Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rabid Smears

Bill Kristol Has An Opinion Re: The Iranian Situation!


Oh boy look at this, a midday blog post about Iran from ever-smiling warfapper and on/off Washington Post "lightning rod conservative" Bill Kristol! He is mad at Barack Obama for keeping his silence over the weekend, instead of immersing himself in Iran's politics (declaring war on Iran). Let's see if he opens with a nuanced historical antecedent to defend his argument: "On September 2, 1939, in the wake of Hitler's invasion of Poland…" NEVERMIND.

But to be fair, as always, Kristol notes in the following paragraph that this situation is not exactly like the Nazis starting World War II by invading a sovereign nation.

This isn't September 1939. But the developments in Tehran are a potentially big moment, signaling the possible transformation or at least reformation of the Iranian regime. American principles and American interests argue for support of the Iranian people in this crisis.

And where is the American president? Silent.

Blah blah liberal sneer hypocrisy blah cheapshot invade:

Some argue that the brave Iranians demonstrating for freedom and democracy would be better off if the American president somehow stayed out of the fight. Really? But Barack Obama is president. His statement wouldn't be crafted by those dreaded neocons who vulgarly thought all people would like a chance to govern themselves and deserved some modicum of U.S. support in that endeavor. It would be written by subtle liberal internationalists, who would get the pitch and tone just right. And the statement wouldn't be delivered by the notorious George Bush (who did, however, weigh in usefully in somewhat similar situations in Ukraine and Lebanon). It would be delivered by the popular and credible speaker-to-the-Muslim-world, Barack Obama. Does anyone really think that a strong Obama statement of solidarity with the Iranian people, and a strong rebuke to those who steal elections and shoot demonstrators, wouldn't help the dissidents in Iran?

Jesus, who knows? Maybe if the "dissidents" actually declare war on the government and organize themselves into a formidable opponent seeking Western alliances, then Obama could say, "Yeah sure, go for it fellas." Or maybe not. Foreign policy is very hard! But it's not unreasonable to suggest that publicly siding with those protesters in a big, bold way and renouncing the "sham government" would (a) get all of those protesters labeled as American spies somehow and slaughtered en masse and (b) screw up potential U.S.-Iran negotiations in the future. Which is what Bill Kristol would want, because then "he" would get to invade a non-responsive Iran FREAKING FINALLY, for whatever reason, after decades of begging.

In Iraq, prisoners go on hunger strike over abuse

Iraqi prisoners have staged a full-scale hunger strike in protest at reported calculated abuse aimed at forcing false confessions out of them.

On Monday, an interior ministry prison in the capital, Baghdad witnessed the massive reaction which also targeted dilatory trends in the legal actions to which they were somehow related.

"I don't have accurate figures but they number in the hundreds," AFP quoted Ahmed al-Masoudi, a spokesman for the parliamentary bloc loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Nearly half of the protesters reportedly belonged to the cleric's movement.

"They are protesting because they have been systematically tortured and forced to confess to things they didn't do," Masoudi added.

"The violations against some prisoners went as far as rape. Some of them have spent more than a year in these prisons and so far haven't been brought to trial."

On Friday, Iraqi lawmakers televised a request for an independent inquiry into reported cases of abuse and death in the country's prisons.

Iran's most senior cleric says election was bogus

Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, staged...

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, staged competing rallies Tuesday as the country's most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad's re-election was rigged.

"No one in their right mind can believe" the official results from Friday's contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the purported landslide victory by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi's charges of fraud and the massive protests staged by his supporters "in the worst way possible."

"A government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy," the country's senior-most cleric declared on his official Web site. "I ask the police and army personals [personnel] not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God."

Montazeri's pointed comments provided fresh evidence that a serious rift has opened at the top of Iran's powerful religious hierarchy.

For the third time in as many days, Tehran was the scene of huge rallies. Ahmadinejad supporters gathered at Vali Asr Square, pre-empting plans by Mousavi's supporters to rally there. State television provided full coverage of the pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration, including aerial images of a crowd that appeared to number in the thousands. Ahmadinejad was in Moscow, where he said nothing about Iran's problems.

Tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters converged later in affluent northern Tehran, where the opposition candidate has strong support. A witness told The Associated Press that the rally stretched more than a mile along Vali Asr Avenue, from Vanak Square to the headquarters of Iranian state television.

'We are fighting for our lives and our dignity'

Across the globe, as mining and oil firms race for dwindling resources, indigenous peoples are battling to defend their lands – often paying the ultimate price

by John Vidal

John VidalIt has been called the world's second "oil war", but the only similarity between Iraq and events in the jungles of northern Peru over the last few weeks has been the mismatch of force. On one side have been the police armed with automatic weapons, teargas, helicopter gunships and armoured cars. On the other are several thousand Awajun and Wambis Indians, many of them in war paint and armed with bows and arrows and spears.

In some of the worst violence seen in Peru in 20 years, the Indians this week warned Latin America what could happen if companies are given free access to the Amazonian forests to exploit an estimated 6bn barrels of oil and take as much timber they like. After months of peaceful protests, the police were ordered to use force to remove a road bock near Bagua Grande.

In the fights that followed, at least 50 Indians and nine police officers were killed, with hundreds more wounded or arrested. The indigenous rights group Survival International described it as "Peru's Tiananmen Square".

"For thousands of years, we've run the Amazon forests," said Servando Puerta, one of the protest leaders. "This is genocide. They're killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity."

Yesterday, as riot police broke up more demonstrations in Lima and a curfew was imposed on many Peruvian Amazonian towns, President Garcia backed down in the face of condemnation of the massacre. He suspended – but only for three months – the laws that would allow the forest to be exploited. No one doubts the clashes will continue.

Duke Energy starts ‘smart' solar initiative

Company says plan has the potential to save customers money and, possibly, delay need for new power plants.

By Bruce Henderson

Duke Energy unveiled its first glimpse of "smart grid" technology in the Charlotte area on Tuesday with an array of 213 solar panels in south Charlotte's McAlpine neighborhood.

The panels, mounted at a substation on Pineville-Matthews Road, will produce 50 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power five homes. The electricity can be sent directly to area distribution lines or charge a massive, 500-kilowatt storage battery that will help stabilize power availability at times of high demand.

Over the past year, Duke has installed 8,100 "smart meters" in area homes, giving customers new details on their home power usage. Digital communications equipment mounted on utility poles and power lines will feed new data about power outages and other problems.

Duke also has enlisted about 100 McAlpine households to test Web-based energy management systems that allow them to fine-tune their electricity use.

David Mohler, Duke's chief technology officer, called McAlpine a "smart-grid laboratory" for technology that is expected to see wider use during coming years. "It allows us to figure out, how do you use these assets in tandem?"

Duke expects to invest $1billion in smart grid over the next five years.

SC Republican Compares Michelle Obama to Escaped Gorilla

by David Knowles

The South Carolina Republican Party recently launched a campaign to reach out to minorities who have, for decades, wanted nothing to do with the state's GOP. On Sunday, however, longtime Republican activist Rusty DePass seemed to be doing everything in his power to thwart that effort when he was caught making a racist joke on his Facebook page about First Lady Michelle Obama.

Over the weekend, a gorilla escaped from a zoo in Columbia, and according to the New York Daily News, DePass just couldn't resist what he saw as the perfect opportunity for humor, updating his status message to read,

"I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

Apparently, not only is DePass fond of racist humor, he also doesn't think too highly of evolution, either. One can tell a lot about a person from the apology he or she issues following an off-color joke, and on this score DePass seemed intent digging his hole a bit deeper.

...DePass told WIS-TV in Columbia, "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest."

Then he added, "The comment was hers, not mine," claiming that Michelle Obama made a recent remark about humans descending from apes. The Daily News could find no such comment.

One wonders if DePass feels the same way about RNC chairman Michael Steele.

The "I'm sorry if I offended anyone" line (but not sorry if I didn't) is something of a classic refrain for those who think they've done nothing wrong. DePass may think it's funny to liken black people to apes while exempting himself from that same genetic lineage, but it is comments like these that will ensure that the South Carolina GOP does not evolve beyond its current its current Neanderthal status.

David at Paradigms Lost
David on Twitter

'A Perfect Storm for Disaster' Brewing With Washington's 'Unprecedented' Shadow Army

by Jeremy Scahill

I've been reading through the hot-off-the-presses, exciting 100+ page report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting: "At What Cost? Contingency Contracting In Iraq and Afghanistan." There have been several good pieces that covered the Congressional hearings related to this report, so I thought I would just post some of the more important excerpts from the report. One general note: The Commission, which was created due to the diligent efforts of Senators Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill, has been doing some incredibly important work digging deep into the corruption, waste, abuse, fraud, etc of the US war contracting system. The statute that created the commission "requires the Commission to assess a number of factors related to wartime contracting, including the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of wartime contracts. The Commission has the authority to hold hearings and to refer to the Attorney General any violation or potential violation of law it identifies in carrying out its duties."

While the new report reveals some critical details about issues of waste and abuse, the general tone is very pro-contractor, which is not surprising. However, I find it disturbing that one of the members of the Commission, Dov Zakheim, is, according to his Commission bio, a current vice-president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a major defense, homeland security and intelligence contractor with a direct stake in US policy on contractors.

Booze is now majority owned by The Carlyle Group, which has deep political connections. In an Op-ed in The Washington Post last year, Zakheim campaigned against "More regulations and bureaucratic restrictions on contractors" and advocated for "a larger, more diversified base of prime contractors and suppliers." Zakheim, who was a foreign policy advisor to Bush and part of the circle of the Vulcans, is now a key member of the primary body that is responsible for investigating the industry and making formal recommendations on US policy. While the Commission is made up of appointees from both political parties, (Zakheim was appointed by President Bush) Zakheim's corporate stake on these matters should be cause for a review of his position on the Commission.


One fact that jumped out at me in the report is that, at present, according to the Commission, "contracting oversight" in Afghanistan is being done remotely from Iraq. And remember, there are 70,000 contractors (and growing) in Afghanistan.

Here are some excerpts from the report, which I have categorized and in some cases highlighted or analyzed:


  • Contractors are playing a key role in the drawdown of U.S. military forces in Iraq. As military units withdraw from bases, the number of contractor employees needed to handle closing or transfer tasks and to dispose of government property will increase... preparations for this major shift out of Iraq and into Afghanistan or other areas are sketchy
  • As the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed, the military services, defense agencies, and other stakeholder agencies... continue to increase their reliance on contractors. Contractors are now literally in the center of the battlefield in unprecedented numbers.
  • From fiscal years (FY) 2001 through 2008, the Defense Department's reported obligations on all contracts for services, measured in real‐dollar terms, more than doubled-from roughly $92 billion to slightly over $200 billion. In fiscal year 2008, this figure included more than $25 billion for services to support contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These figures do not include State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts.
  • [T]he missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are the first major contingency operations to reflect the full impact of the shift to heavy reliance on contractor personnel for critical support functions in forward operating areas. Despite the key role of contractors in overseas operations, DoD lacks enough staff to provide adequate contract oversight. The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development also use significant levels of contractor support in Southwest Asia.
  • The Commission believes that a serious shortage of U.S. government civilians in Afghanistan is all too likely to trigger heavy reliance on contractors in both the short term and the long run.

A teen book burns at the stake

A Christian group hopes to set fire to library copies of Francesca Lia Block's novel about a gay boy coming of age.

By Laura Miller

Francesca Lia Block

Francesca Lia Block, an award-winning author of young-adult books (the "Weetzie Bat" series among them), has known for a while now that one of her novels, "Baby Be-Bop" is at the center of a controversy in West Bend, Wis.

A few days ago, she found out that it might be burned at the stake. "Baby Be-Bop" is on a list of titles that a local group calling itself the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries objects to seeing in the public library. In February, the group asked the library's board to remove a page of recommended titles about gay and lesbian issues for young people (including "Baby Be-Bop") from the library's Web site. Then they demanded that the books be moved from the youth section of the library and placed with the adult collection, "to protect children from accessing them without their parents' knowledge and supervision."

"My publisher brushed it off at first," Block said, "but now it's starting to look really serious." When the board refused to immediately comply with the requests of West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, the town's common council voted not to renew the contracts of four recalcitrant board members. A second group, West Bend Parents for Free Speech, formed to oppose the plan to segregate the books.

But the controversy isn't over. Now an outfit called the Christian Civil Liberties Union has gotten in on the act, suing the library for, according to the West Bend Daily News, "damaging" the "mental and emotional well-being" of several individuals by displaying "Baby Be-Bop" in the library. Since attempts to label the novel as "pornographic" have failed, the (somewhat shadowy) CCLU hopes to brand it as hate speech, in part because it contains the word "nigger." The complainants, described as "elderly" by the newspaper, claim that Block's novel is "explicitly vulgar, racial [sic] and anti-Christian." They want the library's copy not only removed but publicly burned.

"Baby Be-Bop," a title from the Weetzie Bat series that describes the youth of Weetzie's best friend, Dirk, is, in Block's words, "a very sweet, simple, coming-of-age story about a young man's discovery that he's gay." Dirk is beaten by gay bashers but steadfastly clings to the possibility of finding love. Block finds the disingenuous charges of racism particularly distressing. "Obviously I use those words, including 'faggot,' which is also in the book, to expose racism and homophobia, not promote it," she said. "It's a tiny little book," she added, "but they want to burn it like a witch."

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions.

The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran's 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.

Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime."

White House: US not meddling in Iran's affair

The US has dismissed the remarks made by Iran that the White House is interfering in the country's internal affairs by commenting on the election dispute.

US President Barack Obama's Spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday that the president discussed universal principles such as the right to peacefully demonstrate and stressed that they should be observed in Iran.

"The President will continue to express those concerns and ensure that we are not meddling," he said.

Earlier, Iran summoned the Swiss envoy to Tehran, who represents US interests, to protest against "interfering remarks" by US officials on last week's presidential election, Iran's state-run television reported.

Obama said on Tuesday that he had concerns about the conduct of last week's election and the subsequent violence, but said that US "meddling" in Iran's affairs could be counterproductive.

US confirms it asked Twitter to stay open to help Iran protesters

Obama administration asked Twitter website to postpone temporary shutdown

The Obama administration, while insisting it is not meddling in Iran, yesterday confirmed it had asked Twitter to remain open to help anti-government protesters.

The company had planned a temporary shutdown to overhaul its service in the middle of the night on Monday but the US state department put in a request to postpone this.

Many protesters have being using Twitter to spread information about rallies and to share news.

'People's voices should be heard': Barack Obama on the Iran situation

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, asked about this at a press conference yesterday, would neither confirm or deny it, saying only that a free press and a means of communication were important.

But the state department yesterday confirmed a request was made to Twitter.

The New York Times last night identified the author of the request as Jared Cohen, a 27-year-old state department official. Twitter complied with the request, delaying its overhaul until last night.

Oil and Indians Don't Mix

by Greg Palast

There's an easy way to find oil.  Go to some remote and gorgeous natural sanctuary, say Alaska or the Amazon, find some Indians, then drill down under them. 

If the indigenous folk complain, well, just shoo-them away.  Shoo-ing methods include:  bulldozers, bullets, crooked politicians and fake land sales.

But be aware.  Lately the Natives are shoo-ing back.  Last week, indigenous Peruvians seized an oil pumping station, grabbed the nine policemen guarding it and, say reports, executed them.  This followed the government's murder of more than a dozen rainforest residents who had protested the seizure of their property for oil drilling.

Again and again I see it in my line of work of investigating fraud.  Here are a few pit-stops on the oily trail of tears:

In the 1980s, Charles Koch was found to have pilfered about $3 worth of crude from Stanlee Ann Mattingly's oil tank in Oklahoma.  Here's the weird part.  Koch was (and remains) the 14th richest man on the planet, worth about $14 billion. Stanlee Ann was a dirt-poor Osage Indian. 

Stanlee Ann wasn't Koch's only victim.  According to secret tape recordings of a former top executive of his company, Koch Industries, the billionaire demanded that oil tanker drivers secretly siphon a few bucks worth of oil from every tank attached to a stripper well on the Osage Reservation
where Koch had a contract to retrieve crude. 

Koch, according to the tape, would, "giggle" with joy over the records of the theft.  Koch's own younger brother Bill ratted him out, complaining that, in effect, brothers Charles and David cheated him out of his fair share of the looting which totaled over three-quarters of a billion dollars from the Native lands. 

The FBI filmed the siphoning with hidden cameras, but criminal charges were quashed after quiet objections from Republican senators.

Gonzales's Advice to Bush on How to Avoid War Crimes


by Jason Leopold

photo    On January 25, 2002, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales advised George W. Bush in a memo to deny al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners protections under the Geneva Conventions because doing so would "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act" and "provide a solid defense to any future prosecution."

    Two weeks later, Bush signed an action memorandum dated February 7, 2002, addressed to Vice President Dick Cheney, which denied baseline protections to al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners under the Third Geneva Convention. That memo, according to a recently released bipartisan report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee, opened the door to "considering aggressive techniques," which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior Bush officials.

    "The President's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees," says the committee's December 11 report.

    "While the President's order stated that, as 'a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,' the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in US custody."

    The Supreme Court held in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that the prisoners were entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.

    Many of the classified policy directives, such as Gonzales's memo to Bush, are now part of the public record thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Bush administration, which has so far resulted in the release of more than 100,000 pages of documents that shows how Bush officials twisted the law in order to build a legal framework for torture.

    These documents have been posted on the ACLU's web site. But several hundred of the most explosive records were republished in the book "Administration of Torture" along with hard-hitting commentary by the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, who heads the group's National Security Project, and Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the organization.

California Graph