August 20, 2008 archive

Before 9/11 – Taliban – al Qaeda

The National Security Archive has just released a Load of Files Electronic Briefing Book No. 253 Posted – August 20, 2008 under the title: 1998 Missile Strikes on Bin Laden May Have Backfired with a subtitle: Extensive 1999 Report on Al-Qaeda Threat Released by U.S. Dept of Energy,

Taliban Told U.S. They Wanted to Bomb Washington

With backlinks to the PDF’s and more links in the sidebar on the left.

Four at Four

  1. The Washington Post reports American citizens’ U.S. border crossings are being tracked. The Bush administration is using the border checkpoints “to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations.”

    Officials say the Border Crossing Information system, disclosed last month by the Department of Homeland Security in a Federal Register notice, is part of a broader effort to guard against terrorist threats. It also reflects the growing number of government systems containing personal information on Americans that can be shared for a broad range of law enforcement and intelligence purposes, some of which are exempt from some Privacy Act protections…

    The volume of people entering the country by land prevented compiling such a database until recently. But the advent of machine-readable identification documents, which the government mandates eventually for everyone crossing the border, has made gathering the information more feasible. By June, all travelers crossing land borders will need to present a machine-readable document, such as a passport or a driver’s license with a radio frequency identification chip.

    Bush administration is using its “final months to cement an unprecedented expansion of data gathering for national security and intelligence purposes.”

  2. The NY Times reports a Federal Court rejects E.P.A. limits on emissions rules. “A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting the ability of states to require monitoring of industrial emissions. The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is the most recent in a series of judicial setbacks to the Bush administration’s efforts to reshape federal policies under the Clean Air Act.”

Four at Four continues with stories about pesticides in bee hives and urban gardening in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Life Under President McCain

What if….

The unthinkable happens and the unstable John McCain somehow is elected President? How would things change? What kind of world would we have? What would life be like? I know, I know, asking you to imagine that is like asking you to imagine having never ending dental surgery with no anesthetic, my very soul cringes at the thought, but hey, it IS a possibility we face. It is up to all of us to do our part to insure it doesn’t happen, and just in case you are thinking of sitting this one out in disgust or using your vote to protest one of the many outrages perpetrated upon us by our current diseased political system, I want to take us down that road, for motivational and precautionary purposes.

Let’s start our nightmare journey with this thought, if McCain does win, it will be because he was able to sell his Maverick image, separate himself just enough from his old and new Republican and Rovian masters and convince the American voter….


….that he does NOT represent a third Bush term and more of the rampant Republicanism that has screwed up the world to the sorry state it is now. That means that the Democratic Congress will feel even MORE pressure to work with (for) the Republicans…as they will be even MORE afraid ‘to be seen as’ weak on terrur, or unpatriotic, or obstructionist, or however it is they justify their current collaborationist tendencies. If McCain is seen as representing some new paradigm to get elected, the Dems will feel the (false) need to play along…..even more. That means that they will allow more Republican legislation onto the floor, even though by all the indicators they will gain more seats in both the House and Senate. Here then, are some of the things we can look forward to.

Grok Barack – Yes We Can –

I am always amazed when in the company of other progressives and liberals how truly regressive and unwilling to change we can be. Diary after diary, comments by the thousands about what? How we can’t, how we shouldn’t and how Obama is going wrong. Well Obama hasn’t gone wrong, we’ve just stopped listening and started grinding the same old axes. We spend too much time bashing and not enough time listening, fear and ignorance is abundant on BOTH sides of the ideological divide. Follow me below the fold for hopefully some insight into how all the fears of your worst nightmares coming true are in fact the realization of your most heartfelt dreams for this country.

What does it mean to be “an American?”

I think its wonderful news from Beijing about Henry Cejudo winning the gold medal in freestyle wrestling. In case you haven’t heard his story, his mother raised he and his six siblings in the US after coming here from Mexico as an undocumented migrant at the age of 14.

By Henry Cejudo’s count, they moved at least 50 times. Sometimes they moved across state lines: California, New Mexico, Arizona. Sometimes they moved downstairs in the same apartment building.

Sometimes Henry’s mom and his six siblings didn’t even bother unpacking their bags.

Yet no matter where they were at the moment, no matter how many places they lived, Nelly Rico’s message didn’t change.

“My mom would always say, ‘Whatever you want to do, you can do. You want to be an astronaut? You can be an astronaut. You want to be a doctor? You can be a doctor.'”

With tears streaming down his face following his victory Tuesday over Japan’s Tomohiro Matsunaga in the 121-pound freestyle wrestling final, Cejudo, Olympic gold medalist and U.S. citizen, said softly, “This is what I always wanted.”

The 21-year-old son of illegal immigrants from Mexico pinched himself as he stood on the podium and the U.S. flag was raised during the national anthem. He had dreamed about this so many nights, he wanted to make sure the moment was real.

“I am living the American dream right now,” Cejudo said.

Beever Pony Party

Real News: Dems Onside With Bush On Georgia

Real News CEO Paul Jay continues his interview series with journalist Eric Margolis about the dangerous situation in the Caucasus since the Georgian attacks on South Ossetia, the Russian response, the US Foreign Policy bumbling by Condoleeza Rice backed by the war hawk rhetoric from John McCain, and the announcement of a US missile defense system to be installed in Poland targeting Russia.

Now Barack Obama joins the war hawks.

August 20, 2008 – 5 min 23 sec

Eric Margolis: Is Obama afraid of getting on the wrong side of the ‘patriotic issue’?

Eric Margolis: This is not like the Soviet Union and Finland, this is the US trying to stick its nose into Russia’s backyard. The Democrats have not formulated their own position on this.

Eric Margolis is a journalist born in New York City and holding degrees from Georgetown the University of Geneva, and New York University. During the Vietnam War he served as a US Army infantryman. Margolis is the author of War at the Top of the World — The Struggle for Afghanistan and Asia is a syndicated columnist and broadcaster whose articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune, Mainichi Shimbun and US Naval Institute Proceedings. Margolis is an expert of military affairs, a former instructor in strategy and tactics in the US Army, and a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan. Eric Margolis’ books have been published in the US, Canada, Britain, and India. He often appears and contributes to national and international news items for outlets such as CNN, ABC,CBC and Voice of America to the Wall Street Journal and Maninichi-Tokyo. He broadcasts regularly on foreign affairs for Canadian TV (TV Ontario and CBC), radio, and has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, and PBS

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Words have the power

to both destroy and heal.

When words are both true and kind,

they can change our world

–Siddhārtha Gautama

Phenomena XXV: words


The Cost of Speaking

So many

imagine they celebrate

the right to speak freely

while choosing

on the one hand

not to exercise

their ability to listen

closely and intently enough

to actually hear

and on the other hand

to avoid the responsibility

to respond

which ensures

that freedom

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–April 2, 2008

The Morning News

The Morning News is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Afghan militants kill 10 French, strike at US base

By JASON STRAZIUSO and AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writers

13 minutes ago

SUROBI, Afghanistan – Insurgents mounted two of the biggest attacks in years on Western forces in Afghanistan, killing 10 French soldiers in a mountain ambush and then sending a squad of suicide bombers in a failed assault early Tuesday on a U.S. base near the Pakistan border.

The audacious strikes suggested a bolder insurgency is now willing to launch frontal assaults on U.S. and NATO troops.

Only months ago, militants shied away from large-scale attacks because of the heavy losses they could incur when jet fighters appeared overhead, NATO and U.S. officials said.

Transgression, “Pineapple Express”, and the Socialization of Young Men

(Mild spoilers for “Pineapple Express” appear in this post)

Via Andrew Sullivan, Martha Bayles on the impact of entertainment on young men in America:

consider that the problem facing American society these days is not that it neglects the education of young women but that it screws up the socialization of young men.  The most powerful shaper of popular attitudes is the entertainment industry, and what is it doing?  This short article in today’s New York Times sums it up very effectively — all the more so because it is so bizarrely uncritical.

This mentality can be summed up simply: Young men have no minds, souls, or characters worth bothering about; they care about nothing, respect nothing, and aspire to nothing.  They are pure appetite and aggression, just waiting to be pandered to for money.  So may the best panderer win.

Already I am tired of the fuss over Michael Phelps, who has won eight gold medals but seems to have less charisma than a carp.  But at least he aspired to greatness and achieved it.  Without sports — and, of course, war — what other challenges are presented to young men?  Being the biggest gross-out on the block?

Sayles makes two serious errors here.  The first is that this particular (and particularly lucrative) sort of filmmaking is by any stretch the sum or even the principal output of the “entertainment” industry which is aimed at young men.  It is interesting to pretend for a moment as if the entire genres of science fiction and fantasy don’t exist, as if “Lord of the Rings” didn’t make a pile of money off of teenaged males.  Further, it grossly misunderstands what those movies actually are about.  Many of those films, particularly those which originated from producer-director Judd Apatow (Superbad, Pineapple Express) are particularly about the dangers of resisting maturation and socialization.  

Take the recently released “Pineapple Express”.  This movie could not be more explicit in rejecting the anti-social and immature impulses of its characters.  The character of Seth Rogen begins the film an unrepentant pothead who is dating a high-school girl seven years his junior.  Over the course of the film, Rogen will both reject the prospect of continuing to date a high school girl and renounce smoking pot.  Rather than encouraging the immature behavior of their characters, films like “There’s Something About Mary” and even “Animal House” are unremittingly negative on the implications of the arrested behavior they revel in.

But the second error is in my opinion the more serious one.  The entertainment industry is not the “most powerful shaper of popular attitudes.”  Popular attitudes are the most powerful shaper of the entertainment industry.  And, from literally as long as entertainment has existed, a major aspect of it has been entertainment which is intentionally trangressive against popular attitudes.  

The impulse to transgress against the forbidden is a human universal.  The ability for a word, image, or action to shock and to violate is what grants it mass appeal.  Entertainment is, as much as anything else, escapism.  We cannot do the sort of vile things that Ben Stiller shows us.  Our inability to act that way is what causes our desire to see others do it.  Seeing the activities in the context of an explicit fantasy frees us to revel in those suppressed desires.

What insults the intelligence of the young men who enjoy these films is not that they are treated as young people with only aggression and appetite.  What is insulting is the idea that they are not aware of the distinction between reality and fantasy, and that what they are willing to pay ten bucks to watch for a couple hours is the sum of their being.  It is an excuse to say that we don’t understand today’s youth, and we have no interest in trying.

The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is very disturbing-

[W]hen asked what advice he would give to a President Barack Obama or Democratic Congress on the matter of handling former Bush officials, McClellan speaks now of the perils of probing the past.

“If Obama were to win,” he said last week, “that would be an issue his administration would have to face early … because he’s pledging to be a uniter, not a divider – without saying those exact words we campaigned on in 2000. He’s pledging to change the way Washington works, and if Congress were to pursue that, it would be very divisive.”

He continued: “That could be very problematic for his presidency right off the start.”

Motherfucking Villagers.

h/t John Aravosis & America Blog

Honoring the “service” of… (Updated)

For those who have followed my writings, you know that I am a veteran.  That I was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield in 1990.  That I was deployed into northern Iraq for Operation Provide Comfort I, II, and III after Desert Storm.  That I’ve walked the mine and battle fields of Iraq during two separate conflicts.  You also know that after I left the military I served in law enforcement.

I tell people this, not to get thanks, but, so that people understand my experience and knowledge when I speak of war, ordnance, veteran, law enforcement or related issues.  It is merely a qualifier that, yes, I do have the background to speak on these issues with a bit of authority.

Why do people feel they are obligated to “honor the service of…”?

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