November 29, 2010

We're No Better Than The Terrorists Or Something: Iranian Nuke Scientist Killed In Sneak Bomb Attack
— Ace

Seems like some kind of sticky bomb -- men on motorcycles drove by and slapped the bombs on the scientists' car windows. In two separate attacks, one nuke scientist was killed, another seriously injured.

Iranians were quick to deny Americans any credit, pinning it on Israel.

I sure would like to think my government was capable of stuff like this. Or had the balls to do it. But I don't.

Posted by: Ace at 10:15 AM | Comments (85)
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Interesting Bit From WikiLeaks Dump: Bombing Iran Isn’t Just Some Neo-Con Wet Dream
— DrewM

Liberals love to talk about how nutty neo-cons only want to bomb Iran to save their masters in Israel or something. Well, that little talking point took a big hit yesterday, unless the King of Saudi Arabia is really Jewish or something.

There was little surprising in Mr. Barak’s implicit threat that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. As a pressure tactic, Israeli officials have been setting such deadlines, and extending them, for years. But six months later it was an Arab leader, the king of Bahrain, who provides the base for the American Fifth Fleet, telling the Americans that the Iranian nuclear program “must be stopped,” according to another cable. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” he said.

His plea was shared by many of America’s Arab allies, including the powerful King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who according to another cable repeatedly implored Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.

The fact that Gulf state Arabs aren’t thrilled with the idea of the Persians in Iran having nukes and want to see their ambitions checked isn’t new to anyone who has paid the least bit of attention to this stuff for going on 10 years now. Of course, that eliminates most rank and file Democrats and every leftist who thinks the US is simply trying to gin up a war with Iran for fun and Halliburton profits.

If you’re looking for some of the highlights of the WikiLeaks dump, scroll around this Twitter feed, there’s information both news worthy and gossipy.

Overall, it seem this is something that will be forgotten quickly for the most part. There doesn’t seem to be much that’s shocking or we didn’t know (or at least strongly suspect). Yes, some of the personal characterizations are embarrassing but it’s not like every government (or hell any group of people) don’t talk more candidly in private than they do in public. People will get over it.

The real damage is that future sources of information may be reluctant to come forward in the future for fear of becoming an inadvertent star in some future mass leak. In a lot of places in the world that will lead to far worse things than some embarrassment.

Along those lines Congressman Peter King (R-NY) and currently the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, is urging Attorney General Holder to charge Assange with a crime and for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to designate WikiLeaks as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

From the letter to Clinton…

We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us.

The WikiLeaks releases provide valuable information and insights to FTOs throughout the world on U.S. military and diplomatic sources and methods and allow our enemies to better prepare for future U.S. and allied military, intelligence, and law enforcement operations targeting them. In addition, the leaks allow nation-states such as Russia, China, and Iran access to information regarding how the United States collects, analyzes, and produces intelligence products.

WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. I strongly urge you to work within the Administration to use every offensive capability of the U.S. government to prevent further damaging releases by WikiLeaks.

Maybe I’m just a cynic but I doubt this administration is going to do anything of the sort. In fairness, the Bush administration didn’t come down on officials who leaked information to the NY Times, the Washington Post or other outlets either. Funny how they get a pass but your average airline passenger gets a virtual strip search or groped for having the temerity to want to go home for Thanksgiving.

(Thanks to Baseballcrank for the King link)

Posted by: DrewM at 09:40 AM | Comments (49)
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Minor Fire Set At Mosque Where Portland Terrorist Worshipped So We're the Real Terrorists Or Something
— Ace

A few points.

Genghis speculates that this fire might actually have been set by a member of the Religion of Peace -- certainly it's possible. That sort of thing happens a lot. Aggrieved minority stages "hate crime" to garner sympathy... and license.

No evidence that that's what happened, but then, no evidence really running in any direction, so I'm not crossing that one out.

Muslims at the mosque, meanwhile, are worried about... terrorism.

"I've prayed for my family and friends, because obviously if someone was deliberate to do this, what's to stop them from coming to our homes and our schools?" said Mohamed Alyagouri, a 31-year-old father of two, who worships at the center. "I'm afraid for my children getting harassed from their teachers, maybe from their friends."

Welcome to the party, pal. I don't like terrorism directed at anyone but I do appreciated pointed irony.

One point that can't be forgotten is that there's a pretty decent chance that his fellow worshippers actually tipped the FBI to his hot talk of terrorism.

A little more irony: Portland is one of those jackass liberal cities that resisted Bush's anti-terrorism efforts to save America or something.

In 2005, leaders in Portland, Oregon, angry at the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror, voted not to allow city law enforcement officers to participate in a key anti-terror initiative, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. On Friday, that task force helped prevent what could have been a horrific terrorist attack in Portland. Now city officials say they might re-think their participation in the task force -- because Barack Obama is in the White House.

...

In the Mohamud case, it appears that Portland's anti-law enforcement stand might actually have influenced Mohamud's decision to undertake an attack in the city. According to the FBI affidavit, the undercover agents asked whether he worried that law enforcement would stop him. "In Portland?" Mohamud replied. "Not really. They don't see it as a place where anything will happen. People say, you know, why, anybody want to do something in Portland, you know, it's on the west coast, it's in Oregon, and Oregon's, like you know, nobody ever thinks about it."

Among the wisest bits of advice for liberals Bush offered was Just because you're not interested in terrorism doesn't mean terrorists aren't interested in you.

Of course, they ignore it. They're so lovey-dovey and hippy-dippy no terrorist would ever consider bombing their precious little hug-huddles.


Posted by: Ace at 07:57 AM | Comments (198)
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Three Million People Have Access To Data Manning Leaked?
— Ace

Captain Ed plucks out this telling detail from a Guardian report:

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".

...

Asked why such sensitive material was posted on a network accessible to thousands of government employees, the state department spokesman told the Guardian: "The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."

This seems crazy, but the government really only has two options: Either be overly restrictive with sensitive information, denying important information out of bureaucratic inertia to people who could use it for good purposes, or be overly free with sensitive information, putting it into the hands of any jackass with a Lada Gaga CD-RW and a grudge.

The obvious answer -- redact everything proper and set up rational and effective protocols about who can see precisely what and for what reasons -- really isn't an answer. All that evaluation of what's too sensitive to be shared takes human intelligence, and an awful lot of it, a lot of people making a lot of decisions which then have to be approved by their supervisors. That regime leads to pretty much everything being classified and not shared, which was the default status of this all before 9/11, because if you're a lower-level bureaucrat tasked with such a routine, repetitive task, the safest move you can make, in terms of your career and CYA-ism, is just to mark everything as Tip-Top Secret.

On top of that, the huge number of people thus required to process all this information and choose the appropriate classification levels and need-to-know protocols becomes the next big security risk, since each of these people could leak their little treasure trove, if they wanted. And they would all be sort of low-level, marginal sort of employees, not professional spymasters, because do you want your top professional spy-guys out collecting and analyzing information or do you want them sitting in a cubicle in a huge room making routine classification decisions?

The only way this can work is if each person who sends a report creates three or four different versions of the same report. The first, the unexpurgated version, only for higher ups; the alternate versions, one scrubbed and one seriously scrubbed. Each person would be responsible then for classifying and redacting his own report, which makes sense, 1, because it's pretty easy to scrub your own report (and takes about five or ten minutes of additional work) and 2, because the person writing the report is in the best position to judge what's truly sensitive and what can be freely disseminated.

The raw versions of the reports wouldn't even be digitally accessible. Only someone specifically asking for the raw version would get it, and only after whoever is entrusted with that version decides the person asking needs the information.

It also makes sense because then you don't have a huge bureaucracy of low-level people making these decisions, but the professionals who collect information making a decision they're uniquely qualified to make.

This probably seems pretty obvious, like duh, so obvious I'm a little worried that a spy-type is going to say in the comments Ace you cloth-eared dunce that's precisely what we do!, but I don't think people are doing that-- because if they were, only the scrubbed version of these reports should have been accessible by Private Manning, by and large (allowing for the occasional slip-up), and obviously that's not the case.

Could it be this easy? Am I missing something?

Oh: And hi again! I've missed you.

Posted by: Ace at 07:13 AM | Comments (153)
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Top Headline Comments 11-29-10
— Gabriel Malor

Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 02:21 AM | Comments (279)
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November 28, 2010

The Walking Dead: Episode 5 "Wildfire"
— Russ from Winterset

OK, pretty eventful episode this week. Let's go right to the "spoilers" more...

Posted by: Russ from Winterset at 08:10 PM | Comments (65)
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Biochemist Raises Questions about Nude-o-Scopes [rdbrewer]
— Open Blogger

Jason Bell, a biochemist working in biophysics.


Chromosome Damage From Radiation

On the significance of the type of radiation used:

The TSA has been stating that the X-rays used in the back scatter machines use 'soft' X-rays, which are defined as radiation between 0.12-12 keV (or kilo electron volts) and are generally stopped, or absorbed, by soft tissue or low density matter. 'Hard' X-rays are between 12-128 keV and are absorbed by dense matter like bone. According to the TSA safety documents, AIT uses an 50 keV source that emits a broad spectra (see adjacent graph from here). Essentially, this means that the X-ray source used in the Rapiscan system is the same as those used for mammograms and some dental X-rays, and uses BOTH 'soft' and 'hard' X-rays. Its very disturbing that the TSA has been misleading on this point. Here is the real catch: the softer the X-ray, the more its absorbed by the body, and the higher the biologically relevant dose! This means, that this radiation is potentially worse than an a higher energy medical chest X-ray.

(Emphasis mine.) He has several concerns about the power of the machines in question:

  • Based on the limited engineering schematics released in the safety documents, the machines could be easily reconfigured to perform through-the-body X-rays, and the hardware has the capability to output high doses of radiation though failure or both authorized and unauthorized reconfiguration of software and hardware.
  • The X-ray beam is being rastered across the body--that is, scanned in lines from side to side, top to bottom, like a TV screen. If the machine fails or gets stuck during a pass, there is a possibility a person's eye, testicle, or hand, for example, could receive a dangerous dose of X-rays.
  • This possibility gives rise to certain questions: What is the failure rate of these machines? What is the failure rate in an operational environment? Who services the machine? What is the decay rate of the filter? What is the decay rate of the shielding material?
  • Also, what is the variability in the power of the X-ray source during the manufacturing process? The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory noted a significant disparity in their test models--which were supposed to be adjusted to exact specifications.

On the widely publicized claim that radiation from the machines amounts to the same exposure one would receive after two to three minutes of flight:

With respect to errors in the safety reports and/or misleading information about them, the statement that one scan is equivalent to 2-3 minutes of your flight is VERY misleading. Most cosmic radiation is composed of high energy particles that passes right through our body, the plane and even most of the earth itself without being absorbed or even detected. The spectrum that is dangerous is known as ionizing radiation and most of that is absorbed by the hull of the airplane. So relating non-absorbing cosmic radiation to tissue absorbing man-made radiation is simply misleading and wrong.

Much more at the link, including questions raised by scientists about the lack of testing and safety data provided by the government and/or the manufacturers and the lack of independent testing and data. He also points out how stingy the release of information has been, with many things redacted in the material that has been made available. Why?

Link via BoingBoing.

Posted by: Open Blogger at 07:01 PM | Comments (110)
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Leslie Nielsen, Dead at 84 [rdbrewer]
— Open Blogger

He was suffering from pneumonia.

His nephew Doug Nielson, told CJOB that Leslie had been in the hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for 12 days and that with family and friends by his side at 5:30pm Sunday “he just fell asleep and passed away.”

What a great guy. I've heard several people say that he was a great guy in person as well, very nice. His work in later years in the comedies was so fantastic that it nearly overshadowed his prior excellent work as a dramatic actor. I think I laughed more and harder watching his movies than any others. He will be missed.

Posted by: Open Blogger at 04:59 PM | Comments (94)
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Overnight Open Thread - A Return to Sanity
— Maetenloch

Welcome all to the post-Thanksgiving shame spiral. Don't worry - the fumigators are coming tomorrow morning to get rid of all the bedbugs and clear out the openblogger uh, scent aroma.

Welcome To The United States Of Obesity

Mississippi is still the fattest state in the country. And after stuffing ourselves over the recent holiday food binge I doubt the current standings have changed much.

Interesting that Colorado and Utah are the thinnest states. I would suspect that maybe elevation had something to do with it but then how do you explain New Mexico and Wyoming? Maybe it's just cooking styles and activity levels.

the-united-states-of-obesity-3670-1289507664-13.jpg
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Posted by: Maetenloch at 04:45 PM | Comments (529)
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No Olbermann News Here - Move Along Now [Journolist]
— Open Blogger

Well now isn’t this interesting . . . we have been informed that since returning to MSNBC, Keith Olbermann has become cogent and relevant. Well, actually that’s not what we were told but if that really happened CSPAN would probably be covering such an epic moment of MSNBC sanity. What we were really told by our East Coaster informant is that Mr. Olbermann has been hissing and spitting and is on his game.

Keith Olbermann being, “on his game” - what in the name of novus seclorum does that exactly mean? Before I answer that, let me proceed with the following question: Did I just say novus seclorum, really? Wow, that’s odd because injecting Latin for no other reason than to inject it is kinda weird. Weird it is but weird is entirely germane when discussing MSNBC and actually, required when discussing Mr. Olbermann.

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Posted by: Open Blogger at 02:55 PM | Comments (148)
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In the Arms of the Angels-XBradTC
— Open Blogger

When an American soldier is badly wounded or injured in Afghanistan or Iraq, our nation will move heaven and earth to ensure they receive the best treatment possible. An entire infrastructure has been built to give that wounded soldier every advantage in the fight for his life.

The Washington Post has a moving in-depth article showing what the journey from battlefield to definitive hospital is like, and shows the men and women who dedicate themselves to providing care and comfort to our Wounded Warriors.

Found at the indispensible War News Updates.

Crossposted at my place.

Posted by: Open Blogger at 02:02 PM | Comments (21)
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Spanish Woman Declares Self Apollo (Ben)
— Open Blogger

A lovely Spanish women by the name of Angeles Duran is now the registered owner of the Sun.

It seems this woman has found a loophole:

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added.

"There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first."

Not stupid indeed. Before you congratulate her new aquisition you really should read the fine print.

Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation's pension fund.

She would dedicate another 10 percent to research, another 10 percent to ending world hunger -- and would keep the remaining 10 percent herself.

10%? Not too bad given todays economy. Hey, a crazy woman's gotta eat, right?

Posted by: Open Blogger at 01:52 PM | Comments (86)
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WikiLeaks: The State Department Files
— DrewM

The SOBs at WikiLeaks are back and along with their willing accomplices in the media they are revealing internal State Department communications. So far most of the stuff seems likely to cause some mild embarrassment and discomfort.

A few highlights.

Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul. She told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would “help salve” China’s “concerns about living with a reunified Korea” that is in a “benign alliance” with the United States.

Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in a group of detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

...

As he left Zimbabwe in 2007 after three years as ambassador, Christopher W. Dell wrote a sardonic account of Robert Mugabe, that country’s aging and erratic leader. The cable called Mr. Mugabe “a brilliant tactician” but mocked “his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics).”

Hopefully Obama will read that last report, he might learn something.

It'll take awhile to parse all of this out as various WikiLeaks media 'partners' (in crime), roll out their stories.

Der Spiegel has a preview of their planned stories, including the revelation that the US was apparently getting some inside information as Germany built their coalition government and some unflattering assessments of the new German Foreign Minister.

Mostly they seem really surprised that the US isn't thrilled with Turkey's lurch towards Islamic fundamentalism.

Mostly it seems this is a story about they hyper-empowerment of individuals and small groups in the modern world. How in the world does an Army PFC get access to this material. Why can't the US government shut down a cartoonish 'international man of mystery' like Julian Assange?

It seems the most likely danger is that individuals will be afraid to share information with US officials out of fear that they will show up in the next batch of WikiLeaks. In some parts of the world that will get you dead right quick. Of course Assange doesn't care about that.

Personally, I think it would be kind of fun if Assange could get a hold of some European or Asian government files and see what they think about Obama and Madame Clinton.

Added:
Via Andy Levy....Blake Hounshell, the Managing Editor of Foreign Policy magazine is "live tweeting" as he reads through the cables. He's already found some interesting nuggets.

Posted by: DrewM at 09:41 AM | Comments (311)
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"Laser-Like Focus" = College-Style Bull Session
— Geoff

Many have complained that the President's prioritization of jobs as his #1 concern still didn't manage to bump it ahead of health care, energy, the environment, immigration, and stumping for his party's candidates. But occasionally, probably on a day when the weather's too sucky for golfing, the President actually sits down for a substantive discussion about the economy. So what happens when you bring Obama's "laser-like focus" together with his team of theoreticians?

Not very much.

The day before his party's shellacking in this month's elections, President Obama sat down with his economic team to examine the single most important issue for voters across the country: jobs.

But the question on the agenda was not how to accelerate the recovery or target job creation to the depressed Rust Belt. It wasn't even the challenge of how to persuade corporations to spend their cash piles on investments and jobs — although both have been extensively debated for many months. The president had called the meeting to grapple with what he and his propeller-head economists have been debating for some time: the wonkish question of whether today's high unemployment rate is structural or cyclical.

Yes, folks, when Obama tells you that he's going to bring his mighty intellect to bear on jobs, this is what he means. He's going to hang out with his Ivory Tower pals and have a BS session on economic matters arcane.

ObamaEconTeamSmall.gif

This speaks to his unfocused leadership, amateurish recruiting (I know!! I'll get real smart people from universities & government!!), unfamiliarity with business, and lack of sensitivity to the imperative and profound employment needs of the American people.

Get your act together, Mr. President. Do it now.

Posted by: Geoff at 08:33 AM | Comments (84)
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Sunday NFL Football Thread [CDR M]
— Open Blogger

Well sportsfans, it's another Sunday and that means more football. Hope you all remembered to put in your choices in the Moron Pick 'Em Leagues.

Some good matchups today and frankly, some snoozer's but hey, what else are gonna to do today? Put up some lights? Go shopping?

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Posted by: Open Blogger at 06:00 AM | Comments (257)
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Sunday Book Thread
— Monty

I'm not sure if it was my fondness for bluegrass music that led me to trains (all the train songs, you see), or my fondness for trains that led me to bluegrass (ditto). I especially loved the old cowboy-era coal-burners; in my hometown, the historical society had placed an old locomotive in the city park where kids could climb on it and tourists could get their picture taken in front of it. I loved that train -- I would sit up on the cab and imagine I was driving a mile-long line of freight and passenger cars along the prairie.

So it's probably not surprising that I was drawn to a book by Stephen Ambrose called Nothing Like It In The World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. That was an era of almost limitless optimism and drive in America, and the book really brings that out. (Unlike now, when it takes us a decade, a leaning tower of permits and plans, and hundreds of millions of dollars to build a mile of highway.) In many ways, the intercontinental railroad was the Manhattan Project or Apollo moon program of the day, and it was accomplished by private industry -- all those evil, profit-seeking "robber barons" you may have heard of.

It's good to have somebackground on what America was all about during that time, which is why What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 is a good companion volume. The Civil War era is a well-trodden piece of ground, but it was really our formative years between the War of 1812 and the Mexican War that built the essential American character (both good and bad).

What are y'all reading this week?
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Posted by: Monty at 04:16 AM | Comments (155)
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Top Headline Comments 11-28-10 (Ben)
— Open Blogger

Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing. Well I say, hard cheese!

Posted by: Open Blogger at 02:34 AM | Comments (83)
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November 27, 2010

CAC's Late Night Art Thread: Furry Spoons and Moron Art
— CAC

A moron in the last art thread asked if and when I will bring up Dada. So to open tonight's thread, Brian Eno and David Byrne give us (part of) a Hugo Ball poem, Gadji beri bimba, with I Zimbra:

On the subject of early 20th century art, tonight's Super Serious work from the world of art is an oldie courtesy of the lovely Meret Oppenheim:

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Posted by: CAC at 06:37 PM | Comments (43)
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Overnight Open Thread-Substitute Teacher Edition [CDR M]
— Open Blogger

Well Moron Nation, I spent half a day in blogger retirement and I got the emergency call to fill in for Genghis. I promised to keep it on the down low but it would seem Maet is in Mexico trying spring Genghis from a Tijuana jail. He wouldn't tell me what he's in jail for but I'm sure we can have fun speculating!

Well let's get this Caturday started. How about a little musical ditty?

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Posted by: Open Blogger at 04:36 PM | Comments (353)
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OMG! Like, EVERYBODY'S Going to See Barack's Burn Book! [stuiec]
— Open Blogger

The Obama Administration may finally be moved to act decisively against Julian Assange: WikiLeaks is moving beyond the mere jeopardizing of American troops and allied foreign nationals, and is about to reveal to the world what Obama really thinks of them.

With some 2.7 million communications from the US State Department about to be published online, Mr Obama is bracing himself for revelations that would not only be embarrassing but could also seriously damage his foreign policy.

Thousands of these documents are believed to be diplomatic cables from Washington to the US Embassy in London, including brutal assessments of Gordon Brown's personality and cold-eyed judgements of David Cameron's capabilities.

The ramifications for Mr Obama could be enormous. With his popularity flagging at home, one of his remaining political strengths has been his high standing abroad - assiduously cultivated in a series of speeches in which he apologised for past US actions and promised a kinder, gentler America.

This could really ruin Barack's reputation. Assange and all the other mean girls at WikLeaks can be soooo cruel.

(But as bad as it will be for American foreign policy to have these diplomatic messages on display to the world, it will be fascinating to see whether Obama is as obsequious in private to all the world leaders he's bowed to in public.)

Posted by: Open Blogger at 03:39 PM | Comments (128)
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