Archive for December, 2009

Iranian reformers continue to challenge government’s foundation

The death Sunday of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has recharged opposition protests in Iran. Montazeri was a highly respected religious figure — perhaps the most widely revered imam in the country — who had come to the conclusion that clerics held too much political power in Iran, which he argued compromised the integrity both of Islam and the government.

That argument constitutes a direct assault on the current regime, which claims that only religious figures can hold ultimate civil authority over believers. Montazeri’s support insulated reformers from the charge that they were anti-Islamic, and in death that support seems to have taken on even more power.

Below is video taken from a funeral procession Monday in the holy city of Qum. Iranian officials had tried to prevent and then quell this demonstration. They clearly failed. In fact, the government’s continued inability to silence its critics is an encouraging and eventually perhaps fatal sign of …

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Two long-running wars take a toll on military and their families

More than two dozen officers sat around the conference table and introduced themselves. Most were American, with a smattering of officers from NATO allies; most of the Americans were Army, with a smattering from the Marines and Air Force.

They were all mid-career officers, hand-selected to enroll in a prestigious year-long, strategic-studies program based in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. And as they went around the table, rattling off name, rank and a brief bio, I was struck by the number of deployments each had seen.

“Three tours in Afghanistan, one in Iraq.”

“Two tours in Iraq, two in Afghanistan.”

“Four times in Afghanistan, two in Iraq.”

For the past few years, journalists at the AJC have met annually with officers in the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies for an off-the-record discussion of military-press relations and related topics. When those talks began, most officers had been deployed just two or three times to a war zone.

By now, though, U.S. …

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Ladies and gentlemen, the Conservative of the Year

cheney

Or so says Human Events, in a paean penned by John Bolton:

“Cheney’s unwillingness to be deterred by the media assaults on his character, his judgment and his performance in office are therefore his most impressive force multiplier with the general public. Outside-the-Beltway Americans see him for exactly what he is: a very experienced, very dedicated patriot, giving his fellow citizens his best analysis on how to keep them and their country safe.

Cheney’s quiet, inner-directed motivation is simply impervious to the attacks orchestrated against him by the Chicago machine-style politicians at the White House, a fact also plainly visible to his fellow citizens. And it is yet another important reason to have confidence that Cheney’s solid policy analysis will yet prevail in the national political arena. Of course he is the conservative of the year!”

Of course, it’s easy to make fun of the selection of a discredited, destructive former vice president who by his second term …

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He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice…

OK, everybody.

What do you want for Christmas?

Seriously. Only three more shopping days left!

(Although not-so-serious answers are of course welcome as well.)

In fact, maybe we should do a secret Santa! I’ll draw the names right now…. Let’s see:

Taxpayer, you’re buying for Reporter.

@@, you have to buy for Mrs. G.

Southern Comfort, you’re shopping for Wyld Byll.

And Wyld Byll, as we know, is ALWAYS shopping for @@.

    PLEASE KEEP IT LIGHT.

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Health-reform debate pushes Congress further toward a parliamentary system

Tempers are apparently fraying a bit in the Senate chambers, with Democrats and Republicans growing increasingly angry and resentful at each other.

That’s probably a good thing. Maybe it will strip away some of that self-serving baloney about the collegial Senate and esteemed colleagues and the Senate being the world’s greatest deliberative body. Because if it was ever true, it’s not anymore and perhaps never will be again.

For better or worse, the Republicans have forced that change. The modern GOP has adopted a strictly parliamentary approach to important legislation, voting as a bloc and sternly enforcing party discipline to a degree unknown in recent American history. In the House, for example, Republicans voted 176-1 against health-insurance reform. In the Senate, the final vote will be 40-0 against reform. There can be no deliberation or give and take in such an approach; there’s no negotiation or compromise. It is pure power politics, and events of the last few weeks …

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Last decade was the worst ever in the stock market

From The WSJ:

The U.S. stock market is wrapping up what is likely to be its worst decade ever.

In nearly 200 years of recorded stock-market history, no calendar decade has seen such a dismal performance as the 2000s.

Investors would have been better off investing in pretty much anything else, from bonds to gold or even just stuffing money under a mattress. Since the end of 1999, stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange have lost an average of 0.5% a year thanks to the twin bear markets this decade….

This past decade looks even worse when the impact of inflation is considered.

Since the end of 1999, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has lost an average of 3.3% a year on an inflation-adjusted basis, compared with a 1.8% average annual gain during the 1930s when deflation afflicted the economy, according to data compiled by Charles Jones, finance professor at North Carolina State University.

After the 2004 election, you might recall, President Bush decided to spend his …

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As the sands run out on the decade, what was your favorite film?

With less than two weeks left in the year, and thus the decade, maybe it’s time to take stock: What was your favorite movie of the last ten years?

I could probably name four or five, but cutting the list to just one is all but impossible. However, this one would certainly be on that list. It’s bonafide.

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Reid says deal struck, ready to move to a vote

Looks like the Senate has a deal. And this repeated forced-reading of the bill aloud is making the GOP look pretty childish and petty.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats said they neared agreement Saturday on a major overhaul of the nation’s health care system, putting them within reach of approving legislation by Christmas.

As the Senate convened in a driving snowstorm, Democratic lawmakers and senior officials said a breakthrough came when Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, agreed after hours of negotiation Friday to back the legislation, making him the pivotal 60th vote.

In a sign of confidence that he had the necessary support, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, introduced his 383-page proposal in hopes of overcoming a series of procedural hurdles over the next several days. Republicans immediately forced a reading of the measure, which was expected to take at least 10 hours.

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A little Friday travelin’ music with a holiday twist(ed)….

Should I?

Do I dare?

Hmmmm. Oh, what the hell!

Continue reading A little Friday travelin’ music with a holiday twist(ed)…. »

Iranian soldiers reportedly enter Iraq, seize oil well

Hard to tell what this is all about or where it might be headed, but….

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iranian soldiers have crossed into Iraqi territory and taken up position at a southern oilfield whose ownership is disputed by Iran, an Iraqi official said on Friday. Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, reversing statements made earlier in the day, said the incursion on Friday was the latest in a series this week.

“At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian (soldiers) infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment,” he told Reuters.

He said the Iraqi government had taken no military action but stressed it would seek a measured, diplomatic response to the situation. “We are awaiting orders from our leader.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, oil prices have spiked as a result. “There has been no violence related to this incident, and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy …

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