The Waterless Watering Hole, Monday, February 3rd, 2014

A few recent articles got me started connecting several dots, which then began forming an unsettling picture. Read along, and let me know what you think.

First, according to this ClimateProgress article from January 31st, what was once the largest lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, has reportedly lost 95% of its water. While Lake Urmia is a saltwater lake, and not essential for agriculture or drinking water, such a huge reduction in size is more than alarming. From the article:

“Dam construction recently increased throughout the country, to provide both badly needed electricity and water supplies for irrigation. But that’s also diverted massive amounts of the freshwater that formerly flowed into Lake Urmia. Other major rivers throughout the country have gone dry, and the dust from the riverbeds and the salt from Lake Urmia’s dried basin are now a form of pollution unto themselves. Major cities around the country — including the capital of Tehran, home to 22 million — are making contingency plans for rationing. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently named water as a national security issue, and demonstrations and riots over water supplies have already erupted.”[emphasis mine]

“According to a 2012 study by the United Nations, 65 percent of the decline can be chalked up to climate change and the diversion of surface water cutting inflow to the lake. Another 25 percent was due to dams, and 10 percent was due to decreased rainfall over the lake itself.

A long drought in Iran ended two years ago, but the recent boost to rainfall has not been able to offset the other effects on the lake. Average temperatures around Lake Urmia rose three degrees in just the past ten years. In Pakistan, which sits along Iran’s southeast border, climate change has reduced snowmelt and river flow. That’s led to domestic political strife, and to a strained relationship with India over dams along the Indus River — Pakistan’s main source of freshwater.”[emphasis mine]

A commenter on the thread then led me to this Guardian article from November, concerning Hongjiannao Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake:

“Data released by local meteorological agencies on Thursday and reported by Chinese state media, shows the lake has now shrunk by almost one-third since 2009…”

Then there was this article by Graham Land entitled “Asia’s Disappearing Lakes”, with its alarming opening paragraphs:

“One of the worst environmental disasters in living memory is the near vanishing of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. What was once one of the world’s four largest lakes, containing some 1.5 thousand islands and covering 68,000 square kilometres (26,000 miles), by 2007 the Aral Sea was only 10% of its previous size and divided into four lakes.

What happened to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’s inland sea was not the result of normal changing weather patterns. The fate of the Aral Sea is a story of human intervention, contamination and local climate change.”

Next, Brad Plumer interviews Francesca Femia of the think-tank Center for Climate and Security in this Washington Post article. Ms. Femia states that, during the period between 2006 and 2011, “…up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst long-term droughts in modern history.”

“This drought — combined with the mismanagement of natural resources by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, who subsidized water-intensive crops like wheat and cotton farming and promoted bad irrigation techniques — led to significant devastation. According to updated numbers, the drought displaced 1.5 million people within Syria…They all moved into urban areas — urban areas that were already experiencing economic insecurity due to an influx of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.”

Ms. Femia added, “…we’re not making any claim to causality here. We can’t say climate change caused the civil war. But we can say that there were some very harsh climatic conditions that led to instability.” Later in the interview, Ms. Femia says that it was a 2011 NOAA report “showing that a prolonged period of drying in the Mediterranean and the Middle East was linked to climate change” that brought the conditions in Syria to her attention. [I mention this simply because I find it ironic that a NOAA report is taken so seriously outside of the U.S., while so many of our "exceptional Americans" are dumbfuck climate change deniers who wouldn't trust a NOAA report if god it/him/herself read the report to them.]

We’ve all read the recent stories about the toxic spill in West Virginia that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people. (And they’re still peeling more eye-watering layers off this onion of a story.) We’ve seen the photos and news reports showing West Virginians driving to designated water-supply centers for their ration of clean water–which didn’t appear to be enough for families to bathe, drink, cook, and somehow wash clothes with. At one point, Wal-Mart had to call in the local police to help protect a delivery of bottled water.

Now imagine if the Keystone XL pipeline is given the go-ahead, and eventually there’s a spill that contaminates the Ogallala Aquifer. Instead of 300,000 people being without clean water, it would be 3,000,000 – all vying for relief deliveries of fresh water.

I could go on, but I think you catch my drift: if mankind, and the United States in particular, continues to ignore global climate change, refuses to enforce current environmental regulations, continues to rely heavily on finite and filthy fossil fuels, and refuses to consider stricter pollution regulations, then clean drinking water will become more scarce, and more valuable. If scarcity of water is fueling riots and protests in other parts of the world, imagine what could happen in the United States: with so much of our citizenry being over-armed and paranoid, how soon would the shooting start? And, if even Iran is already considering water to be “a national security issue”, eventually the inept fools who occupy Congress might finally get it through their thick skulls that clean water is essential to life as we know it, and is therefore more important than oil. So, when do you think the first War for Water would start? Or maybe it would be referred to as WWW: World Water War?

Not that I think that all of this may happen within my lifetime, but as Rachel Maddow used to say, “Somebody talk me down!”

This is our daily open thread–talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 5th, 2012: Adelson’s “Newspaper”

In my post from Saturday, November 3rd, I promised (threatened?) forthcoming info regarding the view of our Presidential Election from overseas. So here’s a few recent articles – aka “newsletters” – from the Israel HaYom free daily newspaper**, owned by Mitt Romney’s biggest sugar-daddy, Sheldon Adelson:

November 2nd Newsletter: “Will Sandy save Obama?”
November 2nd Newsletter: “A stormy road to the White House – Uncle Sam’s Identity Crisis”
Another November 2nd Newsletter: “Where will the storm take voters?”
A third – and truly offensive – Newsletter/Opinion from November 2nd: “Obama’s ‘black power’ past and present”

Fourth: In this article from yesterday, it appears that there may not be any daylight between Bibi Netanyahu and President Obama, at least on one issue:

Two days after Abbas implied in a Channel 2 interview that he would be willing to abandon the demand for a Palestinian “right of return” in exchange for peace with Israel, Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting: “I saw the interview with Abbas over the weekend. I heard that he has since rescinded his remarks, but this proves how important it is to hold direct negotiations without preconditions.[Emphasis mine]

From the Fifth (and last) in the Israel HaYom’s election series: The following two (the only two) amusing excerpts from Boaz Bismuth’s “Two Days to Go”, reporting from Cambridge, Massachusetts, prefaced an article based mostly on the Obama “Messiah” myth:

“At least one thing is certain: The next American president will be a Harvard graduate. Out there, in the picturesque calm of the prestigious Ivy League institution…I watched the students passing in front of me and wondered whether any of them would choose to emulate the two famous alumni, Obama and Mitt Romney, and someday join the race to the White House.

“We’re not too excited by the fact that two of our alumni are running for president,” explains Sam, a business student. “Obama is a part of the ruling elite, just like Romney, and it is pretty clear that someone from the ruling elite will be sitting in the White House.”

I ask Sam to help me figure out the polls. “Look, it’s rather simple,” he says. “The people you see who are dressed up and wearing a tie, like me, will vote for Romney.”

“And what about the rest?” I ask.

“They’ll vote for Obama,” he replies.

“But I see very few ties,” I remark.

“It’s the weekend,” he explains.”

Bismuth’s next paragraph gave me a satisfying chuckle:

“Since Americans are unable to decipher the multitude of polls, Nate Silver has come to the rescue with his New York Times blog, FiveThirtyEight, named after the 538 electoral votes. Silver, 38, who accurately predicted the results in 48 states in the 2008 election, declares decisively: Obama is going to win on Tuesday. He projects that 300 electoral votes will go to Obama (30 more than he needs to win), and 50.5% of the popular vote. On the opposite side of the fence, senior Republican strategist Karl Rove predicts in the Wall Street Journal that Romney will win 279 electoral votes, making him the next president of the U.S.”

[Yeah, well we all know how Rovian Math worked out in 2008, right? It still brings me joy to remember the look on Karl's face when, in the midst of his explanation of how, via Rovian Math, McCain could still win, Brit Hume next to him announced that Obama had won Ohio, and the election was over. Priceless.]

And just for fun (or at least a brief break from our election,) here’s a couple of IsraelHayom’s ‘newsletters’ regarding Iran:

From Friday, November 2nd: “Iran is near completing its nuclear activities in Fordo”; and today’s “Iran suspending uranium enrichment in effort to halt sanctions.”

**Check the ‘About Us‘ page’s claim that “… Israel Hayom has a 31.8 percent exposure rate, maintaining its position as the most read daily newspaper in Israel for the second year in a row.” I emailed a few of the above links to a Jewish co-worker, whose daughter has visited Israel several times and has close contacts there: her daughter had never heard of ‘Israel HaYom’, and was going to ask her Israeli friend about it. Haven’t heard anything yet, but IMO, this “newspaper” could be nothing more than one of those freebies you can grab on your way out of the grocery store. :)

This is our daily open thread–try to stay strong and sane!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 18th, 2012: Romney’s Foreign to Foreign Policy

While we’re all still on a bit of a contact high from President Obama’s excellent performance in Tuesday night’s debate, the final Presidential Debate, supposedly covering U.S. foreign policy, looms just around the corner. As a follow-up to my post on Monday, I’m offering two pertinent articles from Foreign Policy magazine.

The first is a piece of rather hawkish advice offered to President Obama by David Rothkopf, which, in part, points out the frightening fact that:

“To get to buried Iranian facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordow, would require bunker-busting munitions on a scale that no Israeli plane is capable of delivering. The mission, therefore, must involve the United States, whether acting alone or in concert with the Israelis and others.”

Oy!

The second, as I mentioned on Monday, is a return to Mitt Romney’s recent foreign-policy speech at VMI (Virginia Military Institute.) While I find it disturbing for a Presidential candidate to be obviously undermining his audience’s Commander-in-Chief, even more disturbing were Romney’s comments about the recent tragic attack on our embassy in Benghazi. This line in particular jumped out at me: “These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of 9/11.” I’m still looking, but I have not found ANY independent corroboration of this little tidbit.

The following are a few more excepts. Of course, it figures that Romney is a proponent of an Obama Administration policy with which many of us liberals take great issue.

“Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.”

Anyway, Romney continues…

“It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.”

Based on this attitude, Romney wants to pour an unnecessary and unasked-for $2 trillion-with-a-T into the Department of Defense.

“I’ll work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
I’ll reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security. The world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

Why? The United States of America is NOT the same country, we don’t share the same culture or the same history as Israel; we are not geographical neighbors experiencing common challenges. The Constitution says nothing about our country’s ability to create a new country, nor about then being responsible for that new country forever. The President of the United States swears an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, and that oath does not mention protecting and defending Israel as well. Israel is fully capable of defending itself, having been greatly helped by our military and financial assistance. Isn’t it time to cut the cord and let the allegedly adult sovereign state of Israel be responsible for its own actions? But I digress…

“Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Now, that’s the ultimate lying hypocrisy from Romney, who, in the infamous, supposedly-private “47% speech” to big-money donors, said:

“And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem. I mean, we look at that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it.

In other words, Romney has no plan for the Middle East. Does this mean that Romney’s believes in “hopey-changey”?

I also ran across this interesting and helpful analysis on Romney’s VMI speech, by Andrew Quinn.

This is our daily open thread–what do YOU have to say?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 3rd, 2012: Mitt, Mitt, and More Mitt – PLUS a Shout-at from Gramps McCain

Romney Channels GW Bush

We all know what a tactless, undiplomatic person Mitt Romney is, whether on the campaign trail (“You didn’t bake those cookies”) to his London Olympic visit and his fundraising trips to Israel and Poland. For today’s thread, I’m focusing on the viewpoints of other countries on Mitt’s abysmal diplomatic skills. Presenting a trio of recent pieces from Foreign Policy magazine regarding Mitt Romney’s “foreign policy”, or lack thereof.

First, an article by Josh Rogin which discusses Romney’s labeling of Russia as America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” An excerpt:

“Russia is a significant geopolitical foe. Governor Romney recognizes that,” Romney advisor Rich Williamson said at a Tuesday afternoon event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. “They are our foe. They have chosen a path of confrontation, not cooperation, and I think the governor was correct in that even though there are some voices in Washington that find that uncomfortable…” “Russia is calling itself a democracy but it is not behaving like a democracy,” he [Williamson] said. “When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of peace? When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of humanity?”

Hmmm, I could ask the same about the U.S.

Next, from “A Dangerous Mind” by Bruce W. Jentleson and Charles A. Kupchan, a couple of insights:

“Whereas President Barack Obama has claimed the middle ground and crafted a strategy based on principled pragmatism, Romney is following in the footsteps of George W. Bush, relying more on bluster than strategy and veering to ideological extremes….Romney’s view of the changing global landscape rests not on a sober assessment of the world that is emerging, but on the same neoconservative myths that led George W. Bush astray. Like Bush, Romney seems to fixate on the wrong threats — and dangerously inflate them.”

“It is worrying that Romney pledges to reinstate a foreign policy of reflexive toughness just four years after Bush’s assertive unilateralism left the United States mired in Iraq and estranged from much of the world… The Republicans would do better to heed the wisdom of their own Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, who has warned that a president who wants to take the nation into another major war that is not absolutely necessary should “have his head examined.””

Of course, Republicans would argue that it is “absolutely necessary” to attack Iran on behalf of the U.S.’s BFF, Israel.

Last (for this post, anyway), here’s a few quotes from Uri Friedman’s “Russian Press Rips Romney and His Promise of Republican Hell“:

From Pravda:

“They [the Republicans] refer to Russia as a traditional rival of the United States along with North Korea, Iran and China…. To crown it all, Mitt Romney expressed his willingness to be the godfather of the Russian opposition and organize the training for opposition activists at American educational centers.”

From Voice of Russia‘s John Robles:

“Cold war thinkers have drawn up Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance and it does not look good neither for the U.S., nor for Russia or the free world. Continuing the rhetoric that Russia is geo-political enemy number one and promising to confront and make Russia cow to U.S. interests the Republicans have once again proven their complete disregard for diplomacy.

and

“Whether or not the Republicans are just playing for their base or are seriously proposing such policies, they have proven that they will be force for more instability and conflict in the world.”

and

“To say that Romney and his Republican brethren are a danger to world peace would be an understatement. Their “ultra-conservative” views and stances on a number of issues will bring about another era of neo-conservative subjugation for the American people and the world and their backward thinking and confrontational posturing will destroy much of the delicate compromise that has kept the world stable for the last four years.”

Consider that, according to boston.com, “Almost all of Romney’s 22 special advisers held senior Bush administration positions in diplomacy, defense or intelligence. Two former Republican senators are included as well as Bush-era CIA chief Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.” (The article doesn’t even mention John Bolton, aka ‘Worst…Ambassador…Ever.) If Romney somehow manages to win this election, get ready for four more years of Dubya.

This is our Open Thread. Nostrovia!


O/T:
Don’t remember if anyone else posted this, but another old man has been rambling on at an imaginary President Obama. It’s long, and painful/aggravating to read, but…

The Watering Hole, Thursday, July 19th, 2012: Hayden’s Planet-Scarium

Who knew that Newsmax has its own foreign intelligence branch? Well, they do, and it’s called called ‘Langley Intelligence Group Network’, or NAMBLA LIGNET. A quick glance at their website’s header is, well, illuminating? disturbing?

Wayne was the lucky recipient of a Newsmax/LIGNET email entitled “Iran Crisis Gets ‘Scarier,’ Fmr. CIA Director Warns – Join Exclusive Briefing Here’s an excerpt from the email:

Fmr. CIA Director Hayden: Iran Nuclear Crisis Gets ‘Scarier’

Former CIA Director General Michael Hayden delivered a disturbing message during a LIGNET intelligence panel discussion on the serious threat a nuclear Iran poses to the United States.

“Every time you turn the page, it gets scarier,” the former CIA director said during the exclusive briefing provided by LIGNET, Newsmax’s new global intelligence and forecasting online service.

Amid intelligence reports suggesting that Israel may be striking Iran soon — and that U.S. forces are increasing in the region — the LIGNET Iran Crisis Briefing uncovered what lies ahead for Israel, the U.S. and the implications for the world economy.

This briefing has just been completed and you can access the latest, best available information on this subject.

Joining Gen. Hayden for the online briefing were Arnaud de Borchgrave, famed journalist and a global threat expert with the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), and former CIA senior analyst and LIGNET managing editor Fred Fleitz… [Note: Click on the CSIS link and check out the 'Trustees' section to find few interesting names on their list.]

De Borchgrave offered a dire prediction when asked how oil prices will be affected by an attack on Iran, which has already threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping channel.

And Fleitz says diplomacy is no longer an option. He says negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are “in trouble” with “no prospect for breakthrough” and Iran “wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”

Other topics addressed during the online event included:
-What is the full extent of Iran’s nuclear program
-The reason the U.S. must make it clear “we hold escalation dominance”
-How soon could Iran have a nuclear weapon
-Iran’s policy to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan
-Will President Obama accept a nuclear Iran
-Iran’s close link to Hezbollah
-When will Israel launch an airstrike on Iran
-Iran’s support of the Syrian regime and its brutal crackdown on rebels
-A nuclear Iran leaves the world hostage to terror
-How would Iran retaliate to an Israeli strike
-Would such a response include biological, chemical or even “dirty” nuclear bombs
-What are the chances Iran will make a pre-emptive strike against the U.S.
-What are the implications for the dollar, the euro, and gold
And more
If you missed this URGENT online briefing on a nuclear Iran, you can still see re-broadcasts of this cutting-edge information

Yeah, but you have to pay $1 and get a ‘trial membership’ in LIGNET before you can get this URGENT information! However, “Once you join LIGNET for ONLY $1.00, you immediately become part of an exclusive network of global readers who are seeking the best available, actionable intelligence from some of the best informed people on the planet.” [emphasis mine]

Let’s take a brief look at some of the folks involved in LIGNET: a few of their “Advisory Board Members” are:

General Michael V. Hayden, USAF (ret.): Former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and former CIA Director, under whose watch we became familiar with the terms “warrantless wiretapping” and “Extraordinary Rendition.”

Lord William Rees-Mogg: “Former editor of the Times of London and …former chairman of Newsmax Media’s Board of Directors.”

Ambassador John Bolton: (Well, we ALL know his past.) “Currently Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and Fox News contributor.”

Jeremy Bradshaw: “Attorney, banker, and Newsmax contributor. Chairman of the London think tank, the Britain Club. He currently is Director of the London-based Argo Capital Management hedge fund.”

Arnaud DeBorchgrave: DeBorchgrave’s career as a journalist ranged from interviews with world leaders as correspondent for Newsweek, to CEO of UPI until he helped sell UPI to AP. According to Wikipedia, he “…played a key role in the sale of the further downsized UPI to News World Communications, the international news media company founded in 1976 by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, who was also the founder of The Washington Times for which de Borchgrave had worked earlier. After his CEO turn at UPI, de Borchgrave retained associations with both Unification Church media outlets, as “Editor-at-Large” of The Washington Times and UPI, writing regular columns published by either or both.” Wiki also mentions that DeBorchgrave had had questions of plagiarism raised regarding his columns.

Congressman Peter Hoekstra: “Former member of Congress and Chairman, House Intelligence Committee.” Not enough space for a complete summary of Pete Hoekstra’s record.

Some of LIGNET’s “Analysis Team”:

Frederick Fleitz, Managing Editor: Under President George W. Bush, “…Mr. Fleitz served as chief of staff to John Bolton, then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. In 2006, Mr. Fleitz became a professional staff member with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, acting as a senior advisor to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the committee chairman.”

Mark A. Groombridge, Deputy Editor: “Dr. Groombridge was a research scholar at both the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.”

David Wurmser, Senior Analyst: “From 2003 to 2007, Dr. Wurmser served as the senior advisor to Vice President Cheney on the Middle East. From 2002 to 2003, Dr. Wurmser was a senior advisor to Under Secretary of State John Bolton. Before entering government, Dr. Wurmser founded the Middle East studies program at the American Enterprise Institute.”

One article on LIGNET’s website titled “Iran Ballistic Missile Program Continues” states:

“An annual report [unclassified excerpt] issued this week on Iranian military power by the U.S. Department of Defense concludes that Iran has been making considerable strides in improving the accuracy of its long-range missiles . . . according to the report, there has been no change to Iran’s strategies over the last year and Tehran is still focused on challenging U.S. influence while developing domestic capabilities to become the dominant player in the Middle East . . . the report concludes that Iran could flight-test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) before 2016 and can now fire multiple missiles within second, creating a challenge for US and Israeli missile defense . . . Iran’s Shahab-3 missile can hit targets throughout the Middle East and the report says this missile’s range is being extended . . . this report shows the growing regional threat by Iran and is certain to further drive tensions . . . it also points to new threats to Israeli security from Iranian missiles.”

(sigh) And the Iran Warmongering beat goes on…

This is our daily open thread — what’s on YOUR mind today?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole, Thursday, April 5th, 2012: Short Attention Span News

I did a bit of wandering around searching for a topic to cover for today’s thread, and currently having an attention span shorter than a kitten’s didn’t help. I started at Newsmax.com, since there’s always something there that makes for good fodder.

At first I got distracted by a bright shiny object which, in reality, was a promotion for the April edition of Newsmax Magazine, with the cover “SHOWDOWN” Iran’s Plan for a Second Holocaust Must Be Stopped” by John Bolton. You have to read not only the fearmongering blurb about Bolton’s piece, but also the subscription offers accompanying it (if you sign up for TWO years, your extra bonus is Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue“…FREE!)

After tearing myself away from the Bolton promo, I then hit another article about Michigan’s legislative initiatives in the RWOW (Republican War on Women.) I wanted to respond to some of the comments, as a couple were truly face-palm/WTF?/gob-smackers, but…

Something else in the Detroit News then caught my eye, about another Michigan initiative to offer ‘CHOOSE LIFE” Michigan license plates. Apparently some states already have the “CHOOSE LIFE” license plates, some of which are shown in this interesting article.

However, from what I read, the pro-life plates didn’t make it into the final bill (which was signed into Michigan State Law as Public Acts 54 and 55.) What was included in Public Acts 54 and 55 was the approval of special license plates promoting organ donation, with the funds generated going the “Donate Life Fund” and the “Gift of Life Fund.” I like that idea a whole lot better.

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 15th, 2012: Who Said What?

You never know what you’re going to find at Foreign Policy magazine online. Recent issues contained two items which I decided to use for today’s offering: one somewhat humorous, one not so much.

The ‘somewhat humorous’ one is a fairly new feature at FP, entitled “Who Said It?” This particular version is “Grand Ayatollah or Grand Old Party?”, by Reza Aslan, who opens the article with:

“One is a religious fanatic railing against secularism, the role of women in the workplace, and the evils of higher education, as he seeks to impose his draconian moral values upon the state. The other is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Rick Santorum

Grand Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran

Aslan’s quiz lists nine quotes, asking “Who Said It?”, Santorum or Khamenei. The answer is given on the next page within the article, where the subsequent quote is then listed. See how you do in this quiz!

The second article, the ‘not so humorous’ one, is by Stephen M. Walt, and lists the “Top Ten Media Failures in the Iran War Debate.” A few key observations by Mr. Walt, although by no means the most important or insightful ones in his article, include:

“…when prominent media organizations keep publishing alarmist pieces about how war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc., this may convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives.”

and

“A recurring feature of Iran war coverage has been tendency to refer to Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” as if its existence were an established fact. U.S. intelligence services still believe that Iran does not have an active program, and the IAEA has also declined to render that judgment either.”

Mr. Walt’s article is yet another illustration of the deficiencies of today’s ‘mainstream media’, which has, for quite some time, deplorably failed to serve or inform the public. :(

This is our daily open thread — so, what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 1st, 2012: And Your Advice is Worth???

I like to check out Foreign Policy Magazine online now and again for different stories and viewpoints. You can imagine my surprise today when I saw an article titled “How to Beat Obama”, written by…wait for it…Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. Yes, Karl Rove, despite being wrong nearly as often as William Kristol, still thinks that his advice would be helpful to the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. Check out some of the pearls of wisdom Karl and Ed are offering:

“In an American election focused on a lousy economy and high unemployment, conventional wisdom holds that foreign policy is one of Barack Obama’s few strong suits. But the president is strikingly vulnerable in this area. The Republican who leads the GOP ticket can attack him on what Obama mistakenly thinks is his major strength by translating the center-right critique of his foreign policy into campaign themes and action. Here’s how to beat him.

First, the Republican nominee should adopt a confident, nationalist tone emphasizing American exceptionalism, expressing pride in the United States as a force for good in the world, and advocating for an America that is once again respected (and, in some quarters, feared) as the preeminent global power. Obama acts as if he sees the United States as a flawed giant, a mistake that voters already perceive. After all, this is the president who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Voters also sense he is content to manage America’s decline to a status where the United States is just one country among many.”

Ah, yes, the “American Exceptionalism” cliche – Americans are somehow inherently better than the rest of the world, and we damn well don’t need to pay attention to any of those lesser people in all of those other crappy countries. America is a flawless giant, dammit, and just look at how perceptive American voters are, too!

“The Republican nominee should use the president’s own words and actions to portray him as naive and weak on foreign affairs. Obama’s failed promises, missed opportunities, and erratic shifts suggest he is out of touch and in over his head.”

Karl, do you remember anything of the presidency of George W. Bush, or have you simply blocked it all out?

“The Republican candidate must address at least four vital areas. The most important is the struggle that will define this century’s arc: radical Islamic terrorism. He should make the case that victory must be America’s national goal, not merely seeking to “delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out,” as Obama’s May 2010 National Security Strategy put it. As in the Cold War, victory will require sustained U.S. involvement and a willingness to deploy all tools of influence — from diplomacy to economic ties, from intelligence efforts to military action.”

I thought that this 2012 election was all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS – oh, wait, that was the 2010 mid-terms, or…well some election was/is supposed to be about JOBS…I think.

“Second, the Republican candidate must condemn the president’s precipitous drawdown in Afghanistan and his deep, dangerous defense-budget cuts. Both are viewed skeptically by the military: The former emboldens America’s adversaries and discourages its allies; the latter is of deep concern to veterans and other Americans who doubt Obama’s commitment to the military.”

Jeebus knows that we don’t want to “precipitously” leave Afghanistan after, what, only eleven years or so? And didn’t I hear that President Obama has actually increased the defense budget?

“During the 2008 campaign, he also argued that Iran was a “tiny” country that didn’t “pose a serious threat.” How foolish that now seems.”

“In part because of how he has mishandled the Iranian threat, Obama has lost much political and financial support in the American Jewish community. His approach to Israel must be presented as similarly weak and untrustworthy. The Republican candidate must make clear the existential threat to Israel from a nuclear-armed Iran…”

We certainly wouldn’t want Israel to defend itself all alone, with only a few hundred nuclear weapons, against a possible/future/maybe-nuclear-armed Iran, now would we?

Obama recognizes that he’s seen as “cold and aloof,” and the Republican nominee should hammer this point home. The president has few real friends abroad (excepting, of course, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he told Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria). The Republican nominee should criticize Obama for not understanding that the U.S. president’s personal engagement is essential for effective global leadership. Obama’s lack of regular close contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which has destroyed relationships with America’s erstwhile allies, is simply the most jarring, inexplicable example of this president’s hands-off approach.

If the Republican candidate turns out to be Mitt Romney, our allies (and enemies, too!) will be SO overwhelmed by the “warm and fuzzies.” So, President Obama hasn’t been calling al-Maliki and Karzai as much as Rove and Gillespie think he should? What are they, Obama’s mother?

“Because the fall campaign must be devoted to promoting the Republican message on jobs and the economy, the GOP nominee must share his big foreign-policy vision no later than early summer.”

“The fourth line of attack must be about America’s fragile economy and how to restore it. Many voters think Obama’s stewardship of the economy has been inconsistent and even counterproductive.”

Of course, talking about jobs and the economy can wait until the fall – it gives the Republican nominee that much more time to think of something other than “cut taxes and regulations for corporations” and “make the Bush tax cuts permanent.”

“Undoubtedly, Obama will attempt to preempt criticism of his foreign policy by repeating endlessly that Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. By campaign’s end, some voters will wonder whether the president personally delivered the kill shot.”

Yes, undoubtedly, ’cause that’s what Rove and Gillespie would do – it would definitely convince “some voters”, i.e., FuxNews-watchers.

“Absent a major international crisis, this election will be largely about jobs, spending, health care, and energy. Voters do, however, want a president who leads on the world stage and a commander in chief who projects strength, not weakness.”

What the…”absent a major international crisis”? Such as, Karl?

“A November 2011 survey conducted by Resurgent Republic showed that 50 percent of voters (as well as 54 percent of self-identified independents) think America’s standing in the world is worse under Obama, while only 21 percent believe it is better. This represents a sharp drop from April 2010, when 50 percent of voters (and 49 percent of independents) believed Obama had improved America’s standing.

That’s because Obama has failed to become a strong international leader, and the Republican nominee must reinforce this message — one most Americans already believe. Foreign policy is a weakness for this president, not a strength.”

Hey, guess who’s a Board Member at Resurgent Republic? Why, good old Ed Gillespie!

Hmmm, I don’t think that your advice is so hot, Karl (and Ed.) Maybe they should read another article at Foreign Policy magazine that refutes their arguments.

Regardless of whether or not Rove and Gillespie’s advice is useful, I don’t think that either of the current ‘leaders’ for the Republican nomination would be capable of following it.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to opine on this or any other topic.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 22nd: How ‘Bout If We DON’T Bomb Iran

From John McCain’s “Bomb, bomb Iran” (literal) song-and-dance in the 2008 Presidential campaign, through all but one of the current survivors of the Republican Presidential candidates’ gauntlet of debates, Republicans seem to feel that the ultimate answer to any question about Iran is “regime change.” Of course! Look at how well that…er, uh…worked…for us…sigh.

This near-solidarity amongst Republicans begs a couple of questions:

1. Are they crazy?
2. Do they remember anything about Iraq?
3. Are they just trying to demonstrate their ‘testicular fortitude”? Or, in Michele Bachmann’s case, ‘Thatchers’?
4. Are they more afraid of what Iran might do if it acquires a nuke, or of what Israel might do if Iran acquires a nuke?
5. Are they trying to tie up the Jewish vote well in advance?
6. Are they crazy?

As always, Ron Paul is the exception to the “regime change” rule, ergo the war-happy wing of the Republicans cannot back him. The rest of the candidates vary somewhat in their eagerness to resort to what should be the last resort, but they are united in their opposition to Ron Paul’s more isolationist views.

For a more tempered point of view, I found that one or two articles from Foreign Policy magazine served to talk me down for now, at least…but I’m sure that it’s only a temporary surcease from the bombardment of all-too-familiar, “deja-vu-all-over-again” arguments for “regime change” (and all that that implies) in Iran.

I’m as tired of the candidates’ posturing about Iran as I am of the candidates and the endless ‘debates.’

So, on a lighter note, here’s an odd story from one of our local online news headlines. I found the first sentence in the last paragraph hilarious.

This is our daily Open Thread. Join us and discuss..

Halliburton On The Hot Seat

Halliburton is charged with selling nuclear technology to Iran.  There is a loophole in the law that allows the foreign subsidiaries of American corporations that allows them to do business with countries like Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

(Thanks to Stranded Wind at DailyKos)

Of Missile Shields and Missive Spiels

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Predictably, the minute President Obama announces a policy shift from the Bush Administration, NeoCons reflexively denounce Obama using the tried and true tactic of lying and altering history. Last night on Real Time with Bill Maher was no exception as Matthew Continetti, (a new face/stand-in for Bill Kristol, also of the Weekly Standard) made the unrebutted assertion that Poland and the Czech Republic wanted the “Missile Shield” that Obama recently discontinued. Did they really?

Not quite, according to an excellent article written in the Spring of 2008:

Concerned that hosting a US missile base will put them on the frontline of a new confrontation with Russia, the majority of Poles now oppose siting the interceptors in their country.

The same was true of the Czech Republic. However, as long as Bush was willing to pay any price, their governments were willing to go along with the deal, even though it was causing great divisions amongst NATO allies.
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Iran: Fewer protesters, but they are not gone

Christian Science Monitor, Global News blog

Thousands of Iranian protesters defied threats of a severe crackdown on Thursday, taking to the streets on the 10th anniversary of the 1999 student demonstrations.

Braving batons and tear gas, they chanted “death to the dictator” and set up burning barricades, reports the Associated Press. Tehran’s governor promised to “smash” anyone who dared show up. Witnesses told the AP that they saw security forces beating protesters with clubs on Valiasr Street, a major thoroughfare.

Thursday’s rally broke a nearly two-week stretch of quiet after a series mass protests against the official June 12 election results. This resurgence heightens speculation that this is a movement that will not be easily quelled – even by the state’s heavy hand.

On the 10th anniversary of student uprising in 1999, the Iranian dictatorship is cracking down with an iron fist, but they seem to have forgotten the passion of their own revolution.  The nighttime cries of “Allah-o-Akbar!” are a telling sign of revolution yet to come.

GOP Congressman Rohrabacher Proves He Is One Of The Dumbest Members Of Congress..

The GOP has a pretty low bar for intelligence.  Rep. Dana has no clue what he is talking about once again.  He is channeling Ronald Reagan, and his facts about him are completely wrong.  It’s obvious that American History is not his strong suit.

Another great video by NewsPoliticsNews.

All hell is breaking loose in Tehran (UPDATED)

Lots of news on CNN.

Nico Pitney continues to live-blog news from Iran here.

UPDATE:  Statement by President Obama on Iran.

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

UPDATEA young girl dies after being shot by a Basij member.  Apparently, she was watching the protests, not participating.

WARNING, this video may be disturbing to sensitive viewers!

UPDATE:  I’ve been watching the coverage on CNN.  Frustrating, because it’s so sanitized — too many talking heads.  MSNBC is MIA today, and Fox has too much lip gloss and political posturing.

Huffington Post has photos on their front page, here.

Nico posted this commentary from the photographer:

I could not get through. the guards were hitting people really hard to block their way. I got hit a few times, fortunately a few bruises but nothing major. they were hitting the women as hard if it didn’t seem harder. they smashed all mobiles and then smack the mobile owners with batons. they also blocked all above ground routes out. the only way out was via the metro

Also via Nico’s live-blogging, this text from an op-ed piece by Roger Cohen in the New York Times:

The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”

A man at my side threw a rock at him. The commander, unflinching, continued to plead. There were chants of “Join us! Join us!” The unit retreated toward Revolution Street, where vast crowds eddied back and forth confronted by baton-wielding Basij militia and black-clad riot police officers on motorbikes.

UPDATEMSNBC is reporting that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is threatening even tougher crack-downs if the protests by the people continue.  Opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was not present at today’s confrontations, but called for the people to strike if he is arrested.

Chants of “Death to the dictator!” were heard in the streets of Tehran, and police responded with tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition (as evidenced by the video above).

Mousavi says he’s ready for martyrdom, and will continue on his present path.

UPDATE:  More video from Iran.  I can’t help thinking that this should have been us in 2000 — minus the violence, if possible.

HT: Nico at HuffPo

UPDATEDailyKos has an unconfirmed report that the young girl shot to death in the video above was named Neda.  Her father was next to her when she died.  Heartbreaking…

UPDATENico is reporting that according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, injured demonstrators seeking medical attention at hospitals are being arrested.

The arrest of citizens seeking care for wounds suffered at the hands of security forces when they attempted to exercise rights guaranteed under their own constitution and international law is deplorable,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign. “It can only be taken as a sign of profound disrespect by the state for the well-being of its own people.

UPDATE (Sunday):  More information on Neda from Nico:

6:55 PM ET — A bit more on Neda. A blogger apparently in touch with Neda’s family members offers some new details (translated by reader Nima): she was born in 1982, apparently her full name was Neda Agha-Soltan, and she was at the protest with one her professors and several other students. She was, they said, shot by a basiji riding by on a motorcycle. Also, she was apparently buried today at a large cemetery in the south of Tehran. ABC News’ Lara Setrakian writes, “Hearing reports Neda was buried in Behesht Zahra cemetery earlier today, memorial service cancelled on orders from authorities.”

Born in 1982, the same age as my oldest son, and shot down in cold blood because she attended a protest objecting to an obviously stolen election.

Neda has become the face of this potential revolution.  Moussavi was a moderate who most likely wouldn’t have shaken things up too much, but he stood for equal rights for women.  It seems that was a bit too much for the dictatorship.  They shot Neda down in cold blood, and the world has witnessed it.  May her death not be in vain…

UPDATE:  Andrew Sullivan has lots of coverage at The Daily Dish.

Stealing the Iranian Election

by Juan Cole (Informed Comment)

Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.

2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers. [Ahmadinejad is widely thought only to have won Tehran in 2005 because the pro-reform groups were discouraged and stayed home rather than voting.)

3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran’s western provinces, even losing in Luristan. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not.

4. Mohsen Rezaie, who polled very badly and seems not to have been at all popular, is alleged to have received 670,000 votes, twice as much as Karoubi.

5. Ahmadinejad’s numbers were fairly standard across Iran’s provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.

6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.

I am aware of the difficulties of catching history on the run. Some explanation may emerge for Ahmadinejad’s upset that does not involve fraud. For instance, it is possible that he has gotten the credit for spreading around a lot of oil money in the form of favors to his constituencies, but somehow managed to escape the blame for the resultant high inflation.

But just as a first reaction, this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene. And here is how I would reconstruct the crime.

To read the rest of this excellent article, go to Informed Comment.

Dr. Cole followed up this article with another excellent article this morning:
Class v. Culture Wars in Iranian Elections: Rejecting Charges of a North Tehran Fallacy

U.S. Journalist Sentenced To 8 Years In Prison In Iran

Obama, Clinton and others speak out against the prison term.

Analysts say the journalist, who grew up in North Dakota, may be seen as a political bargaining chip to use against the West.  An Iranian American journalist accused of spying for the U.S. was sentenced by an Iranian court Saturday to eight years in prison, a move likely to strain the Obama administration’s recent overtures to improve relations with Tehran.

Roxana Saberi, 31, who had reported for the BBC and National Public Radio, had faced espionage charges during a trial Monday before Iran’s Revolutionary Court.

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Maher: New Rules – March 27th

Bill Maher had some great one liners, my faves:  ” Lou Dobbs would become a suicide bomber.”  “Glenn Beck would have to send out for more bat shit.”

Follow this link to watch the opening of the show.  Bill’s guests were Mos Def, Christopher Hitchens, & Salman Rushdie.  Maher interviewed Bill Bradley at the beginning of the show.

Iran is running out of Uranium

So it did not take a military strike to bring a stop to Iran’s nuclear weapons program after all. It looks to me as if diplomacy works just fine.

The Times has an exclusive:

Western powers believe that Iran is running short of the raw material required to manufacture nuclear weapons, triggering an international race to prevent it from importing more, The Times has learnt.

Diplomatic sources believe that Iran’s stockpile of yellow cake uran- ium, produced from uranium ore, is close to running out and could be depleted entirely within months. Countries including Britain, the US, France and Germany, have started intensive diplomatic efforts to dissuade major uranium producers from selling to Iran. (read more)

A Tribute to 9/11

“It all began with Iran.”

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to capture the man Bush said was responsible for 9/11, Osama Bin Laden.

Seven years later, the Bush White House says, “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11.” But thousands and thousands of Afghanis are now dead, because the C student got it wrong.

“It all began with Iran.”

America invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 (he had to be, or Bush couldn’t invade under the Authorization to Use Military Force). Yet as early as 2003: “President Bush, having repeatedly linked Saddam Hussein to the terrorist organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said yesterday there is no evidence that the deposed Iraqi leader had a hand in those attacks, in contrast to the belief of most Americans.” For more years have passed, and our military women and men are still in Iraq, still killing and getting killed. Hundereds of thousands of Iraqi children, women, and men have died, because the C student President got it wrong, again.

“It all began with Iran.”

McCain boasts of being 5th in his class – 5th from the bottom. His GPA was, in his words, “barely passing,” in other words, lower than Bush’s. The Republican “Tribute to 9/11″ is nothing more than a call to invade Iran. Can we trust a less-than-a-C-student to get it right?

In this writer’s opinion, the best “Tribute” we could pay to the victims of 9/11 would be to fully investigate the crimes of that day and prosecute, to the fullest extent possible, all those found to be responsible.

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Olmert to Resign as Israeli Prime Minister

Truthout (this came out today)

Scandal-dogged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced that he will quit politics and resign as prime minister this fall rather than join a contest for the leadership of his own party.

The announcement comes with Mr. Olmert trailing badly in the polls and facing a widening corruption investigation that police have said could soon lead to an indictment. In resigning, Mr. Olmert lashed out at the “ceaseless attacks of righteous people” which he said had begun as soon as he took office in 2006.

Mr. Olmert’s withdrawal means that a Sept. 17 vote for the leadership of his centrist Kadima party will effectively be a two-person race between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. Since Kadima holds a plurality of seats in the Israeli parliament, the winner will get a chance to form the next government.

“I will not take part in the primaries of the Kadima party,” a drawn-looking Mr. Olmert told a hastily assembled news conference outside his official residence in Jerusalem. “When a new chairman is elected for the party, I will resign from my duties as prime minister to allow the chairman to create a new government.”

Read entire article…

From the BBC: Israeli PM to quit within months

Vowing to prove his innocence, he said that he would quit as leader of his Kadima party as soon as it elects a new leader on 17 September.

He will remain caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.

Mr Olmert had been under pressure to resign over a police inquiry into money he received from a businessman.

The corruption inquiry centres around allegations that a US citizen, Morris Talansky, made election donations in cash to Mr Olmert in 2006, which may have subsequently been used to buy luxury items.

Israel defense chief: Military option still open (AP) (this came out yesterday)

Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday he has told top U.S. officials that Israel won’t rule out a military strike against Iran, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Iran’s latest response to diplomatic overtures a disappointment.

Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, is in the middle of two days of meetings at the White House, Pentagon and State Department. He told reporters that he has said during those meetings that there is still time to pursue tough diplomacy with Iran. At the same time he has told the Americans that Iran poses a major threat to the whole world, and that for Israel “no option would be removed from the table.”

The United States also has not ruled out a military strike to stop Iran’s presumed drive for nuclear weapons, but an Israeli strike is considered more likely in the short term.

Barak would not say what advice he’s been getting from the Americans. More…

Olmert’s crimes (Haaretz.com) (Hmmm… and this comes out tomorrow..?)

The critics of Ehud Olmert on the right, including senior figures in his party, claim that the prime minister has turned negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians into a shovel with which he seeks to dig himself out of the police investigations against him.

They say that to save his skin, Prime Minister Olmert would not hesitate to divide Jerusalem and to hand over the entire Golan Heights. Otherwise, why is he in such a rush to reach an agreement on borders with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas? How else is it possible to comprehend his sudden peace assault on Syria without linking it to the criminal investigations? More…

So does this mean that Olmert will bomb Iran and then leave? Or will the hardliners in Israel boot Olmert out of the way so their next Prime Minister choice can bomb Iran..

End of the occupation of Iraq – And Afghanistan

by Marjorie Cohn

So far, Bush’s plan to maintain a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq has been stymied by resistance from the Iraqi government. Barack Obama’s timetable for withdrawal of American troops has evidently been joined by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Bush has mentioned a “time horizon,” and John McCain has waffled. Yet Obama favors leaving between 35,000 and 80,000 U.S. occupation troops there indefinitely to train Iraqi security forces and carry out “counter-insurgency operations.” That would not end the occupation. We must call for bringing home – not redeploying – all U.S. troops and mercenaries, closing all U.S. military bases, and relinquishing all efforts to control Iraqi oil.

In light of stepped up violence in Afghanistan, and for political reasons – following Obama’s lead – Bush will be moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Although the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq, many Americans see it as a justifiable response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the casualties in that war have been lower than those in Iraq – so far. Practically no one in the United States is currently questioning the legality or propriety of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. The cover of Time magazine calls it “The Right War.”

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He Who Must Not Be Named

Madonna Lebling, a researcher for the Washington Post, noted in reviewing President Bush’s appearances and public statements, that the President has taken the Harry Potter approach to Senator Obama in that the President has uttered the senator’s name but a handful of times since Obama began his bid for the White House last year. And the last time Bush did so was an “attempt at humor” during the White House Correspondents Dinner where the President said that Senator Obama:

“was unable to attend because he was ‘at church.’” It was a reference to the candidate’s troubles with his controversial former minister.

Of course, the President has no such aversion to mentioning his desired candidate Senator McCain by name. Nor does Bush have an aversion to fundraising for the presumptive Republican nominee.

One would assume that the current resident of the White House wants McCain to become the next resident. But I question that assumption when the White House ‘accidentally‘ sends a Reuters story of an interview Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave to Der Speigel, a German news outlet, stating Maliki supports the 16 month US withdrawal plan of He Who Must Not Be Named’s to “an extensive distribution list.”

As ABC’s Jake Tapper reports:

The misfire comes at an odd time for Bush foreign policy, at a time when Obama’s campaign alleges the president is moving closer toward Obama’s recommendations about international relations — sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, discussing a “general time horizon” for U.S. troop withdrawal and launching talks with Iran.

Whoopsy.

The Washington Post says:

The mixup came after the White House announced Friday that it had agreed with Maliki to set a “general time horizon” for U.S. troop withdrawal.

Time Horizon? Which, of course is nothing like a timeline, timeframe, or any such thing, because we all know that:

the horizon is the line where the sky meets the earth — and thus can never be reached.

I am certain that this is the desired withdrawal date that the White House and Senator McCain have in mind; one which can never be reached (much like the elusive definition of Success in Iraq).

What does the McCain camp have to say about the Der Speigel article? Well, that it was mistranslated. Too bad that the Iraqi government again stated their support of the He Who Must Not Be Named timeline.

It appears that there has been the adoption of many of Obama’s policies of late. Before we know it, the Republican’s will be telling us that these were their policies all along.

And the most priceless quote of the day? This by Christopher Hayes over at The Nation (about the Iraqi government’s take on Obama’s timeline):

What’s truly amazing about this turn of events is that it more and more looks like the Prime Minister of Iraq is going to help engineer regime change back in the US.

For that, can I get an Amen?!

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