sadly, tend to do the same...
Burqa-Clad Suicide Bomber Kills 16 In Afghanistan

A suicide bomber apparently wearing a burqa detonated in a busy bazaar in southwestern Afghanistan Thursday, killing 16 people including four policemen, a provincial governor said.

Growing number of insurgent attacks seen in Afghanistan

Attacks by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan have risen sharply, NATO said yesterday, expressing concerns that Pakistani agreements with the Taliban may be creating safe havens for militants.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said attacks were up 50 percent in April compared to the same period last year - a significant jump that could indicate the militants are getting help on the Pakistani side of the border.

UN: Foreign agents behind spate of Afghan killings

A U.N. rights official has alleged that foreign intelligence agents have taken part in secret raids in Afghanistan that have killed civilians.

U.N. special rapporteur Philip Alston told reporters Thursday he is aware of at least three such recent raids in the country's south and east. He said no one was taking responsibility for the killings.

More must be done to avoid Afghan deaths

Afghan forces, international troops and Taliban insurgents need to do more to avoid civilian casualties or many more innocents will be killed in the ongoing conflict, a U.N. rights expert said on Thursday.

U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said the level of complacency over civilian killings was "staggeringly" high and a great many deaths could be avoided.

"The bottom line of my report is that there are many killings which are avoidable," he told a news conference at the end of a 12-day visit to Afghanistan.

Some 200 civilians have been killed by international and Afghan forces so far this year, he said, while Taliban insurgents have killed around 300 in the same period.

Alston called for more accountability from the more than 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, who together with Afghan government troops are engaged in daily battles with a resurgent Taliban mainly in the south and east of the country.

Press conference by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

My focus is on extrajudicial executions or what might be called unlawful killings. The principal actors whose conduct I have been examining include the Government, particularly the police, the international military forces and the anti-government elements, including the Taliban. The bottom line of my report is that there are many killings which are avoidable.

I have summarized my findings with the following statement: police killings must cease; widespread impunity within the legal system for killings must be rejected; the killings of women and girls must end; the international military forces must ensure real accountability for their actions; and the United Nations itself must give greater prominence to human rights in its activities.

In terms of the international military forces, it has been reported that as many as 200 civilians have been killed in the first four months of this year, often in joint operations with Afghan security forces.

finally, this most interesting perspective...
Is Nato repeating the USSR's mistakes?

Zamir Kabulov, Russian Ambassador in Kabul

"There is no mistake made by the Soviet Union that was not repeated by the international community here in Afghanistan," Mr Kabulov said, listing the problems.

"Underestimation of the Afghan nation, the belief that we have superiority over Afghans and that they are inferior and they cannot be trusted to run affairs in this country."

His list goes on.

"A lack of knowledge of the social and ethnic structure of this country; a lack of sufficient understanding of traditions and religion."

Not only that, but he says the country's new patrons are making their own new mistakes as well.

"Nato soldiers and officers alienate themselves from Afghans - they are not in touch in an everyday manner. They communicate with them from the barrels of guns in their bullet-proof Humvees."

And he admits to some satisfaction, watching those who once backed the mujahideen now suffering in the same way.

"To some extent, yes, I would not hide that. But I am even more satisfied by not having Russian soldiers among Isaf [Nato's International Security Assistance Force] because I don't want them to suffer the same results, implications your soldiers are suffering."

pick a perspective, any perspective...

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4th Amendment...? We don't need no ste-e-e-een-kin' 4th Amendment...

it's coming up on the second anniversary of the time i had my laptop, camera, memory stick, flash drives, dvd's and cd's seized in san francisco as i was returning to the u.s. from overseas and not returned to me for three weeks... i will be entering the u.s. again early the morning of june 7 at jfk... i must have stumbled across this article as a reminder...

It is definitely fascism when it happens to you
by Wayne Madsen

May 14, 2008, 00:20

WMR -- In Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's world of an "Israelized" America, the terms SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) and BDO (Behavior Detection Officer) are the new acronyms of Stasi-like control of the American citizenry by a government that treats anyone as a suspicious person in the same manner that Israel mistreats its own Arab citizens and Palestinians.

Sunday, this editor and his colleague faced the Chertoffian menace at Washington's Reagan National Airport while heading to the gate to board a flight to Houston.

It is now clear from a review of the events that unfolded that I was pre-selected for an intensive search and battery of questions even before arriving in line for the security screening. A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screener was overheard saying, "the guy with the beard." Since I was the only person in line who also had a beard, it was evident that a red flag had earlier been raised.

What followed, was worse than anything I had previously encountered while leaving Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, itself a revolting display of ingratitude to citizens of the country that bankrolls Israel, or the Israeli-run screening process at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport.

First, I was instructed to enter a glass isolation chamber and point out my belongings that were exiting the X-ray machine. Anyone with claustrophobia would really enjoy being placed in such a chamber and have to speak to the screener through small holes in the glass.

I was then led to an area where all my carry-on bags were emptied. I was also forced to empty my pockets of everything. A bevy of screeners then proceeded to go through my wallet examining everything: cash, credit cards, VA medical benefits card, National Press Club card, voter's registration card, and driver's license. Then came an examination of my press credentials and related IDs: Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) card, Society of Professional Journalists card, National Archives research card, Library of Congress card, three press credentials, and membership card in Association for Intelligence Officers (AFIO).

In a blatant violation of the First and Fourth Amendments, my reporter's notebooks, containing names of contacts in Houston and around the world were paged through by the screeners. Another screener asked if I minded being probed in "certain private areas." He then asked if I'd like the examination to be conducted in private. I replied, "No, let everyone see this." He then proceeded to examine my groin area.

Then came the battery of questions.

1. Are you feeling okay?

2. Where are you going today?

3. How long will you be there?

4. Why are you going there?

5. What story are you covering/

6. Who do you write for?

7. When did you move to Washington?

8. Where did you live before that?

9. What did you do for a living before?

10. Who was the most famous person you ever met?

11. What was the most famous event you ever covered?

12. What type of things do you write about?

13. What type of politics do you cover?

14. What is your place of birth?

My colleague, who had successfully passed through screening and was waiting for me, was then asked to step into the holding area so she "could see and hear what was going on." It was a ruse. She was also subjected to a full carry-on bag examination, frisking, and a series of personal questions:

1, Are you with him?

2. Where are you going?

3. What is the purpose of your visit?

4. What story are you investigating?

5. How long were you in the US Air Force?

6. Where were you stationed overseas?

7. Why were you not overseas in the military?

8. When are you returning?

9. Who do you work for?

10. What is an independent journalist?

11. How long have you been working with him?

12. Do you find your job fulfilling?

13. What is your place of birth?

After this Gestapo-like of questioning, I was told that a TSA screener was writing details in a notebook for the "paperwork." My colleague was told TSA was going to file an "incident report."

The nature of WMR's coverage is that our sources are our lifeblood and anything done to compromise them is a direct attack on the freedom of the press and our rights as journalists. The notion of press freedom does not exist in Chertoff's worldview of police state tactics and total surveillance but his worldview is a distinctly un-American one, something that is more properly relegated to the history books of his ancestral Czarist Russia.

When our investigations take us beyond the Washington Beltway, it is not within Chertoff's purview to find out details about the purpose of the trip, even though it may shed an unwelcome light on his network of Mossad operatives and Russian-Israeli gangsters and scam artists who are now running rampant in these United States of America.

The antics at Washington Reagan National are not unique. Foreign journalists have been subjected to similar invasive screening either at US embassies when applying for the required journalist visas to visit the United States or at immigration screening at US entry points.

The corporate media will not report on these cases as they are part of the problem in allowing Chertoff and his American Gestapo to continue to turn the United States into one big West Bank-style checkpoint.

One other note. This editor visited the USSR and draconian nations such as Paul Kagame's Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni's Uganda, Hun Sen's Cambodia, the former military junta's Thailand, surveillance society Singapore, and Muslim monarchy Brunei Darussalam. Nothing compares to what occurred at Washington National Airport. It is yet another sign of the fact that the United States has entered a phase of fascist control. There's only one question that remains: Is the slide reversible?

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2008

i've kept the receipt for my things that i was issued in san francisco on that unnerving occasion handy in my briefcase... if the same situation should arise, my plan is to produce it with a flourish and ask if they really want to put me through this again...

an additional twist to my plan evolved when i was visiting the family of friends in northern argentina in november 2006... one of the family's cats got into my briefcase and peed all over the briefcase and the receipt... i had to dispose of the briefcase and get a new one, but i kept the receipt and i still carry it with me in a zip-lock bag to avoid it smelling up my new briefcase... if i do end up producing that receipt at customs, you can better believe that i will be removing it from the bag and waving it right under the nose of whatever ice official has decided to abridge my rights...

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Stop subtly glorifying Carl Icahn

i've posted on the odious carl icahn before... portraying carl icahn as an "activist shareholder" and an "agitator for change" is flat-out bullshit... carl icahn is out for himself and himself alone...

Carl Icahn

today's nyt...
Carl C. Icahn, the billionaire investor and activist shareholder, has decided to move ahead with plans for a proxy fight at Yahoo and will propose a dissident slate of directors, people with knowledge of the plans said Wednesday.

Mr. Icahn, who has told associates that he has bought as many as 50 million shares of Yahoo, is leaning toward trying to oust the entire board by proposing a slate of 10 candidates, these people said. The deadline for nominating a dissident slate is Thursday.

He is moving ahead with the proxy fight in hopes of pushing Yahoo to restart talks to sell itself to Microsoft. Yet Microsoft has given no indication that it would be willing to restart talks. Mr. Icahn’s decision to try to oust the entire board — as opposed to proposing only a couple of candidates — is considered a high-risk maneuver, analysts said. He might have a better chance of winning a campaign by proposing a smaller slate, several analysts added.

Under the proxy rules, Mr. Icahn can reduce his slate later, but had he nominated a smaller number of candidates he would not be allowed to increase it.


Mr. Icahn has a made a career of agitating for change at some of the nation’s biggest companies. In the last three decades, he set his sights on companies as varied as T.W.A. and Time Warner.

icahn sees an opportunity to increase his already vast wealth by luring microsoft into re-opening and enriching its bid... he doesn't give a fraction of a shit for the shareholders and never has, and with his fingerprints on yahoo, none of us - including myself, a 10+ year user of yahoo mail - will be the better for it...

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Olbermann really lets it fly... He's clearly as pissed as I am...

i'm sitting here in kabul, afghanistan, watching these youtube clips of the latest keith olbermann special comment as we are under a lockdown due to multiple threats of suicide bombing, and i'm thinking, fercripesake, how the hell did we let the united states come to such a pass...? how did we manage to re-elect the unbelievable fool that claims to be our president...?

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, 14 May, Part 1

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, 14 May, Part 2

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Here's a story that would gag a maggot

oh, puh-l-e-e-e-e-eze...
President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he quit playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of Americans killed in the war in Iraq.

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf," Bush said in an interview with Yahoo and

"I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal," he said.

Bush said his last round of golf was in August 2003 when he was informed that a truck bomb had wrecked the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people, including U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"They pulled me off the golf course and I said, it's just not worth it anymore to do," Bush said.

if that's the truth - and i have my doubts - a bigger person would never have told anyone... what are we supposed to do...? give george a medal or a chest to pin it on...?

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Not "under"-developed, "mal"-developed

michael parenti...
The stupendous fortunes that were-and still are being extracted by the European and North American investors should remind us that there are very few really poor nations in what today is commonly called the Third World. Brazil is rich; Indonesia is rich; and so are the Philippines, Chile, Bolivia, Zaire, Mexico, India, and Malaysia. Only the people are poor. Of course in some areas, as in parts of Africa south of the Sahara, the land has been so ruthlessly plundered that it too is now impoverished, making life all the more desperate for its inhabitants.


[T]he Third World is not "underdeveloped" but overexploited. The gap between rich and poor nations is not due to the "neglect" of the latter by the former as has been often claimed. For forty years or more we have heard how the nations of the North must help close the poverty gap between themselves and the nations of the South, devoting some portion of their technology and capital to the task. Yet the gap between rich and poor only widens because investments in the Third World are not designed to develop the capital resources of the poor nations but to enrich the Western investors.

parenti isn't telling me anything i don't know... in my travels, i've observed first-hand most of what he describes...

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An Afghan kite fighter in California


two of the friends i've made here in kabul were kite fighters as boys... one of them, now a 30 year-old office professional, was out flying his kite just last week and came to work the next day with cuts on his fingers, the traditional kite fighter injury...

the first couple of weeks i was here in late march and early april, i could see kites flying all over town in the afternoons... i've been told, however, that prime kite fighting season is in the winter when the cold winds blow...

i confess, i read this article with tears in my eyes... i feel sad for basir beria, the subject of the story, who certainly deserves a better life, and especially sad for my friends, who deserve to be able to live in their country in peace...

be sure and watch the video...

Basir Beria

There is just a breath of wind in North Hollywood. The fan palms barely tremble.

Basir Beria steps out of his shop on Lankershim Boulevard with a red fighter kite. He walks to a planter where people drop their cigarette butts and kicks up some dust to see which direction it drifts.

The late morning light is bright and scattered, swallowing depth and distance. Beria flings the kite into the air, and after a few nimble tugs, it whirls skyward, quick as a swift.

The kite darts about frenetically at first, fighting the short leash. The Afghan shopkeeper lets the string unreel from a homemade spool. The kite spirals for a moment, until he tugs again. The red rhombus rockets up and across the boulevard in big blazing pulses.

Beria dances with this fiery apparition now. He ignores the recycling truck rattling through his vision, as he does the buses, billboards and ratty birds. He moves about the sidewalk as if he's waltzing, right arm outstretched. The kite responds to every twitch of his forefinger -- flitting this way, arching that way, carving a bit of volume in the flat Valley sky.

At 47, Beria is strong and barrel-shaped, with thinning hair and a thick asterisk of scar tissue on his little finger that testifies to a much darker day.

He brings the kite low over the tar shingle roof of American Drapery and lets it dip behind the iron fence of a Suzuki motorcycle lot. He whips it up just as a truck threatens to mow down the line.

He could do this for hours, flirting with traffic. Flying a kite is meditation, transcending purpose.

But he should get back to the cash register, where purpose knocks with a heavy hand.

A year ago, he opened a small convenience store, Smoke House and Magazines, on Lankershim just north of Burbank Boulevard. He works behind the counter 10 hours a day, seven days a week to make it pay the bills -- selling Newport 100s, Swisher Sweets, coffee, energy drinks, booty magazines and, occasionally, a handmade Afghan kite.

He misses the hours he used to while away building kites in his spare time. There is pure beauty in shaving down the slivers of bamboo, bringing lissome frames to life with swaths of rice paper and cotton string.

But after 23 years working for other people in this country, he has little to show for it. He buys his blue jeans at the Salvation Army and rents a peeling tract home in Tarzana, which he shares with his wife and children, parents, brother, sister-in-law and three nieces and nephews. He shelled out his savings, took out a loan and borrowed from family members to open this shop.

"This is the biggest gamble of my life," he says.

The kites -- and oddly, "The Kite Runner," a novel he did not particularly appreciate -- are what brought him here.

Like so many immigrants in Los Angeles, Basir struggles to retain a piece of a place and time that existed before the future slammed shut -- in a new land where the future is wide open.

For him, the kites fuse the present day with the country he loved and fled.

He hopes, in this balance, he will feel whole again.

Beria grew up in a red-stone mansion in the Kabul suburb of Karte Parwan, surrounded by thousands of grapevines owned by his family. He took to kite fighting as a rambunctious little boy, the second of seven children.

Kite fighting had a long history in his family and country. When winter vacation began each year, the leaden sky would light up with swirling birds of colored paper.

But the beauty above belied the cunning skill on the ground. Fighters used lines encrusted with powdered glass, called tar. Scattered about the mud-colored city, they brought the strings together hundreds of feet above in the communal air. The faster line would cut the other like a band saw, setting the loser's kite adrift like a leaf in the breeze.


Now he gets by -- barely.

He dreams of one day just making and selling his kites. When he can, he still steps out on the sidewalk to let his mind follow them through the sky.

And so this bright morning the red kite is hovering over the motorcycle lot, swaying side to side, like a cobra.


Beria's line is suspended horizontally across the boulevard. A bus is fast approaching, bobbing up and down with the wheels in the gutter.

At the point where a pedestrian would be well past doomed, Beria flicks his wrist as if he were whipping a conductor's baton.

The kite pulses into the dingy blue, and the line lifts like a drawbridge before the bus.

Beria draws it down to earth and heads back to the register.

i've become very fond of the afghan people... i feel very, very fortunate to have been able to spend time here... i know that some of the friendships i'm forming will last a long, long time...

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Shirley Golub's ad spawns more rubber chickens to wave in Nancy Pelosi's face

from the pen...
What Shirley Golub started in San Francisco with her primary challenge to Nancy Pelosi, calling her out as a political coward, is spreading all over the country. When Shirley put out her "Rubber Chicken" TV spot it got major TV coverage in San Francisco the same night, and there are now news wire stories all over the country about it.

Now in Oregon, Joe Walsh in the 3rd congressional district and Nancy Moran in the 5th have put out their own interpretation of the rubber chicken attack. It's as much a scream as the original.

we can never have enough rubber chickens to remind us of the arch-villainess, nancy pelosi...

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What do the U.S., Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea, and Ukraine have in common?

jim lobe writing in ips...
The basic democratic principle that "the will of the people should be the basis for the authority of government" is supported by overwhelming majorities throughout the world, according to a major new survey of more than 17,000 adults in 19 countries released here Monday.

Large majorities in most of those countries also believe that their own governments are not living up to that principle, according to the poll which was conducted and published by (WPO).

Indeed, an average of 74 percent of respondents in the 19 countries, which represent 59 percent of the world's total population, believe that "the will of the people" should have more influence in how their country is concerned than it currently does.

And an average of 63 percent of respondents say their country is being run by a "few big interests looking out for themselves," rather than "for the benefit of all the people."

The belief that governments were being run by "a few big interests" was particularly pervasive in Ukraine (84 percent), Mexico (83 percent), the United States (80 percent), Nigeria and South Korea (78 percent), and Argentina (71 percent).

"The perception that governments are not responsive to the popular will appears to be contributing to the low levels of confidence in government found around the world," noted Steven Kull, who directs both the WPO and its parent organisation, the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

"Most see their governments as primarily serving big interests rather than the people as a whole," he added.


Among all 19 countries, respondents in the U.S. thought their government took into account world public opinion the least.

it's been a long time since i've viewed my government as being responsive to its citizens but it's only been in the past decade or so that i've come to believe that my government doesn't give a tinker's damn about the rest of the world unless it's about what we can get out of them...

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The REAL truth about the U.S. in Ethiopia and Somalia... Yes, it's about OIL and a "narrow, extremely violent kleptocracy"...

this is perhaps the best analysis i've read yet of what's going on in africa...

from the media alerts section of medialens...

On May 1, the BBC website reported an attack on Somalia with the words:
“Air raid kills Somali militants.”

One might think the BBC’s headline would identify the agency responsible for the bombing, but the first few sentences also shed no light:
“The leader of the military wing of an Islamist insurgent organisation in Somalia has been killed in an overnight air strike.

“Aden Hashi Ayro, al-Shabab's military commander, died when his home in the central town of Dusamareb was bombed.

“Ten other people, including a senior militant, are also reported dead.”


[T]he US is the world’s policeman; no need to mention it by name. The action of bombing an impoverished Third World country already indicates the agent. This also helps explain why no mention was made of the illegality of this act of aggression.

ok, now, let's get down to brass tacks...
The preferred media framework for making sense of US actions closely parallels cold war mythology. We are to believe the US is passionately, even blindly, battling ideological enemies in an effort to protect itself and the West.


As Andy Rowell and James Marriott have noted, the key fact is that “some 30 per cent of America's oil will come from Africa in the next ten years". (Rowell and Marriott, A Game as Old as Empire - The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption, edited by Steven Hiatt, Berrett-Koehler, 2007, p.118)

The US has plans for nearly two-thirds of Somalia's oil fields to be allocated to the US oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips. The US hopes Somalia will line up as an ally alongside Ethiopia and Djibouti, where the US has a military base. This alliance would give America powerful leverage close to the major energy-producing regions.


[W]e are [only] free to chose from parties and leaders who all represent the same interests of concentrated state-corporate power - the tiny fraction of the population that owns much of the country and runs its business.

Crucially, ’our leaders’ front a political system that has an overwhelming advantage in high-tech military power. They are all too willing to use this power to convulse countries with bloodshed when doing so supports their lucrative version of economic ’order’. Iraq is the obvious example - Somalia is another.

’Our leaders’ rule in the name of democracy, but they act in the interests of a narrow, extremely violent kleptocracy.

excellent stuff... i encourage you to read it all...

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More of "we simply MUST face the reality of what we're doing"

i've posted several times on ali hussein, the poor little two-year old sadr city boy whose life was ripped away in an attack by u.s. forces... this slide show is courtesy of terrancedc at booman tribune... not pleasant viewing by any means, but essential viewing nonetheless to keep us mindful of the consequences of our actions as a nation...

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A two-week media appearance schedule for an Iraq war pimp

Brig. Gen. (Ret.)
David L. Grange

this schedule of appearances for one retired general pimping for the bush administration and the iraq war covers a period of a little more than two weeks, from march 12-26, 2003...

from media matters database via empty wheel...

(click on image for larger version)

it's a tough job spreading lies but i guess somebody's got to do it...

he currently works for the chicago tribune's robert mccormick foundation in chicago... here's his bio... see if you can spot the jaw-dropping irony in the first sentence...

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) David L. Grange is a regular commentator on CNN during the current war.

During his 30 years of military service, Grange commanded at all ranks up through Major General. He operated in Ranger, Special Forces, Aviation, Delta Force, and Infantry units throughout the world to include the DMZ of Korea, SE Asia, SW Asia, Germany, former Warsaw Pact countries, Grenada, the Middle East, Central and South America, Africa, Russia, and the Balkans.

Grange attended Army Infantry, Special Forces, Ranger, HALO, Scuba, Air Assault, and Aviation training; the U.S. Marine Corps Command and General Staff College; the British S.A.S. Course, the Delta Course; the National War College, and earned his master's degree in public service at Western Kentucky University.

While serving in the Pentagon, Grange served as the Deputy Director and Director of Army Current Operations, Readiness and Mobilization; and was responsible for coordinating military support within the United States in response to natural disasters and for domestic preparedness against acts of terrorism.

Prior to retirement, Grange commanded the First Infantry Division, "The Big Red One," in Germany, TF Eagle in Bosnia, and U.S. troops in Macedonia and Kosovo.

the "CURRENT WAR"... ya gotta love it...

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Brazil wants to join OPEC


spiegel interviews the brazilian president...
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: We discovered immense oil reserves 273 kilometers (170 miles) off the coast, at a depth of 2,140 meters (7,021 feet) and under a 5,000-meter (16,404-foot) layer of salt and rock. We have the know-how to exploit these reserves. We expect to start test-drilling in March and start producing oil in 2010. Then Brazil will become a major oil exporter. We want to join OPEC and try to make oil cheaper.

that will certainly put a new spin on the world oil markets...

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Calling Hugh Chávez a populist and thinking it's an epithet

yes, hugo chávez has a big mouth, but calling him a "populist" and thinking you've insulted him is just too funny...
The president of the European Commission has responded to Hugo Chavez's bitter attack on Angela Merkel by describing the Venezuelan president's words against the German chancellor as "inflammatory, populist and aggressive."

ooooooooo... you, you, you, you POPULIST, you...!!!

\ˈe-pə-ˌthet also -thət\
Latin epitheton, from Greek, from neuter of epithetos added, from epitithenai to put on, add, from epi- + tithenai to put — more at do

1 a: a characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing b: a disparaging or abusive word or phrase c: the part of a taxonomic name identifying a subordinate unit within a genus


Latin populus the people
1: a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people; especially often capitalized : a member of a United States political party formed in 1891 primarily to represent agrarian interests and to advocate the free coinage of silver and government control of monopolies
2: a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people

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Spiegel on the Clintons - "a powerful political family seeing its empire fall apart" and Hillary - "a sore loser"

as usual, it is a non-u.s. news outlet, germany's spiegel, that offers us one of the more penetrating looks at the meltdown of the clinton dynasty...
Perhaps Clinton really does believe that she still has a chance, or perhaps she is merely bluffing to drive up the price of withdrawing from the race. Meanwhile, America is fascinated by the Hillary Clinton drama, as she falters but refuses to give up. She looks pale, but still as immaculate as ever. She beams as if she could imagine nothing more appealing than this long, dirty and crippling primary campaign, which will end for the Democrats on June 3, when the last two primaries are held.

She no longer stands a chance of winning the party's nomination under her own steam. She can only hope that Obama somehow loses his cool or his campaign machine implodes. Apparently, none of her fellow Democrats can prevent Clinton from sticking it out until the party convention in August. That move would defy all reason and advice, especially now that most of the still undecided super-delegates -- senior party officials who are free to cast their votes as they please and can still determine the outcome of the race -- are leaning toward Obama.

The drama wouldn't be as compelling if it were just about Hillary Clinton. But it's also about a powerful political family seeing its empire fall apart.


Arrogance was probably the Clintons' greatest enemy. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, an old Clinton friend who defected to Obama's camp, says that they lived under the illusion that the throne was theirs to claim. This probably explains why they didn't take Barack Obama, the 46-year-old son of a Kenyan man and an American woman from Kansas, seriously.


The Clinton empire began to crumble when old friends like Richardson and Robert Reich switched sides and declared their support for Obama. Reich, a professor of political science and the labor secretary in the first Clinton administration, introduced Hillary and Bill to each other at Yale University in the 1970s. Another defector was Anthony Lake, a quiet scholar who was Bill Clinton's first national security advisor and is now part of Obama's team. Hollywood producer David Geffen was also a welcome guest at the Clinton court in the past. When he turned his back on the Clintons, he said that he did it because he was tired of their lies.


Today, Hillary Clinton is nothing but a sore loser who steps onto a stage and, like a robot, continues to spit out her rallying cries.

Silence has descended on the Clinton team. Her campaign manager, Terry McAuliffe, seems like a sad clown with a lame joke as he tests the microphone on this evening in Indianapolis: "One, two, three, President Hillary."

i've never cared for hillary... but in my wildest dreams i never thought i would end up calling both her and her husband pathetic figures... how much better it would be for both of them if they could withdraw with grace while they still have a modicum of dignity left...

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John Perkins - Economic Hitman

from democracy now...

Mr. Perkins was recruited by the NSA to strongarm countries into doing the bidding of the U.S. If he was unable to convince the country's leader to comply, then that leader would be assassinated. Hugo Chavez has been unwilling to comply with the leverage or bribery tactics of the U.S.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

"I'm a life-long Republican and I'm voting for Barack Obama"

the grand prize winner in moveon's obama in 30 seconds contest...

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More on immigrant detainees - massive raid in Iowa

the ugliness and completely unnecessary tragedy continues...

may 9...
People in Waterloo are trying to figure out what sort of operation federal officials are conducting in town. This week, the Department of Homeland Security took-over and sealed-off the grounds of the National Cattle Congress on the west side of Waterloo.

Thursday night, our crew went to investigate, but security guards told them to stay across the street from the property. Our camera caught pictures of elaborate ventilation systems going into the buildings. There were dozens of cars coming in and out with license plates from surrounding states, and even as far away as Georgia and Texas.

A guard at the gate told us they are preparing for training exercises, but a Homeland Security spokesman would not confirm that. Many people in Waterloo believe the site is being transformed into a detention center. People in the Latino community fear it will be used in a mass immigration raid.

it looks like the suspicions were accurate...

may 12...

Buses have begun arriving at the Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo after hundreds were detained in an immigration raid on a Postville meatpacking plant today. Officials are not allowing media or others near the entrance. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have declined to say how many buses are being used in the raid on the Agriprocessors Inc. plant. At least 300 people were arrested during the operation, the largest of its kind in Iowa, said Claude Arnold, a special agent with ICE. The raid targeted people who illegally used other people's Social Security numbers and were in the U.S. illegally. According to an affidavit, “Based on information thus far developed in the investigation, it appears, based on 2007 fourth quarter payroll reports, that approximately 76 percent of the 968 employees of Agriprocessors were using false or fraudulent social security numbers in connection with their employment.”

as reported in the previous post, how many more yong sun harvill's will this produce...?

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How the U.S. treats immigrant detainees - an appalling story

read all of this tragic tale by dana priest and amy goldstein in today's wapo... then try and put yourself in yong sun harvill's shoes...


after you've read the article go check this out...
Based on confidential medical records and other sources, The Washington Post identified 83 deaths of immigration detainees between March 2003, when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was created, and March 2008. The Post found that 30 of the deaths were questionable.

just for a minute, let's get really real... yong sun harvill could just as easily be your friend, your next-door neighbor, a family member, or even YOU... i read a story like this and i feel so deeply ashamed for my country... i'm sitting here in kabul, afghanistan, where a story like this would be tragic enough, fercryinoutloud, but not in the united states... it's nothing but fascism, pure and simple...

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Nancy Pelosi = rubber chicken = Nancy Pelosi

shirley golub is trying to unseat nancy pelosi in her san francisco district... i wish her the very best...

here's her much-viewed rubber chicken campaign ad...

should you be so moved, you can contribute here...

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bill Moyers talks with Philippe Sands on the criminal complicity of Bush administration officials in authorizing torture

On Bill Moyers Journal, human rights lawyer Phillipe Sands discusses his new book on how the U.S. came to abandon the Geneva Convention and accept torture. Sands says Bush administration officials are unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions.

(thanks to think progress...)

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The Nation's Jeremy Scahill reports on Blackwater

the rise of blackwater usa, the world's most powerful mercenary army...

from brasscheck tv...
Bush has his own private army.

It's called Blackwater.

The company was caught red handed murdering
Iraqi civilians in cold blood.

No problem according to the US State Department
(Condi Rice). Their contract to provide protection
to US "diplomats" in Iraq was just renewed.


The State Department claims it could not find
anyone else to do the job.

"We cannot operate without private security firms in Iraq,"
said Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for
management. "If the contractors were removed, we would have
to leave Iraq."

Bizarre, isn't it?

bizarre is an understatement...

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