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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 09/20/2009 - 09/27/2009
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Punish the weak and vulnerable...? Absolutely...! The REAL crooks and criminals...? Not so much...

jeremy scahill in the nation via raw story and msnbc's rachel maddow...
Lawmakers’ defunding of community activist group ACORN “means there is no spine in Congress when it comes to standing up against the real crooks and criminals in this society,” military-affairs reporter Jeremy Scahill says.

Scahill, a writer for The Nation who this summer broke the story that Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, had been implicated in at least one murder, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that ACORN got “pennies” compared to military contractors who have been convicted of crimes but continue to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from US taxpayers.

Scahill suggested that it’s relatively easy to go after a grassroots community group like ACORN, while pursuing much worse allegations against defense contractors requires actual courage.

“This is political, this isn’t really about upholding the law,” Scahill said on the Rachel Maddow Show. “On the one hand, you have an organization that registered 1.3 million people to vote, 400,000 members, works with the poor and working class people of this nation, and they don’t have lobbying power in the form of massive campaign contributions.

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Quote of the week

bill maher via information clearing house...
[T]he ultimate sign of our lethargy: millions thrown out of their homes, tossed out of work, lost their life savings, retirements postponed - and they just take it. 30% interest on credit cards? It's a good thing the Supreme Court legalized sodomy a few years ago.

you really need to read the whole thing... it's savagely funny and, like all great satire, clearly illuminates the sad truth...

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Michael Moore on his latest movie

i won't have a chance to see this until i get back to the u.s. in late november but i think i need to put it on my "must-see" list...

moore on "capitalism: a love story"...

I'm gonna show you the stuff the nightly news will rarely show you. Ever meet a pilot for American Airlines on food stamps because his pay's been cut so low? Ever meet a judge who gets kickbacks for sending innocent kids to a private prison? Ever meet someone from the Wall Street Journal who bluntly states on camera that he doesn't much care for democracy and that capitalism should be our only ruling concern?

You'll meet all these guys in "Capitalism." You'll also meet a whistleblower who, with documents in hand, tells us about the million-dollar-plus sweetheart loans he approved for the head of Senate Banking Committee -- the very committee that was supposed to be regulating his lending institution! You'll hear from a bank regulator why Timothy Geithner has no business being our Treasury Secretary. And you'll learn, from the woman who heads up the congressional commission charged with keeping an eye on the bailout money, how Alan Greenspan & Co. schemed and connived the public into putting up their inflated valued homes as collateral -- thus causing the biggest foreclosure epidemic in our history.

There is now a foreclosure filed in the U.S. once every seven-and-half SECONDS.

None of this is an accident, and I name the names others seem to be afraid to name, the men who have ransacked the pensions of working people and plundered the future of our kids and grandkids. Somehow they thought they were going to get away with this, that we'd believe their Big Lie that this crash was caused by a bunch of low-income people who took out loans they couldn't afford. Much of the mainstream media bought this storyline. No wonder Wall Street thought they could pull this off.

Jeez, I guess they forgot about me and my crew. You'd think we would've made a better impression on these wealthy thieves by now. Guess not.

i seriously doubt if there's going to be one thing that will bring down the house of horrors we've been living in for so many years that our handlers are so massively invested in propping up, but each hammer blow - and several of those blows have been delivered at michael moore's hands - is just one more crack at toppling the walls...

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More Afghanistan kite photo and videoblogging


i mentioned in the previous post that we were going over to an afghan friend and colleague's house this afternoon to fly kites from his roof... here's some shots from just a few hours ago...

Preparing the kite

Launching the kite

Kite-flying intensity

High-flying kite (right) and crescent moon (left)

and, finally, a video clip of some of the action...

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Afghanistan photoblogging


there's nothing i like better than watching all the kites soaring in the skies over kabul and the absolute pleasure the kids - and adults! - get from flying them... this afternoon (friday), we're heading over to an afghan colleague's house to fly kites from his roof... we did that last year in november and he managed to take out the kites of three neighbor kids - much to their dismay - before another kid a couple of streets over cut his loose...

Kite-fighting in Kabul during the Eid holiday

then there's this sobering reminder of that "other" reality...

Surveillance airship over Kabul with two kites in upper left

that little number is new in the kabul skies since i was last here... i'm pretty sure i'm not only on live tv while i'm taking my ease on the roof terrace, i'm also confident it's reading my emails...

Proposed surveillance airship for Afghanistan

and it looks like bigger and better is on the way...
The plan to deploy an autonomous, free-flying, surveillance airship to Afghanistan is gaining, er, buoyancy. A consortium led by the US Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command is scheduled to be established by October 1 and a contract awarded for the Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) demonstration by the end of December.

coming soon to a neighborhood near you...

final thought: they're really missing a bet by not selling display advertising a la the goodyear blimp...


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Change Bernanke's medication and let him face Pittsburgh's 93,700 jobless

greg palast on the obama's letter to the g20 players that has still not been released by the wall street journal...
If Bernanke and Obama were truly concerned about preserving jobs, they would have required banks loaded with taxpayer bail-out loot to lend these funds to consumers and business. China did so, ordering its banks to increase credit. And boy, did they, expanding credit by an eye-popping 30%, rocketing China's economy out of recession and into double-digit growth.

But the Obama Administration has gone the opposite way. The White House letter to the G-20 calls for slowly increasing bank reserves, and that can only cause a tight credit market to tighten further.

It's not that the White House completely ignores job losses. The US letter suggests, "The G-20 should commit to ... income support for the unemployed." You can imagine the Europeans, who already have generous unemployment benefits--most without time limits--turning purple over that one. America's stingy unemployment compensation extension under the Stimulus Plan is already beginning to expire with no live proposal to continue aid for the jobless victims of this recession.

The Europeans are so cute when they're angry, when they pound their little fists. Obama assumes he can ignore them. The EU, once the big player in the G-7, has seen its members' status diluted into the G-20, where the BRIC powers (Brazil, Russia, India and China) now flex their muscles. But Europeans have a thing or two to teach Americans about the economics of the twilight of empire.

Maybe the differences are cultural, not economic; that Europeans lack America's Manifest Destiny can-do optimism.

So, to give the visitors a taste of the yes-we-can spirit, Obama should invite Pittsburgh's 93,700 jobless to the G-20 meet to celebrate that 35% rise in the stock market.

Or -- my own suggestion -- change Bernanke's medication.

all the euphoria about the recession being over is solely due to the fact that the super-rich elites are once again raking it in... the millions of poor bastards who are out on the street looking for work ain't gettin' nothing but lip service...

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Is Osama dead, alive or just a cardboard poster boy for endless war...?

i'm glad to see this possibility getting a little more traction in the traditional media, even if it IS the uk media... i have harbored a nagging suspicion for a very long time that the "war on terror" was a red herring, carefully crafted to keep us in a perpetual state of war... do ya s'pose that maybe, just maybe, some of the truth is starting to emerge...?
Undeterred, Barack Obama has launched a fresh operation to find him. Working with the Pakistani Army, elite squads of U.S. and British special forces were sent into Waziristan this summer to 'hunt and kill' the shadowy figure intelligence officers still call 'the principal target' of the war on terror.

This new offensive is, of course, based on the premise that the 9/11 terrorist is alive. After all, there are the plethora of 'Bin Laden tapes' to prove it.

Yet what if he isn't? What if he has been dead for years, and the British and U.S. intelligence services are actually playing a game of double bluff?

What if everything we have seen or heard of him on video and audio tapes since the early days after 9/11 is a fake - and that he is being kept 'alive' by the Western allies to stir up support for the war on terror?

Incredibly, this is the breathtaking theory that is gaining credence among political commentators, respected academics and even terror experts.

like i've repeatedly said, at this point in my advanced state of cynicism, i believe everything and i believe nothing...

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Democracy in Afghanistan...? Not so much... The Afghan Guantánamo...? You betcha... Interrogation techniques hazardous to your health...? Yes...


mr. khan would like peace, security and job opportunities... pardon me, but, no shit... while we're at it, how about some decent infrastructure like roads, electricity, water, health care, and schools... oh, yeah, and then there's decent food supplies that aren't so outrageously expensive that the folks starving to death on the streets might have a shot at basic nutrition...
Mubaruz Khan didn't bother to vote when Afghans went to the polls in the country's second-ever democratic election last month. He was too busy eking out a living selling cigarettes and soda for $3 a day, and didn't think voting would make a difference in his life.

Millions like Khan stayed home on Aug. 20, a sharp contrast to 2004, when Afghans jammed polling stations to give President Hamid Karzai his first term. Ominous warnings from the Taliban suppressed turnout, but some Afghans said they were also discouraged by the government's failure to halt endemic corruption, spiraling unemployment and crumbling security.

"We want peace. We want security. We want job opportunities," the 55-year-old Khan said Monday. "Otherwise, the democracy and the elections that they are all shouting about every day mean nothing to us."

meanwhile, just a few kilometers down the road from where i sit typing this lies bagram, the afghan guantánamo...
Bagram is "the forgotten second Guantánamo," says American military law expert Eugene Fidell, a professor at Yale Law School. "But apparently there is a continuing need for this sort of place even under the Obama administration."

From the beginning, "Bagram was worse than Guantanamo," says New York-based attorney Tina Foster, who has argued several cases on behalf of detainee rights in US courts. "Bagram has always been a torture chamber."

And what does Obama say? Nothing. He never so much as mentions Bagram in any of his speeches. When discussing America's mistreatment of detainees, he only refers to Guantanamo.

and bagram ain't small, either...
The Bagram detention facility, by now the largest American military prison outside the United States, is not marked on any maps. In fact, its precise location, somewhere on the periphery of the giant air base northeast of the Afghan capital, is classified. It comprises two sand-colored buildings that resemble airplane hangars, surrounded by tall concrete walls and green camouflage tarps. The facility was set up in 2002 as a temporary prison on the grounds of a former Soviet air base.

Today, the two buildings contain large cages, each with the capacity to hold 25 to 30 prisoners. Up to 1,000 detainees can be held at Bagram at any one time. The detainees sleep on mats, and there is one toilet behind a white curtain for each cage. A $60 million extension is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

i've never been up the road toward bagram... in fact, i've barely been out of kabul... however, if i ever do get the opportunity to see some more of this amazingly rugged country, bagram won't be anywhere near the top of my list of "must-see" places...

and as long as we're on the subject of detainees, it kind of leads into how they're treated, particularly in the interrogation process... apparently, our methods aren't necessarily contributing to mental and emotional health...

Prolonged stress from the CIA's harsh interrogations could have impaired the memories of terrorist suspects, diminishing their ability to recall and provide the detailed information the spy agency sought, according to a scientific paper published Monday.

The methods could even have caused the suspects to create – and believe – false memories, contends the paper, which scrutinizes the techniques used by the CIA under the Bush administration through the lens of neurobiology. It suggests the methods are actually counterproductive, no matter how much suspects might eventually say.

"Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or enhanced interrogation," according to the paper in the scientific journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.


"We've known for quite a while that stress radically impairs cognition. We know memory is very fragile to begin with," said Stephen Soldz, president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and a professor at Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. "It's just amazing that this has not been taken into account."

not so amazing... in fact, my guess is that it actually WAS taken into account and deliberately discounted because it didn't line up with the preconceived notions of those who were bound and determined that torture and useful interrogation somehow went together despite all of the principles upon which the foundation of the united states supposedly rests...

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Monday, September 21, 2009

The economy suffers as the super-rich elites - a/k/a G20 - prepare to meet, greet, eat and determine our fate

paul craig roberts debunks the spin that the recession is over...
Americans cannot get any truth out of their government about anything, the economy included. Americans are being driven into the ground economically, with one million school children now homeless, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announces that the recession is over.


Refreshed with the TARP $700 billion and the Federal Reserve’s expanded balance sheet, banks are again behaving like hedge funds. Leveraged speculation is producing another bubble with the current stock market rally, which is not a sign of economic recovery but is the final savaging of Americans’ wealth by a few investment banks and their Washington friends. Goldman Sachs, rolling in profits, announced six figure bonuses to employees.

The rest of America is suffering terribly.

The unemployment rate, as reported, is a fiction and has been since the Clinton administration. The unemployment rate does not include jobless Americans who have been unemployed for more than a year and have given up on finding work. The reported 10% unemployment rate is understated by the millions of Americans who are suffering long-term unemployment and are no longer counted as unemployed. As each month passes, unemployed Americans drop off the unemployment role due to nothing except the passing of time.

craig hedges suggests that, despite the heavy-handed security presence, we seize the opportunity to show our masters just how displeased we are at the treatment we've been receiving at their hands...
The draconian security measures put in place to silence dissent in Pittsburgh are disproportionate to any actual security concern. They are a response not to a real threat, but to the fear gripping the established centers of power. The power elite grasps, even if we do not, the massive fraud and theft being undertaken to save a criminal class on Wall Street and international speculators of the kinds who were executed in other periods of human history. They know the awful cost this plundering of state treasuries will impose on workers, who will become a permanent underclass. And they also know that once this is clear to the rest of us, rebellion will no longer be a foreign concept.

The delegates to the G-20, the gathering of the world's wealthiest nations, will consequently be protected by a National Guard combat battalion, recently returned from Iraq. The battalion will shut down the area around the city center, man checkpoints and patrol the streets in combat gear. Pittsburgh has augmented the city's police force of 1,000 with an additional 3,000 officers. Helicopters have begun to buzz gatherings in city parks, buses driven to Pittsburgh to provide food to protesters have been impounded, activists have been detained, and permits to camp in the city parks have been denied. Web sites belonging to resistance groups have been hacked and trashed, and many groups suspect that they have been infiltrated and that their phones and e-mail accounts are being monitored.


Our global economy, like our political system, has been hijacked by a tiny oligarchy, composed mostly of wealthy white men who serve corporations. They have pledged or raised a staggering $18 trillion, looted largely from state treasuries, to prop up banks and other financial institutions that engaged in suicidal acts of speculation and ruined the world economy. They have formulated trade deals so corporations can speculate across borders with currency, food and natural resources even as, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 1.02 billion people on the planet struggle with hunger.


But the game is up. The utopian dreams of globalization have been exposed as a sham. Force is all the elite have left. We are living through one of civilization's great seismic reversals. The ideology of globalization, like all utopias that are sold as inevitable and irreversible, has become a farce. The power elite, perplexed and confused, cling to the disastrous principles of globalization and its outdated language to mask the political and economic vacuum before us. The absurd idea that the marketplace alone should determine economic and political constructs caused the crisis. It led the G-20 to sacrifice other areas of human importance-from working conditions, to taxation, to child labor, to hunger, to health and pollution-on the altar of free trade. It left the world's poor worse off and the United States with the largest deficits in human history.


The institutions that once provided alternative sources of power, including the press, government, agencies of religion, universities and labor unions, have proved morally bankrupt. They no longer provide a space for voices of moral autonomy. No one will save us now but ourselves.

none of this is news, of course... most of us - at least the people i know and the folks who read this blog - are acutely aware of the situation... why i even bother with posting this kind of doom and gloom is in the hopes that the downfall of our merciless handlers will somehow accelerate...

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Ender's Game - annihilating real people by video game

in the park where i had my rv set up this summer, the man of the family parked across from me was an air force guy headed off to do drone training... he was a really nice guy despite being a batshit crazy, wingnut, fundamentalist christian, neocon... needless to say, i had to completely ignore all his comments about wicked liberals because i knew if i rose to the bait, only one of us would come out alive and since i'm rapidly entering my dotage, i knew it wouldn't be me...
This year, the Air Force will train more joystick pilots than new fighter and bomber pilots. "If you want to be in the center of the action, this is the place to be," Schwartz says. "It's not a temporary phenomenon. It's a sustainable career path. I've made that very clear." Lt. Col. Travis Burdine, a Predator pilot-from-afar, has gotten the message: "We all joined the Air Force to go flying, but word on the street is that job satisfaction is very high [manning a joystick]. Every day we're doing this, we're in the thick of the fight. We fly 36 [combat air patrols] a day. Where they're happening, the hottest 36 things are going on."

It's not hard now to imagine a time when the dominant combat leaders of the Air Force have no physical contact with airplanes. "We're opening an aperture," Schwartz says. "How do we define a warrior-airman? The definition is expanding." Whatever happens, he says, "the trend lines are inescapable: we increasingly will become less of a manned aviation force." C. R. Anderegg, the Air Force historian, says that just as the generals of the 1950s and '60s were predominantly bomber pilots, and the generals of the 1970s and '80s were mainly fighter pilots, so a lot of the generals in the coming decades may be UAV joystick pilots. "It's going to be pretty hard for a promotion board, picking the next one-star generals, to pick a colonel who hasn't commanded a UAV wing over a colonel who has. The UAV commander has the experience, and he has a larger, less insular view of the battlefield than, say, an F-22 pilot at Langley."

how cool is this...? annihilating people from 10,000 miles away... it's the ultimate video game and nicely fulfills the apocalyptic vision of one of the more popular science fiction bestsellers, ender's game...

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Yeah, let's make the Mad Max environment of Afghanistan even worse


just what's needed here - more guys with guns - like that's going to fix anything...
The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

driving back to our guest house from the office here in kabul yesterday, we did a little right-of-way mexican standoff with a heavily armored humvee, not a particularly wise move on the part of our driver... fortunately, the team aboard the humvee must have been in a gracious mood or just been plain too tired to care because they chose not to either run us over and crush us flat or, alternatively, to shred us into tiny, blood-spattered metal fragments... somehow, i just can't see how adding more such mad max contraptions to the streets and roads of afghanistan is going to magically make things better... but, hey, what do i know...?

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Ahmadinejad congratulates Karzai


juan cole's dry sense of humor, when he decides to use it, always tickles me...
Iranian authorities maintained that they counted the ballots of a nationwide election in June in only about 10 hours and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad immediately claimed victory, despite widespread suspicions of fraud.

Afghanistan held its presidential election on August 20 and all the ballots are still not counted, and it isn't clear whether there will be a runoff election because of widespread ballot fraud.

But Ahmadinejad knows how to handle all this. The Tehran Times writes: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has congratulated his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on his re-election. In a telephone conversation on Thursday, Ahmadinejad said that Afghan people have voted for Karzai as he is a 'devout and competent' leader."

You wonder if Karzai can survive that endorsement.

'nuff said...

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