Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Here comes War With Iran

What would Richard Nixon do on Cuba? He would end the embargo.

NAF Header

watch the video here.

Writing just before his death in 1994, Nixon called on the U.S. to end the failed policy of regime change. Nixon, the arch-Cold Warrior, knew that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of its troops from Angola, Cuba posed no threat to the United States. It is time, Nixon said nearly 15 years ago, for the United States to support the Cuban people.
What was true then is even plainer today. The New America Foundation's U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative and the Nixon Center hosted leading Nixon, Cuba, and national security practitioners on July 28, 2008 for a game-changing conversation about U.S. policy toward the 11 million people 90 miles off our southern shores. Moderated by Steve Clemons, the speakers included, Dimitri K. Simes of the Nixon Center, Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, Flynt Leverett, former Senior Director on the National Security Council and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (ret.), former chief of staff at the State Department.
Click on the image below to hear Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Nixon Center, talking about Nixon's views on Cuba:

Simes at NAF

Of course, Nixon had another problem with Cuba policy. He recognized that with the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy would lose its strategic coherence and fall victim to petty domestic politics.

He was right. U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War is calculated less on the basis of the national interest and increasingly on the basis of the domestic political power of single-interest groups. Cuba is not alone in this regard. As Simes, Leverett, and Wilkerson all remarked, the U.S. is reeling from equally ill-advised policies in the Middle East.
Cuba remains the premiere symbol of this dysfunction. A small group of highly motivated exiles have hijacked U.S. policy not only toward their homeland, but in the process have compromised our standing in the world, and our relations with all the countries in Latin America.
When the next President swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States on January 20, 2009, the world will be watching. Will the United States once again conceive and conduct our foreign policy based on the domestic political power of single-interest groups or will we base our national security decision making on the firm foundation of the national interest? Will Congress let him?

Cuba policy can be a signal of change or a symbol of dysfunction. It is time to choose.

Click here for the video of the entire event.

China reneges on 'open' pledge

by Jacquelin Magnay, Beijing 

CHINA'S vow to open itself to the world through the Olympic Games was in tatters last night.

It limited access to websites and implemented a plan to spy on the web usage of hotel guests — prompting an apology from the International Olympic Committee.

IOC probes China 'censorship'

The International Olympic Committee is looking into reports of internet censorship for journalists covering the Olympics.

Senior IOC member Kevan Gosper apologised to the world's media for misleading them about access to the internet.

Mr Gosper revealed that "some IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese to have some sensitive sites blocked". Mr Gosper said he had been unaware of the deal while telling the world's media for months they would have unfettered freedom to report while in China.

Woman fired for honoring the wishes of dead soldiers' families

By 8ackgr0und N015e

"Had I not put my foot down, had I just gone along with and not said regulations were being violated, I'm sure I would still be there.  It's about doing the right thing."
-- Gina Gray, American Hero

Who is Gina Gray and why does she make us all proud?

While our quisling Congress was busy donning knee pads to service the whims of George, the pretender, Gina Gray was busy defending the rights and honor of those who deserve better leadership.  However, for Gina Gray there were no applause, no accolades, no letters of commendation.  For her unwavering adherence to the seven virtues essential for effective soldiering - loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity, and personal courage - Gina Gray was accorded the only recognition these pretenders have to offer someone of her caliber.  She was fired.

Until recently, Gina Gray was public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery.  She had held that position for about three months - most of them tumultuous.  

Just 10 days on the job, she was handling media coverage for the burial of a Marine colonel who had been killed in Iraq when she noticed that Thurman Higgenbotham, the cemetery's deputy superintendent, had moved the media area 50 yards away from the service, obstructing the photographs and making the service inaudible.  The Washington Sketch column on April 24 noted that Gray pushed for more access to the service but was "apparently shot down by other cemetery officials."

That was just the beginning.  Apparently the article was brought to the attention of Robert Gates, the successor to the man who previously desecrated the position of Secretary of <s>Defense</s> War.   It turns out the decision to hide the dead... to pretend they never existed ... to erase them from memory ... to defile their sacrifice with an official act of Ars Oblivionalis is still the policy of this government.  

The harrassment became official shortly after the article appeared.  Her supervisor, Phyllis White, sent her a one-line e-mail stating "Gina, when you leave the building let me know."  Next, she was instructed not to work overtime without written approval.  Then she was instructed to demote herself from public affairs director to public affairs officer.  Then she was directed to remove the Marines poster in her cubicle.  The list goes on... and I won't repeat it here because it is an embarrassment to all of us that cowards and quislings serve the whims of people who are unworthy of licking the boots of people like Gina Gray.

quote of the day

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."

- H. L. Mencken -

Sucking up to the bankers

Obama and economic advisers
AP photo / Jae C. Hong

Sen. Barack Obama meets with his economic advisers Monday in Washington. From left: former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Obama, Service Employees International Union Chair Anna Burger, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

By Robert Scheer

This is a time to condemn the bankers, not to embrace them. They are the scoundrels who got us into the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression, lining their own pockets while destroying the life savings of those who trusted them. Yet both of our leading presidential candidates are scrambling to enlist not only the big-dollar contributions but, more frighteningly, the "expertise" of the very folks who advocated the financial industry deregulations at the heart of this meltdown.

Republican candidate John McCain even appointed as his campaign co-chairman Phil Gramm, who went from being chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, where he sponsored disastrous legislation that empowered the banking bandits, to becoming one of them at UBS Warburg. Gramm was forced to resign from McCain's campaign only after he went public with his contempt for the financial concerns of ordinary Americans, calling them "whiners" and perpetrators of a "mental recession."

But Gramm and the Republicans couldn't have done it without the support of leading Democrats. The most egregious of Gramm's legislative favors to the financiers took the form of legislation named in part after him—the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which became law only after then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin prevailed upon President Clinton to sign the bill. The bill's immediate major effect was to legitimize the long-sought merger between Citibank and insurance giant Travelers. Rubin's critical support for the bill was rewarded with an appointment, within days of its passage, to a top job at Citibank (later Citigroup) paying more than $15 million a year.

That is the same Rubin with whom Democratic candidate Barack Obama met, along with other influential advisers, on Tuesday to figure out what to do about the sorry state of our economy. But what in the world did he expect to learn from Rubin? And why did he appoint Rubin's protégé, Jason Furman, who ran the Rubin-funded Hamilton Project, to be the Obama campaign's economic director? Hopefully, during their encounter Tuesday, Rubin offered himself as a contrite model of everything that the candidate of change needs to change.

Senators call for EPA chief's resignation

Daily Grist

Four senators call for perjury investigation of EPA chief's testimony

Four senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee have called for the resignation of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and have asked the U.S. attorney general to investigate whether Johnson lied to Congress in a hearing about California's greenhouse-gas emissions waiver. In a letter to the attorney general, the senators wrote, "[W]e believe that there is significant evidence to suggest that Mr. Johnson has provided statements that are inconsistent with sworn testimony and documents provided in connection with an investigation conducted by this committee." In that testimony, given earlier this year, Johnson claimed he alone made the decision to deny California's requested waiver. "[T]his was solely my decision based upon the law, based upon the facts that were presented to me," he said. However, former EPA official Jason Burnett recently testified that Johnson was set to issue a partial waiver until he changed his mind amid pressure from the White House. The senators also accused Johnson of succumbing to White House pressure to delay the decision on whether greenhouse-gas emissions endanger public health or welfare.

sources: Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal

Change We Can Believe In - An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Senator Obama,

We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future--in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe and focuses on diplomacy abroad and greater equality and freedom for its citizens at home--that has thrilled voters across the political spectrum. Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the political process for the first time, African-American voters have rallied behind you, and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual have been re-engaged.

You stand today at the head of a movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate to your campaign and visit your website are a powerful testament to this new movement's energy and passion.

This movement is vital for two reasons: First, it will help assure your victory against John McCain in November. The long night of greed and military adventurism under the Bush Administration, which a McCain administration would continue, cannot be brought to an end a day too soon. An enthusiastic corps of volunteers and organizers will ensure that voters turn out to close the book on the Bush era on election day. Second, having helped bring you the White House, the support of this movement will make possible the changes that have been the platform of your campaign. Only a grassroots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind you can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest August 16-17, 2008

Click for Details

Members of Congress Demand An End To Pot Possession Arrests       July 30, 2008  

Wednesday, July 30, 2008: At a press conference held this morning, members of Congress called on their fellow lawmakers to remove all federal penalties that criminalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults.

"To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree," said Representative Barney Frank (D-MA). "But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged. In a free society, there must be a very considerable zone of activity between those two poles in which people are allowed to make their own choices as long as they are not impinging on the rights, freedom, or property of others. I believe  criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society."

Rep. Frank, along with co-sponsors Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Lacy Clay (D-MO), urged lawmakers to support HR 5843, An Act To Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults, which would eliminate federal penalties for possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana, and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana. Other co-sponsors of the measure include Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

This proposal reflects the basic recommendations of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (aka the Shafer Commission) in its groundbreaking report to Congress in 1972 titled Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana by adults and this should be of no interest or concern to the government," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre. "It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals."

"I am a 43-year-old man, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, I pay my taxes and, like millions of other Americans, I occasionally smoke marijuana. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would wish to treat me like a criminal, based on my responsible use of marijuana. It is time we stopped arresting responsible marijuana smokers, and HR 5843 would do that under federal law."

This is the first federal marijuana decriminalization bill to be introduced in Congress since 1978, and reflects the changing public attitudes that no longer support treating responsible marijuana smokers like criminals. According to a nationwide Time/CNN poll, three out of four Americans now favor a fine only, and no jail, for adults who possess or use small amounts of marijuana.

Iraq on the Edge

 The Dreyfuss Report

by Robert Dreyfuss .

While everyone's looking at Iraq's effect on American politics -- and whether or not John McCain and Barack Obama are converging on a policy that combines a flexible timetable with a vague, and long-lasting, residual force -- let's take a look instead at Iraqi politics. The picture isn't pretty.

Despite the Optimism of the Neocons, which has pushed mainstream media coverage to be increasingly flowery about Iraq's political progress, in fact the country is poised to explode. Even before the November election. And for McCain and Obama, the problem is that Iran has many of the cards in its hands. Depending on its choosing, between now and November Iran can help stabilize the war in Iraq -- mostly by urging the Iraqi Shiites to behave themselves -- or it can make things a lot more violent.

There are at least three flashpoints for an explosion, any or all of which could blow up over the next couple of months. (Way to go, Surgin' Generals!) The first is the brewing crisis over Kirkuk, where the pushy Kurds are demanding control and Iraq's Arabs are resisting. The second is in the west, and Anbar, where the US-backed Sons of Iraq sahwa ("Awakening") movement is moving to take power against the Iraqi Islamic Party, a fundamentalist Sunni bloc. And third is the restive Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which is chafing at gains made by its Iranian-backed rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list

4-page letter outlines frustration, hatred of 'liberal movement'
Knoxville Police Department officers lead Jim David Adkisson to a squad car Sunday. Adkisson has been charged with first-degree murder after a shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church 

Knoxville Police Department officers lead Jim David Adkisson to a squad car Sunday. Adkisson has been charged with first-degree murder after a shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals "who are ruining the country," court records show.

Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children's musical.

Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson. who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.

Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

Trickle-Down Bankruptcy


The Donna Brazile - Karl Rove Connection

A shot of Brazile (center) and the DNC rules and bylaws committee above Florida election returns on CNN.

In order to "save" the Democratic Party, Brazile resolved back in 2003 that she might have to destroy it first. And who better to help her in this lofty pursuit than her new best friend, the man neoconservatives call "The Architect".


It's not every activist politico who gets to write a post in the Washington Times that begins like this: "As I sat by my window and staring out at the wonderful Washington, D.C., landscape, my office announced a phone call from Air Force One."

Evidently, Donna Brazile was reminding all the little people on Capitol Hill that she had friends in high places. In the summer of 2007, Karl Rove wasn't answering any subpoenas from Congress, but he didn't mind talking to her. From his perch at 20,000 feet, seated beside the President, Rove informed Brazile that it was time for him to get out of Dodge.

"Mr. Rove's resignation is not a retirement," the Democratic strategist reassured readers of the right-of-center newspaper. "It's just another opportunity for him to create that lasting Republican majority he envisioned years ago and to spend his waking days doing what he so enjoys — beating Democrats in the alleys and gutters. Just ask Sen. Hillary Clinton, Mr. Rove's target when he called in to speak to Rush Limbaugh. He couldn't help it. Mr. Rove just had to take one last shot before riding out of town. More to come, Team Clinton."

Brazile's breezy account confirms what many have long since suspected - that Rove's claim to be sitting out the 2008 race is hogwash. The mastermind of today's unraveling U.S. Constitution is in no position to kick back, down gin fizzes and watch the country collapse under a regime he put into office twice.  The list of crimes that Bush's top henchman could potentially be charged with - everything from fraud to war crimes - should be enough to keep him and his fellow Sopranos in hair-trigger mode until the next president gets sworn in. And the notion that he'd leave the choice of commander-in-chief in less capable dirty hands than his own requires more than the willing suspension of disbelief.  It requires medication.

That's why the Rove-Brazile tryst merits further exploration. They first hooked up some time in 2002, according to the New York Times. The connection might have been a means for Brazile to expand her clientele, but she dismissed that angle in an interview, implying she had bigger fish to fry.

Who is doing real journalism?

But we're finding [blogging] works better for keeping on top of daily flaps than for learning genuinely new information. Bloggers rarely pick up the phone or go interview the middle-level bureaucrats who know the good stuff. It's a lot easier to chew over breaking stories and bash old media. Where do they get the information with which to bash? Often from, ahem, newspapers.
Leave aside the question of how much "real reporting" bloggers do as compared to newspapers. If one looks at most of the vital disclosures of the last seven years -- whereby concealed, legally dubious behavior of one of the most secretive administrations of the modern era is exposed -- one finds that such exposure comes overwhelmingly from two sources: (1) conscientious whistle-blowers inside the Government, and (2) advocacy groups such as the ACLU, which have tirelessly waged one litigation battle after the next in order to unearth the Bush administration's secret, improper conduct.

Today, the ACLU (with whom, as I've previously disclosed, I consult on various matters) released three formerly secret Bush administration memos -- two from the CIA to the Office of Legal Counsel inside the DOJ, and one from OLC to the CIA -- which set forth, in a revoltingly clinical tone that is by now all-too-familiar, extremely permissive standards for what constitutes (and what does not constitute) "torture." Raw Story's Nick Juliano has an excellent summary of the memos' lowlights, including the assertion that treatment of detainees does not constitute "torture" as long as there is no "specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering," and the claim that interrogators are free to inflict mental harm as long as it falls short of "harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoners."