Daily Archive: 12/20/2010

Dec 20 2010

Karl Rove Behind Push To Prosecute Julian Assange?

Roger Shuler is a former journalist who, according to his bio at OpEdNews lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and works in ‘higher education’.

Shuler goes on in his bio there to say that “I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are all Republicans, and the attorney who filed a fraudulent lawsuit against me has strong family ties to the Alabama Republican Party, with indirect connections to national figures such as Karl Rove. In fact, a number of Republican operatives who have played a central role in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (a Democrat) also have connections to my case”. Shuler is also author of his blog Legal Schnauzer, where he asked on December 14 Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange?

Today over at RawStory, David Edwards writes that “Former Bush political strategist Karl Rove may be connected to a Swedish effort to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, sources for several legal experts suggest” and that “Rove is a longtime adviser to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who recently tapped the Republican operative to aid his 2010 reelection campaign”:

Speaking to Legal Schnauzer’s [Roger] Shuler, an unnamed source suggested that Rove is likely “playing a leading role in the effort to prosecute” Assange. The founder of the secrets website was arrested Dec. 7 in London after Sweden issued a warrant for alleged sex crimes

After Assange’s release on bail, Guardian obtained and published leaked details of the allegations against him. A WikiLeaks source told The Australian that the leaked police reports were “a selective smear through the disclosure of material.”

And there’s no coincidence that the charges against Assange originate in Sweden, Shuler’s source said.

For at least 10 years, Rove has been connected to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik. More recently, Fredrik, who is known as “the Ronald Reagan of Europe,” has contracted Rove to help with his 2010 re-election campaign.

Dec 20 2010

The Authoritarian American State

What will American’s object to, if not this?

Glenn Greenwald:

One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian government is its fixation on hiding everything it does behind a wall of secrecy while simultaneously monitoring, invading and collecting files on everything its citizenry does.  Based on the Francis Bacon aphorism that “knowledge is power,” this is the extreme imbalance that renders the ruling class omnipotent and citizens powerless. . . . . .

Of all the surveillance state abuses, one of the most egregious has to be the warrantless, oversight-less seizure of the laptops and other electronic equipment of American citizens at the border, whereby they not only store the contents of those devices but sometimes keep the seized items indefinitely.   That practice is becoming increasingly common, aimed at people who have done nothing more than dissent from government policy; I intend to have more on that soon.  If American citizens don’t object to the permanent seizure and copying of their laptops and cellphones without any warrants or judicial oversight, what would they ever object to?

Top Secret America: Monitoring America

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.

Other democracies – Britain and Israel, to name two – are well acquainted with such domestic security measures. But for the United States, the sum of these new activities represents a new level of governmental scrutiny.

This localized intelligence apparatus is part of a larger Top Secret America created since the attacks. In July, The Washington Post described an alternative geography of the United States, one that has grown so large, unwieldy and secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or how many programs exist within it.

Perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control

1984 is here.

Dec 20 2010

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Laurence Lewis, aka Turkana: The Political Fights the President Chooses

When a president tells Congressional members of his own party that his presidency depends on a bill’s passage, said president is holding back nothing. He is laying himself bare. That President Obama reportedly did so for the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the first-ever reduction in Social Security funding, and but a year’s worth of unemployment benefits, reveals his political desperation. It also puts the lie to the claim often made by some of the president’s most ardent defenders that he is at the mercy of a broken Congress, that a president can’t or shouldn’t interpose in the process of legislating. A president can and should, and every president has. And this president does. As he just did. Now, for this bill.

This bill is not the saviour of the Obama presidency. It could be the beginning of its end. From the day of the inauguration, if any single bill was going to have the greatest impact on the success or failure of the Obama presidency, it was going to come early and it was going to be on the economy. Not this bill. The stimulus bill. The president’s first opportunity to do something about the disaster he inherited from Bush and Reagan and Milton Friedman. That was when he should have used every means at his disposal to enact what would come to define his first, and possibly only, term in office. He was enormously popular. His predecessor was enormously unpopular. People were scared. They knew something fundamental was broken. They were ready for transformational change. They believed in change. They had the audacity of hope.

Nouriel Roubini: How To Save Europe

How the Continent’s stronger economies can rescue its weaker ones.

After the Greek and Irish crises and the spread of financial contagion to Portugal, Spain, and possibly even Italy, the eurozone is now in a serious crisis. There are three possible scenarios: muddle through, based on the current approach of “lend and pray”; breakup, with disorderly debt restructurings and possible exit of weaker members; and greater integration, implying some form of fiscal union.

The muddle-through scenario-with financing provided to member states in distress (conditional on fiscal adjustment and structural reforms), in the hope that they are illiquid but solvent-is an unstable disequilibrium. Indeed, it could lead to the disorderly breakup scenario if institutional reforms and other policies leading to closer integration and restoration of growth in the eurozone’s periphery are not implemented soon.

Sen. Al Franken: The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time

This Tuesday is an important day in the fight to save the Internet.

As a source of innovation, an engine of our economy, and a forum for our political discourse, the Internet can only work if it’s a truly level playing field. Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations. A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.

This principle is called “net neutrality” — and it’s under attack. Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it.

Dec 20 2010

Just Plain Wrong

Monday Business Edition

As Krugman points out

When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything – yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever.

(T)he fact is that the Obama stimulus – which itself was almost 40 percent tax cuts – was far too cautious to turn the economy around. And that’s not 20-20 hindsight: many economists, myself included, warned from the beginning that the plan was grossly inadequate. Put it this way: A policy under which government employment actually fell, under which government spending on goods and services grew more slowly than during the Bush years, hardly constitutes a test of Keynesian economics.

(E)verything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we’ve been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about recovery, but stayed consistently low by historical standards. For two years we’ve been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation – which excludes volatile food and energy prices – now at a half-century low.

And while it is true that Republicans are trying to write certain false narratives

(T)he modern Republican Party is utterly dedicated to the Reaganite slogan that government is always the problem, never the solution. And, therefore, we should have realized that party loyalists, confronted with facts that don’t fit the slogan, would adjust the facts.

It’s not as if the story of the crisis is particularly obscure. First, there was a widely spread housing bubble, not just in the United States, but in Ireland, Spain, and other countries as well. This bubble was inflated by irresponsible lending, made possible both by bank deregulation and the failure to extend regulation to “shadow banks,” which weren’t covered by traditional regulation but nonetheless engaged in banking activities and created bank-type risks.

Then the bubble burst, with hugely disruptive consequences. It turned out that Wall Street had created a web of interconnection nobody understood, so that the failure of Lehman Brothers, a medium-size investment bank, could threaten to take down the whole world financial system.

It’s a straightforward story, but a story that the Republican members of the commission don’t want told. Literally.

Last week, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, all four Republicans on the commission voted to exclude the following terms from the report: “deregulation,” “shadow banking,” “interconnection,” and, yes, “Wall Street.”

That report is all of nine pages long, with few facts and hardly any numbers. Beyond that, it tells a story that has been widely and repeatedly debunked – without responding at all to the debunkers.

In the world according to the G.O.P. commissioners, it’s all the fault of government do-gooders, who used various levers – especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored loan-guarantee agencies – to promote loans to low-income borrowers. Wall Street – I mean, the private sector – erred only to the extent that it got suckered into going along with this government-created bubble.

Shahien Nasiripour

During a private commission meeting last week, all four Republicans voted in favor of banning the phrases “Wall Street” and “shadow banking” and the words “interconnection” and “deregulation” from the panel’s final report, according to a person familiar with the matter and confirmed by Brooksley E. Born, one of the six commissioners who voted against the proposal.

The shadow banking system refers to the part of the financial system in which investors and other nonbanks like hedge funds and investment firms provide credit to borrowers, as opposed to more traditional banks. Interconnection refers to the links that bind financial institutions to one another, like derivatives, borrowings, and investments.

They’re not the only ones.

Neo-Liberal economics, especially of the Trickle Down Voodoo Variety (call a spade a spade Paul) is a complete, abject failure.

Coming from Republicans or Democrats.

It’s hard for me to fathom how these people can claim Economics is even a “Social” Science when their theories so blatantly violate the first law of Scientific Inquiry- Your Results Shall Be Testable AND Duplicatable.

The Stimulus That Isn’t

By Robert Kuttner, The Huffington Post

Posted: December 19, 2010 07:41 PM

It is astonishing how the Beltway echo-chamber, most egregiously the editorial page and news columns of the Washington Post (hard to tell the difference), thinks this deal is good for the Republic. The Post has become a cheerleader for policies that fail to cure the economy and show off Obama as a weakling waiting to be rolled again.

The tax deal, re-branded as a stimulus program, is paltry and ineffective as economic tonic. What hardly anyone seems to have grasped is that the deal basically continues the status quo with almost no stimulus.

If the tax rates on the books in 2010 did not produce a recovery, why should we expect that the very same rates will change the economy in 2011?

Business News below.

Dec 20 2010

On This Day in History: December 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 20 is the 354th day of the year (355th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 11 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1803, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States.

In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans.

Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration.

The Louisiana Purchase (French: Vente de la Louisiane “Sale of Louisiana”) was the acquisition by the United States of America of 828,800 square miles (2,147,000 km2) of France’s claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S. paid 60 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of debts worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total sum of 15 million dollars for the Louisiana territory ($219 million in today’s currency).

The Louisiana Purchase encompassed all or part of 14 current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River, most of North Dakota, nearly all of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. (The Oklahoma Panhandle and southwestern portions of Kansas and Louisiana were still claimed by Spain at the time of the Purchase.) In addition, the Purchase contained small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, comprises around 23% of current U.S. territory. The population of European immigrants was estimated to be 92,345 as of the 1810 census.

The purchase was a vital moment in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. At the time, it faced domestic opposition as being possibly unconstitutional. Although he felt that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, Jefferson decided to purchase Louisiana because he felt uneasy about France and Spain having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.

Napoleon Bonaparte, upon completion of the agreement, stated, “This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.”

Dec 20 2010

Morning Shinbun Monday December 20

Monday’s Headlines:

Sofia Coppola’s showbiz story that’s intimate, not personal


Assange is a ‘hi-tech terrorist’, says Biden

Obama reaches out to liberal groups to shore up Democratic base after tax deal


Clashes in Belarus after thousands turn out in protest at alleged vote-rigging

White Christmas snow brings Britain to a standstill

Middle East

Secret plan to help Iraqi germ warfare expert

HRW urges US to link aid to Israeli settlements


South Korea to begin exercises near border with North

‘Good neighbours better than distant kin’


The tragedy of Algeria’s ‘disappeared’

If you pay peanuts, you get Zimbabwe’s shell of a health system

Latin America

Panic, anger as Cuba plans to lay off 1 of every 10 workers

S. Korea conducts live-fire exercise despite warnings from North

In possible breakthrough, U.S. troubleshooter says he wins nuclear concessions from Pyongyang

msnbc.com news services  

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea – South Korea fired artillery in a 90-minute drill from a front-line island Monday and launched fighter jets to deter attacks after North Korea warned of catastrophic retaliation for the maneuvers.

But amid the tension there was also a report of a potential diplomatic breakthrough, with U.S. troubleshooter Bill Richardson winning concessions from the North on the return of nuclear inspectors, according to CNN.

There was no sign of any North Korean military response during the drill, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.

Dec 20 2010

Pique the Geek 20101219: The Science behind Christmas Goodies

This is the time of the year that I get creative in the kitchen, and almost all of what I prepare is given away to friends and family.  I had hoped to be ready to ship tomorrow, but I got behind and will have to ship Tuesday.  Perhaps too late for Christmas, but certainly not for the rest of the holiday season.

I vary my menu year to year, but a couple of things are standard.  One is Lizzies, a sort of fruit cookie that is reminiscent of fruit cake, except Lizzies are good.  Another is chocolate fudge, with black walnuts.  Both of these were always around during my childhood, because my mum loved everything about Christmas and was an excellent cook.

Dec 20 2010

Prime Time

The Santa Clause 2 x 2.  I thought broadcast TV was above that cable laziness.  Survivor 2 Hour Season Finale and reunion show.  Pack @ Patsies (you know how to root though I doubt it will do much good).  Family Guy Something, Something, Something Dark Side.

You will never be able to reach your full potential until you first confront your deep-seated fear of success. Now get into the bag.

What’s in it?

Only what you take with you.


Dueling Seths!

Adult Swim’s Seth Green and Fox’s (and also Adult Swim’s) Seth MacFarlane go head to head Star Wars.  At 11:30 the *World Premier* of Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III, guarenteed to be at least 4 times longer than your standard Robot Chicken episode, is followed closely by double size Episode 1 and Episode 2 for TWO FULL HOURS of Robot Chicken Star Wars enjoyment.

AND so you can see how badly Seth Green ripped himself off in addition to Lucas.

Be still my heart.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Dec 20 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 UN warns of death squad killings in Ivory Coast

by Dave Clark, AFP

2 hrs 44 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – The United Nations said Sunday that at least 50 people have been killed in Ivory Coast’s post-election crisis, amid reports of “massive” human rights abuses, and refused to withdraw its peacekeepers.

The UN force’s determination to stay threatens to provoke a showdown with strongman Laurent Gbagbo’s hardline supporters, but leaders of the world body said it would remain and investigate reports of death squad killings.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern about “the growing evidence of massive violations of human rights” in the restive West African country since Thursday.