AFGHANS DON'T LIKE BEING BOMBED
(JUST FOR A GAS PIPELINE?)
THEY'RE STARTING TO LIKE IT WHEN WE GET BOMBED
How Long Before A "Surge" Drives Them All Back Into The Arms Of The Taliban?
A surge is what Dubya's advisers, er, I mean Obama's advisers, er, oh, well, they're the same people, pretty much, and they're recommending the same thing they recommended in Iraq. Iraq, now there's a model to emulate. Recent elections showed a trend toward just what we were warned about, before we went in there: Fragmentation of Iraq into three rump States: One controlled by Iran, one in a perpetual destabilizing war with Turkey, and, caught in the middle, one mightily pissed off and oil-free home base for Sunni terrorism, like Al Qaida. That's pretty much how the election results played out this week.
Afghanistan could be split in nine ethnic pieces: Aimaq, Baluch, Hazara, Kirghiz, Nuristani, Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek. There's no oil there, so you think there'd be less to squabble about. But there may be a pipeline from the Caucasus running through Afhganistan to the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean off Pakistan someday. That's why we're there, according to some people. The pipeline can't be built until it's safe enough to carry out a massive construction project, though. So we're going to be there for quite a while. We might even end up catching Osama, if he doesn't die of old age first. But that's kind of a side effect.
Things have not been going all that well in Afghanistan. You've gotta wonder how they managed to conduct an opinion survey in a place like Afghanistan in the middle of a war. Did they round up the usual suspects and have them fill out questionnaires? Go from bread line to bomb shelter to refugee camp asking questions in five different languages while under heavy guard? Did they ask women, or only men? Wait till they hear that we may be working with the Russians now. Poll that. Ah, Afghanistan!
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
"Election results spur threats and infighting in Iraq"
So, the surge is working, hunh? Define "working."
' RAMADI, Iraq: The post-election curfew has been lifted and the threats of violence have been muted after the intervention of envoys from the Iraqi Army, the central government and the U.S. Marines. A cacophonous bustle has returned to the filthy, shattered streets of this provincial capital, once a base of the Sunni insurgency. And still Faris Taha, one of the election's victors, according to preliminary results, is too fearful to return to the region he will soon represent. "I cannot go back," he said, having retreated from his hometown east of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, to a hotel in Baghdad's Green Zone. "I am afraid." '
' When Biden, who initially supported the war, was running for president, he repeatedly insisted he was the only candidate with a workable plan for ending it. His campaign created a video, featured in the YouTube debate, that said, "Joe Biden is the only one with the experience and the plan to end this war responsibly so our children don't have to go back." That plan was widely seen as calling for the partition of Iraq. It read, in part, "The United States should actively support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions, consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their leaders." Despite Biden's occasional objections, that wording was read by other politicians and the media as calling for the division of Iraq into three regions, one for Sunnis, one for Shiites, and one for Kurds. For that perception, Biden has himself to blame. An op-ed Biden wrote in 2006 described his plan this way: "The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group -- Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab -- room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.... The first [point of the plan] is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues." The Biden Plan, as it was called, proved remarkably popular in the Senate ? in September 2007 it faced a Senate vote and passed with the support of 75 senators, including 26 Republicans. The non-binding measure did not compel the President to act, only expressed the will of the Senate. Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd voted with Biden; Obama and McCain did not vote at all. '
' A survey among Afghans indicates support is plummeting for the Kabul government and the United States and European troops trying to bolster it against insurgents, according to a report Monday. The decline is striking particularly in the last year, the poll shows, even as the Obama administration and NATO allies weigh moves to strengthen forces in the struggle with Taliban and other radical groups. President Barack Obama has assigned high priority to the conflict, and the administration is weighing whether to send another 30,000 U.S. troops, almost doubling the 32,000 present. Few Afghans felt encouraged by Obama's election, however: Two in 10 said they thought he would make things better for the Afghan people, and nearly as many said they thought he would make things worse. The rest either expected no change or were waiting to see. The poll ? commissioned by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV ? found that the number of Afghans who say their country is headed in the right direction has dropped to 40 percent, from 77 percent in 1995 when the survey was first conducted. '
' Angry civilians in Laghman are protesting military operations that resulted in civilian deaths. The protestors are demonstrating against the deaths of 21 civilans killed in a U.S. air strike on Jan. 23. The U.S. military refused responsibility for the bombing and claimed that it did not target civilians. However, 15 insurgents may have been killed during the attack. Many Afghan civilians and the government condemn what they consider the indiscriminate use of arms by the allied forces. '
' The Taliban, who control several districts of Helmand, have previously beheaded other people, including hostages, in a campaign of intimidation and fear that targets Afghans working for the government or international groups. Ethnic and tribal rivalries and crime, including that associated with Helmand's booming opium trade, also play a part in the wave of violence that has engulfed the country. '
' U.S. troops in Afghanistan saw their supply lines squeezed from the north and east Tuesday after militants blew up a bridge in Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan's government said it would end American use of a key air base following Russia's announcement of new aid. Securing efficient and safe supply routes into Afghanistan has become a top priority for U.S. officials as the Pentagon prepares to send in up to 30,000 more American soldiers this year. Some 75 percent of U.S. supplies travel through Pakistan, where militants have stepped up attacks on truck convoys destined for U.S. bases. Attackers on Tuesday blew up a bridge in northwestern Pakistan in a fresh salvo in an escalating campaign seeking to cripple Washington's war effort in Afghanistan. Islamist militants blew up a bridge in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, cutting a major supply line for Western troops in Afghanistan in the latest in a series of attacks on the Khyber Pass by insurgents seeking to hamper the U.S.-led mission against the Taliban. A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan confirmed that supplies along the route had been halted "for the time being," but stressed the alliance was in no danger of running out of food, equipment or fuel. The U.S. and NATO fly ammunition, weapons and other sensitive supplies into Afghanistan, but it would be too costly to ship everything that way. '
' U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the decision to close Manas Air Base "regrettable." Just a few weeks ago, during a visit to the region, Gen. David Petraeus -- who oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East and Central Asia -- talked about how important the base is. Closing Manas base would not affect only the United States. Petraeus said the site "plays an important role" in the deployment of Spanish and French soldiers into Afghanistan, in addition to U.S. troops. Sultangaziev rejected any suggestions that Russia may have pushed for the closure of the U.S. base. He said the announcement of Russia's aid package was a coincidence. The mountainous former Soviet republic is Central Asia's second poorest country. The U.S. base has been in operation since December 2001 under a U.N. mandate. Kyrgyzstan also is home to a Russian military base, at Kant, that officially opened in 2003. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday that Russia would offer Kyrgyzstan a $300 million, 40-year loan at an annual interest rate of 0.75 percent and write off $180 million of Kyrgyzstan's debt. Clinton said Thursday, "It's regrettable that this is under consideration by the government of Kyrgyzstan, and we hope to have further discussions with them. But we will proceed in a very effective manner no matter what the outcome of the Kyrgyzstan government's deliberations might be." '
' A senior Russian envoy says Moscow did not influence Kyrgyzstan's decision to end American access to a base used to resupply U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The decision was announced several days ago as Kyrgyzstan's president was visiting Moscow after securing more than $2 billion in loans and aid from Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov says "there is no correlation" between the Russian aid offer and the Kyrgyz decision. '
' A senior U.S. diplomat will hold talks with Russian officials on Tuesday about opening up new supply routes across Russian territory to NATO forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. embassy said. The talks come less than a week after Kyrgyzstan announced it will close a U.S. airbase on its territory that provides logistical support by air to U.S. troops fighting the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. Russia has signalled readiness to expand cooperation in supplying non-military equipment to U.S. forces and other NATO contingents in Afghanistan. Such shipments would also have to pass through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to reach the conflict zone. Supply routes through Pakistan have become increasingly vulnerable to militant attacks over the last year. '
' In early January, Russia?s giant energy company Gazprom suddenly cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine. As a result, much of Europe shivered without heat because pipelines through Ukraine supply most of their gas. Moscow exercised its gas clout in 2008 as well, ostensibly over pricing and transit fees, but more likely as an assertion of its readiness to wield energy as a weapon. The Russian act has implications for two gas pipelines that concern India: TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India).
At issue is the stranglehold both monopoly suppliers and transiting countries may have over energy security. Given that TAPI and IPI would transit through rough terrain with restive populations such as Afghanistan and Baluchistan, the chances of disruption are high, whether via blackmail by the Pakistani government or due to physical damage by insurgents. '
' Interactive Map: Badakhsan - Badghis - Baghlan - Balkh - Bamian - Farah - Faryab - Ghazni - Ghowr - Herat - Helmand - Jowzjan - Kabul - Kapisa - Konar - Kondoz - Laghman - Logar - Nangarhar - Nemroz - Oruzgan - Paktia - Paktika - Parwan - Qandahar - Samangan - Sar-e-pul - Takhar - Wardak - Zabol '
' Map: Afghanistan's Ethnic Groups - In-depth Coverage of Afghanistan and the War on Terror by the Online NewsHour. '
The Republicans tried to fool Americans a few days ago, when they elected Michael Steele to be the head of the Republican National Committee. By electing an African-American, they were hoping to convince Americans that they are truly a "big tent" party, with a multi-racial membership. But even the most casual glance at the delegates to their last convention shows this to be a lie (Warning: use sunglasses when you look, as the overwhelming whiteness can be blinding.)
Now it looks like the choice of Steele was even worse than just a party membership lie. It seems the African-American chosen by the Republicans has some ethics problems of his own (but in their defense, they didn't have too many African-Americans to choose from).
Steele's former finance chairman, Alan B. Fabian, says Steele used campaign funds from his failed Senate campaign to funnel tens of thousands of dollars into a defunct company owned by Steele's sister. Fabian says the defunct company did no work for the campaign. Fabian provided the information to federal prosecutors.
Steele passed off the accusations as those of a convicted felon trying to reduce his prison time, and said the payments were a legitimate reimbursement of expenses. There are two things wrong with that argument. First, it doesn't look good when your finance chairman gets convicted of a felony and gives evidence against you (because it would do him no good to lie to federal prosecutors), and second, Steele conviently forgot to list what the "reimbursements" were for.
Steele is going to have to do a lot better than that. He needs to verify exactly what work the sister's company did, or explain why that company deserved any reimbursement at all. Otherwise, it just looks like he was using the sister's defunct company to siphon off campaign funds for his personal use. Isn't that against the law?
Surely the Republicans can find a better leader than this dishonest token!
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Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly round-up. Enjoy this week's look at the best of the TPA.
TXsharon made another video this week and it's gross! Watch it on Bluedaze then answer this question and this question if you can and know that HELP IS ON THE WAY!
And speaking of Oil and Gas, WhosPlayin analyzed a contract his city of Lewisville made, leasing its mineral rights cheap to purposely bring in oil and gas development to the suburban Texas city of 92,000.
The Texas Cloverleaf brings you the Trinity Toll Road Boondoggle, soon to be funded by your tax dollars.
There are four US Attorneys in Texas. Off the Kuff takes a look at the people who want one of those jobs.
BossKitty at TruthHugger is concerned about the changing mental state in America. Are people becoming meaner? What do you think about our Mean Economy Spotlights Mean Spirits - Op Ed
Violence in Mexico and on the US border can't be ignored any longer. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants Hillary Clinton, not Glenn Beck, to provide solutions.
Adam at Three Wise Men explores the possibility of Howard Dean as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Neil at Texas Liberal writes about President Obama's policies for rural America. Our cities and rural areas have more in common than we realize. It would be good if urban and rural office holders in the Texas Legislature would think about and talk about how they could help each other.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the fireworks over UTIMCO this week in Oh, the outrage!.
Over at Texas Kaos, lightseeker asks How Long Will We Have to Put Up With these Arrogant Tools? What has set him off is deposed Czar Craddick's last corrupt act - destroying potential evidence of big a tool he is and was.
jobsanger tells us A Tale Of Two Coaches. Both are winning high school coaches, but one is a real teacher and the other is an embarrassment.
Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at the fact that State Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stepehenville) is spending campaign cash to buy stocks in companies like AIG, Halliburton, and more.It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly round-up. Enjoy this week's look at the best of the TPA.
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Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.
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Concert footage from the father of Ethio-Jazz, Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics.[...]
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Howard Dean once told me that if a president can just keep the country going and accomplish one major goal on top of that, he would be a successful president. He told me his major goal-- the reason he jumped from a family medical practice to politics-- was reforming the health care system. At the time he was polling in the single digits, the low single digits, in the national polls. It's been quite a trip for him since then but no one, except perhaps an intellectually dishonest Rahm Emanuel, could say he was anything less than the best chairman the DNC has had in recent memory. Governor Dean and his 50 state strategy certainly contributed to the Democrats taking over the House, the Senate, lots of state legislatures and governors mansions and, now, the White House.
Obama doesn't owe anything to anyone. That's the way it should be. Oh, except the American people. He owes us someone who understands health care and how to reform it. His first choice was a consummate Washington insider whose very GOP-like modus operandi revolted the whole country and forced the new Administration to beat a hasty and shabby-looking retreat. For many of us, it wasn't just the tax problems which, after all, may possibly have been honest mistakes, but, as Frank Rich put it in yesterday's Times, but "his post-Senate immersion in the greedy bipartisan culture of entitlement and crony capitalism that both helped create our economic meltdown (on Wall Street) and failed to police it (in Washington). Daschle might well have been the best choice to lead health-care reform. But his honorable public record was instantly vaporized by tales of his cozy, lucrative relationships with the very companies he?d have to adjudicate as health czar." We expect that from George Bush. We expect that from Republicans. We elected Barack Obama because we thought the end of that kind of corruption was part of the Change he was promising.
He can easily make up for that slip-- very easily. But not by nominating some HMO shill like Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen who spent his time as governor stripping 170,000 people of their health car-- the polar opposite of what Howard Dean accomplished when he was governor of Vermont. In the last few days some of the members of Congress most committed to universal health care, Tom Harkin (D-IA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Peter Welch (D-VT) have asked President Obama to appoint Dean to lead the Health and Human Services Department.
I don't know how you can say who's the very best member of Congress but I do know that if you had to make a list of half a dozen senators who live and breath representing working families first and foremost you couldn't do it without including Bernie Sanders. And today Bernie sent President Obama a letter asking him to appoint Dr. Dean. Here's what Senator Sanders had to say about it on his website:
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that he supports Howard Dean to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Sanders wrote that the physician and former Vermont governor is ?eminently qualified? for the key post in the president?s cabinet.
?Governor Dean's background as a physician and as a governor makes him eminently qualified for this extremely important position.
?Governor Dean understands, as you do, that all Americans are entitled to health care as a right of citizenship, and that we must pay far more attention to the needs of our children if we are to have a healthy and prosperous society.
?As a result of Governor Dean?s leadership, Vermont has developed one of the strongest health insurance programs for children in the country, the Dr. Dynasaur program, and has also been in the vanguard in a number of other health-related areas.
?As you well know, reforming our health care system will not be easy. It will take somebody with determination and focus to lead that effort. I think that Howard Dean is that person.?
Sanders is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.
One broad definition could describe it as raising responsible citizens. Have you noticed a change[...]
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"We're moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy. A savior-based economy sort of is definitional of what you see in Russia or Venezuela or Zimbabwe or places like that where it matters not how good your product is to the[...]
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Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr recognized the "win at all costs" culture of her office when she began her job. What's she done about it?
It was recently revealed that Santa Clara prosecutors hoarded hundreds of videotapes of sexual assault examinations provided by hospital staff but never turned over to the defense. Prosecutors are under investigation (and one has been scolded) by the state bar for withholding evidence (including an expert witness' conclusion) in other cases. Granted, many of the transgressions predated Carr's election to office in 2007, but Carr's claim that she's taking steps to change the office culture is not reassuring.
Carr responded to outside criticisms of prosecutors' conduct, including state disciplinary attention, by assuring a gathering of county prosecutors last week that none of them was going to be "thrown under a bus" and that she was actively trying to limit the state bar's authority to punish errant prosecutors.
Does Carr really believe that limiting the authority to discipline cheaters is an effective strategy for changing an office culture that condones cheating?