Saturday, February 27, 2010

Iraq to reinstate 20,000 Saddam-era army officers

Considering Iraq needs to take over responsibility for its own security, it's sensible to install 20,000 experienced officers to whip the troops into shape. It should also stabilize the military.

The only down side one should be cautious about is staying alert for a possible coup d’etat becuse such aren't unknown in the area with or without Western help.

BAGHDAD – Iraq on Friday reinstated 20,000 former army officers dismissed after the U.S.-led invasion, a landmark gesture at reconciliation ahead of the March 7 elections.

It's a move designed to allay some of the bitterness that still rankles Iraq — years after the Bush administration first made the controversial decision to dismantle Saddam Hussein's army.


Jobless and angry, some from the old army took their expertise in explosives, urban warfare and military tactics to the insurgency, seeking an income for their families or revenge against the Americans and their Iraqi allies.

The disbanding of the army, along with the looting of the army's bases and depots across much of Iraq, is widely blamed for the torturously slow pace of forming, equipping and training the country's new army.


A Defense Ministry statement said the rehired personnel would be reinstated by Sunday, but a senior Iraqi military official said absorbing so many could take weeks or months to complete.

In recent years, thousands of officers from the disbanded army have trickled back to service in an ongoing process of reintegration. The official said a ministry committee has been screening officers for ties to Saddam's regime or involvement in atrocities or war crimes.

He said reinstatements were strictly based on the army's present requirements and mainly benefited officers from the rank of colonel down. U.S. commanders have in the past pointed out that Iraq's new army, which is at least 300,000-strong, desperately needed mid-ranking and experienced noncommissioned officers.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.


Al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has already reinstated many Sunni officers as top commanders in the new army. It also waived "de-Baathification" rules and reinstated generals — Sunnis and Shiites — who once held senior positions in Saddam's ruling party.

What do you think? Good idea?

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OK, I know the students aren't the intended audience, but...

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Friday, February 26, 2010

OMG, you won't believe this

Aung San Suu Kyi

Court rejects Suu Kyi appeal

How could anyone have seen this coming? Life is just full or inexplicable surprises.

Myanmar supreme court rejects opposition leader's appeal against extended house arrest.

The long-awaited ruling was delivered on Friday in the former capital, Yangon.

Her lawyers had earlier said they were optimistic that the court would rule in their favour, although court judgements in military-ruled Myanmar rarely go in favour of the opposition.

Following the supreme court rejection, she can make one final appeal to Myanmar's chief justice.

The appeals of two female assistants against similar periods of detention were also thrown out.

The Nobel peace laureate was sentenced last August to an additional 18 months under house arrest after being convicted of breaking the terms of her detention by sheltering an uninvited American man who swam to her lakeside villa.

She had initially been sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour, but that sentence was immediately commuted to 18 months of house arrest by Senior General Than Shwe, the head of Myanmar's ruling military.


Aung San Suu Kyi has already spent most of the past 20 years in jail or under house arrest.

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U.S. demurs as Israel pushes "crippling" Iran sanctions

So Obama finally stood up to Washington's most powerful lobby? Its about time. Its quite embarrassing how that tail wags the big dog.

Major U.S. news organizations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, are engaged in a replay of the kind of slanted coverage that paved the way to war in Iraq, only this time regarding Iran.

That's a long article, but its very germane to what's going on right now with Iran. According to the article US intelligence has no evidence Iran is trying to build a bomb and may well have a duly elected president. Much food for thought.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel lobbied the United States on Thursday to promote "crippling" sanctions against Iran to curb its nuclear programme, but the Obama administration said it did not want to hurt the Iranian people.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday such sanctions would have to hit Iran's vital energy sector. Though it is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign refineries.

Yet in separate comments on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: "It is not our intent to have crippling sanctions that have a significant impact on the Iranian people. Our actual intent is to find ways to pressure the government while protecting the people."

Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington worried too-sweeping sanctions might backfire by giving Iranian hardliners cover to crack down on dissidents, and by making economic conditions so hard ordinary Iranians turn on the United States rather than the Tehran government.

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Likely candidate neighborhood

Aren't you glad you don't live in Detroit? Well now you have another reason to appreciate you don't.

DETROIT NEWS - Detroit mayor Dave Bing says the city plans to encourage residents to move from some neighborhoods: 'If they stay where they are I absolutely cannot give them all the services they require.'

In his strongest statements about shrinking the city since taking office, Bing told WJR-760 AM the city is using internal and external data to decide "winners and losers." The city plans to save some neighborhoods and encourage residents to move from others, he said.

"If we don't do it, you know this whole city is going to go down. I'm hopeful people will understand that," Bing said. "If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation."..


Bing acknowledged it won't be "an easy conversation." And he's already facing opposition from activists such as Ron Scott, who said he is "adamantly opposed" and believes the business community is pushing Bing to get cheap access to large tracts of the city.

Is this a land grab scheme? It wouldn't surprise me. I've witnessed this in other places under other guises when business wanted large tracts of land inside a city.

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Sylvestre Reyes Inserts Anti-Torture Provision Into Intelligence Funding Bill

Sylvestre Reyes (D-TX)

Its about time someone tacked an amendment like this onto some sort of bill. Ya never know when another Bush type will come along.

Torturing detainees has been embarrassing, cruel, useless. It also guarantees the same treatment for any US troops who're captured. That whole issue is a black eye for US.

Democratic Congressman Sylvestre Reyes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has proposed an amendment to the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act that would hold any "officer or employee of the intelligence community" who "in the course of or in anticipation of a covered interrogation knowingly commits, or attempts to commit or conspires to commit an act of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" would face criminal sanctions of up to fifteen years, even life if it results in the death of the detainee.

The amendment, referred to as the "Cruel, Inhuman And Degrading Interrogations Prohibition Act" of 2010, lists several prohibited acts, including waterboarding, "forcing the individual to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner", beatings, electric shocks, use of dogs, inducing hypothermia or heat injury, stress positions, deprivation of necessary "sleep, food or medical care" and conducting mock executions.

Other prohibited acts include using the threat of force to "coerce an individual to desecrate that individual's religious artifacts," excessive cold or heat, cramped confinement, prolonged isolation, and use of hooding.


Byron York, who first reported the existence of the amendment, said it had already been inserted into the bill and quoted a House Intelligence Committee staffer, presumably from the minority side, who said Republicans would try to strip the measure out of the bill, but not before they tell "people what's going on."

Presumably, this kind of treatment was outlawed by the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act anyway. But given that the only thing that's standing between a future Republican administration and torture might be an executive order, this amendment would strengthen current anti-torture laws by adding the threat of criminal sanctions for those who participate in illegal interrogations.

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You Should Intentionally Default: President Obama

Well, ok, maybe not quite that explicit, but....

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration may expand efforts to ease the housing crisis by banning all foreclosures on home loans unless they have been screened and rejected by the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program. [emphasis in original]

The proposal, reviewed by lenders last week on a White House conference call, “prohibits referral to foreclosure until borrower is evaluated and found ineligible for HAMP or reasonable contact efforts have failed,” according to a Treasury Department document outlining the plan.

Contract rights don't matter, law doesn't matter, we'll just ignore all of that pesky stuff when we don't like it.

Can Obama even do this? Wouldn't it take an act of Congress? How will you spend your mortgage payments each month? Maybe buy a mobile home or a big comfy tent?

Eventually the axe will fall.

As stated in the original story, be sure to consult an attorney before doing something as fucking drastic as defaulting on your home loan.

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Can you imagine...

…the previous President going toe to toe with the opposition for six hours live and on television?

Brady has a good point. Obama has proved his balls are much larger than W's. And he didn't use any teleprompter now did he?

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Bipartisanship Runs Aground At Health Care Summit

Did you watch? Did you enjoy this latest fucking kabuki theater? Were you impressed with McCain's clownish behavior? Did you honestly expect any other God damn outcome?

Somewhere I read the key to such negotiations is both sides have to know what they need and then to discuss these needs with the other side to see what commonality is there.

I disagree. The absolute prime condition required is for both sides to believe, before the negotiations begin, agreement is possible. The GOP didn't believe that at all or they decided they would not allow agreement under any circumstances. I lean toward the latter.

The 'summit' [stupid fucking word fed us by the media] was ridiculous. You were smothered by the politics in the room. The whole point was to posture for November 2010. Hell, Obama even specifically mentioned November.

President Obama’s face-to-face effort to forge a bipartisan agreement on health care overhaul appeared to fall short Thursday, as differences that have plagued the process for months re-emerged during a meeting at Washington's historic Blair House.

Although Democrats maintained that the two sides were actually close to a solution, Republicans insisted that neither they nor the American people can stomach the bill as it now exists.

“Mr. President, what we've been saying for a long time is, let's scrap the bill,” House Republican Leader John Boehner said. “Let's start with a clean sheet of paper on those things that we can agree on.”

Obama wrapped up the nearly seven-hour session by asking Republicans to do some "soul searching." He held out some hope that compromise could be reached and that a bill could be finalized within a month to six weeks.

"And if we can't, then I think we ought to go ahead and make some decisions and then that's what elections are for,” the president said. “We have honest disagreements about the direction of the country and we'll go ahead and test those out for the next several months till November."

And they forgot the damn decent intermission. Not good theater at all. A complete waist of time. Better to have grabbed a DVD and some popcorn.

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A network in search of some footage

Dawn Brancheau & ?

Zomg! CNN and probably all other networks, appear ready to cut throats and trample babies in search of someone who took video of Tilikum the killer whale's killing trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, at Sea World© at Busch Gardens© in Florida. Wolf Blitzer has blue balls because he's having to show benign pictures of a docile killer whale just floating around. They need carnage!!1!!!

If they find the pictures they're after the screen could go black momentarily as they have a collective orgasm in Atlanta.

The whale has been previously involved in two fatal incidents. To be fair, the situations were quite different.

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What is wrong with this picture?

If you don't get it, look again closely. Its a different motherfucking world in Pakistan compared to Oklahoma! .

"The pot is as high as an elephant's eye."

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Miss Beverly Hills Achieves The Impossible

This ain't no rabbit hole. It's far worse than that. And much more bizarre than anything you've imagined. Yes, your meds have failed you. And they've returned with the vengeance of a really bad burrito.

It seems California produces multiple flaxen haired 'beauty' queens who are sympathetic to Uganda. Or completely loony as in Republican theofascists. Take your pick and take you're chances.


Carrie Prejean isn’t the only beauty queen open to expressing her objection to same-sex marriage. Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley is also speaking out in support of traditional nuptials.

“The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible is pretty black and white,” Ashley told Pop Tarts.

“I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life.”

All emphasis is the authors. I swear. Accept it.

Homosexuality is God`s way of ensuring that the truly gifted aren`t burdened with children.
-- Sam Austin

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Wine, groceries, car repair: What Florida's Rubio charged to GOP

Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Looks like the GOP has found a new champion. He should fit in just fine.

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times.

What would make a party even consider someone who engaged in such unethical actions coming in? Or is he actually a simple criminal? No matter, it won't concern the GOP at all. They accept war criminals without compunction.

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Report: E-Verify misses half of illegal workers

The problem here is two-fold. Ten apparently Mexican workers* come in for a job. Half of them may be legal US workers and half may be illegal. the machine may say 7 or 8 are legal and 2 or 3 are not. And you have no idea which are really which. And out of 100 workers, the machine may incorrectly identify 7 as illegal who actually are legal. Its a total crap shoot.

If they are serious about prevent the hiring of illegals they would have to use this system on every applicant so you can ignore the singling out of Mexicans in the preceding paragraph. I doubt they are that serious and are targeting Mexicans from the get go.

Anthony Bourdain (celebrity chef, author)

I'm in favor of amnesty, actually. Anthony Bourdain says half the cooks in NYC restaurants are from Mexico.
The system Congress and the Obama administration want employers to use to help curb illegal immigration is failing to catch more than half the number of unauthorized workers it checks, a research company has found.

The online tool E-Verify, now used voluntarily by employers, wrongly clears illegal workers about 54 percent of the time, according to Westat, a research company that evaluated the system for the Homeland Security Department [DHS]. E-Verify missed so many illegal workers mainly because it can't detect identity fraud, Westat said.


E-Verify allows employers to run a worker's information against Homeland Security and Social Security databases to check whether the person is permitted to work in the U.S. The Obama administration has made cracking down on employers who hire people here illegally a central part of its immigration enforcement policy, and there are expectations that some Republicans in Congress will try in coming weeks to make E-Verify mandatory. [emphasis mine]

E-Verify correctly identified legal workers 93 percent of the time, Westat said. However, previous studies have not quantified how many immigrants were fooling the E-Verify system. Much of the criticism of E-Verify has focused on whether U.S. citizens and legal immigrants with permission to work were falsely flagged as illegal workers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is writing the Democrats' immigration bill and has fought expanding E-Verify because of its flaws, said Wednesday that the fact that E-Verify was inaccurate so often shows that it is not an adequate tool.

"This is a wake-up call to anyone who thinks E-Verify is an effective remedy to stop the hiring of illegal immigrants," Schumer said.


About 184,000 of the nation's 7 million to 8 million employers are using E-Verify, the Homeland Security Department says on its Web site.

Congress gave DHS about $100 million to spend on E-Verify in its 2010 budget.

Oh, no problem. It only cost $100 million this year for these machines.

Finally, somehow the GOP is gonna find a way to tweak these numbers to justify spending more and making the machines mandatory.

* Based upon profiling (appearance) and accent.

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God Said Multiply, and Did She Ever

Yitta Schwartz, shown in the late 1980s

I wrote a post a long time ago where I stated merely replacing oneself my having one child each for a husband and wife didn't work because those children and perhaps their children would foster more progeny before the husband and wife had both died. A commenter said it did work for people to replace themselves and keep the population from growing.

Well, here's an example of the extreme. This woman had 18 children and lost 2 others by another account I read. So we'll do the math and divide 2000 by 18 to get 111 (actually 110 because her child is the 111th) descendants on average for each of her children. Not exactly a 1:1 ratio.

WHEN Yitta Schwartz died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family’s count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants.

Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose couples have nine children on average and whose ranks of descendants can multiply exponentially. But even among Satmars, the size of Mrs. Schwartz’s family is astonishing. A round-faced woman with a high-voltage smile, she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis.

Her descendants range in age from a 75-year-old daughter named Shaindel to a great-great-granddaughter born Feb. 10 named Yitta in honor of Mrs. Schwartz and a great-great-grandson born Feb. 15 who was named Moshe at his circumcision on Monday. Their numbers include rabbis, teachers, merchants, plumbers and truck drivers. But these many apples have not fallen far from the tree: With a few exceptions, like one grandson who lives in England, they mostly live in local Satmar communities, like Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Kiryas Joel, near Monroe, N.Y., where Mrs. Schwartz lived for the last 30 years of her life.

Mrs. Schwartz had a zest for life and a devotion to Hasidic rituals, faithfully attending the circumcisions, first haircuts, bar mitzvahs, engagements and weddings of her descendants. With 2,000 people in the family, such events occupied much of the year.

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Before Justices, First Amendment and Aid to Terrorists

I believe I warned you here that this was gonna be a can of worms for the SCOTUS.

WASHINGTON — The line between speech protected by the First Amendment and aid to terrorists appeared elusive at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and the justices’ lively questioning complicated rather than clarified matters. They discussed travel to Cuba, the Communist and Nazi Parties, Tokyo Rose, treason and whether it is a crime to teach a terrorist how to play the harmonica.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan defended the law at issue in the case, which bars providing material support to terrorist organizations, as “a vital weapon in this nation’s continuing struggle against international terrorism.”


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said at least one part of the law, banning expert advice, seemed vague to him. “I don’t know sitting down that I could tell,” he said, whether advice about peaceful advocacy was covered.


But Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that the law might sweep too broadly by making, say, harmonica instruction a crime because it involves specialized training.

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Democrats, Republicans try to agree on summit seat assignments

It's obviously not as important as the Cuban missile crisis, but a serious issue nonetheless. What shape table will be used?

No wonder nothing is getting done in Washington because Congress and the President are still arguing over the furniture. This isn't a fucking marriage. Just choose a table, now.

The one above belongs to Apple©, but it is completely unsuitable because it obviously is expensive enough (custom built) for Steve Job's people, but not US elected officials.

An intense argument has been raging ahead of Thursday's health-care summit: Will President Obama and members of Congress sit around a U-shaped table or a round one?
How about they sit around the room in those ubiquitous white plastic chairs with a coffee table in the center. That might work. If uncomfortable enough they might just speed the process along before their asses go numb.

I've another suggestion. Each party assign one person to the 'table choice' committee and then grab the first person found out on the street as a tie-breaker if needed. Give the 'table choice' committee a single day to choose, locate and and have it installed. If the committee can't handle the job, fire the two on the government payroll.

I used to run meetings and often would literally disallow any sitting. Just stand around a table, do what we came for and leave. No one ever fell asleep either.

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Canadians can't do anything right

Just what in the fucking world were they thinking? Why would they ever want to keep their spy agency secret and invisible?

Take out some adds in newpapers and magazines for God's sake. Hire yourselves a really good PR firm. Have you considered t-shirts?

You silly Canucks. I didn't even know you had a spy agency. Do they wear the red and black uniforms with the Smokey Bear hats too?

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The Press and Reconciliation

Many people (not you) are leary of reconciliation because big media tries to portray it as something complicated, 'abnormal,' shady.

Kevin Drum makes the case for how simple, ordinary, transparent this process is. And he does a damn fine job of it.

It was created in 1974 as a way of ensuring that annual budgets could be passed without being filibustered.

It has been used to pass the annual budget in all but seven years since 1980. It's a routine procedure used by both Republicans and Democrats.

It was used to pass Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut and both of George Bush's big tax cuts.

It was used to pass welfare reform.

Virtually every healthcare reform of the past three decades, including COBRA, EMTALA, S-CHIP, and others has been passed via reconciliation.

There's nothing wrong with the media reporting that Republicans oppose the use of reconciliation to amend the healthcare bill. Of course they do. But they owe it to their audience to explain that reconciliation does nothing more than allow a simple majority vote to pass budgetary issues and that it's been used routinely by both parties for decades. That's just the simple truth.

See? That wasn't so difficult. Now you can pass this on to your friends who are still confused.

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Toyota President: 'I Take Full Responsibility'

Akio Toyoda (president of Toyota Motor Corp.)

There's that fucking word again: responsibility. Toyoda says he's responsible. And? God damn, man, we already knew that. Now exactly what will you do to take responsibility? What will be your consequences? Will you step down as president of Toyota? What does the word mean to you?

Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder of Toyota Motor Corp. and the company's current president, told a congressional committee Wednesday he takes full responsibility for the safety problems in its vehicles and promised to make significant changes to quality control procedures.

"In the past few months our customers have started to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota vehicles and I take full responsibility for that," he said in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"I myself, as well as Toyota, am not perfect. In the name of the company, its longstanding tradition and pride, we never run away from our problems or pretend we don't notice them. That is the core value we have kept closest to our hearts since the founding of the company."

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Police tell car theft victim: 'We've found your van... but it's too dangerous to get it back from traveller camp'

This really is an unbelievable story. It would appear Gloucestershire, England has outfitted its police department with a bunch of tight fisted fucking bureaucrats and sissy officers. They probably do an adequate job of policing just as long as they don't have to deal with any, like, ya know, criminals.

When police visited Christopher Sims after his van was stolen, they had good news and bad news.

The good news was that they had a pretty good idea of the vehicle's new location.

But the bad news was that this location, a travellers' caravan site, was considered a 'no-go area' which the police would be ill-advised to visit because of the strong criminal element who lived there.

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Last snow post until next year

The best way to enjoy your work is to bring a little élan and imagination to it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Israeli Abusive Administrative Detentions

This story sort of goes along with the last one. It certainly makes the case for the US's still having influence around the world. Unfortunately it's not the sort of influence to make American's proud.

B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Hamoked is the Center for the Defence of the Individual, an Israeli human rights organization, aiding Palestinians whose rights Israel violates. In October 2009, they jointly published a report titled, "Without Trial: Administrative detention of Palestinians by Israel and the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law," covering Israel's policy of imprisoning hundreds of uncharged Palestinians without trial "by order of an administrative official," not a judge.

By so doing, they're denied due process, may be held indefinitely, aren't told why they're detained, can't dispute it, cross-examine witnesses, or present contradictory evidence to refute them.

Three Israeli laws authorize the practice:

-- the Order Regarding Administrative Detention (the Administrative Detention Order), part of military law governing the West Bank;

-- the Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law for Israel; and

-- the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law (the 2002 Unlawful Combatants Law), like a similar one in America, [ed- emphasis mine] a dubious Geneva-superceded status international law expert Francis Boyle calls a:

"quasi-category universe of legal nihilism where human beings can be disappeared, detained incommunicado, denied access to attorneys and regular courts, tried in kangaroo courts, executed, tortured, assassinated and subjected to numerous other manifestations of State Terrorism."

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Why does Israel continue to dismiss Obama's Mideast peace efforts?

Dr. Gabi Sheffer

The writer makes his case, not by pointing to observable proof, but by eliminating any other reasons which would explain why Obama is treated like a leper.

Most Israelis, including the heads of the defense establishment and politicians led by the prime minister and the foreign minister, categorically state that U.S. President Barack Obama will never solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. This lack of confidence in and sympathy for Obama have accompanied him, unjustifiably, since the day he began campaigning for the presidency - and has only intensified following his election. The disrespect toward him and his administration is unwarranted; there is no doubt that it is connected to Obama's ethnic background.

In view of the economic crisis that hit the United States and, in its wake, the rest of the world, the accepted wisdom is that the ability of the United States and its president to influence what happens beyond their borders has been diminished. However, that is not where things actually stand. As no other existing power holds such extensive strength and influence, Obama's ability to act in the world in general and the Middle East in particular has not been eliminated. Russia, China and the European Union have not surpassed the United States in terms of their capability.

The writer is a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Police Officers Acquitted in Sodomy Case

I have no clue who wrote the following, but... But. Get it? Butt?

And here in New York, a police officer accused of using a baton to sodomize a man in a subway station has been acquitted along with two officers who allegedly covered up the incident. Attorneys for the man said they will now seek a federal probe into the incident. [ed- emphasis mine]

Considering the nature of the story, wouldn't 'investigation' have been a better word to use in place of 'probe?'

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Monoline datapoint of the day

I said earlier I rarely do this and here I go again posting another blogger's entire article. This is because he knows things most of us don't. K?

Bloomberg reports:

Ambac, MBIA Inc. and Assured Guaranty, the three largest bond insurers, have set aside 0.04 percent of the total public finance debt they insure, or $520 million, to pay claims on municipal securities, according to regulatory filings by the companies.

No, that’s not a misprint: the claims-paying reserves are 4 basis points of the total quantity of municipal bonds insured. What’s more, the market capitalization of all three monolines combined is less than $5 billion; the amount of municipal bonds insured, by contrast, is well over $1 trillion.

What could possibly go wrong?

Even I can see that's equivalent to taking off to Europe for a week with $10 in your pocket and a couple hundred in the ol' ATM with the idea you'll not need any more than that.

Here come 3 more bailouts?

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Americas bloc excluding US and Canada is proposed

Why didn't the administration see this coming and make all effort to head it off?

Latin American and Caribbean nations have agreed to set up a new regional body without the US and Canada.

The new bloc would be an alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), the main forum for regional affairs in the past 50 years.

Mexico has been hosting a regional summit in the beach resort of Cancun.

The OAS has been dogged by rifts between some members and the US over economic policy and trade, and criticised for promoting US interests.

And, without dredging up all the instances, why is it more often than not a group of nations on one side and the US on the other? All alone. Could the map have anything to do with it?

Oh yeah, why do I have to learn about such things from the BBC or Channel NewsAsia or some such shit?

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Toyota Chief Overshoots Congressional Hearings by 150 Miles

Image added -ed

I don't usually do this, post a complete article from another blogger, but I want to introduce you to Andy Borowitz just in case you haven't discovered him as of yet.

By ABorowitz on Story

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – The reputation of the Toyota Motors Corp. received another black eye today as the president of the embattled company missed his scheduled appearance at Congressional hearings after he overshot Washington, D.C. by 150 miles.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda said he was having difficulties with the brakes on his 2010 Toyota Prius, which finally came to rest after crashing into a blacksmith’s shop in Colonial Williamsburg.

In a brief statement to reporters, Mr. Toyoda said, “I knew I should’ve driven my Chevy today.”

In yet another embarrassment, Mr. Toyoda, the grandson of the carmaker’s founder, realized for the first time that his family’s name is spelled differently from the company’s.

Mr. Toyoda said that all members of the Toyoda family would be immediately recalled to fix the spelling error. More here.

For real-time fake news, follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter.

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The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Salon

Zac Efron (Vanity Fair photo)

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. You usually do so much better than this:

Scott Brown is but the latest of the beauty-salon graduates [ed- where the hell did that come from?] driving conservatives to spazzy distraction. As NYCweboy argues, the Republican Party has become the fan club for attention-deficit teenage girls of all ages and sexes [ed- just how many sexes are there who are 'girls?', unable to decide between Fabian [ed- what?] and Frankie Avalon [ed- what again?], infatuated with Zec [ed- eh, its Zac, Jimmy] Efron one month and all moony over Rob Pattison [ed- eh, Jimmy, that's Pattinson] the next, smitten with Mitt Romney one campaign and pining over Marco Rubio the next. "[If] if [ed- well, is it 'If' or 'if?'] Republicans have a crisis of leadership, it may be because conservatives have become some of the most fickle lovers of new faces: as fast as a new handsome dude [ed- are you disclosing Sarah Palin* is a 'dude' here?] (usually white, but occasionally tan) enters the room, their love of last year's model goes out the window."
I've used Zac's photo because, well now, who wants to look at Jimmy? Oh yeah Jimmy, the photo and spelling of Zac's name came from your fucking magazine.

* As referenced in the article which inspired your post.
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Top U.S. commander braces for delay in leaving Iraq

US embassy in Iraq (world's largest embassy)

I've not been in the military so am only vaguely aware of 'chain of command', but didn't the commanders in Iraq, like all of them, get the message from their commander in chief to get the troops' asses out of Iraq in a timely manner beginning in August 2010? [ed- all troops by August 2011] Well, excluding the vestigial 35,000 to 50,000 troops to be left in place because ya can't have decent imperialism without a bit of occupation. And there still is all that God damn oil don't ya know.

Did Obama include a stipulation about withdrawing unless? After a half assed search of Obama's speeches (because I'm lazy) I found no mention of mitigating circumstances beyond McCain's saying the President would 'revisit' the decision based on what's happening on the ground.

This was not something the President specifically stated, but McCain's assertion. And thus far there is no evidence in the news Obama has done such a 'revisit.'

The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday that the planned withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by the end of August [ed- of what year?] could be delayed if conditions worsen in the coming months as Iraqis choose a new government.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno said his staff had drawn up contingency plans for a delayed withdrawal that he has shared with Pentagon leaders and other U.S. officials during a visit to Washington over the past week. He said he was prepared to make the changes "if we run into problems" but added he was optimistic that would not be necessary.

Don't kid yourself. If I'm not mistaken its most likely the US will remain in Iraq indefinitely. The world's largest embassy and the huge military bases established there pretty much guarantee that.

Note: Headline links to source.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Down under

Nice car in Australia.

Think about it.

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Damn this economy. No one is safe

I think Cheney is crying in his hospital room.

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John Conyers Jr to hold hearings on OLC report

Sometimes ya just have to do what's right. Especially if it includes proving the integrity of a government agency you're responsible for protecting.

Here's the full release from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.):

"For years, those who approved torture and abuse of detainees have hidden behind legal memos issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel," Conyers said. "The materials released today make plain that those memos were leglly flawed and fundamentally unsound, and may have been improperly influenced by a desire to tell the Bush White House and the CIA what it wanted to hear."

"The Office of Legal Counsel has a proud tradition of providing independent, high-quality legal advice to the executive branch," Conyers continued. "The materials released today make clear that the lawyers who wrote the torture memos did not live up that tradition. While the department ultimately concluded that the lawyers did not breach their minimum professional obligations, I certainly hold top lawyers at OLC to a higher standard that, as all Americans should.

"Given the serious nature of the issues raised in this report, the committee intends to hold hearings on these matters in the very near future."

All released materials can be found here.

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How did I miss this event?

I must have been watching Men's figure skating. Damn!!!1!!



The game looks like more fun and no, its my wife's thing. I've farmed for real and didn't much care for it.

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One of the faces of Faux News

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

This isn't intended to scare you at all even though it most likely should bother you. Ya gotta love internationalism.

You most likely have little power over what Americans are told by the news. If there are problems in the Mid-East and Saudi Arabia is in the middle, you may never know. That is assuming you only watch Faux News.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is "about to become News Corp's fourth largest shareholder" according to DC Bureau. (h/t to Reconstitution 2.0). With the addition of a Wahhabi point of view, Fox News becomes at last truly fair and balanced. Don't touch that dial.
When you are in there at 25% you exercise enormous control over what people are told or not told. You certainly are less likely to get the same 'fair and balanced' news you love so much. Hahaha. Fair and... nevermind.

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Kucinich's Prophetic "Prayer for America" Speech - Feb 17, 2002

Why are so many Americans oblivious as to how fragile this republic truly is? They go about their daily lives accepting what they have because they are, in the final analysis, Americans. The greatest and most free. Nothing can challenge US. Well, unless one is trying to board an airplane, enter a school, attend a ballgame. Those are minor problems compared to being 'safe'. Don't fucking kid yourselves. Your freedom is much more important than all that.

Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving and accomplishment of civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?

How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, and the right to peacefully assemble?

How can we justify, in effect, the canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?

We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it.

Dennis Kucinich gets it and he's worried as should be all Americans. Please read all of his presentation. He does an excellent job of voicing his concerns.

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ACLU Filed Brief With SCOTUS On Behalf Of Carter Center And Other Organizations Supporting Challenge To Vague "Material Support" Law

The devil is always in the details. This is a fine example of why attorneys and not we simple folk should be writing law. We may use words which seem to mean what we all agree they do, but in reality are far too broad and encompass things we didn't anticipate.

A bad law is a bad law and this one qualifies.

This is also an excellent example of why we all need the ACLU.

"Our work to end violence sometimes requires interacting directly with groups that have engaged in it. Unfortunately, efforts like ours, and those of the many other human rights groups who signed onto this brief, are hindered by the extremely vague 'material support' law that leaves us guessing whether our work to encourage peace could actually be considered illegal. Sadly, the law being challenged in court – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens the work of humanitarian groups that share the same goal. We hope the Supreme Court will overturn this law so that groups like ours can continue the important work of advancing peace and freedom without concern of prosecution."

Even in war, medics 'help' injured enemy. That's 'material support'. Do we hang 'em?

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Obama enlists governors to raise the education bar

Obviously she has a 'good education'
Sarkosy seems to agree

But seriously, folks.

I've seen this problem in the US as well as other countries. When 'standards' and 'measures' based on standardized tests are instituted, its impossible to prevent educators from teaching to those standards/measures. To hell with giving the best education possible to the fucking students. Just make sure they can pass the tests [ed- this is no knock on educators, merely reality/human nature/coercion/politics].

A far better measure IMHO is future success. If one high school turns out students who graduate college at a rate of 30% which formerly never exceeded 27%, they have succeeded. It matters not if they exceed the rate of another high school. They have improved. That should be the yardstick.

Accepted: This ain't gonna be easy. It requires analysis of why some didn't graduate. Family problems and such come into play. Then there are the finances. Don't forget lack of interest. But in this age of omniscient, high speed computers it should be easy to parse such data. Just turn them nerds loose on the data.

If academic success is the goal. Measure the fucking academic success down-road and not the God damn current test results.

President Barack Obama wants academic standards for America's high school students raised, and he's applauding a program from the nation's governors that works toward those goals.

In a statement issued Sunday, the White House said the initiative will develop and implement new reading and math standards that prepare high school students for college and careers. The governors will call on Obama on Monday, as they wrap up their National Governor's Association meeting, to discuss the blueprint to prepare students to stay competitive with their counterparts around the world.

"Because too many students are not learning the basic skills needed to succeed in college or work while they are in high school," the White House said in the statement, "the nation sacrifices more than $3.7 billion a year in lost productivity and remedial education costs."

The White House said the governors have been working on the president's Race to the Top program, which rewards school systems that raise standards and demonstrate that through tougher student assessments.

The obvious problem with this approach is a lack of semi-instant gratification. But sometimes patience really is a virtue. We're talking long term here anyway and not next quarter thinking. Schools should be evaluated on how well the students perform later.

Isn't that how you were evaluated after graduating? Your performance dictated your pay/promotions? I'm excluding job politics here, of course, along with your personal hygiene and any proclivity for farm animals.

Can you tell me where your doctor stood in her/his graduating class? Hell no. Is he/she a good doctor? Do you have a fucking clue how your doctor performed on 'standardized' high school tests? Hell no. Do you trust your doctor with your life and has your trust been vindicated? In other words, are you alive and relatively healthy?

Leave them kids (and teachers) alone (for now). Give them a chance to prove themselves.

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Pentagon paints grim picture of Taiwan air defense


The US is gonna sell themselves some aircraft, yo. No doubt about it. Because it's a God given right for them to do their best to make sure all countries are equally armed to the fucking teeth. Unless we don't like them.

So China, boil up your indignation and begin to prepare your complaint. Don't say you weren't warned.

The Pentagon has painted a grim picture of Taiwan's air defense capabilities, raising serious doubts about the island's ability to withstand an attack from rival China.

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Long story short...

Student shot during gun safety class

This teacher definitely needs to change subjects. Perhaps art class?

He wasn't paying attention when someone had told him it appeared he might shoot himself in the foot.

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A gun safety class attendee in Orlando, Fla., was accidentally shot in the foot by his instructor, police reported.

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Israel drones 'could target Iran'

So how well do you think this will work out if these drones start flying over Iran and could easily be taken as US drones?

Israel's air force has unveiled a fleet of unmanned aircraft that its says are able to reach the Gulf, putting Iran within range.

The Heron TP drones, which have a wingspan the size of a Boeing 737 passenger jet, were presented to the media on Sunday, as Israel pushes for international action against the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme.

The aircraft, developed by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, can fly at least 20 consecutive hours and be used for surveillance or launching a missile attack.

Oh, and they can even launch missile attacks. Joy.
Note: Headline links to source.

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War on entitlements - NSFW

Doesn't anyone know why these things are called fucking entitlements?

Because they are.

That's why they aren't called handouts. Handouts are reserved for big pharma, Wall Street, auto companies and other big contributors.

Live with it.

I have a boilerplate I'm ready to send to every fucking asshole in government I can. It's pretty simple:

You have military nearby. If you want to cut entitlements, please send some to kill me because it'll be cleaner, quicker and probably hurt less. That is if you skip the waterboarding shit.

You don't wait until someone is retired and depending on their entitlements to be there and then pull the God damn rug out from under them.

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When I was studying marketing the teachers/lecturers/professors/janitors and a couple grounds keepers always stressed targeting your audience. Seemed to make perfect sense. Why try to sell tractors to bakers, right? Bakers are a relatively small market and they're probably more interested in wisks and rolling pins than farm equipment. I do know a baker more interested in wisks, flour and whipping cream rather than... nevermind.

So what happened to that? Sell to those who're after your product?

I was watching a bit of bowling. I saw adverts for Brunswick® and AMF® which made a certain amount of sense. Although not too much when you think about it because I've never been in a bowling alley and left because they had AMF® equipment and not Brunswick® and I sure as hell haven't built a bowling lane.

Geico®? Ok. Everyone there and watching at home needs, or thinks they need [ed- I disagree], insurance.

GO RVing®? Now you're stretching it a bit. Perhaps people who find bowling to be action enough with a high personal risk factor would be likely to GO RVing® as opposed to those who choose, say, hang gliding. Hey wait. Those people probably would need an RV too. Be that as it may, we're in a bowling alley right now.

Pepsi®. makes perfect sense. They stick their name everywhere and anyone in their right mind drinks nothing except Diet Pepsi® Light. Whatever they're calling it at the moment.

Lumber Liquidators®? Right, ya got your hardwood alleys, wooden pins, block heads.

I apologize for that last remark. If bowlers are blockheads then I qualify.

So let's leave the alley and move on.

Staples®? That's a bit of a stretch for a sporting venue, isn't it? I know a truck driver who is nuts for Post-It® notes and bubble wrap, but we just think of her as pretty strange and mountains of fun, especially when she's bowling.

Connecticut Sports Arena. Uh, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you have to be in Connecticut to be in that arena? Complete waste of advertising money to my mind.

Marple Sports Arena. Now that's unusual. Apparently naming rights were purchased by an Agatha Christie fan. Kinda makes ya wanna leave and read a nice novel. Who needs a sporting event? And you can always read while awaiting your turn to bowl. That is unless you're concentrating on the trucker.

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So much concern

How do all these fucking people know I need Viagra®, Levitra® or Cialis® and how do they know I can wait 30 minutes for it to work?

Are there some kind of God damn cameras around of which I'm unaware? Am I always this damn transparent? Has someone been talking?

About that last question: I've never met her. I've been spending all my time golfing and hiking the Appalachian Trail. Know what I mean, know what I mean? Nudge nudge. Know what I mean? Say no more, say no more?

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Figure skating

Mirai Nagasu

This will be a quick write up. I probably won't actually post it for a few days.

I don't catch a lot of figure skating on TV, but I needed this at this time. I usually don't watch unless I have the sound off because too many skaters use the same fucking music and have for years. It makes no sense there are all those skating coaches and they don't commit suicide as do so many lemmings.

But I have to watch Asses on Ice (literally) which was billed as the 2010 US Women's Figure Skating Championships. It will take my mind off other problems and let me concentrate on their problems instead. Only three did not fall (four, but one came very close).. It is a complete train wreck, but the talent is definitely there. And they are mostly so young they're going to amaze people in the years ahead.

No, I'm not one who watches auto races for the accidents. I'm always pulling for skaters, drivers and all athletes to nail their performances.

I've been in competitions and know the hours, sacrifices and costs involved in reaching top levels (no I was never that good, but...)

The point I'm going to make is, finally, if you practice for hours, years and continually have a problem with a move you will “catch” the errors of your competitors. The mistakes are contageous and the “fall” and “stumble” viruses were running rampant this year.

Oh yeah, IMHO Mirai Nagasu was robbed.

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