The Watering Hole, Monday, October 5th, 2015: Mixed Bag Monday

Let’s start off with a bang:  According to Foreign Policy magazine, the same idiots in Congress who tried to stop the Iranian Nuclear Agreement now want to ‘make it up to Bibi’ by giving Israel bunker busters.  An excerpt from this excellently-written article by Jeffrey Davis:

Since the battle over the Iran deal was largely fought over the question of whether proponents loved Israel or not, both sides are talking loudly about providing the country with a big arms package. Those who supported the deal are eager to make it up to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, while those opposed have to find ever more extreme proposals to prove they love Israel more.

This absurd competition — which is primarily about political posturing, not Israeli security — has reached an almost perfect level of absurdity. There is now a growing chorus of people arguing that the United States should give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a huge conventional bunker-buster bomb — and a fleet of heavy bombers to drop it.

Israel’s air bases don’t even have runways that can accommodate heavy bombers, though apparently one base — Nevatim — could be modified.**

[**Personal note:  the engineer for whom I used to work had earned the money that enabled him to buy a nice house and start his own business from a contract constructing the Negev Air Base runways.]

Next, let’s go back to the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis.  Although most news reports agree that the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano, arranged the visit, so far none seem to have specifically asked or answered “Why?”  Was it solely Reverend Vigano’s idea?  Or – yeah, I’m the suspicious, cynical type – did someone with a stake in a Papal stamp of approval of Kim Davis and her ilk, someone perhaps running for the Presidency, arrange this very, very quietly?  Yeah, I’m looking at you, Huckabee.

Only the Washington Post appears to be curious about the backstory of this now infamous meeting:

Church leaders in the United States and in Rome have been resolutely tight-lipped about the meeting, perhaps concerned about the prospect of appearing to publicly rebuke or challenge the pope, particularly on such a sensitive issue. At the same time, church-watchers have debated and swapped rumors about who set up the meeting, whether it was at the behest of the pope himself, or whether it was an idea pushed by other bishops or religious freedom advocates or donors.

Among those who declined to comment was the Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, at whose residence the meeting took place.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, an English-language spokesman for the Vatican, told the Associated Press. “And in the pope’s characteristic kindness and warmth and hospitality, he shook people’s hands and gave them rosaries. We should understand it as that. In terms of why this person was invited, you have to ask those questions of the nunciature.”

A controversial figure both in Rome and in the United States, Viganò has gone further than other church leaders in his campaign against same-sex marriage. Among other things, he appeared at an event this year with the National Organization for Marriage, a group that vocally opposes same-sex marriage and with which U.S. bishops typically don’t publicly ally.

And, of course, Liberty Counsel, and through them Kim Davis, are more or less calling Pope Francis a liar.  According to Christian Today’s article, “Kim Davis denies Vatican account of her meeting with Pope, says she was invited”:

“Disturbed by statements coming from the Vatican, gay marriage nemesis Kim Davis would like to set the records straight that it was the Vatican that extended an “unsolicited invitation” for her to hold a “private meeting” with Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. last Sept. 24.

Liberty Counsel, the group representing Davis, said the Kentucky county clerk—who spent six days in jail for defying a court order for her to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples—had spoken with papal representative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano before she met the Pope.

“This meeting was a private meeting. No other members of the public were present,” Liberty Counsel said.

Davis, accompanied by her husband Joe and lawyer Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, arrived in Washington on the night of Sept. 23, the Liberty Counsel statement said.

The following day, the Davis couple were met by people with “heavy Italian accents” who led them to the Vatican embassy.

“Kim and Joe Davis were placed in a room with no one else present. Later Pope Francis arrived with only Vatican or Embassy personnel and security,” the Liberty Counsel statement said.

“He stretched out his hands. Kim clasped his hands, and he asked her to pray for him. She said she would, and she asked the Pontiff to pray for her, to which he said he would.

“Pope Francis then thanked Kim for her courage. They embraced. The Pope said, ‘Stay strong.’ He then presented Kim and Joe with two rosaries. There was no line of people or other members of the public seen anywhere,” the statement said.

Liberty Counsel said the Vatican requested Davis to keep the meeting a “secret” until the following Tuesday.”

Really?  In this particular case, I have to say that, since Liberty Counsel and Kim Davis are already proven liars, I tend to doubt their account of the “meeting”, which seems to be just another pathetic attempt to keep Liberty Counsel’s pet martyr for Christianity in the limelight.  But I still want to know, who really arranged this on Davis’s behalf with the Papal Ambassador?

Last, a belated birthday present for our resident Turtle:  from National Geographic, glowing sea turtle!

“The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the first reptile scientists have seen exhibiting biofluorescence—the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color. The most common colors are green, red, and orange.”

This is our daily Open Thread–go on, discuss things!

The Watering Hole; Friday September 4 2015; Iran in Retro View

“Meaningful democracy cannot survive without the free flow
of information, even (or especially) when that information
threatens the privileged and the powerful.”
~Senator Paul Wellstone, D-MN (1944-2002)

Ever since an Iran nuclear agreement became imminent — and especially since mid-July when success was publicly announced — I’ve wondered why it is that virtually every Republican out there today, given the chance, will hurl epithet after epithet at both the process and the result, even as they completely disregard the fact that the US is the only participant in the negotiation where acceptance remains under severe challenge. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that when the most probable consequence of rejecting this particular negotiated settlement is war, the better choice would be to accept the settlement as agreed upon, and then work diligently to guarantee long term success. But no, to many that’s apparently not considered a viable option.

Why is that? Might there be an undercurrent of some sort, one that effectively defines the “why” behind the vehement resistance to civility?

A look back to the days of the issue’s genesis can often be instructive, and can often serve to reveal undercurrents, especially when said undercurrents have a particular politic as their basis. In this particular instance, the concern over Iran’s nuclear program first came to a head in 2006, even though three years earlier a negotiable and potential settlement was refused by the West.

Following are some selected quotes that essentially lay out the conflicting undercurrents, and if pressed into today’s context seem to point a finger at the essence of the politic that defines the obvious disregard for the negotiated agreement.

1. The New York Times noted in January 2006 that Iran resumes uranium enrichment at Natanz after negotiations with European and American officials collapse. (highlight mine)

2. Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics at MIT addressed the issue a number of times beginning in August, 2006 when he discussed some background information:

In 2003, Iran offered to negotiate all outstanding issues with the US, including nuclear issues and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The offer was made by the moderate Khatami government, with the support of the hard-line ‘supreme leader’ Ayatollah Khamenei. The Bush administration response was to censure the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer. … I should add that to the outside world, it sounds a bit odd, to put it mildly, for the US and Israel to be warning of the ‘Iranian threat’ when they and they alone are issuing threats to launch an attack, threats that are immediate and credible, and in serious violation of international law, and are preparing very openly for such an attack. Whatever one thinks of Iran, no such charge can be made in their case. It is also apparent to the world, if not to the US and Israel, that Iran has not invaded any other countries, something that the US and Israel do regularly.

The debate over Iranian interference in Iraq proceeds without ridicule on the assumption that the United States owns the world. … [T]he charges against Iran are part of a drumbeat of pronouncements meant to mobilize support for escalation in Iraq and for an attack on Iran, the ‘source of the problem.’  (April 5, 2007)

Iranians and Americans … generally are in agreement on nuclear issues. The Iranian-American consensus includes the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82% of Americans); if that cannot yet be achieved because of elite opposition, then at least a “nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel” (71% of Americans). Seventy-five percent of Americans prefer building better relations with Iran to threats of force. In brief, if public opinion were to have a significant influence on state policy in the U.S. and Iran, resolution of the crisis might be at hand, along with much more far-reaching solutions to the global nuclear conundrum. (April 5, 2007)

3. George W. Bush and his anti-Iran rhetoric; (August, 2007)

Iran . . . is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. . . . Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent and target Israel. . . . Iran is sending arms to the Taliban. . . . Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes. . . . Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. . . . We will confront this danger before it is too late.

The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased in the last few months — despite pledges by Iran to help stabilize the security situation in Iraq. . . .

Iran’s leaders cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis.

I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities. . . . We’ve conducted operations against Iranian agents supplying lethal munitions to extremist groups.

4. Chomsky seems to have addressed Bush’s nonsensical blather in November, 2007:

[S]uppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that? I mean, Iraq’s a country that was invaded and is under military occupation. You can’t have a serious discussion about whether someone else is interfering in it. The basic assumption underlying the discussion is that we own the world. So if we invade and occupy another country, then it’s a criminal act for anyone to interfere with it. What about the nuclear weapons? I mean, are there countries with nuclear weapons in the region? Israel has a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. The United States gives more support to it than any other country in the world. The Bush administration is trying very hard to push through an agreement that not only authorizes India’s illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons but assists it. That’s what the U.S.-Indo Nuclear Pact is about. And, furthermore, there happens to be an obligation of the states in the Security Council and elsewhere to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. Now that would include Iran and Israel and any U.S. forces deployed there. That’s part of Resolution 687. Now to your question. The real reasons for the attack on Iran, the sanctions, and so on go back into history. I mean, we like to forget the history; Iranians don’t. In 1953, the United States and Britain overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal dictator, the Shah, who ruled until 1979. And during his rule, incidentally, the United States was strongly supporting the same programs they’re objecting to today. In 1979, the population overthrew the dictator, and since then the United States has been essentially torturing Iran. First it tried a military coup. Then it supported Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Then, after that was over, the United States started imposing harsh sanctions on Iran. And now it’s escalating that. The point is: Iran is out of control. You know, it’s supposed to be a U.S.-client state, as it was under the Shah, and it’s refusing to play that role. (November, 2007)

5. Here are a handful of other responses from both sides which clearly indicate that War was the preferred option only to those in the Bush administration.

“The policies of Iran constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge to American security interests in the Middle East and around the world.” ~Sec’y of State Condolezza Rice; October, 2007

“Ahmadinejad has nothing in Iran that we can’t penetrate … Forty-eight hours duration, hitting 2,500 aim points to take out their nuclear facilities, their air defense facilities, their air force, their navy, their Shahab-3 retaliatory missiles, and finally their command and control. And then let the Iranian people take their country back.” ~Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, Fox News pundit; 2007

“There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.” ~Unnamed former intelligence official, as quoted by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, October 8, 2007

“We’re on a path to irreversible confrontation with a country we know almost nothing about. The United States government has had no diplomats in Iran for almost 30 years. American officials have barely met with any senior Iranian politicians or officials. We have no contact with the country’s vibrant civil society. Iran is a black hole to us – just as Iraq had become in 2003.” ~Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek Magazine, circa October, 2007

The bottom line seems clear: when the choice was between war and a negotiated solution,  War was the inevitable choice of the political right wing, aka the Republican Party, and the reasons for that choice were NOT reality or fact based.

Sadly, in the intervening near decade, nothing much has changed. Details have evolved, of course, as have the names and the voices of those involved. But attitudes remain constant. The sole significant difference between this day and a decade ago is that political control is no longer firmly in the hands of those to whom war is the invariable answer. The margin of negotiation advocates may be razor thin, but it appears that common sense will finally prevail, and common folks in every affected country should be pleased that such is the case.

Let us hope the sanity continues through and beyond the 2016 elections.

“Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,
to unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light.”
(William Shakespeare)

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 17th, 2015: Grab Bag

Just a few odds and ends to get your Monday started.

(R) Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson has already proven that he “don’t know much about biology” when it comes to homosexuality, women’s reproductive and overall health, and where the fetal brain tissue came from on which he used to experiment. He’s also shown that he “don’t know much about” #BlackLivesMatter, or about prisons. Now Carson shows that he “don’t know much about history” when it comes to foreign policy, the Middle East, or the meaning of “anti-semitism.” In particular, he shows in an op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post that he “don’t know much about” the Iran Nuclear Deal either.

A few items from Daily Kos: one oldie that makes a nice palate-cleanser; and a recent one that ends with an eloquent message [some of the comments afterwards are excellent as well.]

And for the funny, ICYMI (as I did), John Oliver and friends teach Sex Education.

This is our daily Open Thread–pick a topic, any topic.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, August 12th, 2015: Chuck Should Listen to George (Bonus: Birds!)

I started this post (a few days ago) thinking that I would rebut Senator Chuck Schumer’s reasoning, as reported in this NY Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman, for his opposition to the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  But that would have taken too long and wouldn’t have been good for my mental and physical health.  Suffice it to say that Chuck’s ‘arguments’ against the deal are specious and unfounded, and the final quote in the article is, quite literally, nonsensical:  “To me, after 10 years, if Iran is the same nation as it is today, we will be worse off with this agreement than without it.”

Then I got distracted (once again) by President Washington’s Farewell Address, with his  warning against aligning the Nation with any particular nation(s) at the expense and enmity of any other nation(s), and at the expense of our country’s interests.  (If you’re interested, the pertinent discussion starts at “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”)  I wanted to scold Schumer with these two sections in particular:

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.

~ and ~

“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

Then, for a bit of crazy, there were a couple of stories on RightWingWatch about Michele Bachman “predictions” and/or supposed validation of previous “predictions.” 

Finally, I ran across something to wash the bad taste out of your minds: a story about birds from DailyKos.

This is our daily open thread, so talk about ‘such and stuff’ (as my mum used to say.)

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 20th, 2015: Iran Nuclear Deal Fallout

Last week, it was announced that the long-awaited Iran Nuclear Deal was finally agreed to by the negotiating parties. The EU High Representative and the Iran Foreign Minister issued a joint statement, which included the following:

“With courage, political will, mutual respect, and leadership, we delivered on what the world was hoping for: a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer.’

Apparently conservatives don’t understand most of the words and phrases in that statement. As we have seen throughout the Obama presidency, their idea of “negotiation” means “you give us everything we want, or else.” FoxNews gives a rundown on the ‘highlights'(?):

Jeb Bush: “This isn’t diplomacy – it is appeasement.”

Ted Cruz: This is a “fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States.”

Ben Carson: “A historic mistake with potentially deadly consequences.”

Scott Walker: “Will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.”
[According to Raw Story, Walker also stated that:

“He would terminate it as soon as possible and persuade U.S. allies to join Washington in imposing more crippling economic sanctions on Tehran…

He would dramatically increase U.S. military spending after budget cuts that military officials have complained about…

“The United States needs a foreign policy that puts steel in the face of our enemies,” Walker says.”]

Marco Rubio: The President made “concession after concession to a regime that has American blood on its hands.”

Now, the above presidential wannabes mainly focused their criticism on the ‘evil’ Iran, with a minor mention of our bestest friend ever in the whole wide world, Israel. Huckabee, on the other hand, is pretty much all Israel, with barely even a mention of OUR country, the United States.

Mike Huckabee: “Shame on the Obama administration…

“Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to America.’
John Kerry should have long ago gotten up on his crutches, walked out of the sham talks, and went straight to Jerusalem to stand next to Benjamin Netanyahu and declared that America will stand with Israel and the other sane governments of the Middle East instead of with the terrorist government of Iran.

As president, I will stand with Israel and keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”
[emphasis mine]

Mike, why don’t you just move to Israel and run for president there?   ‘Cause there will be no “As president” for you here.  You do realize that this agreement is about limiting Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, not the unHoly war you’re salivating over.

Donald Trump: “Iran gets everything and loses nothing.”

[The Donald was also quoted by FoxBusiness as saying, without elaboration, “I think the deal is absolutely horrible for us, but it’s really, really bad for Israel”]

Rick Perry: If elected, I will “fully rescind this accord.”

“President Obama’s decision to sign a nuclear deal with Iran is one of the most destructive foreign policy decisions in my lifetime. For decades to come, the world will have to deal with the repercussions of this…”

Seriously, Rick? You think that signing a deal that means peace, that signals a willingness to negotiate instead of starting WWIII, is more destructive than deliberately and cavalierly lying our country into a wasteful quagmire of an unnecessary war?

Perry also stated: “As President, one of my first official acts will be to fully rescind this accord.”

There’s more, including comments from the lower-tier lineup of Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and…wait, is that it? Oh, yeah, and Elmer Pataki. But there’s no need to continue wallowing in the their ignorance, I think you get the idea.

Do any of those responses reflect “courage, political will, mutual respect [or respect of any kind], and leadership”? I think it’s abundantly clear that the (R) presidential field has none of those qualities.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 21st, 2015: More of Teh Stupid

You may want to have a barf bag ready, or an alcoholic beverage, or a Xanax, or your favorite recreational drug. You’ll need to prepare yourself for the putrid pile of prevarications puked up by Son of Satan Saint Ronald of Amurka, Michael Reagan. Although I’m providing the link to his opinion piece, titled “The GOP’s Stupid Letter”, published in the Farmington, CT, Daily-Times, I’m putting the entire mess up here so that you can more readily count how many things are wrong with it. Michael obligingly makes that easier by ‘formatting’ his piece in ‘single-sentence-double-space mode:

There we go again, Republicans.

We keep shooting ourselves in the feet — and at the worst possible times.

Things were going pretty well for the GOP. 

President Obama was getting major grief from Republicans (and even some Democrats) for preparing to sign America on to a horrible nuclear arms deal with the Iranians. 

Hillary Clinton was ensnared in an email-deleting scandal of her own making that was so obviously unlawful and politically devious that even the liberal media were attacking her. 

So what did 47 Republican senators do? 

They attracted the full attention of the mainstream media by sending a letter to the Iranian ayatollahs reminding them that any agreement the president signs without approval of the Senate can be undone by the next president faster than you can spell Bibi Netanyahu. 

Nice job, Republicans. 

Yes, what you told the Iranians in the letter was right. Any B-plus middle-school civics student knows that the Senate gets to ratify or reject treaties made by the president.

But sending an open letter to Iran was dead wrong — and politically stupid.

It merely gave Democrats — and their media buddies — a chance to change the subject and accuse Republicans of irresponsibly trying to sabotage the president’s foreign policy.

What rookie Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and his co-signers did with their letter was nothing new.

Ted Kennedy did it in the late 1970s when he tried to get the Soviets to do something to embarrass Jimmy Carter so he could take the nomination from Carter in 1980.

In 1987 Democrat House Speaker Jim Wright stuck his congressional nose into the negotiations between the Reagan administration and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

More recently, who can forget Nancy Pelosi’s jaunt to Syria in 2007, when she and a gang of House Democrats made nice with Bashar al-Assad at the same time the Bush administration was trying to put pressure on Syria to work with it on Mideast peace talks?

Those 47 Republican senators didn’t need to send a public letter to Teheran to remind the Iranians how America’s separation of powers works.

What was wrong with Sen. Cotton and a few others writing an op-ed piece about the Senate’s treaty-ratifying powers for the Wall Street Journal?

I bet the Iranians would have gotten the message just as well.

Instead Republicans only brought attention — bad attention — on themselves for doing exactly what many of them had rightly criticized Pelosi for doing.

Republicans in the Senate should have shut up and let Obama negotiate and sign the treaty with Iran, bad as it is bound to be.

Then they could have pointed out to the Iranians and everyone else that the deal needed to be ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate — and that 47 Republicans were strongly against it.

The letter was a blunder. Until the senators sent it, Iran was exclusively Obama’s problem.

All the media attention was on the president’s defense of his treaty and Netanyahu’s concerns about how dangerous and naive it was.

But now the Iran nuke deal is not just Obama’s issue. It’s the Republicans’ too.

And if anything goes wrong, which it probably will, you can bet that Republicans will — as usual — get most of the blame.”

After the column it says “Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan and a political consultant”, in case readers didn’t recognize the author.

I’ll just sit back and let you all rip this into teeny-tiny little shreds.

Next:

Just as delusional, but in a totally different vein: I ran across this piece authored by Bethany Blankley, a former aide to Senator Susan Collins, and currently “…a conservative political analyst and columnist who regularly appears on Fox News Radio.” Ms. Blankley contends that the majority of Congress (both houses) and President Obama are guilty of treason. She asserts that an omnibus bill passed in December and signed by the President “authorized the State Department to transfer $11.9 billion in cash payments to Iran by June 2015.” Ms. Blankley goes on to say that “[t]ransferring any form of aid/comfort to Iran, a sworn enemy of the United States, is a treasonous act.”

The first link within the article led me to this January article by Adam Kredo at The Washington Free Beacon. While still written with a right-wing slant, i.e., the title being “U.S. to Award Iran $11.9 Billion”, this piece finally provided the kernel of truth: these “cash payments” are actually releases, at intervals, of Iranian assets that were previously frozen as part of the sanctions against Iran. The State Department isn’t sending $11.9 billion in U.S.-taxpayers’ money to Iran, it’s letting Iran access some of its own money:

“When final negotiations between the United States and Iran failed in November, negotiators decided once more to extend the talks through June of this year. The terms of that extension granted Iran the 10 payments of $490 million, a State Department official said.

“With respect to sanctions relief, the United States will enable the repatriation of $4.9 billion of Iranian revenue held abroad during the extension,” the official said.

The first two payments were made in December, followed by Wednesday’s payment. The next release is scheduled for Feb. 11, with two more scheduled for March. The rest of the frozen cash assets will be given back to Iran on April 15, May 6, May 27, and June 22, respectively.”

The same author, Adam Kredo, also penned this March 20th article of interest, which says in part:

“Congressional leaders have begun pressuring their colleagues to cut off all U.S. funding for the ongoing talks with Iran over its contested nuclear program as the Obama administration rushes to hash out the details of a deal in the coming months, according to multiple sources and a letter that will be sent next week to appropriators in the House of Representatives.

With the deadline approaching, congressional Republicans have been exasperated by the Obama administration’s efforts to prevent them from having any oversight over the deal.

Reps. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) are now petitioning their colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee to prohibit all taxpayer funding for the talks, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

This would purge all U.S. funds available to Obama administration officials for travel abroad, hotel stays, and any other activities related to the P5+1 talks with Iran.”

So, I guess that Republicans feel that, if they couldn’t derail the Iranian nuclear negotiations by inviting Iran’s worst enemy to speak before a joint session of Congress, and if they couldn’t derail the talks by pulling an end-around on the President and the P5 + 1 negotiators, well, they can just defund the logistical side of the talks. Jeez, there is simply no end to their despicable efforts to thwart anything and everything that President Obama is trying to do.

Interesting note: on the first site that carried the Blankley article, there were no links within it at all. So I tried a search for information on this alleged $11.9 billion in “cash payments”, but the only links I found were mostly obscure right-wing websites, which just repeated the same article. I say “mostly obscure” because I found that “The Unofficial Megyn Kelly” website also featured the article. Take a look – warning, it may temporarily blind you – at this Newsmax-like mess of a website. Who on earth designed this tasteless crap? But also take a look at the mash-up of what I would consider to be real RWNJ story links, including – in the “You might also enjoy” section, one titled “What a Bargain! Only $80,000 for Mooch’s Rental Cars in Japan” Disgustingly, “Mooch” refers to First Lady Michelle Obama. After recent death threats to our Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, does it not occur to these “people” that a special armored vehicle to protect the First Lady and the Ambassador is obviously necessary and actually costs money? On the sidebar, another link to this story is titled “NO JOKE: Michelle O’s Rental Car Fleet For Her Jaunt To Shrine Of Rice God Is Costing…WHAT?” Un-fucking-believable.

Going back to the $11.9 Billion story, I noticed something odd: none of the more popular right-wing websites, i.e., Breitbart or Redstate, came up when I googled the story. Not Fox News, either. I’m guessing that none of them want to broadcast the idea that their darling Republicans who ‘voted for’ the releasing of Iranian assets – oh, sorry, the ‘authorization for the State Department to transfer money to Iran’ – were committing what they call “treason” right along with President Obama. No, they’re not gonna touch THAT one.

Finally, I just HAVE to post this one last excerpt from Bethany Blankley’s ‘opinion’ piece, simply because it’s so jaw-droppingly insane:

“Under President Barack Hussein Obama, many believe the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the White House, multiple layers of government, and is largely directing American domestic and foreign policy. (A powerful and growing Islamic influence also extends throughout the Republican Party.)”

This is our Daily Open Thread – go on, have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 6, 2014: No Nukes for You!

As usual, I found the topic for today’s thread while researching something else: in this case, looking for info on the time frame when Bush wouldn’t let the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) finish its inspection for WMDs in Iraq, just prior to our heedless and headstrong invasion. I never finished that research, as I was distracted by more timely news.

The first IAEA link that came up was, surprisingly, from a Chinese news site, from which I learned that the IAEA is sending a team to Iran shortly for talks on Iran’s progress in meeting certain deadlines regarding its nuclear program. In addition, the National Journal says “The IAEA has sought information on the “potential military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program, in particular information about Iran’s extensive research and development of a nuclear explosive device.”

From the Chinese site, xinhuanet.com:

“Iran and the IAEA agreed to implement five practical measures including the cooperation of resolving two points of Iran’s nuclear program related to the alleged nuclear weapon plan, so- called possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear plan by deadline Aug. 25 in order to provide greater transparency of Tehran’s nuclear program.However, the IAEA said Iran missed the deadline in implementing three measures, and two measures related to PMD issues have yet to be implemented so far.”

Then in an article from Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, the headline shouts “353 US Reps to Kerry: Iran ‘Stonewalling’ on Nuke Detonator”, followed by the opening line, “Stunning bipartisan congressional letter focuses on Iran’s ‘refusal to fully cooperate’ with IAEA over Parchin.”   Hmmm, well, here’s the letter, which I didn’t find particularly “stunning.” The article continues:

“The Congressional Letter’s signatories included almost all of both parties’ leaderships, and was greatly aided by Republican Congressman Peter J. Roskam (R-IL-06) of Illinois, a stalwart, and tireless, advocate of Israel as a vital strategic asset of the United States.”

“This Congressional warning follows a similar warning from Israel Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who issued a statement last week that emphasized that “credible sources” alleged that “internal neutron sources such as uranium were used in nuclear implosion tests at [Iran’s] Parchin.”

I also found this ^^ article interesting as it includes a diagram of a “neutron initiator” by the infamous AQ Khan – KHAAAAAAANN!  (Sorry, I had to.)

Okay, Congress and Israel, don’t get all freaked out and start shouting “mushroom cloud.” Remember the last time that we had “credible sources” about possible nukes, purportedly in Iraq, and went off half-cocked and half-assed? As Donald Rumsfeld (spit) so insultingly told under-provisioned U.S. troops to their faces, “…you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have…” How many thousands of American and coalition troops died, how many maimed, how many innocent Iraqis were killed? How much of their “sovereign nation” did we destroy? Seriously, do you macho politicians ever remember history, because you seem quite willing to repeat it.

Moving along…again from israelnationalnews.com, blogger Batya Medad writes about the following news:

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio late Thursday that he had agreed to an American framework proposal whereby Israel would negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the ’67 cease-fire lines with territorial swaps. (Jerusalem Post)”

Ms. Medad then writes:

“American policy is American policy. They promote what they think is good for the United States of America, and they want the support of what they perceive as “moderate Arab states.” The fact that such a phrase is an oxymoron has nothing to do with anything. Let the USA do whatever it wants. My complaints are against the Israeli Government, Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu’s government coalition.

Israel is supposedly an independent country and has been since the 1949 Armistice, which ended the active fighting between the newly established State of Israeli[sic] and the surrounding Arab countries, which had attacked it.

Although the State of Israel has been victorious in all of the wars against us by our Arab enemies, we have had successive governments that beg the United States for support and friendship. Bibi’s acquiescence to American demands is just the latest in a long series of bad policy steps over the decades.”

Oh, my, where do I start with this bit?

How about, if it weren’t for the U.S. and its allies, the State of Israel would not exist?

Or, AIPAC is the biggest and probably most powerful lobby in the United States?

Or, how much money and military equipment and assistance has the U.S. given to Israel throughout its existence?

Or, didn’t you guys actually start some of those “wars against us by our Arab enemies”?

Or, Israel doesn’t “beg the United States for support and friendship”, it demands it unconditionally and unswervingly, then spits in our faces. And when we politely ask that Israel restrain itself a tad when they’re violating the conditions of the 1967 agreement by bombing their neighbors and taking their neighbors’ land, Israel considers it an affront to their sovereignty. Bite me, Israel, you can stop taking our money and assistance, we can certainly use a few extra billion dollars right here.

As to Israel’s worry over the possibility of Iran hiding the development of a nuclear weapon, all I can say is, how big is Israel’s nuclear stockpile that Israel denies exists?

Okay, rant over…for now.

This is our daily open thread – don’t mind me, feel free to discuss whatever you want.

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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