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.


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?



The Watering Hole, Monday, May 21st, 2012: DoD Noise Machine?

PROPAGANDA:prop·a·gan·da: [prop-uh-gan-duh]
1. publicity to promote something: information put out by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause
2. misleading publicity: deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread

(Synonyms: slanted, distorted, one-sided, polemical, partisan, extremist, manipulative)

While perusing the recent threads at ThinkProgress, I came across this brief piece with the disturbing headline: “Congressmen seek to ‘legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences.”

The piece referenced an article from BuzzFeed, part of which states:

“In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

[Note: While every article that I found on this issue used the phrase, “…in a little-noticed press release…”, not one article linked to the press release itself; so, here is the press release from co-sponsor Rep. Mac Thornberry’s (R-Texas) website.]

The text of the bill, H.R. 5736, (an amendment to the NDAA) co-sponsord by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), can be found here. I confess to be somewhat confused about the conflicting wording in Section 208, “CLARIFICATION ON DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION OF PROGRAM MATERIAL.”

`(a) In General- No funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States. This section shall apply only to programs carried out pursuant to the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.), the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.), and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.). This section shall not prohibit or delay the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from providing information about its operations, policies, programs, or program material, or making such available, to the media, public, or Congress, in accordance with other applicable law.

`(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure…”

According to a Daily Kos piece,

““It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Another article that I came across during my search mentions:

“The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

[Makes ya wonder where the rest of the $350+ billion is spent “to sway public opinion.”]

Mediaite, Dan Abrams’ website, has an article about this as well, along with a related article which states:

“United States Central Command (Centcom) is working with a California-based company, called Ntrepid, to produce new software that would help military service people create fake online accounts (known as “sock puppets”) with the intent of spreading pro-America propaganda (or, alternately, quash anti-American sentiment) across various online comment threads, such those found on blogs or message boards. The military has said that the accounts won’t publish comments for American audiences (as that would be illegal) or even in English, but, rather, in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto. The accounts would also steer clear of U.S.-based social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.”

[Oh, goody, they’re creating more sockpuppets and trolls?

It already bothers me that our country has been using propaganda overseas for, well, forever; it already bothers me that taxpayer money pays for such bullshit. But taxpayers having to pay to be lied to by our own military? I realize that this occurs already, with so many TV commercials encouraging young men and women to join the armed services, but this amendment appears to want to broaden those efforts to a scope closer to indoctrination than simple recruitment.

We were already lied to far too many times by the Bush administration in order to fulfill Dubya’s wet dream of invading Iraq. We already hear enough lies from politicians, corporations and other interest groups; whether through various news outlets, media commercial advertising, or opinionated pundits. It is hard enough now to sort through and fight all of the lies, both of commission and omission, that permeate our ‘news’ media. With so few real investigative journalists of integrity out there, how much of the truth will still be able to get through to citizens and voters?

This is our daily open thread — feel free to discuss this topic, or whatever’s on your mind!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 15th: Newt Gingrich + Citizens United = $$$$

While researching bizarre quotes/items about Newt Gingrich for the last few days, I ran across a reference to “Newt Gingrich to Star in Citizens United Movie about ‘American Exceptionalism’…”, which caused me to do a double-take. Newt Gingrich and that ‘Citizens United”?

Am I the last person in the world to know that Newt and Callista Gingrich have been ‘starring‘ in some of Citizens United productions, which claim to be “documentaries”, such as “We Have the Power“, and were working on a new “documentary” earlier this year? The “Cast” list for “We Have the Power” certainly has some familiar conservative names on it, and the “Credits” list shows the Executive Producers as: Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Lawrence Kadish and David N. Bossie. Lawrence Kadish provided (see this Alternet article from 2002**) some of the financial backing for Frank Gaffney’s CSP. David N. Bossie is the President and Chairman of the Board of Citizens United.
(**Check out the names/agencies interconnected in the article–keep in mind that this is from 2002.)

I did not know any of this – where have I been?

Small wonder, though, as Newt has been quoted in the past, when discussing campaign finance reform, as stating “The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough.” Then there’s this one: “The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.” The combined implication of ‘a congressman is above such temptations’ and ‘anyone who thinks otherwise is a socialist’ is so very Newt-y. Gingrich has always been about selling ideas, and, unfortunately, there have always been buyers.

Right now, some lawmakers are working to overturn the SCOTUS “Citizens United” decision; for instance, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, is proposing a constitutional amendment. However, we need faster action if the flood of money sweeping away our democracy is to be dammed.

This is our open thread — so talk about this or anything else that comes to mind.

How You Pay For Military Proselytizing

Regardless of what your personal religious beliefs are, you are paying to have some of our soldiers preached to against their will, forced to attend religious concerts and events, and punished for exercising their Constitutional and Military rights to refuse to participate. The events are called “The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series”, Continue reading

The Watering Hole: August 6 – Hiroshima

On this date in 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan by the Enola Gay, a United States B29. This marks a most grim date in the history of warfare.

Following is an reenactment of that event:

If that is not horrifying enough, current weapons can are capable of driving a shock wave for a distance of 30 miles from the blast center in less than a minute. Only about 2000 fusion warheads could level every structure ever made by mankind. The United States and Russia each possess more then that. The blast below was close to the power of the Hiroshima blast:

About  .466 grams of mass is converted to energy by a 1o kiloton nuclear blast. That’s equivalent to to the mass of 1/5 tsp. of water. Those atoms that are not left in their original state are converted into atomic ash in the form of other elements and isotopes, some of them, in turn, radioactive. The neutron flux from the blast converts some materials used to make the bomb into either radioactive isotopes or causes them to split into other elements adding to the devil’s brew. This ash is distributed by wind currents and falls to Earth thousands of miles down wind. Larger fusion(H-Bomb) ash clouds can circle the Earth several times, but generally remain in the same hemisphere.

Bush: The Gift that Keeps on Giving…

if you’re KBR, that is:

In July 2008, the Army said a new dining facility was badly needed at the Camp Delta forward operating base because the existing one was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor.

KBR was awarded a contract in September. Work began in late October as American and Iraqi officials were negotiating the agreement setting the dates for the U.S. troop withdrawal

But during an April visit to Camp Delta, the commission learned that the existing mess hall had just been renovated. The $3.36 million job was done by KBR and completed in June 2008.

This $30 million unneeded dining facility is to be completed on Christmas Day, 2009.

“With American forces scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, the U.S. will use the new facility for two years at most.” In other words, in the waning months of the Bush Administration, when the American economy was “cratering,” the Bush Administration gives a $30 million contract to KBR to build an unneeded and unnecessary dining facility.

How many other multi-million dollar projects Bush gave away in his waning days as President has yet to be seen…

And I thought Madoff was a thief..

Money on pallets in Iraq

Where did all the money go to?

The Maddoff ponzi scheme is fraud of the first order. Billions have been lost, but there is an even bigger and nastier case of fraud out there. The Independent reports, that some $ 50 billion have been lost in corruption and outright theft in Iraq. And the culprits seem to be US Army officials.

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme. (read story)

Unlike the Madoff crime story, which affected mostly people who could lose millions and still be wealthy, this crime had more vulnerable victims. The Iraqi people who are still not having electricity, clean water, functioning hospitals. And American soldiers, too. There’s the shoddy infrastructure they were faced with and there was the anger among Iraqis that helped fuel the civil war which cost so many soldiers’ lives. A few made a fortune from their blood.

If I knew how, I’d create a BushcrimesWiki (if there isn’t any yet) to keep track of all the misdeeds of your former President’s administration. If the Democrats refuse to look, as Paul Jamiol put so aptly in his cartoon, it’s up to us to create the pressure necessary to get Bush/Cheney tried in a court of law. The buck ultimately stops at their door.

Obama needs to sack NATO General Craddock. Now.

This is from Der Spiegel the international page:

A dispute has emerged among NATO High Command in Afghanistan regarding the conditions under which alliance troops can use deadly violence against those identified as insurgents. In a classified document, which SPIEGEL has obtained, NATO’s top commander, US General John Craddock, has issued a “guidance” providing NATO troops with the authority “to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan.”

According to the document, deadly force is to be used even in those cases where there is no proof that suspects are actively engaged in the armed resistance against the Afghanistan government or against Western troops. It is “no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective,” Craddock writes.

(read more)

So many Bush loyalists left, still doing damage.

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“I was just following orders!”

Oh. Ok. In that case, no one will prosecute you for torturing people.

As President-elect Barack Obama assures intelligence officials that his complaints are with the Bush administration, not them, there are growing hints from Democratic Senate allies that spy agency veterans will not be prosecuted for past harsh interrogation and detainee policies.

Never mind that we have never accepted that rationale, that “defense”, for crimes committed by foreigners.

Obama has an opportunity to tell the world that we are not a rogue nation, that we do stand for the rule of law, even when fighting terrorists, and that we will hold everyone accountable.

If we do not, if our law enforcement, our military, our clandestine operators, if they all get a free pass to do whatever they please, we create the Ministry of Love. The ends will justify any means.

No one will be safe, least of all from their own government.

Shinseki for Secretary of Veterans Administration

The man who got it right about what would be needed to invade Iraq is Obama’s pick for VA Secretary.

For speaking the truth to Congress, Shinseki was marginalized by the Bush Administration. He later quietly retired. But now his services to the nation are called for once again. In speaking the truths that Bush and Rumsfeld did not want to hear, Shinseki proved himself a man of honor.

Now it is much more likely that our Veterans will get the care and treatment they deserve. Another great Cabinet choice by Obama.


This site deserves as much exposure as it can get:

Why we’re against the war

Q: Why are veterans, active duty, and National Guard men and women opposed to the war in Iraq?

A: Here are 10 reasons we oppose this war:

I. The Iraq war is based on lies and deception.

The Bush Administration planned for an attack against Iraq before September 11th, 2001. They used the false pretense of an imminent nuclear, chemical and biological weapons threat to deceive Congress into rationalizing this unnecessary conflict. They hide our casualties of war by banning the filming of our fallen’s caskets when they arrive home, and when they refuse to allow the media into Walter Reed Hospital and other Veterans Administration facilities which are overflowing with maimed and traumatized veterans.
For further reading:

II. The Iraq war violates international law.

The United States assaulted and occupied Iraq without the consent of the UN Security Council. In doing so they violated the same body of laws they accused Iraq of breaching.
For further reading:

Continue reading

Images The Government Doesn’t Want You To See

There has been a concerted effort to keep any graphic war images from reaching the eyes of the American public. There is a broad effort to completely sanitize the atrocities of war. The administration has never asked anyone to make any sacrifices in this war effort. Collectively, our “sacrifice” has been to go shopping.

This started with not allowing flag draped coffins to be shown and has grown to where most images coming out of Iraq or Afghanistan are of the dog and pony type. The military continues to try to control any graphic images, the result of war, from reaching the public.

Zoriah Miller, the photographer who took images of marines killed in a June 26 suicide attack and posted them on his Web site, was subsequently forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the Marine commander in Iraq, is now seeking to have Mr. Miller barred from all United States military facilities throughout the world. Mr. Miller has since left Iraq.


Journalists say it is now harder, or harder than in the earlier years, to accompany troops in Iraq on combat missions. Even memorial services for killed soldiers, once routinely open, are increasingly off limits. Detainees were widely photographed in the early years of the war, but the Department of Defense, citing prisoners’ rights, has recently stopped that practice as well.

Prisoners’ right? Is that so? Like this?

Or maybe this?

But, wait, it’s really all about the families of those fallen soldiers. In 2007, rules were adopted requiring written permission from any troops whose photos might be displayed. A little difficult when that troop is being whisked away – hoping to survive. It would be indelicate at best to attempt such a tactic – and the military knows that.

While embed restrictions do permit photographs of dead soldiers to be published once family members have been notified, in practice, photographers say, the military has exacted retribution on the rare occasions that such images have appeared. In four out of five cases that The New York Times was able to document, the photographer was immediately kicked out of his or her embed following publication of such photos.

The NYT says that there are six Western photographers covering a war with over 150,000 troops deployed (not counting a near equal number of private contractors). News organizations say that the lack of images, as well as financial and safety concerns, are reasons for lack of war coverage in the media.

But war images continue to be blocked. The military cites respect to the dead or inured marines.

“Mr. Miller’s complete lack of respect to these marines, their friends, and families is shameful,” Captain Vickers said. “How do we explain to their children or families these disturbing pictures just days after it happened?”

Mr. Miller, was surprised by the reaction to his pictures.

“The fact that the images I took of the suicide bombing — which are just photographs of something that happens every day all across the country — the fact that these photos have been so incredibly shocking to people, says that whatever they are doing to limit this type of photo getting out, it is working,” he said.

Now this is pure speculation on my part, but I think that many families would want press coverage. In fact, recently, a family wanted media coverage at their son’s funeral.. The effort to accommodate them wound up in the firing of an Army whistleblower at Arlington National Cemetery for trying to accommodate their wishes. These are the very people who have sacrificed the most for the war effort. These are the people who have forever lost a family member; a husband or wife, son or daughter, mother or father, or a sister or brother. These are the people whose lives are forever altered.

I don’t think this is in any way about respect. The military is keeping images from a country where more than three quarters of its population want this war to end. And the military know that these images would result in a 60’s style rebellion against the war effort and there is too much money to be made for that to be allowed to happen.

Read the whole article here.

Very graphic images are here.

Why Obama Didn’t Visit Injured Troops

The latest talking point of the the right is that Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered visiting injured troops because ____________. Insert your own lie just as they’re doing. Andrea Mitchell mentioned briefly that the Obama campaign feels that McCain’s Pentagon contacts had something to do with preventing the visit and now she has incurred the wrath of the right. I thought she was one of them.

ANDREA MITCHELL: The background on the military flap is that they [Obama campaign] had clearly planned a trip to Ramstein [AFB]. They were planning to visit the injured troops. And then the Pentagon explained that they couldn’t go as part of a political trip. The Obama campaign thought that they could go, leave the press corps on the tarmac, and then take off with military escort and make this one last visit. As he did in Iraq, by the way. He visited a casualty unit in the Green Zone, without photographers, as part of the congressional delegation. But the military said that the rules are that he could only go as part of a previously-arranged congressional delegation, to Ramstein.

Clearly, people in the campaign are really angry. They had wanted this to be the final stop on the trip here in Germany, and to do it without the press corps, just to do it on his own. But the objections of the military are that he is now being staffed by campaign aides, not by his Senate staff, who are the people of course with him when he went with Hagel and Jack Reed in Iraq. So, you know, the anger here in the campaign is pretty intense at the Pentagon. They feel that the military are drawing some lines–they’re not saying this publicly of course–but drawing lines that they might have drawn for other people. He was planning to just go by himself, not with cameras, not with any entourage, as he had done in Walter Reed in the past in Washington, as he did in Iraq. Joe.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: It’s curious, if that’s the case, why the campaign didn’t make that announcement yesterday, and allowed stories to go like this. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of he said/she said in the days to come about this.

MITCHELL: But they thought that they couldn’t win. Yeah. They thought that they were, you know, you know, no-win situation, that the Pentagon, perhaps the military with cooperation from some Republican operatives and, that’s the sort of scuttlebutt, that there have been some foreign policy advisers of John McCain with connections in the Pentagon who had something to do with this. But that is, perhaps, just the normal political paranoia of the season.

“Active Denial System” tested on mock protesters.

The Raw Story

The Pentagon has been developing a non-weapon, allegedly for use in Iraq, which can repel enemies by causing a burning sensation on the skin. 

I found this interesting:

[The weapon was] demonstrated…by staging what CBS somewhat oddly called “a scenario soldiers might encounter in Iraq” — a handful of military volunteers, dressed as civilian protesters, who carried signs saying “peace not war” and threw objects at a small group of soldiers. A series of raygun blasts from half a mile away disrupted their chants and finally sent them running.

Civilian war protesters are something soldiers might encounter in Iraq?  Hmmmm…really? 

As of 2004, [the weapon] was being described as ready for use in Iraq within the next 12 months. This has still not occurred, and according to Secretary Payton, use of the weapon in Iraq is now “not politically tenable” because after Abu Ghraib “you don’t ever, ever, ever want a system like this to be thought of as a torture weapon.”

No, of course not.  Especially when there are cameras about. 

**irony alert** 

In 2006, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne was quoted as saying that the device should be used first on Americans, because “if we’re not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation. … If I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press.”

Crowd control, ladies and gentlemen.  This weapon hasn’t been shipped off to Iraq, because it wasn’t developed for use in Iraq.  It was developed to control the un-washed masses HERE.  They can use this weapon from a half mile away, and have any type of protestors scurrying away to find ice packs — war protesters, peace protesters, economy protestors, fuel price protestors, even people protesting something like…..election fraud committed against us

Something to think about…

“Free Press”? Or “Corporate Media”..

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Stupid question really.. We already know the obvious answer.
Where is Edward R. Murrow..? Is there no one willing to follow in his steps? Show his courage? His conviction? His commitment to the truth against all odds?

There have been a lot of news correspondents and reporters responding to the claims in Scott McClellan’s new book that the media were “too deferential to the White House”.

As one would expect, the talking heads were all pretty defensive and quick to defend themselves.
Here are a couple of things that jumped out at me:

Katie Couric:

“I remember doing an interview and the press secretary called our executive producer and said, ‘We didn’t like the tone of that interview.’ And we said, ‘Well, tough. We had to ask some of these questions.’ And they said, ‘If you keep it up, we’re gonna block access to you during the war.’ ”

She said that NBC did not buckle under, but, she added, “There was insidious pressure that I do think actually affected some of the coverage by the media outlets.”

“There was such a significant march to war, and people who questioned it very early on and as the war progressed were really considered unpatriotic,” added Couric. “I think that it did affect the level of aggressiveness that was exercised by the media, I really do.”

Brian Williams:

Williams agreed that the White House put tremendous pressure on news organizations to hew to the scripted administration line. “I was in Kuwait for the buildup to the war, and, yes, we heard from the Pentagon, on my cell phone, the minute they heard us report something that they didn’t like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary.”

CNN’s Jessica Yellin:

The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings. And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives…to put on positive stories about the president.

“[T]hey would edit my pieces,” Yellin said. “They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive.”

Continue reading

General Happy Swellspin

Another great animated cartoon by Mark Fiore!

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(Click on cartoon to go to source to view.)

Below is an article on the issue of the retired generals who went on several major news networks as “military analysts” in the run-up to the Iraq War, only coming out now that they were working with the Pentagon to spread propaganda to the unsuspecting American public. After the initial story broke out, there has been virtually NO reporting on it in the MSM.. Why is that?

Last night, on Dan Abrams’ show on MSNBC, a panel guest brought it up when discussing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story, and Abrams cut him off before he could say anything about it. (I do have a lot of respect for Abrams for putting so much effort into the Don Sieglelman story and going after Karl Rove.) The panelist persisted and Abrams talked over him, cut him off completely, and totally changing the subject. Abrams said something like ‘I’ll talk to you later about this offline’.. (Did anyone else pick up on that?)

What’s the message here? This is HUGE news, but the news commentators and journalists aren’t allowed to speak of it. Is it embarrassment? Or is it the fact that all the networks are owned by corporations that are part of the military industrial complex..? Did the orders come down from above that they needed to shut this story down?

I hope people continue to push to get this story out.

Below the fold is a story about a reporter for Raw Story who, after being totally snubbed and ignored by Dana Perino at White House Briefings, got his shot at a question. Guess what that question was.. Note that he was sitting right next to Helen Thomas in the front row. (Dana definitely didn’t look happy.. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so flustered and ‘pissy’).

Continue reading

Uncle Sam Says “You’re On Your Own”

\The military recruiters have been beating the streets hard since Bush and Cheney decided to illegally invade a sovereign nation. As a result, our military, an all volunteer military, has been and continues to be willing to fight this war and other wars with pride and honor.

What happens when a solder or sailor or marine or airman retires after 20 years of service? Phillyblues can tell you. He has a story that he would like to share with the world. I’m attaching a link because it is his story not mine and it truly touched me.

When I first graduated from College with my Nursing Degree, I went to work in the VA Hospital because I felt that I needed to give back to the solders, sailors, marines and airmen that went to fight in Vietnam. At that time, the VA Hospital provided excellent care to our veterans. Not anymore. The Bush/Cheney Iraq invasion consumes most of the military budget. There’s little left for the veterans. The Democrats in the Senate are working on a bill to increase veteran benefits. John McCain will not vote yes on this bill. One would think that because John McCain is a veteran that he would care about other veterans. Well, he doesn’t.

Good luck, veterans. Uncle Sam says “You’re on your own”.

Joint Chiefs chair: US prepping military options against Iran

Raw Story

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon is planning “potential” military actions against Iran, reports The Washington Post.

Mullen criticized Iran’s “‘increasingly lethal and malign influence’ in Iraq,” writes Ann Scott Tyson for the Post.

Addressing concerns about the US military’s capability of dealing with yet another conflict at a time when forces are purportedly stretched thin, Mullen said war with Iran “would be ‘extremely stressing’ but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force,” Tyson notes.

“It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” she quotes the U.S.’s top military leader at a Pentagon news conference.

Mullen’s assertion comes a day after American forces reportedly fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats in the Persian Gulf, a confrontation that Iran denies took place.

A prior incident involving U.S. forces in the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian speedboats in January of this year–which Republican White House candidates used (with the notable exception of Ron Paul) as a saber-rattling opportunity during a nationally-televised debate–was later discredited as a virtual fabrication.

This comes on the heels of yesterdays report of “an incident” in the Gulf of Hormuz:

In an incident early local time Thursday, a cargo ship contracted by the U.S. military fired “several bursts” of warning shots at two fast boats that approached in international waters off the Iranian coast, defense officials said yesterday.

The unidentified small boats approached the Westward Venture, a ship carrying U.S. military hardware, as it headed north through the central Persian Gulf, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The U.S. ship initiated communications, and after receiving no response, it fired a flare. The speedboats continued to approach, so the ship fired warning shots. The boats then left the area, Robertson said.

In January, five Iranian patrol boats sped toward a U.S. warship in the Gulf and dropped small, boxlike objects in the water, an incident that President Bush called “a provocative act.” The objects turned out to pose no threat to U.S. vessels.

Who fired at whom?? The Iranian Patrol boats are off the coast of Iran. Patrol boats patrol…

As far as the incident in January, I posted about it here and here and here and here. The Pentagon tried very hard to create an incident where there wasn’t one, as in totally “bogus”.

Those that want the war with Iran are working overtime to create that incident. People better be watching closely. Now that Admiral Fallon is gone and Petraeus has replaced him, the door has been opened and the light appears to be turning green. They are really going to try and do this before Bush (Cheney) leaves office…

US News Media’s Latest Disgrace

Consortium News

by Robert Parry

After prying loose 8,000 pages of Pentagon documents, the New York Times has proven what should have been obvious years ago: the Bush administration manipulated public opinion on the Iraq War, in part, by funneling propaganda through former senior military officers who served as expert analysts on TV news shows.

In 2002-03, these military analysts were ubiquitous on TV justifying the Iraq invasion, and most have remained supportive of the war in the five years since. The Times investigation showed that the analysts were being briefed by the Pentagon on what to say and had undisclosed conflicts of interest via military contracts.

Retired Green Beret Robert S. Bevelacqua, a former Fox News analyst, said the Pentagon treated the retired military officers as puppets: “It was them saying, ‘we need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you.’”

None of that, of course, should come as any surprise. Where do people think generals and admirals go to work after they retire from the government?

If they play ball with the Pentagon, they get fat salaries serving on corporate boards of military contractors, or they get rich running consultancies that trade on quick access to high-ranking administration officials. If they’re not team players, they’re shut out.

Yet, what may be more troubling, although perhaps no more surprising, is how willingly the U.S. news media let itself be used as a propaganda conduit for the Bush administration regarding the ill-advised invasion of Iraq.

Read on…

Long-overdue GI Bill

Like many of his generation, my father owes his education and, indeed his entire career to the GI Bill offered to returning veterans after WWII. He came from working class immigrant stock and would never have been able to afford college during the 40s without the sort of assistance provided by the bill. As it was, he was able to attend a small (tiny, really) private college in Ohio, go on to graduate school at Cornell and eventually to a successful career in Food Technology with General Foods. He and my mother, a librarian, provided my sister and I with a comfortable middle-class life and solid educational opportunities in our time. The result of the WWII GI Bill wasn’t just that people like my dad got a college education, but that education and those of his fellow veterans fueled the economic and social boom years of the 50s and 60s, for the entire country.

As Wesley Clark and Jon Soltz write in today’s LA Times:

The original GI Bill transformed American history, providing education for returning soldiers. The GI Bill not only recognized our nation’s moral duty for the enormous sacrifices of our World War II veterans, but it helped create America’s middle class and spurred decades of economic growth for our country. Economists estimate that the original bill returned anywhere between $5 and $13 for every dollar we spent on it.

And as noted in a NPR Morning Edition article today:

Those days are long gone. The current version of the GI Bill picks up 70 percent of the tab at a public college and about 30 percent of the costs at most private colleges. That means that while veterans of WWII could attend Harvard University courtesy of the government, veterans of the Iraq war have to cover nearly three years of tuition at such a school themselves.

The NPR story relates the experience of Todd Bowers, now director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA). He had managed to finish one semester at prestigious George Washington University prior to being called up for a second tour in Iraq, where he narrowly survived a sniper’s bullet.

After Bowers came home, he says, he was determined to finish his studies at George Washington, with the GI Bill’s help. But, “I started to fall into a tremendous amount of debt. I was taking out incredible student loans trying to keep up with the tuition costs, and the GI Bill wasn’t picking up much more than a few of my books.”

Senator Jim Webb’s proposed bill, which currently has 52 supporters in the Senate, would offer a reasonable and modest update to the GI Bill. It wouldn’t offer veterans a free ride to private colleges like my father got, but it would pay for them to attend the best State colleges and offer incentives to private schools. It would also honor returning veterans for their service and sacrifice in a meaningful and tangible fashion.

The bill would also decrease the disparity between benefits offered to active duty soldiers and those offered to members of the National Guard.

“If I serve 12 months, one single tour in Iraq, I will get 12 months worth of benefits of what the active duty receives,” Bowers explains. “If I serve three tours of 12 months for a total of 36 months, I still only receive 12 months of benefits.”

52 votes is not a veto-proof margin in the Senate but why would anyone veto such a wonderful bill? Or why would someone like John McCain, who has made himself out to be the great defender and supporter of our military, fail to adamantly support and battle for this bill? Kudos to NPR for at least mentioning McCain’s pusilanimous reluctance to step up:

His office did not respond to calls for this report. Several weeks ago, while on the road, McCain said, “It seems to me that it’s a good thing to do, but I haven’t examined the bill with the care … that it needs. … But we obviously need to do something along those lines.”

Like, oh, maybe later. After he gets elected. Maybe.

It turns out that the White House and the Pentagon are opposed to the GI Bill. Why? The answer is not only creepy beyond belief, but it’s incredibly insulting to the very military that Republicans are always claiming to support:

The Pentagon, however, says it is concerned that it will damage retention — that the extensive benefits would encourage people to leave the military to go to college.

Sen. Webb disagrees.

“If you have a meaningful GI Bill, you’re going to expand the potential pool of people who will come into the military. … We want all elements of our society to be involved in the military when we have situations like Iraq,” he says. “And it’s only when the mothers of Harvard wake up and worry about their son or daughter that we are going to have a hedge against adventurism.”

Clark and Soltz agree:

First, it is morally reprehensible to fix the system so that civilian life is unappealing to service members, in an attempt to force them to re-up. Education assistance is not a handout, it is a sacred promise that we have made for generations in return for service.

Second, falling military recruitment numbers are just as serious as retention problems. To send the message that this nation will not help you make the most of your life will dissuade a large number of our best and brightest from choosing military service over other career options.

Obama and Clinton are both supporters of the bill. I hope they both take time off from slapping one another and demand accountability from John McCain. No more weaseling. No more “I haven’t had time to look at the bill”. That’s why you have a staff, McCain. If you’re too busy trying to convince us that you support the troops at the same time you refuse to support such a reasonable and far-reaching opportunity, you’re just a fraud.

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FBI has national eavesdropping program

The Raw Story

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been routinely monitoring the e-mails, instant messages and cell phone calls of suspects across the United States — and has done so, in many cases, without the approval of a court.

Fourth Amendment, anyone? ANYONE?? Where’s the probable cause? There is none. They want to spy on us, so they do. Like Dear Leader says, “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It’s just a god-damned piece of paper.”

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and given to the Washington Post — which stuck the story on page three — show that the FBI’s massive dragnet, connected to the backends of telecommunications carriers, “allows authorized FBI agents and analysts, with point-and-click ease, to receive e-mails, instant messages, cellphone calls and other communications that tell them not only what a suspect is saying, but where he is and where he has been, depending on the wording of a court order or a government directive,” the Post says.

But agents don’t need a court order to track to track the senders and recipients names, or how long calls or email exchanges lasted. These can be obtained simply by showing it’s “relevant” to a probe.

Point & click, folks. It’s the new “normal.” How does it feel….really?

Do you experience the slightest bit of unease or hesitation before sending that IM or email? When you’re on an international call, does it run through your mind that you qualify for eavesdropping, even if all you’re doing is filling in Aunt Lou on how big the kids are getting?

It must feel ok, because I don’t see any of us protesting in the streets, or holding our government accountable.

You’ve got nothing to hide? Are you sure? You do realize YOU won’t be the one deciding what’s worthy of hiding. Don’t you?

Petraeus Testimony Next Week Will Signal Iran Attack

by Paul Craig Roberts

via: OpEdNews

April 5, 2008. Today the London Telegraph reported that “British officials gave warning yesterday that America’s commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war against the US-backed Baghdad government. A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran’s intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian militiary facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment.”

The neocon lacky Petraeus has had his script written for him by Cheney, and Petraeus together with neocon warmonger Ryan Crocker, the US governor of the Green Zone in Baghdad, will present Congress next Tuesday and Wednesday with the lies, for which the road has been well paved by neocon propagandists such as Kimberly Kagan, that “the US must recognize that Iran is engaged in a full-up proxy war against it in Iraq.”

Don’t expect Congress to do anything except to egg on the attack. On April 3 the International Herald Tribune reported that senators and representatives have made millions of dollars from their investments in defense companies totaling $196 million. Rep. Ike Skelton, the Democrat chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is already on board with the attack on Iran. The London Telegraph quotes Skelton: “Iran is the bull in the china shop. In all of this, they seem to have links to all of the Shi’ite groups, whether they be political or military.”

All Skelton knows is what the war criminal Bush regime tells him. If Iran really does have all these connections, then it behooves Washington to cease threatening Iran and to make nice with Iran in order to stabilize Iraq and extract the US from the nightmare.

Continue reading

US Mistakenly Sent Nuclear-Missile Detonators to Taiwan

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers (via Truthout)

The United State, in a curious case of WTF?, mistakenly sent four nuclear missile detonators to Taiwan in 2006 — and then failed to detect the mistake until notified by  Taiwanese officials.

It was the second time in recent months that Pentagon officials acknowledged losing track of parts of country’s nuclear arsenal. Last September, a B-52 bomber was mistakenly loaded with nuclear-armed missiles and flown across the United States to a military base in Louisiana. At that time, Pentagon leaders called the misplaced arsenal an isolated incident.

More on that “isolated incident” in Minot here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The Taiwanese government had actually requested helicopter batteries, which look nothing like the cone-shaped detonators, and probably don’t have the same (or similar) part numbers.

[Michael Wynne, the secretary of the Air Force] said that the misdirected detonators, used to ignite the trigger of a Mark-12 nuclear weapon, didn’t pose a security threat. The triggers couldn’t be used to detonate other weapons, officials said.

“This could not be construed as being nuclear material. It is a component for the fuse in the nose cone for a nuclear system,” Wynne said.

Well, they can be used to detonate nuclear weapons, Mr Secretary.  By the way, I wonder if the nuclear detonators would be construed as nuclear material if they were stolen?

That the Pentagon discovered the error only last week raised new questions about the security of its nuclear arsenal. It may make it harder for the U.S. to argue to Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and other nations that they can’t be trusted to secure their nuclear arsenals properly, said Victoria Samson, a research associate at the nonpartisan Center for Defense Information.

“It’s kind of difficult to criticize them when we have these issues,” Samson said. The U.S. military has procedures to secure its nuclear-weapons arsenal, but “they are just not being followed.”

Ouch, there goes the moral high ground.

Wynne said the military conducted quarterly checks of its nuclear arsenal, but he couldn’t explain how it didn’t notice the missing fuses in as many as eight checks. That will be part of the investigation, he said.

What else is missing?  Who have we shipped it to?  Has anything been stolen?  If so, who have they sold the items to?

Beijing considers the independently governed island of Taiwan as part of China, making all U.S. decisions to sell arms to Taiwan controversial.

Which makes this story not a minor blip on the radar, but a major concern — just like the Minot Nukes story linked above.  Incompetence apparently has it’s place in our government (i.e. the White House, Congress, etc), but the last place that should have room for incompetence is within our nuclear arsenal.

HT:  Witch1