Monday, March 31, 2008

Is Google in the Spy Buisness?

Not exactly. What they are doing is allowing the CIA and the NSA to search their databases with greater efficiency and maintaining a wiki for the intelligence community.

From The Times Online:

CIA enlists Google's help for spy work

Google has been recruited by US intelligence agencies to help them better process and share information they gather about suspects.

Agencies such as the National Security Agency have bought servers on which Google-supplied search technology is used to process information gathered by networks of spies around the world.

Google is also providing the search features for a Wikipedia-style site, called Intellipedia, on which agents post information about their targets that can be accessed and appended by colleagues, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The contracts are just a number that have been entered into by Google's 'federal government sales team', that aims to expand the company's reach beyond its core consumer and enterprise operations.

First I'm going to assume that having such contracts precludes Google from providing similar services to countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and of course France(j/k). Frankly I'm amazed we didn't have these capabilities beforehand given how long they've been around. In fact I'm left wondering how different the course of current events would be has we had these capabilities eight or nine years ago.

How Far We've Fallen

We've detained and tortured at least one innocent person for five years . The worst part is that we knew he was innocent for over four and a half years.

From CBS News:


Ex-Terror Detainee Says U.S. Tortured Him
Tells 60 Minutes He Was Held Underwater, Shocked And Suspended From the Ceiling

At the age of 19, Murat Kurnaz vanished into America's shadow prison system in the war on terror. He was from Germany, traveling in Pakistan, and was picked up three months after 9/11. But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one.
...
"They stopped the bus and because of my color, I’m much more different than Pakistani guys," says Kurnaz, who is lighter-skinned. "He looked into the bus and he knocked on my window."

"He" was a Pakistani cop who pulled Kurnaz off the bus. The reason Kurnaz was singled out may always be a mystery. But at the time, the U.S. was paying bounties for suspicious foreigners. Kurnaz, who'd been rambling across Pakistan with Islamic pilgrims, seemed to fit the bill. Kurnaz says that he was told that U.S. intelligence paid $3,000 for him. He ended up bound and shackled on an American military plane.
...
"They used to beat me when my head is underwater. They beat me into my stomach and everything," he says.

"They were hitting you in the stomach while you're head was underwater so that you'd have to take a breath?" Pelley asks,

"Right. I had to drink. I had to…how you say it?" Kurnaz replies.

"Inhale. Inhale the water," Pelley says.

"I had to inhale the water. Right," Kurnaz says.

Kurnaz says the Americans used a device to shock him with electricity that made his body go numb. And he says he was hoisted up on chains suspended by his arms from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar for five days.

"Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down. And the doctor came to watch if I can still survive to not. He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart. And when he said okay, then they pulled me back up," Kurnaz says.

"The point of the doctor's visit was not to treat you. It was to see if you could take another six hours hanging from the ceiling?" Pelley asks.

"Right," Kurnaz says.
...
At Guantanamo Kurnaz says he endured endless months of interrogations, beatings at the hands of soldiers in riot gear, and physical cruelty which included going without sleep for weeks and solitary confinement for up to a month in cells that were sealed without ventilation or were set up to punish him with extreme conditions.
...
But far worse than the false charges was the secret government file that Azmy (his lawyer) uncovered.

Six months after Kurnaz reached Guantanamo, U.S. military intelligence had written, "criminal investigation task force has no definite link [or] evidence of detainee having an association with al Qaeda or making any specific threat toward the U.S."

At the same time, German intelligence agents wrote their government, saying, "USA considers Murat Kurnaz’s innocence to be proven. He is to be released in approximately six to eight weeks."

But Azmy says Kurnaz was kept at Guantanamo Bay for three and a half years after this memo was written in 2002.
Its hard to figure out which is worse the fact that we're torturing people or that were torturing innocent people and then suppressing the evidence that they aren't guilty. There is one positive thing that will happen this season and that's that the use of torture will stop no matter who is elected.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Its midnight, do you know where your nukes are?

Findmyhappyplacefindmyhappyplacefindmyhappyplace...

From CNN:

Pentagon: Inventory ordered of all U.S. nukes

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has formally ordered the Air Force, Navy and Defense Logistics Agency to conduct an inventory of all U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon-related materials to make sure all items are accounted for, according to a Pentagon memo released Thursday.

The order comes in the wake of the discovery last week that four nuclear warhead fuses were accidentally shipped to Taiwan in 2006.
Ummm...can I get the results of that inventory sent to my cell phone?

And then there is this:
Colombia seizes uranium from leftist guerrillas

BOGOTA, March 26 (Reuters) - Colombia said it seized at least 66 pounds (30 kg) of uranium from the country's biggest left-wing rebel group on Wednesday, the first time radioactive material has been linked to the four-decade-old guerrilla war.

The uranium was found in a rural area long considered a Marxist guerrilla stronghold just south of the capital Bogota.

It is being examined by government experts, the defense ministry said in a statement, although it did not say where the material came from or what it could be used for.
On the bright side at least we didn't accidentally ship nuclear warhead fuses to Columbia.

H/T to The Glittering Eye

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Of Note

Michael J Totten is back in Iraq and giving a bug's eye view of the situation there. He also notes
that one of his stories about the horrid conditions in an Iraqi prison he visited prompted a military investigation into the matter.

Last month I published a piece here called The Dungeon of Fallujah about my visit to the wretched jail in the city. As it turns out, the place was worse than I thought. Prisoners had to supply their own food or starve. I didn't report that detail because I didn't know it. But Marine Major General John Kelly (whom I don't think I met) read my report, investigated the jail, and fixed it. No one in the military talked to me about this.
The UPI did a short piece on the investigation and cited Michael Totten's blog as being the impetus of the investigation.

Kelly's visit followed a report on conditions at the jail by independent journalist Michael Totten. Totten found a facility built to hold 120 prisoners housing 900 without even minimal provision for sanitation or hygiene.

Michael Totten relies heavily on reader donations to support his trips to Iraq so please drop by and see if you think his work is worth a couple of bucks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Clinton's Bosnia Problem

is that when you grossly exaggerate events that happened to you that are documented it casts a rather disparaging light on your claims of off the record experience.



Of course its possible that this became the equivalent of a tall tale and she forgot to tell the unembellished version. But given how sharp she is that just doesn't seem in character. Plus there is the fact that your average person tends to remember days that they were shot at pretty well. Heck, I was only an innocent bystander near a firefight once and I remember that day with crystalline clarity.

One thing is for certain and that's if Clinton get the nomination the 527s that support the GOP will have a field day with this.

Clinton's Off The Record Experience

It looks like the recent release of Hillary Clinton's schedule from back when she was first lady is casting shadows of doubt on the amount of experience she accrued during that time.

From the NY Times:

Clinton’s Schedules Offer Chance to Test Assertions

When the World Trade Center was attacked for the first time on Feb. 26, 1993, President Bill Clinton flew to New York to be briefed on the attack and the response by city, state and federal authorities. According to newly released White House calendars of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s time as first lady, Mrs. Clinton stayed behind in Washington to attend a photo shoot with Parade magazine and a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Seven years later, in October 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were enjoying a quiet weekend at their new home in Chappaqua, N.Y., when word came that the Cole, an American destroyer, had been attacked in a Yemen port. Mr. Clinton rushed back to the White House to deal with the crisis. Mrs. Clinton returned to the campaign trail in her run for the Senate.

...

The release last week of more than 11,000 pages of her public schedule as first lady presents an opportunity for a closer examination of those claims.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides argued that the calendars backed up her argument that her time as first lady was marked by substantial foreign policy experience, although they emphasized that the calendars only show her public events and do not reflect the wide sphere of influence she had with her husband and others.

Here is my problem with Clinton's aides assertions. The American primary and presidential race are basically the longest, most arduous, and intense job interview in existence. If one accepts her aides' "experience by osmosis" line of thinking then every first lady has the needed experience to run the nation. Broaden the spectrum of that train of thought and many spouses of CEO's are qualified to run companies (as would the CEO's administrative assistant). My point is that since Senator Clinton is effectively applying for one of the most important public positions in the world she's going to have to run with the resume she has rather than the resume she wishes she had (ie. one that is documented and quantified.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Some nights babies and blogging don't mix.


I fear you'll be seeing this post at least twice a week until we can get her on a decent schedule.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick Thought on Obama's Speech

I hope to be able to delve into it in depth a little later in the week however it is in my mind the single greatest speech given by an American political leader since Ronald Reagan's speech at Point Du Hoc.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Weird

At my home it is raining mud. Does anyone have a dictionary of omens I can borrow?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Argh

At work we have this rare thing called mandatory overtime. Its in effect today and tomorrow so I'll not be posting till Weds.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Doctor Death Goes to Washington?

This sure as heck beats blogging about a lawyer/governor getting busted for hiring hookers.

Looks like Jack Kevorkian is going to run for congress....

From CNN:


Jack Kevorkian, the assisted suicide advocate currently on parole from prison, is planning a run for Congress, a Detroit newspaper reported Wednesday.

According to the Oakland Press, Kevorkian is planning to mount an independent bid in Michigan's 9th District seat currently occupied by Republican Joe Knollenberg.

"We need some honesty and sincerity instead of corrupt government in Washington," Kevorkian told the paper. He also said his plans are in the "formative stage" and he would make a formal announcement next week.
...
The one-time pathologist needs to gather 3,000 signatures in order to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate.

It may be a publicity stunt. But I'll see if I can't drum up an email interview with the good Doctor once his campaign launches and get the low down.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ferraro's Flub

Just in case you missed it....

From the LA Times:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she said for an article aptly headlined "Geraldine Ferraro lets her emotions do the talking."

She went on: "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

It turns out she said something similar about Jesse Jackson during his run for president. But the funny thing is that she is right on the first part. A white male wouldn't have had to overcome certain biases to get to where Obama is. So I can see where that adds to Obama's allure. But she is dead wrong on the second part. If Obama were a woman all he/she would have to have done to achieve his position is marry someone who eventually became president. (Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the status quo inside the beltway I'll admit.)

However I for one would be curious as to whether or not she has similar opinions on Clarence Thomas and Colin Powell to boot.

Poor Poor Pluto


After being stripped of its planet status it has now officially been named asteroid number 134340. Will the indignities ever cease?




"I'm not a number! I'm a real planet!"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Things I Have Learned

The Irish whiskey thats available in America tastes like crap, even a week before St. Patty's day.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

This Blog is Now Rated ...


E for Excellent. Thanks to Carrie at Carrie's Nation who was awarded it by Archcrone Awww shucks Carrie. Thank you.


I'm now supposed to pick ten blogs to bestow this award to.




1: The woefully unappreciated Divided We Stand

2: Done With Mirrors

3: Sideways Mencken

4: Thought Theatre

5: Buck Naked Politics

6: Independent Liberal

7: The Glittering Eye

8: Foreign Policy Watch

9: Polimom Says

10: Donklephant

Don't forget to pass it on.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I Was Wrong, Huckabee Bows Out, and Clinton Wins

Ok, first I have to admit that I was wrong. I called Texas for Obama for a small margin and instead Clinton pulled it off by a small margin. But its not my fault. Rush Limbaugh conspired against me.

Meanwhile Huckabee bowed out giving McCain the official green light.

Clinton won in Rhode Island, Ohio, Texas, and placed second in Vermont. The problem with that? She only gained eighteen delegates and Obama is looking to cut into that when the Texas caucuses finally report the numbers.

For those of you already suffering from primary fatigue there's good news! Only ten states left!
Next up, Wyoming! (I probably won't be blogging that one.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Record Turnout in Texas Curtails Caucusing

At least in my district...

I went to go participate in the Texas Democratic caucuses today which in my precinct was being held at a middle school half a mile away from my home. I left work half an hour early to be sure I got there in a timely manner. Upon arrival at the school first thing I noticed was that the parking lot and surrounding streets were packed with cars. I noticed a few stray Huckabee supporters that strongly resembled some extras from the movie Deliverance holding signs at the correct mandated distance from the polling place. I parallel parked on a side street (took two tries to get it right) and entered the school.


There were three precincts voting/caucusing there and I guesstimated that there was around 150 people there for the caucuses. I then checked the line for voters and it was then I realized we were going to hit a snafu. At 15 minutes before the caucus was to begin the number of primary voters exceeded the number of caucus goers. There were three people processing voters and four voting machines. Looks like the caucuses were going to be delayed a bit. It was announced 15 minutes later that there were over 100 people in line and that the caucus would start about an hour late. And then a bad thing happened...

20% of the caucus goers got up and left.

And over the course of the next hour more seemed to just vanish. Until eventually the number of people attending the caucuses dropped by roughly a third. Largely I attribute that to the fact that the guy explaining the caucus procedure made it abundantly clear the actual caucus itself would be a major investment of time in and of itself. First each precinct would vote for their candidates then we'd divide into two groups and elect a secretary. Then we'd vote on precinct delegates to send to the senate convention then from those we'd vote on a chairman and then we'd vote on an equal number of alternates and then the floor would open for debate on resolutions proposed by the state Democratic party which would each be voted on individually.

I continued to stick it out. I checked in on the twelve Republicans that has shown up to caucus. One white early twenty something couple and ten white haired Caucasian males sat in the library not talking to each other. I wish I had had a camera as it was that sad. I pondered the meaning of it. Finally after an hour and a half I checked the line of voters and it was down to around thirty people. So I did the math and then I too left.

I did so for several reasons. I hadn't had dinner, I would have had maybe thirty minutes to spend with my family before they went to bed, and because I was in the military and I know a cluster$*ck when I see one. But what really set the stage for my exit was when someone complained to the guy in charge (who is also in charge of the Senate/district convention) said,"Well this is what happens when you people don't participate for years and then all show up at once." Not exactly representative democracy's finest moment. I'm glad I went. I learned a few things. But I'm also glad I left. I have no use for a state party that resents the sudden participation of its followers.

Sometimes its good to be an independent.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Showdown at the OH Corral

You might be wondering what The Buckeye state and the wild west have to do with each other. To anybody but Hillary Clinton the answer would be"Not much." Unfortunately for Senator Clinton her hopes of being the Democratic nominee for president are riding on both Texas and Ohio and the picture isn't exactly pretty. The Texas polls have her and Obama in statistical dead heat:

Rasmussen:
Clinton 47%
Obama 48%

Zogby:
Clinton 44%
Obama 47%

Other polls report similarly close results.

However in Ohio Clinton seems to have a lead that is above the margin of error in some polls.

Rasmussen:
Clinton 50%
Obama 44%

Zogby:
Clinton 45%
Obama 47%

Additionally if you do a little light statistical analysis of the trends of all polls Obama is on an upward trend in Texas while Hillary's and Obama's support remains constant in Ohio with Clinton having the lead. The problem for Clinton is that, depending on who you listen to, she needs at least a ten to fifteen percent victory over Obama in each state in order to stay competitive. That isn't going to happen. According to Rassmussen only six percent remain undecided in Ohio and four percent stated they might change their mind with only 5% being undecided in Texas and six percent stating they might change their mind in Texas. So even if you give seventy percent of those to Clinton based on the average of all polls on both states that doesn't give her a ten percent victory.

So far the polls back up my original prediction that Obama wins the Texas primary (and the Texas caucuses) and Clinton wins Ohio but both by a narrow margin. Its an ugly scenario for Clinton as she's either forced to bow out to preserve her chances of winning another day or fight to the bitter end. Given the fact that she is, if nothing else, a political survivor I'm betting that she bows out in order to preserve enough goodwill to successfully run in 2012 or 2016. Afterall there is also a pattern of last election season's runner up becoming the nominee the following season. One thing is for certain though and thats that tomorrow will be the highlight in one of the most interesting primary seasons in decades.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Obama to Appoint a Bipartisan Cabinet?

According to one source he seriously considering it. Much to the chagrin of some.

From the Times Online:

Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee.

Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary. Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a “stretch”.

Asked about his choice of cabinet last week, Obama told The Sunday Times: “Chuck Hagel is a great friend of mine and I respect him very much,” although he was wary of appearing as though he was already choosing the White House curtains. But after winning 11 primary contests in a row after Super Tuesday, he is ready to elbow Clinton off the stage.

If this proves to be true it'll be a bold indicator of Obama's level of sincerity in regards to change. Its also a smart move on his part to garner more support from moderates. Hagel is pretty well respected by many moderates and independents and such a move could swing some of them his way. Its also a move that Clinton wouldn't try to co-opt and one that McCain can't afford to co-opt given the GOP bases distrust of him. Although, as a counter move, he could in theory tap Michael Bloomberg for a cabinet position without arousing too much ire provided Obama hasn't already done so. (I mention this because there currently is scuttlebutt going around of a potential Obama/Bloomberg ticket.)

I'm a firm believer that America's needs have transcended partisanship's usefulness. By that I mean that country would be better off if every administration appointed the the most qualified person for the job that they could find regardless of political party affiliations. If we are going to stay competitive as a nation in the face of ever increasing globalization we should have the best people possible shaping out policies. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, sticks to what he said today, and his administration proves to be a success it will be a first step in the right direction in my opinion. Only time will tell.