Monday, November 29, 2010

The Mexican Desert: Not Hospitable

Mexico - you have no idea how many bodies are actually buried.  Hundreds.  The numbers are staggering.  When added together, they will make the number of murders in the US in a  year seem rather dim.

20 bodies found in northern Mexico mass grave

Olivia Torres
November 29, 2010

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – The Mexican army discovered several clandestine graves holding at least 20 bodies near a ranch in the northern border state of Chihuahua, authorities said Monday.

Soldiers found the bodies of 19 men and one woman buried in 12 graves over the weekend in the town of Puerto Palomas, across from Columbus, New Mexico, and informed police so they could oversee excavations, Chihuahua state prosecutor Jorge Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said that the bodies had been buried between four and eight months and that it had not yet been determined how they were killed because they were badly decomposed.

Earlier this month, the bodies of 18 men who were kidnapped in Acapulco where they had gone on vacation were found in a mass grave outside the resort city. An alleged drug trafficker arrested last week in Mexico City told police he ordered the killings after mistaking the men for members of a rival cartel.

Also in Chihuahua state, gunmen in two trucks chased and killed the newly appointed female police chief of the town of Meoqui on Monday. Hermila Garcia Quinones was driving to work when the attackers opened fire on her car, said Carlos Gonzalez, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.

No one was arrested and no suspects were named.

Garcia became police chief Oct. 9 after a new mayor took office. Garcia, a former prosecutor, had never been a police chief before and authorities said she was the first woman to hold that post in Meoqui.

Chihuahua state, across the border from New Mexico and Texas, is one of the states most affected by drug violence and has recently seen an increase in the number of women leading police departments after men rejected the jobs out of fear.

In Praxedis G. Guerrero, east of Ciudad Juarez, 20-year-old university student Marisol Valles Garcia was named police chief in October. Valles Garcia's predecessor was shot to death in July 2009 and the town had no police chief until the young woman accepted the job.

Two other municipalities near Ciudad Juarez, which is sits across the border from El Paso, Texas, have also sworn in women as police chiefs.

In the Pacific coast state of Michoacan, gunmen killed the deputy police chief of the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, authorities said. Joaquin Garcia Gomez was at a gas station when assailants attacked him Sunday night, state prosecutors said in a statement Monday.

Police commanders, mayors and other leaders have increasingly become targets of drug gangs that are seeking to control territory for their operations, particularly in northern areas. More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon ordered a crackdown on gangs when he took office in December 2006.

On Monday, the Inter-American Press Association urged Calderon in a letter signed by hundreds of newspaper readers from throughout the Americas to find those responsible for the killing of a newspaper Mexican reporter.

The group asked Calderon to help move forward the investigation into the killing of Armando Rodriguez, who was shot in front of his daughter in Ciudad Juarez two years ago.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Obama's Administration: One foot after the other, and pretty soon you'll be walking out the door ...

Julian Assange is teasing Barack Obama over drip, drip WikiLeaks releases

I agree, although not sure if Assange is doing so on purpose.  The drip drip is crippling.  Obama is supposed to be dealing with ... other issues, but will have to contend with embarassing statements from his own government concerning ... our 'allies' (and others).

Wikileaks: Close Guantanamo - and who cares what happens.

¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

New York Times, 11/28/10

It is all about politics, nothing about security - and certainly, does not consider what our 'allies' thought - this administration pushed through what Obama wanted, which was not in the best interest of the US - but in his political best interest.  We close Guantanamo and we don't care what happens after that - or the consequences. 
The actions of this administration are as reckless as the action of the person(s) who made these materials public. 
the end of the world as we know

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DHS (ICE) Seize Website Domain Names

One question might be - if Congress is considering an act authorizing action on internet infringement, I have to wonder, by what authority are they seizing these sites (I am sure there must be authority or they would not do it).

Homeland Security seizes domain names

The Hill
By Sara Jerome - 11/26/10 04:25 PM ET

The investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department appears to be shutting down websites that facilitate copyright infringement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has seized dozens of domain names over the past few days, according to TorrentFreak.

ICE appears to be targeting sites that help Internet users download copyrighted music, as well as sites that sell bootleg goods, such as fake designer handbags.

The sites are replaced with a note from the government: "This domain named has been seized by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations."

For instance,,, and have each been seized.

One of the site owners told TorrentFreak that his site was shut down without any notice or warning.

The effort come as Congress considers the Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). Critics, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) say it is too heavy-handed. He has vowed to put a formal hold on the bill.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brasil - A Regional Power or a Regional Headache

25 November 2010

Rio de Janeiro shaken by fresh gang violence

Police and gang members have clashed in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro for a fourth day, despite further raids by security forces.

At least 15 people were reported killed on Wednesday as police sought to quell the wave of gang violence.

Heavily armed men continued to stop cars and buses, rob passengers and set vehicles alight, police said.

Officials say drug traffickers are fighting back against police operations aimed at pacifying city slums.

"There are groups of criminals who have been installed here for 20, 30 years, and they might not want to give up," said Rio state public safety director Jose Beltrame.

"But we're not giving up either. If they keep this up, we will redouble our efforts. Anyone who gets in our path will be run over."

Military police said 15 suspected gang members had died in shootouts with officers on Wednesday. Since the weekend, more than 20 people have died in clashes.

One of the victims was a 14-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet in the area of Penha, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported.

Two policemen were wounded in the clashes, officials said.

The Brazilian G1 news website said bombs, grenades and guns had been seized in police raids.

Gang-related violence has plagued Rio for decades, but most has been contained within the city's slums, known as favelas.

Now some of the recent attacks have spilled into wealthier areas closer to the beach.

"The scary part is that now it is getting close to us," said Olga Silveira, shopping in the wealthy Ipanema neighbourhood.

"Before, the violence was always far away. The criminals have discovered the power they have and they want to show it."

Rubem Fernandes, from Viva Rio, a group trying to address issues of violence, told the BBC that the situation was attracting outside attention because of the way the gangs were targeting vehicles.

"The pattern is one to provoke images of burning cars and buses, images which are very powerful on TV, and which can provoke a sense of fear," he said.

Correspondents say the latest wave of violence has raised further doubts about Rio's ability to safely host the 2014 Fifa football World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

The latest clashes began on Saturday night when armed men began blocking some of the main roads leading out of Rio, robbing motorists and setting vehicles on fire.

Police said officers had been deployed in 28 slum districts.

More than 1,000 officers were removed from desk jobs to join the operation and 300 extra motorcycle police were on patrol, they said.

Rio's favelas have for years been controlled by heavily armed drug trafficking gangs.

The city's pacification programme is aimed at improving security and the rule of law in Rio in the run-up to the World Cup and Olympics.


Intent: What you intend to do matters more than your actions

Rahm Emmanuel wanting to be mayor of Chicago -

But Mr. Emanuel’s campaign, which quickly called a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, says Mr. Emanuel’s intent was always to return to his home on the North Side of Chicago, and that his intent is what should ultimately define his legal status when these complaints reach elections officials and the courts.

the left

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DHS: We don't Like Color Coded System

The color coded warning system, and the new claim as to why it needs to be done away with ...

This is good to keep because it can be juxtaposed against what they do create ...

Perhaps they should do a warning color system for us - what we can expect at the airport:  Green - regular check, pat, and adios.  Yellow - stand like a cross, wand waved about, patted down.  Red:  armed guards, scanner, x-ray, backscatter, and groping.

"The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing with a system that communicates precise, actionable information based on the latest intelligence to law enforcement, the private sector and the American public," said a senior Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because deliberations are continuing.


Monday, November 22, 2010

NATO: Afghanistan a safe place to grow up

Daft?  He is much more than daft.

Children safer in Afghan cities than NYC-NATO envoy

22 Nov 2010 15:42:28 GMT

Source: Reuters
By Jonathon Burch

KABUL, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Children are probably safer growing up in Afghanistan's major cities, including the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, than in London, New York, or Glasgow, NATO's top civilian envoy to Afghanistan has said.

Mark Sedwill's comments were made during an interview to be aired on Monday on Children's BBC Newsround, a popular British daily current affairs programme aimed at children.

Children living in the Afghan capital Kabul had told the show's presenter they felt unsafe on the streets because of the risk of bombs. But Sedwill dismissed their fears.

"Here and in Kabul and the other big cities, actually, there are very few of those bombs," he said.

"The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York or Glasgow or many other cities," he said.

"It's a very family-orientated society, so it is a little bit like a city of villages," he said.

His remarks, which feature in a two-part series exploring the lives of children in Afghanistan, were rejected as misleading by an official from the aid group Save the Children.

"One in five children die before they get to the age of five. So to say it's safer than to live in London, New York or Glasgow is daft," said the representative from Save the Children, who requested anonymity so he could speak freely.

"Sedwill's overall message that life is village-like gives a sense of comfort or of a safe environment. It is not like that in Afghanistan, it is dangerous for children, it's an insecure place," he said.

The remarks were met with surprise in the capital, where many children have died in insurgent attacks, although some children said they felt security had improved recently.

"There is no safety in Kabul; when I go to school I always feel that something might happen," said 13-year-old Ahmad Sejad. Teacher Ghulam Jelani said parents are even more worried about violence than their children.

U.N. figures show 1,795 children killed or injured as a result of the war from September 2008 through August 2010.

Sedwill said he had been trying to explain that violence was the same in each part of Afghanistan and that, in cities like Kabul, it was comparable to what many Western children might see.

"Any comment you have to clarify obviously wasn't very well put and the comparison I made with Western cities distracted attention from the important point I was seeking to make," Sedwill said in a statement later on Monday.


A report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in November 2009 said Afghanistan was the most dangerous country to be born in. It has the highest infant mortality rate in the world and two-thirds of the population lacks access to clean water.

Forty-three percent of the country was virtually off-limits to aid agencies due to poor security, the UNICEF report said, making it difficult to carry out health campaigns for children.

Another U.N. report on Afghanistan in September said casualties among women increased 6 percent, while those among children jumped by 55 percent. A total of 74 children were killed in the first half of the year by homemade bombs or in suicide attacks, an increase of 155 percent for the same period in 2009.

Last month, at least nine people, including eight children, were killed when a school bus carrying female students was hit by a roadside bomb in Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan.

Kabul has been relatively quiet over the past three months but two bombings targeting the Indian embassy in 2008 and 2009 killed around 75 people, including children.

Girls have had acid thrown in their faces while walking to school by hardline Islamists who object to female education, which was banned under Taliban rule. Several girls' schools, including some in Kabul, have also been hit by mysterious gas poisonings blamed on Islamists.

Some children, especially those from wealthier families, are also kidnapped for ransom. Such kidnappings often go unreported and children have been killed if ransoms were not paid.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iran: Women should marry at 16 or older, not 9.

Finally, a man who is living in the 21st century.  He should be praised and given accolades for increasing the age, from 9 to 15.  What a champ, what a man, what a .........

Girls should marry aged 16-18: Iran's Ahmadinejad

November 21, 2010
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the best age for girls to get married was between 16 and 18, Iranian newspapers reported on Sunday.

Analysts say such announcements could be part of the government's efforts to gain support among young voters.

Iran's parliament in 2004 raised the legally acceptable age of marriage for girls to 15 from nine.

"The best age for marriage is between 16 to 18 for girls and 19 to 21 for boys," the Mardomsalari newspaper quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Ahmadinejad's popularity has been harmed since the disputed 2009 presidential vote, which the opposition says was rigged to secure his re-election. The authorities deny this. The vote and its aftermath created a rift within the ruling hardline elite.

"We have a parliamentary election in 2012 and hardliners want to win young people's votes in order to win the assembly vote," said an Iranian political analyst who asked not to be named.

Iranians struggle to cope with international sanctions and deepening economic uncertainty. The official inflation rate is about 10 percent and unemployment about 15 percent.

Iran has been hit by foreign sanctions over its disputed nuclear work, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The authorities have been encouraging marriage as a way to fight what they call the "spread of immorality among youth."

Some hardline clerics and lawmakers have warned over increasing rates of divorce.

"Divorces ... are increasing. High prices have caused problems for ordinary Iranians," said prominent hardline cleric grand ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi on Friday.

Female activists criticize laws relating to women, including those that restrict women's divorce and custody rights and forbid them from working or leaving the country without their husband's permission.

A woman's testimony and life, in blood money terms, are worth half that of a man's in court. A woman cannot become president.

Activists say women's demands cannot be put on the back burner in a country where two-thirds of the population is under 30 and more than 60 percent of university graduates are women.

Iranian women have made inroads into politics and business in recent years. Shirin Ebadi, a human rights activist, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work on women's and children's rights in the Islamic Republic.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Rangel's Woes (Waters is up next)

A man with an ego larger than nearly the political party he claims allegiance to, having sat through Bush, with all the attacks and personal comments he made about the man and his policies - comments that ranged from political to personal attacks.  Charlie Rangel accused Bush and members of his administration of serious violations of ethical standards and illegal acts ... and all the while, this man, was consumed by no feeling of remorse, for Rangel operated above the rules mere presidents must adhere to, he operates on a level well beyond mortal beings.

Rangel needs to resign and go find himself an attorney after he sells off his Dominican property.  Then ready himself for other legal action.

'Charming' betrayal of trust

November 19, 2010
Charles Hurt
New York Post

WASHINGTON -- The sad, wrenching spectacle we saw yesterday of a grand old man, crumpled in an armchair, his face broken, weeping into his hands, was just another dramatic display of Charlie Rangel's unstoppable charm.

That is not to say his tears were not genuine. Clearly, Rangel today is a deeply pained man.

But it is that charm -- his ability to so easily trade on his enormous personal appeal -- that has gotten Rangel into so much trouble and it is how he aims to get himself out of one last fix.

Yes, he may have been the most powerful tax master in the country, but that did not mean he would actually pay his taxes on income from his beachfront villa in the Dominican Republic.

As he once told us in all seriousness, every time he called down there to ask about the taxes, they would start speaking to him in Spanish.

About those four rent-stabilized apartments he was squatting in, using one as a campaign office when the law requires it be his primary residence? He did not ask for those. The good people at Lenox Terrace just wanted to give them to him out of the kindness of their hearts.

As for using congressional letterhead to solicit funds from those with business before his committee for an institute that would bear his name? It was just an office-supply mix-up.

Stretching the boundaries of absurdity, he admitted to us yesterday that, indeed, he was guilty of being "overzealous" in his effort to raise money for the school. That's like "admitting" that your greatest failing is that you are a perfectionist.

Anyway, he told the House ethics committee, it wasn't even his idea to name a project after himself -- it was CCNY that first approached him. He was just helping out, helpful guy that he is.

This roguish charm is a signature of Charlie Rangel. And it is his greatest sin. It is the root of a colossal hubris that has blinded him from realizing this trial is not about him.

It is about the public trust in an institution -- of which he has been among the most powerful leaders -- that takes money away from us that we have worked to earn in the name of public good.

It is an awesome responsibility, and he has made a mockery of it.

colossal asshole

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We have surely lost - Guantanamo Bay

Compensation For Ex-Guantanamo Prisoners

 November 16, 2010
Sky News
Carole Erskine and Miranda Richardson, Sky News Online

Compensation which could total millions of pounds is to be paid out to around a dozen former detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Sky sources say.

The controversial move comes after the Government agreed to settle a series of High Court actions brought by a group of the ex-prisoners.

Some of those thought to be receiving money have accused British security and intelligence officials of colluding in their torture and abuse while they were held abroad.

There are also claims the Government knew they were being illegally transferred there but failed to stop it.

Among those said to be receiving settlements are Binyam Mohamed, Bishar Al Rawi, Jamil El Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga.

Most are British citizens or British residents, but some are said to be asylum seekers.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke will make answer an urgent question on the issue in Parliament this afternoon.

This is a very significant and highly controversial move by the Government.

Sky's home affairs correspondent Mark White

Individual payouts of hundreds of thousand of pounds are expected and there are reports one former detainee is in line to receive more than £1m.

Sky News home affairs correspondent Mark White said: "This is a very significant and highly controversial move by the Government.

"Essentially the Government has come to an agreement with a group of former Guantanamo detainees.

"British residents who claim they were unlawfully imprisoned, that the British security services were complicit in their detention and subsequent alleged torture."

The settlement followed negotiations held over the past few weeks at a secret location.

David Cameron authorised the negotiations in July after a court ruling ordering the disclosure of 50,000 confidential documents.

It is thought the Government decided to make the payouts to avoid the expense and embarrassment of the secret intelligence documents being made public.

White said: "They were taking that through the courts. David Cameron was looking for some negotiated settlement in this case."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the payments were "not very palatable" but there was "a price to be paid for lawlessness and torture in freedom's name".

"The Government now accepts that torture is never justified and we were all let down - let's learn all the lessons and move on," she said.

Of the former detainees, Binyam Mohamed travelled to Pakistan in 2001 and was sent to Guantanamo in Cuba in 2004 after being subjected to alleged torture by his US captors.

In October 2008, the US government dropped all charges against him and he returned to Britain last year.

Moazzam Begg was arrested on alleged terror offences in Pakistan in 2002 and spent two years at Guantanamo before being released without charge.

guantanamo bay

Education: Claim Illegal Status and Pay In-State Rates

NOVEMBER 15, 2010

California Court Upholds In-State Tuition for Some Illegal Immigrants

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO—The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that some illegal immigrants are entitled to the same tuition breaks offered to in-state high school students to attend public colleges and universities.

While the ruling applies only to California, the case was closely watched nationally because nine other states including New York and Texas have similar laws.

Republican congressmen Lamar S. Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa filed a so-called friends of the court brief urging that illegal immigrants be denied the reduced rate.

The lawsuit considered by the court was part of a broader legal assault led by the immigration legal scholar Kris Kobach, who has filed numerous cases across the country seeking to restrict the rights of illegal immigrants.

He represented a group of U.S. students who filed the lawsuit seeking to invalidated the California law.

Mr. Kobach didn't return a phone call seeking comment about the ruling in California.

A unanimous state Supreme Court, led by politically conservative Justice Ming Chin, said the California provision was constitutional because U.S. residents also had access to the reduce rates.

The California Legislature passed the controversial measure in 2001 that allowed any student regardless of immigration status who attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated to qualify for in-state tuition at the state's colleges universities. In-state tuition saves each state college student about $11,000 a year and each University of California student about $23,000 a year.

A state appellate court in 2008 ruled the law was unconstitutional after a group of out-of-state students who are U.S. citizens filed a lawsuit alleging the measure violated federal prohibitions barring illegal immigrants from receiving post-secondary benefits not available to U.S. citizens based on state residency.

But the state Supreme Court noted that the California law says nothing about state residency,

The state law also requires the illegal immigrants applying for the in-state tuition to swear they will attempt to become U.S. citizens. The applicants are still barred from receiving federal financial aid.

"Through their hard work and perseverance, these students have earned the opportunity to attend UC," said University of California President Mark G. Yudof. "Their accomplishments should not be disregarded or their futures jeopardized."

Mr. Kobach also failed to invalidate a similar law in Kansas. His lawsuit in Nebraska is pending.

The law professor was the chief drafter of Arizona's tough new laws against illegal immigrants, which is pending before a federal appeals court.

He was elected earlier this month to serve as secretary of state in Kansas.


Embarassment in Asia: Obama is Ignored

We are neither respected, liked, admired ... we lose everything, and our economy is miserable.  Now Obama is off to Europe, to finish off whatever relationships we did have ... they want nothing to do with him.  Merkle - doesn't trust him.  Sarkozy - loathes him.  Cameron - can't stand the man.  I am sure Obama will find someone to welcome him like a celebrity after being scolded by the G20 Summit in Asia.   Hillary is waiting in the wings ... like a hawk.

Embarrassment in Seoul

The world won't follow slow-growth, weak-dollar America.

NOVEMBER 13, 2010

Has there ever been a major economic summit where a U.S. President and his Treasury Secretary were as thoroughly rebuffed as they were at this week's G-20 meeting in Seoul? We can't think of one. President Obama failed to achieve any of his main goals while getting pounded by other world leaders for failing U.S. policies and lagging growth.

The root of this embarrassment is political and intellectual: Rather than leading the world from a position of strength, Mr. Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came to Seoul blaming the rest of the world for U.S. economic weakness. America's problem, in their view, is the export and exchange rate policies of the Germans, Chinese or Brazilians. And the U.S. solution is to have the Fed print enough money to devalue the dollar so America can grow by stealing demand from the rest of the world.

But why should anyone heed this U.S. refrain? The Germans are growing rapidly after having rejected Mr. Geithner's advice in 2009 to join the U.S. stimulus spending blowout. China is also growing smartly having rejected counsel from three U.S. Administrations to abandon its currency discipline. The U.K. and even France are pursuing more fiscal restraint. Only the Obama Administration is determined to keep both the fiscal and monetary spigots wide open, while blaming everyone else for the poor domestic results.

The American failure was most acute on trade, as the U.S. and South Korea couldn't agree on a bilateral pact that the two countries had signed three years ago. Mr. Obama had campaigned against that pact in 2008, let it languish for two years in office, and now suddenly wants the South Koreans to agree to new terms.

But the Koreans aren't pushovers, and they want new concessions from America in return. They also see a less urgent need for a trade pact with the U.S. because, while Mr. Obama has fiddled, the Koreans have been negotiating other trade deals with all and sundry—not least a pact with the European Union that carries nearly identical terms to what the Bush Administration negotiated in 2007. Mr. Obama's negotiators left Seoul empty-handed.

Meanwhile, China and other Asian economies see first-hand that rather than spurring more U.S. growth (on which Asian exporters still depend), U.S. monetary ease has flooded the developing world economies with dollars they're not able to absorb; produced exchange-rate turmoil to the detriment of the region's traders; and sent the world's dollar-denominated commodity prices climbing.

Far from distancing himself from this Federal Reserve policy, Mr. Obama defended it more than once. "From everything I can see, this decision was not one designed to have an impact on the currency, on the dollar," Mr. Obama said in Seoul. "It was designed to grow the economy."

But this defense will only confirm to most of the world that the goal of U.S. monetary easing is solely domestic and political. Isn't the U.S. central bank supposed to be independent? Mr. Obama may come to regret his political embrace of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke if commodity price increases flow through to consumer prices and leave Americans feeling poorer than they already feel.

The Administration's dubious monetary theories also led it to waste valuable political energy pushing an unlikely deal with China to revalue the yuan (and devalue the dollar). Instead Mr. Obama could have argued for reforms to China's capital account that would do some genuine good. China's exchange rate by itself has not contributed to global imbalances, but China's capital-account regulations have.

In particular, the fact that Beijing sterilizes capital inflows and recycles them into U.S. government debt instead of allowing capital to enter and exit more freely contributes to a global misallocation of resources. Mr. Geithner is too busy focusing on the exchange rate to notice, let alone to respond to Beijing's complaints about U.S. monetary instability by challenging China to liberalize its own capital account.

The world also rejected Mr. Geithner's high-profile call for a 4% limit on a nation's trade surplus or deficit, which would amount to new political controls on trade and capital flows. This contradicts at least three decades of U.S. policy advice against national barriers to the flow of money and goods. We don't like to see U.S. Treasury Secretaries so completely shot down by the rest of the world, except when they are so clearly misguided.


None of this should be cause for celebration, because a world without American leadership is a more dangerous place. The U.S. is still the world's largest economy, the issuer of its reserve currency, and its lone military superpower. No other nation has the will or capacity to lead the way the U.S. has for 70 years, so faltering American influence will produce a vacuum in which every nation can seek narrow advantage.

If Mr. Obama wants to restore his economic leadership, both at home and abroad, he needs an urgent shift in priorities. Strike a deal with Republicans to extend the current tax rates across the board, pursue the spending cuts proposed by his own deficit commission, end the regulatory binge that has constrained America's animal spirits, stop trying to direct capital toward political mirages like "green jobs," and press Congress to pass the Korean and other trade pacts.

The world will follow American leadership again only when it sees policies that restore robust U.S. economic growth.


Monday, November 15, 2010

James Blunt: Saved the World from World War III (all by himself)

'I stopped World War Three by refusing US orders to destroy Russian forces,' claims James Blunt

By Andrea Magrath
15th November 2010
The Daily Mail

Read more:

James Blunt's refusal to obey orders during the Balkans war prevented the start of World War Three, the singer has claimed.

The 36-year-old chart-topping singer made the stunning claims in an interview with John Pienaar on Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.

Blunt, a former cavalry officer in the British Army, was leading a NATO column under order to seize the Pristina airfield in Kosovo in 1999.

Facing a 200-strong Russian advance, the then- 25-year-old was given orders to 'destroy' the Russian troops by the Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO Forces in Europe.

'I was given a direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there,' the You're Beautiful hitmaker has revealed for the first time.

'I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us... It was a mad situation.'

'The direct command came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as "destroy" came down the radio.'

He said his men were given orders by the American general to 'reach the airfield and take a hold of it.'

But Blunt - who served under his real name James Blount - says: 'We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively.'

The singer, who has gone on to sell over 11 million albums since leaving the forces in October 2002, risked a court martial by refusing to go along with the orders to attack, a command he feared would spark a major conflict with Russia.

'I was declining my order. I was very clear on that,' he said.

'There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong.

'That sense of moral judgment is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army.'

Blunt's instinct was backed by the commander of the British Forces. 'Fortunately, the singer remembered, 'Up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson, whose words were, "I'm not going to have my soldiers start World War Three."

'He told us why don't we sugar off down the road and, you know, encircle the airfield instead.'

When quizzed on whether he thought following General Clark's order would have started World War Three, the musician replied: 'Absolutely,' adding that he would have refused the command regardless of Sir Mike Jackson's intervention.

Blunt, who wrote the track No Bravery during his stint in Kosovo, says he was deeply affected by his time serving in the Balkans.

'War is an absolutely terrible, ghastly thing,' he said. 'I wouldn't bother describing the things we saw.'

No Bravery was included on his multi-platinum album Back To Bedlam - recorded just months after he left the military - and became a theme for protesters of the war in Iraq.

Blunt performed at the Help for Heroes benefit concert at Twickenham in September. He is currently promoting new album Some Kind of Trouble in the US.


Sudan and the dance of the Fairies

One of those things that will not happen ... and Obama knows this very well, as do most reasonable people.

BUT ... everyone can pretend, and they seem to do very well at pretending - Gnomes, fairies, leprechauns .... they are all real.

Obama 'pleased' with Sudan action

11/15/10 5:14 PM Updated: 11/15/10 5:30 PM

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs released this statement as southern Sudanese prepare to vote in an independence referendum:

"The President is extremely pleased that voter registration has begun in Southern Sudan in preparation for the January 9th, 2011 referendum on self-determination. Voter registration is a critical milestone in that process, and we hope that it will continue unabated. We call on Northern and Southern leaders to finish the work started with the voter registration process to ensure the referendum is peaceful and occurs on time, and that the will of the people of South Sudan are respected regardless of the outcome. Both parties also must urgently work to find an agreed-upon way forward for Abyei in the interest of lasting peace, and we call on the government of Sudan to fully fund the Southern Sudan referendum commission."


EU: I've got that sinking feeling ...

While not to be morbid about death or drowning - imagine 13 or 14, maybe even 20 people, all on a cruise ship and as a consequence of their intransigence on a number of issues, they watch as their ship hits a floating island, ruptures the hull and sinks, leaving the 13-20 people floating and bobbing about on the sea.  Each person connected to the others by a lifeline, each buoyed by a life preserver thrown to them by people on the passing island as it floated away.  Then imagine watching as the first person loses consciousness, while the others fight to take his life preserver off the limp body, watching as the body, half conscious and half lost to a possibility of being saved, sinks beneath the waves, engulfed by the darkness and quickly swallowed up by the abyss below.  Watching as the first person pulled under, slowly begins pulling the next person under, while the remaining bobbing bodies argue about life preservers and how best to use them in the sea.

They cannot cut the line for any such severance ends for all time their precious European Union, so they remain tied to each other despite calls by several German financiers to do just that - sever ties to the sinking states, let them go under. 

Greece is one example.  A state that is in so many ways beyond redemption - it depends on the handouts from other EU states, but the other EU states are having their own share of economic woes only made worse by the billions loaned to Greece.  Greece has gone under.   Under the conditions of the bailout Greece received (or handout) certain requirements were enacted and signed off on - requirements to do and not do certain things.  Greece has just admitted it sort of didn't do what was required by the EU bailout. 

Greece has gone under and unlikely Germany will be willing to dump more billions into a black hole.  Following Greece is Ireland - on the verge of sinking beneath the waves, swallowed up by the darkness ...

But the fun doesn't end there - Portugal (in my example of the survivors floating about on the sea) is tied to Ireland and is signalling it is about ready to surrender to the darkness.   Spain is tied to Portugal.

I've got that sinking feeling ....

Oh oh that sinking feeling

that EU sinking feeling  ...

Contagion hits Portugal as Ireland dithers on Rescue

The EU authorities have begun to vent their fury against Ireland over its refusal to accept a financial rescue, fearing that the crisis will engulf Portugal and Spain unless confidence is restored immediately to eurozone bond markets

November 15, 2010
The Telegraph

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Spain's central bank governor, Miguel Angel Ordonez, lashed out at Dublin on Monday, calling on the Irish government to halt the panic and take the "proper decision" of activating the EU-IMF bail-out mechanism.

"The situation in the markets has been very negative due to the lack of a final decision by Ireland. It is up to Ireland to take that decision, and I hope it does," he said.

The outburst reflected suspicion at the European Central Bank that Dublin is holding the eurozone to ransom, allowing the crisis to fester until it extracts a pledge from EU officials that it will not suffer a loss of economic sovereignty or be forced to give up its 12.5pc corporate tax rate under any deal.

Confused reports continued to swirl as Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan prepared to meet eurozone colleagues over dinner in Brussels on Tuesday night. Dublin has so far admitted to holding talks over "market conditions" with EU partners but insists that it is fully-funded until June and hopes to calm nerves with €6bn (£5.1bn )of budget cuts in early December.

Simon Derrick from the Bank of New York Mellon said the negotiations over Ireland's bail-out have been astonishing. "The creditors say please take the money, and the debtor says 'we don't want it'. It's very odd."

"Still, the EU is doing the right thing to try to create a fire-wall as quickly as possible. They learned from Greece that once bond yields reach this level they have 10 trading days left to avoid a self-feeding crisis. They cannot allow this to spread to a large country because at that point contagion would become uncontainable," he said.

Contagion has already pushed Portugal to the brink, pushing yields on 10-year bonds to the danger level above 6.5pc. Finance minister Fernado Teixeira dos Santos said the country was at the mercy of global forces and may be forced to call for help.

"The risk is high because we are not only facing a national or country problem. It is the problems of Greece, Portugal, and Ireland. Markets look at these economies because we are all in this together in the eurozone. Suppose we were not in the eurozone, the risk of contagion could be lower," he told the Financial Times.

Mr Teixeira made a thinly veiled attack on Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy, who precipitated the latest crisis by opening the door to sovereign defaults and bondholder "haircuts" for eurozone states in trouble.

"We were like the soccer player running to the goal and ready to kick for the goal, and then someone fouls us, but this time there was no penalty."

A simultaneous bail-out for both Ireland and Portugal might run to €200bn, depleting much of the EU rescue line. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) can raise up to €440bn on the bond markets but only two thirds of this would be available. The IMF is expected to loan a further €3 for every €8 from the EU under the bail-out formula.

The great concern is that the crisis could spread to Spain, which has a far bigger economy that Greece, Portugal, and Ireland combined. Foreign banks have €850bn of exposure to Spanish debt.

David Schautz, credit strategist at Commerzbank, said the EU bail-out fund would come under "severe strain" if Spain needed a rescue. Yet this remains a serious risk since Spain must roll over or raise €175bn of debt next year.

Mr Schautz said funds would become wary if yields on 10-year Spanish bonds rise much above 5pc, compared to 4.5pc at the moment. "Investors are nervous and panic can break out fast," he said.

Jose Manuel Campa, Spain's economy secretary, said his country is "neither Greece, nor Ireland, and never will be". Spain's economy has stalled again but public debt is still just 66pc of GDP, and both budget and current account deficits are falling fast.

The same cannot be said of Greece, where the debt crisis is going from bad to worse despite its €110bn rescue in April. Eurostat has revised Greece's debt from 115pc to 127pc of GDP last year, while the deficit was even worse than thought at 15.4pc. The debt will jump to 144pc of GDP this year, risking a debt-compound trap.

Premier George Papandreou said the country may ask for an extension of its debt repayment schedule, a move interpreted by investors as the start of a slippery slope towards default.

He accused Germany of pushing weaker EMU states over the edge by pressing for bondholder haircuts, saying Mrs Merkel's proposals had "created a spiral of higher interest rates for the countries in a difficult position. This could create a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is like saying to someone, 'since you have a difficulty, I will put an even higher burden on your back.' This could force economies towards bankruptcy," he said.

For Ireland, recourse to the EU or IMF would be traumatic, an unanswerable verdict on a Fianna Fail government that was still basking in glory of the Celtic Tiger just three years ago.

Mr Lenihan appears determined to dress up any rescue as a bail-out for banks rather than for the Irish sovereign state. This may not be easy. The ECB's vice president, Vitor Constancio, said the EFSF "cannot lend directly to banks: the facility lends to governments."


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ireland: The Beginning of the End (about to follow Greece down the rabbit hole)

Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal ...

As more sink, the ship will capsize and many other euro states will also sink - Italy will go, as will Sweden ...

Ireland's young flee abroad as economic meltdown looms

Many young people are seeking to emigrate rather than face a life of hardship as the republic lurches towards financial collapse

David Sharrock in Dublin
The Observer
Sunday 14 November 2010

Student Niamh Buffini works hard and plays hard. As Ireland's No 1 taekwondo martial arts practitioner – she is rated 12th in the world – her ambitions include winning Olympic gold for Ireland.

But by the end of this month her future will have been decided by forces not just beyond her control but seemingly those of her government also. Ireland is on the cusp of insolvency. Some economists argue that it already is.

Buffini will soon learn if her fees at the Institute of Technology in Tallaght, south Dublin, have climbed beyond her means. Her father is a self-employed builder, which has recently become a euphemism for "unemployed".

"My class size will have dropped by 50% by next year," Buffini said. "Even lecturers took part in the recent student protests over fees because society here is going to be left with very few educated people. My best friends have already left – they're doing bar work in Spain and Australia."

Last week was not a good week for Ireland. Speculation about a European Union-backed bailout pushed its borrowing costs to unprecedented heights.

At Buffini's college on Friday, the day began with a protest by construction workers who were supposed to have been working on a new wing. Their paymaster Michael McNamara – the country's premier construction firm – had been put into receivership under the weight of debts of €1.5bn (£1.27bn), leaving them jobless and out of pocket for work they had already completed.

So far the workers' demonstrations have remained largely peaceful. Indeed, many Tallaght students seemed shocked by the violence they witnessed in TV reports from London involving their British counterparts. But that may change.

Economists are sought-after celebrities in Ireland at the moment and none is more famous than Morgan Kelly. His doom-laden words are lapped up by a nation addicted to Celtic melancholy.

Kelly, of University College Dublin, was laughed at, scorned and even threatened when he correctly predicted, as long ago as 2007, that Ireland's property bubble was heading for a spectacular explosion.

Now he is forecasting mass mortgage defaults and an ugly popular uprising. The first stirrings are already visible, he says, with "anxiety giving way to the first upwellings of an inchoate rage and despair that will transform Irish politics along the lines of the Tea Party in America", giving rise to a new "hard-right, anti-Europe, anti-traveller party".

The fact that Kelly got it right last time means that his dire warnings are now being given serious consideration this time around, but so far there is no evidence that the Irish are turning into racist extremists.

Polish immigrants, whose arrival in Ireland less than a decade ago increased the workforce by an astonishing 20%, have left in orderly fashion and with no complaints about their treatment. More worrying is the trend for the young Irish to follow them abroad.

Mark Ward, president of Tallaght's student union, says that 1,250 students are leaving Ireland every month. One in five graduates is seeking work outside the country. The Union of Students in Ireland believes that 150,000 students will emigrate in the next five years.

Ward, a 26-year-old marketing graduate, said: "The government's to blame for bankrolling the banks who were lending to their property developer friends. They all thought the party would never end.

"Students shouldn't have to pay for the mistakes of the government and their developer pals. It's going to take years to sort this mess out and it won't be just my generation which will be blighted big time."

Is the social fabric of Ireland beginning to unravel? The Kingdom, one of the country's much-loved local papers, recently reported that nearly 200 Gaelic footballers and hurlers have left Kerry to play in Britain, Australia and the US in the first seven months of this year. The true figure is probably double that.

The charity Barnardo's said that children were asking it for food because there was not enough for them to eat at home. "Some of our services are being asked by children if they can take food home for later because there just isn't enough," said Carmel O'Donovan, a project co-ordinator with Barnardo's.

And it's not just the most vulnerable who are feeling the pinch. Greystones is a wealthy Wicklow seaside town whose most famous resident is Sean FitzPatrick, the former chairman of nationalised Anglo Irish Bank. Emer O'Brien, an interior designer, and her architect husband Killian are struggling to repay their mortgage.

"It is awful, a bit like waiting for a bomb to explode but simply not knowing when," she said. "I don't think anybody has any faith in any of the politicians to fix this problem. Over 70% of education and health spending goes on pay and pensions, so all the cuts in those departments are coming from front-line services.

"I hope I don't get sick in the coming months because there'll be nobody to tend to you in the hospitals. Of course, a lot of people would be heading across the Irish Sea or the Atlantic if only they could sell their houses, but we can't do that either. So basically we're stuck on the Titanic as it goes down."

Next month the government will deliver its latest austerity budget with the aim of slashing a further €15bn from public spending on top of the €14.5bn it has already been forced to cut. But Kelly has argued that the public sector cuts are "an exercise in futility" when compared with the €70bn bill for Ireland's bad banks. "What is the point of rearranging the spending deckchairs, when the iceberg of bank losses is going to sink us anyway?" he asked in the Irish Times last week.

Put at its starkest, for the next six to seven years, every cent of income tax paid by Irish citizens will go to cover the banks' losses.

At the Capuchin Friary in Smithfield sausage breakfasts are being served to Dublin's growing band of homeless and needy people. "There's new faces arriving every day. At first they're embarrassed to be here but we put them at their ease," one of the volunteers said.

Gerry Larkin, the drop-in centre's security manager, has noticed that occupants of the many neighbouring apartment blocks which were supposed to regenerate the city's down-at-heel north side are now taking their places in the queue for food parcels.

He said: "Some of them have got into trouble with their mortgages and they're asking me at the door: 'Any chance of coming in, can you give me even a bit of food for the kids?'

"We've gone from 150 breakfasts during the boom years to 450 now and another 700 coming in for lunch."

Five nights a week Niamh Buffini trains in her local martial arts club, nurturing her dream of winning gold for Ireland. "I'm always upbeat, but with my friends the chat about how bad things are is never ending.

"I'm an optimist by nature and I hope we can get out of this. The best I could say is I couldn't see it getting any worse."


TSA and their unproductive, violative, idiotic, unjust, dubious actions

This guys story is well worth the time.  Can I not fly - I really really want to go somewhere during Christmas break and in summer, but will make do, here.  They win - I won't fly.  The airlines will lose money, they will ask the federal government for bailout, the government will be hard pressed to explain why they paid for machines that resulted in the airlines losing money they had to give them to keep them from failing. 

All because of intransigent fools who are placed in charge of agencies they are wholly unqualified to head.

While we are at it, abolish the TSA.  Incompetents, many of whom arrived here from a small country far away or a big country just as far away, some are illegals, and others just not the brightest bunch - abolish the TSA, save us all money and do away with this insane screening process.  Use a method that is very nearly full-proof - and it isn't an x-ray machine.

The Story  <-- link and the body (minus the videos is below)

These events took place roughly between 5:30 and 6:30 AM, November 13th in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. I'm writing this approximately 2 1/2 hours after the events transpired, and they are correct to the best of my recollection. I will admit to being particularly fuzzy on the exact order of events when dealing with the agents after getting my ticket refunded; however, all of the events described did occur.

I had my phone recording audio and video of much of these events. It can be viewed below.

Please spread this story as far and wide as possible. I will make no claims to copyright or otherwise.]

This morning, I tried to fly out of San Diego International Airport but was refused by the TSA. I had been somewhat prepared for this eventuality. I have been reading about the millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray machines and the possible harm to health as well as the vivid pictures they create of people's naked bodies. Not wanting to go through them, I had done my research on the TSA's website prior to traveling to see if SAN had them. From all indications, they did not. When I arrived at the security line, I found that the TSA's website was out of date. SAN does in fact utilize backscatter x-ray machines.

I made my way through the line toward the first line of "defense": the TSA ID checker. This agent looked over my boarding pass, looked over my ID, looked at me and then back at my ID. After that, he waved me through. SAN is still operating metal detectors, so I walked over to one of the lines for them. After removing my shoes and making my way toward the metal detector, the person in front of me in line was pulled out to go through the backscatter machine. After asking what it was and being told, he opted out. This left the machine free, and before I could go through the metal detector, I was pulled out of line to go through the backscatter machine. When asked, I half-chuckled and said, "I don't think so." At this point, I was informed that I would be subject to a pat down, and I waited for another agent.

A male agent (it was a female who had directed me to the backscatter machine in the first place), came and waited for me to get my bags and then directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening. After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a "standard" pat down. (I thought to myself, "great, not one of those gropings like I've been reading about".) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.

We both stood there for no more than probably two minutes before a female TSA agent (apparently, the supervisor) arrived. She described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped. The supervisor, then offered to go get her supervisor.

I took a seat in a tiny metal chair next to the table with my belongings and waited. While waiting, I asked the original agent (who was supposed to do the pat down) if he had many people opt out to which he replied, none (or almost none, I don't remember exactly). He said that I gave up a lot of rights when I bought my ticket. I replied that the government took them away after September 11th. There was silence until the next supervisor arrived. A few minutes later, the female agent/supervisor arrived with a man in a suit (not a uniform). He gave me a business card identifying him as David Silva, Transportation Security Manager, San Diego International Airport. At this point, more TSA agents as well as what I assume was a local police officer arrived on the scene and surrounded the area where I was being detained. The female supervisor explained the situation to Mr. Silva. After some quick back and forth (that I didn't understand/hear), I could overhear Mr. Silva say something to the effect of, "then escort him from the airport." I again offered to submit to the metal detector, and my father-in-law, who was near by also tried to plead for some reasonableness on the TSA's part.

The female supervisor took my ID at this point and began taking some kind of report with which I cooperated. Once she had finished, I asked if I could put my shoes back on. I was allowed to put my shoes back on and gather my belongs. I asked, "are we done here" (it was clear at this point that I was going to be escorted out), and the local police officer said, "follow me". I followed him around the side of the screening area and back out to the ticketing area. I said apologized to him for the hassle, to which he replied that it was not a problem.

I made my way over to the American Airlines counter, explained the situation, and asked if my ticket could be refunded. The woman behind the counter furiously typed away for about 30 seconds before letting me know that she would need a supervisor. She went to the other end of the counter. When she returned, she informed me that the ticket was non-refundable, but that she was still trying to find a supervisor. After a few more minutes, she was able to refund my ticket. I told her that I had previously had a bad experience with American Airlines and had sworn never to fly with them again (I rationalized this trip since my father-in-law had paid for the ticket), but that after her helpfulness, I would once again be willing to use their carrier again.

At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn't know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents' supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped. He told me that their procedures are on their website, and therefore, I was fully informed before I entered the airport; I had implicitly agreed to whatever screening they deemed appropriate. I told him that San Diego was not listed on the TSA's website as an airport using Advanced Imaging Technology, and I believed that I would only be subject to the metal detector. He replied that he was not a webmaster, and I asked then why he was referring me to the TSA's website if he didn't know anything about it. I again refused to re-enter the screening area.

The man asked me to stay put while he walked off to confer with the officer and Mr. Silva. They went about 20 feet away and began talking amongst themselves while I waited. I couldn't over hear anything, but I got the impression that the police officer was recounting his version of the events that had transpired in the screening area (my initial refusal to be patted down). After a few minutes, I asked loudly across the distance if I was free to leave. The man dismissively held up a finger and said, "hold on". I waited. After another minute or so, he returned and asked for my name. I asked why he needed it, and reminded him that the female supervisor/agent had already taken a report. He said that he was trying to be friendly and help me out. I asked to what end. He reminded me that I could be sued civilly and face a $10,000 fine and that my cooperation could help mitigate the penalties I was facing. I replied that he already had my information in the report that was taken and I asked if I was free to leave. I reminded him that he was now illegally detaining me and that I would not be subject to screening as a condition of leaving the airport. He told me that he was only trying to help (I should note that his demeanor never suggested that he was trying to help. I was clearly being interrogated.), and that no one was forcing me to stay. I asked if tried to leave if he would have the officer arrest me. He again said that no one was forcing me to stay. I looked him in the eye, and said, "then I'm leaving". He replied, "then we'll bring a civil suit against you", to which I said, "you bring that suit" and walked out of the airport.


The Extinction of the Christians in Iraq

One way or another, for one reason or one method over another - the result is the same.

Iraqi Christians put to the sword

Worship in Iraq is now more dangerous than under Saddam's dictatorship as Islamists bomb churches in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Adrian Blomfield
The Telegraph
12 Nov 2010

Unless told what to look for, the casual visitor to the once glamorous Baghdad thoroughfare that hugs the east bank of the Tigris would almost certainly pass them by. The Stars of David carved into the stonework of the low-slung buildings that line the alleyways of Abu Nuwas Street are little more than a curiosity these days – a memento of a civilisation lost to the pages of history.

Judaism has a connection to Iraq that no other faith can match. The patriarch Abraham may well have been born there; the prophet Jonah reluctantly returned to foretell the destruction of Nineveh. Centuries later, the Bible tells us that the exiled Jewish people sat down by Babylon's rivers and wept for their homeland. Yet Jewish links to Iraq are far from ancient history.

In the 1920s, there were reckoned to have been 130,000 Jews in Baghdad, 40 per cent of the population. Today, after decades of persecution before and immediately after the creation of the state of Israel, there are no more than eight.

Iraqi Christians might not be able to boast such a heritage – though even if there is no way of proving their belief that the apostle Thomas brought the faith to Iraq in the first century AD, theirs is still one of the oldest Christian communities on earth. Yet after a series of attacks in the past month by Islamist extremists – whose creed is the parvenu of the monotheistic religions in the country – fears are mounting that Christianity in Iraq is doomed to follow Judaism into oblivion.

At the end of last month, in the most ferocious attack on the community yet, Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaeda burst into Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church during evening mass and took the congregation hostage. The gunmen began executing clergymen and worshippers before tossing a grenade into a safe-room where 60 parishioners had huddled to hide. As Iraqi forces stormed the church, the assassins surrounded themselves with children and detonated explosives secreted in suicide vests.

By the time it was over, 52 Christians were dead. Blood smeared the walls of the church, body parts and scraps of seared flesh littered the pews. A policeman standing guard outside the church afterwards summed up the scene: "Blood, flesh and bones. You can't bear the smell."

A group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq, a self-acknowledged front for al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility and issued a chilling warning, telling Christians it would "open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood". Delivering on their promise, 11 car bombs aimed at Christian shops and homes in Baghdad exploded on Wednesday, killing another five members of the minority.

The US and British invasion of Iraq rid the country of Saddam Hussein and instituted a bloodily delivered democracy of sorts after decades of oppressive totalitarianism. And yesterday, eight months of political deadlock since elections in March were broken with a deal to form a new government. Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia, remains as prime minister, while Iyad Allawi, leader of the main Sunni faction al-Iraqiya, will lead a new council for national strategy.

The agreement may be taken by outsiders as a welcome sign of stability that ought to reassure Iraqi Christians, but it is a painful truth that they led a safer and more dignified existence under Saddam's brutal rule. However, in a sign of the coalition's fragility, the Iraqiya bloc last night walked out in protest before a vote on the presidency.

Earlier this week, Athanasius Dawood, the exiled archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church, one of the smaller Christian communities, gave a warning that the minority was facing extinction at the hands of a campaign of "pre-meditated ethnic cleansing". He said that the only hope of salvation for Iraq's Christians was if countries such as Britain gave them blanket political asylum.

Although most of the extremists attacking them are thought to be Sunni Arab, Christians are as fearful of the Shia-dominated government and the kind of rule they believe it will one day institute. Tellingly, Archbishop Dawood laid much of the blame for the Christians' plight on Mr Maliki's administration, calling it "weak, biased, if not extremist".

Statistics vary wildly, but according to the US State Department, there are between 550,000 and 800,000 Christians left in Iraq, compared with 1.4 million in 1987 when a census was taken. Those numbers may be an over-estimation, but it is generally agreed that the number has halved since Saddam's fall as members of the faith flee the pogroms. Iraqi Christians say they are in graver danger now than at any time in their history. As gruesome as last month's attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church was, they have been living in terror since the first bombings of their places of worship in 2004.

In the northern city of Mosul, Christians have been routinely kidnapped and executed because of their faith. In the past two years, Islamist gunmen have frequently stopped young men and women on the street and asked for their identity cards. If they bore a Christian-sounding name, they were often shot dead where they stood.

To have any chance of survival, churches in Mosul have been forced to pay protection money to gangsters linked to al-Qaeda. Any doubts about the Islamists' ultimate intentions were laid to rest when a group calling itself the Secret Islamic Army delivered a letter to homes in the Christian enclaves of Dura, a district of Baghdad.

"To the Christian, we would like to inform you of the decision of the legal court of the Secret Islamic Army to notify you that this is your last and final threat," the letter read. "If you do not leave your home, your blood will be spilled. You and your family will be killed." With its chilling echoes of similar missives delivered to Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide, it is little wonder that Iraqi Christians fear extermination.

Some have fought back. Churches in parts of Kurdistan have formed militias to protect their congregations. "The only solution left for our people is to bear arms," Father Ayman Danna of the Church of St George in Bartella was quoted as saying. "We either live or die."

But the Church Guard, as the militia is known, has the benefit of being funded by a rich Christian in the Kurdish regional government. Christians elsewhere can find no such powerful patronage.

Iraq's Christians learnt the hard way that to survive they had to pledge unquestioning fealty to successive, Sunni-dominated governments. When British troops pulled out of Iraq in 1933, members of the Assyrian Church, now one of the smallest of Iraq's 12 Christian communities, began to agitate for independence. The army and Kurdish irregulars retaliated by massacring 3,000 of them. Ever since, Christians have known that their loyalty had to be beyond reproach, and under Saddam, they were largely left in peace to practise their faith.

Saddam espoused Ba'athism, an ideology founded by a Syrian Christian that promoted secularism while acknowledging the importance of Islam in Arabic culture. Christians were only represented at secondary levels in the army and government, with the notable exception of Tariq Aziz – born Michael Yuhanna – Saddam's former deputy prime minister. Despite the repression of the Saddam years, Christians believed that was preferable to a government dominated by the Shia majority whose leaders had close links with Iran.

Those fears were given added impetus in 1991 when, at the encouragement of the United States in the aftermath of the Gulf war, the Shia rose up in revolt. One of their first acts was to attack and desecrate churches in Basra. Mr Maliki is a particular target of suspicion because he spent eight years in Iran during the 1990s. Tehran was also intimately involved in attempting to end the eight-month political impasse to create a coalition government.

With Shia rule set to continue, Iraqi Christians believe that not only will they receive no protection against Sunni extremists, but also that Iranian-style intolerance towards religious minorities will grow more entrenched. A number of Shia leaders with popular backing espouse a greater role for Islamic Sharia in daily life and many also support a return to Dhimmi status for Christians, an old Ottoman construct that limited the rights of minorities in return for protection. That would represent a regression from the Ba'athist constitution of 1970 which acknowledged the "legitimate rights of all minorities" and gave formal recognition to the five main Christian communities.

As persecution of Christians grows across the Middle East, and numbers dwindle ever faster, it is a supreme irony for many Iraqi Christians that one of the safest places for their faith in an ever more dangerous region is Ba'athist Syria. As a member of the minority Allawi strain of Shia Islam, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has recognised the need to protect other vulnerable faiths. As a result, Christian holidays are observed by the whole country and work does not start until 10am on Sundays to allow Christians to go to church.

Christians across the border in Iraq can only look wistfully at Syria – for all its imperfections – as a reminder of how things once were.


Christopher Hitchens: Blood for Oil

"Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn't exist, it's always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil."

I may find Christopher Hitchens wrong on some pretty big issues, but on the biggest issues facing mankind (while we are alive at least) - he is right.

the left

Losers: Democrats and Republicans and Body Scanners

I will end up on a no fly list for the following.  Sad I even make a joke like that.  30 years ago such a thought would have been very difficult to conceive of, let alone think ...

Dear Big Sister / Brother:
These scanners WILL NOT prevent an attack.  These scanners ARE NOT making us safer.  Anyone who believes they are is an idiot and a fool.  What they will catch are petty little people who are incredibly bigger fools than those twits who think the scanners will save us from anything.

Al Qaida are not stupid.  They are actually very bright.  The shoe and underwear guy are their throw-away test cases, as were the UPS bombs.  They are testing the walls, prodding for weakness, and testing what will and will not be discovered. 

And the funny part - DHS, CIA - they know the body scanners will not stop the next wave of successful attacks.  Yet they allow this joke to continue because it looks like we are doing something.   Mr. Obama, you are so concerned about the rights of killers in Guantanamo and violation of their rights ... yet Americans who have done nothing wrong, are being treated like terrorists - and you are quiet about our privacy and civil rights.

Why will the scanner not stop them .... hmmm .... should I say?  Why not - DHS and CIA know, al qaida knows, why is it only we, the people are not supposed to know.  Funny this whole protecting thing.  

They will consume something, just like they feared in the beginning, only now - it will come to pass.  The martyr or cold-blooded killer, will have the weapon inserted into his or her body.  This will work best through swallowing the thing and as the acid in the stomach dissolves it, the 2nd part is added, combined with the acidic stomach fluids, ignites whatever they want to ignite.  This could not be done on transatlantic flights with any intention of waiting until the plane gets over US territory (9-12 hours for that and nothing will take 9 hours to dissolve in the stomach).  Rather, these killers get on in European countries, a plane bound for the US, perhaps just another European capital.  The detonation will go off 1 hr later, meanwhile in the US, a dozen franchise members board planes that will all leave about the same time and will explode over US cities all within 1.5 hrs.

How will we combat these murderers with a full body scanner?  Won't and can't.  So they will resort to non-technological ... no one will be allowed to bring any medicine or pills with them into the cabin - pockets will be checked - by hand.  You will also have to be at the airport 2 hrs before and in the waiting area, to ensure you haven't consumed anything that may blow up, they will keep everyone segregated for 1.5-2 hours before every flight plus the pat down for everyone (I can't think of any other way of determining whether you have any pills - although they could sew them into their clothing couldn't they).  In the end, I don't know what the answer is, but full-body scanners are not the answer.

The Republicans and Democrats who are responsible for this mess need to face the wrath of the people.

'Naked scanners': Lobbyists join the war on terror

By: Timothy P. Carney
Senior Examiner Columnist
November 12, 2010

The degradations of passing through full-body scanners that provide naked pictures of you to Transportation Security Administration agents may not mean that the terrorists have won -- but they do mark victories for a few politically connected high-tech companies and their revolving-door lobbyists.

Many experts and critics suspect that the full-body "naked scanners" recently deployed at U.S. airports do little to make us more secure, and a lot to make us angry, embarrassed and late. For instance, the scanners can't see through skin, and so weapons or explosives can be hidden safely in body cavities.

But this is government we're talking about. A program or product doesn't need to be effective, it only needs to have a good lobby. And the naked-scanner lobby is small but well-connected.

If you've seen one of these scanners at an airport, there's a good chance it was made by L-3 Communications, a major contractor with the Department of Homeland Security. L-3 employs three different lobbying firms including Park Strategies, where former Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y., plumps on the company's behalf. Back in 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed D'Amato to the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism following the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Also on Park's L-3 account is former Appropriations staffer Kraig Siracuse.

The scanner contract, issued four days after the Christmas Day bomb attempt last year, is worth $165 million to L-3.

Rapiscan got the other naked-scanner contract from the TSA, worth $173 million. Rapiscan's lobbyists include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee. When Defense Daily reported on Price's appropriations bill last winter, the publication noted "Price likes the budget for its emphasis on filling gaps in aviation security, in particular the whole body imaging systems."

An early TSA contractor for full-body scanners was the American Science and Engineering company. AS&E's lobbying team is impressive, including Tom Blank, a former deputy administrator for the TSA. Fellow AS&E lobbyist Chad Wolf was an assistant administrator at TSA and an aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who sits on the Transportation and Defense subcommittees of Appropriations. Finally, Democratic former Rep. Bud Cramer is also an AS&E lobbyist -- he sat on the Defense and Transportation subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee.

The full-body scanners have caused an understandable uproar. Even before the devices were rolled out, they sparked predictable mischief: During training on the scanners, a group of TSA workers noted and mocked the genitalia of the guinea-pig employee sent through the scanner. The guy soon beat down one of his mockers and was arrested for assault.

After assurances by contractors and the TSA that the nude images of the scanners' subjects weren't being stored and saved, the U.S. Marshals Service admitted that it had stored thousands of such images.

Homeland Security insists that the "naked scans" are optional, but if you're randomly selected for one and you "opt out," you're subject to a very intimate frisk.

There's good reason to doubt these scanners significantly reduce the chance of a successful terrorist attack on an airplane. Deploying these naked scanners was a reaction to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas 2009, but the Government Accountability Office found, "it remains unclear whether [the scanners] would have been able to detect the weapon Mr. Abdulmutallab used."

But there's a deeper question to ask: how far are we willing to go to prevent weapons or bombs from getting on airplanes? In the past decade, terrorists on airplanes have killed just about 3,000 people -- all on one day. Even if the Christmas Day bomber had succeeded, the number would be under 3,500.

Those are horrible deaths. But in that same period, more than 150,000 people have been murdered in the United States. We haven't put the entire U.S. on lockdown -- or even murder capitals like Detroit, New Orleans and Baltimore.

While reducing the murder rate to zero is very desirable, we also understand that the costs, in terms of liberty and resources, are too great. But when it comes to air travel, 9/11 seems to have stripped away our ability to put things in perspective.

Politicians feed into that paranoia with their rhetoric. And lobbyists and government contractors feed on the paranoia.

protecting us at what cost

Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.