The Watering Hole: Wednesday, March 6, 2013: The Sequester, Iran & the Virgin Islands.

Due to the sequester’s cutback in military spending, the Obama administration has had to scrub its plans to invade Iran. President Obama has decided to emulate President Reagan’s invasion of Granada by invading the Virgin Islands.

Republicans are in a quandry. Instinctively they oppose anything Obama proposes. But, in this case, Obama wants to invade the Virgin Islands without their consent. Given the Republican’s attitude towards rape, many are opting to blame the Virgin Islands for allowing themselves to be invaded by a black man, while others insist the troops be armed with vaginal ultrasound weapons as they establish their beachhead.

Open Thread Time.
Enjoy.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 20, 2012 – Romnesia

Campaigning at George Mason University on Friday, President Barack Obama took a new approach to Governor Mitt Romney’s constant changes of position. He announced that we have to name this condition, and he suggested “Romnesia, a condition that causes one to forget their past statements and beliefs.”

[Transcript and video from Think Progress]

OBAMA: Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it.
If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work – you might have Romnesia. If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care – you might have a case of Romnesia. If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you’ve definitely got Romnesia. [...]

And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for President, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.

We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease.

Of course, the president was just being polite. Mitt Romney is, without question, a habitual liar. People often say that every politician tells lies to get elected, but not like this guy, and not so often and about so many things. There isn’t an issue out there on which Mitt Romney hasn’t taken two or more positions, often contradictory.

On Monday night, the two candidates will meet in one last debate, this one centered on Foreign Policy. Now, Mitt Romney has no foreign policy credentials whatsoever. His money has spent more time in foreign countries than he has. His foreign policy advisers consist primarily of Bush Administration war hawks who think the second best cure to whatever ails America, after tax cuts, is War, especially if it’s based on the pretense of “defending Israel.” In fact, Republicans believe that every American president is constitutionally responsible for defending Israel, no matter what that nation’s government does. And they believe in the idea of pre-emptive warfare to “eliminate existential threats.” What are those, exactly? Well, technically, nobody can truly say because they exist only in people’s minds. They’re based on the loose idea that anything that might conceivably be used as a weapon against Israel is a threat whose existence justifies the use of military force to eliminate it. Thus, if Iran is enriching uranium for a modern electricity program, the idea that five or six years from now (or even two or three) they might be able to build a nuclear weapon becomes a morally justified use of military force. This makes total sense in the right-wing mind. By that rationale, because anyone who buys both a gun and the ammunition for it might one day kill an innocent person, Society would be justified in sentencing that person to death before they even got home. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

This is our Open Thread. You can discuss Romnesia or any other topic that tickles your fancy, though we prefer you not post any videos of your fancy being tickled.

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]

UPDATE: I found this on Twitter, a perfect example of Romnesia in action:

https://twitter.com/KawaiiMagpie/status/256536982417723392/photo/1

The Watering Hole – Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Red Lines

According to a report on Raw Story, Israel is trying to “thaw the frosty relationship” between Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the White House. They are trying to set up a meeting between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama to discuss how far they will let Iran go in developing its nuclear capability. Obama is said to be angered by Netanyahu’s repeated calls for him “to set unambiguous ‘red lines’ for Tehran,” especially in the lead-up to the election. I have to say I agree. Netanyahu should keep his mouth shut until after the elections. Iran isn’t going to be building any nuclear weapons before then, and Netanyahu knows that. He lived and studied in the U.S., so he has seen how our election system works.

Jumping off into personal opinion land, I wonder what right Israel has to boss the United States of America around? When did the people of Israel elect our President? Israel does indeed have as much right to defend itself as anybody, but the criteria used for determining what constitutes a threat has to be the same as everyone else’s: Imminent danger. You can’t use the excuse that just because Iran “claims” they simply want a peaceful nuclear energy program, they’re really lying and trying to build a nuclear weapon to be used against Israel, as the rationale for attacking them, which is what Israel wants to do.

In essence, Israel is saying this: We “know” that ultimately this nuclear program will be used to build weapons that will be used against Israel, so we reserve the right (a right they don’t have, by the way), to strike at what we feel is an existential threat. An existential threat is really nothing more than a theoretical threat, and not an imminent threat. They want our approval (an approval they sometimes say they don’t really need) to attack Iran over what they might do down the road, not what they are actually about to do right now. This kind of thinking has to stop.

Russia is more of a threat to Israel’s security than Iran will ever be. Russia has nuclear weapons and often sides with Israel’s political enemies. Why isn’t Israel worried that Russia might give a nuclear weapon to Iran and preemptively bomb them? After all, by their logic they have every right to. And Russia isn’t theoretically building nuclear weapons, they already have, and way more than they need (since they are willing to discuss arms reductions with the U.S.) The United States needs to stop enabling Israel’s warmongering behavior, before innocent people die.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Israel or any other topic you wish. It’s a free country.

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, 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.

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)

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.