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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.




Band Of Horses - The Funeral



News and Opinion


I contributed a reply to Rumsfeld on Tuesday morning.  I'll post the original tweet below. Dumbass didn't even think to delete it.  There's no time limit on replies to tweets so feel free to send your own reply.

Donald Rumsfeld Gets Absolutely Pummeled On Twitter For His 10th Anniversary Iraq War Tweet

But hey, you all should really show your respect and appreciation for the lovely Bush officials who got us tangled into that mess, says former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. To celebrate(?) the tenth anniversary of his shining moment or whatever, Rumsfeld tweeted out the following:

Suffice it to say, Twitter users did not drop everything and salute the former Bush cabinet member. Instead, they expressed just how much they dislike him and the Iraq War, blasting off a flurry of negative responses.


What the heck, let's look at some more of the replies to Rumsfeld:

"We’ve Lost Our Country": An Iraqi American Looks Back on a Decade of War That’s Devastated a Nation
Way Worse Than a Dumb War: Iraq Ten Years Later

After almost a decade the US finally pulled out most of its troops and Pentagon-paid contractors. About 16,000 State Department-paid contractors and civilian employees are still stationed at the giant US embassy compound and two huge consulates, along with unacknowledged CIA and FBI agents, Special Forces and a host of other undercover operatives. The US just sold the Iraqi government 140 M-l tanks, and American-made fighter jets are in the pipeline too. But there is little question that the all-encompassing US military occupation of Iraq is over. After more than eight years of war, the Iraqi government finally said no more. Their refusal to grant US troops immunity from prosecution for potential war crimes was the deal-breaker that forced President Obama’s hand and made him pull out the last 30,000 troops he and his generals were hoping to keep in Iraq.

But as we knew would be the case, the pull out by itself did not end the violence. The years of war and occupation have left behind a devastated country, split along sectarian lines, a shredded social fabric and a dispossessed and impoverished population. Iraq remains one of the most violent countries in the world; that’s the true legacy of the US war. We owe a great debt to the people of Iraq—and we have not even begun to make good on that commitment.

The US lost the Iraq War. Iraq hasn’t been “liberated.” Violence is rampant; the sectarian violence resulting from early US policies after the 2003 invasion continues to escalate. Of course we didn’t bring democracy and freedom to Iraq—that was never on the US agenda.

Jeremy Scahill debates Michael O'Hanlon on Martin Bashir's show on MSNBC.
A reminder of this article from FAIR, 2010.
Chris Matthews' Role in MSNBC's Donahue Firing

Gabriel Sherman's piece in New York magazine (10/3/10) on the cable news wars includes a bit of history on MSNBC's firing of progressive host Phil Donahue in 2003; an internal memo at the timeworried that the showwould be "a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity." Sherman focuses on MSNBC personality Chris Matthews–who sometimes claimshe was opposed to the Iraq War–and his desire to get Donahue fired:

I agree with Amanpour here, but what I would like to ask her is if she is doing everything she can to prevent the current drum beat for war with Iran from being the cause for repeating the same mistakes.  The current poll numbers on war with Iran are alarming.
Amanpour on Iraq: Where were the journalists?

On Monday, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked how so many journalists could have been misled in the run-up to the Iraq War. She interviewed two reporters for Knight-Ridder newspapers, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, both of whom have been vindicated as being consistently right on Iraq.


Gallup Poll: 90 Percent Of Americans Have Negative View Of Iran

New Gallup Poll research has found that Americans view Iran as the least favorable country. The country received a favorable rating of 9 percent, while totaling an astounding 87-percent unfavorable rating, according to the data.

The data showed that Iran is classified in the currently “hostile” category toward the U.S., joining North Korea.

Iran War Weekly — March 18, 2013
In Washington, meanwhile, President Obama prepares to visit Israel; and on the eve of his trip he made a speech in which he claimed that Iran is at least a year away from producing a nuclear weapon. This is vintage Obama, splitting the difference between the Israeli position that Iran is much closer to a bomb, and the Iranian position that Iran does not want a bomb. It is also inaccurate, in sense that the US intelligence czar testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that there is still no evidence that Iran is seeking a bomb. Moreover, expert opinion generally holds that it would take Iran years, not months, to produce an arsenal of nuclear weapons if it decided to do so.

While the President’s PR team is low-balling expectations for significant policy developments during his trip to Israel, it appears the Prime Minister Netanyahu will press him for greater military support, and perhaps military action, in Syria. In the Syria section below I’ve linked several articles outlining the growing militarization of the US strategy toward Syria, where the conflict just passed its second anniversary. With today’s Syrian airstrikes in Lebanon, we now have armed conflicts on all of Syria’s international borders. The disaster seems unstoppable.

Poll: Most support U.S. military action to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons

(CBS News) Amid continued speculation that Israel may be considering an attack on Iran, a majority of Americans say they would favor using U.S. military action against Iran to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
The poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 adults nationwide between March 7 and 11, showed that 51 percent of Americans would support U.S. military action in Iran for purposes of stopping the country from developing a nuclear weapon. Thirty-six percent say they would oppose such action, and 13 percent say they are unsure.

The war anniversary that everyone forgot.
Libyan reconciliation vital says Sarkozy

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called on Libyans to work on reconciliation with those who supported or worked for the Qaddafi regime.  He made the call at a meeting with members of Tripoli Local Council during his visit to the council’s offices in Algeria Square today, Tuesday.

He had been invited by head of the council, Sadat Elbadri, to celebrate the second anniversary of the France’s decisive entry into the war against Qaddafi’s regime.

Libya Islamists Gaining Strength: Libyans Concerned by Sectarian Violence

Despite reports of al Qaeda sightings and Islamic fundamentalist activity throughout the past two years, the Libyan National Transitional Council denied the presence of terrorism in Libya until the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate. This hesitancy to act may have given the militias and religious groups time to establish a foothold in the fledgling government.

“These militias could take matters into their own hands at any point. Some of them are loyal to certain politicians and political groups, and can be mobilized on their orders. There are al Qaida [members] in the General National Congress (GNC)," an anonymous source close to the Libyan GNC told The Media Line. The source asked not to be named due to security concerns.

The drumbeat continues, not only for Syria but for Iran.  In 2007 when Sy Hersh reported that Cheney and Rumsfeld were gunning for Syria and Iran, the left erupted, the media erupted. The response was a loud and resounding NO!  But this president seems to have defanged the antiwar movement entirely, and the sanity movement for that matter.  While, some months ago, it looked like he was going to stand strongly against involvement in wars with Syria and Iran, now his election is over, and I don't hear that same kind of push back that we heard last summer and fall.  We've already got Special Ops training militias for Syria in Jordan.  Even Carl Levin is calling for a no fly zone (WTF? How can this guy be so fair minded on TBTF banks and so freaking crazy on NDAA and wars in the Middle East?)  And rumors of war with Iran in June, or September-October timeframe, and these rumors are coming from Israeli media (Channel 10, whatever network that is).  So it remains to be seen if this was just another case of the solar system revolving around Barack Obama's election, pushing off a war intended all along until after he got what he needed for himself.
Drumbeat Grows Louder in Congress for Obama to Act on Syria

Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain released a statement today, calling for President Obama to act against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was looking into claims that the Assad regime had used a chemical weapon in a recent attack in the opposition stronghold of Aleppo. She would not confirm whether the administration believes Syria’s chemical stockpile is secure, citing intelligence reasons, but said there continues to be an increasing concern that Assad will cross that line.
[...]
Foreign Policy also reported that the top Senate Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, is now in support of establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.
“I believe there should be the next ratcheting up of military effort and that would include going after some of Syria’s air defenses,” Levin said.

What happened to all of the caution and opposition from the Obama administration to war with Iran?  Now we've got John Brennan now in the CIA/Ministry of Propaganda, where intelligence estimates are done... but Chuck Hagel, seemingly not a warmonger is at the Pentagon.  At the moment, we're not hearing the same kind of push back about Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapon program that we heard before the election, where Panetta and high level generals were making public statements against going to war with Iran.  From Wesley Clark's list of countries, only Syria and Iran remain, if you count Israel's attack on Lebanon.  It is hard to believe that we would wage full scale war with Iran.  Bombing nuclear sites, fueling a revolution, and/or manipulating their elections somehow, would be more likely, IMHO, along with a Libyan style no fly zone in Syria and another proxy war.  We are supposedly out of the business of full scale invasions.  Presidential elections in Iran there are in June.  If we get involved in Syria, with a no fly zone or more, you can see how that could lead to war with Iran, as they are regularly blamed for providing support to Assad.  The wild card there was the Russians. This is from Counterpunch.  
Obama Marks Iraq War Anniversary with War Summit in Israel

A decade after the American-led invasion of Iraq, the U.S. is once again preparing to set the Middle East ablaze.  In fact, President Obama will touch down in Tel Aviv ten years to the day “shock and awe” was first unleashed for what appears to be little more than a war summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to the Guardian, Netanyahu plans on using the president’s trip “to try to persuade the US to carry out air strikes on Syria if there is evidence that Syrian missiles are to be handed over to Hezbollah in Lebanon, or at least to give full support to Israeli military action to prevent the transfer.”  Tel Aviv, the paper adds, wants U.S. support for more preemptive Israeli strikes “even if they risk provoking a cross-border conflict with Hezbollah.”

Back in the U.S., meanwhile, similar domestic pressure continues to build for an escalated level of U.S. intervention into the Syrian conflict.

On Monday, New York Representative Eliot Engel, a fierce Israel supporter, introduced a bill calling on the Obama administration to directly arm and train the Syrian opposition.  Of course, the U.S. is already training Syrian rebels in Jordan, and is providing at least tacit approval of arms shipments.

Additional reports, however, have also revealed that the U.S. has begun collecting intelligence for future drone strikes against Islamic extremists fighting inside Syria.  Moreover, the CIA is reportedly stepping up its aid to Iraqi counter-terrorism forces fighting the spillover of Islamic extremists from Syria.  As Robert Dreyfuss commented, this dual policy of both aiding and targeting the Syrian opposition appears rather bizarre.

Col. Pat Lang is apparently getting the same message about new wars.
"Drinking the Koolaid." W. Patrick Lang

(Now, in 2013 another band of manipulators is seeking to take  the US to war in Syria.  Americans - Beware!  pl)

Oh for Christ's sake.   What aren't they into?
Sources: Amazon and CIA ink cloud deal

In a move sure to send ripples through the federal IT community, FCW has learned that the CIA has agreed to a cloud computing contract with electronic commerce giant Amazon, worth up to $600 million over 10 years.

Amazon Web Services will help the intelligence agency build a private cloud infrastructure that helps the agency keep up with emerging technologies like big data in a cost-effective manner not possible under the CIA's previous cloud efforts, sources told FCW.

4. Procurement Follies and the sequester:

Lately a lot of conservative blogs, like this one , have sounded the alarm that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ordered more than 2,700 “mine-resistant armor protected vehicles” for domestic use. Could this be the second time the clock has been right?

My guess is that despite the right wing bloggers’ theory that these armored vehicles are for general “domestic use” on the “streets of the United States,” if they were ordered, the explanation from DHS will be that they are needed for border patrols. While not a tip-off to an Obama declaration of martial law or some such thing, that explanation would be a good lead-in to a sequester-oriented story about how so many of DHS’s procurement programs are emblematic of rampant waste and cronyism in Washington. For a refresher on one such multi-billion dollar fiasco – in this case, the failed deployment of high-tech sensors on the border rather than armored vehicles — see an item I wrote in this space last year.

That in turn suggests a broader, more fundamental story: Why hasn’t the Washington Post or Politico (assuming it aspires to go beyond D.C. process stories in a big, substantive way) scoured the various agencies and done its own thinking man’s sequester budget by finding obvious waste and expendable programs, the elimination of which would yield the $85 billion targeted in the sequester?

Pentagon Papers lawyer on Obama, secrecy and press freedoms: 'worse than Nixon'
Career First Amendment and transparency advocate James Goodale sounds the alarm about the current president

In 1971, when the New York Times decided to publish the Pentagon Papers leaked to it by Daniel Ellsberg, it knew it was triggering a major fight with the secrecy-obsessed Nixon administration. As expected, the Nixon administration sued the NYT in an attempt to ban it from publishing the documents, but the US Supreme Court, in a landmark decision for press freedom, ruled the prior restraint unconstitutional. The paper's general counsel at the time, James Goodale, said that he counseled the paper to publish despite "the more likely scenario that everyone feared was the fact that they could have gone to jail," and he subsequently became an outspoken defender of press freedoms. He now has a new book entitled "Fighting for the Press" in which he argues, as the Columbia Journalism Review puts it, that "Obama is worse for press freedom than former President Richard Nixon was."
[...]
Could you talk a bit about President Obama's approach to classified information and press freedom?

Antediluvian, conservative, backwards. Worse than Nixon. He thinks that anyone who leaks is a spy! I mean, it's cuckoo."
Nobody voted for the bailout deal in the Cyprian Parliament on Tuesday.  Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.  The news varies between a modified deal that spares the smallest accounts along with battening down the hatches and trying to prevent bank runs and capital flight out of Cyprus, and suggestions that Cyprus is going to get their printing presses back in action, and exit the Eurozone.  The banks are closed again.  
Eurozone crisis live: Cyprus crisis deepens as MPs reject bailout terms
• Drama as 36 MPs vote against bailout, 19 abstain, 0 in favour
10.52pm GMT The possibility of the printing machines being dusted off for the (re-)introduction of the Cypriot pound has been mooted by Marios Mavrides, a Cypriot government MP who was talking to BBC 2's Newsnight in the last twenty minutes.

He said that the government are exploring various options to come up with a solution that would mitigate against a bank run when the banks open again.

Here's one of his last quotes:

If we cannot come up the €5.8bn in a few days then I think we will go to the Cyprus pound. That will be the end of Cyprus in the Eurozone.
And on that note we're going to wrap up the blog for now. Thanks for tuning in.
10.40pm GMT  A contingency plan to introduce capital controls in Cyprus is being discussed by authorities on the island and European officials, according to the Wall St Journal:
The plan includes imposing limits on daily withdrawals from bank accounts; capping the amount of money that can be electronically taken out of the country and making these transactions slower to clear; and introducing border checks to cap the amount of cash leaving in the country.
You can read a comprehensive piece on today's dramatic developments in Cyprus now by Angelique Chrisafis, who is in Nicosia, and Jill Treanor, the Guardian's City Editor, here.
A snatch:
The Cypriot parliament has thrown out a controversial plan to skim €5.8bn from savers' bank accounts, in a move that risks plunging the eurozone into a fresh crisis and heightens expectations that the cash-strapped nation will seek a funding lifeline from Russia.

Cyprus has just 24 hours to find a solution to its funding gap before its banks are due to reopen following the dramatic no vote on Tuesday night, which failed to support a hastily renegotiated change to the original deal.

Farage: EU wants to steal money from Cypriots bank accounts

Elsewhere...
Parliament Punch: Fight erupts between Ukrainian MPs

Dozens of Ukrainian MPs from the two major parties got into a fist fight in the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. The brawl began with yelling over the language used in the chamber and 'fascist' accusations from both sides.

FTW, LGBT movement (yet again)!
Westboro Equality House: Aaron Jackson Paints Rainbow Home Across From Anti-Gay Church

The Westboro Baptist Church is about to get a big surprise in the form of a new neighbor who plans to give the notoriously anti-gay group a taste of its own medicine.

Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, a multi-pronged charity that has in the past concentrated on rainforest conservation, opening orphanages and deworming programs, bought a house that sits directly across from the church's compound six months ago. On Tuesday, March 19, he and a team of volunteers are painting it to match the gay pride flag.

The project -- which the nonprofit is calling the "Equality House" -- is the first in a new campaign Planting Peace plans to wage against the group. Westboro is known for its intimidating tactics of protesting (or threatening to protest) what they refer to as America's pro-gay, anti-God agenda, in close proximity to pride parades, soldier funerals and other events like the Sandy Hook memorial services.

"I read a story about Josef Miles, a 10-year-old kid who counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church by holding the sign that says 'God Hates No One,'" Jackson told The Huffington Post.





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