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Scott Arboretum.  Photo by joanneleon.  September, 2012

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News just coming out about this. So far it looks like two guards were killed and there were other injuries.  Remains to be seen if this is related to other conflicts like Syria.

US Embassy Target of Suicide Bombing in Turkey
Reports indicate two people dead following attack in Ankara

The US Embassy in the Turkish capitol of Ankara was the apparent target of a bomb blast Friday, with early reports from the Associated Press saying that two people have been killed after an explosion near the front entrance.

The judge, who was furious about this situation, demands that the "invisible hand" stop overriding him and his security officer in his courtroom.  He did not reveal the identity of the invisible hand though.  Jason Leopold says that staff at the court in Gitmo told them that FOIAs can be submitted in order to try to find out.  There has been speculation that it will be traced back to John Brennan in one of his roles, either National Security Council or CIA (though he's not been confirmed yet).  
Judge Orders Government to Immediately Suspend Secret Censor’s Ability to Interrupt Military Commission

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - A military judge on Thursday ordered the government to immediately suspend a third party's ability to kill the audio feed during military commission proceedings for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other defendants accused of planning the 9/11 attacks.

Army Col. James Pohl, the military judge, said only he and the court security officer are authorized to use the censor button to prevent the media and other observers watching the tribunal on closed circuit television from hearing classified information being discussed in open court.
"I order the government to disconnect any ability of a third party to suspend broadcast of the proceeding, and I order any third party not to suspend proceedings," Pohl said. "This is the last time that will happen. No third party can unilaterally cut off the broadcast."

The third party still has the ability to monitor the commission.

The headline is kind of an understatement.  Tons of reporting on this.  I watched the hearings and listened to the C-SPAN callers.  There were a lot of calls in support of Hagel and pretty pissed off about so much focus on Israel and not our own wars and military and issues, and anger at the Republican senators who grilled him.  Some of it was McCarthyesque.  Quite a hearing.  
Hagel Has Rough Outing Before Ex-Colleagues

WASHINGTON — Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to be secretary of defense, faced sharp and sometimes angry questioning from fellow Republicans — especially his old friend Senator John McCain — at a contentious confirmation hearing on Thursday that focused on his past statements on Iran, the influence of pro-Israel organizations in Washington and the Iraq war.

Mr. Hagel, 66, a former senator from Nebraska and a decorated Vietnam veteran who would be the first former enlisted combat soldier to be secretary of defense, often seemed tentative in his responses. Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee showed him little deference, cross-examining him like prosecutors and often cutting him off.


One of the most hostile questioners was Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who told Mr. Hagel to “name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby.” Mr. Hagel, who in 2006 said that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates Congress, could not.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, surprised the hearing when he put excerpts from an interview Mr. Hagel gave to Al Jazeera in 2009 on a giant video screen. Although it was difficult to hear the short clips he provided, Mr. Cruz asserted that they showed Mr. Hagel agreeing with a caller who suggested that Israel had committed war crimes.

Another Republican Lawyer Warns Obama about Legal Problems

I know it’s probably easy for Obama supporters, if not members of the Administration, to dismiss the warnings of lawyers who fought within the Bush Administration to cloak our counterterrorism policy in legal sanction as trolling.

But you’d think that as Jack Goldsmith and now John Bellinger raise the same kind of warnings they did with Bush, they’d be treated with the same kind of alarm among the pundit class.

I have been warning for several years about the international legal risks posed by the Obama Administration’s heavy reliance on drone strikes, including my Post op-ed in October 2011 entitled “Will Drone Strikes Become Obama’s Guantanamo?”   This article was not intended as partisan criticism but rather as a cautionary note, based on my own eight years of experience explaining US counter-terrorism policies.

At the time I wrote it, I thought there was perhaps only a 25% chance that Obama’s drone strikes would become as internationally maligned as Guantanamo, given the preference of human rights groups and European governments to avoid criticising the Obama Administration.  But over the last eighteen months, I have seen a crescendo in international criticism, resulting in lawsuits in the US, Britain, and Pakistan, and a potential decrease in intelligence cooperation.  This has echoes of the rapid decline in European governmental support for US counterterrorism efforts after 9-11 as national parliaments pressed their governments to distance themselves from unpopular US policies.  I would not be surprised if, in the next year, war crimes charges are brought against senior Obama officials in a European country with a universal jurisdiction law.   The Administration is increasingly on the back foot internationally in explaining and defending the legal aspects of the drone program.  It needs to step up its efforts.

These are not starry-eyed hippies. They’re solidly conservative lawyers. And yet it seems their warnings are being treated with the seriousness they would if I had made them.
Penny Pritzker could join Obama Cabinet as commerce secretary

Sneed hears the name of hotel heiress/Obama fund-raiser Penny Pritzker is surfacing again as the woman President Barack Obama would like to become his commerce secretary.

◆ Backstory: The powerful Pritzker, who served as the national finance chair for Obama’s first presidential campaign, withdrew her name from consideration for the position just a few weeks after Obama won in 2008.

Another high level officer out.  Could be a good sign since the speculation is that he was too hawkish with respect to Iran.

From Ricks’ report:

General Mattis was travelling and in a meeting when an aide passed him a note telling him that the Pentagon had announced his replacement as head of Central Command. It was news to him — he hadn’t received a phone call or a heads-up from anyone at the Pentagon or the White House.
Ricks says he inquired further into this report. This is what he was told:
…the commander-in-chief can make a change whenever he wants and give no reason. That is right and proper under our system of government.
Again, we turn to Ricks at Foreign Policy:
Pentagon insiders say that he rubbed civilian officials the wrong way — not because he went all “mad dog,” which is his public image, and the view at the White House, but rather because he pushed the civilians so hard on considering the second- and third-order consequences of military action against Iran. Some of those questions apparently were uncomfortable.
Like, what do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf? He kept saying, “And then what?”
Inquiry along these lines apparently was not welcomed — at least in the CENTCOM view. The White House view, apparently, is that Mattis was too hawkish …
Mirabile Dictu! Finally, Someone (Amar Bhide) Questions Benefits of Mortgage Securitization

Amar Bhide, now a professor at the Fletcher School and a former McKinsey consultant and later proprietary trader, questions the policy bias towards more liquidity in financial markets. Officials (and of course intermediaries) favor it because they lower funding costs. Isn’t cheaper money always better? Bhide argues that it can come with hidden costs, and those costs are sometime substantial.


Bhide’s concern is hardly theoretical. The short term orientation of the executives of public companies, their ability to pay themselves egregious amounts of money, too often independent of actual performance, their underinvestment in their businesses and relentless emphasis on labor cost reduction and headcount cutting are the direct result of anonymous, impersonal equity markets. Many small businessmen and serial entrepreneurs hold the opposite attitude of that favored by the executives of public companies: they do their best to hang on to workers and will preserve their pay even if it hurts their own pay. Stagnant worker wages and underemployment are a direct result of companies’ refusal to share productiivty gains with workers, and that dates to trying to improve the governance problems Bhide discussed by linking executive pay to stock market performance. That did not fix the governance weaknesses and created new problems of its own.

It may be that the halo effect of America’s successful equity markets facilitated the sale of dodgy debt instruments. Bhide turns to the problems with mortgage securitization in his current paper. His core argument is that it imposes too much standardization on a market that requires customization and benefits from decentralized decision-making

The Hidden Costs of Debt Market Liquidity by Amar Bhide


Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues

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Obama and Dems may have just lost their most stalwart supporter with this Obamacare ruling

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