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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 02/14/2010 - 02/21/2010
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Do you suppose Mossad might actually be called to account...? [UPDATE]


i had a feeling this story would grow legs...
West turns diplomatic screw – but Israel refuses to crack

'We know nothing', say ambassadors called for talks over how assassins who killed Hamas leader were holding foreign passports

Dubai yesterday explicitly accused Mossad of assassinating Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on its soil, as David Miliband declared the use of British passports in the plot "an outrage" and demanded "full co-operation" from Israel in finding out what had happened.

The Foreign Secretary's comments came after an apparently fruitless meeting in London between the Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor and Sir Peter Ricketts, the permanent secretary who heads Britain's diplomatic service, which lasted just 14 minutes with no sign of any intelligence being shared. As the Israeli envoy left Whitehall, he said: "I was unable to add any information. I could not shed new light on the said matters".

There was a similar outcome in Dublin where the Israeli ambassador, Zion Evrony, had an hour's meeting with a senior Irish diplomat over how three Eire passports were used in the assassination. "I told him I know nothing about the event," Mr Evrony said afterwards.

oh, please... don't tell me israel knows nothing... what a bunch o'crap...


hey... dubai and the uae are no shining lights where shady police state tactics are concerned, but let's face it, israel is long overdue for some public accounting about its policy of wholesale assassinations... this is going to get a lot more interesting before it's over...
Dubai police directly accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of orchestrating the hit squad slaying of a Hamas commander as the number of suspects rose Thursday to 18.

Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim was quoted as saying he was "99 percent, if not 100 percent" certain that Mossad was behind last month's slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel room in Dubai.

The comments — which appeared on a newspaper Web Site — came as international pressure mounted for Israel to answer questions about possible links to the Jan. 19 killing.

The investigation also widened to the United States. Emirates authorities said the alleged killers used fraudulent passports to open credit cards accounts through U.S.-based banks, an official said.

"Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of al-Mabhouh," Tamim was quoted as saying by The National newspaper, which is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.

He told another local paper, Dubai-based Gulf News, that: "All elements strongly indicate the involvement of the Mossad."

actually, i'm glad to see this... israel has operated with almost complete impunity for a long, long time... way TOO long, in fact...

p.s. interestingly enough, the hotel where the guy was popped, the al bustan rotana in dubai, was the hotel where i stayed for a night last year...

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Another Friday night document dump, this one officially letting the legal justifiers of torture off the hook [UPDATE - Another Conyers p.r. stunt?]

accountability...? it's just a god-damned word on a piece of paper... we don't need any ste-e-e-eenkin' accountability...
Bush administration lawyers who wrote memos that paved the way for waterboarding of terrorism suspects and other harsh interrogation tactics "exercised poor judgment" but will not face discipline for their actions, according to long-awaited Justice Department documents released Friday.

The decision represents the end of a five-year internal battle and flatly rejects recommendations by the department's ethics investigators. They had twice urged that allegations against John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee be sent to state disciplinary authorities for further action, including the possible revocation of their licenses to practice law.

so, against the recommendations of the doj's own ethics investigators, those who labored mightily to offer legal cover for unconstitutional and criminal actions by employees of our government are declared to be above the law by the self-same chain of command - albeit with a few different players - that supervised them in the first place... is this a great country or what...?


during the bush administration, i watched conyers grandstand on accountability issues time after time with absolutely no results... if i wasn't so cynical about him and any moves toward real accountability, i might be encouraged by something like this... as things stand now, no... i see it as only an empty gesture, carefully calculated to gain headlines...
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has announced that he plans to hold House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Bush administration lawyers whose legal memos justified the use of torture on terrorism detainees.

Conyers' announcement Friday follows the release of a report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility which criticizes lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee for "poor judgment" but concludes that their actions did not rise to the level of professional misconduct.

this is the political equivalent of cock-teasing...

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The U.S. - making sure that purveyors of death and destruction have the latest and best tools for the job

it makes me slightly ill when i think just how much the u.s. economy is based on death and destruction and how little awareness of that fact exists, primarily due to an almost complete lack of media attention... we collectively wring our hands over people getting knocked off in wholesale fashion around the globe and yet it's u.s. weapons that are being used to do it... it's also a shame that there isn't more attention paid to those who are profiting the most from perpetrating these horrors and how much they are engaged in making sure that there is an unending stream of armed conflicts to keep demand high...

from information clearing house...

In 2008, according to an authoritative report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), $55.2 billion in weapons deals were concluded worldwide. Of that total, the United States was responsible for $37.8 billion in weapons sales agreements, or 68.4% of the total “trade.” Some of these agreements were long-term ones and did not result in 2008 deliveries of weapons systems, but these latest figures are a good gauge of the global appetite for weapons. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to recognize that, when one nation accounts for nearly 70% of weapons sales, the term “global arms trade” doesn’t quite cut it.

Consider the “competition” and reality comes into focus. Take a guess on which country is the number two weapons exporter on the planet: China? Russia? No, Italy, with a relatively paltry $3.7 billion in agreements with other countries or just 9% of the U.S. market share. Russia, that former Cold War superpower in the “trade,” was close behind Italy, with only $3.5 billion in arms agreements.

U.S. weapons manufacturers have come a long way, baby, since those Cold War days when the United States really did have a major competitor. For instance, the Congressional Research Service’s data for 1990, the last year of the Soviet Union’s existence, shows global weapons sales totaling $32.7 billion, with the United States accounting for $12.1 billion of that or 37% of the market. For its part, the Soviet Union was responsible for a competitive $10.7 billion in deals inked that year. France, China, and the United Kingdom accounted for most of the rest.

Since then, the global appetite for weapons has only grown more voracious, while the number of purveyors has shrunk to the point where the Pentagon could hang out a sign: “We arm the world.” No kidding, it’s true.

Cambodia ($304,000), Comoros ($895,000), Colombia ($256 million), Guinea ($200,000), Greece ($225 million), Great Britain ($1.1 billion), the Philippines ($72.9 million), Poland ($79.8 million), and Peru ($16.4 million) all buy U.S. arms, as does almost every country not in that list. U.S. weapons, and only U.S. weapons, are coveted by presidents and prime ministers, generals and strongmen.

From the Pentagon’s own data (which differs from that in the CRS report), here are the top ten nations which made Foreign Military Sales agreements with the Pentagon, and so with U.S. weapons makers, in 2008:

Saudi Arabia $6.06 billion

Iraq $2.50 billion

Morocco $2.41 billion

Egypt $2.31 billion

Israel $1.32 billion

Australia $1.13 billion

South Korea $1.12 billion

Great Britain $1.10 billion

India $1 billion

Japan $840 million

That’s more than $17 billion in weapons right there. Some of these countries are consistently eager buyers, and some are not. Morocco, for example, is only in that top-ten list because it was green-lighted to buy 24 of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter planes at $360 million (or so) for each aircraft, an expensive one-shot deal. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia (which inked $14.71 billion in weapons agreements between 2001 and 2008), Egypt ($13.25 billion) and Israel ($11.27 billion) are such regular customers that they should have the equivalent of one of those “buy 10, get the 11th free” punch cards doled out by your favorite coffee shop.

To sum up, the U.S. has a virtual global monopoly on exporting tools of force and destruction. Call it market saturation. Call it anything you like, just not the “global arms trade.”

why do people and countries buy arms...? to use them, of course... the more they're available and the more they're marketed and the more new models are introduced, the more they'll be used which will in turn drive more demand...

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kosovo Independence Day, 17 February 2010


there were lots and lots of people in the streets despite the slow, steady drizzle... lots of cars decorated with the flags of kosovo, albania, the united states and even the uk... lots of families and kids, lots of young people out enjoying the holiday...

here's a street scene from this afternoon in the main pedestrian mall...

this monument, "newborn," was unveiled when independence was announced on 17 february 2008... it's now covered with graffiti, most of it patriotic...


this is what is looked like new...


and, of course, the obligatory statue of mother teresa... albania, kosovo and macedonia would all like to claim her as their own, but she was actually born in skopje, macedonia...


note the kosovo flag painted on the little boy's cheek...

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2.4M forclosures predicted for 2010, up from 2.1M in 2009

feelin' that sweet, sweet "recovery" yet...? funny... neither am i...
BofA holds about 1 million mortgages that are at least 60 days delinquent. About 4 million homeowners nationwide are 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgages or in foreclosure proceedings, according to Moody's, which analyzes data from credit reporting company Equifax Inc.

Trial modifications and other delays have kept many of those mortgages out of foreclosure, but by the end of this year, 2.4 million borrowers are expected to lose their homes, said Celia Chen, a housing economist at

That would be up from 2.1 million foreclosures and short sales last year and five times the annual numbers earlier in the decade.

It's unclear when those distressed properties would hit the market, but their large numbers are likely to push home prices back down this year, to a bottom in the fourth quarter, Chen said. And that would make things worse for the 25% of homeowners who already owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth.

The biggest blows will be felt in California, Florida, Nevada and other states where home prices have dropped the most and the ranks of struggling homeowners have swelled.

As of December, 11.4% of California homeowners were 90 days or more late on their loans, according to First American CoreLogic, a Santa Ana real estate data firm. That compares with a delinquency rate of 8.4% nationwide.

so, if more homeowners, folks like my son and his wife, are forced even deeper underwater than they already are, dontcha think that's going to drive even more foreclosures... if you thought people were walkin' away now, just wait...

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The super-rich elites are intent on making serfs out of all of us

i suppose at one time, back many years ago before i wised-up, i fantasized about being a member of the elite community of the super-rich... it took me a while to "get it," that the more money i have, the more possessions i have, the more i'm "owned"...

i think it's the sad delusion of our times to believe that wealth brings either freedom or happiness... what i think it brings is a slavish devotion to the system that provides such riches... after all, why in the world would you ever want to bite the hand that feeds you...? and so, in order to keep your riches intact, in order to keep the pump pumping, you have to - metaphorically - close the door behind you, keep out the riffraff, make sure you never have to risk losing anything... the mindset this produces is, in many ways, limited, constrained, selfish, inwardly focused and willfully ignorant...

i find a great deal of freedom in being "asset-free" and, needless to say, even more so by being debt-free... do i need income...? of course... do i need to pay bills...? of course... do i want to maintain some level of comfort in my living conditions...? of course... do i want some resources to help me enjoy myself...? certainly... but i know that if anybody were to carefully scrutinize my income, bank accounts and expenses, they would be amazed i am able to live like i do on so little... speaking for myself, i find it very fulfilling to be able to do so...

however, with all that said, it would be a serious mistake not to understand that all of us who are the bedrock of the economic system that supports the super-rich elites are under attack... the greed of those people is boundless and if it means robbing us at gunpoint, they won't hesitate to do it... they not only won't hesitate, they are already doing it...

david degraw...

The Economic Elite have escalated their attack on US workers over the past few years, however, this attack began to build intensity in the 1970s. In 1970, CEOs made $25 for every $1 the average worker made. Due to technological advancements, production and profit levels exploded from 1970 - 2000. With the lion's share of increased profits going to the CEO's, this pay ratio dramatically rose to $90 for CEOs to $1 for the average worker.

As ridiculous as that seems, an in-depth study in 2004 on the explosion of CEO pay revealed that, including stock options and other benefits, CEO pay is more accurately $500 to $1.

Paul Buchheit, from DePaul University, revealed, "From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1% of America tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation's total income, while the bottom 90% have seen their share drop over 20%." Robert Freeman added, "Between 2002 and 2006, it was even worse: an astounding three-quarters of all the economy's growth was captured by the top 1%."

Due to this, the United States already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the average worker much harder than CEO's, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high. The economic top one percent of the population now owns over 70% of all financial assets, an all time record.

my point is this... even for someone like me, someone who gets by on very little, it's time to accept the hard truth... we are being pushed ever harder to crawl into a little box and stay there... our handlers don't want us to be free, they don't want us to be told the truth, they don't want us to be able to make informed decisions, they don't want us to be able to travel freely, they don't want us to do anything but line up dutifully to be their good little consumers... the best thing we can do is act free, learn the truth, make informed decisions, travel freely and stop lining up to toss our money at them 24/7...

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Using pharmacies as basic health care resources

i just love the way this article treats the using of pharmacies as basic health care outlets as some brand-new innovation that will revolutionize health care access while completely failing to point out that the rest of the world has been using pharmacies in that capacity for freakin' ever...

in my travels, i have had several occasions to drop by pharmacies in other countries to ask for a consult on some minor health problem and have always been treated to fast, accurate and free advice... not only that, but many medicines available only through a prescription in the u.s. are available over the counter in most pharmacies around the world, often at surprisingly low prices...

As the debate over health-care reform reveals extensive unmet needs for better basic medical services in the United States, an unexpected player with the power to drive significant change may be as close as the corner drugstore. With new incentives and business strategies coming into play to repair and improve the health-care system, local pharmacies are positioned to help meet the top two goals of reform: providing convenient, expanded access to medical care and controlling costs.

Pharmacies — many of them operated by large publicly traded companies such as Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart — have already begun to reach beyond their traditional role as pill dispensers to meet new demand from patients. Consumers, who have become more responsible for their own medical care in recent years, are turning to retail pharmacies for help in managing medical conditions and their out-of-pocket health-care spending. Walmart’s US$4 generic drugs program, for example, which offers a wide range of prescription medication and 1,000 over-the-counter medications at $4 for a 30-day supply, has had a major impact on making medication more affordable — especially because other pharmacies have quickly followed suit.

The innovation does not stop at pricing. Drugstores are experimenting with in-store clinics, wellness programs, health screenings, and disease management services. In one notable program, the city of Asheville, N.C., has been using local pharmacists to provide free counseling and coaching to diabetes patients, generating substantial savings and health improvement. More recently, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration launched a similar experiment dubbed the “Patient Safety and Clinical Pharmacy Services Collaborative” in an attempt to integrate evidence-based clinical pharmacy services into the management of high-risk and high-cost patients.

it makes me crazy when i see publications and authors either deliberately or blindly ignoring reality and treating the u.s. as an island of all there is to be known... people in the u.s. have no idea just how backward we are in so many areas... the media should live up to its responsibility to present information in context and not to foster the kind of smug arrogance for which we americans have become famous around the globe...

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Habeas "reform"... The new euphemism for indefinite detention

i hate checking in on the news of a morning and reading crap like this... when we elected obama, we thought we might return to some semblance of the foundations on which our country supposedly rests... guess not...
The White House is considering endorsing a law that would allow the indefinite detention of some alleged terrorists without trial as part of efforts to break a logjam with Congress over President Barack Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday.

Last summer, White House officials said they had ruled out seeking a “preventive detention” statute as a way to deal with anti-terror detainees, saying the administration would hold any Guantanamo prisoners brought to the U.S. in criminal courts or under the general “law of war” principles permitting detention of enemy combatants.

However, speaking at a news conference in Greenville, S.C. Monday, Graham said the White House now seems open to a new law to lay out the standards for open-ended imprisonment of those alleged to be members of or fighters for Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

“We’re beginning to look at the idea we need to change our laws come up with better guidance” for judges handling cases of enemy combatants, Graham said. “I’ve been talking to the administration for the last couple of days. I’m encouraged that we’re going to sit down and do some of the hard things we haven’t done as a nation after Sept. 11.”

“I think we need to change our laws to give our judges better guidance— rules of the road,” Graham said. “We need a statute to deal with that.”

Asked whether the White House is again considering a preventive detention statute, spokesman Ben LaBolt said: “Senator Graham has expressed interest in habeas reform and other policy ideas. We will review constructive proposals from Senator Graham and other Members of Congress that are consistent with the national security imperative that we close Guantanamo and ensure the swift and certain justice the families of victims have long deserved.”

[emphasis added]

sure, and while we're at it, let's just toss out the rest of the constitution and the bill of rights... after all, as bush said, "it's just a god-damned piece of paper"...

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Of COURSE they did...!

i'm sitting in the vienna airport, riding on their free wifi, fogged out after an overnight flight, chugging a starbucks cappuccino, reading my email and the news headlines, and getting all pissed off...

wall street is out for itself and itself alone... the super-rich elites and their good buds, the banksters, don't give a shit who takes a fall, as long as the money firehoses stay pointed in their direction... so what if a country or two falls...? so what if more people lose their assets, their homes and the shirts on their backs...? greed knows no boundaries and has no respect for anything but more greed - oh, and power of course...

Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.

As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.

Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning. In early November — three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting.

The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.

this nyt story is ostensibly about wall street aiding and abetting greek national debt profligacy... ostensibly... what's it's really about is naked, unfettered, unregulated wall street greed... the part of the story that really sticks in my craw is this...
Wall Street did not create Europe’s debt problem. But bankers enabled Greece and others to borrow beyond their means, in deals that were perfectly legal. Few rules govern how nations can borrow the money they need for expenses like the military and health care. The market for sovereign debt — the Wall Street term for loans to governments — is as unfettered as it is vast.

“If a government wants to cheat, it can cheat,” said Garry Schinasi, a veteran of the International Monetary Fund’s capital markets surveillance unit, which monitors vulnerability in global capital markets.

Banks eagerly exploited what was, for them, a highly lucrative symbiosis with free-spending governments. While Greece did not take advantage of Goldman’s proposal in November 2009, it had paid the bank about $300 million in fees for arranging the 2001 transaction, according to several bankers familiar with the deal.

when are us poor, beleaguered slobs going to stand up and call this shit for what it is - financial rape and pillage that only differs from the rape and pillage of genghis khan because the perpetrators wear expensive suits and carry briefcases rather than wearing animal hides and carrying spears... let's stop treating this kind of crap as an unfortunate byproduct of an errant system, an aberration that, with a little course correction, will go away... the whole goddam capitalist structure of greed is out of control and it desperately needs purging...

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