Archive for February, 2010

Anatomy of a very professional hit job, caught on film

Some of you may recall the case of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas commander who was assassinated last month at a hotel in Dubai. Culling entry documents, passport information, and most of all video surveillance, authorities in Dubai have compiled a pretty compelling, real-life explanation of how it was done.

The video below isn’t graphic at all, but it does show you how an 11-person hit squad descended on Dubai, found its target, carried out its assignment and then disbanded. (There’s no sound, and the video is a half-hour long.)

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Newly minted deficit hawks out to ruin economy

At his Big Picture blog, highly respected market analyst Barry Ritholz lays it out there:

“… the vast majority of born again fiscal hawks are political hypocrites. They voted for all manner of budget-busting programs — unfunded tax cuts, new entitlement programs (i.e., prescription drugs), an expensive war of choice (Iraq).

How is it that they only learned of the evils of deficits after they lose power? How very convenient.

The current group of anti-deficit spenders are pro-cyclical, rather than counter-cyclical. This means that during an expansion, they have no problem with expanding deficits, running big spending programs, giving generous tax cuts. During a recession is where they suddenly rediscover fiscal prudence.

This is *** backwards. During an economic expansion, with employment gaining and GDP growing is when you should be thinking about saving for the next rainy day. Counter-cyclical spending means that governments should watch the budget carefully during the good …

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Dems know how to make the least of a big opportunity

In a new Washington Post poll, Americans were asked whether they “support or oppose the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that says corporations and unions can spend as much money as they want to help political candidates win elections?”

Eighty percent of Americans opposed the Supreme Court ruling; just 18 percent supported it. And that opposition crossed all partisan lines. Among Democrats, 85 percent opposed the court ruling, as did 76 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of independents.

Congressional Democrats have already begun to push legislation that tries to mitigate the impact of the Citizens’ United ruling, and they’ll no doubt find those poll numbers encouraging. But it’s just so typical — the Democrats have been handed an elephant gun and they’re going to use it to hunt rabbits.

Handed poll numbers like this, Republicans would know what to do with it. They’d point out that the word “corporation” appears nowhere in the Constitution. They’d accuse the court of …

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The conservatives’ ‘Mount Vernon Statement’: Yaaawwwn

Some of those who style themselves as the leading conservative intellectuals of our age — no, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are not among them — have labored mightily and today given birth to what they call The Mount Vernon Statement.

The group’s goal is to … well, I’ll let them describe it themselves:

“In light of the challenges facing the country and the need for clarity in the age of Obama, The Mount Vernon Statement … is a defining statement of conservative beliefs, values and principles penned by a broad coalition of conservative leaders representing a wide spectrum of the movement including fiscal, social, cultural and national security conservatives.”

However, as defining statements go, this statement defines nothing whatsoever. It’s so bland and generic that I would agree with much of what it tries to say.

It is marketed as an updating of the Sharon Statement, which was issued by young conservatives back in 1960 as a manifesto for what was then a vibrant, …

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Much-maligned TARP, stimulus were necessary

People are hurting; people are scared; people are angry.  And with jobs lost, homes lost and careers lost, they’re turning a lot of their anger at government. But the truth is that without controversial programs such as the TARP bailout and the stimulus package, most of those people would be hurting a lot worse. Among economists and banking experts, there’s really not much serious debate about that question.

A lot of Republicans in Congress understand that but can’t admit it any longer. Even some Republicans at the Gold Dome in Atlanta understand it. They know that without $1.44 billion in stimulus money in the current state budget, Georgia’s already bloody financial picture would be more gory than “Texas Chainsaw Massacre II”

Thirty-three Republican senators, including John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, voted in favor of the TARP bailout in October 2008. Ninety-one Republican House members, including John Boehner and Eric Cantor, also voted for …

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Obama announces $8 billion to guarantee Ga. nuke plant construction

UPDATE: Obama tried to cast today’s announcement as an outreach to Republicans and an effort to demonstrate compromise.

“Even when we have differences, we cannot allow those differences to prevent us from making progress. On an issue that affects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we can’t keep on being mired in the same old stale debates between the left and the right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs.”

The project is also likely to be a boost to the Georgia economy. Southern Company says it will create about 3,000 construction jobs and permanently employ 850 people. So it’s no surprise that the decision was lauded by Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss in a joint press release.

But as Jim Galloway notes, the word “Obama” appears nowhere in the senators’ seven-paragraph, 392-word joint statement. They just couldn’t bring themselves to say it.

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President Obama today announced $8 billion in federal loan …

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Atlanta schools’ response to cheating scandal is revealing

At first, it was hard to fathom the existence of a culture within Atlanta Public Schools that would overlook cheating on a massive scale, and by adults.

This was not, after all, a case of a few folks going rogue, not when large numbers of altered tests were traced back to almost 70 percent of APS elementary and middle schools. Numbers like that suggest a district-wide environment in which cheating somehow came to be more or less tolerated.

That was hard to imagine.

But as this thing has played out, the inconceivable has become more and more conceivable. The reaction of district officials — the lack of outrage, the grasping at implausible explanations, the rush to protect Superintendent Beverly Hall — offers an insight into the culture at APS that makes it all a little more understandable.

This is not about outsiders refusing to believe test scores that show inner-city students improving academically, as Hall and others have suggested. The erasure numbers are not statistical …

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Top Taliban figure captured in Pakistan

From The Washington Post:

The Afghan Taliban’s second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was captured last week in Karachi during a joint operation by Pakistan’s intelligence service and the CIA, according to U.S. and Pakistani sources.

Deputy to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, Baradar has been considered by many to be in de facto control of the insurgent organization in recent years. His capture is by far the most important detention since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the first known capture of a top-ranking insurgent during the Obama administration.

…The former deputy defense minister in the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Baradar has gradually taken control of the Taliban leadership council based in Quetta, Pakistan. “He makes the Taliban run,” said Seth G. Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation and Taliban expert who recently returned from an advisory position with the U.S. military command in Afghanistan.

I’m sure we’ll …

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‘Labor is the superior of capital’

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
– Abraham Lincoln,
Message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861

I wonder what our first Republican president would say about laws that tax capital gains at a much lower rate than they tax a person’s labor.

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Cheney wants to abandon rule of law, Constitution

Former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested Sunday that the Christmas Day bomber should have been placed in military custody and perhaps even waterboarded.

In other words, tortured…. Waterboarding is torture under U.S. law and under international law and treaty. It was prosecuted as torture during war crimes trials after World War II, and was considered torture when perpetrated by the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia, among others.

It is remarkable to see Republicans rally now to the morally bankrupt and strategically disastrous Cheney approach, especially after they watched President Bush freeze Cheney out of such decisions. Bush tried it Cheney’s way; he realized it was wrong, and abandoned it.

It’s not a difficult distinction to make. The United States is not a war zone; it is not under military control. We are under the rule of civilian law, not martial law, so those arrested here will be handled accordingly, in a court of law. That was how the Bush administration handled hundreds …

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