Saturday, July 31, 2010

Side Tracks

My mother used to call this "long haired" music, which was strange to me because it was after the hippies had already arrived on the scene. For most in this generation this piece will forever bring to mind the movie "2001" (something Strauss could have never imagined) but that's certainly not a bad thing--Kubrick's movie was decades ahead of its time...maybe more based on the current direction of the space program.

While we're on the European theme I thought of this tune, again made more famous by another famous movie. These folks were not considered 'cool' back in the day, but they sure could sing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Activist Update

Today in Phoenix a crowd of people showed up to protest outside the courthouse...evidently not because a judge enjoined part of the SB1070 law, but for, well, something. Anyway, Breitbart has the video. Notice the flags flying around the 30 second mark. Here's a screen cap:

Hmm, that was the same type of Cuban-Che flag once posted in an Obama campaign office. Meanwhile, in a previously reported story, Mary Frances Berry speculated that most of the racism charges being hurled at various tea partiers are not really based on race but instead amount to simple tactics:
Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats. There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness.
Which seems to mean the genie is out of the bottle going forward as to all future racism stories, suggesting the press should take a skeptical eye. Right? After all, if Andrew Breitbart admitted that the tea party was largely a corporate creation designed to suppress minorities the media would surely take note...going forwards and backwards.

Enter Shirley Sherrod, herself a civil rights liberal activist like Berry, who announced today she is suing Andrew Breitbart, apparently for defamation. She's already claimed his video was racially motivated, tied him to the tea party movement, and outright called him a racist. So, according to Ms Berry's speculation is it real or just a tactic? And if Ms Berry were to call Sherrod's vocal pushback and lawsuit a tactic, would that itself be racist?

Mongrel Politics

What the..

Maybe he meant the time for campaigning had begun with his appearance on a softball morning show hosted by a bunch of friendly women instead of being at the White House governing. It's hard to say.

But only hours after the president of the United States appeared on 'the View' CNN isn't featuring his performance prominently on the front page..

So maybe it's not so hard to say. Anyway, while he was on camera economists agreed that 17 jobs were saved!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aviation Update

Another horrible crash this morning involving the loss of everyone on-board, and a not-so-horrible crash in Saudi Arabia yesterday involving a cargo jet. The Islamabad event has the initial appearance of a weather crash with heavy monsoon rains falling at the time. Once again the authorities ruled out terrorism before the investigators arrived, SOP with most recent events, but this one does feel more like an accident. They do occur in Pakistan, supposedly.

The Riyadh crash of a Lufthansa MD-11 cargo jet was a bit different--the weather was good with moderate winds blowing straight down the arrival runway (no crosswind) and clear skies. According to initial reports there was a fire on-board before touchdown, reported here, here, here, here, and here.

Later versions either attribute nothing or a 'hard landing', which might sound rather dumb and obvious to the layman, but sometimes the pilot just doesn't grease it in. An on-board fire could also cause a hard landing of course.

As to those reports, they were not coming from witnesses but reportedly from the pilot and/or the airline. The latter is usually more reliable than the former. Then again the media is hardly ever reliable within the first 24 hours, so adjustments should not be surprising.

At any rate, the NTSB and Boeing have already hurried a go-team over to the scene and the Germans are already there, so they seem to be interested in something other than a hard landing. Perhaps a preliminary finding will come out soon. Or not. To wit, the world is collecting a rather grisly list of officially unsolved air crashes. Strangely or coincidentally, the airliners involved come from countries cooperating with the US (some grudgingly) in fighting the war on terror (Kenya, France, Ethiopia, Yemen, Libya, India, Pakistan, Germany).

MORE 8/2/10

This is a very good summary. The Saudis are now going full out with the hard landing theory, despite this bit of eyewitness data:
According to airline sources, there were no hints of a malfunction, or even of an onboard fire, prior to landing. This contradicts earlier reports attributed to Saudi air traffic control officials, who said that the crew had declared an emergency just before touchdown and that the aircraft was trailing smoke even before landing, forcing them to land as quickly as possible. The key question is: Did the hard landing occur as a result of an emergency in which the crew intentionally focused on landing as quickly as possible, regardless of possible structural damage to the aircraft, or did a routine landing go wrong?
One interesting angle--the Aviation Week article is from several days ago and specifically states the main gear did not fail in the event, however some of the Saudi stories hitting the wire say:
Saudi authorities say landing gear on a Lufthansa cargo plane broke upon hitting the tarmac in Riyadh, causing the plane to split in half and catch on fire in an accident earlier this week.
They are basically saying the nose gear collapsed yet that seems like an after-effect, not the cause. What they are not saying is what caused the hard landing.

Then again, the MD-11 does have somewhat of a reputation as a difficult aircraft to land. The article lists several mishaps/accidents, but failed to list one that occurred here in Memphis several years ago that resulted in a fire. Leaning towards this being another such incident, with proper skepticism intact.

Quick Hits


Seems the most controversial parts of the bill were struck down today and will go to higher courts. That was expected anyway. Personally, the apparent requirement for pedestrians to carry ID proving citizenship in case they may get stopped for something on a jaunt down the block (and get locked up until proven innocent) never sounded correct. Then again, any state or federal law that requires a citizen to purchase a product or be fined or taxed also sounds incorrect.

The immigration methods in practice in Rhode Island sound better and they've already withstood some challenges. Other states could perhaps look east--after all nobody will care because Rhode Island is in the heart of blue country.

That said, it's high hilarity to watch liberals gloating that we're a nation of laws governed by a sacred constitution while arguing for amnesty, or illegal aliens jumping for joy in the streets at the news they won't have to show proof of citizenship during a police stop when the government already requires them to show it when applying for a job. Chaos still reigns.


Coming out November 9, a week after the mid-terms, but the Huffington Post is chortling over the timing, quoting some Republicans as saying it's 'selfish' because advance copies/excerpts will be leaking out beforehand, reminding voters of the Dems' main campaign theme.

In that sense they are correct, but what if the advance leaks are something of a bombshell nature? An October surprise, perhaps. Just sayin'.


One thing the press isn't asking but should--now that al-Megrahi feels better (and based on Libya's in-your-face celebration) why haven't we put this turd on the Rewards for Justice site? When Germany released Mohammed Ali Hamadei, a terrorist convicted for the 1985 hijacking of TWA 847 (and death of Navy diver Robert Stetham), reportedly in a swap for a captured German in Iraq, the United States placed the man on the list. If nothing else it makes a statement. So far the only statement made by the US government has been a "we asked Scotland not to" then some outrage, then nothing. Not even an official condemnation.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Let's get it straight--the leaks given to the New York Times and Washington Post during the Bush years were just as 'illegal' as the leak trove given to WikiLeaks and broadcast by left-leaning papers today throughout the world. The Bush-era leaks harmed national security; these probably will as well. Hey, people were prosecuted for just looking at Obama's college loan records. Dumping out secret level info is a serious breach.

No telling how many heads have rolled in the Pentagon to this point (rounding up the usual suspect?) but as to the purpose there seems to be several possibilities, although Wikileaker One has no doubts:
SPIEGEL: Do you think that the publication of this data will influence political decision-makers?

Assange: Yes. This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war. The archive will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence.

SPIEGEL: Aren't you expecting a little too much?

Assange: There is a mood to end the war in Afghanistan. This information won't do it alone, but it will shift political will in a significant manner.
And there you go. My suspicion is that this leak combined with the WaPo expose on security contractors (penned by an anti-war zealot and Bush era leak correspondent) are both designed to help provide the foundation for leaving all the war zones. The bigger question is whether the administration agrees; during questions on this today Robert Gibbs didn't really provide an air of outrage.

But the president is living in another self-imposed box right now. He was once so hawkish on getting bin Laden et al he vowed to bomb Pakistan without permission, now the leaks have shown that Pakistan is largely playing both sides, including helping AQ. Just the other day Hillary commented that someone in the ISI must surely know where bin Laden is, so shall the bombing commence? If the point of this leak was to set up a negotiated withdrawal scenario it seems politically short-sighted.

Nevertheless, in this story about Mullah Baradar (remember him--the number two Talibani caught before the surge to great fanfare who's since disappeared) there was this:
The New York Times said he had shed light on the workings of the Afghan Taliban that could help with a possible negotiated settlement to end the war. there's a conventional wisdom that something has been in the works. Since the Wikileaks material seems to be mainly focused on the Bush years it's possible the international left is setting up kind of a journolist-coordinated plan to help the decision-makers decide that the Bush Af-Pak FUBAR was too FUBARed to continue. There's only so much money to spend after all, no way this administration ever takes full blame for leaving.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama and the Deal

The al-Megrahi to Libya story took a turn this afternoon as this revelation appeared, then disappeared off Drudge:
The United States told Scotland it was "far preferable" to free the Lockerbie bomber than have him transferred to a Libyan jail, leaked documents showed Sunday, amid renewed US criticism of the release.
Of course the administration has been saying they had nothing to do with the release, so if true this amounts to yet another event lacking the promised awesome transparency that BushCheneyburton denied us (Air Force One, Sestak, Sherrod among others). But it's also not much of a bombshell. They admit to not wanting him released and if so, not wanting him going back in Libya.

Total WAG--this was a payback leak from Downing Street. Several UK leaders have recently snubbed the Senate dog and pony inquiry while Obama has been standing on the sidelines acting as shocked as Captain Renault about everything. So maybe they're mad because maybe everyone was thumbs up on the deal when it was arranged and now we're welching on our end for political theater. And maybe Quedaffy is laughing the loudest.

Still, the idea our State Dept had such little leverage over the UK in such a situation is hard to believe. Almost 200 Americans died, and troops are dying in Afghanistan fighting terror. Which is why BP is probably still in play here. We'll see where the inquiry goes this week.

MORE 7/26/10

Here's British British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on August 21, 2009 responding to Libya's giant FU to the west regarding al-Megrahi:
"I think it's very important that Libya knows, and certainly we have told them, that how the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days after the arrival of Mr. Megrahi will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's re-entry into the civilized community of nations," Miliband said.

"It is in our interests to stand up for our own principles in the interests of international relations," he said. "Where Libya is willing to abide and engage in the international system in a way that does the right thing for those international principles, we will engage with Libya."
And here's Obama press flack Robert Gibbs the same day:
Q Despite official protests from this government, on every level, the Scots released the Lockerbie bomber. The President yesterday said he hoped that they would place him under -- in Libya under house arrest. Instead he gets a hero's welcome; people are outraged.
MR. GIBBS: Rightly so. I think the images that we saw in Libya yesterday were outrageous and disgusting. We continue to express our condolences to the families that lost a loved one as a result of this terrorist murder. We communicated with the Libyan government, and we continue to watch what they do in the days going forward about this individual, and understand that the video that you saw yesterday is tremendously offensive to the survivors that, as I said, lost a loved one in 1988.
Q They're like blowing off the President. I mean, the guy who shook the President's hand at the G8, who runs Libya, is basically thumbing his nose at the President.
MR. GIBBS: Well, we're watching the government to see how they respond.
...and, here's Britain Prince Andrew having a noted Libyan cabinet member over to St. James Palace just this past week while his PM David Cameron was meeting in Washington with Obama:
A senior Libyan minister was entertained by Prince Andrew at St James's Palace as David Cameron prepared to hold talks with Barack Obama over the Lockerbie bomber, it has emerged.

The official, a key figure in Colonel Gaddafi's cabinet, led a delegation of Libyans who also held talks with a Tory defence minister and with senior Scotland Yard counter terrorism officers.

Abdel-Fatah Yunis al- Obeidi also met a Foreign Office minister during his UK trip.
Heh, looks like they tried to sneak him in.

So, what can the average Joe glean from any of this, assuming he cares? Perhaps this: it's likely the Obama administration--if they were really so outrageously opposed to Megrahi's release--could have threatened to leak it to the press beforehand should Scotland consider acting unilaterally. After all, this was a terrorist convicted of killing nearly 200 Americans. Surely they considered the blow back for not strongly opposing such a move would be akin to what we're seeing right now. So one would think the US would have used their power or at least gotten their CYA story more in order.

As to the line from Downing Street and Washington about really watching Libya's actions going forward, well, they must have found nothing wrong with them because it would seem that absolutely nothing has been done to them in reply to their outrageous actions. The US has done nothing, that we know of at least. And the Brits are having them over for tea.

To be fair, if there was a deal it might have been about more than a BP oil deal, perhaps some cooperation on terrorism as well (that cannot be released publicly other than through Wikileaks) as the Libyan minister was discussing joint terrorism operations with Prince Andrew. Qaddafi seemed to ruin that notion with his hero's welcome in Tripoli but judging from the non-reaction from the aggrieved parties one has to question whether Megrahi's kabuki theater was also part of the deal--something they insisted on in order to placate their own masses. Such can be the machinations of realpolitik.


Ed Morrissey has a summary, the gist of which is that we didn't care all that much. So consider the following scenario--the UK comes to Washington and says they've got a chance to get Libya back into the league of sane nations and they'll drop terrorism and allow BP oil exploration if we allow them more open trade and swap back some prisoners--including Megrahi. Our State guys say, "sounds good, but don't send him back, give him house arrest in Scotland because a hero's welcome would look really bad for us", etc (assumes those officials believed the doctor's report on his upcoming demise, of course).

And then Scotland unilaterally sends him back to Libya against our wishes? Sounds implausible, or Clinton is more inept than anyone figured (remember the Secretary of State--she's getting a complete pass on this one). Recall the initial outrage was that he got a hero's welcome, not was sent back. So the only thing that makes sense is that Libya busted the agreement (the Brits won't release the letter between Downing and Tripoli urging Qudaffi to downplay the return) on the hero thing but otherwise stuck with the deal, and the west is stuck with pressing on because they need the oil rights. Of course if they all knew the doctor's report was phony that takes it to another level.

MORE 7/27/10

Mediaite is all over Fox and Dana Perino for continuing to question the release after the full contents of the letter from US Charge' d'affaires Richard LeBaron was given the press; they seem to think it was a slam dunk, and while it does say the US government is not in favor of the release under any circumstances (but if so, he should remain in Scotland) it also says this at the very end:
– We appreciate the manner in which the Scottish Government has handled this difficult situation. We recognize that the prisoner transfer decision is one that the Scottish Government did not invite, but now must take. We hope that the Scottish Government would consider every available alternative before considering the granting of Megrahi’s prisoner transfer application.
So Scotland holds all the cards as to releasing prisoners yet their hands are tied? Presumably this means by London, and presumably this would involve a package negotiated by Libya that would contain some goodies for the UK. Overall the letter makes it sound better for the Obama folks; they set up the proper CYA and never really lied about it after the fact despite Obama making it sound as if the decision came out of the blue.

The question this letter doesn't answer is whether the US was in any way involved with the pressing deal that was tying Scotland's hands on the release--clearly State knew about the deal beforehand. Yet the letter sent to John Kerry from Hague, the UK home secretary, stated that Scotland made the decision independently and without pressure. So somebody is still lying.

Wait a Minute, What? (again)

As the nation headed into the weekend after dealing with a racial blow-up and a tropical storm disaster that wasn't, Government Motors slipped out a press release:
General Motors’ acquisition of AmeriCredit for $3.5 billion will help consumers with tarnished credit get loans, give dealers another borrowing option for their inventory and strengthen GM’s public stock offering, say people impacted by the proposed deal.

GM CEO Ed Whitacre said he expects the purchase to close by the end of this year.
You might ask how the hell GM can buy anything? Recall just a few months ago that Roger Whitacre, the GM CEO, came out in print and was featured on a commercial deceptively bragging that GM had already repaid their bailout loans well ahead of time, which wasn't true. Now this story tells us..
GM, which had $23.3 billion in cash as of March 31, plans to pay $24.50 in cash for each AmeriCredit share, a 24% premium over its Wednesday closing price of $19.70.
So, is that 23 billion earned profits or part of the government line of credit? If the former, quite an amazing feat during the lingering Bush depression. If the latter, yet another deceptive article about GM's finances.

So where are they going with this?
But it’s enough to put GM back in the hunt for consumers whose credit scores have taken a hit from unemployment, medical bills or even foreclosure.
In other words, high risk customers. Those who wouldn't otherwise qualify for a car loan. Sure, the other car companies are doing it too, but GM is taxpayer-union owned and backed. So basically it seems we have a taxpayer/union owned government-backed entity buying a financial instrument (most likely with bailout money) that can serve high risk people who probably pay nothing in taxes. Come and get your car?

As with the last round of deception, Senator Grassley is all over this one, too:
“If GM has $3.5 billion in cash to buy a financial institution, it seems like it should have paid back taxpayers first. After GM’s experience with GMAC, which left GM seeking a taxpayer bailout, you have to think the company and, in turn, the taxpayers would be better off if GM focused on making cars that people want to buy and stayed clear of repeating its effort to make high-risk car loans.”
But Grassley is a Senator. Here's a comment from the grassroots--a car dealer (one of the ones Obama didn't needlessly fire):
“The question is how much sub-prime do we want to stimulate?” said Frank Ursomarso, a Buick-GMC dealer in Wilmington, Dela. “Because that’s what caused the problem to begin with.”
Yeah, one would think. But further thinking leads one to think this sounds more like a new definition of corporate welfare.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Side Tracks

Here's Gladys Knight and the Pips with the Midnight Train to Georgia.. (recorded a bit loud--just a heads up)

And here's the Midnight Train to Memphis from a group you've probably never heard of (but the lead singer has an excellent voice)..

No country in the world has more diversity of music than the United States of America. And hallelujah for that..

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wait a Minute, What?

Obama met the press yesterday (aired this morning on GMA) to discuss Sherrodgate and other recent issues, and the result was as predictable as sunrise. To save you the trouble of actually watching the interview here's a screen cap of the interviewer..

In sum, Obama said Vilsack has "taken full responsibility" and that we all have stuff to learn on race despite the reality of his presidency. Or thereabouts.

Meanwhile, journos not mesmerized by the president's powerful spell (or feeling guilty over Journolistgate) were unbelievably still asking questions about the inconsistencies:
She said the USDA official who contacted her said she was acting at the behest of the White House. The White House said it had no part in Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's decision to ask for Sherrod's resignation.
And here's the NY Times in an editorial not so favorable to the O team:
The administration’s haste to fire Ms. Sherrod was unfair and unseemly. She told of how an agriculture under secretary phoned her to demand she resign instantly via her BlackBerry. The official anxiously cited the likelihood the furor would “be on Glenn Beck tonight.”
Of course the Times left off the White House link mentioned by CBS, but beggars can't be choosers. So, after Obama's smacking of ABC's slow-pitch softball question down the left field line we are left with the following:

Tom Vilsack, on his own and without contacting White House media and PR folks, panicked over an out of context snippet from a regional USDA official (and someone who just won a large settlement over USDA), peddled by a notorious right wing blogger who supposedly brought down ACORN using out-of-context snippets. Despite this track record Vilsack ordered his underling to hastily call Ms. Sherrod on cell, first to place her on administrative leave then on permanent leave. And all to beat the Glenn Beck show at 5pm. And all with no input from 1600.

This means that secretary Vilsack, a rich white guy, fired a black woman with a civil rights background without even the whiff of an investigation. Has he never spent even 10 minutes in diversity training? And he kept her fired all day Wednesday despite the exculpatory tape being issued, all with the backing of the buck stopper.

Yet everything is now wonderful because Vilsack apologized for himself and Obama apologized for Vilsack? His sword was made of rubber?

Meanwhile, Sherrod is not backing down off her White House connection claim. But in Vilsack's mea culpa he noted that Sherrod had tried to email a heads-up warning the previous Thursday but instead she sent it to an email address used for receiving public feedback (which means they hardly ever check it). Sounds fairly incompetent. Yet Sherrod said the following to Media Matters:
But after Breitbart posted the video clip, Sherrod said the lack of context and explanation sparked anger against her. She said she found out about the clip when someone e-mailed a link to her and asked about it.

"I couldn't believe it. I found this out when someone sent me (a link to) the tape, people who follow him, who put it out there," Sherrod said about Breitbart. "I got crank calls right away. Someone sent me an e-mail and link and said 'shame on you' and other stuff. I was sitting in a meeting and I was really upset.
Forget the fact that MM is probably the biggest political hatchet outfit on the web, something Sherrod seems not to mind so long as they are getting the evil neocons. Time Mag is asking for the USDA to release the email heads-up she sent to Vilsack. Other reporters have peppered Gibbs for access to the USDA undersecretary who told Sherrod the White House was behind things. We await the eventual exciting conclusion, which will be lost in the shuffle as we head into the weekend.

CNN? 7/23/10

Credit Ed Henry, the White House correspondent, for doing some real journalism..

They really don't want anybody to talk to this woman. Vilsack claims he addressed it yesterday, evidently meaning "shut up, I took all the blame already".

BTW, here's some further context, gleaned from the comments on this thread.

MORE 7/25/10

The same guy who once called the entire GOP a pack of racists calls Fox coverage racist. Remember, this same guy also once didn't know a top commentator in his own party was calling Bush a fascist. Meanwhile, only Maureen Dowd seems to be calling Vilsack, er, the West Wing, out of touch with race. "Too white". LOL.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hope Floats

Seriously, some days it just must suck to be the president..
Rashid Khalidi, a friend of President Obama's active in Palestinian causes, has signed an appeal for funds to send to Gaza an aid ship that would be named after the president's best-selling book, "The Audacity of Hope."
Ouch. Yes, the same Rashid who was the subject of that videotaped going away party that Obama attended along with Ayers and Dohrn that the LA Times refused to release before the election (has anyone checked the J-list archives on that one)? Conventional wisdom said that Khalidi or others might have taken some jabs at Israel, which would have been inconvenient for publication a few weeks before the election. Sort of like a mystery DUI. Indeed..
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. In response to an e-mail asking whether the appeal is embarrassing to the president, Khalidi said that he was not aware the boat would be named after Obama's book when he agreed to add his name to the list of sponsors.

"But if the name is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment," he wrote, "That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege, and indeed whatever else the Israeli government does."

Khalidi added: "I signed because the siege/blockade of Gaza, which is effectively supported by the United States, is a disgrace. I support the idea because it may cause the media to pay attention to the effective imprisonment and collective punishment of 1.5 million people who by the admission of Israeli officials, are being subjected to this ordeal in order to bring down their government. As the Goldstone Report suggested, this may rise to the level of a war crime, in which our country is complicit. That is truly embarrassing."
It will be interesting if they now send him under the bus, assuming this gets much more press. But it's guaranteed to if they get the funding, isn't it? The name ensures it, so long as it remains.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Everyone Acted Stupidly

The NAACP began by acting stupidly in trying to start a racial brushfire by calling out the Tea Party as having lots of racists.

Then, in defending the charges (which is what NAACP and the Democrats wanted), Breitbart airs an edited tape that appeared to show a black member of the administration practicing some really vile racism.

In lightning fashion, the administration fired her before she could even pass go. Pull over and resign!

Then, Ms. Sherrod blamed Glenn Beck, Fox, and the, yep, Tea Party for starting the brouhaha. Which was wrong because Fox didn't air the story until she had already been fired--it was Breitbart and bloggers who stoked the initial clip. And why did someone send Breitbart this edited clip? Was he snookered, too?

Sherrod then blamed her superior at the USDA, which begs the question--why did administrator Vilsack want her gone so fast, without a proper investigation? Where is Obama on this? Did he act stupidly, too? Shouldn't she get an apology and her job back? Is something funny going on or is this the most egregious example of government incompetence seen in a long while? Lord help us all.

MORE 7/20/10

Let me be clear ! It appears Breitbart will take a hit on his journo cred for not waiting to see the entire tape before going to press. He appears to be a bit too hasty at times to 'dance in the end zone'. But that doesn't explain why Vilsack or Obama or Don't mess with Joe haven't come out and given this woman her job back.. Is there something else they know that we don't? Or was her comment about cushy, bulletproof federal jobs just a bit too far past the comfort bar?


This may be the all-time teachable moment simultaneously in politics and the media. Here are my takeaways, starting with me..

Me.. I didn't initially post on this, not because I didn't think it was a story, but because I didn't have time. At first blush it sounded really bad and besides, it was silly to think Breitbart would go with something without checking. So when she later resigned and the NAACP issued a strongly-worded condemnation statement from my view it was legit and worthy of climbing on the bandwagon. That was my bad--trusting the administration and not full disclosure.

American People.. most average Joes probably couldn't care less. Their teachable moment is for others: "don't pay so damn close attention to that stuff".

Breitbart.. loses major rep. Even a non-journalist knows you don't go to press without fully vetting. Apparently he wanted this to be true so bad he threw away all caution, unless he's got something else in the can. But he looks a little angry. That's exactly the kind of thing the NAACP was gunning for when they issued their taunt statement last week, and he fell for it.

The NAACP.. looks cartoonish. Hopefully they don't fashion themselves as too clever. Some could argue they take a bigger hit than Breitbart and Fox because they started the whole thing by issuing the tea party taunt.

Obama Administration.. Vilsack wins the knee-jerk of the year award. Congrats to him. Obama wins the tunnel vision management award for blindly backing the blind Vilsack. At least the clowns apologized, but it begs the question--is the first black president so sensitive about race he would assume any black person speaking to the NAACP is a bigot without checking?

Fox News.. takes a hit. Yes they do. They aired the Breitbart story on their website and Hannity was harping about it on his radio show before the resignation, even though he claims he never went with it until after the firing. Hannity refuses to own up to it or apologize in the least, still holding on to this woman's racism. The corners of his mouth are red with Kool Aid.

From my limited perspective Ms. Sherrod and bloggers Allahpundit, Tom Maguire, and Anchoress all come out smelling like roses. Drudge was curiously absent during the whole blowup despite his history with Breitbart. Now he finally has a story on it. Did he have inside info?

But the real question everyone wants answered -- is this really what Eric Holder wanted for America? After all, the race cowards sustained no damage in this.

MORE 7/21/10

From Gibbs' painful press briefing today:
Q Since you’ve made your statement here and she heard you, she says that she was most struck by how this would play for her grandkids that the first black rural director in Georgia was fired by the first black President. Does that have some resonance?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I would -- decisions on personnel at USDA were made by USDA. Those decisions were made based on an incomplete set of facts and they're being reviewed based on a more complete set of facts.
And those USDA decisions were backed by the president. So it's funny Sherrod is directly blaming the president but Gibbs spent his entire time trying to make everyone believe it was Vilsack's fault, even though he couldn't explain why he was having a hard time reaching Ms. Sherrod by phone to offer her the job back. He also didn't touch on why Obama wasn't taking full responsibility for this event like he did with the BP mess. One reporter even quizzed Gibbs about the 'teachable moment', asking him who the teacher was. Comedy gold, as they say.

Poor ole Scotland

Let me try to boil down some questions on this Megrahi Lockerbie deal since it's making news again with PM Cameron visiting Obama. Cameron is now saying Scotland acted alone; at the time they claimed they acted based on a humanitarian policy and a doctor's assessment. So...
  • It's one thing to release a garden variety Libyan terrorist but quite another to release a figure blamed on so many American deaths. It would be akin to releasing a figure like Imad Mugneyah, most likely responsible for the Beirut Marine barracks bombing, without getting any kind of tacit approval from the US beforehand. Unthinkable for a western ally.
  • Since it's a big PR risk, what did Scotland stand to gain? Did they really think it would help them with the terrorists? Doesn't that kind of weak capitulation only foster more terrorists? OK, they have a liberal governance, strike that one.
  • If Scotland DID NOT act alone--in other words, if they were told to make up the phony-baloney story about cancer (including the 'doctor') what was their reward?
  • If their reward was to help BP gain a big oil contract doesn't that mean they lied to America and all the victims' families? Isn't that worth an investigation? Or in the least, a formal apology for lying?
  • If the above is true is it then plausible to believe that the Obama administration was not made aware of such chicanery beforehand?
  • Would Scotland agree to be the fall guy in case of a media blowback? Did they figure Scotland was small, known for leprechauns, and that nobody would care?"
  • If Obama knew about an oil deal charade beforehand, yet protested vehemently, but was summarily snubbed, what does that say about our influence with the UK anymore? If we can't sway Scotland, who can we sway?
  • What does any of this say about our relationship with Libya going forward? Or does nobody care now that their nukes are gone? Or is their oil in our future, too?
  • Maybe the Scots are conspiracy buffs. Some believe the CIA did it, some believe Abu Nidal was involved, some say Iran was paying back America for Iran Air 655. Maybe the Scots finally acted on their conspiracy beliefs and wrapped this up in a phony story to provide ultimate justice for Libya. Maybe they approved of the hero's welcome.
No formal UK investigation, according to Cameron. Senate investigation here, but only focused on further demonizing BP. Onward ho to oblivion.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Refudiating the Lie Story

In looking around the web for stories on the president's double talk regards the health insurance mandate one thing stands out-- a presidential lie might not garner much press anymore but a botched word from a wannabee former governor surely commands saturation coverage!

"Refudiate". Waterloo for Palin. A botched word has proven her moronicity! Stop the presses, alert the Navy corpsmen, that is REAL news baby--dredge up the seeing Russia from her house story as if it was real!

OK, here's a rundown on the refudiate coverage--
NY Times... Washington Post... MSNBC... LA Times... ABC News... CBS News...
Yes Palin works for Fox News and no, they didn't cover it, but here's a pretty spirited debate on the mosque story, which is the story. Many of the outlets had the refudiate story on their front pages.

Now here's a rundown on a clear presidential fib involving 1/6th of the economy--
NY Times (covered in Money section).. Washington Post... MSNBC (links to right wing sites covering it)... LA Times... ABC News... CBS News... Nothing except the Times coverage.
Of course Fox News had it, discussed by its 'all-star panel'. Perhaps like Bob Schieffer the folks at all those other sites were all on vacation.

BTW, Palin screwed up, she needs to admit her mistake honestly. It won't help her with the detractors but she must maintain an appearance of ethicalness. Still, the big media has once again proven Sean Hannity correct.

WaPo Feature on Intel

Not to say there isn't some truth in the 'unwieldy' description of America's post 9/11 national security complex; it is after all a part of the federal government. But what's the real point of the site/piece?

Well, the two purveyors are Dana 'I got a Pulitzer for exposing clandestine CIA interrogations of dangerous terrorists' Priest, and William Arkin, best known on righty blogs for this description of US troops from 2007:
But it is the United States and instead this NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary – oops sorry, volunteer – force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.
So there's your context.

The site details the layers of the counter-intelligence complex, including an incredible estimated 850,000 people who maintain top-secret clearances (many of them are in DoD). But the front page also has a 'latest news' section. The lead-off story today was from the Atlantic Wire where Max Fisher sums up the bottom line by linking to lefty bloggers Marcy Wheeler, Tim Shorrock, Spencer Ackerman, and last but not least Digby, who Fisher blockquotes:
Liberal blogger Digby writes [as if he's the only lefty linked -ed] "I don't know if it includes Homeland Security, but if it doesn't I suspect another investigation should be done there. This gravy train has taken on sacred status as the right has managed to morph the "support the troops" mantra into a 'support the Military Industrial Complex,' which is just another way of maintaining the police welfare state for connected white guys. If there's belt tightening to be done, this is the place to start."
Bolded to ask whether this would ever be permissible to reverse in any way imaginable. BTW, the other two news stories listed were a vanilla wire story from Fox News (without opinion) and to another lefty site, Firedoglake, this time to writer 'Rayne', who also makes a point about spending. Beginning to see the point?

Indeed, the first thing that should strike most readers after wading through several pages is the overarching notion that our counter-intelligence apparatus appears to be spiraling out of control, which could lead to the dreaded stovepipe effect that helped produce 9/11 but just as important, wasting taxpayer money (for connected white guys, apparently).

It's hard to argue in light of the fact they missed the underbomber, Hasan, Abdulhakim (Little Rock) and the Times Square bomber. Of course, it's hard to say this apparatus was entirely to blame for missing these threats but good luck finding any criticism of Obama on this new site.

Again, the bottom line--money, ie, we are wasting money on national intelligence and fighting a war on terror, seems to be a driving force of the site. After all, the federal pie is only so big and much more money is needed to waste on out of control, unwieldy social projects that have been spiraling out of control for years.

So, while there most definitely should be a common sense assessment of all programs with an emphasis of ending contractor abuses, folks like Digby, or Priest, or Arkin, would likely react like hissing snakes if Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh came up with a similar web site tracking abuses in the social safety net.

MORE 7/19/10

Since this seems to be in part an expose designed to set up defense cuts; and since Obama is out today demagoguing the unemployment extensions by calling them 'stimulative', isn't a bloated defense/intel establishment also 'stimulative'? Think of all the jobs that have been created!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


From July 18, 2010:
In a brief defending the law, the Justice Department says the requirement for people to carry insurance or pay the penalty is “a valid exercise” of Congress’s power to impose taxes.

Congress can use its taxing power “even for purposes that would exceed its powers under other provisions” of the Constitution, the department said. For more than a century, it added, the Supreme Court has held that Congress can tax activities that it could not reach by using its power to regulate commerce.
In other words, the DOJ will defend state lawsuits on the grounds that health care mandates are actually a tax. But from September 20, 2009:

OK, perhaps this can be explained somehow. Because otherwise..

Community Center with Prayer Space at Ground Zero, II

Seems the large mosque 2 blocks from ground zero in New York is proceeding, with backing from Mayor Bloomberg and others. A couple of stories on it today, one predictable, actually both. I didn't realize the porn industry attacked us on 9/11. And it would be nice to know where all the funding is coming from.

Anyway, not gonna get too windy with this. The site sponsors have the right to build this in America, in lower Manhattan, even one block from the site. It's what we stand for as a nation. And the center is supposed to be about healing wounds. Everyone needs closure.

But closure is a two-way street. It wasn't just America that was ignorant--the terrorists were certainly ignorant about our culture. So why don't the purveyors of this Manhattan mosque suggest building a six story Non-Denominational Christian church two blocks from the Kaaba in Mecca?

Wouldn't that be a way for Muslims all over the world to better understand the differences between the two sides? All Muslims are required to perform the Hajj once in their lifetimes if possible, so it would give the 'other side' the best possible exposure in creating a climate of understanding, tolerance, and peace while clearing up some of the mis-impressions of America and the west. And, maybe Christians could start their own pilgrimage to the new center, and take a trip to see what Muslims are doing down the street. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Side Tracks

Paulette Carlson has one of the more distinctive female voices in country music. She made a big splash with the band "Highway 101" in the late 80s/early 90s, and this was one of their biggest hits..

Rigi Executed?

Yes, this Rigi. Not that it was huge news anyway--most people on the street wouldn't have a clue, but at least some in the US press paid attention when he grabbed from an a airline flight and sent to Tehran earlier this year. Judging from a Google search (at the time of this writing) only a smattering of outlets covered the hanging event on June 20--for all intents and purposes it was buried.

The significance? As Fox reported, the suicide attack that took place yesterday occurred in Zahedan, Iran, the city of his execution. Zahedan is located in Sistan-Balochistan, along the Pakistani (Baluchistan) border. Jund'allah is saying it was revenge for the hanging; Iran claims Rigi was an agent for the west. But they aren't alone--indeed such was the crux of several major news stories during the Bush years, along with the usual speculation from the peanut gallery on the nefarious nature of such a thing.

So with that established, presto, Iran now has a legitimate link to blame a terror attack within its own borders on.... Barack Obama. Interesting too, especially based on the history of the region.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Terrorist for Oil

Somehow BP's name has finally come up regarding the supposed deal made between the UK and Libya in freeing the recovering terrorist formerly serving life for blowing Pan Am 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland back in 1988. The problem--this is old news:
When asked in the interview if trade and BP were factors, Mr Straw admits: “Yes, [it was] a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that... Libya was a rogue state. “We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal.”
Straw's admission was made in the fall of 2009 but our American press is a little slow so let's charge on ahead as if brand new! Theory upfront--Dems in Congress probably figure they can dredge this up again for the first time to help Obama link an even more sinister BP to an even more embarrassed Rep Joe Barton in their hopeless quest to re-take Congress, basically from themselves. The admin is already on record as planning to focus on Joe Barton and the failed policies of the past (that began before 2007), so what better way than to write a letter to the press addressed to Hillary F. Clinton in an effort to spur the bullhorns over at the New York Times into action?
The acknowledgment came after American legislators, grappling with the controversy over the company’s disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, called for an investigation into BP’s actions in the case of the freed man, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi.
Outrageous and everything, but isn't at least some critical thought warranted? First, is it really plausible to believe an American president would get rolled by Scotland for no reason? They claim to have had no connection to any oil deals and just released the man because he was almost dead. In other words, no.

What about the UK Labor Party as the potential rollers? Well, OK, they rolled a newly-elected socialist-leaning US president who took lots of donations from BP, just to help BP? The downsides were huge--an American aircraft, full of Americans, with Obama currently escalating troops in Afghanistan to stop terrorists- that's a lot of potential blowback for a man after their own hearts. The world would be left to believe their president had no leverage or any vested interest in the fate of someone who at one time was the equivalent of bin Laden. And could the press possibly be that friendly (actually, yes)? Or are we left to seriously to believe it was all about Obama's royal snubbery?

The only other plausible card is of the Chicago variety- or Obama got something from the deal; that he quietly agreed to go along in hopes Q'daffy would hold up his end of the bargain and not throw a parade on the tarmac at Tripoli for the homecoming. It would all go down quietly as planned, and if not, bring on the mock outrage. Still, a definite appearance of weakness for the ass-kicker and world uniter in chief, all for essentially looking the other way so BP could score some light sweet Libyan oil. Ok, do the four Senators really want to pursue this to conclusion? Or the media? Right here before the mid-terms? They may find something more troubling than Joe Barton.

Meanwhile, the one who did the real rolling, the thug still smarting from Reagan's attack on his palace compound and who no doubt has enjoyed every minute of this fubar despite the victims' families, is good ole Moammar. He's the one who set this up by initially insisted on the trade, setting up the west. The terrorist-enabler with whom we used to avoid negotiating has made fools of us all because we tried to negotiate and, as Straw said, "bring them into the fold".

For some reason we knew better with Saddam, yet this nut actually had an active nuke program and they plowed ahead anyway. Aside from the possibility they're all just a bunch of clueless buffoons the UK must really need the oil. BP pensions, perhaps? Meanwhile, Hillary has been told to put on her sheriff's badge and investigate but the investigation needs to occur in her office first. Perhaps they might find some teachable moments in there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Obama Disses Willie

Obama comes out for Steve Cohen in the 9th congressional race over four-time mayor Willie Herenton. Outrageous! But it's a win-win--he doesn't lose much endorsing a white liberal in a solid Dem district that would re-elect him without dead voters if the election were held next week. At the same time he gets to look non-racial after playing all the race politics of late. There's very little national damage.

Any local damage will be forgotten after the primary especially since Herenton is about half nuts (or acts like it) and Cohen has been available to his constituents while stoking the right fires. And how can Obama forget him when Cohen once compared him to Jesus?!

So in typical Memphis fashion the first black mayor is forced to attack the first black president to get elected. Guess we're becoming post-racial after all...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just a Tactic

A day after Michelle Obama appears at the NAACP meeting in Kansas City we get a proclamation from that group calling all who self-identify as tea partiers as official racists. Meanwhile Eric Holder is suing the white governor of Arizona for doing a job American politicians won't do while refusing to prosecute the black guys who were standing in front of the polls with clubs. Outrageously outrageous!

More like a yawn. Desperate men do desperate things, and stirring the race pot to generate turnout in the mid-terms is pretty desperate. So the tea folks should just ignore this. No counter-proclamations, no emotional comments, just refuse the bait and keeps eyes forward. On second thought, this is probably OK..

Does Not Compute

NASA Administrator Bolden to al-Jazeera..

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, Monday, asked about Bolden's comments..

Q I wanted to ask you, there are some comments that the NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, made a couple weeks back that drew some interest, specifically from conservatives who are wondering why we he said that one of the charges that the President gave him when he got the job was that he had to focus on outreach to the Muslim world. Why is the NASA Administrator doing that?

MR. GIBBS: That's an excellent question, and I don't think -- that was not his task, and that's not the task of NASA.

Q So did he just misspeak?

MR. GIBBS: I think so.

Q Has the President spoken to him about that clear it up?


Q Anybody here at the White House?

MR. GIBBS: I’m sure people -- people at the White House here talk to NASA all the time.
First off, of course people in the WH talk to NASA all the time, just as they do with all the agencies. That was a throwaway deflection. Second, the initial explanation some days ago was that Bolden's "foremost" comment was about outreach only, ie, the foremost outreach, which could make sense, but watching the al-Jazeera video he seems to be pretty clear about the three pronged charge given him by Obama. And if that was the case why did Gibbs toss him under the space bus yesterday?

Apparently the new strategy is to downplay and pretend the whole thing was just a slip of the tongue--no harm, no Lebron foul. But if he really misspoke about something that large, something that could offend the Muslim world if interpreted wrong, why wouldn't the chief call him in for a little chat about acting so stupidly? Gibbs claimed Obama had not spoken to him, not even over a beer in the Rose Garden. Did anyone talk to Bolden then? Who's running the show, Zuckerman?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kampala Bombing

The 7/11 bombings in Uganda were a bit of an overreaction to the sport of soccer but that's the hallmark of AQ--don't like it, kill it. That's why we continue to fight. That's why we're still in Afghanistan so crackpots like that cannot run anything.

So it's not surprising that al-Shabab, the Somali-based wing of their big cave brothers, has taken credit for the attack. Even if they didn't do it they still heartily approve, because it's so them.

But should America care? This was Uganda after all, home to the notorious former dictator Idi Amin and famous for almost nothing else.

The only troubling thing seems to be the cross-border nature, if indeed al-Shabab was involved. The US has a decent-sized Somali population and a few were recently arrested for wanting to join the jihad in the horn of Africa, similar to last year. Uganda is an ally and has been providing the bulk of troops to the African Union force trying to keep peace in Mogadishu, with the US providing a bulk of the support for that army. Meanwhile, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi have also taken our side in the fight against Somalian Sharia.

Maybe nothing, but the targeted sports bar was 'Ethiopian themed'. Earlier this year an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 exploded after takeoff from Beirut's Harari Airport, blamed initially on weather until the story completely disappeared. No official cause released yet, but a few months ago a captured member of AQ claimed the plane was brought down with an underwear bomb:
News reports from Saudi Arabia say the recently arrested terrorism suspects were part of a network of al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that included two suicide bombing cells.

Mahboub Maalim, head of the six-nation East African regional economic group known as IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), says al-Qaida-linked terror cells in the Arabian Peninsula are working with like-minded groups in the Horn of Africa.

“We’re almost certain in Somalia the group al-Shabab is not a Somali group any more, and we think a lot of other nationalities are there in the name of that cell, the al-Qaida cell, and definitely we feel there is also a link with the group in Yemen,” note Maalim.
The underbomber himself was from Africa, Nigeria to be exact, and had trained in Yemen. Places like Darfur have not suddenly become Shangli-la since George Werner Bushitler became a private citizen in Dallas just because the media and Hollywood stopped caring; it's still flaring. And the reason has always been the brutal targeting of non-Islamic peoples by the Islamic regime in Khartoum. Funny, they sent Milosevic to the World Court for that kind of stuff. So this most recent event in east Africa just adds to a not very promising common theme.

In other news, the TSA is now asking Congress for more funds to upgrade their bomb-sniffing dog fleet. This has been done before, immediately after a spark caused the explosion of a fuel tank in a 747, a case in which a bomb sniffing dog actually saved the entire narrative without sniffing anything at all. Perhaps a bomb sniffing dog would have found the bomb on Abdulmichlob assuming it wasn't masked by more pungent odors. Meanwhile back in Africa, Kenya was the scene of the last known attempt to bring down a commercial aircraft (El Al). One of the perps in that attack was also likely involved in the Embassy bombings, a thug from the island of Comoros, site of another unsolved airliner crash. Not that it means anything necessarily.

MORE 7/13/10

CNN has more, including this:
In March, the New York Times reported that the U.S. had become so concerned with the group's activities across Somalia and in Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden, that they were giving direct military support to the TFG. This was strongly denied in Washington.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sports Sunday

Some interesting things in the world of sports of late.

Soccer-- or what CNN has taken to reporting as 'football' even though we have our own version here in the states, has somehow become a major story in the US this year. Not as if the World Cup has never been covered here before--just never this much. It could be the Obama effect, ie, suddenly America wakes up and takes notice of the greatest sport on the planet after so many years of willful blindness thanks to Yankee imperialism (or something else for which we need to apologize).

Whatever, the sport is an enigma to the typical US sports fan: the clock counts up, not down; there are no pauses in the action to go get a beverage from the fridge (although chances are you won't miss anything); the off-side rules are worse than pro hockey as if they don't ever want a goal-scoring situation to occur unless it's one of those special kicks (like when Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt). Anyway, I'll probably tune in between phone calls and channel surfing just to see anyone can score more than 3 goals in a game.


Meanwhile, baseball been berry berry strange this season:
  • Mark McGwire admitting to using steroids (but just for health reasons) then coming back as a hitting coach.
  • 2 perfect games, a perfect game taken away, and a perfect game broken up last night in the 9th inning
  • Perfect game taken away gives best reason for replay ever, but 'commissioner' says no
  • A phenom pitcher named Strasburg with a moving 99 mph fastball gets called up but isn't quite as good as a guy named Ubaldo, who's on pace to win about 27 games
  • Several games where the home team scored more than 6 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win
  • Texas and Cincinnati still in the lead in July
  • A fan survives after falling 30 feet over a railing trying to catch a foul ball (or maybe he was depressed after paying the concession bill)
It's been so crazy one might almost believe the National League will win the All Star game.

Air France, Again

How often are bomb threats called in to airlines? Hard to say, but when the bomb threat is on the same route as a mysterious crash over the Atlantic that has yet to be conclusively explained it's a bit more interesting than normal...
A spokesman for Air France in Brazil said the bomb threat was phoned in to Rio's international airport by a female voice about 30 minutes after the plane took off.

The control tower contacted the jet and the decision was made to land in Recife, the Air France spokesman said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The spokesman said authorities had not found any explosives and the jet was expected to be cleared to continue to Paris.

However, Infraero, in an early Sunday statement, said the plane had yet to be cleared and that passengers were being taken to hotels until the jet was ready to continue, indicating it was unlikely to resume its flight to Paris until Sunday morning.
This may be nothing, of course. People have been known to call in bomb threats when running late to delay the plane so they can catch it. At any rate, four days before ill-fated AF 447 took off there was a bomb threat, but to a flight originating in Buenos Aires. Air France is not likely to give up the frequency of such threats so bloggers can speculate as to normality, but in hindsight it's too bad they haven't found the black boxes on 447 so theories such as this can be put to rest:
Oil stains found among the debris of doomed Air France Flight A447 could prove the plane was not blown out of the sky by terrorists, Brazil's defence minister said today.

If a bomb had exploded on board the Airbus 330-200 the plane's fuel would have burned away, he said.

And with more debris from the jet carrying 228 people being found scattered over a 55-mile area, he said it was looking more likely that the plane broke apart in the air.
That's assuming the theoretical bomb would have blown up the fuel tanks rather than say an explosive device in the luggage compartment ripping the fuselage at a critical time in high-altitude flight, causing a gradual breakup. Still, the weather-related instrument malfunction scenario seems most likely based on media reports but it would be nice to get some closure one way or the other. Accident post-mortems are designed for learning and changing but if they never officially come out it's kind of hard to respond.

MORE 7/11/10

According to this Fox report the plane was searched and they found nothing. Then it says they are still checking the luggage. Here's a story with AP video of the search. The explanation about crew rest sounds plausible as does the fact they didn't fly in another plane to pick up the stranded passengers (in case one of them was a suspect). Air France has no scheduled service from Recife, meaning they wouldn't have other aircraft sitting around to commandeer.

The aircraft was a Boeing 747-400, with 405 passengers. It's mildly interesting that the AP story used in many US publications did not identify the type, while the AFP (French story) had no trouble pointing out the fact it wasn't an Airbus.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Shut Up and Thank Us

That seems to be what Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel seems to be saying towards the administration's critics in the business sector:
In a Thursday interview, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argued that rather than recoiling against Obama, business leaders should be grateful for his support on at least a half-dozen counts: his advocacy of greater international trade and education reform open markets despite union skepticism; his rejection of calls from some quarters to nationalize banks during the financial meltdown; the rescue of the automobile industry; the fact that the overhaul of health care preserved the private delivery system; the fact that billions in the stimulus package benefited business with lucrative new contracts, and that financial regulation reform will take away the uncertainty that existed with a broken, pre-crash regulatory apparatus.
Nice to see Rahm emerging from the rabbit hole now that people have forgotten the Joe Sestak bribery charges. Anyway, allow a translation...

"Business is uneasy? They should be thanking us for our restraint! We could have gone a whole lot more fascist in saving them from the Bush depression! C'mon. We stood up to our union puppetmasters on education and trade reform, remember? And you should get down on your knees and bow to the One for only bribing the banks instead of nationalizing them, when he had a golden opportunity. And hey, don't forget to thank him for saving the GM-Chrysler unions and their pension system, which was important for America. By the way, they've got a real nice golf course up there in Wisconsin, the prez bagged an eagle on number 10 on the last trip. You should have seen it!

And please, health care? Please. He so could have gone single payer! He wants it, you know, but the man has patience. So he kept the pitchforks away from big insurance and this is how they repay him. You know, the president does admire Dr. Berwick, who admires the British single payer system, who will soon run our own Medicare apparatus. You might want to connect some dots, suckas!

And have all you suits forgotten the don't mess with Joe stimulus and bribery program, the one we've carefully managed to trickle out funds to make dead sure businesses don't forget who brought them all those lucrative contracts in a down time? There's a web site where we've detailed all those contracts so nobody forgets, and somewhere out there is a web site with a donate link, wink wink. You know they say gratitude is a virtue.

And lastly, how can any business mogul hate financial reform when it lays out the ground rules of whose ass we'll be kicking if things don't go as planned? Sounds like certainty to me."

Just one interpretation, others are possible. Anyway, it's amazing that people can't see the administration as the most pro-growth ever coming out of the Bush Depression. According to spokesman Bill Burton:
“And so maybe those things aren’t always going to be popular with business, but if you look at where we were and where we are now, the president has made progress on the economy. He has brought us to a place where the economy is growing, where jobs are being created, as opposed to losing 700,000 a month like we were when we came into office. But there are going to be times when we disagree, and that’s fine.”
That sounds nice, but is it real? Perhaps Mr. Burton was confusing US data with Canadian data (hmm, what was Mr. Harper recently suggesting at the G20 summit about spending? Oh yeah). But whom do you trust more, a Nobel Laureate and his ideologues or actual data? C'mon, quit worrying, fat cats. We all know how we got here:
“These folks drove the economy into a ditch, and they want the keys back. And you’ve got to say the same thing to them that you say to your teenager: You can’t take the keys back, because you don’t know how to drive yet.”
Which is a terrible thing to say about the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader after all their hard work since 2007.

Spy Games

So we got 4 in exchange for a bunch of people who weren't spies. No jail time for any, no apparent repercussions for the spies' home country other than embarrassment. Sounds like a Cubs trade.

Up to now we still don't know what triggered the timing of the public arrests or even why in the world they were here, but now we're being told Obama authorized the takedowns:
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel says the arrest of 10 Russian agents who spent years in the U.S. posing as American citizens sends a signal to other countries that the U.S. is on guard.

Emanuel says President Obama was aware of the investigation and made the decision to go forward with the arrests.
Well, of course--he's the president. But that's not what early reports indicated. Here's Gibbs saying he wasn't very hands-on:
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs labored to show that the arrests were a law enforcement matter — one not driven by the president, even though President Barack Obama was informed — and played down any political consequences.
And here's one saying the O team was disappointed with the timing:
The timing of the arrests, coming barely 72 hours after President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s White House visit, frustrated Mr. Obama’s team. But as prosecutors assemble their case, Mr. Obama has resolved not to let the ghosts of the 20th century get in the way of his goals in the 21st.
Several other reports claimed the FBI moved in because the spies were about to get away and the timing was just a coincidence. But OK, we're now to believe Obama frustrated his own team by authorizing the arrests to make a statement two days after Putin's puppet left town? Makes about as much sense as anything else going on in Washington these days.


Just who did we get in this trade?
"The United States has successfully transferred 10 Russian agents to the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation has released four individuals who had been incarcerated in Russia," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. "The exchange . . . has been completed."
"Individuals" aren't necessary American individuals. One was dropped off in Britain, the others? Unknown destinations. Which calls to question just what the hell actually happened. Here's the WaPo again:
"The fact that the Russian and American governments approached this dilemma so creatively and unusually shows that both administrations very much wanted to quickly put an end this discussion before it could undermine the relationship that has started to come together," he said.
There's much we don't know (as it should be) but in light of the above paragraph I can't help but wag about what it means. Obama wants a reset, but at the same time he couldn't risk any potential PR stumbling blocks along the way--such as a secret ten year spy investigation conducted by the FBI that could clumsily go public at any moment.

So after meeting with Putey's Puppet he suddenly decides to send a message by busting the spy ring to 'send a message', yet the domestic message is lost--everyone is looking at Anna Chapman. In what amounts to be fastest bureaucratic action in the course of governmental history, only days later the spies confess in court, we swap all the pesky fake American Russians for 4 Russians apparently working for the west and America, and everything is sweetness and light! No more skeletons hiding in the reset closet that could have been sprung by a disaffected FBI agent had the countries simply decided to do a secret swap without publicity. And Obama gets some much needed brownie points with Britain for getting their guy back. Again, a total wag, could be 180 degrees off. But hey, it's a blog.

MORE 07/09/10

More information, that is. The story seems to be fairly complete now. Politico has a good recap, the jist of which seems to be that the FBI came to the White House in February of this year with the spy story, and expressed concern the Russians might roll it up this summer. So in June they went to Obama and he signed off on the arrests, and the swap plan. Meanwhile Putin's puppet came and ate hellburgers but they claim it wasn't discussed. After he left they sprung the plan, and here we are.

It's interesting to watch how the story has evolved. Initially Gibbs was saying Obama wasn't really a part of it, that it was a law enforcement thing, and the arrests were just bad timing based on the official Russian visit. Then, they admitted Obama knew some things. Today we got a story from Rahm saying Obama was trying to make a point by rolling up the spies. Technically, all those things could be true.

But the question of why still lingers. The FBI claims they suggested the arrests because they thought the ring would bolt soon, and that may well be true, which would mean they wouldn't get anything out of the Russians in return (it surely couldn't be over a concern they would pass along sensitive information since all of them sans one are back in the motherland anyway). But in my wag above (which turns out pretty wrong, mostly) I suggested they needed to get rid of this ring before proceeding further with the reset. Indeed, from Politico:
“This swap should help remove what was a real obstacle to a better relationship between the United States and Russia. We have to keep our eyes open when it comes to the Russians, that hasn’t changed, but this irritant’s off the table."
And maybe this was conveyed to the Russians as such, which is why this whole thing came off so clean. Assuming there aren't better spies remaining out there they don't know about.

DISSENT 07/10/10

After nearly nothing in the media about whether the 10-4 swap was a good deal for America CNN has finally posted a dissenting op-ed from a former CIA spy. A sample:
But Obama has now just told the SVR, "Hey, there is no penalty for spying in America. If we catch you, we'll just let you go so as not to damage 'big picture' relations."
It also sends a message to would-be individuals pondering a clandestine career with SVR that if caught, they will get no jail time in America and be transferred back home with perhaps a generous stipend for life. What a country. Hope the reset is worth it.