Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Listened to Glenn Beck's radio program this morning, which I do rarely. In a span of less than an hour the Conservative host mocked Michael Jackson's death, blasted Obama, and parodied Congressman Rangel's corruption issues. This was done in consecutive segments. And what do all three of these gentlemen have in common? They're all African-Americans.

Once again this shows how the Republicans/Conservatives are using race baiting as their main political strategy.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

There seems to be a continuation, if not a rising level, of racist hatred directed at Barack Obama. And the Republicans seem to be anning the flames. The attacks now include references to the President's birth certificate, or lack thereof. Some critics use the same language once directed at Martin Luther King Jr. suggesting he was some kind of left wing extremist. These are all code words for racial hatred. The Hillary Clinton campaign used it during the primaries last year. The Republicans used it during the general election. And now the hostility has been ratcheted up.

The GOP has no message so all they have is good ole fashioned racial/nativist hatred. If barack Obama is assasinated the Republicans/Conservatives will be to blame.
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Gunman Opens Fire on Md. Cookout, Injuring 12

Mass shootings are now just commonplace. Get used to it. Unless, you decide to do something about the number of guns in our society.

At least one gunman opened fire at a backyard cookout, wounding a dozen people, Baltimore police said Monday.

Police spokesman Donny Moses said none of the wounds were life-threatening in the shooting late Sunday night. At least twelve people were hit, including a 2-year-old girl and a pregnant 23-year-old woman.

Moses said the victims were wounded in the legs, arms, shoulders and backs.

Police had no immediate suspects or motive in the attack. Moses says a gunman or gunmen walked into the small backyard of a rowhouse in East Baltimore and opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon before fleeing on foot.

More big city shootings.
Four people were killed yesterday in as many shootings throughout Philadelphia.

According to police, the killings started at 2:15 a.m., when a 28-year-old male was shot in the 3100 block of North Front Street in North Philadelphia. Two minutes later, a 24-year-old man was shot in the 2600 block of Oakdale Street, also in North Philadelphia.

40% of Americans Could get Swine Flu

Are we prepared? I don't think so.

In a disturbing new projection, health officials say up to 40% of Americans could get swine flu this year and next and several hundred thousand could die without a successful vaccine campaign and other measures.

The estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are roughly twice the number of those who catch flu in a normal season and add greater weight to hurried efforts to get a new vaccine ready for the fall flu season.

Swine flu has already hit the United States harder than any other nation, but it has struck something of a glancing blow that's more surprising than devastating. The virus has killed about 300 Americans and experts believe it has sickened more than 1 million, comparable to a seasonal flu with the weird ability to keep spreading in the summer.

Will we have enough vaccines?
Governments are scrambling to buy up hundreds of millions of doses of swine flu vaccine but health experts warn the poor may lose out as wealthy countries corner strictly limited supplies.

The World Health Organisation has unofficially estimated that the world's labs may only be able to produce around 900 million doses for the A(H1N1) strain per year, for a planet that is home to 6.8 billion people.

Global pharmaceutical companies are more optimistic about how much of the drug they can produce but, since each potential victim needs two doses, most of the world's population will inevitably miss out.

And there are already signs that the wealthiest countries will snap up more than their fair share in the rush to halt the outbreak, while Africa, Asia and Latin American will struggle to secure adequate amounts of vaccine.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

President Obama Wants to Use Mercenaries in Afghanistan

You can tell we are losing in Afghanistan if the military wants to use hired guns to help out with the war. Obviously Mr.Obama never heard of Clearwater. It didn't work for Rome why should it work for us. It is an act of desperation on our part.

U.S. military authorities in Afghanistan may hire a private contractor to provide around-the-clock security at dozens of bases and protect vehicle convoys moving throughout the country.

The possibility of awarding a security contract comes as the Obama administration is sending thousands of more troops into Afghanistan to quell rising violence fueled by a resurgent Taliban. As the number of American forces grow over the next several months, so too does the demand to guard their outposts.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he wants to cut back on the use of contractors that now provide a wide range services to American troops in war zones, including transportation, communications, food service, construction, and maintenance. As recently as February, however, Gates called the use of private security contractors in certain parts of Afghanistan "vital" to supporting U.S. bases. A contract for the work also creates job opportunities for Afghans, he said.

But the use of private contractors in Iraq has been highly contentious. Since a September 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad by guards employed by Blackwater (now Xe Services), critics have urged U.S. officials to maintain much tighter controls over hired guards.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the Army published a notice July 10 informing interested contractors it was contemplating a contract for "theater-wide" armed security.

Deaths are on the rise. It's starting to look like Iraq during the bad old days when 4,000 American soldiers died needlessly.
An American service member was fatally wounded by insurgent fire in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Sunday, bringing to at least 39 the number of U.S. troops killed this month in the country.

Officials released no other details about the Saturday battle, which was reported by the NATO command. A U.S. military spokesman, Navy reservist Lt. j.g. Tommy Groves, would only confirm that the service member was American.

July has been the deadliest month for U.S. and NATO forces in the Afghan war. Some 60,000 U.S. forces now operate in Afghanistan — a record number. President Barack Obama has increased the U.S. focus on Afghanistan as American troops pull out of Iraq.

Overall, at least 68 international troops have died in July.

Also Sunday, one of President Hamid Karzai's vice presidential running mates in next month's election escaped injury when his convoy came under fire in northern Afghanistan, officials said.

The Taliban are becoming more and more brazen:
Gunmen on Sunday opened fire with machine guns and rockets on a motorcade carrying the running mate of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in northern Afghanistan, but no one was hurt, officials said.

Up to 50 vehicles were accompanying vice-presidential candidate Mohammed Qasim Fahim from insurgency-hit northern Kunduz province to neighbouring Takhar province when an unknown number of attackers launched an ambush.

"They fired a couple of rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. I don't think the rockets reached the vehicles," said Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar.

"No one, thank God, was hurt."

The attack comes less than four weeks before Afghanistan's second-ever presidential elections, in which Karzai hopes to win a second term.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama News Conference Transcript (7-22-09)

This news conference was supposed to be on healthcare. It turned out to be more. Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Congress, as you alluded to, is trying to figure out how to pay for all of this reform. Have you told House and Senate leaders which of their ideas are acceptable to you? If so, are you willing to share that stand of yours with the American people? And if you haven't given that kind of direction to congressional leaders, are you willing to -- are you willing to explain why you're not stepping in to get a deal done, since you're the one setting a deadline?

OBAMA: Well, before we talk about how to pay for it, let's talk about what exactly needs to be done. And the reason I want to emphasize this is because there's been a lot of misinformation out there.

Right now, premiums for families that have health insurance have doubled over the last 10 years. They've gone up three times faster than wages. So what we know is that, if the current trends continue, more and more families are going to lose health care, more and more families are going to be in a position where they keep their health care but it takes a bigger biting out of their budget.

Employers are going to put more and more costs on employees or they're just going to stop providing health care altogether.

We also know that health care inflation on the curve that it's on, we're guaranteed to see Medicare and Medicaid basically break the federal budget. And we know that we're spending -- on average we, here in the United States, are spending about $6,000 more than other advanced countries where they're just as healthy.

And I've said this before, if you found out that your neighbor had gotten the same car for $6,000 less, you'd want to figure out how to get that deal. And that's what reform is all about. How can we make sure that we are getting the best bang for our health care dollar.

Now, what we did very early on was say two-thirds of the costs of health care reform, which includes providing coverage for people who don't have it, making it more affordable for folks who do, and making sure that we're, over the long term, creating the kinds of systems where prevention and wellness and information technologies make the system more efficient.

That the entire cost of that has to be paid for and it has got to be deficit-neutral. And we identified two-thirds of those costs to be paid for by tax dollars that are already being spent right now.

So taxpayers are already putting this money into the kitty. The problem is, they're not getting a good deal for the money they're spending. That takes care of about two-thirds of the cost.

The remaining one-third is about what the argument has been about of late. What I've said is that there may be a number of different ways to raise money. I put forward what I thought was the best proposal, which was to limit the deductions, the itemized deductions, for the wealthiest Americans.

People like myself could take the same percentage deduction that middle class families do. And that would raise sufficient funds for that final one-third.

Now so far we haven't seen any of the bills adopt that. There are other ideas that are out there. I continue to think my idea is the best one. But I'm not foreclosing some of these other ideas as the committees are working them through.

The one commitment that I've been clear about is I don't want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy.

And so, if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle class families, I'm going to be opposed to that because I think there are better ideas to do it.

Now there are -- you know, I have not yet seen what the Senate Finance Committee is producing. They've got a number of ideas. But we haven't seen a final draft. The House suggested a surcharge on wealthy Americans. And my understanding, although I haven't seen the final versions, is that there has been talk about making that basically only apply to families whose joint income is $1 million.

To me, that meets my principle that it's not being shouldered by families who are already having a tough time.

But what I want do is to see what emerges from these committees, continuing to work to find more savings, because I actually think that it's possible for us to fund even more of this process through identifying waste in the system.

Try to narrow as much as possible the new revenue that's needed on the front end. And then see how we can piece this thing together in a way that's acceptable to both Democrats and I hope some Republicans.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Public Turning Against Obama Healthcare Plan

This is starting to look a lot like the Clinton healthcare reform fiasco of the early 1990s. The President is playing into the hands of the Republicans by giving them an issue. Even the commercials on TV seem a lot like those that killed the previous attempt. And the same people, the heath care lobby that rule Washington, are paying for those ads and opposition.

A new poll suggests public approval of the way President Barack Obama is handling health care reform is slipping.

The Washington Post-ABC News survey says since April, Obama's approval rating on the issue has declined from 57 percent to 49 percent, with disapproval rising from 29 percent to 44 percent.

The president's overall approval rating stands at 59 percent positive and 37 percent negative. It's the first time Obama's approval rating has fallen below 60 percent in Post-ABC polling since he took office.

Even some Democrats oppose the plan:
Media accounts portray the Obama team as playing defense on issues such as the overhaul costs, taxes and GOP charges that the President's plan would lead to "rationing." The mounting hurdles are delaying passage of the healthcare bill in both chambers, and indeed, some Senate Democrats believe they will need 60 votes including Republicans to clear the bill. The AP says the White House faces "both a "skeptical public" and "independent budget predictions that contradict the White House's rhetoric." NBC Nightly News reported GOP "critics and some moderate Democrats ratcheting up their criticism."

The AP notes that Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag played down "reports that lawmakers are bogged down over the health care overhaul," and said "good progress is being made toward Obama's goal of a bill in August." The Hill, however, reports that the President's "top cabinet advocates for universal healthcare were grilled on Sunday over how to raise taxes."

In a piece about White House strategy in pushing the President's agenda, The Politico reports that "the battle over health care" has "hardened into a fairly conventional Washington fight, a new president's sweeping agenda colliding with congressional caution." Meanwhile, the New York Times says Orszag "appeared to soften on the administration's insistence that a health care reform bill be delivered by August."

Too costly and tax increases - bad combination:
"If President Obama’s analogy holds true that reforming healthcare is a long race, this week might just be Heartbreak Hill," The Hill notes. "Beginning on Monday, Obama will find out if Congressional Democrats have the wherewithal to push ahead with their -- and his -- ambitious goal of crossing the healthcare finish line before August, or whether they have to stop and stretch before limping across at a later date. It’ll be close."

The need for 60: "The rules governing reconciliation are so complex and restrictive that the Senate Democratic leaders’ backup reconciliation plan could become mired in the same 60-vote problem they currently face as liberals, centrists and a handful of Republicans battle it out over the direction of a final Senate bill," Roll Call notes.

And on timing, is the White House softening its August timeline after last week's CBO report that costs would bend upward?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Republican questioning of Sotomayor suggest they are less interested in having a fair judge on bench than playing politics. In particular, they are playing the kind of race politics that they showed during the last campaign and continue to show today in their attacks on President Obama. It is the politics of scapegoating and stereotyping.

I heard Pat Buchanan, a well known racial provocateur, calling Sotomayor a extremist and product of affirmative action. He dismissed all academic credentials as essentially having been given to her. In essence, he was arguing that her nomination was totally political. She is essentially a foot soldier in Obama's cultural war. This is how this bigot thinks, Buchanan. He also thinks Sarah Palin would make a great President.

This is how narrow minded the Republicans/Conservatives are.
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JP Morgan Quarterly Profits Jump 36%

Good to hear some banks are doing well. But what about the rest of the economy? This proves that the bailout of Wall St. was first about protecting big business and secondly the economy.

JP Morgan reported record revenues in the second quarter on Thursday on soaring investment banking fees and a strong performance from its commercial banking business.

The US bank’s earnings beat analysts’ most bullish expectations, jumping 36 per cent and producing net income of $2.7bn, or 28 cents a share, compared with $2bn, or 53 cents, in the same quarter the prior year.

Revenues climbed by 41 per cent in the quarter to a record $27.7bn. This was driven by $7.3bn from JP Morgan’s investment banking division, which saw fees soar grow by 29 per cent. Retail banking revenues climbed 44 per cent to $970m on higher deposit-related fees and balances and gains from its acquisition of Washington Mutual.

Related Link:
- Goldman Sachs Posts Record Profits

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings: Transcript (7-14-09)

This is the complete transcript of yesterday's confirmation hearings considering Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor shows herself to be an impressive candidate for the highest court. She was thoughtful and responded in a dignified manner. Her answers were not evasive, which is typical of candidates to the Supreme Court, despite being grilled by small minded politicians whom are incapable of similar thoughtfulnes.

LEAHY: Well, and isn't that what -- you've been on the bench for 17 years. Have you set your goal to be fair and show integrity, based on the law?

SOTOMAYOR: I believe my 17-year record on the two courts would show that, in every case that I render, I first decide what the law requires under the facts before me, and that what I do is explain to litigants why the law requires a result. And whether their position is sympathetic or not, I explain why the result is commanded by law.

LEAHY: Well, and doesn't your oath of office actually require you to do that?

SOTOMAYOR: That is the fundamental job of a judge.

SOTOMAYOR: You are correct, Senator, that the panel, made up of myself and two other judges in the Second Circuit, decided that case on the basis of the very thorough 78-page decision by the district court and on the basis of established precedent.

The issue was not what we would do or not do, because we were following precedent, and you, when on (ph) circuit court, are obligated on a panel to follow established circuit precedent. The issue in Ricci was what the city did or could do when it was presented with a challenge to one of its tests that -- for promotion.

This was not a quota case; this was not an affirmative action case. This was a challenge to a test that everybody agreed had a very wide difference between the pass rate of a variety of different groups. The city was faced with the possibility recognized in law that the employees who were disparately impacted -- that's the terminology used in the law and is a part of the civil rights amendment that you were talking about in 1991 -- that those employees who could show a disparate impact, a disproportionate pass rate, that they could bring a suit and that then the employer had to defend the test that it gave.

The city here, after a number of days of hearings and a variety of different witnesses, decided that it wouldn't certify the test and it wouldn't certify it in an attempt to determine whether they could develop a test that was of equal value in measuring qualifications, but which didn't have a disparate impact.
And so the question before the panel was, was the decision a -- of the city based on race or based on its understanding of what the law required it to do?

SOTOMAYOR: Given Second Circuit precedent, Bushey v. New York State -- New York State Civil Services Commission, the panel concluded that the city's decision in that particular situation was lawful under established law.

The Supreme Court, in looking and review that case, applied a new standard. In fact, it announced that it was applying a standard from a different area of law and explaining to employers and the courts below how to look at this question in the future.

More Transcripts
- Transcript for 3rd day (7-15-09)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

China Demands Turkish Retract 'Genocide' Remark

The Turkey government apparently has more backbone than American politicians in calling out China. It will be interesting to see if China forces Turkey to take back it's criticism. Or will the West urge Turkey to play down the matter. As with the Tibetans, the world does not give a damn about the Chinese persecution of the Uighurs.

China has demanded that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan retract his accusation that Beijing practised genocide against ethnic Uighurs.

Mr Erdogan made the claim after riots in the Uighur heartland of Xinjiang during which 184 people were killed.

Separately, more than 100 Chinese writers and intellectuals have signed a letter calling for the release of Ilham Tohti, an outspoken Uighur economist.

Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, is under heavy police and military control.

China's rejection of Mr Erdogan's remarks came in an editorial headlined "Don't twist facts" in the English-language newspaper China Daily.

It said the fact that 137 of the 184 victims were Han Chinese "speaks volumes for the nature of the event".

The newspaper urged Mr Erdogan to "take back his remarks... which constitute interference in China's internal affairs", describing his genocide comments as "irresponsible and groundless."

Mr Erdogan made the controversial comments last Friday, telling NTV television: "The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide. There's no point in interpreting this otherwise."

He had called on Chinese authorities to intervene to prevent more deaths.

The persecution continues:
Heavily armed security forces were out in force in China's volatile Urumqi on Tuesday close to where police shot dead two Muslim Uighurs who state media said were calling for jihad.

Large groups of police armed with semi-automatic weapons and batons were deployed close to the scene of Monday's violence, where Chinese authorities said police shot and killed two Uighur "lawbreakers" and wounded another.

The shootings showed the capital of the northwest Xinjiang region remained a powder keg more than a week after ethnic unrest on July 5 left at least 184 people dead, despite an ongoing security clampdown.

The Tibetans are still alive:
Nepalese police detained 15 Tibetans who were demonstrating against China in front of a U.N. office outside Kathmandu on Tuesday, a police official said.

Superintendent Kedar Mansingh Bhandari, head of Lalitpur police, said the Tibetans were detained while chanting anti-China slogans in front of the U.N. building in Lalitpur.

Bhandari also accused the Tibetan demonstrators of obstructing traffic. "We are discussing what action they will face," he said.

The Nepalese government has authorized the police to charge people who obstruct traffic under the Public Offense Act in a bid to check the almost-daily traffic obstructions in Kathmandu by groups making various demands.

Those charged under the public offense law face imprisonment of up to six months.

Tibetans in Nepal have staged anti-China protests since March 10 last year when China crushed protests in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

Goldman Sachs Posts Record Profits

Thanks to the American taxpayer, Goldman Sachs is doing better than ever. That was pretty quick. So why isn't the rest of the economy doing as well? Their stocks have boomed but the rest of the economy is still anemic. Someone might want to ask that question of the administration:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s second- quarter profit exceeded analysts’ estimates as record trading and stock underwriting led the company to its highest quarterly profit.

Net income in the three months ended June 26 was $3.44 billion, or $4.93 a share, the New York-based bank said today in a statement. That surpassed the $3.65 per-share average estimate of 22 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg and compared with $2.09 billion, or $4.58 per share, in last year’s second quarter.

Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, 54, made Goldman Sachs the highest-paying Wall Street firm in history before last year’s credit freeze led him to convert to a bank, accept government funds and report the first quarterly loss as a public company. This year Goldman Sachs has issued new stock, returned $10 billion to the U.S. Treasury and reaped fees from selling stocks and bonds.

“Goldman’s got a sweet spot in here, they were the go-to players,” said Peter Sorrentino, a senior portfolio manager at Huntington Asset Advisors in Cincinnati, which oversees $13.8 billion including Goldman shares, before earnings were released. “For the time being, they’ve got kind of an open playing field all to themselves.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Crooks and liars quotes a government report, from the NY Times, arguing that all illegal wiretapping, and the dastardly tactics used to obtain it, accomplished very little in protecting our country. That traditional methods of intelligence gathering were just as effective. Cheney, who's in trouble for ordering the CIA to lie to Congress about a secret program to kill terrorists, did not have to use these illegal methods.

It seems to me that the Bush administration was more interested in making up for their failure to prevent 9-11 by acting macho after the attacks. They wanted to look like they were doing everything possible to punish those responsible even if it meant breaking the law. In that way they could clear their consciences. In the process they've made America weaker.

Poll: 41 Percent Support Pot Legalization

More proof that this country has lost it's moral fiber. It is the latest example of a nation headed for an abyss. It has been become fashionable and "cool" to smoke marijuana. We thank the popular culture/media for the change in attitudes. But look at the people who the biggest supporters of legalization: gangster rappers and rockers. Then there is the notion that marijuana has medicinal use. Legalization should be limited to prescriptions only. Just every other drug. So don't buy these bogus arguments. Marijuana is more destructive to the body than cigarettes.

A CBS News Poll released today finds that 41 percent of Americans think the use of marijuana should be made legal. Fifty-two percent disagree.

The percentage supporting legalization has varied a bit recently. In March of this year 31 percent favored legalization but the number was higher in January at 41 percent, matching what it is now.

Thirty years ago just 27 percent thought the use of marijuana should be made legal.

Younger Americans are more likely than those who are older to support legalization.

Sen. Feinsten: Cheney, CIA Secret Plan "Outside of the Law"

The Wall St. Journal says the secret plan was intended to kill or capture al Qaeda members. So why hide it? It would've been acceptable to Congress. Unless it included more torture. Then again, let's not forget WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the CIA program concealed from the U.S. Congress was a secret plan to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives.

Former intelligence officials tell the Journal that the plan, which was ordered halted by agency Director Leon Panetta, was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential finding authorized by President George W. Bush.

Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper reported Monday ($) that the CIA spent money on planning and maybe some training, but it never became fully operational. The plan was highly classified and the CIA has refused to comment on it.

Senator Feinstein suggests keeping the program secret might've been illegal.
WALLACE: In our final moments, I want to turn to another subject, and this involves your role, Senator Feinstein, as chair of the Intelligence Committee.

CIA director Panetta briefed you recently on an 8-year-old program that he had stopped but that Congress had never been told about. Now there are reports that Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA not to tell Congress about it.

One, should Congress have been told about this program, which apparently was never fully implemented? And what do you make of the vice president's apparent role in telling the CIA not to brief Congress?

FEINSTEIN: The answer is yes, Congress should have been told. We should have been briefed before the commencement of this kind of sensitive program.

Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago — I believe it was on the 24th of June — said he had just learned about the program, described it to us, indicated that he had canceled it and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress. This is...

WALLACE: And what do you think of that?

FEINSTEIN: Oh, I think this is a problem, obviously. This is a big problem, because the law is very clear. And I understand the need of the day, which was when America was in shock, when we had been hit in a way we'd never contemplated, where we had massive loss of life, where there was a major effort to be able to respond and — but this — see, I don't — I think you weaken your case when you go outside of the law.

And I think that if the Intelligence Committees had been briefed, they could have watched the program. They could have asked for regular reports on the program. They could have made judgments about the program as it went along. That was not the case because we were kept in the dark. That's something that should never, ever happen again.

Senator Durbin on This Week also suggests the program hiding was illegal:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me switch subjects, here, because there's a pretty startling allegation in this morning's New York Times.

The headline is "Cheney is Linked to Concealment of CIA Project."

And both of you gentlemen have served, in the past, on the Intelligence Committee.

According to this article, the Central Intelligence Agency, at the beginning of this decade, for eight years, withheld information on the secret counterterror program at the direct orders of the vice president.

This is according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. They say that Leon Panetta told the intelligence committees that.

Senator Durbin, do you think this has to be investigated?

DURBIN: Absolutely, it does. Let me tell you, we have a system of checks and balances. There's accountability in our Constitution. The executive branch of government cannot create programs like these programs and keep Congress in the dark. There is a requirement for disclosure.

It has to be done in an appropriate way so it doesn't jeopardize our national security, but to have a massive program that is concealed from the leaders in Congress is not only inappropriate; it could be illegal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you want the Intelligence Committee to look into this?

DURBIN: Absolutely.
- Additional links:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top Republican Implies Sotomayor UnAmerican

Read the complete transcript (Face the Nation, 7-12-09) of Senator Sessions', while appearing on Face The Nation (7-12-09), critique of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. He somehow suggests her views are un-American and that she wouldn't be a fair judge while on the Supreme Court in confirmed:

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let’s turn to the hearings that open tomorrow on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. She has visited now with over 89 senators over these past weeks. There is also an overwhelming Democratic majority. And there’s an overwhelming Democratic majority on the committee that you chair, Senator Leahy.

Some people are saying it’s already a done deal. That she’s going to be confirmed and that’s there’s nothing Senator Sessions and other -- and the Republicans can do about it. Is she going to be confirmed?

LEAHY: I suspect she will be confirmed. But you know, I would hope that it does not turn into a partisan fight for the good of the courts and for the good of the Supreme Court. Now Chief Justice Roberts is not somebody I would have recommended as a nominee to President Obama. But I voted for him when he was nominated by President Bush because I felt chief justice of the United States should not be on a party-line vote.

I just want to read something about -- there’s a profile today of Judge Sotomayor. Says she was inspired by the ideal of neutrality. She said: “I’m not going to be playing for the Hispanic team, the Democratic team, the Republican team. I’m going to be playing for the Constitution team.”

I don’t know what more you could ask of a judge. And here is...


LEAHY: And here she is, she has been a judge longer than anybody who has gone on the Supreme Court in almost 100 years.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let’s ask Senator Sessions. What more can you ask?

SESSIONS: Well, I wish she had been saying that in her speeches over the last 10 years than what she has been saying. It’s absolutely critical that whoever sits on the bench -- and no one should sit on the federal bench who is not committed to the principles of the oath, which is that you should be impartial and do equal justice to the rich and poor alike, and not respect persons but do justice every day.

And in her -- a number of her speeches, for example, she has advocated a view that suggests that your personal experiences, even prejudices -- she uses that word, it’s expected that they would influence a decision you make, which is a blow, I think, at the very ideal of American justice.

Every judge must be committed every day to not let their personal politics, their ethnic background, their biases, sympathies, influence the nature of their decision- making process. It’s the core of the American system.

LEAHY: Well, that’s...

SCHIEFFER: So would you oppose her because of that?

SESSIONS: Well, I think she’s going to have to answer that. Because this is a mature judicial philosophy that she has stated. She has criticized the idea that a woman and a man would reach the same result. She expects them to reach different results. I think that’s philosophically incompatible with the American system.

LEAHY: I totally disagree with that.

SESSIONS: Well, I’ve read her speeches in great depth. And I am convinced that’s what she said. And it wasn’t just the one line: a wise Latina will do a better job than a white male.

But what about her record?
LEAHY: That’s grasping at straws and I’ll tell you why. Here’s a woman who is a mainstream judge. She deserves respect as a judge. During her time actually for the days that she was a very tough prosecutor to her days as a trial judge to a court of appeals judge, that’s what we base it on. She has a track record. She has shown to be a mainstream judge. You don’t have to guess what kind of a judge she’s going to be.

I’ve asked her about her speeches. And she said ultimately and completely, the law controls. And as a judge, she’s shown over and over again that ultimately and completely, the law controls. We’ve had a lot of judicial nominees of both Republicans and Democrats talk about the background, how that has influenced them. Former President Bush talked about empathy when he nominated a Republican to the Supreme Court. You know, the fact is her answers are these. Ultimately and completely, the law controls. And she has the experience and the cases to be a mainstream judge. Anything else is nitpicking.

Cheney Ordered CIA to Hide Spy Program from Congress

It is clear Dick Cheney directed efforts to misleed Congress while vp. It is time for him to be prosecuted for his criminal conduct during the Bush years. If the Obama administration does not bring Cheney to justice they will betraying the American people; President Obama will be violating his oath of office.

Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney gave direct orders to the CIA to conceal an intelligence programme from Congress, US media reports say.

The existence of the programme, set up after 9/11, was hidden for eight years and even now its nature is not known.

CIA director Leon Panetta is said to have abandoned the project when he learnt of it last month.

He has now told a House committee that Mr Cheney was behind the secrecy, the unnamed US sources say.

There has been no comment from Mr Cheney.

War of words

The claims come amid an increasingly bitter row between the CIA and Congress over whether key information was withheld about other aspects of the agency's operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed that the CIA misled her about interrogation methods including waterboarding, while other senior Democrats have quoted Mr Panetta as admitting that his agency regularly misled Congress before he took office.

This has Watergate written all over it:
So what are the "significant actions" that these seven lawmakers insist were kept from Congress? Another theory being bandied about concerns an "executive assassination ring" that was allegedly set up and answered to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, building off earlier reporting from the New York Times, dropped news of the possibility that such a ring existed in a March 2009 discussion sponsored by the University of Minnesota.

"It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently," Hersh said. "They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...

"Congress has no oversight of it," he added. "It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths. Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us."

Asked if this was the basis of her letter to Panetta, Eshoo said she could not discuss what was a "highly classified program." She did, however, note that when Panetta told House Intelligence Committee members what it was that had been kept secret, "the whole committee was stunned, even Republicans." A Republican committee member told Who Runs Gov's Greg Sargent it was something they hadn't heard before.

Why wasn't something done or said about years ago? Where was the press in all this? Where were the Democrats? We knew about Cheney in 2004:
Vice President Cheney was aware of a meeting held by his staff that started a chain of events that ended with the "effective betrayal of our country," former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson charged Thursday in an interview with USA TODAY.

That betrayal was the revealing of his wife's identity as an undercover CIA operative, said Wilson, who served in diplomatic or White House posts in the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration before leaving government service in 1998.

Wilson did not accuse Cheney of leaking his wife's identity or of knowing about the leak before it was made. But he said Cheney had to have known that his staff was investigating Wilson in a probe that led to the discovery of his wife's job.

Knowingly revealing a CIA operative's name is a federal offense. Last July's leak of the name and CIA status of Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, mushroomed into a red-hot controversy by fall. The leak is being investigated by the Justice Department. Columnist Robert Novak, who first reported the news about Plame, has said his original source was "two senior administration officials."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Obama Speech in Ghana: Transcript, Video (7-11-09)

Read the complete transcript (video below). Excerpt below:

I am speaking to you at the end of a long trip. I began in Russia, for a Summit between two great powers. I traveled to Italy, for a meeting of the world’s leading economies. And I have come here, to Ghana, for a simple reason: the 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra as well.

This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity can expand America’s. Your health and security can contribute to the world’s. And the strength of your democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere.

So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – as partners with America on behalf of the future that we want for all our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility, and that is what I want to speak with you about today.

We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.

I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.

My grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him "boy" for much of his life. He was on the periphery of Kenya’s liberation struggles, but he was still imprisoned briefly during repressive times. In his life, colonialism wasn’t simply the creation of unnatural borders or unfair terms of trade – it was something experienced personally, day after day, year after year.

My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities where he would come to get an education. He came of age at an extraordinary moment of promise for Africa. The struggles of his own father’s generation were giving birth to new nations, beginning right here in Ghana. Africans were educating and asserting themselves in new ways. History was on the move.

But despite the progress that has been made – and there has been considerable progress in parts of Africa – we also know that much of that promise has yet to be fulfilled. Countries like Kenya, which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born, have been badly outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair.

It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many.

Of course, we also know that is not the whole story. Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or the need for charity. The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana’s economy has shown impressive rates of growth.

This progress may lack the drama of the 20th century’s liberation struggles, but make no mistake: it will ultimately be more significant. For just as it is important to emerge from the control of another nation, it is even more important to build one’s own.

So I believe that this moment is just as promising for Ghana – and for Africa – as the moment when my father came of age and new nations were being born. This is a new moment of promise. Only this time, we have learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future. Instead, it will be you – the men and women in Ghana’s Parliament, and the people you represent. Above all, it will be the young people – brimming with talent and energy and hope – who can claim the future that so many in my father’s generation never found.

Why Healthcare Reform Will Fail, Again

We are seeing a repeat of the healthcare fiasco we saw during the Clinton administration. The idea of raising taxes in the midst of a severe recession, especially when hundreds of billions of tax dollars were spent to bail out Wall St., is a mistake. This is a gift to the Republicans as a campaign issue. It reinforces the idea that this administration's spending is out of control. Timing is all bad and so is the cost. We can't afford it in present proposal format. Any healthcare reform should save money not increase the government cost.

House Democrats agreed yesterday to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for a sweeping expansion of the nation's health-care system, proposing a surtax on the highest earners that could send the top federal tax rate toward 45 percent.

Beginning in 2011, the plan would target all income over $350,000 a year for families and $280,000 a year for individuals, Democratic sources said. The surtax would start at 1 percent, rise to around 1.5 percent for families earning more than $500,000, then step up again, to around 3 percent, for families earning more than $1 million, Democrats said.

That would raise about $550 billion over the next decade, Democrats said -- about half the cost of reforms that are expected to cost about $1 trillion. The surtax percentages could rise two years later, they added, if lawmakers think additional cash is needed to cover the cost of health-care reform.

Obama News Conference in Italy: Transcript (7-10-09)

Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. As you've pushed for an agreement to reduce nuclear stockpiles between Russia and the U.S., part of your rationale has been that you want to have the moral authority to then turn to North Korea and Iran to get them to suspend their programs. Why will they listen to what the U.S. and Russia have to say? What would it matter to them what we do?

OBAMA: Well, I don't think it matters so much necessarily that they will listen to the United States or Russia individually. But it gives us the capacity, as the two nuclear superpowers, to make appeals to the broader world community in a consistent way about the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the need to reduce that danger and hopefully at some point in time eliminate it.

So there are countries that have decided not to pursue nuclear weapons. Brazil, South Africa, Libya have all made a decision not to pursue nuclear weapons. Now, part of the concept behind the nonproliferation treaty was countries could develop peaceful nuclear energy, they would not pursue nuclear weapons if they were signatories to the treaty, and in turn the United States and Russia would also significantly reduce their nuclear stockpiles.

And so part of the goal here is to show that the U.S. and Russia are going to be fulfilling their commitments so that other countries feel that this is an international effort and it's not something simply being imposed by the United States or Russia or members of the nuclear club. And I am confident that we can rebuild a nonproliferation framework that works for all countries. And I think it's important for us to establish a set of international norms that can be verified, that can be enforced. And when we are speaking to Iran or North Korea it's not a matter of singling them out, but rather it's a set of international norms of behavior that we're expecting everybody to abide by.

[...]The momentum seems to have slowed a bit. The Senate Finance Committee is still wrestling with the cost issue. The Blue Dog Democrats, members of your own party, yesterday said they had strong reservations about what's developing so far. I was just wondering, when are you going to be jumping in really full force with this? Do you have any sweeteners planned? What is your push before the August recess?

OBAMA: Well, we jumped in with both feet. Our team is working with members of Congress every day on this issue, and it is my highest legislative priority over the next month.

So I think it's important just to recognize we are closer to achieving serious health care reform that cuts costs, provides coverage to American families, allows them to keep their doctors and plans that are working for them.

We're closer to that significant reform than at any time in recent history. That doesn't make it easy. It's hard. And we are having a whole series of constant negotiations. This is not simply a Democratic versus Republican issue. This is a House versus Senate issue; this is different committees that have different priorities.

My job is to make sure that I've set some clear parameters in terms of what I want to achieve. We have to bend the cost curve on health care, and there are some very specific ways of doing that - game changers that incentivize quality as opposed to quantity, that emphasize prevention.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama will not Eradicate Afghanistan Opium Crop

The Heroin produced by Afghanistan poppy crops end up on the streets of America killing our people. So why is the Obama administration refusing to try and eradicate the crops. The greatest victims of heroin: blacks in the inner cities of America. I guess the White House believes that if can't beat them, join them. This stupid policy stems from a military strategy without much hope of succeeding. What makes it so foolish is that the Taliban, which is getting rich from the opium trade, is using that wealth to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Obama just proved to me that he is totally clueless when it comes to national security.

The 4,000 U.S. Marines now pushing deep into Taliban-controlled tracts as part of an expanded war in southern Afghanistan are setting up fire bases amid some of the most productive poppy fields in the world's opium-producing capital.

It's not harvest time in Helmand province, the center of Afghanistan's thriving opium poppy industry. But even if the flowers were blooming, it's doubtful the Marines would do much about it.

Convinced that razing the cash crop grown by dirt-poor Afghan farmers is costing badly needed friends along the front lines of the fight against Taliban-led insurgents, U.S. authorities say they are all but abandoning the Bush-era policy of destroying drug crops.

"Eradication is a waste of money," U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke told The Associated Press last month.

On a small scale, the new live-and-let-live policy on poppy farming neatly illustrates the redrawn goals for a nearly eight-year war that all the military might of the United States and its allies has failed to win.

Heroin may be a deadly scourge, but there are more pressing concerns, U.S. officials say, and ways to fight drug production without driving Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban.

"You're able to put a hurt on the Taliban without necessarily putting the hurt on the people who happen to live there," said William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter-narcotics and global threats.

The United States has spent about $45 million annually in recent years to support poppy eradication in Afghanistan, and the policy has also been a cornerstone of the United Nations anti-drug program.

Afghanistan is the world's leading source of opium, cultivating 93 percent of the world's heroin-producing crop. While opium cultivation dropped 19 percent last year, it remains concentrated in Afghanistan's southern provinces where the Taliban is strongest. The U.N. estimates that opium poppies earned insurgents an estimated $50 million to $70 million last year.

U.S. officials said they will now "greatly de-emphasize" eradication, which has been carried out by Afghan forces with U.S. backing. The U.S. military stays at arms' length, and NATO forces fighting alongside the U.S. do not participate.

The shift away from eradication is still more plan than policy, and it has little practical effect right now. The announcement came after the largest harvest was in for the season.

"The real difference as we move from how we were focusing on Afghanistan in the past (to) the president's new focus on counterinsurgency is this is a policy that defines the strategic interest, that defines winning over the population," as the primary goal, Wechsler said.

As a forthcoming mission statement from the new American commander in Afghanistan is expected to conclude, the Obama administration will measure success in Afghanistan not by the number of insurgents killed but by the number of civilians protected.

Poll: World has Little Confidence in Leaders' Economic Measures

The world, like the U.S., have little faith in their governments being able to get us out of this financial mess. With good reason. They failed to prevent to the crisis in the first place. So why should we trust them not to be pawns of international finance and corporations.

As President Barack Obama and other world leaders meet in Italy , a global survey released Thursday reflects wide concern that governments won't meet their budgets in this economic climate — and a universal preference to respond by cutting services rather than raising taxes.

What kinds of cuts? The top choices internationally in the Ipsos / McClatchy poll were reducing aid to foreign countries (57 percent) and cutting the salaries and benefits of government workers (56 percent). People drew a distinction, however, between general foreign aid and disaster relief, which few wanted to reduce.

Cutting military spending was the third most popular choice (43 percent), though less popular in the United States , where only 35 percent favored it.

Least popular internationally were cuts to education and health care (only 4 percent favored each). Only 9 percent of the international respondents favored slashing social welfare, but 20 percent of Americans were willing to clip welfare recipients.

If higher taxes become necessary, the most palatable targets internationally were cigarettes (65 percent), alcohol (53 percent) and junk food (35 percent), all of which were preferred to raising corporate, property, vehicle or sales taxes.

While just 33 percent internationally expressed confidence that their governments could meet their budgets, two nations stood out in contrast: Eighty-three percent were confident that China would stay on budget, and 77 percent said so of India.

Some Imported Chinese drywall may be Radioactive

More evidence of Chinese products that could harm our people. And especially how the Bush administration had no concern for our welfare. It's up to the Obama administration to show that they put American safety above profits.

Some Chinese-made drywall imported into the United States contained radioactive material, news reports suggest, but state and federal tests so far haven't detected it.

Copies of customs reports obtained by The Los Angeles Times show drywall made with a radioactive waste product was shipped to the states in 2006 by at least four Chinese manufacturers and trading firms.

The substance, called phosphogypsum, has been banned from use in nearly all products made in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1989.

The EPA says that phosphogypsum, a fertilizer byproduct, contains uranium and radium.

Radium decays to form radon, a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. A geoscientist interviewed by The Times said the material can cause corrosion.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Defying the Government Thousands Protest in Iran

If the protests in Iran succeed in bringing down the government, which is highly unlikely, it will happen without much help from the rest of the world. As I've written before, revolution in Iran will not be achieved without publicity. And that means video coming out of that country. The Iranian people must find a way to get their story out. Twitter is helpful but enough. Without video it is hopeless. The Iranian government understands this. That is they've done everything to prevent pictures and news from coming out of the country. If the Obama administration had any sense it would use the CIA to get those video cameras out to the protesters. In addition, the protesters should use not violent means for achieving their goals; not violence. They need to take a lesson from the civil rights movement in America. They should legal means against the criminal government in Iran. Jim Crow was not destroyed because of inspired leadership, but because video and pictures that shocked America. The protesters do not have enough force, along with leadership to overthrow the government in Tehran. They are using the wrong tactics. They must focus on using the freedoms to push for greater democracy - Peaceably. It can be done only if they use weapons that are available. Not guns but video, the internet, and civil disobedience.

Thousands of protesters streamed down avenues of the capital Thursday, chanting "death to the dictator" and defying security forces who fired tear gas and charged with batons, witnesses said.

Turning garbage bins into burning barricades and darting through choking clouds of tear gas, the opposition made its first foray into the streets in nearly two weeks in an attempt to revive mass demonstrations that were crushed in Iran's postelection turmoil.

Iranian authorities had promised tough action to prevent the marches, which supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi have been planning for days through the Internet. Heavy police forces deployed at key points in the city ahead of the marches, and Tehran's governor vowed to "smash" anyone who heeded the demonstration calls.

In some places, police struck hard. Security forces chased after protesters, beating them with clubs on Valiasr Street, Tehran's biggest north-south avenue, witnesses said.

Women in headscarves and young men dashed away, rubbing their eyes in pain as police fired tear gas, in footage aired on state-run Press TV. In a photo from Thursday's events in Tehran obtained by The Associated Press outside Iran, a woman with her black headscarf looped over her face thrust her fist into the air in front of a garbage bin that had been set on fire.

[...]Many of the marchers were young men and women, some wearing green surgical masks, the color of Mousavi's movement, but older people joined them in some places. Vehicles caught in traffic honked their horns in support of the marchers, witnesses said. Police were seen with a pile of license plates, apparently pried off honking cars in order to investigate the drivers later, the witnesses said.

Soon after the confrontations began, mobile phone service was cut off in central Tehran, a step that was also taken during the height of the postelection protests to cut off communications. Mobile phone messaging has been off for the past three days, apparently to disrupt attempts at planning.

The calls for a new march have been circulating for days on social networking Web sites and pro-opposition Web sites. Opposition supporters planned the marches to coincide with the anniversary Thursday of a 1999 attack by Basij on a Tehran University dorm to stop protests in which one student was killed.

Secret Program Fuels CIA-Congress Dispute

What the hell is going on here. Is anyone is charge? Or is reminiscent of the Weimar Republic? Whatever they're doing very little of it has to do with preserving and protecting America. And everyday we lose more and more of our freedoms. We have a rogue government, folks.

Four months after he was sworn in, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta learned of an intelligence program that had been hidden from Congress since 2001, a revelation that prompted him to immediately cancel the initiative and schedule a pair of closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.

The next day, June 24, Panetta informed the House and Senate intelligence committees of the program and the action he had taken, according to Democratic and Republican members of the panels.

The incident has reignited a long-running dispute between congressional Democrats and the CIA, with some calling it part of a broader pattern of the agency withholding information from Congress. Some Republicans, meanwhile, privately questioned whether Panetta -- who has stood with CIA officers in a dispute with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- was looking to score points with House Democrats.

The program remains classified, and those knowledgeable about it would describe it only vaguely yesterday. Several current and former administration officials called it an "on-again, off-again" attempt to create a new intelligence capability and said it was related to the collection of information on suspected terrorists that was instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Mexican Army Using Torture to Fight Drug Cartel

They obviously learned well from Cheney/Bush. We could be seeing the death of democracy in Mexico:

The Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances, acts of torture and illegal raids in pursuit of drug traffickers, according to documents and interviews with victims, their families, political leaders and human rights monitors.

From the violent border cities where drugs are brought into the United States to the remote highland regions where poppies and marijuana are harvested, residents and human rights groups describe an increasingly brutal war in which the government, led by the army, is using harsh measures to battle the cartels that continue to terrorize much of the country.

In Puerto Las Ollas, a mountain village of 50 people in the southern state of Guerrero, residents recounted how soldiers seeking information last month stuck needles under the fingernails of a disabled 37-year-old farmer, jabbed a knife into the back of his 13-year-old nephew, fired on a pastor, and stole food, milk, clothing and medication.

In Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, two dozen policemen who were arrested on drug charges in March alleged that, to extract confessions, soldiers beat them, held plastic bags over their heads until some lost consciousness, strapped their feet to a ceiling while dunking their heads in water and applied electric shocks, according to court documents, letters and interviews with their relatives and defense lawyers.

The brutality of some Mexican soldiers cannot match the staggering brutality of the narco-traffickers in that country. The killing of Americans should get the attention of this worthless government. I won't hold my breath.
A multiagency search is under way for the killers of two U.S. citizens in northern Mexico, according to Chihuahua state officials.

Benjamin LeBaron, 32, and his brother-in-law, Luis Widmar, in his mid-30s, were beaten and shot to death after armed men stormed into their home in Galeana on Tuesday morning.

The killers have yet to be identified, but the case seems to be connected to local drug lords, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office.

Sandoval said a note was found on LeBaron's body, but he could not confirm the contents.

Local media reported that the note indicated the slayings were in retribution for the capture of 25 drug suspects in a nearby town.

LeBaron's younger brother, Eric, was kidnapped in May and returned unharmed after a week. The incident prompted LeBaron to become a nationally recognized anti-crime activist who moved the local community to take a stand.

"There are no leaders here, or we are all leaders," LeBaron's brother, Julian LeBaron, told CNN television affiliate KINT in El Paso, Texas. "If they kill my brother another three will take his place, and if they kill us, another hundred will take their place. We are not giving up. No way."
- Related Post:
Mexico Drug Cartel Murders Anti-Crime Activist

U.S. Under Attack by Ciber Terrorists, Particularly China

This is a war that is going on. Who needs bombs when you can destroy America with ciber attacks. A successful major attack on our major computer systems could paralyze us the same way 9-11 did. And as happened then, our government seems incapable of stopping it. You can bet your declining-in-value house that any attack coming from North Korea is being orchestrated by their big brother, China. And if not, then we've got a bigger problem. We are being attacked and don't know where its coming from.

U.S. authorities on Wednesday eyed North Korea as the origin of the widespread cyber attack that overwhelmed government Web sites in the United States and South Korea, although they warned it would be difficult to definitively identify the attackers quickly.

The powerful attack that targeted dozens of government and private sites underscored how unevenly prepared the U.S. government is to block such multipronged assaults.

While Treasury Department and Federal Trade Commission Web sites were shut down by the software attack, which lasted for days over the holiday weekend, others such as the Pentagon and the White House were able to fend it off with little disruption.

The North Korea link, described by three officials, more firmly connected the U.S. attacks to another wave of cyber assaults that hit government agencies Tuesday in South Korea. The officials said that while Internet addresses have been traced to North Korea, that does not necessarily mean the attack involved the Pyongyang government.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

South Korea intelligence officials have identified North Korea as a suspect in those attacks and said that the sophistication of the assault suggested it was carried out at a higher level that just rogue or individual hackers.
Why China:
Defense analysts say that 90 percent of the probes and scans of American defense systems as well as commercial computer networks come from China.

China's auto sales up 17.7% in 1st half of 2009

How is it that China's car industry is booming while ours is collapsing? Can you say - outsourcing.

Sales of made-in-China automobiles totaled 6.1 million units in the first six months this year, up 17.7 percent from a year earlier, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.

According to figures released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, sales of such automobiles topped 1.14 million units in June, an increase of 36.5 percent on the year, the report said.

This is the fourth month in a row that sales of locally made automobiles surpassed 1.1 million units, Xinhua quoted CAAM as saying.

China manufactured 15.2 percent more automobiles in the first half of the year as compared to 2008, an increase CAAM said is due to a government stimulus package to boost domestic spending, Xinhua said.

That might explain why the U.S. dollar is becoming worthless. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
The U.S. dollar traded for a time at a five-month low in the upper 92 yen zone Thursday morning in Tokyo as market participants sold it to shun risk on mounting worries about a quick economic recovery.

At noon, the dollar fetched 93.19-24 yen versus 92.83-93 yen in New York and 94.25-28 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The euro traded at $1.3897-3902 and 129.61-66 yen against $1.3879- 3889 and 128.91-129.01 yen in New York and $1.3887-3890 and 130.91-95 yen in Tokyo late Wednesday.

Continued concern about the prospects of an economic recovery in the U.S. and global economies prompted risk aversion overnight in New York, with the dollar plunging at one point to as low as 91.80 yen, its lowest level there since mid-February.

We're are in the process of being surpassed by China as an economy:
The number of US companies featured in a emminent business magazine's annual list of the world's top 500 global companies fell to its lowest level ever, Fortune magazine has said, while more Chinese firms appeared than ever before.

Signaling the effects of the devastating financial crisis on the US economy, a non-US firm topped the list for the first time in over a decade, with Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell coming in first.

The firm brought in 15 billion dollars (11 billion euros) more in sales than second place oil rival Exxon Mobil of the United States.

China, Asia's ever-soaring powerhouse economy, saw its fortunes rise across the board with a Chinese firm -- oil giant Sinopec -- appearing in the top 10 for the first time, the magazine reported Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Federal Government not even Protecting it's Own Buildings

Is it any wonder we were attacked on 9-11? The federal government doesn't protest it's own buildings. How we can expect them to protect us? Even the Department of Homeland Security! This government is totally useless. It is why America is going down the toilet. They fail us and we just remain silent. Do you want your democracy, freedoms? Then you have to fight for it. Take back your government.

Members of Congress on Wednesday blasted "disturbing" and "outrageous" security failures in the nation's federal buildings after government investigators smuggled bomb-making materials past the police agency charged with protecting those buildings.

The Government Accountability Office released a report detailing how investigators carried liquid bomb-making materials past security at 10 federal buildings in 10 cities -- a shocking exposure lawmakers said shows the country's vulnerability eight years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and 14 years after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, blamed the Federal Protective Service Security for failing to provide adequate security and proper training to its 13,000 security guards during a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill. The agency is responsible for providing security at about 9,000 federal buildings around the country.

No Video Media Ignores China Protests

We are barely hearing about the protests in China just as we hear nothing about Iran anymore. All because there is no video coming out. No video, doesn't exist.

Thousands of Chinese troops poured into the restive city of Urumqi early today in a massive show of force, as President Hu Jintao cut short a visit to Italy for the G8 summit to deal with the outbreak of ethnic violence.

Along one road ringing the capital of the western region of Xianjiang where 156 people died in riots on Sunday, The Times counted more than 30 paramilitary trucks, each followed by about two dozen men, many in black body armour, and most carrying riot shields, batons and fire arms.

The convoys included several white armoured personnel carriers accompanied by tear gas vans, all with paramilitaries standing ready to open fire. They were preceded by land cruisers, their sirens wailing as they moved almost at a walking pace through the town.

On the sides of the trucks were banners reading: "See the people as our father and mother."

Serial Killer Allowed on Streets Despite Long Criminal Record

This another perfect example of a criminal justice system that is dysfunctional. Crime pays in America, especially if your a criminal. A career criminal should not be walking the streets. Especially after committing more than 30 crimes.

The man authorities identified as the Gaffney serial killer was killed Monday during a shootout with police in Gaston County, and the question that remains is why Patrick Burris, a habitual offender, was out on the streets and not behind bars.

Burris was gunned down at a home on Dallas-Spencer Mountain Road after a neighbor alerted police of something suspicious. The suspect shot and injured an officer before he was killed.

Lloyd’s words were not only aimed at Burris but also at the criminal justice system, who he says failed to keep a dangerous man locked up. (See more about Burris' record.)

Burris left the Lincoln County Correctional Center on April 29, 2009, according to the N.C. Department of Prisons Web site. His first conviction was from an incident in 1989 for blackmail in Alamance and Rockingham counties. Other convictions listed from Rockingham County include driving violations where he permanently lost his license, some forgeries, common law robbery, breaking and entering and larceny.

A habitual felon conviction is listed on the Web site dating from 2001. Burris was given a minimum sentence of seven years, nine months in jail for that charge, but served only seven years, six months due to time served while awaiting trial.

It is laughable how this guy playing the system. Tragically, this is the norm not the exception:
Burris’s criminal history began in 1990, when he was convicted of blackmail and given probation.
In early 1991, he had three more charges (speeding, driving with revoked license, and robbery) and the blackmail charge was added in because of violating probation. The maximum for all charges was 12 years, but because sentences were combined, he served them concurrently (they ran together, instead of being added onto each other). As a result, he was out in May, 1993; about 2 years and 3 months total.
Burris was arrested immediately for driving with a permanently revoked license and given a year sentence, of which he served 1 month.

By November, 1993, Burris was arrested again, and convicted in January, 1994. He got two years, including parole violation time, but served less than 10 months.
He was convicted in May, 1996 on two counts of forgery and four counts of “common law uttering,” all felonies, and was given a suspended sentence and probation.

In June 2000, Burris was again arrested for driving with a revoked driver’s license and given probation. One month later, he was arrested for larceny. This earned him 3 months, and the probation violations for the previous forgery, uttering, and traffic convictions netted him another 8 months, but Burris served less than 5 months.

Mexico Drug Cartel Murders Anti-Crime Activist

This a national security issue. It is basically being ignored because the victims are brown. But when the killings start hitting the suburbs in America then we might wake up to the horrors on our border.

An anti-crime activist and a neighbor were killed in northern Mexico on Tuesday by gunmen believed linked to a drug cartel, a local legislator said.

Mexican anti-crime activists said the slaying of Benjamin LeBaron, a U.S. citizen, in Chihuahua state was the first time one of their own had been killed for denouncing crime and called it a chilling warning.

LeBaron led street protests in May demanding the release of his 19-year-old brother, Eric, who had been snatched by a kidnapping gang in May. The teenager was later freed.

Such gangs are frequently linked to drug cartels in Mexico, and there were signs that one such cartel may have been involved in Tuesday's killings of LeBaron and neighbor Luis Widmar, who apparently went to LeBaron's house to try to help him.

"A commando of 15 to 20 men came to Benjamin's house at 1:30 in the morning, and because they couldn't get in through the door, they broke out the windows," said state legislator Victor Quintana, basing his account on conversations with LeBaron's family.

"They kidnapped the two of them and they left them dead on a dirt road" just outside the town of Galeana, Quintana added.

He said witnesses reported the attackers were dressed in camouflage, "like uniforms." Mexican drug gangs frequently use fake police or army-style uniforms.

An official at the Chihuahua state prosecutor's office confirmed the deaths but offered no further details.

The victims were from a Mormon community in a region with many Mennonite communities.

A woman who identified herself as Widmar's mother-in-law told a local radio station she believed the killing was retribution for LeBaron's activism.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Biden gives Israel Green Light to Attack Iran: Video, Transcript (7-5-09)

This administration shows it's just another lapdog of the Israeli lobby. Read the transcript (see video) of VP Joe Biden's appearance on This Week. Excerpt below:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Major milestone this week here in Iraq with the American troops pulling out of the cities. And I wonder if you can put the broader American mission in context. Are we in the process of securing victory or cutting our losses to come home?

BIDEN: Securing victory. Look, the president and I laid out a plan in the campaign which was twofold. One, withdraw our troops from Iraq in a rational timetable consistent with what the Iraqis want. And the same time, leave behind a stable and secure country.

And one of the reasons I'm here, George, is to push the last end of that, which is the need for political settlement on some important issues between Arabs and Kurds and among the confessional groups. And I think we're well on our way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, your predecessor doesn't seem convinced.


STEPHANOPOULOS: John Hannah, Vice President Cheney's national security adviser, wrote this week that under Obama, Bush's commitment to winning in Iraq has all been vanished. The vice president warned against a premature withdrawal.

He said: "I would not want to see the U.S. waste all of the tremendous sacrifice that has gotten us to this point."

BIDEN: You know, it's kind of ironic. It's their timetable we are implementing. Cheney and Bush agreed with the Iraqis before we were elected that we'd have combat troops out of the cities by June 30th.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he's wrong to be worried?

BIDEN: Well, I mean, it's -- I mean, for this he can't have it both ways. He negotiated that timetable. We have met the commitment the timetable the last administration negotiated with Iraqis. And we're totally confident that is the right thing to do.

So I find it kind of ironic that he's criticizing his own agreement that he negotiated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're also facing a little bit of criticism from the Iraqis. You know yesterday you stood up there with Prime Minister Maliki and talked about your commitment to solve these political problems, yet his spokesman came out after the meeting and said: "This is purely an Iraqi issue, we don't want the Americans to get involved."

What do you say to that?

BIDEN: Well, that's that not what -- that's not what the prime minister said. The prime minister said that we may need you to get involved.

What we offered the prime minister, as well as the speaker, as well as the two vice presidents, was that to the extent -- let me give you an example. The United Nations has started a process to deal with what they called the "disputed internal borders." And that is the debate between the Kurds and the Arabs as to where the line is.

Kirkuk is probably the biggest flashpoint. And we were asked that we would -- would we be helpful to the United Nations in doing this? I was further asked that would I communicate to the Kurdish leadership, who I have a close relationship with, that their passing a constitution through their parliament in Kurdistan was not helpful to the process that was under way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's going on here? Maliki says one thing and his spokesman says another.

BIDEN: Well, look, I think that it's very important that Prime Minister Maliki and all of the Iraqi leaders are able to in fact communicate, which is true, to the people of Iraq, that they're now a sovereign nation.

They take directions from no one. That they are able to handle their own internal affairs. And the fact -- my guess is, if the spokesman said that -- which surprises me, if the spokesman said that, I'd imagine they're worried about an upcoming election, making it look like the United States is going to continue to try to direct things here.

We are not. That is not why I'm here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam

There is no military solution in Afghanistan. But the President is bound by a campaign promise. This only means that many more Americans will die in a pointless war. The Taliban control the remote regions of that country and move in out of Afghanistan at will. The chaos in Pakistan, along with profits from opium, mean ultimate victory for the Taliban.

The commander of a British regiment has become the country's highest ranking soldier to be killed in action since 1982's Falklands War after a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Rupert Thorneloe was killed along with trooper Joshua Hammond, 18, on Wednesday as they were traveling along a canal in Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province, the British Ministry of Defense said.

The Taliban have plenty of financing for their war.
Controlling the opium trade in Afghanistan, the world's leading producer of the drug, is a key element in the fight against Taliban militants.

With thousands of U.S. Marines launching a major new offensive against the Taliban-led insurgency in southern Helmand province, the epicenter of world opium production, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has also foreshadowed a new approach to controlling the trade.

Following are questions and answers about Afghanistan's poppy production, its role in the insurgency and efforts to combat it.


Afghanistan produces 93 percent of the world's opium, a thick paste made from the poppies that is processed to make heroin, according to United Nations figures.

In 2008, 157,000 hectares of opium were cultivated, down 19 percent from 193,000 hectares in 2007. Opium production only declined 6 percent to 7,700 tonnes because of record high yields.

Helmand cultivated 103,000 hectares in 2008.

In the same period, prices fell by about 20 percent, meaning the value of the opium to Afghan farmers fell by about a quarter from roughly $1 billion to about $730 million.

The export value of opium, morphine and heroin at border prices in neighboring countries fell to $3.4 billion in 2008 from $4 billion in 2007, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2008 Afghan Opium Survey.


The Taliban are mainly funded by the opium trade.

Despite the drop in cultivation, production and prices, the UNODC says the Taliban and other "anti-government forces" still make "massive amounts of money from the drug business." Their take, mainly from levies on processing and trafficking, has been put at between $200 million and $400 million, with up to $70 million more from "ushr," or charges on economic activity.

The other reason why the war will fail:
There are two major weaknesses: The Karzai government is riddled with corruption which has alienated many Afghans from both his administration and his NATO allies.

Official figures show that despite hundreds of millions of pounds in foreign aid for raising and training Afghanistan's national police, there are many areas which still have no functioning police force at all. The Western benchmarks of good governance – access to decent education and services - are in many parts of Afghanistan hard to make out from the rubble.

One diplomat in Kabul last night said he believed the new strategy has a year or two to deliver before Afghans decisively turn against them, but a former head of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, General Hamid Gul, said he believes Obama's surge will have foundered by October.

The Taliban will fight a two-pronged strategy, he said: retreat to the hills where America's air power will not be so effective, while the remainder will disappear and wage a guerilla resistance campaign.

He believes the Taliban will learn more about American weaknesses from this new battle, as he says they did in Operation Anaconda in 2002. Then, several thousand American special forces with air support failed to deliver the knock-out blow they had expected.

The truth behind operation Operation Khanjar is that the Taliban has fought the western allies to a stale-mate in Helmand, and now the only hope lies in a devastating display of overwhelming force, the rapid delivery of good services, and the remotely possibility that it will be enough to impress senior Taliban commanders.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Washington Post Selling Access to Lobbyists

Everyone is for sale in Washington including the press:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer is detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he feels it’s a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff."

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — is a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

And it's a turn of the times that a lobbyist is scolding The Washington Post for its ethical practices.

"Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate," says the one-page flier. "Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth. ... Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders …

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …

Poll: Few Americans say Recovery Under Way

Hard times will be with us until we national economic strategy that doesn't involve selling out America to multi-national corporations. Outsourcing has decimated our industries and reduced the standard of living of Americans. We survive by borrowing. And all that borrowing has left us broke. President Obama has no answer for that. The Congress has bought off and do not represent the American people.

A national poll indicates that nearly half of all Americans think the economy has stabilized, but only one in eight believes that a recovery has started.

Four in 10 questioned in the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday morning think the country's still in an economic downturn.

"Although polls in recent months have shown some signs of growing optimism, that appears to have stalled," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director. "In January, 50 percent said the economy was in very poor shape; that figure dropped to 37 percent in April, but now it has risen slightly, to 41 percent."

Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst, said, "The prevailing view? We're in a stall."

The poll suggests that when it comes to an economic recovery, Americans agree with President Obama.

Discussing the economy last week at the White House, Obama said, "We're still not at actual recovery yet. So I anticipate that this is going to be a difficult, difficult year."

What has to be done is to get the economy (GDP) going again. And you can't get the economy going if people are losing their jobs. President Obama should do what he promised. And that is giving businesses incentives to keep their employees working. The government should also be spending money on the crumbling infrastructure which would lead to the creation of jobs. Also, businesses should be given incentives to remain on U.S. soil.
The pace of job losses quickened in June after slowing just a month earlier, casting a shadow over the Obama administration’s attempts to stanch months of declines in the labor market.

The American economy shed 467,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent from 9.4 percent, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. Job losses were widespread among the construction, manufacturing and business and professional services sectors.

The losses were sharply higher than economists’ expectations of 365,000 lost jobs.

Economists said a decline of 322,000 jobs in May had raised expectations that the market was bottoming out as the economy struggled to right itself, but the numbers on Friday dashed some of those hopes.

The figures also raised questions about whether the Obama administration, which has already passed a $787 billion stimulus plan, needed to step in again to shore up the American worker.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's official. The United States Congress is a joke.

The Republicans are right. The Democrats won't have anyone to blame but themselves if things turn for the worse. Which it will. That's the name of game. Both parties take turns screwing up. This charade has been going on for decades. By giving the illusion of choice they keep power and prevent real choice from taking place. What we have is duocracy not democracy.

Not until we have a principled third party as a real alternative will we prevent the continuing decline of America.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Obama Waffling on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The left is increasingly critical of the Obama administration's failure to keep his promises made to them during the campaign. I could have told them so. The two-parties aren't about keeping promises. We see it every election.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he wants to make the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the armed forces "more humane" until Congress eventually repeals it. He said he has lawyers studying ways the law might be selectively enforced.

"One of the things we're looking at is, is there flexibility in how we apply this law?" Gates said.

The defense chief, a holdover from the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush, told reporters traveling with him in Europe that the Clinton-era ban was written without much wiggle room. The Pentagon general counsel is looking at potential avenues around full enforcement as a stopgap, Gates said.

For example, Gates said, the military might not have to expel someone whose sexual orientation was revealed by a third party out of vindictiveness or suspect motives. That would include, Gates said, someone who was "jilted" by the gay service member.

"That's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if there's at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed," Gates said, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

Gay rights activists and others have criticized the Obama administration for not quickly following through on a pledge to lift the ban on openly gay military service.

President Barack Obama and his spokesmen say he remains committed to repealing the Clinton-era law known as "don't ask, don't tell," but neither the White House nor congressional leadership has moved swiftly to do so.

There is no timetable for the pending bill to repeal the 1993 law, which was intended as a compromise to get around a full ban on gay military service. Gay rights leaders, however, have said it is an insult.

Obama says he wants to build support for the change among military commanders before urging Congress to move ahead.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff and others have cautioned that repeal of the law must be done carefully so as not to disrupt military cohesion in wartime or to place an additional burden on an already overstretched uniformed force.