Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks Or Planted Leaks, Worm Or Head Of Snake, Close Enough?

Dana Milbank
Richard Cohen
David Brooks
"Guns, gold, vodka, showers of $100 bills, a Chechen rebel leader, a shady oil oligarch, and wedding guests on Jet Skis with bellies full of boiled sheep: This is diplomacy as it ought to be." - Dana Milbank
"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests, it is an attack on the international community." - Hillary Clinton
 “The will of the people seems like it was manipulated by a well-funded campaign of hate, bigotry and xenophobia.”  - Imad Enchassi

Yes, Dana Milbank's opinion piece is as wonderful as his quote above, well worth reading. For those who haven't been able to link to Wikileaks web site over the past couple of days, it has been mysteriously jammed, perhaps by the intelligence service of some western democratic country, I really can't say and they won't either, nudge, nudge, wink, wink... You can, however, read the much edited versions on the NY Times website, which includes the entire missive from the Dagestan wedding. Supposedly, Wikileaks will only post the same ones that der Spiegal and the NY Times publish, then wait awhile before putting the whole 250,000 cable files on its site. So we currently have only what the editors believe are newsworthy and mildly embarrassing to the US State Dept. Already the spin is being put out how much better Obama's diplomats are than the Bushies, who tended to stomp and tromp on other people's toes... My brother-in-law sees all this as further proof that we are waning as a superpower, and that's the impotent frustration you hear as our empire falls...

Take the schizophrenic situation with North Korea. Everyone is freaking out because North K sent some ammo shells onto an island containing a military base and some more people got killed. The US implores china to do something, thinking that china is the only one who has enough clout to smack North K around a bit and get away with it. China, believing Obama when he earlier said he wanted to continue talks and negotiations, rushed around and got North K to agree to sit down and talk about stuff with itself, South K, Japan, and the US. To which we said are you freaking kidding? We won't sit down and talk with them!!! Along with freezing the pay of all federal employees, it looks like Obama is going all tea party on us... Time for Rahm to pay a visit and do some pragmatic yelling and cursing at Old Split Lip...

As the US and South K continue their war games in the water, provoking the North into more temper tantrums ( I wonder if that's how the royal family communicate with each other, and why there aren't many sit down, family dinners together...), maybe enough to escalate its bad behavior, enough to give the US, South K, and China the excuse to invade and end the madness once and for all...

Or not... Maybe there isn't a plan at all, and little communication among allies, and we are holding our collective breath, waiting to see what the rogue brat will do next. Maybe, we won't really know what's going on until the next batch of wikileaks files come out... or are the wikileaks files cleverly planted disinformation aimed at the Chinese because we would like them to support regime change in North K, and we would like all of the Arabian monarchs to support Israel's position towards Iran. It doesn't matter now if they said the things they have been quoted saying, the damage has been done. It's like asking someone that age-old question, when have you stopped beating your wife?

We haven't seemed to quite figure out what the Ill-Suns are up to, we don't have the handle to mess with their heads like we are doing with Iran. The wikileaks have shown them how much they are unloved, how their dreams of a Shia hegemony in the Middle East is resented by their Sunni neighbors, who were upset enough when the US, in effect, gave Iraq over to iran on a silver platter by letting Nuri al-Maliki form his governments. And now they seem to want the head of the snake cut off... And we are trying to please them, two important Iranian nuclear scientists were just assassinated in broad daylight, one who was their expert in fighting the Stuxnet worm. Worm, snake, isn't that close enough?

With this latest in-your-face action that the Israelis so dearly love, Iran is very very very pissed. Angry enough to take some kind of retaliation? Angry enough to stir up the hordes of Revolutionary guards and baton wielding basij and spill over their borders and take up the fight in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Or will it be content to bully around the Lebanese leader into accepting Iranian Revolutionary Guards into his military to act as liaisons with Hizbullah militants in the south? In the meantime, Iran says that it is all the US and Israel's fault, don't play into their taunts through wikileaks, we are all still brothers in the same faith, and order us a couple extra six-packs of Red Bull for the nuclear conference next week in Geneva, we need to recharge... all to an embarrassed yet thunderous silence throughout the Middle East...

I further wonder at the insanity that has become our system of justice. Sometimes agencies like the CIA and the FBI get something right, but usually they arrogantly ignore your human rights, and will lie, trick, and deceive you to commit a crime so they can lock you up and bring you to trial. Unless they shoot you instead. If you read books about the real CIA, it seems that they missed the intelligence boat on every major political event, from the fall of the Berlin Wall onwards...

Here is a troubling statement made to justify the scenario where the Somali-born teenage kid tries to kill a bunch of people lighting up a Christmas tree in Portland. They led this kid on for two years, feeding his fantasies of domestic jihad, even making a realistic car bomb for him, then saying they are justified doing this because: “So long as that person has expressed an interest in committing a crime, it’s appropriate for the government to respond by providing the purported means of carrying out that crime so as to make a criminal case against him.” Dudes, I've expressed an interest in getting rich, or just getting a job, or being able to feed my family this Christmas, and it looks like I'm not going to get a response from the government. Maybe we would all be better off, make more friends and get free money from the FBI if we stated a desire to all be jihadis or petty criminal master-minds...

I end with today's new bumper-sticker:

End all Bush tax-cuts
And let the IRS sort them out...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Ranting Season Begins Monday

Peter Beinart
Robert Reich

"The point is that in foreign policy, even more than other aspects of government, secrecy is both necessary and dangerous" - Peter Beinart
"Welcome to National Fiscal Hypocrisy Week." - Robert Reich
"Bristol Palin lost to Jennifer Grey in the finale of 'Dancing with the Stars.' The good news is, when a Palin loses they tend to just quietly disappear." – Conan O'Brien

"Hillary, wikileaks must die"
For the important issues that are happening in Congress this week, click on the above link to Robert Reich's  opinion piece, try to not be outraged by what won't get done... The wikileaks backlash will begin during the next two days, as certain foreign countries release their own diplomatic assessments of US leaders and politicians. It won't be anything that we already don't know, but it will be funnier coming from Berlesconi's mouth, and I can't wait to hear what Putin has to say about Hillary. The US's biggest complaint is that these document were classified secret and now the secrets are out. Big deal. I've said worse things in my posts. We will be mildly embarrassed for a few days and then move on. Personally, I was hoping for juicier stuff, so maybe it means that we hire boring, unimaginative people to be our lower tier diplomats... The other secret that is out is that we use our embassy staffs for collecting information, or spying on certain locals. Ho Hum, this has been done by embassies even before there was the United States. Every embassy in every country has their spies, they all label them differently. Iran has theirs in the US located within the Pakistani Embassy. We have ours in the Swedish Embassy in Tehran. The Russians had theirs in the embassy in Mexico that attracted Lee Harvey Oswald...
"Diplomats, like politicians and journalists, are also human. They too love to exchange gossip." - John Kornblum
From an interview that der Spiegal magazine had with former US ambassador to Germany, on why the current wikileaks could just as well have happened anywhere, even in Germany: "The documents were apparently taken off an official American internet network, to which 2.5 million persons are said to have access. Ironically, this system was set up after 9/11 to improve international cooperation by ensuring that all relevant information on terrorism would be widely available. But no security system on earth can guarantee safety on a network which offers so many people access to such highly sensitive information. In the highly charged political atmosphere of today's United States, the temptation to make a political point by stealing sensitive information is great."

My apologies to Willie Nelson:
Mama don't let your babies grow up to be jihadis
Don't let 'em pick up explosives and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such

Mama don't let your babies grow up to be jihadis
They'll never stay home and they're always alone
Might even Bomb someone they love...

I don't like the spin that's now being used on the kid who was duped by the FBI into the fake car bomb attack in Portland, Oregon, adding this incident to the list of potentially dangerous plots against our homeland by foreign born jihadis, but raised in the US... Doesn't this now confirm once again the argument that we should now profile and suspect all of our Muslim population? Isn't Oklahoma correct to amend its state constitution to outlaw using sharia law, and aren't the Republicans correct in writing federal immigration legislation along the lines of Arizona's? For people who want to limit the federal government's powers, they sure are itching for the government to take away our personal powers and freedoms. like the good, unsuspecting fascists they really are.

"Get out, all you foreign born mo'fo's"

If the good people who work for us in Washington DC were surprised at the anger and backlash generated by the loss of conservatives being in power and whipped into an elderly frenzy by the likes of Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, then they will be caught off-guard again as people react to the continued shenanigans by the new GOPers. It's enough to make me lose my temper and conduct a good whup ass on my local Republican representative...

By continuing to obstruct solving our economic problems by creating more tax cuts, I'm gonna punch the guy in the mouth if I hear that one more time... By not signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that's been sitting there on the desk, I'm gonna punch my representative in the mouth next time I see him... Filibustering and not extending jobless benefits once again, I won't punch anybody, but I will stand back and watch as families end up stealing food or toys for the Christmas holidays... I guess everyone will end up at Walmart... Who knew that Scrooge this year was named Doug Lamborn in my district, maybe Scott Brown or John McCain in yours... What I'm trying to say is that if I don't have a job in two years, I and many others will take it out on the conservatives one more time, but the anger will be worse, it will be righteous and genuine, and it won't be deflected by asking for Obama's birth certificate or distracted by other bright and shiny objects...

"Google, google..."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Here Today Gone Somali, DADT A Generational Thing

Ahmed Rashid
Jerry Guo
Salam Fayyad
"When peace is made it will be made between equals." - Mahmoud Darwish

Many interesting events are happening this weekend, with parliamentary elections in Haiti, Egypt, and the Ivory Coast. All you countries with fledgling dictators pay close attention to how Egypt pulls off a professionally run corruption machine. They have kicked out anyone who were going to watch the election from a human rights point of view, maybe to be replaced by watchers from Iraq and Afghanistan... The US and South Korea has gone ahead with its joint naval maneuvers that had been planned to annoy North Korea, this time letting the emotionally underdeveloped younger Ill-Sun to overreact and bring his country to the brink of annihilation. Or maybe their shelling of the South Korean island is just their way of asking for 20 more tons of rice to feed their starving population, as they spend all of their money on armaments... Yep, any minute now...

More delicious, is the spilling of the diplomatic files from Wikileaks. We will have weeks worth of mean and snarky quotes that every newspaper will publish. Sure to embarrass our State Dept, and it will be interesting to see if Hillary steps up and goes on the offensive or steps back and let the fur fly... Will our European and Mid-Eastern friends show tolerance and a sense of humor, or will international relations become incendiary like a show of fireworks on the 4th of July... Will there be any countries left that will welcome the founder of wikileaks, and how many warrants and fatwas will be issued against the poor man...

The pranks of teenagers are becoming more sophisticated, dangerous, and expensive to underwrite. If the FBI had a restricted budget this year, they might not have been able to build the fake car bomb that 19 year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was born in Somalia and became a naturalized US citizen, thought was real, and used a cell phone to ignite the fake car bomb he had parked near Portland's Pioneer Square, where a public tree lighting ritual was being performed. FBI agents had befriended the lonely Somali teen two years ago, and slowly egged him on and helped him in his dreams of causing a lot of deaths on American soil: "The F.B.I.’s surveillance started in August 2009 after agents intercepted his e-mails with a man he had met in Oregon who had returned to the Middle East, according to a law enforcement official who described the man as a recruiter for terrorism. According to the affidavit, the man had moved to Yemen and then northwest Pakistan, a center of terrorism activity.

Mr. Mohamud was then placed on a watch list and stopped at the Portland airport in June 2010 when he tried to fly to Alaska for a summer job. Later in June, aware of Mr. Mohamud’s frustrated attempts to receive training as a jihadist overseas, an undercover agent first made contact with him, posing as an associate of the man in Pakistan. On the morning of July 30, the F.B.I. first met with Mr. Mohamud in person to initiate the sting operation.

The planning for the attack evolved from there, with Mr. Mohamud taking an aggressive role, insisting that he wanted to cause many deaths and selecting the Christmas target, according to federal agents. Reminded that many children and families would be at the ceremony, Mr. Mohamud said that he was looking for “a huge mass” of victims, according to the F.B.I."

If the young Mohamud had gone back to Somalia, like many other naturalized teens from Somalia have done, he may never have been taken in by the FBI, and been able to direct his rage in his native country by joining up with the al-Shabab jihadists or moving farther south and becoming a dreaded pirate.

The new, Western-backed government of Somalia is in its infancy, the Prime Minister has only been in office for a month. He doesn't even have full control of the capitol, Mogadishu. Troops from the African Union have been the only thing keeping al-Shabab from taking over the country, which is about 7,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi. Guess the AU has some organizational problems of their own...
“International support is not enough. They don’t take the Somali problem seriously,”
"Uganda and Burundi... are propping up a Western-backed government that has failed to stamp its authority on much more than a slice of the capital.

Two hard-line Islamist insurgent groups control the rest of Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia. The African Union troops have so far prevented the rebels from toppling the weak government by defending key sites... While there have been many pledges of international support for the Somali government, incessant infighting and rampant corruption have not helped its cause, while government soldiers have missed out on salaries for months.

Western nations say the Horn of African country has become a safe haven for jihadists training to launch attacks in neighboring countries and further afield.

Somalia’s new prime minister, who has been in office for about a month, plans to recruit 8,000 government troops to push the rebels and foreign fighters in their ranks out of Mogadishu.“My first, second and third priority is improving security. In the first phase we are going to recruit 8,000 government troops,” Mohamed told Reuters in an interview last week.
“Our initial target will be to drive the rebels from the capital Mogadishu and then the rest of the country. We shall not talk to foreign jihadists ... who came here to harass our people and our country.”
Well, then, it looks like our young Mr Mohamud is plain out of luck... Or, we could always pull out of Iraq faster than we agreed to and sent those 50,000 troops to Somalia, on loan to the African Union, much like they are under NATO's thumb in Southwestern Asia... So parents, take some more interest in your teenage children. If they are interested in bomb-making, or jihadist groups, or if they are gullible enough to become befriended by FBI agents, you might consider these signs of a troubled youth, that they are not making the journey through puberty a smooth ride, and might need a little help...

Congress is finally getting around to scheduling a hearing on its Don't Ask Don't Tell policy on homosexuals serving in our military. It will suffer from the Republicans saying NO to every piece of legislation that the Democrats propose, and if it fails to be repealed during this session, it might never happen because it will be a long time before the Dems will control both the House and Senate again...

People's reaction to gays in the military pretty much depends on how old you are. Young people from middle-school through the ages for enlistment don't have any problems because they have grown up in an accepting culture. There are many who have grown up having two mothers, or who know someone who has two mothers, so what's the big deal? There was even a recent study done that showed children raised by lesbian mothers had the most stable environment, with the less breakups and divorce than heterosexual couples... About one in every 10 people are gay, and since the 60's it has become empowering for those to come out of the closet and live openly and honestly, so people who now are in their sixties have worked with, and openly made friends with people who are gay.

The only folks left who are anti-gay usually come from those who are in their '70's on up, like John McCain, who might be in denial of how he fulfilled his own sexual needs when he was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Then, there are those who are very, very conservative, belonging to some Christian splinter group. Many of these folks have positions of power and responsibility in our military and get blindly upset admitting that there are gay people working with them. Paranoia and fear rule their lives, and they transfer those type of thoughts into official policies.

We have always had gays in our military. We should be grateful that there are many patriotic gays who consider a military career and volunteer, because the alternative is bringing back the draft. The paranoid ones say that if DADT is repealed, then the draft will have to be brought back because many people will no longer enlist if they have to live with gays. But this is a dumb argument because the status quo is that our soldiers are living and working with other gay soldiers, whether you ask them or not. If 10% of our military will then be dismissed from the military and others not allowed to volunteer, then we may have to use the draft to get the amount of people to replace them... Besides, what if we had a DADT program for dumb rednecks, there goes another 10%... or DADT for people who like alcohol too much, there goes over half of your army, and you're left with what? Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Wikileaks Coming Soon! Gambia Suspends All Relations With Iran, Oklahoma To Set Indians Free From All Treaties

Williams Cohan
Colbert King
Mark McKinnon
"Why do we tolerate the questionable morality and behavior that too many on Wall Street get rewarded to exhibit? Why do we put up with repeated Wall Street-generated financial calamities? Why do we seem to excuse one insider-trading and pay-for-play scandal after another? Why haven’t we woken up from our generational slumber and realized that we would be better off rewarding real engineers, not financial engineers?" - Williams Cohan
"A TSA worker gave me a pat-down and found another TSA worker's hand." – Jimmy Fallon
"TSA says they are going to crack down on the invasive pat-downs. In fact, one agent was transferred to another parish." – David Letterman

"Some of these airport patdowns are so thorough they say you only need one every 5 years. You can get the regular patdown, but if you want to upgrade you can get what they call the Full Spitzer." – David Letterman

David Letterman's "Top Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a TSA Agent"

10. "Do I need a degree in groping?"
9. "Am I only doing this for the sweet TSA uniform?"
8. "If I find explosive underpants, may I keep them?"
7. "Will I enjoy being cursed at 40 hours a week for minimum wage?"
6. "If I find explosive underpants, may I keep them?" That was No. 8. Who checks these things anyway?
5. "Should I practice by frisking people on the street?"
4. "In five years, whose pants do I see my hands in?"
3. "Do I really want to know what a fat guy's thighs feel like?"
2. "May I frisk myself?"
1. "What's the closest airport to Shakira's house?"

Have you read any of the recent wikileaks containing low-level military reports on our conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan? turns out there's more, another file that is even larger than the ones before, that contain reports by low-level state department workers and diplomats who make disparaging statements about the governments of our allies, as reported by the BBC: "The U.S. felt compelled to brief a number of foreign governments about the possible release of a large cache of diplomatic files by whistleblowing site WikiLeaks. The U.K., Turkey, Israel, Denmark, and Norway have been warned by the U.S. to expect possible embarrassment, since the release—which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims will be seven times larger than the almost 400,000 Pentagon documents dealing with the Iraq War the site published in October—is said to include candid assessments of foreign governments by its officials. The release could do serious damage to the U.S., weakening trust in the country as a diplomatic partner. “When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” said State department spokesman P.J. Crowley. Officials are, so far, unaware of when the documents will be released..." This should begin a world-wide snarkfest, get ready for a whole barrage of mean things to be said about the clueless and insensitive US in retaliation.

In response, the US intelligence has just unleashed its dreaded hooker crew to bait wikileaks owner into some more sexual liasons that they can slander him with, their ultimate goal is to make him unwelcome in every country he tries to set his organization up as headquarters, until he is doomed to cruise the oceans on a ship similar to the fate of H Ron Hubbard aboard the SeaOrg...

One of the smallest and poorest of African nations. Gambia, has asked all Iranian diplomats and businesspeople to leave its country, and severing all ties with Iran. Ouch! This happened after a cargo shipment of mortars and rocket-propelled grenades were found in Nigeria. A French firm had stopped in Iran to load up the munitions, then sailed into Nigeria for fuel, where the containers of weapons were found and determined to be headed for Gambia...

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been having his share of problems at home, too. The Iranian Parliament came this close to impeaching the little guy, supposedly for not ending subsidies for gas and food to poor people, the muck-ups over the nuclear program, and general distrust most other countries now have towards Iran. Ahmadinejad's policies have been under attack since before he committed massive fraud during the last election, especially he is blamed for the price of groceries, which coupled with economic sanctions, has gone through the roof. It also turns out that the importing of 1500 tankers of gasoline every day from Kurdistan was not approved by any government agency, and if somebody were to set off a couple of roadside bombs along the only road leading into Iran, then those who had previously approved of selling bombs to Iraq and Afghanistan could turn on him. A situation like this could happen once the Korean aggression dies down...

In retaliation for the almost impeachment, which could still happen, the government has issued an arrest warrant for Mehdi Hashemi,  the son of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the conservative cleric who seemed to most favor the Green movement while it was happening. Government sources gave no reason for the warrant, or for what the younger Hashemi was supposed to done, since he's been living in Britain for over a year now... There's only going to be so many times that Ahmadinejad's butt is going to be saved by the Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei. It's all too conceivable that Mahmoud's antics might give the old cleric a heart attack, which might make him think twice backing someone who supports funding a website in support of Nazis and Holocaust denial... Remember, that even if Ahmadinejad is replaced, Iran would not become a model of enlightenment and liberalism over night. Most of the opponents who ran against him are former conservative politicians who are equally hardline in many areas. Most of the young people who protested would be happy if they could play whatever music interests them and surf the Internet without getting arrested. Iran is only a couple steps away from being a decent society, if they could only not be as repressive towards their own citizens and give their children some hope for their futures, Iran could easily become a major player on the world stage.

TPM has an interesting aside to the state of Oklahoma banning sharia law, which has been stayed until a Federal judge can make a ruling on Nove 29. Because of some sloppy writing, the proposed law: "... would prohibit state courts from considering not only Sharia law, but international law -- defined as the law of other "countries, states and tribes."

Oops. If the law is upheld, where 70% of the state voted for it, it could affect all of the treaties we have signed with the Indians, maybe forcing them to be re-written: "It's possible the amendment could affect how disputes between Indians and non-Indians are settled in state courts, as well as the many historic treaties between tribes and the U.S. Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that personal injury lawsuits, filed by non-Indian casino patrons, could be tried in state court. It's still messy, though: Several tribes have entered arbitration with the state over the rulings, and some of their motions are still pending. And then there are the treaties between the state's tribes and the federal government. The ban specifically defines international treaties as a "source of international law." So how would the Indian treaties be treated?"

Of course, the good-old-boys in Oklahoma meant their law to apply to Muslim tribes and Muslim countries and states, not Indian treaties and casinos and such, right? Or did some sly cracker slip in this language to void the treaties and let the injuns run amok...? "Barbara Warner, the executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, told the Norman Transcript she's heard concerns that the law could be "detrimental" to the tribes.

An Oklahoma University law professor, Taiawagi Helton, who specializes in tribal law, told the Transcript the language is too "ambiguous" and allows ways for the "opportunistic" to avoid tribal law that would hurt their case. But he added that he believes the law will be struck down.

"The likely effect is it won't have much effect at all," he said." Can I get an AMEN to that, brother...

Geronimo's Cadillac by Michael Martin Murphy

Well they put Geronimo in jail down south
Where he couldn't look the gift horse in the mouth
Sergeant, sergeant, don't you feel
There's something wrong with that automobile
Governor, governor, isn't it strange
They didn?t have no cars on the Indian range
Warden, warden, please listen to me
Be brave and set Geronimo free

Whoa boys, take me back
I want to ride in Geronimo's Cadillac
Whoa boys, take me back
I want to ride in Geronimo's Cadillac
D (electric guitar solo)
Let me ride, let me ride

Warden, warden, don't you know
Prisoners have no place to go
They took old Geronimo by storm
Ripped off the feathers from his uniform

Jesus tells me I believe its true
The red man is in the sunset too
Took all his land, now they won't give it back
And they sent Geronimo a Cadillac

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mama Land Shark, Gamal Racing, Oh I'm A Taliban And I'm OK...

Jimmy Carter

One sure way to get yourself in the news is to snipe at Sarah Palin, because she doesn't forget, and like a shark, she will always move forward to attack you back. Maybe she should be named Mama Land Shark... The latest round came from a leaked interview that Larry King had with Barbara Bush. When asked about Ms Palin, Barbara replied: "I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful," Bush said. "And I think she's very happy in Alaska -- and I hope she'll stay there."

Now, Sarah could have left this alone, almost any other Republican would, but on Laura Ingrahan's show she had to snipe back: "I don't want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I don't think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods -- and I want to say it will all due respect because I love the Bushes -- the blue-bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition." I've never thought of Barbara Bush as a privileged blue blood, she's had to keep her witty remarks to herself for many years, and self-censor what she says about her more conservative husband's views and her sons views... One can only wonder what she will be saying to the hordes of people talking about Bristol Palin losing out to Jennifer Grey on Dancing With The Stars. I'd make some snarky comment but I've never watched the show... But Sarah Palin is a polarizing figure. You either love her like the political goddess she has become, or you are not so enthralled with her and tend to make fun of her earnest attempts of self-publicity and puffery. Enjoy the second book she hasn't written on her own, out now in time for holiday buying...

And just to show that even with Sarah Palin, there can rest a kernel of truth in her arguments: "Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to "the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times."

How long does a conservative's public committment against earmarks last? Apparently, about 3 days: "Only three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe's water rights claim against the government.

Kyl slipped the measure into a larger bill sought by President Barack Obama and passed by the Senate on Friday to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government. Kyl's office insists the measure is not an earmark, and the House didn't deem it one when it considered a version earlier this year." Does this mean the earmark ban is off? Will we go back to our old, profligate ways?

Most people, when debating earmarks, usually miss the major point - that they are immoral at best, criminal at worse. Ite earmark process has become entangled by lobbying firms and blatant bribery. Whenever some group has a project and they don't want to go through the process of having their Representative write up a bill, which then goes through a review as to its merits, they can hire a lobbying firm, and pay them an outrageous fee for their services. The lobbyist contacts the Congressman, who then agrees to earmark the project for an agreed upon amount of money to be donated to his/her campaign fund. If you or I tried this, either as the donor or recipient of an earmark, we would land in jail for bribery. But this is business as usual for our Congress, who doesn't seem to get too angry when corrupt practices are uncovered in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. But it's horrible when it happens in Iran, just horrible...

Iran and Afghanistan could use a few lessons on how to properly run a rigged election. Watch how Egypt conducts their next elections, and how Hosni Mubarak positions his son, Gamal Mubarak, into winning the next election. Usually the main opponent  in an Egyptian presidential race ends up in jail afterwards for sedition and treason. And if Hosni is really worried, he'll put the guy in jail  before the election.  Usually, elections go with a lot of rhetoric about democracy and the equality of each person, so it may be refreshing to see how an election without all of those elements takes place...

In Afghanistan, it looks like they are about to jail the only two honest men in the government, the head of the Elections Dept, and the man who has to investigate all election complaints. The Afghan Attorney General is being pressured by friends of Karzai who had been disqualified, and now they wish to see revenge. The only charges the AG can think of is that these two men have defamed the country by investigating election fraud and disqualifying disputed votes. In a less secular government, the two would be charged with crimes against Islam... In the meantime, we continue to have mercenaries roaming the countryside amped up on methamphetamines provided by the military, getting conned by people who claim to be in the Taliban and paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars to negotiate a fake peace... at worse, it reminds me of a Graham Green novel, The Ugly American, and at best it reminds me of a Monty Python skit: "Oh, I'm a Taliban and I'm OK, I work all night and I sleep all day..."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Korean War, Harrisphobia, So, These Two Federal Agents Hired To Transport Nuclear Material Walk Into A Bar...

Richard Cohen
Meghan McCain
"President Obama said GM's comeback would be the success story of this recession. GM said it wanted to thank those who made its recovery possible: Toyota’s brakes, Toyota’s steering and Toyota's accelerator." – Jimmy Fallon

"A group of economists unveiled a new plan to reduce the deficit by $6 trillion in the next 10 years. The first step of the plan is to look at all our spending over the past five years, determine what’s unnecessary . . . and then ask China for $6 trillion." – Jimmy Fallon

Stop me if you've heard this one: So, these two federal agents hired to transport nuclear material walk into a bar... The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration is sure hoping you haven't, after a watchdog group let it slip to the media that two of their agents were taken from a bar drunker than two skunks. The Energy Dept wants you to know that the agents weren't driving at the time, and had secured the truck at a safe haven for the night... During the years 2007 - 2009 there were 16 alcohol related incidents involving agents contracted to transport nuclear materials. No data on this year. What surprises me is the amount of nuclear material that is being transported all over our country, using over 600 contracted firms. That's a helluva lot, and the next question is what is all of that nuclear material doing? Is it nuclear waste headed towards Nevada, or is it isotopes being sent around in delivery vans for specific projects? Something to think about the next time you are in a motel, stranded out on I-70 or I-25 and you see these shadowy governmental-like figures getting ice from the machine outside your door... The only thing that might make me more worried is if they were playing heavy metal music at top volume and were thrashing their heads back and forth at the time...

In other reassuring news, the military DID NOT DISCHARGE any gay people from its ranks last month. Supposedly, this is seen as progress, thought you'd like to know...

The most screwed up news story comes from the Korean Peninsula, a tale of paranoia and amphetamine-fed aggression that could possibly escalate into FUBAR realm. First, we need to know that North Korea and South Korea never ended the war against each other, they have been in an uneasy truce for over 50 years... Next, it was recently unveiled that North Korea has an uranium enrichment plant with over 2000 centrifuges, and had been kept secret until a few weeks ago.

The US responded immediately by sending an envoy to try and settle nerves. This morning, South Korea fired some shells out towards the Yellow Sea in some exercises designed to provoke the North. It worked, with the North responding by firing shells of its own towards an inhabited island, setting over 70 buildings on fire, killing two soldiers, and injuring 19 more... Either things will calm down, or we will wake up tomorrow annexing North Korea. This may also be an indication that the newest Il-Sung is more bat-shit crazy than his old man, or at least their military is commanded by some old general who keeps having visions of glory for the motherland... If you are a paranoid North Korean leader, may I suggest you stop going mushrooming, eating them can only make your situation worse... Surprisingly, the South Koreans have been rather restrained, saying that we'll retaliate if you do it again!

This is why countries with bat-shit crazy leaders get a little more leeway than the rest of us, there's no telling what they will do next, and a great reason to start up a global medical marijuana program...

There was a flap last week involving incoming Republican House Representative Andy Harris, a doctor who had campaigned against "Obamacare." He threw a public fit when he found out that the Congressional health benefits don't kick in until after a month that you begin serving. He wanted his now!! and got called a hypocrite for being so shallow.

Now there is a movement, probably Democratically inspired, to have all of the incoming Republican Congressment give up their government provided health benefits, since they don't believe that anyone else should have them, either. A poll was taken among Republican voters, with the results being that "28% of Republicans say take the benefits; 58% say don't." according to TPM. If the GOP members of Congress keep this behavior up, giving up their benefits, giving up earmarks, (giving up lobbyists fees should be the next one) they will eventually turn out to be our saviors and single-handedly balance out budget by 2012... NOT! We'll see how long they can keep up the charade and who will crack under pressure...

I look back at the events of the day, and I'm sure glad that John McCain and Sarah Palin were not in charge to deal with them...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mama Grizzly In 2012? Iraq, Govt Or Corruption? Bomb Iran Or Palestinian State?

Paul Krugman
John Batchelor
"In an upcoming interview with Barbara Walters, Sarah Palin says she believes she can beat Obama in 2012. The way things are going right now, Bristol Palin could beat Obama in 2012." – Jay Leno

"I'll tell you how confident Sarah Palin is. She's already started writing her inaugural address on her hand." – Jay Leno
"Sarah Palin says she's going to run for President in 2012. 2012. Donald Trump said he's going to run for President in 2012 against Sarah Palin. Nice to know there will somebody equally unqualified." –David Letterman

"Now that would be some presidential race. You've got Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and the debates. Get there early and get some seats down front for those debates. 'You're fired, you becha.'" –David Letterman

"There's going to be problems when Donald Trump runs. They had a lot of problems with Obama, you wait until Donald Trump runs because the rumor is that thing on his head was not born in this country." –David Letterman
"Donald Trump wants to see if people think he should run for President. So a website has been launched called 'Shouldtrumprun.com.' Yeah, don't worry the American public has responded with their own website 'No.com.'" –Conan O'Brien

Mike Huckabee thinks Sarah Palin will run away the 2012 nomination. He's saying that hoping she will remember he said this so early and pick him as her running mate... Pundits are already writing articles on who they see as the candidates for the next election, or who the dark horse candidates for the Republican Party might emerge as the frontrunner. Given the fact that Barack Obama will run for re-election, unless he gets tired of all of the opposition to every move he makes and says screw it, and drops out to raise his family in peace. I've spent this last weekend with a cold/flu, uncomfortable if I sat or lie down, could barely focus on the Sunday paper, so I let my mind drift a lot while listening to music, and I was able to drift up to Wasilla, Alaska... Whether I like it or not, I've decided that Sarah Palin will win the GOP's presidential nomination. More interesting is who she would choose as her running mate. Instinct tells me that she is more comfortable with a Michelle Bachmann or a Nicki Haley, making history with the first all female candidacy. There would be too much friction with Michelle, who thinks she is a conservative diva in her own right, so campaigning with Ms Haley would be more fun. But she may also end up choosing Marco Rubio, who at this time, seems to be the most popular person she could choose, again making history with a Cuban-American VP... Sarah's only real opponent is Mit Romney, and he isn't a winnable candidate because he is a member of the Mormon cult. I don't see how he could run and keep a debate about the Mormons out of the media. It's bad enough that they have taken over the Boy Scouts; I shudder to think what kind of decrees they might make once they have taken over the White House and C Street...

David Letterman's "Top Ten Surprises In Sarah Palin's New Book"

10. It's one, long run-on sentence
9. Lists her favorite things to gut
8. In 2008, she voted for Obama
7. She plagiarizes the stuff George W. Bush plagiarized in his book
6. Averages six "You betcha's" per page
5. In high school, was voted "Most Likely to Serve Half-Term As Alaska's Governor"
4. Comes with a caribou jerky bookmark
3. There's also an edition that's been translated into English
2. Explains why they call her Baba Booey
1. Palin recently worked as a Tina Fey impersonator

So, of course, the perfect vice presidential candidate to run with Sarah Palin is Tina Fey...

For the past several years now, Iraq has been named one of the most corrupt countries in the world, despite all of the money the US poured into it to promote democracy. Cynics among us say that it was the American easy money that made it more corrupt than it ever was under Saddam, and now your average government official has to be more creative to find his cash cow to provide the millions of US dollars that his family has become accustomed to. A perfect example how this relates to the current situation that has befallen the Iraqi Parliament was reported this Sunday in the NT Times. A new president had been elected, Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who also had been the previous president. He was supposed to ask Nuri al-Maliki to form a new government, where al-Maliki would have 30 days to name a new set of government officials and cabinet members. These are the guys who traditionally rip off the most money for their families... But Parliament decided to postpone this process for a few days to make sure that al-Maliki had all of his ducks sitting in a row, and he may have problems if he just keeps many of the old officials in power. For example: "Although government operations have continued during the eight months since the election, the price of the stalemate is being felt on the streets, as evidenced by a statement on Sunday by Osama al-Najafi, the new speaker of Parliament, that said he had received a letter from the government admitting it no longer had enough money to make welfare payments to widows, the unemployed and other needy Iraqis.

He said Iraq would not be able to resume that aid until a new budget was passed. Some lawmakers called for an investigation into the shortage of money; others said they were not surprised to learn that the well was dry.“It’s expected,” said Ayad al-Samarrai, a former speaker of Parliament. “When Parliament is delayed for all these months, it also stops monitoring the government and holding them accountable.” There is currently about $130,000 in the fund, where before there was over a billion. I seriously doubt that much effort will go into recovering the money when everyone knows who was responsible for monitoring the fund and who stole the money. This is the crux of the Iraqi problem: as long as there are large amounts of money that can be stolen without repercussions, then the government will continue to allow the widows of its soldiers to die along with the poor, as an acceptable collateral to getting rich. In Western style democracies, the government is supposed to be more honest and caring for the poor, letting the private sector do all of the stealing, and is why it will never really catch on. In an Islamic country, the only place left for an honest man to go is religious study, to become an imam or ayatollah, and even there...

Well, we're pretty much back to where we started in the Israeli - Palestinian negotiations process, deadlocked. We're not going forward because Mahmoud Abbas is back to whining about no moratorium on the construction of settlement sites in the West Bank. I've already solved that. Because you are not going to get the settlers to leave, let them build, but then they have to pay rent on the buildings to the Palestinian government. They also will have to live under Palestinian law, etc. If the Palestinian state is to be separate from Israel with different laws, then the settlers will have to give up their Israeli citizenship in order to live in the West Bank. Logical and fair...

The Netanyahu government is playing head games to postpone making any weighty decisions like the ones I mentioned above, since it would affect 60 - 100,000 people. Too bad there isn't some higher authority that can declare a Palestinian state, since most of the boundaries have already been previously agreed to. Even the Israeli government can just declare hey, there is the Palestinian state, and these are her boundaries... then, invite the current Palestinian leadership groups to hold another election, since there hasn't been one since 2006... This isn't a difficult thing to do, negotiations could be over in two weeks, with a new government up and running... oh yea, we don't do this because we are scared that Hamas would win. Well, they might, then after a few years being forced to be responsible for a large population, it will become less antagonistic, like Arafat did... and he was a lot worse than any current Hamas leader...

Of course, now the added argument is to wait until after Israel wages war on Iran to go ahead with the negotiations. Well, that should never happen. Iran really isn't that much of a threat as the press has been making her out to be. Israel is enjoying its current role of sending saboteurs into Iran from its submarines in the Persian gulf, that it's itching to take the next aggressive step... but what if the US takes its nuclear toys away? After all, it has never signed the non-proliferation treaty and is working hard lobbying Republicans to let the recently negotiated treaty by the Obama administration with Russia die on the floor of Congress. Maybe we need to reign in our wayward step-child and make it be more polite towards its neighbors, not the spoiled brat it is now... as for Iran, as long as it uses telephones or communications satellites for its computers to talk to one another, we will be able to mess with their nuclear program. We have lots of other monkey-wrenching programs in place that will cost them time and money to find and fix, and keep our intelligence community up to their chins in jokes in Farsi...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday's Wandering Off The Path Into Thorny Hypocrisy And Shanghai-Style Corruption

Paul Krugman
Dana Milbank
Eugene Robinson
"Ultimately, it's the president who sets the agenda and who ultimately is held accountable for America's successes and failures. Obama's focus should be on using all the tools at his disposal to move the country in the direction he believes it must go." - Eugene Robinson
"A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen." - Winston Churchill
"All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway." - Harry S. Truman

One by-product of having the Republicans ruling the House, is that they will continue to march lock-step in time to Mitch McConnell's bad political strategy, a scorched earth style designed not to allow Barack Obama even one bipartisan victory while in office. Hopefully, the new incoming tea party members will not go along with this and cause just as much havoc within their own party as they plan to give to Democrats. Congress, if nothing else, promises to be a lively place... So far, the people who are the biggest losers are those of us who are unemployed, about one in every 10 people you see. Letting the Republicans get away with keeping our country in an economic depression and blaming it all on Obama, is the height of manipulative hypocrisy, and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell should be strung up in effigy for all to see. Every reporter should question them about this at every news conference they give, and not let them weasel out of answering. They see your pain, your economic loss and inability to provide for your children as the way to win the presidency in 2012... As Paul Krugman shows in his column in the NY Times: "So what’s really motivating the G.O.P. attack on the Fed? Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues were clearly caught by surprise, but the budget expert Stan Collender predicted it all. Back in August, he warned Mr. Bernanke that “with Republican policy makers seeing economic hardship as the path to election glory,” they would be “opposed to any actions taken by the Federal Reserve that would make the economy better.” In short, their real fear is not that Fed actions will be harmful, it is that they might succeed."

It was hoped when Obama won, that the more open minded Republicans would willingly work together to find solutions to get us out of one of the worst economic messes, one that at one point, threatened to bring all of Western Europe down along with us. if we were to fall. In addition, the Repubs were supposed to become more accepting of other viewpoints and more attractive to minorities. This never happened because, as George Will points out: "Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose," and this natural opposition will not allow anything to be included... Also, it's easier to tear down things than to create and build new ones, so for the past two years we have had the Old School philosophy of "just saying no" to anything a Democrat proposed, then whining that nobody listened to what they had to say... Hopefully, within the next two years, this cesspool of negativity will drain off, revealing the road to nowhere that John and Mitch have been leading us along... In the meantime the Republicans may not allow another unemployment insurance extension, letting over 5 million people fend for themselves over the holidays, if not longer. I soon expect to see Americans migrating to Somalia for the chance to become pirates, as it's evidently more lucrative than having to resort to theft or worse to celebrate the birth of Jesus this year...

A Chinese report investigating the recent fire in the high rise apartment building in Shanghai, sought to point fingers at corrupt practices in a government sponsored energy-saving program, which doesn't make sense or logic, unless you are the one writing the report, from the AP: "Investigators looking into a fire that ravaged a central Shanghai high-rise apartment, killing at least 53 people, said an energy-saving project that used illegal contracts, unsafe materials and unqualified workers was mainly to blame. “The accident should not have happened and was completely avoidable,” Luo Lin, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, said in a statement posted Thursday on the agency’s Web site. He listed a litany of problems with the government-sponsored energy-saving project, including the illegal use of unlicensed subcontractors, poor construction site management, lax local safety supervision and the use of highly flammable materials"

Anyone who has visited China during the last 30 years knows how shoddy their construction process is. Anything made for foreigners will have some standards, while anything made for Chinese will be rat-traps without running water, plumbing that works, wiring that works, and will begin to fall apart before the project is finished. China has a long history of indifference to safety standards because of its high population density and history of the wisdom of the peasant way doing things being better than someone who has studied in that field, thanks to Mao and the Communist Party. During one of the Great Leap Forwards, people were making steel in their backyards, and this was touted as being superior because of the ingenuity of the peasants making it. But the steel produced was so inferior quality that none of it was usable, which was unfortunately found out after people lost their lives... I should also mention that the construction industry is also one of the most corrupt ones in the world, all over the world, so why should it be any different in Shanghai? Or that the shoddy building practices will be corrected with a few finger pointing. Not until the value of a life is deemed to be more than the quick profits made from a few improperly insulated wires in polite Chinese society...

Human nature being what it is, I will never find a country whose government doesn't commit crimes against its citizens, just as I have never found a town in the US where the police don't abuse their powers. I've lived in very liberal California coastal towns, to very conservative ones where there are more churches than banks, and can say that the ones with an ocean view seem to care more about your individual freedoms and well being. In this particular conservative Colorado town, they care more about the unborn rights of a fetus than an aging old man who tends to wander from some dementia... I haven't the faintest idea where I wanted to go  with this, but definitely not into namby pamby land just so I could feel sorry for myself, in some expression of SAD...

David Letterman's "Top Ten Highlights of the George W. Bush Library Groundbreaking"

10. While digging, they found Obama's birth certificate
9. Read warm congratulatory note from Osama and Julie bin Laden
8. Displayed thousands of books Bush pretends to read
7. George arrived wearing a flight suit and piloting the Conan blimp
6. Dubya only had three shoes thrown at him
5. Dug up thousands of Gore ballots from 2000
4. Bush gave Halliburton $300 million check just for the hell of it
3. George correctly pronounced the word "nuclear" (it doesn't get any more groundbreaking than that)
2. After a few seconds of digging, Bush raised "Mission Accomplished" banner
1. Bush and Cheney celebrated the day with a long, passionate, open-mouth kiss

David Letterman's "Top Ten Ways To Make Airport Security More Pleasant"

10. For $10, screeners will give you luxurious shiatsu massage
9. To your left, x-ray conveyor belt; to your right, complimentary hot buffet
8. Passenger's naked body scan ends up on YouTube — hey, that joke was in the monologue
7. Anyone caught with something suspicious has to eat it
6. You can watch other passengers get groped for 99 cents a minute
5. Guess the TSA agent's weight and you can bring any liquid on board
4. Passengers have option to be frisked by security or airport Cinnabon employee
3. Pipe in soft rock classics from the '70s, '80s, '90s, and today
2. Concludes with a good luck pat on the butt
1. Vibrating wands

David Letterman's "Top 10 New Words of 2010"

10. Lohab
9. Obamamess
8. Baba-Bookdeal
7. Foxtitious
6. Sheentoxicated
5. Witchcrap
4. Baconfetti
3. Opraholic
2. Leno'd
1. Palincoherent

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Frustrated Old White Guys - Over 45 Million Mentally Ill And One Grumpy Old Man

Eric Alterman
Nicholas Kristoff
Helene Cooper
"Two weeks after a midterm election that both sides interpreted as a mandate to change the way Washington does business, little, it seems, has changed... Just how little was underscored... when the two parties finished electing their leaders for the new Congress — the very same people... who have spent the past two years at one another’s throats." - Helene Cooper
“Scholars should be on tap, but not on top.” - Dexter Perkins

I felt mildly embarrassed by a post I wrote a couple of days ago, about advice to Obama if he wanted to get re-elected to another term. After all, who am I to tell the President what he should or should not be doing? Then, his staff seems pretty horrible, giving him all of the wrong advice, so I feel better now. I feel even better after reading this morning in Helen Cooper's piece in the NY Times, that Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, has the same advice for Obama that I do. Either this is an example of synchronicity, or Leslie likes my blog, or I have read his opinions elsewhere and blatantly borrowed from them...

The more I read about the Republicans bluster on about extending the Bush tax cuts - or else - the more I feel that Obama needs to let them all expire, veto any bills if he has to. Evidently I am not alone in this feeling, there were several letters to the editors of the NY Times in response to the last Paul Krugman post, which you can find linked from my last Friday's rant. Evidently, there is a frustration building in Obama's apparent inability to do anything other than seek reconciliation, and, if the excerpts from the letters are any indication, mostly among older white, educated Americans. What will we call these folks - the Cigar and Cognac Party? the Fresh Ground Coffee Party? the I've Been Reading the Constitution For Over Forty Years Party?:
If he caves in once more and allows the tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended, even temporarily, I will give up. After 50 years of voting Democratic in every national election, I will just stay home in 2012.

If the country is going to deteriorate as a result of bad government policy, I would rather let the Republicans take the whole blame and look for another Democratic leader, one with enough backbone to defend important principles.

Patrick Cassidy
Mr. Obama’s campaign vow to rise above partisanship was much more than mere talk; he seeks to rise above all conflict and become the person who reconciles the divided parties: the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Pakistanis and the Indians, as well as the Democrats and the Republicans closer to home.

It is my serious concern that the president, far from being either aloof or humble, has all along thought of himself not as a political leader struggling to make his point of view prevail, but as a man of peace, with an almost divine mission.

Carl Schiffman
Perhaps it is time for the president to learn how to be the authoritative leader that this country craves and spare the American people the chaos that so often results from democratic, permissive parenting, which may well have led to the loss of faith in his leadership that Paul Krugman laments.

Aviva Bock
President Obama’s quest for civil discourse might do well in the halls of academia, but not in the world of politics. Lobbyists continue to run wild. The health care bill was watered down because the president let others define it. He dithered for months over Afghanistan.

Now he is taking a conciliatory stance regarding the Bush tax cuts to appease the new majority that never worked with him and will do everything to stymie all of his initiatives.

Mr. President, you were elected to change the Washington status quo and lead us forward. Please do both.

Richard M. Frauenglass
So, what do you think? Is Obama wimping out and needs a spinal tap injection? Do we need a president sporting more wood than Tiger Woods? Will we let the obstructive policies of the "just say no" Republicans turn us into the most hypocritical nation on the earth? If the newest bunch of Congressmen have any spine either, they will continue to cause waves and just say no to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, especially if they hope to achieve anything substantial over the next two years...

But, who am I kidding? A newly released report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as reported in the Denver Post: "found that 45 million experienced some form of mental illness in 2009, from major depression to problems such as suicide attempts. Fewer than four in 10 received treatment for their mental-health condition.

The survey found a strong link between mental-health problems and alcoholism and drug abuse. Mental illness was also more likely among the unemployed, young adults and women. Overall, more than 8 million had serious thoughts of suicide and 1 million tried to carry them out." About 20% of our population is clinically depressed, which corresponds roughly to the percentage of voters who voted for a tea party candidate. Does that mean that those states where the tea party won bigtime are also clinically depressed? It would explain Arizona and Texas, though I would also throw in any correlation to anyone who thinks they are still a cowboy after the age of five...

"Look at me, I'm a cowboy, yep, yep, yep"

On the foreign policy front, which will be more detrimental to US - Russian relations: John Kyl's refusal to allow the non-proliferation agreement to come for a vote until next year, or the successful extradition of Viktor Bout from Thailand to a US courtroom, where he pleaded not guilty to arms trading with terrorists... Bout sold guns to all sides in every conflict for years and years, and the Russians do not want him talking about his connections to their military arsenals. You can tell how unhappy they are by the amount of protesting they already are doing, trying to block the extradition and putting out news stories that he is just an innocent businessman. There are several books and movies in his story, it should make riveting courtroom drama... One book already published about him is called "Merchant of Death."

Both the Russians and the Chinese have been having a hard time controlling the content that is leaked to the Internet, thank God. Stories about official corruption, and in many cases where officials get away with beating the crap out of people, or even murder, have not been able to be contained in the old, normal ways. where you threaten journalists, their newspapers, or the television stations trying to disseminate the story. In China, we see where an activist is put in jail for crimes against the state, only to have that journalist win the Nobel Peace Prize. In Russia, it's not quite as embarrassing, but often a story will work its way all the way up to Dmitry Medvedev's attention, and then he has to make some false promise to look into it or make changes. It has led to the replacement of a couple of mayors and one police chief, so perhaps the Russian system of public humiliation works better than the Chinese version. It's also more dangerous, where several journalists have been killed, from being pushed off of rooftops to toxic poisoning by a radioactive substance, good old fashioned mafiya-style killings and maimings suitable for made-for-television movies... So, cheer the Internet, cheer news websites, even cheer us poor old bloggers, who may not be on the front lines making the news, but would rather comment on it with a good cup of coffee while it snows outside...

Murdered Russian Journalists