The Conversation We Must Have

It’s easy to overlook our far away wars and the deaths caused by drone attacks when most people in the country are trying topresident strangelove hang on to their jobs, homes, and incomes.  It’s more than enough effort just to hang on while watching your  hopes of secure, middle class lifestyles and retirement being diddled away in shows of Potomac political harangues, power plays, and stupid political memes.  However, a big portion of who we are as a country has to do with our face to the world and the values we display.  It’s a subject we must follow carefully because we’re as bad as we’ve ever been in many ways.

Hence, I bring you back to the topics of renditions, torture, drone strikes, domestic spying, and national security issues evoked by 9/11 and continued because we can’t have national discussions about the big policies any more.  We’re too busy defending erosion of our lives and rights here.  There is an important article at WAPO that highlights the immoral side of our “war” against terror that continues under the Obama administration.  Americans interested in human rights and our vision of an American “morality” must read this.

The three European men with Somali roots were arrested on a murky pretext in August as they passed through the small African country of Djibouti. But the reason soon became clear when they were visited in their jail cells by a succession of American interrogators.

U.S. agents accused the men — two of them Swedes, the other a longtime resident of Britain — of supporting al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that Washington considers a terrorist group. Two months after their arrest, the prisoners were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in New York, then clandestinely taken into custody by the FBI and flown to the United States to face trial.

The secret arrests and detentions came to light Dec. 21 when the suspects made a brief appearance in a Brooklyn courtroom.

The men are the latest example of how the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Renditions are taking on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice.

I find this quote shocking.

The impasse and lack of detention options, critics say, have led to a de facto policy under which the administration finds it easier to kill terrorism suspects, a key reason for the surge of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Renditions, though controversial and complex, represent one of the few alternatives.

“In a way, rendition has become even more important than before,” said Clara Gutteridge, director of the London-based Equal Justice Forum, a human rights group that investigates national security cases and that opposes the practice.

Our country is caught up in fighting fights that were dealt with decades ago because one party wants to throw us back into the good ol’ days of witch hunts and control and ownership of other human beings through religious extremism and economic coercion and privateering.  We’re having to fight for the lessons of the civil war, the depression, and civil rights era.  Meanwhile, the national security industrial complex–in our names–erodes the very basic rights of our citizens and the way we behave abroad.  As pointed out at emptywheel,  Murdoch and son love them some Obama for extensions of abusive wiretapping.  Murdoch and son are themselves guilty of criminal wiretapping in the UK.  Is that ironic?

In addition to applauding Obama’s “fairly ruthless antiterror prosecut[ions] and unapologetic assert[ions] of Presidential powers,” the WSJ revels in this opportunity to mock those who thought illegal wiretapping was wrong.

This is a turnabout from 2007 and 2008, when letting U.S. spooks read al Qaeda emails or listen in on phone calls that passed through domestic switching networks supposedly spelled doom for the American Republic. Democrats spent years pretending that Mr. Bush’s eavesdropping program was “wrong” and “destructive,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it at the time, lamenting that “I never thought I would see a President act in direct defiance of federal law.”

Maybe this mutual love of abusive wiretapping is why–as Elliot Spitzer has pointed out–DOJ has thus far failed to pursue News Corp under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

And finally, where is the inept U.S. Department of Justice in all this?

The DOJ has brought many irrelevant and tiny cases against companies for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal to bribe either individuals or government officials, even in a company’s overseas operations. The DOJ loves to use the statute to show just how tough it is.

Yet now they have the most important case sitting right there in front of them. It’s easy. Even a rookie could field this one.

But what are they doing? It’s not clear.

If they fail to make this case against News Corp., Eric Holder is a failure as attorney general.

After all, Eric Holder’s DOJ successfully fought to give legal sanction to Cheney’s illegal wiretapping. It would look rather silly, after having extended warrantless wiretapping past the end of the Obama Administration, for them to prosecute Rupert Murdoch for doing the same thing Cheney did.

There is little oversight in all of these human rights outrages.  Congress appears to be more interested in creating near-catastrophe problems with the economy and defunding planned parenthood then actually doing its oversight duties on the executive branch.  There are many things begun in the Bush administration that were criticized by Democrats that are now completely ignored by congressional committees.  Republicans have no interest in these issues and Democrats don’t want to criticize the administration.  Here’s another example of questionable policy from the WAPO article.

The State Department officially categorized al-Shabab as a terrorist organization in 2008, making it illegal for Americans or non-citizens to support the group. Still, Obama administration officials acknowledge that most al-Shabab fighters are merely participants in Somalia’s long-running civil war and that only a few are involved in international terrorism.

Is any one questioning the wisdom of adding dubious organizations to the terrorist list or is this just another way to expand the power, scope, and aggregate buying of the National Security Military Complex?

How many of you know that we’ve just recently upped its drone attacks in Afghanistan despite UN condemnation?  This caused Wired Magazine to call 2012 “The Year of the Drone in Afghanistan”.

Last month, military stats revealed that the U.S. had launched some 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan thus far in 2012. That made Afghanistan the epicenter of U.S. drone attacks — not Pakistan, not Yemen, not Somalia. But it turns out those stats were off, according to revised ones released by the Air Force on Thursday morning. There have actually been 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year. That means drone strikes represent 11.5 percent of the entire air war — up from about 5 percent last year.

Never before in Afghanistan have there been so many drone strikes. For the past three years, the strikes have never topped 300 annually, even during the height of the surge. Never mind 2014, when U.S. troops are supposed to take a diminished role in the war and focus largely on counterterrorism. Afghanistan’s past year, heavy on insurgent-hunting robots, shows that the war’s future has already been on display.

Many of the victims of these attacks have been citizens.  Drones are also operating in Pakistan, Yeman, and Somalia.

Reports say over 3,300 people, many of them women and children, were killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.

Rights and peace groups opposed to the targeted killings say the US administration has already violated international law by pursuing its assassination drone attacks.

Meanwhile, the UN plans to set up an investigation team in Geneva to probe the American drone attacks, as UN officials are concerned that Washington is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones.

The targeted killings started under former President George W. Bush and were expanded by President Barack Obama. In 2012, Obama personally approved the names put on the “kill lists” used in the targeted killing operations carried out by American assassination drones.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the only countries targeted by the US assassination drones. The unmanned aircraft are also operating in Yemen and Somalia.

According to a report compiled by the Washington think-tank, New America Foundation, the number of the US drone airstrikes in Yemen almost tripled this year compared with the previous one.

The report said that the United States has intensified its drone strikes in Yemenas well, increasing the number of operations drastically from 18 in 2011 to 53 in 2012 and killing at least 223 people.

Then, there is the Espionage Act where

There has been so much dysfunction in Congress these days–as well as active religious and right wing extremism aimed at women, GLBT, and minorities–that it’s hard to look to other faucets of our policy.  It’s important that we follow these important human rights abuses that are done in our name also.  It would be nice to be able to focus on really important policy issues for  a change, wouldn’t it?


Romney, GOP Appear to be Planning “October Surprise” on Libya . . . Will it Work?

The Romney campaign and the GOP appear to be rolling out an “October Surprise” in the leadup to to tomorrow night’s presidential debate.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Mitt Romney in which he supposedly proposed “A new course for the Middle East.  Here’s the opening:

Disturbing developments are sweeping across the greater Middle East. In Syria, tens of thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, and the country’s peace treaty with Israel hangs in the balance. In Libya, our ambassador was murdered in a terrorist attack. U.S. embassies throughout the region have been stormed in violent protests. And in Iran, the ayatollahs continue to move full tilt toward nuclear-weapons capability, all the while promising to annihilate Israel….

Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. We’re not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.

What follows is several paragraphs of criticism of President Obama’s policies as Romney interprets them. For example, Romney accuses the President of “allow[ing] or leadership to atrophy,” “misunderstanding our values,” and “thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries,” but provides no evidence for these claims.

The only “solutions” Romney puts forward are also vague. He argues that we must develop a “coherent strategy” of supporting our Middle Eastern allies and also “restore our credibility with Iran.” Based on Romney’s previous statements, he seems to be suggesting that somehow if he is President, the Iranians will be more terrified of him than weak, Carter-like Barack Obama.

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.

But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.

Yesterday Craig Unger wrote that he had learned from an anonymous source that GOP operatives will

unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11.

The source, who has firsthand knowledge of private, high-level conversations in the Romney camp that took place in Washington, D.C., last week, said that at various times the GOP strategists referred to their new operation as the Jimmy Carter Strategy or the October Surprise.

He added that they planned to release what they hoped would be “a bombshell” that would make Libya and Obama’s foreign policy a major issue in the campaign. “My understanding is that they have come up with evidence that the Obama administration had positive intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the intelligence.”

The source described the Republicans as chortling with glee that the Obama administration “definitely had intel” about the attack before it happened. “Intelligence can be graded in different ways,” he added, “and sometimes A and B don’t get connected. But [the Romney campaign] will try to paint it to look like Obama had advance knowledge of the attack and is weak on terrorism.”

“Chortling with glee?” The apparent goal of all this GOP strategizing is to make Barack Obama look like Jimmy Carter circa 1980. Romney and Ryan have both been trying to do this for months, with little effect.

To be honest, I’m having a hard time taking all this too seriously, but today Reps. Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz of the House Committee on Oversight and Government claimed to have information to prove that:

Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador was killed…

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [read the full letter here (pdf), Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said their information came from “individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.”

Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.

The letter listed 13 incidents, but Chaffetz said in an interview there were more than 50. Two of them involved explosive devices: a June 6 blast that blew a hole in the security perimeter. The explosion was described to the committee as “big enough for forty men to go through”; and an April 6 incident where two Libyans who were fired by a security contactor threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence.

“A number of people felt helpless in pushing back” against the decision not to increase security and “were pleading with them to reconsider,” Chaffetz said. He added that frustrated whistleblowers were so upset with the decision that they were anxious to speak with the committee.

Issa and Chaffetz will hold a hearing on the issue next Wednesday, October 10.

Just a side note: Jason Chaffetz is a convert to Mormonism who attend BYU and is a Romney surrogate.  He also spoke at the Republican Convention.

The Wall Street Journal fired another salvo today with another op-ed by Bret Stephens: Benghazi Was Obama’s 3 a.m. Call Here’s the concluding paragraph, which sums up the entire argument pretty well:

The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration’s concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan “sovereignty” and the need for “permission.” After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration’s reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it’s time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.

Jake Tapper also helped out by trying to get White House spokesman Jay Carney to comment on the charges from Issa and Chaffetz. Here’s the response:

Carney said that “embassy security is a matter that is in the purview of the State Department,” and noted that “Secretary Clinton instituted an accountability review that is underway as we speak” while the investigation of the attack itself is being conducted by the FBI.

The press secretary said that “from the moment our facility was attacked” the president has been focused on providing security to all diplomatic posts “and bringing the killers to justice.”
About the list of security issues, Carney said it was a “known fact that Libya is in transition” and that in the eastern part of Libya in particular there are militant groups and “a great number of armed individuals and militias.”

So I guess we can expect Romney to attack President Obama on the Libya issue during tomorrow night’s debate, no doubt accompanied by the famous Romney smirk. Obama should be prepared though, since the “October Surprise” has been so clearly spelled out by multiple media sources.

Is there more to it? Will it work? I kind of doubt it, because it’s clear from the polls that Romney has already destroyed his credibility with voters. But I could be wrong.

What do you think?


Saturday Reads: Piss on your Peace and Peace is our Profession

Good Morning!

Minx here with you today and tomorrow. We are two weeks into the new year, seems like it’s been two months. The first day felt like a week, the second day seemed like five days, the third day seemed like a week again, the fourth day felt like three days,  but the seventh and eighth days…seemed like an eternity!

Must be all the GOP Primary news that is getting to me! Political Affective Disorder…yes.

Alright…enough of the complaining, let’s get on with it.

There has been a lot of news happening in places other than the US…So I am going to start with global news first.

Iran, whoa…I don’t know what the final outcome will be, but I do know one thing…gas prices are going to skyrocket.

Emptywheel has some thoughts regarding Iran…and the recent Marines pissing incident.  Pissing on the Peace Process(es) | emptywheel

I hope to get around to saying more about the latest assassinated Iranian scientist, but in the meantime, I wanted to point out a coincidence of timing.

Jim Lobe argues convincingly that the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was likely designed to scuttle any efforts to dial down the rhetoric between Iran and the US.

My sense of the last week or so was that the mostly verbal confrontation between Iran and the U.S., particularly regarding the Strait of Hormuz, was spinning out of control much more rapidly than anyone had expected and that the possibility of a conflict had suddenly become very real in ways the Obama administration certainly never intended. (See Anne-Marie Slaughter’s CNN column, “Saving Face and Peace in the Gulf,” as an example of “this is getting really dangerous all of a sudden”. Until last fall, of course, she was Clinton’s director of policy planning and a very influential figure in the administration.) So there seemed to be a real effort to dial things back, expressed not only in repeated statements by senior administration officials, including Clinton, emphasizing Washington’s readiness to negotiate, but also, if the always well-informed Laura Rozen is to be believed, a lot of diplomatic — some of it, I’m sure, behind the scenes — manoeuvring to get the P5+1 process back into gear, with Turkey serving as the convenor/mediator.

Under these circumstances, the timing of today’s assassination was particularly remarkable. Among other things, it makes me believe that the U.S., which condemned the attack and categorically denied any role in it (See Clinton’s statement in her press conference with the Qatari Prime Minister here), was not in fact involved.* That leaves two obvious suspects: 1) Israel and 2) a faction within the Iranian regime. If there was indeed an Israeli hand behind it, the assassination was not just an effort to set back the Iran’s nuclear program and induce fear among other scientists working on it. I think it was also a provocation designed to 1) blow up prospects for progress in any p5+1 negotiations that might convene over the next month or so; 2) strengthen hard-line factions in Tehran that oppose negotiations; and 3) possibly provoke retaliation that will further escalate tensions, if not armed conflict. Of course, all three of these overlap and reinforce each other. If it was an internal Iranian faction, which, frankly, I find more difficult to believe, both 1) and 2) above also apply.

It makes sense. Everyone with a brain believes this was an Israeli op, and it’s safe to conclude that Israel wants to press us towards actual conflict.

I look forward to reading her take on the Iran assassination, you can go to the link to read a quick thought on the Afghanistan but this next quote has links to other post you may have missed about the piss tape.

As Jim pointed out earlier this week, this comes just after the Truth Vigilante Times drummed up more drone strikes which led to … more drone strikes.

It sure looks like someone is trying to make sure peace doesn’t break out in Afghanistan as well.

But who?

I’ll just float that question for now–I expect Jim or I will return to in it the coming days. For the moment, though, I just wanted to note that someone is pissing on the peace process in at least two different fronts.

Yeah… “piss on your peace!”

But wait a minute, I thought “peace is our profession?”

843rd BOMB WING STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND -- PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION From Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove

As far as Israel is concerned, the US is sending out warning signals: U.S. Warns Israel Against Iran Strike – WSJ.com

U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict.

[USIRAN]

Iranians on Friday carried the flag-draped coffin of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist working in Iran’s nuclear sector assassinated in Tehran.

President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The U.S. wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Stepping up the pressure, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week.

The high-stakes planning and diplomacy comes as U.S. officials warn Tehran, including through what administration officials described Friday as direct messages to Iran’s leaders, against provocative actions.

Tehran has warned that it could retaliate to tightened sanctions by blocking oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz. On Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to punish the perpetrators of the assassination—blamed by Iran on the U.S. and Israel—of an Iranian scientist involved in the nuclear program.

The U.S. denied the charge and condemned the attack. Israel hasn’t commented.

Sticking with Israel a bit more: Advance of the Zealots: The Growing Influence of the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International

Veiled women, radical rabbis and gender segregation: Israel is facing a rise in the influence of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Their efforts to impose a strictly conservative worldview have led to growing tensions with the country’s secular society. A resolution to the conflict is vital for Israel’s future.

Outside is the Judean Wilderness, the Dead Sea shimmers in the distance. Naomi Machfud is sitting inside the self-built house, dreaming about making the world disappear. She wants to cover up her face with a veil, she says, her mouth, her nose and her eyes. A black veil, without even a vision slit, one that swallows every glance and submerges the world in darkness. The veil is the pinnacle of zniut, or modesty, the closest a person can get to God. But, she says with a sigh, “unfortunately I’m not that far yet.”

But Machfud, a 30-year-old woman with six children, has already created an insulating layer of material between herself and the outside world. She is wearing a wool robe, an apron, a blouse, three floor-length corduroy skirts, a black skirt and trousers. She has a piece of black wool material wrapped loosely around her head. Underneath it is a tight, black veil, and underneath that is a pale pink veil. Not a single hair is visible. She is wearing a pair of earrings, but she takes them off when she leaves the house.

Machfud is a Jewish woman married to a Jewish man. They live in a settlement in the West Bank, but she dresses as if she lived in Afghanistan.

You can click the link to read the rest of that article…it is a long one in two parts.

Have you all heard of the scandal called “Memogate?” It regards Pakistani and US relations:  ‘Memogate’ scandal deepens as American accuser threatens to tell all | World news | guardian.co.uk

The controversial American businessman at the centre of the “Memogate” scandal threatening to bring down the government of Pakistan has told the Guardian he plans to fly into the country to tell what he describes as the “unaltered truth” before the courts.

The allegations made by Mansoor Ijaz reach all the way up to President Asif Zardari, and could end up with treason charges against the country’s former US ambassador, Husain Haqqani, or even the president himself. But critics say that the charges are a fantastical and thinly-veiled attempt by the military to hound the government from power, aided by the hostile courts that have taken up the case with alacrity.

This Guardian article gives you the lowdown on this memo…give it a read. It may be big talk, it may not…but it highlights the stressful relations of the two countries.

I am sure you heard about the European Countries Downgrade of Debt Ratings Underscores Europe’s Woes – NYTimes.com

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit ratings of France, Italy and seven other European countries on Friday, a move that may have more symbolic than fundamental financial impact but served as a reminder that Europe’s economic woes were far from over.

[…]

After Friday, the only euro zone nations retaining their top AAA ratings are Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Luxembourg.

I have just a couple more global links for you…U.S. to Renew Myanmar Ties in Light of Reforms – NYTimes.com

The United States moved to restore full diplomatic relations with Myanmar on Friday, rewarding the sweeping political and economic changes that the country’s new civilian government has made, including a cease-fire with ethnic rebels and, only hours before, the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

There also is news about a grounded cruise ship: Italians launch rescue bid after cruise liner runs aground | World news | The Guardian

About 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew were being evacuated by lifeboat from a cruise ship off Italy on Friday after it ran aground and started taking in water.

The Costa Concordia got into difficulties and began listing near the island of Giglio, off Tuscany, after leaving Civitavecchia near Rome.

USA Today is reporting eight deaths:

UPDATE, 11:55: Eight people are dead after the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground off the Italian coast in an accident which forced the coast guard to evacuate over 4,000 people, AFP reports.

More than 30 people were also injured in the accident, several seriously, and several people were still missing after jumping overboard in panic as the ship began to tilt, the Messaggero newspaper said. One of the victims was a man in his 70s who died of a heart attack caused by the shock to his system when he jumped into the icy waters, reports said.

More in US news after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


Late Evening News Reads: Iran…Israel…US…Timing is everything.

Good Evening

Today was a busy news day, as far as the number of unread feeds in my reader…However, for tonight’s evening reads I am going to stick with Iran, Israel and the US.

Quixote sent me this link earlier this evening.

Iran explosions prompt speculation of secret attacks | McClatchy

Unexplained attacks in Iran

View larger image

JERUSALEM — A series of mishaps at Iranian nuclear facilities and weapons sites may be part of a covert organized attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, according to Western intelligence officials.

An explosion last week outside Iran’s third largest city, Isfahan, is thought to be the most recent strike, though details on the intended target are still unclear. A sprawling military base and nuclear facilities are outside Isfahan, and intelligence officials across the Middle East said there was strong evidence that the explosion had done some “significant structural damage.”

“We have seen enough evidence to know something has happened, but we are unclear on what at this point,” said one Western diplomat whose work includes the region, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “There are a number of parties interested in sabotaging and weakening the Iranian regime.”

This is where the article takes an expected turn, as Dakinikat has speculated early last week, there are suggestions that Israel is behind these explosions.

The second such incident in as many weeks cast doubt on Iranian claims that these were “accidents” and “coincidences,” and it set off speculation of a coordinated attack by Israel, whose officials long have threatened a strike against Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli officials denied direct involvement, but the growing number of mysterious or unexplained blasts and deaths has many suspecting an official program of sabotage.

Israeli newspapers declared last week that Israel’s war with Iran already had begun, but that the Jewish state, rather than launch massive airstrikes, had decided on a method of covert action in cooperation with other groups. Statements by current and former Israeli officials were being parsed for clues but did little to clarify the issue.

Tell me if these responses don’t give you pause…

“There aren’t many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God,” said Israel’s former head of internal security, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “We are not happy to see the Iranians move ahead on this (program), so any delay, be it divine intervention or otherwise, is welcome.”

Divine intervention…or did the dog do it?

It just seems like relations in the area have gone from bad to worse. This possible coordinated attacks from Israel may explain Panetta’s harsh language a few days ago:

Panetta to Israel: ‘Get to the Damn Table’ for Peace Talks « VOA Breaking News

The top U.S. defense official is warning Israel it cannot afford to further isolate itself from Arab neighbors in the Middle East.

During a forum in Washington late Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Israel needs to start by getting back “to the damn table” and negotiating peace with the Palestinians. He also called on Israel to mend its fraying relationships with traditional partners like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

Some Israeli leaders have viewed the Arab Spring, and uprisings like the one that toppled long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, as a threat to regional stability as well as to Israel’s security. But Panetta urged Israeli officials to reject that way of thinking.

Panetta said Israel has no choice but to take some risks to ensure a safer future, starting with resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, a process that Panetta said has “effectively been put on hold.”

In this Reuters India link, they published a bit more of Panetta’s comment to Israel:

Panetta: Israel must get to damn peace table | Reuters

Panetta, addressing a forum in Washington, also made one of his most extensive arguments to date against any imminent military action against Iran over its nuclear program, saying he was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were working.

“You always have the last resort … of military action. But it must be the last resort, not the first,” Panetta said.

[…]

He said Israel needed to take risks, including by breathing new life into moribund peace talks with Palestinians. When asked by a moderator what steps Israel needed to take to pursue peace, Panetta said: “Just get to the damn table.”

“The problem right now is we can’t get ’em to the damn table, to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences,” Panetta said.

Panetta said the United States would safeguard Israel’s security, ensure regional stability and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — a goal Tehran denies having.

“Israel, too, has a responsibility to pursue these shared goals — to build regional support for Israeli and United States’ security objectives,” Panetta said.

“I believe security is dependent on a strong military but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy. And unfortunately, over the past year, we’ve seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow.”

Also heating up the already tense situation, is the recent US drone spy plane that was “brought” down by Iran…not by shooting it down, it looks like Iran was able to “hack” the drone. Reports are that Iran is in possession of the super secret spy plane.

Military sources confirmed that the Iranians have the RQ-170 drone, which is so advanced that the U.S. Air Force has not distributed even a photo of it. However, they did not say that the Iranians shot down the spy plane, as was reported by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

I realize that link goes to Fox, but JPost.com and Reuters are reporting this news as well.

Iran is still sticking with the “shot down” story for now, there is also a warning from the Iran military, from FARS News Agency: Fars News Agency :: Iran Warns of Wider Response to US Spy Missions

“Given the flagrant violation of our country’s borders, the electronic and operational actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces against the enemy planes will not be limited to the country’s borders,” an Iranian official told FNA.

The official had also informed FNA on Sunday afternoon that the country’s forces had downed a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone over the Eastern parts of the country.

“An advanced RQ-170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran’s armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran’s Armed Forces,” a military official told FNA on Sunday.

In similar remarks, military sources told Iran’s Arabic language Al Alam television that Tehran will intensify its response to the United States’ spying operations.

“The Iranian military’s response to the American spy drone’s violation of our airspace will not be limited to Iran’s borders any more,” a military source told Al Alam, without giving details.

After a day of silence, both Pentagon and NATO officials acknowledged the shooting down of their Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in eastern Iran, alleging that the aircraft with a mission to fly over western Afghanistan had gone astray.

The drone had been downed with help from the Iranian military’s electronic warfare unit.

The military official warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country’s airspace by American drone aircraft.

Then there is this bit of news from The Telegraph: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards prepare for war – Telegraph

An order from Gen Mohammed Ali Jaafari, the commander of the guards, raised the operational readiness status of the country’s forces, initiating preparations for potential external strikes and covert attacks.

Western intelligence officials said the Islamic Republic had initiated plans to disperse long-range missiles, high explosives, artillery and guards units to key defensive positions.

The order was given in response to the mounting international pressure over Iran’s nuclear programme. Preparation for a confrontation has gathered pace following last month’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna that produced evidence that Iran was actively working to produce nuclear weapons.

The Iranian leadership fears the country is being subjected to a carefully co-ordinated attack by Western intelligence and security agencies to destroy key elements of its nuclear infrastructure.

Recent explosions have added to the growing sense of paranoia within Iran, with the regime fearing it will be the target of a surprise military strike by Israel or the US.

Now, I realize the Telegraph and Fox News have their particular bias…but the story from FARS shows that relations between Israel, Iran and the US are getting more heated.

Of course, I have not mentioned the recent attack on the British Embassy in Iran.  It all just makes me very uncomfortable…and also at the heart of all this mess…is oil.  Iran, Facing New Sanctions, Warns of Oil at $250 a Barrel – NYTimes.com

Alarmed by the possibility of new Western penalties that could abruptly reduce or even halt its oil exports, Iran issued a warning on Monday that crude oil prices could more than double to $250 a barrel if such sanctions were given serious consideration.

The warning, issued by the Foreign Ministry, appeared to be part of an attempt by Iran to intimidate its adversaries as tensions grow. Western nations stepped up their efforts to isolate Iran diplomatically after mobs stormed and vandalized Britain’s diplomatic facilities in Tehran less than a week ago, evoking stark images of the United States Embassy takeover after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The assault was widely criticized, even by some of Iran’s friends.

The price of oil today did not “jump” because of this threat…there was little change in trading today.

Iran is the third-largest exporter of oil, after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Its biggest customers —China, the European Union, India, Japan, and South Korea — together account for two-thirds of total Iranian oil exports, according to an analysis published by the Energy Information Administration in the United States. Reduced orders from just one of those customers could be disruptive for Iran, where the economy is already suffering from the accumulated effects of other sanctions.

After the assault on the British Embassy, European Union ministers said they would give serious consideration to an oil embargo at a meeting in January, and the United States Senate voted 100 to 0 for legislation that would penalize any foreign bank that does business with Iran’s central bank.

The Senate measure, meant to use access to the United States market as leverage in isolating Iran, is not yet law and could be modified. But analysts said that such a measure, if enforced, could wreak havoc on Iran’s oil industry, because the central bank is the main conduit for receipts from oil sales.

“At some point, sanctions become an act of war,” said Vali Nasr, a professor at Tufts University and an expert on Iranian affairs. “If you cut Iran out of the oil market, this is no longer economic pressure.”

What do you all think? It is making me a little nervous. With tensions escalating in Pakistan, and the Afghani president talking about resurgence of the Taliban…

The United States is vacating an air base in Pakistan at Islamabad’s request following a NATO attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told Pakistan’s Waqt TV on Monday that the United States is leaving Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan Province southwest of Quetta. U.S. drones have taken off from the base and refueled there for operations against Islamic militants, according to sources familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan.

The order to clear out of the base comes in the aftermath of a November 26 incident in which a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani troops.

The Taliban could make a comeback and take over Afghanistan again, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned on Monday at the Bonn Conference. “If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before Sept 11, 2001,” Karzai said.

There has been progress in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in the wake of the hijacked plane attacks on the United States, he said. But, he warned: “Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant Afghanistan is far from being achieved”.

Seems like all the “alert” messages are being sent.

And what does the US Main Stream Media have to say about all this drone business…Don’t worry…the drone fell to earth from such a high altitude…it must be in little, tiny pieces…so Iran can’t get much insight or information from that. Experts: Iran capture of stealth drone no worry – CBS News

“This is a high-flying unmanned aircraft that malfunctioned and then fell to earth. It’s likely to be broken up into hundreds of pieces.”

[…]

“Are we going to stop flying them? No. Was it a secret we were flying them? No,” said Pike. “Did Iran shoot it down? Probably not. Because Iranian air defenses are not very good, and it is a good stealth vehicle. And did Iranian hackers hack into it and bring it down? No. It’s just too hard to do.”

So say the “experts.”

This is a serious situation, and I worry it will be just another reason to step up the US military presence in the region, especially now that we are winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2012 election is also in the back of my mind…the timing seems to be one of the key coincidences in all this. We also have the triggered spending cuts that should be cutting into the military budget, so again my thoughts go back to the timing.

Timing is everything.

The European Union and its growing money troubles, austerity and cut backs…the US Economy and the corruption of  back room secret deals…people are going to need something to make them forget the elected (and not elected) people and corporations that got us into this mess.

But what do I know, I am just someone who lives in a small town in the American South.  I see all the things going on in the world from my laptop…things that I know are wrong or corrupt or manipulated to get the planned responses. Whether it be a rise in fear, so that more military spending is accepted, or the planned trillion dollars in bailouts, both public and secret, that “pay off” all those fat cat campaign contributors….or the possible terrorist attacks that bring about the acceptance of security measures so that more 85-year-old grandmothers can be striped search. (Yes, that now brings the total to three old women getting stripped searched at the same JFK terminal.)

Every day I feel more and more dejected and despondent and depressed. What makes it even worse is the feeling of abandonment from politicians and elected  officials that are supposed to act in our best interest…like sheep being led to slaughter, we are just wandering down the turnstiles and being directed which ever way the controlling class and media want us to move.

I wish I could have a better post for you tonight, that link Quixote sent was a good one, and I fear that I did not do it justice.

I’m just a silent sheep in Banjoland, no expert in foreign policy or military matters…and Iran and Israel are half a world away…but from the screen of my laptop, I see the problem growing…and I see all the ways it can be manipulated and used for other people’s advantage, and that makes me a little more concerned for what is coming…and my fear is that it will be something big.


You can’t win… Late Night Open Thread

Mama bird protecting her kids...

Good Evening Y’all!

Hey, I have some links for you tonight, to make up for the lame evening reads post earlier today.

The first link is something from last week, and I completely missed it. H/T to Taylor Marsh: President Obama learns perils of roiling Maxine Waters – Joseph Williams – POLITICO.com

Obama responded in a high-profile speech urging black lawmakers to “stop grumbling”and fight alongside him. Waters responded with five TV hits in one day, delivering a blunt message: “I don’t know who he was talking to.”

Administration officials called Waters’s office to complain, discounted her as a perennial malcontent, and reminded reporters that Obama’s speech, which laid out accomplishments like tax credits for working families and protections from predatory lenders, drew a standing ovation from the majority-black audience. At the same time, White House surrogate Rev. Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host, publicly took Waters to task for being too hard on Obama.

Yeah the Obama admin called Waters…but Obama has never personally talked to Waters. (Can you believe it?)

Her aides say Obama, however, has not personally reached out to the congresswoman since taking office. The president’s distaste for the flesh-pressing aspect of politics that Waters is used to, is well known.

“I don’t have a relationship with the White House,” Water said, quickly adding that the president is cordial to her when they meet at a ceremony or reception. Still, “I’ve never had a conversation with the president.”

WTF? That is ridiculous. It’s been almost a day since I saw this article and it still bothers me!

The article ends with an assumption that Waters will suck it up and do whatever she can to ensure Obama gets re-elected. I’m not so sure she will break her neck getting out there like some barker for a Obama 2nd term carousel. What do you all think?

Let’s get to some global news…In Libya, the new government is promising strict adherence to Islamic law. One of the current laws they are overturning from Gaddafi’s rule regards the ban on polygamy.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the NTC…attempted to reassure the NTC’s Western backers that the country would be a “moderate” Muslim nation, amid concern over its plans to introduce Islamic law. He appeared to soften his position less than 24 hours after using the liberation ceremony to declare that Sharia law would be the basis of all legislation.

His attempt at conciliation hinted at the difficulty the NTC is having in balancing the demands of secularists and influential Islamist factions who played a strong role in the uprising.

France and the EU warned the NTC to respect human rights after Mr Jalil’s speech on Sunday in which he singled out a ban on polygamy as legislation which would have to be swept aside.

Yup, get rid of the ban on polygamy…way to move forward there. I guess the Arab Spring is not for all Arabs…particularly the female kind.

So far the Obama Administration is staying silent on the direction the NTC in Libya is heading…Let’s see if Hillary Clinton will make any statements about the future of Libyan women’s rights.

In Kenya, some recent violence seems to stem from the Kenyan military action into Somalia targeting the terrorist group al-Shabab. Two Explosions in Kenya’s Capital; 1 Dead

Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, has been rocked by two explosions in crowded downtown areas that have killed one person and wounded more than 20 others.

Officials say someone hurled a grenade Monday evening at a Nairobi bus stop. One person died and eight others were rushed to the hospital after the attack.

Earlier Monday, an unidentified assailant threw a grenade into a downtown Nairobi bar, wounding at least 13 people.

Police are investigating both attacks, which followed warnings from the Somali militant group al-Shabab that it would launch attacks inside Kenya.

There is some very disturbing reports about teenagers raping old women out of Nigeria, and the mass rapes of the Congo-Kinishasa are continuing to make news in the African Press.

https://i2.wp.com/allafrica.com/img/csi/00150822_1088300cf963f8c21d541b50c38d8aca/w430.jpg

You can read more at the All Africa website: allAfrica.com: Sustainable Africa: Women and Gender

The Occupy protest is causing Faux news to take it to another level…as if they could go any lower.  Fox & Friends: Protesting Mom ‘More Disgusting Than Any of the Filth Down on Wall Street’ | Video Cafe

The Fox & Friends kids’ reaction to the Stacey Hessler story was the same sort of predictable nonsense you’d expect from people paid primarily to get outraged over the latest liberal/marxist attack on America. The weekend edition though just might be outdoing their weekday counterparts in hysteria.

According to them, Hessler is (a) an unfit mother of four young kids for leaving them behind in Florida as she lives on the street in Manhattan; (b) who probably wasn’t ‘putting out’ for her banker husband anyway (hmm…oh, nevermind); and is now (c) shacked up with some young waiter from Brooklyn.

Get a load of the load of B.S., just check out the link for the video, there is also a transcript of the banter between the weekend version of Fox & Friends.

Rachel Maddow has the picture below featured in one of her blog’s post…

This sign — and commentary — is hanging outside a food pantry in Manhattan’s East Village. Maybe it’s time we did something about the economy.

This week marks 10 years since the PATRIOT Act was signed into law…and now there is a new proposed change in the Freedom of Information Act. Rule Change Would Allow Government to Lie About Whether Records Exist

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist—even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal—part of a lengthy rule revisionby the Department of Justice—would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

Open-government groups object.

No kidding…when we are in an age that is actually considering immunity for banks…what else do you expect.

On to immigration reform…Obama style.

Democrats consider new immigration reform push

Democratic sources tell CNN that it’s likely that Democrats on Capitol Hill –with the approval of the White House– will re-introduce some form of immigration reform, possibly as early as December. At this point, the details of any plan are unclear. But what is clear is that Democrats are interested in using their version of reform as a “contrast issue” to Republicans, who largely emphasize border security.

Sources say there are ongoing discussions among Democrats ranging from re-introducing comprehensive reform to bringing up the Dream Act again, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the military to become citizens. The Dream Act was defeated last year.

Another possibility being considered is to combine a tough border security plan introduced by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl with a form of the Dream Act. “Nothing has been decided,” says one Senate Democratic leadership aide. But, he adds, “there’s a lot of interest.”

Well, let’s see what comes of this new immigration reform, considering Obama’s administration has had a record number of deportations…three years in a row…I am sure it will be something to appease and insure Obama gets the Latino vote.

Obama has a way to go to get approval from Latino voters, check out the civil right statements being made in Alabama…Civil rights groups charge Obama with hypocrisy over Alabama immigration law

The Obama administration is facing charges of hypocrisy for fighting a controversial Alabama immigration law while using the measure to arrest and deport illegal immigrants in the state.

Civil rights and Latino advocacy groups laud the Justice Department’s (DOJ) lawsuit challenging Alabama over its newly enacted immigration law, which allows state law enforcement officials to require suspected criminals to show proof of their immigration status.

But the groups blasted the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) continued use in Alabama of the Secure Communities program, which transmits the immigration status records of people arrested in the state to federal authorities. The new state law subjects the Latino community to racial profiling and the Secure Communities program places illegal immigrants who are arrested in line to be deported by DHS, the groups said.

“You have two agencies that are pursuing courses that are inconsistent with each other,” said Joanne Lin, a legislative council for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in an interview.

When you read this post about the hypocrisy…of do as I say, not as I do…this next article about a speech Attorney General Holder gave at a memorial for civil rights advocate Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who passed away earlier this month, is kind of ironic…in a pathetic way.  Holder: Alabama ignoring its past

Attorney General Eric Holder says too many in Alabama “are willing to turn their backs on our immigrant past.”

Referring to Alabama’s recently enacted immigration law, Holder told the audience gathered at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church on Sunday that he “was not going to let that happen.”

And then you have the bat-shit crazy electrified fence idea from the GOP idiot de jour, Herman Cain…but what about the GOP stance on immigration as a whole:

Why Republican Candidates Skirt the Real Immigration Issue

If you’re a restrictionist (personally, I’d like to see more folks allowed to come here legally), the test to gauge whether Republicans are actually intent on substantially decreasing illegal immigration, or just pandering, should be their position on workplace enforcement. It’s common to hear them decry birthright citizenship and in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants as “magnets” that exacerbate unlawful border crossings. But jobs are the draw that ultimately matters. GOP candidates benefit from obscuring that reality, because they are determined to win the support of the business community, which is understandably averse to increased workplace enforcement. It would disrupt many industries, impose extra human resources costs on companies wary of breaking the law, and result in fines and other penalties for lawbreaking companies.

Thus the awful status quo wherein someone can rise to temporary front-runner status in a GOP primary joking about the death by electrocution of Mexicans, but wouldn’t dare to joke about arresting CEOs who deliberately hire illegal immigrants or prosecuting upper-middle-class homeowners who do the same. At GOP fundraisers, bad ideas like that are no laughing matter. Unlike restrictionists, I don’t think illegal immigrants who are employed and law-abiding are hurting America so much as contributing to it, so until they’re made citizens, which I’d like to see happen, I’d rather focus enforcement efforts on human smugglers, gang members, and other criminals. Another option would be to grant amnesty to any illegal immigrant who came forward to show that he’d been hired sans documents, fine his employer, and give him a green card. That would end the hiring of undocumented labor quickly, but is totally politically unrealistic.

I think Conor Friedersdorf makes some valid points. I agree with making legal immigration more accessible, and the unrealistic option about granting amnesty to immigrants that have been hired by American employers seems like a good idea to me.

Alright, I have a few cool links to end this post. The world’s population is supposed to hit 7 billion soon…

How big was the world’s population when you were born?

The Guardian has this cool thing at the link above, you type in the date you were born and poof, it gives you a bit of statistical info…check it out.

Over a MoJo there is an article about Bluegrass Music and Chinese Folk songs, which I thought went kind of well with Boston Boomers post last night. Abigail Washburn Brings Bluegrass to the Silk Road

And lastly to connect you with the real Silk Road…I found this cool group of pictures from a carnival round up on the blog She-Wolf: Welcome to the Medieval Carnival!

It’s my pleasure to host this month’s edition of Carnivalesque, showcasing the best in recent blogging on ancient and medieval history.

There are lots of cool links at She-Wolf’s carnival, but this last one is fantastic.

I thought this Flickr collection was worth a mention. Juliana Lees has been collecting images of pre-1200 Eastern textiles found in Western churches and cathedrals, with a particular interest in Silk Road influences.

Ancient textiles from the East in Western churches and museums –

Ancient textiles from the East have often been conserved in Western churches and cathedrals. They were sometimes used as shrouds and subsequently venerated as holy relics, the source of lucrative pilgrimages. They were also brought back from the East by crusaders and pilgrims, or given to established abbeys and cathedrals by great lords and princes. Some of these Sassanian, Byzantine, Egyptian and Moorish textiles are still in religious edifices, in their treasuries or episcopal museums. Others can be found in museums all over the world. There is no doubt that they have been of the greatest importance in disseminating the styles and cultural influences of the Silk Routes into Western Europe and many motifs familiar to us on Romanesque capitals and artefacts have their origin in the imported silks and especially the Sassanian images.

Well, that should be more than enough for you all to ponder.

I’ll leave you all with a song that has been in my head all day…have a great evening!