Showing posts from March, 2010

Obama sets up Commission that may cut Social Security

This article is an eye opener. It reveals the business connections of those appointed by Obama to examine social security and make recommendations. All but one have many business connections and are hawks as far as changing Social Security is concerned. The process will no doubt be as an anonymous official says: an anonymous official told the Times that spending cuts would start with earmarks in order to earn goodwill with the public, and then move on to more "popular entitlement programs." This is from alternet.

Obama Stacks the Deck

The seasoned networks of money and influence behind the commission's(National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) apparent immortality, including "Washington's leading think tanks, the prestige media, tax-exempt foundations, skillful propagandists posing as economic experts and a self-righteous billionaire spending his fortune to save the nation from the elderly," have been outlined by noted economic journal…

Obama Team divided on limits of presidential power.

This is all a bit bizarre. It is important to pay attention to framing in reading material such as this. The frame parameters always remain uncriticized and virtually unnoticed. In this article part of the frame involves the concept of the War on Terror. This is taken to be a war like any other war so that one can start applying the rules of war--and usually spinning them to fit the strangeness of the enemy who lacks real armed forces, uniforms, etc. or association with any particular nation. If the war on terror were like the war on drugs or crime in general most of the discussion would be irrelevant. One would not be discussing drone attacks for example if this were a war on crime or who could be targeted for killing.

Obama Team Is Divided on Tactics Against Terrorism
WASHINGTON — Senior lawyers in the Obama administration are deeply divided over some of the counterterrorism powers they inherited from former President George W. Bush, according to interviews and a …

20 % of Canadian Households struggle with home costs.

Some Canadians are facing exactly the same problems as many U.S. homeowners although the situation is not as severe. However, Canadian home prices have not fallen to the degree that they did in the US either. As this report indicates as many as one in five Canadians are having difficulties keeping up with their home expenses. The situation is made worse by the fact that many Canadian builders concentrate upon building for high income earners so that there is less supply for other homes and this boosts the prices. Affordability of homes has become worse over the last fifteen years.

1 in 5 households struggles with home costs

CBC News
Twenty per cent of Canadian households have trouble finding the money to live in their homes because of a lack of affordable housing, the Conference Board of Canada says.

In a study released Tuesday, the think-tank estimates 75 per cent of Canadian families can comfortably afford their homes — meaning that housing costs consume no more than 30 per cent of …

Wikileaks wants U.S. to stop spying on its operations

Given that it is regarded as a threat by the U.S. government it is unlikely that this will happen. More likely the site will go broke first! The founder is trying to make Iceland a base for investigative journalism. That would be a great step forward. This is from rawstory.
Whistleblower site demands that US ’stop spying’ on its operations

By Muriel Kane

In an extraordinary editorial, the whistleblower site WikiLeaks has demanded that the United States "stop spying" on its operations.

"Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations," founder Julian Assange writes. "We've become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest. But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive."

On Tuesday evening, followers of the WikiLeaks Twitter feed were startled to read, &…

Drone attacks are legitimate self-defense: State Dept. Lawyer

You would think that such a defense would be considered a parody of law but it will not be. In fact no doubt some legal bigwigs can become bigger Legal Beagles by advancing new spin on old legal doctrines. The key to all this is to frame the whole issue in terms of War even though the War on Terror is more like the War on Poverty than the First or Second World wars. The war is not against countries per se but against groups that use terror as a tactic but even then only those who use the tactics and are disliked by the US. States themselves can never be terrorists only state sponsors of terror and then again only if disliked by the U.S. The whole semantic subterfuge is a giant smokescreen behind which is erected the legal facade of self-defense and conformity to the laws of war. Even then the idea that self defense applies is so weak that Obama is in effect following in the bloated legal footsteps of Bush spin on the doctrine. This is from
Drone Attacks Are Legit Self-De…

Buyout time as Mergers Increase in Healthcare area

As this short quote notes there is also diversification that can create new synergies within a portfolio! From this site.
The buyout shops are purchasing hospitals, no doubt in a charitable
effort to make health care more available. Cerberus Capital Management
went one step further striking a deal to acquire Caritas Christi Health
Care, a large Massachusetts hospital chain. To ensure that the hospital
chain will have an opportunity to treat more people, Cerberus also owns
Freedom Group Inc., one of the world’s largest makers of firearms and

Think Tank: Israel could use tactical nuikes in Iran attack.

If this happened Israel might have trouble denying it has nuclear weapons! Of course maybe they could say they borrowed them from the US. It is hard to predict what will happen if Israel attacks Iran with conventional weapons let alone nuclear ones. Probably Israel will choose not to use the nuclear option and reserve it for defense. No doubt Israel will be happy should the U.S. attack Iran and save Israel the trouble.

Israel could use tactical nukes on Iran: thinktank

By Dan Williams – Fri Mar 26, 7:13 am ET
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Deeply concerned as it is by the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran, Israel has never even hinted at using atomic weapons to forestall the perceived threat.
But now a respected Washington think tank has said that low-radioactive yield "tactical" nuclear warheads would be one way for the Israelis to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment plants in remote, dug-in fortifications.
Despite the 65-year-old taboo against carrying out -- or, for that matter, mooting -…

Juan Cole: Netanyahu Humiliates Obama

Meanwhile many in the US chastise Obama for being unfriendly to Israel! It is simply amazing to behold how many just dutifully line up to spout the Israeli line. As Drone points out the Israeli's seem to deliberately try to offend the U.S. and when challenged have refused to back down on building in East Jerusalem. For the Israeli their annexation of territory is simply an accomplished fact and the remained of the world which denies its legality should simply wake up and smell the coffee! This is from countercurrents.

Netanyahu Humiliates Obama

By Juan Cole

24 March, 2010

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sets the tone for Israeli policy-- one that is earning him few friends in the West. Three embarrassments broke for him on Tuesday. First, yet another housing expansion in East Jerusalem was announced while he was meeting President Obama. Then, the cover story of Israeli troops accused of firing live ammunition at Palestinian protesters began to unravel. Then Br…

Pakistan parliament to trim president's powers.

These powers were given to the president after a military coup installed Musharraf. Not only will these powers be taken away but also Zardari is in a fight with the Supreme Court as he has not implemented an order that removes his immunity from prosecution for earlier criminal charges against himself and others in his government. There could be another real crisis if these moves do not go ahead. This is from

Pakistan Parliament to Curb Zardari’s Powers as Court Battle Looms
Posted By Jason Ditz
Pakistan’s parliament is expected to move on major changes to the constitution in the next few weeks, fulfilling a several year old campaign promise to curb the enormous power of the presidency.

The ruling Pakistani Peoples Party had vowed to make the position of president essentially a ceremonial one, but after taking power in 2008 President Zardari has repeatedly stalled this move, at times even using the expanded powers to his advantage.

The power of the presidency in Pakistan was…

Maliki Aide: We wont Recognize Iraq Election Results

The results are extremely close. The two main groups are neck and neck and Sadr's group is also doing well. It may be difficult to form a coalition government. Comments such as this by the Maliki aide are going to do nothing to stabilize the situation. Sectarian violence is always a possibility. This is from

Maliki Aide: We Won’t Recognize Election Results
Posted By Jason Ditz
An aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today insisted that his State of Law party will not recognize the final election results, expected later this week, because the election commission declined their request for a manual recount.

The aide, Ali al-Adib, declared that the party had “strong, clear evidence” of fraud against them, though the only evidence cited was the “surprising” gains by the opposition Iraqiya party of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Yet Iraqiya’s gains were largely as a result of a strong showing in Sunni dominated areas, areas where State of Law was all but invisibl…

One in Five DC residents live at or below poverty line.

It is rather ironic, or perhaps symbolic, that the area containing the nation's capital should have such a high poverty and homeless rate. With almost a half billion dollar deficit D.C. has not the funds to begin to alleviate the problem. Maybe D.C. needs a government bailout for its poorest residents! This is from the Washington Post.
Report finds rise in D.C. poverty to nearly 1 in 5 residents
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writ

Nearly one out of five District residents lives at or below the poverty line, a statistic that helps expose a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the nation's capital, according to a study released Tuesday by social justice organizations gearing up for the 2010 elections.

The study, undertaken by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute on behalf of a coalition of more than 40 local organizations, concludes that last year the District experienced its biggest single-year increase in poverty since 1995.

Based on unemployment rates and other data, the …

Humanities Depts. Actually Produce a Profit

As this article shows university presidents nowadays often tout their achievements as a business rather than in terms of scholarship or any academic laurels. Part of this framing of the situation also involves picturing the humanities as a heavily subsidized unprofitable but regretfully necessary drag on the booming university business. However, the most cursory investigation of the actual economic facts show that the humanities pay for themselves for the most part and even generate a surplus. The whole exercise is in itself alarming however in that it presupposes that the value of the university education can be measured in business terms. Neither primary nor secondary educational institutions are measured that way nor should they be. This does not mean that universities can simply ignore efficiencies where they can be achieved without damaging their basic roles. This is from this site but ultimately from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Chronicle of Higher Education - March 21, 2…

US and Pakistan seek to mend relations

Pakistan also hold Taliban leaders and will not turn them over to the US or Afghanistan. No doubt this will be discussed as well. Pakistan is no doubt concerned that the US is helping India with nuclear technology but not Pakistan. I wonder if there is really any concern about the US drone strikes in Pakistan. I expect that they are condoned or at the very least tolerated. The few bleats made upon occasion about violation of sovereignty are just a bone thrown to public opinion to keep the masses at bay. This is from the BBC.

US and Pakistan seek better ties
The US and Pakistan are beginning a new chapter in relations, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

She was speaking in Washington at the start of talks with her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Mistrust between the US and Pakistan, a key ally in the war against militants, has reached new lows in recent months.

Mrs Clinton acknowledged there had been disagreements. Mr Qureshi said it was time to look forward. S…

David Frum: Health Care Bill Passage is Waterloo for Republicans and Conservatives.

David Frum is a right wing commentator who invented the famous Axis of Evil phrase used by Bush. This post chastises Republicans and Conservatives for failing to attempt to take a bipartisan stand and attempt to modify the Obama Health Care Reform Bill. He believes that the passage of the bill was a historic defeat for Conservatives and Republicans. Republicans will be unable to rescind the bill. Interestingly Frum thinks that the Obama Bill was close to that of the right wing Heritage Foundation Bill and could form the basis for a bipartisan bill that would have been much more to to the right than what actually was passed. No doubt Conservatives will be frothing at the mouth about Frum's remarks about right wing talk show hosts!

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with …

Afghan Taliban name new deputy leaders after Baradar arrest.

This move would seem to indicate that for now the Taliban are not interested in peace talks but continuation of armed struggle against NATO forces in Afghanistan. Baradar was arrested in Pakistan after US intelligence tipped Pakistani's off about his whereabouts. Pakistan's hand was more or less forced but Pakistan has not allowed Baradar out of their custody or even to be interviewed by the Americans yet. This is from the BBC.

Afghan Taliban name new deputy leaders after arrest

The Taliban say the new leaders are committed to the armed struggle
The Afghan Taliban say Mullah Omar has named two new deputies after the arrest of his military chief in Pakistan.
Abdul Qayuum Zakir and Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor succeed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who Pakistan is holding.
The aim was to send "a message that one arrest will not affect our movement", a senior Taliban leader said.

Pakistan Human Rights Organisation files first information report against Obama re drone attacks.

From what I have heard Blackwater (Xe) is no longer involved in the drone operations at all. Formerly they used to load the weapons onto the drones. It will be interesting to see what the response will be to this petition. The ACLU is also suing for information on the drone attacks. This is from
FIR against Obama over drone attacks sought by Pak human rights group

A petition has been moved in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking the registration of a first information report (FIR) against US President Barack Obama and other top American officials holding them responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians during drone strikes in the country.

The petition filed by Khalid Khawaja, spokesperson of the Defence of Human Rights, a Pakistani Human Rights group, urged the court to direct the federal government to submit a report on number of drone attacks conducted in the tribal areas and the number of people killed in these missile hits.

The petition also asked the cour…

Chris Hedges: Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed

It remains to be seen how many liberals will leave the Democrats. There seems little real change in US politics. The Afghan war goes on just as with Bush but with even more troops. Now the vaunted health care reform has done little but to boost health care industry stocks today. The sooner the left in the US gives up on the Democrats the better. The Democrats do not need to pay attention to the left because they have nowhere to go. However, the Wall Street money sees a rosy future and is turning their money spouts to the Republicans in the belief that the Democrats will become increasingly unpopular and have outlived their usefulness for the present. Would that the left had as much wisdom! This is from this site.

The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed

By Chris Hedges

Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s decision to vote “yes” in Sunday’s House
action on the health care bill, although he had sworn to oppose
the legislation unless there was a public option, is a perfect
example of why I would never be a…

Even as US Frees Detainees Afghans Still Angry

As the stories show at the end of the article many have good reasons to be angry. Family breadwinners were imprisoned and families left to fend for themselves. In many cases the intelligence provided that led to imprisonment was suspect and often advanced only to obtain money. These people were imprisoned indefinitely without charges and basic violation of any robust notion of what is just. It seems as the saying goes: In war the law is silent.

U.S. Frees Detainees, but Afghans’ Anger Persists

Moises Saman for The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan —
Moises Saman for The New York Times
Detainees who were deemed not a threat were released to Afghan tribal elders at a ceremony in Kabul. The detainees and the elders must sign a pledge.
As an Afghan general read the document aloud, Cmdr. Dawood Zazai, a towering Pashtun tribal leader from Paktia Province who fought the Soviets, thumped his crutch for attention. Along with other elders, he did not like a clause in the document that said the de…

18 Myths about the Health Care Bill.

This is a critique of 18 claims about the health care bill and a critique of each of those claims. While some of the criticisms might be made by conservatives many more would appeal more to leftists and liberals. This is from firedoglake.

Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill
By: Jane Hamsher Friday March 19, 2010 8:58 am

I’ll be on the new CNN show with Jon King that premieres at noon ET, available for live stream here — jh

The Firedoglake health care team has been covering the debate in congress since it began last year.
We’ve also taken a detailed look at the bill, and have come up with 18 often stated myths about this health care reform bill.



1. This is a universal health care bill.

The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance.

Per the CBO:

Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million
Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24 million (44%)
2. Insurance companies hate this bill

This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the…

State Department to Provide Legal Justification for Drone Attacks.

No doubt the administration is reluctant to provide the justifications in a timely fashion because it will be immediately criticized and the administration will be held accountable. Even to find out what facts may be available the ACLU had to file a lawsuit. Even if legal basis does stand up to criticism the problem of civilian casualties still stands. The estimate given in this article is very low actually. It seems to be the preferred estimate now. This is from the Huffington Post.
Daphne Eviatar
State Department To Produce Legal Justification for Drone Attacks
State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh has promised to produce the Obama administration's legal justification for its increased use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists, reports Shane Harris of the National Journal.

"I have studied this question," Koh told the audience at an American Bar Association breakfast yesterday. "I think that the legal objections that are being put on the table are ones th…