Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Sad...A Shiite militia that has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of five Britons in Iraq more than a year ago said one of the hostages committed suicide, a British newspaper reported. The Sunday Times of London published what it said was a statement in a video it obtained from the group through an intermediary in Iraq. The video, available on the Times Web site late Saturday night, shows an Arabic-language statement claiming that one of the hostages - identified only a Jason - killed himself on May 25. A photograph, apparently of Jason, is affixed to the top left corner of the statement. The newspaper said the statement blamed the British government for ignoring statements that the kidnappers and the captives have made. In the past, the militia has demanded that that all British forces be withdrawn from Iraq and that Iraqis held by U.S.-led forces be freed.

Awful...One of the nation's largest mobile cranes collapsed at a Houston oil refinery Friday, killing four workers and injuring seven others in the latest of several fatal accidents that have raised concerns about the safety of construction cranes. The 30-story-tall crane, capable of lifting 1 million pounds, fell over at a LyondellBasell refinery in southeast Houston about 2 p.m., said Jim Roecker, the company's vice president for refining. The massive, deep red crane lay on top of a smaller, bright yellow crane on the grounds of the refinery. Ambulances and fire trucks were lined up outside. The casualties were in the area of the crane, but officials still aren't certain whether they were on the crane or under it, Roecker said.

Really? Gov. Martin O'Malley said Friday that state police are obligated to investigate threats to public safety, but his administration will not use public resources to monitor anti-war and anti-death penalty groups. Sen. Ben Cardin, meanwhile, called for a "full accounting" of federal, state and local surveillance following the release of state police documents showing undercover officers infiltrated meetings of peace and anti-capital punishment groups for more than a year, spending nearly 300 hours on surveillance. "Our nation cannot allow police activity that is intended to discourage dissent by Americans who may disagree with certain government policies," said Cardin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The governor noted state police are obligated to investigate threats to public safety, "but where there is no evidence of a potential public threat, illegal activity or criminal wrongdoing, all investigatory or intelligence gathering activities shall cease."

Bullshit...The presidential election has an oddly placid feel to it. Four years ago, the notion that George W. Bush would get another four years in office, actually ratified by a plurality of the voters, was more than any liberal could bear, and, after the election, there was loose talk everywhere about "Jesusland" and wanting to flee to Canada. This time, even though Democrats are extremely enthusiastic about Barack Obama, that life-and-death quality is absent. I think the reason is that a lot of liberals kind of like John McCain. I know I do. Eight years ago, I was a hard-core liberal McCainiac. Here was a Republican saying things no other Republican would say and fighting, Teddy Roosevelt-style, to wrest his party from the hands of the plutocrats who controlled it. And, in the years immediately following that run, McCain established himself as perhaps the country's foremost progressive champion. He was an opponent, on moral and fiscal grounds, of tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the rich. He was also a fierce opponent of the extreme elements of the religious right. He was a proponent of global-warming legislation, the Law of the Sea Treaty, a moderate immigration bill, expanded public financing of elections, a tobacco tax, and many other liberal reforms. Today, he is none of these things. McCain is almost never asked about his scandalous past. On those rare occasions when he is, he either dissembles (claiming to have opposed tax cuts on the grounds that there were no concurrent spending cuts) or interrupts the questioning with an angry outburst (in response to queries about his reportedly extended discussions about joining John Kerry's 2004 ticket). Today, McCain not only claims not to have altered his views for political convenience, he has preposterously made his alleged refusal to do so the central theme of his campaign. And now, a moment of sober reflection--Jonathan Chait needs to shut the fuck up and turn in his pundit credentials. He has jumped the shark and screwed the pooch--he is a grade A idiot of the highest order. Begone, foul moron!

John Cole delivers some serious smackdown: Our Continuing National Disgrace ...Is our media. Today’s evidence is this Michael Gerson op-ed, in which he opens with a story about the endangered polar bears, threatened by climate change, and informs us that their worst enemy is… environmental activists: Once, the main threat to these creatures came from hunters who lived in lonely shacks and set traps along the ocean shore. Now a threat comes from an unexpected source: elements of the environmental movement, whose political blindness and ideological baggage may undermine efforts to reduce the role of carbon in the global economy.*** Some Republicans and conservatives are prone to an ideologically motivated skepticism. On AM talk radio, where scientific standards are not particularly high, the attitude seems to be: “If Al Gore is upset about carbon, we must need more of it.” Gore’s partisan, conspiratorial anger is annoying, yet not particularly relevant to the science of this issue. This points, however, to a broader problem. Any legislation ambitious enough to cut carbon emissions significantly and encourage new energy technologies will require a broad political and social consensus. Nothing this complex and expensive gets done on a party-line vote. Yet many environmental leaders seem unpracticed at coalition-building. They tend to be conventionally, if not radically, liberal. They sometimes express a deep distrust for capitalism and hostility to the extractive industries. Their political strategy consists mainly of the election of Democrats. Most Republican environmental efforts are quickly pronounced “too little, too late.” Got it? Environmental activists are to blame for not working enough with the people who oppose them, denounce them, mock them, work openly to sabotage their efforts, and have created a cottage industry creating and spreading pseudo-scientific babble. What twisted bastard at the Washington Post reviews these op-eds and thinks they are worth printing?

Feel like wearing a T-shirt? Sure, it's summer, and we all do.

The next time you see someone wearing this shirt, oblige them. Chances are the fat fucking wingnut wearing it will arrive at what we like to call a "teaching moment."

Exactly what we don't need, volume 3,878: The Seattle-based company Experience Hendrix, which controls the rock icon's musical legacy, is providing Hendrix's music and likeness for the latest "Guitar Hero" video game, said Aaron Grant, a spokesman for publisher and developer Activision and Red Octane. It's the first time Hendrix's likeness will be showcased in the game. An avatar of Hendrix as well as the song "The Wind Cries Mary" and a live version of "Purple Haze," which was recorded in 1969 at the San Diego Sports Arena, will be included on "Guitar Hero World Tour." The fourth edition of the popular game franchise is scheduled for release October 27. I don't think Hendrix translates to Guitar Hero, but oh well. If it gets the kids to actually listen to the recordings, they'll find that it wasn't all power chords--it was just a tad bit more substantive than that.

Check out Laura Rozen's take on the talks with Iran: Even as some Washington observers were still marveling at the Bush administration’s decision to send a diplomatic envoy to international nuclear talks with Iran to be held in Geneva this weekend, some analysts and close administration associates cautioned that the Bush administration really had not changed its underlying demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment before agreeing to sustained negotiations, and that the new diplomatic approach could be stillborn. "If [Tehran agreeing to] zero enrichment is the expressed [US] objective, then this could be dead on arrival," said Trita Parsi, president of the pro-engagement National Iranian American Council. "If [the US] is more flexible, and will consider something along [former US diplomat Thomas] Pickering’s plan," for an internationally supervised nuclear enrichment facility in Tehran, then the talks might have some momentum, he said.

And check out this--it's an interesting take on the subject of counterinsurgency: The Europeans don't like the term counterinsurgency. For the French, it is associated with torture in Algeria. For others, it is a question of definition. Any effort against an insurgency is inherently a counter-insurgency, so does the term denote any effort against an insurgency (as it would seem on its face) or is it a set of principles and a way of doing business as US doctrine seems to suggest. They therefore utilize the term "Comprehensive Approach" to denote the set of practices across the political, military, economic, social, and information spheres required to defeat an entrenched insurgent enemy. Recently, some Pakistani forces in Mohmand tribal district have began to implement such a comprehensive approach, probably developing a set of best practices that are worth serious study. A intra-tribal dispute among the Safi tribe (who cross into Kunar near where the large attack on American forces took place earlier this week) had led to under-development and violence in the region as elements of the Masaud and Gurbaz sub-tribes were fighting over the ability to export valuable Pakistani marble from the district into Pakistan. The government couldn't reach into the area, and lawlessness was rampant.

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