Archive | July, 2011

I AM ON VACATION

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Who Gave France the Final Say on Qaddafi?

Or the so-called Libyan Contact group (LCG) composed of European countries, the US and Arab kingdoms?  I suppose all this international fretting is the price Libyan dissidents pay for the NATO bombing campaign.  Not to mention the billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets they control.

The Atlantic Wire sums up:

France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said Tuesday that Muammar Qaddafi could could cut a deal to stay in Libya so long as he releases all of his political power, The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger reports. A deal would also have to include an ordered cease-fire in order to release control of the country over to the Libyan Transitional National Council, the official group of the Libyan rebel movement. Juppé discussed the plan with a French TV station:

Poor France.  It keeps trying to act like a world power but hasn’t figured out that America letting France lead is little more than a conglomerate selling off a money-losing enterprise.

The entire Libyan situation cannot end well.  It’s already a fractious society myriad anti-Qaddafi forces that the TNC does not fully control.  Westerners want to control who wins and who loses.  Libya has too much oil to be left on its own.

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Debt Ceiling Poll: Overwhelming Support for Congressional Compromise

debt ceilingThe newest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Americans still reject partisan gridlock and want leaders to compromise to take action on the deficit and debt ceiling.

When Democrats and independents are asked if they want the Democrats in Congress to make compromises to get consensus on the current budget debate, 65% do and 27% want them to stick to their position.  When Republicans and independents together are asked, 53% want compromise, 42% do not.  38% of all respondents believe the debt ceiling should be raised, compared to 31% who don’t and 30% who felt they didn’t know enough to say yes or no.

55% of those polled believe not raising the debt ceiling would be problematic, only 18% did not.

A clear majority, 58-36% support President Obama’s plans to address the budget issue (cuts plus taxes, 10-years) over the Republicans (spending cuts only).

President Obama is rated favorably by 47% while those who think the country is on the wrong track rose to 67%.

One long-time pollster for Democrats, Peter Hart, and one for Republicans, Bill McInturff, conducted the poll.

 

 

 

 

 

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Norman Ornstein on “Worst. Congress. Ever.”

Norman Ornstein, long-time fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Congressional scholar with 40 years of experience, contrasts bi-partisanship in past Congresses (even during Vietnam) with a dysfunctional legislative branch today.  His discussion elaborates the difference between a US-type ‘checks and balances’ system and a Parliamentary system, drawing out the corrosive effect partisan sectarianism has on the US model.  Ornstein writes his bleak assessment in Foreign Policy:

Yes, the 111th Congress, during the first two years of the Obama presidency, produced an impressive spate of major legislative accomplishments, from a stimulus package to a sweeping health-care reform bill to major financial regulatory reform. But all were passed after contentious, drawn-out, partisan battles that left most Americans less than happy with the outcomes. And look what we have now: a long-term debt disaster with viable bipartisan solutions on the table but ignored or cast aside in Congress; an impasse over the usually perfunctory matter of raising the statutory debt limit placing the United States in jeopardy of its first-ever default; sniping and guerrilla warfare over two major policy steps enacted in the last Congress, health-care reform and financial regulation; no serious action or movement on climate change, jobs, or the continuing mortgage crisis; and major trade deals stalled yet again despite bipartisan and presidential support.

The Framers saw deliberation, institutional loyalty, and compromise as the only way to produce sensible and legitimate policy decisions in an extended republic. Many Republicans, especially former office holders, understand this. Many of the party’s current members surely would prefer to solve problems, if the culture and atmosphere — and the primary process that gives inordinate power to both parties’ ideological bases — did not make it so hard to do so. But there is little chance that a suitable climate for compromise and bipartisanship will take hold anytime soon — meaning that we can look forward to more headaches ahead at home and abroad.

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Antrax Investigation Again Doubted

The government’s statements deepen the questions about the case against Ivins, who killed himself before he was charged with a crime. Searches of his car and home in 2007 found no anthrax spores, and the FBI’s eight-year, $100 million investigation never proved he mailed the letters or identified another location where he might have secretly dried the anthrax into an easily inhaled powder. . . . – Glen Greenwald, Salon

As incredible as it sounds, major doubts are surfacing about the FBI’ s case against Bruce Irvin, who committed suicide four years ago rather than be accused of the crime.

This entire case has been bizarre.  First, the Feds were sure that Dr. Stephen Hatfill was responsible for the deaths of five people in 2001.  He was hounded mercilessly for years by FBI agents as well as the media.  The NYT virtually tried and convicted him on its front page.

Then, suddenly, the FBI said it was wrong: the real culprit was Ivins.  Although admitting their case against Ivins was circumstantial, the FBI insisted it was slam-dunk.  Now, however, the Justice Department admits that Dr. Ivins’ laboratory, when seized by the FBI, did not have the equipment necessary to weaponize the anthrax strain he studied professionally.  Scientists who worked with him insist he could not have ‘grown’ the amount of anthrax spores associate with the attack without his colleagues knowing about it.  Other microbiologists are demanding that the FBI investigators release more information on the scientific method that led them to their conclusions.

In excerpts from one of more than a dozen depositions made public in the case last week, the current chief of of the Bacteriology Division at the Army laboratory, Patricia Worsham, said it lacked the facilities in 2001 to make the kind of spores in the letters.

At issue is 1) the FBI’s competency to protect against domestic terrorism; and 2) whether the FBI gave sufficient attention to the possibility of a foreign agent sending the lethal spores through the US Post Office to select Congressional office and media.

Greenwald’s piece provides extensive links to scientific journals, mainstream media and individual scientists who are skeptical of the FBI investigations.

 

 

 

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Deficit: ‘Gang of Six’ Revive Bi-Partisan Plan

President Obama on Tuesday renewed his push for an ambitious deficit-reduction deal, hailing a bipartisan package put forward hours earlier by a group of six senators as a sign of progress and summoning Congressional leaders for a new round of negotiations.  – New York Times

Stay tuned!

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How Could Rupert Murdoch Possibly Not Know?

It defies reason. The blatant continuation of phone-hacking by News Corps reporters for four years after the first culprits were arrested might be overlooked in an Inspector Clouseau satire for The Onion.  But if the Rupert family expects us to believe it did not know something was amiss in the empire, their contempt for the public is even greater than their contempt for the law.

BLOOMBERG UPDATE AT END OF POST

It’s unbelievable that Rebeka Brooks, one of the editors during the hacking years, did not know what her reporters were doing.  As a corporate media executive, she must have had a system in place to vet reporters’ articles and verify their sources.  If she didn’t, she committed a gross violation of journalistic standards or deliberately left oversight loose to accommodate a ‘plausible alibi.?  Where did she think all the hot-off-the-press stories coming from?  How were her reporters getting such sensational material?

And it defies logic that Rupert Murdoch did not follow the ‘scoops’ his flagship newspaper and sentimental favorite, News of the World, uncovered. scoops that drew 2.5 million to its Sunday edition.   Again, one One would expect a CEO to more aggressively monitor their investigative units than any others, especially when reporters from those units had been convicted of wrongdoing in the past.  If News of the World failed to implement new systems to insure integrity within its investigative teams after the original arrests in 2007, that is enough to infer their complicity in what happened afterwards.

The sleaze drips down the cozy relationship between British politicians and News Corporation executives.  Why in the world would the British PM need to meet officials of News Corp. 26 times in 18 months?   Why would the head of Scotland Yard meet News Corp. executives 18 times during his own police investigation of phone-hacking?

This is political pornography. The real shock is that all this went on openly, as if all the players were sure that ‘nobody else’ would find and follow their trail.  Unfortunately, the code of silence worked for years.

The Greeks got it right 2500 years ago.  The great and powerful are brought down by a fatal flaw they don’t see in themselves . Hubris destroyed Oedipus as fast and surly as it did DSK and the lengthening list of executives associated with the Murdoch empire.   Of course, Oedipus took honorable action: he cut out his eyes because they didn’t ‘see.’  Once the tread is caught, it quickly unravels.

Bloomberg: (UPDATE)

Independent directors of New York-based News Corp. have begun questioning the company’s response to the crisis and whether a leadership change is needed, said two people with direct knowledge of the situation who wouldn’t speak publicly. Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief who Murdoch backed until last week, was arrested yesterday in London.

“The shell of invulnerability that Rupert Murdoch had around him has been cracked,” said James Post, a professor at Boston University’s School of Management who has written about governance and business ethics. “His credibility and the company’s credibility are hemorrhaging.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Syrian and Libyan Dissidents Draw More Support

In the wake of Friday’s protests, the largest so far in Syria, opposition expatriates met in Turkey.  They originally intended the Turkey conference to  coincide with a dissident conference within Syria itself.  The Syrian army, however, attacked the Syrian site before the conference even began.  The expatriate conference attracted a spectrum of Syrian opposition, from liberal groups to Muslim fundamentalist.  They elected a National Salvation Council to act as a ‘shadow government’ to the Asad family’s rule.

Meanwhile, 32 nations participated in the Libyan Contact Group conference, also meeting in Istanbul and chaired by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Those nations, including the US, each recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.  This official recognition means billions of dollars of Qaddafi and Libyan funds held in and frozen by other nations could be released to the TNC.

The Free Libyan Forces are making slow but steady progress against Qaddafi troops.

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