Monday Reads

Good Morning!

This story in the NYT has my head spinning. It seems the Obama administration was thinking about putting together some kind of “Rule Book” for the use of Drones and assassination in the war against terror because they didn’t really trust Romney under the current situation.  I have to wonder if Romney would ‘ve followed it any way.  The bigger question is how do these policies jive with our Constitution and what should both our Legislative and Judicial Branches do to at least curb their use?

Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.

Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.

Though publicly the administration presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials involved in the discussions say.

More broadly, the administration’s legal reasoning has not persuaded many other countries that the strikes are acceptable under international law. For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures.

But since the first targeted killing by the United States in 2002, two administrations have taken the position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking its enemies wherever they are found.

Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes.

I doubt the UN will put any pressure on us but I wonder if this will at least get us all talking about the policy and if that’s the kind of policy we want as a country.

Several more Republican office holders in the District have announced they are willing to break with the Norquist pledge.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said he is ready to violate conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge to reach a deal to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff.”

“I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece.”

But Graham cautioned that he he would violate the pledge “only if Democrats will do entitlement reforms” and ruled our increasing tax rates.

“I am willing to generate revenue,” he said. “I will not raise tax rates to do it; I will cap deductions.”

The transcript shows that Graham was specific about what he was willing and unwilling to accept.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Senator Graham, you’ve signaled that you’re willing to raise revenues as part of an overall deal that also includes spending cuts, and that’s drawn the fire of Grover Norquist, you know, the author of that no-tax pledge that’s been in place among so many Republicans for 20 years right now. He thinks the best solution is actually not to negotiate a compromise right now, is to go over the cliff. He says the world won’t come to an end if this isn’t resolved before January. Take the sequester. The only thing worse than sequester cuts is to not cut spending at all. He’s saying don’t raise taxes, accept those spending cuts.

GRAHAM: Well, what I would say to Grover Norquist is that the sequester destroys the United States military. According to our own secretary of defense, it would be shooting ourselves in the head. You’d have the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, so sequestration must be replaced.

I’m willing to generate revenue. It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We’re below historic averages. I will not raise tax rates to do it. I will cap deductions. If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue, and the people who lose their deductions are the upper-income Americans.

But to do this, I just don’t want to promise the spending cuts. I want entitlement reforms. Republicans always put revenue on the table. Democrats always promise to cut spending. Well, we never cut spending. What I’m looking for is more revenue for entitlement reform before the end of the year…

This has to be the most horrible story of valuing stuff over people that I’ve ever heard.  Three Walmart workers killed a man who had shoplifted two dvd players.

It’s a sad, simple story. An unidentified man allegedly stole two DVD players from the electronics department and left the store through the front door. Two Walmart employees and a contracted security guard chased him into the parking lot. A “physical altercation” took place, and apparently, the security guard put the man in a choke hold. Police arrived soon thereafter to find the three workers on top of the suspected shoplifter who was unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth. The man was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“No amount of merchandise is worth someone’s life,” said Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee in a statement. “Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk.” She added, “That being said, this is still an active investigation and we’re working with police to provide any assistance.” Walmart put the two employees on paid leave and fired the security guard.

Regardless of what happens at the end of that investigation, there’s no way Walmart is going to come out of this one looking good. It truly sounds like this was a horrible accident, the kind that makes it hard to point fingers or figure out what went wrong. However, this incident also happened as thousands of Walmart workers nationwide were protesting poor treatment by their employers. Are the two things related? Only insofar as it adds up to a ton of bad press for a company long known to promote mass hysteria on Black Friday weekend. It’s a problem that people are still dying at their stores, years after warnings signs like the Walmart employee who was trampled to death on Black Friday.

This has to be the worse thing I’ve ever heard in terms of class war.  Dancing Dave’s Disco is always the place to be for outraged q’billionaires.

Carly Fiorina, who reportedly stood to receive more than $42 million after being ousted at HP in 2005, says that public workers should receive less benefits because “it is not fair” that unions are “so rich.”

During a Sunday panel segment on NBC, MSNBC host Al Sharpton asserted that Congress must agree to raise taxes on the wealthy before cutting spending.

“This is about fairness,” he explained. “Why do we need to need to deal with the tax on the rich first? Because we must ensure Americans we are dealing with fairness. We keep talking about shared sacrifice, there was not shared wealth and shared prosperity. So, you’re asking people that didn’t enjoy the good times to share in paying for the tab that they never enjoyed.”

“Let us accept Rev. Al’s point and the president’s point about fairness,” Fiorina replied. “But equally, it is not fair that public employee union pensions and benefits are so rich now that cities and states are going bankrupt and college tuition is going up 25 and 30 percent or police and firefighters are being cut. There’s a lot that isn’t fair right now.”

During Fiorina tenure as the CEO of HP, at least 18,000 workers were laid off after the company’s disastrous merger with Compaq.

Evidently, it’s okay to pay bad management millions of dollars but it’s just too much for any one else to get a living wage and benefits.  What is wrong with these people?

So, that’s my list of reads today!  What’s on you reading and blogging list this morning?


Pakistan May Have Outed Chief of CIA’s Islamibad Station

Things seem to be getting pretty dicey for the U.S. in Pakistan. The Guardian UK reports that:

The CIA has pulled its station chief from Islamabad, one of America’s most important spy posts, after his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.

The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed.

In a rare move, the CIA called Banks home yesterday, citing “security concerns” and saying he had received death threats, Washington officials told Associated Press. Khan’s lawyer said he was fleeing the possibility of prosecution.

Banks may have only a business visa, and so wouldn’t have diplomatic immunity if he were required to testify in the trial. According to the article, recalling a station chief is extremely rare. Although the Pakistani government supposedly supports U.S. drone strikes, many Pakistanis are understandably outraged by them.

The recall comes at a sensitive moment for Washington. This week’s Afghanistan policy review brought fresh focus on Taliban safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Meanwhile CIA drone attacks – which are co-ordinated from the Islamabad embassy – have reached a new peak. Three drones struck targets in Khyber, a previously untouched tribal agency, on Friday, reportedly killing 24 people and signalling a widening of the CIA covert campaign….There have been over 100 strikes so this year, twice as many as in 2009.

The Guardian says there are rumors that Banks may have been outed by someone in the Pakistani intelligence agency (the ISI), because “several senior ISI officials were named in a New York legal action brought by relatives of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.”

The New York Times also has posted an article about this.

On Thursday and Friday, the United States appeared to make good on promises to expand its own efforts to attack the militants, with drone strikes for the first time hitting Khyber agency in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. Most drone strikes this year have targeted North Waziristan. Pakistani government officials said at least 26 militants were killed in the most recent attacks.

The outing of the C.I.A. station chief is tied to the spy agency’s campaign of drone strikes, which are very unpopular in Pakistan, although the government has given its tacit approval for them.

Gee, no kidding. I mean who wants to have their house blown up unexpectedly by agents of a foreign power? Interestingly, the Times avoided telling its readers the outed agent’s name, even though the Guardian had already published it. The Times is truly the Obama administration’s house organ. According article,

The intensifying mistrust between the C.I.A. and I.S.I., two uneasy but co-dependent allies, could hardly come at a worse time. The Obama administration relies on Pakistan’s support for the armed drone program, which this year has launched a record number of strikes in North Waziristan against terror suspects.

“We will continue to help strengthen Pakistani capacity to root out terrorists,” President Obama said on Thursday. “Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough. So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with.”

Not being an expert on foreign affairs, I’m not sure if this statement triggered anger in Pakistan or not. Maybe President Obama should leave diplomacy to his Secretary of State.