Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Warhawks Strike Back


It is a cold day in Hell indeed when I find myself in full agreement with Pat Buchanan.

But there it is.

More on the matter here.

Are we having fun, yet?

Who's Telling The Truth About Iran's Nuclear Program?

Since February 2003, Iran's nuclear program has undergone what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself admits to be the most intrusive inspection in its entire history. After thousands of hours of inspections by some of the most experienced IAEA experts, the Agency has verified time and again that (1) there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, and (2) all the declared nuclear materials have been accounted for; there has been no diversion of such materials to non-peaceful purposes. Iran has a clean bill of health, as far as its nuclear program is concerned.

This is not what Israel, its lobby in the United States, and its neoconservative allies had expected. Such a clean bill of health deprives them of any justification for advocating military attacks on Iran. The illegal act of sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council and the subsequent, highly dubious UNSC resolutions against Iran have also not been effective. So what is the War Party to do?

It has resorted to an international campaign of exaggerations, lies, and distortions. This campaign involves planting lies in the major media and on the Internet, making absurd interpretations of what the IAEA reports on Iran, and issuing dire – but bogus – warnings about the speed at which Iran's uranium-enrichment program is progressing. Such warnings have been around for over two decades. In 1984, West German intelligence predicted that Iran would make a nuclear bomb within two years.

The campaign uses all the instruments of the U.S. political establishment to advance its agenda. The Bush administration routinely talked about "Iran's nuclear weapon program" or "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," without ever bothering to present any credible evidence for their assertion. Iran's drive for nuclear weapons has become an article of faith even to President Obama, who, in my opinion, is not pro-war. LeonPanetta , the new CIA director, recently said, "From all the information I've seen, I think there is no question that they [Iranians] are seeking that [nuclear weapon] capability." What information, Mr.Panetta? Enlighten us, please.

Keep Reading ...

punditman says ... I would guess that the vast majority of people out there, despite their political affiliation, would simply assume that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon and is playing a game of Monty Python's Olympic Hide-and-Seek with the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency. You, dear reader, may be one of these people. The only problem is that there is no evidence for such an assumption. None.

Punditman also makes the safe assumption that most people do not know that even the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate of December 2007 said Iran "halted" its nuclear weapons program in 2003; and, if they don't know that, then Punditman would bet his fictitious dividend cheque that most also don't know that this same report did not present any evidence that an Iranian nuclear program has ever existed (none, ever)so it couldn't be "halted" in the first place!

This speaks to the power of media- and political-propaganda, working in tandem.

Is Punditman defending Iran? Not at all. Does Punditman trust Iran? Punditman does not trust any State. Punditman is simply defending the facts.

Not A Sure Thing At All


Humanity's survival, that is. And while I don't always agree with Chomsky, I certainly do in this respect this time around:
Ignorance breeds fear. Fear fosters hate. In turn, hate leads inevitably to violence.

The History of Humanity constitutes a sad and tragic testament to this senseless and vicious progression. Incidentally, there is a further underlying, self-evident axiom to this assertion which posits that violence is the last refuge of incompetence - incompetence as nations, as communities, and as thinking, reasoning human beings.

Therefore, when will we acknowledge the fact, once and for all, that it is the incompetents among us who consistently promulgate violence as a solution for anything, to everything?

For the sake of our continued existence, we must strive to forget nevermore that rationalizations supporting the use of violence - other than the need for the rightful exercise of self-defense when set upon by a genuinely clear, present and immediate danger - invariably constitute deceitful fabrications meant to conceal, disguise or justify incompetence ...

... including our very own for embracing such mendacity.
And just when I find one more small reason (or two, or three, or four) to be optimistic about Humanity's future - I stumble onto something like this, or that, or this, or that, or this, or that, or this, or that, or this.

Or these.

Words then fail me utterly ...

Reloaded: Return Of The Mob - Or The Mob Strikes Back?


Following up on this older post ...

It's beginning to feel like President William J. Clinton's 1990's all over again, folks - even worse than that.

And we're not just talking about the MSM's miraculous "awakening", here.

The uber wingnuts are back with a vengeance, as they keep coming out of the woodworks in throves.

We may have to witness numerous enactments of the Sixth Principle of Incompetence in the years to come, I'm afraid ... because that's what primitive mind-thinking incompetents invariably do as their last refuge.

From ignorance to fear, from fear to hate ... and from hate to violence.

It is inevitable, sadly enough.

Once again: we still have a long way to go ... a very long way to go.

Dear Iggy ...


... just STFU, you hypocritical, opportunistic, pandering, triangulating, deep integrating buffoon.

But I do thank you for confirming my decision not to rejoin the LPC.

Obama Administration Accuses Iran Of Pursuing Nuclear Weapons

Accusations Show New Administration's Clean Break From Intelligence Estimate

www.antiwar.com

It has been 15 months since the release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which determined that the Iranian government had halted all efforts to create a nuclear weapon, and the outgoing chairman of the National Intelligence Council reaffirmed those findings only two months ago. The Obama Administration didn’t seem to read those reports, however.

President Obama accused Iran of “development of a nuclear weapon” during a press conference. Incoming CIA director Leon Panetta declared during his testimony that “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

While the Iranian government continues to express its desire to improve relations, Obama and associates just keep hurling accusations at Iran’s civilian nuclear program. There’s one thing the administration is missing though, and that’s evidence. Officials concede there is no evidence that undercuts the 2007 findings, but like the Bush Administration, the newcomers don’t seem to want fact to get in the way of good rhetoric.

punditman says ...This does not surprise Punditman in the least; unlike a common assumption out there amongst the sheeple, there is no structural change in US foreign policy just because Obama is in charge.

So long as there is no fundamental change at the institutional level, it appears impossible for a US President to not huff and puff and threaten Iran. It's been going on since the CIA organized the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and installed the Shaw in 1953.

Current tensions between the US and Iran are far from resolved and have the potential to become a very hot crisis. Or, the Obama administration can stop misleading the public and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton can save the day by taking Iranian overtures seriously and open a serious dialogue that could lead to detente.

What scenario is more likely, the former or the latter? Punditman is unsure but the former will make financial armageddon look like a picnic.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Late Friday Night Ode To ... TGIF (Oh Yeah - Again!)


Week-end's here, folks - time for some downtime, ya know what I mean?

So here's a quadruple play of fun for ya:

First, we have Arkells - Oh, The Boss Is Coming!


Second, we have an anti-suicide message (and damn good song) with Tantric - Down & Out


Third, we have (new band) Ministry of Zen - Another Ride


And last, but not least ... my fave party song ... Guns'N Roses - Mr. Brownstone


Keep on rockin', folks - and do help me send a big, warm and enthousiastic shout back at Impolitic and 900ftJesus, while you're at it, okay? Much appreciated ;-)

(And remember - party responsibly and don't drink and drive, y'all ...)

Joe The Wingnut And The "New" G.O.P.


This ignoramus represents what the Republican party is now - a devolution we've witnessed all too well (more examples here, here, here, here, here and here) during the past U.S. Presidency campaign and which is now fully achieved:


Joe the Plumber suggests some members of Congress should be shot

On Wednesday, Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher said that if he were in Congress, he would “probably be in jail” because he’d be charged with “slapping some member.” He added, “And that’s not [bull] either.” ThinkProgress asked Joe at CPAC yesterday which members he would most like to slap. “Pretty much anybody that’s stood there and said anything bad about our troops, pretty much anybody who sat there and talked treasonous talk about America,” Joe said. He then implied that some members of Congress should be shot:

Back in the day, really, when people would talk about our military in a poor way, somebody would shoot ‘em. And there’d be nothing said about that, because they knew it was wrong. You don’t talk about our troops. You support our troops. Especially when our congressmen and senators sit there and say bad things in an ongoing conflict.

Watch it:

Of course, politicians aren’t the only ones Joe thinks should be banned from speaking about war. Last month, he said that journalists shouldn’t “be anywhere allowed war.” “I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting,” he said.

Update: ThinkProgress also asked Joe about his recent trip to Israel. Wurzelbacher repeated his claim that Obama’s victory means “death to Israel.” He also seemed to say that there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Watch the video here.
If you think that Joe is not representative of today's devolved G.O.P., then try this for size:

This morning, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He tried to up the fear quotient in the room by raising the prospect of an Iranian-sent nuclear attack on an American city. “It’s [a] tiny [threat] compared to the Soviet Union,” Bolton said, “but is the loss of one American city — pick one at random: Chicago — is that a tiny threat?” The audience erupted in cheers and laughter at the idea of Obama’s home city being obliterated. Watch it:

Later during the conference, Joe Scarborough warned the audience that conservatives would have to work on their “tone.” “We’re not going to win votes, we’re not going to win elections by calling Obama a communist,” Scarborough said.

Update: The Wonk Room's Matt Duss, who attended CPAC today, notes that Bolton also fearmongered on Obama's dedication to Israel. He told an audience member that he "very much fear[s] it's right" that Obama would not aid Israel were it attacked.
And even this, as well:

ThinkProgress is attending the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference today. Earlier this afternoon, Cliff Kincaid, head of a conservative group Accuracy in Media, introduced Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). Kincaid suggested that President Obama is a communist, then suggested Obama was not born in the United States — to which the crowd cheered wildly. Watch it:

Despite the fact that it has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, radical conservatives continue to peddle the ridiculous myth. Last weekend, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) noted that he had never seen Obama’s birth certificate. Trying to calm the ensuing firestorm, a spokesman for Shelby claimed the senator “was not saying and I’m not saying he (Obama) is or isn’t [a U.S. citizen], he was just saying he hasn’t seen one (a birth certificate).”

The more things change ...

Aah, those primitive minds (here's yet another one) - it is fascinating - and also worrisome - how much they are uncivilized, crass, savage barbarians, don't you think?

This picture taken at this year's CPAC is quite telling (h/t):
Rush Limbaugh must be ever so proud (and then some) of his United Haters of America Party - where fear and hate are the end all, be all, of the game.

Good thing Joe's book of wit and wisdom is apparently failing to thrive ...

Maybe then there's still hope for us.

But we still have a long way to go ... a very long way to go.

Yet one more case in point.

Criminal Laws: Going The Way of The U.S. ...


... in becoming a prison nation is apparently what drives the "tough-on-crime" republican conservative agenda of Harper and his Harpies.

(In case you don't get it: it is "mandatory sentences" and "three strikes" laws regarding drug possession and/or intent to sell which more than significantly contributed to the monstrous bloating of the U.S. prison population).

Are we there, yet?

(sigh)

A Paragon Of What Being A Savage Barbarian Is All About


That's right:

Bush should have executed Gitmo detainees, says former CIA officer

A former CIA officer has said its ridiculous that the Bush administration didn't execute numerous prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, regardless of whether they have had a trial, when it had the chance.

"Many of those individuals that are there are enemy combatants and that's based on the Geneva Conventions and should be executed," said Gary Berntsen, who spent 20 years with the CIA, to Fox's Gretchen Carlson on the show, Fox & Friends. "It's ridiculous that the Bush administration, after seven years, didn't deal with many of those that we know are enemy combatants."
Yes, indeed - who needs fucking due process, legal representation and, worst of all, trials (like this one, as a more recent example)? Just hang/shoot/fry/put down any motherfucking person we accuse of anything and be done with this human/civil rights crap already!

Here's an idea: let us go back to the good old days when Triple Axis commanders would simply shoot Allied prisoners and dispense with such quaint formalities.

More putrid, nauseating and sickening ignorance-based, uncivilized, savage, primitive mind-thinking claptrap (as served above by Mr. Berntsen) I have rarely heard ... if ever.

Then again - the first decade of the 21st century is not yet done.

Yup - we still have a long way to go ... a very long way to go.

Reloaded: Taliban This, Taliban That ...


Following up on today's earlier post, as well as this older one ...

Treating the Taliban as an umbrella term is how exactly the Taliban is/has always been presented to us by NATO, the politicos and the media - including their conflation with al Qaeda - in order to sell us (and keep on selling) this never ending war. For a long time, the uneasy, complex alliance of those tribes which were part of the Taliban, and from which it drew its roots, remained nevertheless a generally organized movement with its own leaders/deciders above the tribes themselves. However, and especially when considering the Taliban's slow evolution into network groups in recent years, the complexity of the Taliban movement has greatly increased - consequently making it more than ever wishful thinking that peace and stability can be achieved in Afghanistan through military means.

Whether such increased complexity can be used to advantage in order to achieve diplomatic peace and stability in Afghanistan, or actually further prevent such an outcome, remains very much in question ...

More food for thought on the matter:


Taliban: What's in a Name?
by Steve Hynd


Two years into the Iraq war, moderately well read Westerners already knew that the insurgency there wasn't monolithic. Honest reporting repeatedly made clear that Al Qaeda, Sunni militant groups of various varieties and Sadrists didn't see eye to eye and often worked at cross purposes even while all were hostile to America and its allies.

Yet after seven years in Afghanistan, the same cannot be said about Western knowledge of militants in the region. There's a big, amorphous mass called "The Taliban" which is in cahoots with Al Qaeda - and that's about as fine grained as it usually gets.

That was sufficient back in 2001. The American-led coalition invaded to engage Osama bin Laden's group and the Taliban's organized fighters and on the battlefield itself Afghans quickly sorted into those who were either Al Qeada or Taliban, or those who were against them.

But it doesn't cover the current complex situation at all well,which means the West's voters are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding - and approving or disapproving - their leaders' plans. As Brandon Friedman, a former officer who served in Afghanistan, put it in a recent email:

Instead of fighting organized theocratic government forces and their foreign terrorist guests, we're now arrayed against a Tatooine-esque combination actual foreign terrorists, actual Taliban fighters from two different countries, narco-warlords jockeying for regional power and influence, regular warlords jockeying for regional power and influence, angry Afghan citizens who've grown weary of civilian casualties, angry Afghan civilians who've grown weary of foreign forces and their broken promises, regular Afghan citizens who side with the Taliban out of sheer necessity for survival, angry opium farmers, Pakistani agents, and, finally, the invisible blight of government corruption.

Reducing that complexity to a simple "Us and Them" formula hinders much of the debate about Afghanistan.

So it was pleasant to see, among coverage of recent US missile strikes, a report by Mark Mazzetti, David Sanger and Eric Schmidt of the New York Times which tried to explain the various flavors of Taliban, their motives and their aims. The piece highlighted the difference between the Taliban group that Pakistan is most interested in opposing, Baitullah Mehsud's Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and the network run by Jalaluddin Haqqani, which is believed responsible for the campaign against Western forces in Afghanistan.

The latter group thinks the former has no business attacking Pakistani security forces or the Pakistani government, pointing to a reciprocal tension between Pakistan and the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. While the Pakistani government is happy to do peace deals with Haqqani's network and less so with Mehsud's, the coalition is more likely to eventually do so with the latter. Meanwhile, Pakistani counter-terror efforts are always going to focus on Mehsud's groups - which isn't all that useful to the West.

We could do with more of this kind of reporting about the region. In particular, we could do with more differentiation on press reports of the four or five main current strains of Taliban of interest to Western efforts in the region. That's the plea recently made by Frederick Kagan, in a short article for the National Review Online reproduced at the American Enterprise Institute:

There is no such thing as "the Taliban" today. Many different groups with different leaders and aims call themselves "Taliban," and many more are called "Taliban" by their enemies. In addition to Mullah Omar's Taliban based in Pakistan and indigenous Taliban forces in Afghanistan, there is an indigenous Pakistani Taliban controlled by Baitullah Mehsud (this group is thought to have been responsible for assassinating Benazir Bhutto). Both are linked with al-Qaeda, and both are dangerous and determined. In other areas, however, "Taliban" groups are primarily disaffected tribesmen who find it more convenient to get help from the Taliban than from other sources.

In general terms, any group that calls itself "Taliban" is identifying itself as against the government in Kabul, the U.S., and U.S. allies. Our job is to understand which groups are truly dangerous, which are irreconcilable with our goals for Afghanistan--and which can be fractured or persuaded to rejoin the Afghan polity. We can't fight them all, and we can't negotiate with them all. Dropping the term "Taliban" and referring to specific groups instead would be a good way to start understanding who is really causing problems.

Mullah Omar's Taliban - the original Afghanistan-ruling Taliban - is nowadays more under the day-to-day direction of Mullah Bradar (or Brehadar), Omar's trusted chief of military operations but it still leans heavily towards the position of Jalaluddin Haqqani's Taliban, which has largely supplanted it as the pre-eminent force in Afghanistan. Both are based in Pakistan but mostly interested in attacking allied forces in Afghanistan and the Afghan government. As one prominent member of Omar's group told Asia Times reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad last September:

it is necessary to understand that there is a sea of difference between the people who call themselves the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban [led by Mehsud] and the Taliban. We have nothing to do with them. In fact, we oppose the policies they adhere to against the Pakistani security forces.

"We individually speak to all groups, whether they are Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Arabs, Uzbeks or whosoever, telling them not to create violence in Pakistan, especially in the name of the Taliban.

Journalists in the West could do worse than refer to veteran reporter Anand Gopal's incisive look at the various competing groups of militants in the region, which also include the resurgent Hizb-i-Islami of charismatic fundamentalist Hekmatyar, who like Haqqani used to be one of those favored by both CIA and ISI intelligence agencies. Gopal writes of a "rainbow coalition" arrayed against U.S. troops, which is "competing commanders with differing ideologies and strategies, who nonetheless agree on one essential goal: kicking out the foreigners."

As Brandon Friedman writes, it's tempting to default to the soundbite term "Taliban" when talking about all these groups and to thus treat them as if they were one monolithic structure.

(Keep reading ...)

Reloaded: "Clean Coal"? How About "Clean Trash", Then?


Damn right - and here's a nice new "add" to this effect:


(h/t)

Any questions?

Security Agencies And Their Neverending Need For Increased Powers




(...) because something/anything deemed potentially disruptive (even remotely or not at all) to "the safety and security of Canadians or the integrity of Canada's critical infrastructure" may or may not happen, this warrants the full use and deployment of the government's terrorism monitoring apparatus to spy on lawful citizens.

Let this reality sink in for a minute or two ... or five ... or ten.

Do you get it now?

This means that anything can and will be viewed by our security agencies within the narrow, paranoid prism of terrorism and threats to security.

Anything.

From blogging to writing a dissenting letter to a newspaper editor to a journalist trying to do investigative work to gathering at a coffee shop to rant about politics to reading "suspicious" stuff (books, blogs) to organizing/participating in activist actions (letter/phone/email campaigns, peaceful protests), etc., etc., etc.

Because any such activities may or may not -immediately or at some point in time or never at all - lead to acts which may or may not "threaten the safety and security of citizens or the integrity of the country's critical infrastructure".

So just in case and to be safe, let's monitor and survey and spy away on the citizenry.

And that is the ever convenient rationale of authoritarian security states for spying on their citizens.

I repeat: no one is safe.
This also implies that police and security agencies will ever demand more and more spying powers in order to fullfill their self-ascribed "mission".

Another case in point to consider (emphasis added):
NSA aims to expand power: Eavesdropping agency looks to take over cybersecurity

The spy shop that brought you the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program wants to expand its power under President Barack Obama, the nation's top intelligence chief told Congress Wednesday, in a little-noticed intelligence grab.

While acknowledging that many distrust the agency for its role in eavesdropping, Obama Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair said he believed the agency should expand into a permanent role in handling government cybersecurity efforts.

In essence, his agency's move is an effort to take the responsibilities away from the Homeland Security Department. The head of Obama's cybersecurity transition team, Paul Kurtz, said he supports giving the NSA more power in handling cybersecurity.

Blair told a House committee: "The National Security Agency has the greatest repository of cyber talent."

"There are some wizards out there ... who can do stuff," Blair added. "I think that capability should be harnessed and built on."

Some critics have questioned whether the agency is already involved in surveilling domestic e-mail and other correspondence in searching for foreign intelligence threats.

Blair said that foreign countries increasingly post a threat to the US in the cybersecurity realm. The agency, in general, is tasked with foreign intelligence.

"A number of nations, including Russia and China, can disrupt elements of the U.S. information infrastructure," Blair remarked. "Cyber-defense is not a one-time fix; it requires a continual investment."

But he said that the NSA had "two strikes out" for its role in appearing to subvert civil liberties. Many critics say that Bush's wiretapping program was illegal, because taps did not go through proper court channels.

"The NSA is both intelligence and military, two strikes out in terms of the way some Americans think about a body that ought to be protecting their privacy and civil liberties," Blair said.

"I think there is a great deal of distrust of the National Security Agency and the intelligence community in general playing a role outside of the very narrowly circumscribed role because of some of the history of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] issue in years past," he continued. "So I would like the help of people like you who have studied this closely and served on commissions, the leadership of the committee and finding a way that the American people will have confidence in the supervision."
To recap: a) we are threatened (of course); b) we need more powers to meet these threats; and c) don't worry about abusing such powers - we'll help you make us trust us.

How eerily familiar ...

Does this ring any (alarm) bells to you, folks? It damn well should.

Things are getting worse to that effect indeed in the U.S. Here in Canada, such worsening is catching up all-too-quickly.

Talk about deep integration between Canada and the U.S. ...

And to think that this "next step" in increasing spying powers of the NSA is happening under President Barack Obama.

Meet the new boss fucking indeed.

In parting, allow me to repeat myself thusly:
(...) I remain staunchly opposed to the ludicrous and very dangerous wrong-headed idea that police and security agencies can get any information on us without a court-approved warrant, regardless of whatever reason they want to invoke to justify such blatant violation of civil rights - because police and security agencies will inevitably abuse such vast, indiscriminate powers of domestic spying (examples here and here). It is in their nature to do so.

Then again - I told you so, bis repetita, eh?
Word to the wise ...

Obama's Very Own Quagmire

Will Barack Obama provide a way out of Afghanistan? Perhaps. But I'm not optimistic. The new U.S. president talks about the importance of diplomacy and development. However, his actions so far have focused on extending the war.

Obama is continuing the policy, started by his predecessor George W. Bush, of bombing suspected Taliban hideouts in Pakistan. As well, the U.S. has sent about 70 military "advisers" into that country.

We shouldn't be surprised. When he was campaigning for the presidency, Obama promised to vigorously pursue the Taliban into their Pakistani sanctuaries. At the time, he was criticized as naive. The smart money said he'd never follow through. Apparently, the smart money was wrong.

In fact, Obama's Afghan strategy seems remarkably similar to that of Bush. Bush, too, embraced the so-called three D's, defence, development and diplomacy, all of which have been U.S. and NATO orthodoxy since 2003.

It's true that in the early years of the war Bush focused solely on force of arms. As then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously noted, America wasn't in the business of nation-building.

But by 2003, that began to change. As the Taliban regrouped, the U.S. realized that it was caught in a full-scale insurgency that required a more sophisticated response.

Keep Reading ...

punditman says ... It is nice to see some honest analysis of the Afghanistan situation within the mainstream media. Given the economic position that the US and Canada and the entire western world finds itself in, it seems rather counter intuitive to spend even more money on another hopeless war. People need to stop putting Obama on a pedestal and take a hard look at his actual policies rather than his rhetoric. Is there any difference between his and Bush's approach to the Afghan quagmire? Punditman can't see it, at least not so far.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reloaded: More Wars, Please


Following up on today's earlier post regarding the ongoing Afghanistan FUBAR, as well as an older post concerning resource wars, I offer this interesting piece which also reminds me of the concept of "communicating vases/quagmires" (Operation Enduring Propaganda, anyone?):


Freeing Up Resources ... for More War
By Norman Solomon


Hours after President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, The New York Times printed the news that he plans to gradually withdraw "American combat forces" from Iraq during the next 18 months. The newspaper reported that the advantages of the pullout will include "relieving the strain on the armed forces and freeing up resources for Afghanistan."

The president's speech had little to say about the plans for escalation, but the few words will come back to haunt: "With our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it."

Obama didn't mention the additional number of US troops - 17,000 - that he has just ordered to Afghanistan. But his pledge that he "will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people" and his ringing declaration, "We will not allow it," came just before this statement: "As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy."

Get the message? In his first speech to Congress, the new president threw down a 90-month-old gauntlet, reaffirming the notion that committing to war halfway around the world - in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan too - will make Americans safer. With drumrolls like that, the mission could outlive all of us.

And so, a colossal and fateful blunder, made by a very smart leader, arguably our best and brightest, is careening forward with the help of silence that defers all too readily to power. This is how the war in Vietnam escalated, while individuals and groups muted their voices. Many people will pay with their lives.

The reasons the war in Afghanistan cannot be won are directly connected to why the war is wrong. In essence, people do not like their country occupied for years on end, especially when the occupiers are routinely killing civilians (whatever the rationale). Monochrome words like Taliban and "terrorists" might seem tidy and clear enough as they appear in media coverage, or as they roll off a president's tongue, but in the real Afghan world the opponents of the US war are diverse and wide-ranging. With every missile strike that incinerates a household or terrorizes a village, the truly implacable "extremists" can rejoice at Uncle Sam's assistance to their recruiting efforts.

Those who are fond of talking and writing about President Obama's admirable progressive values will, sooner or later, need to come to terms with the particulars of his actual policies. In foreign affairs, the realities now include the ominous pairing of his antiterrorism rhetoric and his avowed commitment to ratchet up the US war effort in Afghanistan.

(Keep reading ...)

Straight Talk At The Smokeshop

punditman says ...

This morning Punditman went to his local variety store to pick up a copy of the Toronto Star, which sometimes contains some interesting content and perspectives that Punditman may have missed in his online probes. In fact, the Star is about as far as you can go within North America's old dead tree information and doctrinal system of media enslavement before the strictures of institutional self-censorship kick in. Europe of course is a different story with a wider range of permissable opinion. Enough Chomsky-speak.

As Punditman stood in line, the man in front of punditman (MFP) noticed that the debit machine said "Chase" on it. The store owner (SO) is East Asian and speaks broken English. Here is their conversation as heard by Punditman:

MFP (pointing to the debit machine): "Chase. They're the bad people. Money, money, money."

SO: "Money, money, money."

MFP: "That's the Rockefellers. They're the ones responsible for this 'national debt.'"

SO: (chuckles).

MFP: "But there's no national debt. It's bullshit. The MFP then gathered up his groceries and said, "Thank you sir," and departed.

Punditman considered adding his two cents worth but was not yet caffeinated; who knows what gibberish may have flowed from Punditman's logy Sunday morning brain? Punditman considered striking up a conversation, because he was interested in discovering how the MFP arrived at his conspiracy theory regarding Chase Bank (and no doubt the Federal Reserve Board too—as being responsible for yet another "engineered" economic crisis as well as every war since 1914—I'm guessing the MFP had heard that one too).

It occurred to Punditman that the MFP may be a reader of Punditman and perhaps MFP has read one too many of Peacenik's posts, followed a link or two and ended up at From the Wilderness' Peak Oil Blog? Then Punditman realized that if that were so, MFP would have been doing his grocery shopping at the Bulk Barn instead of a variety store. Punditman also noticed that the MFP was buying a copy of the Toronto Sun and so immediately dismissed the notion that the MFP was a Punditman reader. Perhaps the MFP has read the Turner Diaries and trains with some far-right, wingnut survivalist group on the edge of town? One never knows.

Punditman has decided there are three types of people in the world:

1. People who get most of their information and formulate most of their opinions by surfing the internet, which contains a broad range of perspective, including everything from wingnut to the best of the best. At least these people are thinking.
2. People who get most of their information and formulate most of their opinions by reading newspapers, which generally contain a narrow range of perspective. At least these people are trying to think (or think they are trying).
3. People who don't read but get most of their information and formulate most of their opinions by absorbing sponge-like, news soundbites from TV. These people have stopped thinking.

As far as reliable sources, Punditman trusts #1 more than #2 and laments the fact that #3 is even a category.

More Quick Answers To Stupid Questions


Here we go ...



Afghanistan: Oh, Really?


This is what a minister from a failing (and corrupted) government does in order to ensure that the same government he is part of will be kept propped up by those with the weapons and the big money:


Afghan Foreign Minister Says ‘The Majority Of Afghans Still Support’ International Troop Presence

A recent ABC/BBC/ARD poll released earlier this month found that Afghans’ support of U.S. and NATO forces’ efforts in that nation is tumbling. Just 47 percent said they had a favorable view of the United States, down from 83 percent in 2005. Only 37 percent said that most people in their area support NATO and the International Security Assistance Force; 67 percent supported ISAF in 2006.

Today, ThinkProgress interviewed Afghanistan’s foreign minister, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta. We asked him about the poll’s grim findings and how NATO and the Afghan government “can win back the hearts and minds of the Afghan civilians.” Spanta disputed the poll’s results, claiming that a majority of Afghans still support the U.S.-led international coalition:

SPANTA: Now, this is the opinion to places that you ask the people, the ordinary Afghans, the majority of all the Afghans still support the presence of the international community because they believe that the international community came to Afghanistan after two and a half decades of tyranny in my country…and the international community brought us liberation. This is still the perception of the people of Afghanistan

(...) Spanta later said that Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Gen. David McKiernan, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, have agreed that Afghan forces will be more “involved” in the “preparation [and] implantation of military action on operations,” including “arresting Afghans in house searching” to ensure more respect for the culture of Afghans.
Funny - Spanta's claim of a "majority of Afghans" sounds quite similar to any claims by news personalities and/or political hacks that whatever their opinions are, they are shared by a "majority of (insert nationality)" (some examples to be found here).

It is gratuitous lip service that is meant, in the current specific case, to ensure a continuous flow of money - at the very least (one example here). And never you mind that this runs counter not only to actual polling data, but to reality itself - to whit:

Afghanistan victory unlikely, says DND manual

Still No Rights for Bagram Prisoners

High Value Terrorist...Children

At Least 20 Killed in Twin US Attacks in Waziristan

Kabul's rift with the US widens

How we lost Afghanistan

New Afghan civilian deaths probe

No light at end of Afghan tunnel

Nato chief faults Afghan leaders

Clashes, motorbike bomb kill 32 in Afghanistan

Nato is deeper in its Afghan mire than Russia ever was

Afghanistan: a misread war

Afghanistan mission to last decades
And I could go on and on and on ...

FUBAR, anyone?

And here in Canada, we'll just keep on running the expense clock of this meaningless quagmire.

Does anyone here other than me catch that bitter, nauseating smell hovering all about?

Smells like incompetence to me ...

More WIBDI - "What If Bush Did It?"


Reloaded: When A Primitive Mind Speaks ...


... you are invariably served pretentious, parochial, ignorant claptrap:


Colorado state senator says HIV testing for pregnant women rewards ‘sexual promiscuity’

Today, Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis (R) caused outrage by announcing that he would vote against a bill requiring HIV tests for pregnant women because the disease “stems from sexual promiscuity” and he doesn’t think the government should reward “unacceptable behavior.” Schultheis explained his motives before casting the lone vote against the bill:

We do things continually to remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior, quite frankly, and I don’t think that’s the role of this body.

As a result of that I finally came to the conclusion I would have to be a no vote on this because this stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can’t vote on this bill and I wanted to explain to this body why I was going to be a no vote on this.

Because, yeah - you know - only women are Teh Temptation because of their sinful, promiscuous nature and therefore they are the only ones who spread STDs ... while we poor men keep on falling to the wicked witchery of their charms and all and end up being infected.

That's why women need to be dominated and controlled, you know?

(Damned be all women with their siren voices, their alluring breasts, their inviting hips, their bewitching curves, their sparkling hair, their seductive smiles, their beautiful eyes, their swinging buttocks, their ... their ... well, damn it all! My mind is now being gripped by wicked thoughts and lustful images - time for me to take out the Godly whip and flog myself in penitence. See you folks later.)

;-)

Canadian Bank "Rescues": Error - Does Not Compute!


Say wha-at?
RBC logs $1.05-billion profit

CIBC makes $147-million in the quarter
Our banks are "relatively" healthy indeed in these trying economic times, thanks to our regulations - but - but - but - but - why then dish out billions in rescue monies to them in order to "keep credit flowing"?

Why indeed ...

Meanwhile, south of the border (emphasis added):
JPMorgan to cut 12,000 jobs related to WaMu deal

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said Thursday it will eliminate about 12,000 jobs as it folds in the operations of Washington Mutual Inc.

According to slides on the company's Web site from an investor day presentation, the New York bank expects about $2-billion (U.S.) in net savings to be achieved through the acquisition, the majority of which will be realized by the end of this year. This includes about $1.35-billion related to the job cuts, the bank said.

JPMorgan acquired the assets of Seattle-based WaMu, the largest bank ever to fail in U.S. history, at the end of September (...).

JPMorgan has yet to post a quarterly loss during the financial meltdown that began in 2007, when mortgage defaults started spiking. The bank in January reported a modest fourth-quarter profit of $702-million — thanks mostly to its purchase of Washington Mutual, which boosted its consumer banking business.

(...)

JPMorgan, like San Francisco-based rival Wells Fargo & Co., has received $25-billion in government aid. Weaker competitors Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. have each gotten $45-billion in government capital.
In other words, they used the bailout monies they received as any other type of capital to do as they pleased in order to keep/increase their profits and expand their market shares.

And to add insult to injury, they will now fire employees - just like CitiGroup already did.

Now, some related news:
GM loss hits $9.6-billion for the quarter

Quebec pension giant posts $39.8B loss
So - we the employees and workers on both sides of the border get the shaft both ways by losing our jobs and/or seeing our pension funds shrink away into this economic black hole we are being sucked in, while banks, financial institutions and corporate CEOs keep raking in profits and bonuses retention awards.

Continuing blackmail con game, anyone?

We must be lu-uving this game a whole damn lot, considering that we keep on playing it again and again and again - just like gambling addicts that keep on playing the roulette in casinos, thinking that this time, they'll hit paydirt.

At least, casinos dish out complimentary drinks and snacks ...


(Cross-posted at NetRoots)

Making LBJ Look Like A Piker

Who Remembers Guns and Butter?

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policy of Great Society spending and Vietnam War is credited with the rising American inflation that persisted until checked by President Reagan’s supply-side policy.

In Johnson’s time the American economy and the US dollar were strong, and there was no current account deficit. Yet, LBJ’s policy of guns and butter did long-term harm.

The Bush/Obama 21st century policy of guns and butter makes LBJ look like a piker. The 2009 and 2010 federal budget deficits will be monstrous even without guns. But Obama is exiting (apparently) the Iraq War in order to start two, possibly three, more wars.

Obama has announced a doubling of US troops in Afghanistan. Widening that war will require the US to occupy, or attempt to occupy, parts of Pakistan. The disrespect for Pakistan’s sovereignty will further radicalize that large, nuclear-armed country and bring Pakistan, or at least parts of it, into armed conflict with the US.

Keep Reading ...

punditman says ... Is there something about the US presidency that automatically divorces the holder of the office from reality? The US economy is going off a cliff. So -- time to crank up the belligerent rhetoric and escalate military actions. Is there something in the White House water supply?

AWOL No More ...


So.

What do you get when you are in an insane rush of work while in between being brought down by a bad case of flu (vaccination regardless, as it were)?

That's right: a big, fat zero blogging activity on my part.

Heck - I barely read any other blog over the last two weeks or so, although I have been able to stay up to date on news ...

But I'm back now ... again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Late Friday Night Ode To ... Love And All That Jazz


In honor of tomorrow being Valentine's Day, I offer a quadruple play for the occasion ...

To start things off, we have Eric Clapton - Layla:


Then we have Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn:


Followed by ZZ Top - Blue Jeans Blues:


And we close with U2 - With Or Without You:


Have a wonderful V-day, ya'll ...

(I know this post may be sappy - but I'm a silly romantic, is all. Sue me) ;-)

(And a shout back at Impolitic, of course) ;-)

As The World Turns ...


... things will keep on getting for the worse:


A world in revolt
By Paul Rogers

The deepening recession is provoking widespread social discontent in the global south - and far more is to come.


India's Subhiksha chain of discount stores has been one of the most spectacular successes of the country's retail sector, expanding tenfold to over 1,650 stores in just two years. More recently it has run into major financial difficulties and faced trouble raising new bank loans. The consequences include a failure to pay the security companies that provided guards for Subhiksha's stores and warehouses.

By the end of the first week of February 2009, many of the companies had withdrawn their security personnel. During the weekend of 7-8 February, many of the unguarded stores were looted; more than a third of the total run by the group (around 600) had been affected (see James Fontanella-Khan, "Retailers feel credit squeeze in India", Financial Times, 9 February 2009).

The Subhiksha experience is a graphic example of the effect of the financial downturn even in a country that has been experiencing considerable economic growth. Moreover, it is not alone: a number of other Indian outlets are in trouble, and foreign retailers (including the Britain-based Argos group) have or are planning to cease operating in the country. Since the Indian economy's projected rate of growth in 2009 is (in a pattern certain to be repeated elsewhere) far lower than it needs to be to meet social demands, the pressures on the country's social and commercial order are likely to become even fiercer.

A biting wind

The exposure of Subhiksha's problems comes at a time when official assessments of the world's economic prospects are becoming more pessimistic by the month. In October 2008, for example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a growth rate of 3.0% in 2009, much of it expected to be concentrated in the emerging economies of the global south; by November the figure had been downgraded to 2.2%, and by January 2009 it was further reduced to 0.5%. The fact that the world's annual population increase is of above 1.0% means that this last figure represents a fall in economic growth per person.

The developed industrialised countries of the global north - in particular those most reshaped by the neo-liberal model that has dominated for a generation, such as the United States and Britain - now face a deep recession that will see economic activity shrink by at least 2% in the next year. At the same time, these states have reasonable social safety-nets of the kind not available in the majority world. A period when the contraction of trade freezes the markets which many non-western economies have come to depend on, leading to increasing deprivation without much in the way of welfare protection, is likely to make this contrast even sharper.

Many of the least developed countries (LDCs), for example, remain dependent for the majority of their export earnings on primary commodities such as coffee, tea, sugar, vegetable fibres, copper and tin. The passing of the commodity price boom of 2007-08 intensifies the pressure on these vulnerable economies.

A previous article in this series pointed out that the recession would have a much more serious impact on the global south - a judgment equally applicable to major countries such as China and India (see "A world on the edge", 29 January 2009). Even here the effects of the downturn are for many grievous; the projections of slower growth in China compared with the near-10% of recent years translate into an inability to satisfy growing social needs and demands, with severe consequences likely as a result (see Kerry Brown, "China's giant struggle", 5 February 2009).

An array of emerging economies was experiencing social unrest even before the current recession began to bite, in part as the result of increasing awareness among more literate and aware populations of wrenching social and wealth divides (see "China and India: heartlands of global protest", 7 August 2008). The official responses have included (in China) a major new force of paramilitaries to exert control of public order, and (in India) a recognition that the neo-Maoist Naxalites waging an armed campaign in a swathe of predominantly rural states now constitute the country's biggest security threat.

There are parallels, albeit on a smaller scale, elsewhere. In January-February 2009 the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe has been convulsed by a general strike organised by a coalition of unions and citizen groups campaigning against economic marginalisation (see Angelique Chrisafis, "France faces revolt over poverty on its Caribbean islands", Guardian, 12 February 2009). The unrest has been replicated in the neighbouring island of Martinique, and in two other French overseas territories (French Guiana and the Indian Ocean island of Réunion) have threatened similar action. In an echo of the Subhiksha events, demonstrators on Martinique attacked supermarkets and forced them to close.

The effects of a deepening recession are now becoming drastic (see Patrick Chovanec, "China on the brink", Asia Times, 12 February 2009). In China, the greatest cause for concern is the migrant-labour pool: the huge numbers of workers that in the last generation have moved from the countryside to the booming cities and economic zones, who have been the backbone of China's march to the status of a leading industrial power.

The scale of this phenomenon is vast (perhaps involving directly as many as 150 million people) and crucial to the internal development of China too, for these workers have sent money home that has supported their families and sustained their village economies. These remittances are both a vital instrument of rural China's development and a modest guarantee of some distribution of wealth beyond the new urban middle classes during the boom years.

The government has been very reluctant to admit to the economic impact of the decline in the size of the migrant labour pool, one recent government estimate suggesting that perhaps one in fifteen of migrant workers had lost their jobs. A senior government official is reported to have admitted that around 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs because of the current crisis (see Willy Lam, "Beijing sets out on chaos offensive", Asia Times, 11 February 2009).

A new compass

The social discontent in India, China, and elsewhere is all the more significant in that it is erupting in what are still the early stages of a worldwide recession. The primary target of widespread resentment and anger is the mismanagement, corruption and injustice which disaffected groups attribute to domestic authorities. So far, these radical protests pay little attention to the financial misdemeanours in the minority world of the north, which have led to huge tranches of debt being pledged to save unstable banking systems. The sums involved are massively greater than those required to meet all of the United Nations's Millennium Development Goals; yet the link between the urgent bailouts in one kind of emergency and the neglect and delay in the other has not yet been fully made (see Simon Maxwell, "Development in a downturn", 4 July 2008). This, perhaps, will change with the emergence of transnational radical social movements.


(Keep reading ...)

Loopholes In Domestic Spying For No Need Of Warrants?


Yes siree, mam - thanks to an incompetent judge! Read it and weep (emphasis added):


Where you've been on Net not private, judge rules

An Ontario Superior Court ruling could open the door to police routinely using Internet Protocol addresses to find out the names of people online, without any need for a search warrant.

Justice Lynne Leitch found that there is "no reasonable expectation of privacy" in subscriber information kept by Internet service providers (ISPs), in a decision issued earlier this week.

The decision is binding on lower courts in Ontario and it is the first time a Superior Court-level judge in Canada has ruled on whether there are privacy rights in this information that are protected by the Charter.

The ruling is a significant victory for police investigating crimes such as possession of child pornography, while privacy advocates warn there are broad implications even for law-abiding users of the Internet.

"There is no confidentiality left on the Internet if this ruling stands," said James Stribopoulos, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

The ruling by Judge Leitch was made in a possession of child pornography case in southwestern Ontario.

A police officer in St. Thomas faxed a letter to Bell Canada in 2007 seeking subscriber information for an IP address of an Internet user allegedly accessing child pornography. The court heard that it was a "standard letter" that had been previously drafted by Bell and the officer "filled in the blanks" with a request that stated it was part of a child sexual exploitation investigation.

Bell provided the information without asking for a search warrant. The name of the subscriber was the wife of the man who was eventually charged with "possession of child pornography" and "making available child pornography."

Most ISPs in the country require search warrants to turn over subscriber information unless it is a child pornography investigation.

Ron Ellis, the lawyer for the defendant, stressed to the judge that there was no allegation of attempted luring or of a child in immediate danger. The "making available" charge stems from peer-to-peer websites that permit the downloading of images from other users.

Mr. Ellis argued that police should have been required to seek a search warrant to obtain the subscriber information.

Judge Leitch accepted the arguments of Crown attorney Elizabeth Maguire that the information is similar to what is in a phone book.

"One's name and address or the name and address of your spouse are not biographical information one expects would be kept private from the state," said Judge Leitch.

The reasoning of the judge misses the context of what police are seeking, suggested Mr. Stribopoulos.

"It is not just your name. It is your whole Internet surfing history. Up until now, there was privacy. An IP address is not your name; it is a 10-digit number. A lot more people would be apprehensive if they knew their name was being left everywhere they went," he said.

This information should require a search warrant by police if there is suspected criminal activity, said Mr. Stribopoulos. Judges are accepting the argument that this is "just your name" because "everyone wants to get at the child abusers," he said.

The federal Personal Information Protection Electronics Documents Act permits ISPs to provide this information to someone with "lawful authority," which Judge Leitch interpreted as meaning a police officer and not requiring a court ordered warrant.
I'm all for catching pedophiles and child pornographers. But it seems to me that "child pornography" is being evoked as often as "terrorism" these days to justify violating the privacy of citizens in every which way possible, by police and/or security agencies.

That is why I remain staunchly opposed to the ludicrous and very dangerous wrong-headed idea that police and security agencies can get any information on us without a court-approved warrant, regardless of whatever reason they want to invoke to justify such blatant violation of civil rights - because police and security agencies will inevitably abuse such vast, indiscriminate powers of domestic spying (examples here and here). It is in their nature to do so.

Then again - I told you so, bis repetita, eh?

Now - how about someone suing Bell for violating their own client privacy rules, hmm?

Unless, of course, we actually do end up with a U.S.-like "gutted" FISA-with-telecom-immunity?

Welcome to the Security State of North America, my fellow Canadians.

I hope you'll enjoy yourselves.