In the prosecutions closing arguments for the trial of Bradley Manning there appears to be conflicting portrayals of Manning's character and abilities:
Bradley Manning purposely joined the Army and deployed to Iraq to use his extensive computer skills to disclose protected U.S. secrets
[Chief Prosecutor Army Maj. Ashden Fein] described Assange as his cheerleader, urging him to provide more material, working with him to override secret passwords and other obstacles on classified documents. Eventually, Fein said, Manning came to embrace Assange's ideology against government secrecy.
So, Manning joined the service to betray secrets, yet didn't embrace the ideology of opposing government secrecy until after working with Assange? He possessed "extensive computer skills" yet needed guidance in obtaining many documents?

"He was not a naive soldier," Fein said.
Manning spent untold hours [...] "wiping" his computer clean, thinking he could "hide his tracks."
He was not naive and yet naively thought he could clear his tracks? He had extensive computer knowledge and still had these delusions? It's a possibility I guess, but it's worth considering the portrayal of Manning and what it says about the character of the prosecution as well.

On a related note: Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom President Barack Obama once personally lobbied to have remain in jail, has been pardoned and released.

And: The Obama Administration has charged six whistleblowers with the Espionage Act - twice as many as had been charged in the entirety of US history.

And: A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that James Risen (two-time Pulitzer Prize winner) would receive no First Amendment protection safeguarding the confidentiality of his sources.
Notice a trend?


Election Night: The Best Part

This was my favorite moment of election night:


I just don't tire of watching that man sweat in fear of his billionaire overlords' wrath.


Good News GOP!

The election is finally over... Yay. 

Anyone who even mentions 2016 is evil and shall be condemned to hell.


Too complicated to understand.

During an interview on Fox News, host Chris Wallace noted that a recent study showed that the Romney-Ryan plan would cost nearly $5 trillion over 10 years. When asked to explain the math behind the Romney/Ryan tax plan this was Paul Ryan's response:

"I don't have the time," Ryan laughed. "It would take me too long to go through all the math."

Maybe he needs Mitt's Seer Stones to translate the numbers?


Operation Chickenhawk, Part II

Once again we have a couple of GOP Chickenhawks running for office and rattling their sabres for more war and more cuts to veterans services. Send out men and women off to battle but who cares what happens when they come home, right?

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• Proposed budget cuts to end health care benefits for 173,00 veterans, add requirements for $250 annual enrollment fees, and increase out-of-pocket expenses for pharmaceuticals (“Support for Troops Questioned,” Washington Post, June 17, 2003).

• Cut $1.5 billion from military family housing despite DoD statistics that showed 83,000 barracks and 128,860 family housing units across the country below standard (“Nothing But Lip Service,” Army Times, June 30, 2003).

• VFW Commander-In-Chief, Edward S. Banar, Sr. called his budget cuts “a disgrace and a sham.”

• In 2005, Proposed cutting $350 million from veterans’ home funding. The Governor of Pennsylvania called the cuts a move to “wipe out at least 5,000 veterans in nursing home beds.”

• In 2007 proposed cutting veterans’ health care funding by $10 billion over five years. For the fourth year in a row, proposed doubling veterans’ co-payments for prescription drugs and requiring annual deductible payments despite claims from some veteran groups that the move would drive 200,000 vets from the system.

MITT ROMNEY (never served)

• Romney Cut Funding For Veterans’ Cemeteries And Out Reach Centers. (The Boston Herald, 10/16/03)

• Romney Increased Fees For Long-Term Care For Veterans. (Lowell Sun, 2/28/03]

• Romney Vetoed Appropriated Funding For Soldiers’ Home Long-Term Patient Care. (House No. 4005, 6/30/03)

• Romney Proposed Cuts To Veterans Disability Compensation. (Center on Budget And Policy Priorities, 5/21/12)

• Romney Was Open To “Private Sector Competition” For Veterans Health Care. (ABC News, 11/11/11)

PAUL RYAN (never served)

• The "Paul Ryan Budget" proposes cutting $6 billion annually in VA health care costs, affecting 1.3 million veterans. Seriously, Paul Ryan wants to give every millionaire $125,000 and pay for it by taking health care away from 1.3 million men and women who earned it by fighting for their country. (Military.com 4/7/11)


Who Do You Trust?

If your life was on the line who would you trust to decide if you are a traitor to our nation? Barack Obama? Rick Perry? What about Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders?

Obama has decided that he is judge, jury and executioner of any American citizen he decides is a threat to the United States and that he doesn't need to justify that decision with a trial or even hard evidence. You may agree that Anwar Al Awlaki was a threat and there are valid reasons to believe that but there is no hard evidence as you can see quite clearly in this exchange:

So, what we have is a man who was a propagandist for a terrorist organization, though not an actual member:

Ironically enough, despite all his efforts in support of al-Qaida, al-Awlaki had never become a formal member of the terrorist organization or its branch in Yemen. Indeed, it's unclear whether he ever swore the "bai'a," the oath of allegiance necessary to become a member. The first time he showed up in an official AQAP video was in May 2010 -- and that was only as a kind of interview guest.

And this was enough to warrant his assassination. The precedent is set. If the President of the United States decides you, an American citizen, are a threat to our nation or it's allies you can be exterminated without hard evidence or a trial. It is difficult to defend Al Awlaki and I see no reason to. What there is ample reason to defend is the rule of law and our rights to a trial as citizens. What if you are a Secessionist in Texas who believes Obama is destroying America and we need a revolution to set things right? Are you a traitor? What if you are a Socialist who believes Obama and Bush sold America to to corporations and are waving signs in the Occupy Wall Street protests demanding a dismantling of Capitalism? Are you a traitor? What if our next president is Rick Perry who loves executions and has already called Ben Bernanke a traitor and made a veiled threat? By Obama's precedent Perry would have the right to execute Bernanke based on his opinion that he is a traitor.

Obviously some of this is hyperbole but it is meant to illustrate a point. Our 5th Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
We're in a time of war you say? True, but it is a potentially never ending war - a war on terror - otherwise known as a war on people who hate us. We are at war in numerous countries (both officially and covertly) and hundreds of thousands of people have died in these wars, many of them innocent civilians. People are going to continue hating us for a very long time. So, that means the justification of "in time of War or public danger" can be used perpetually. Does that mean our 5th Amendment is invalidated due to our war on terror?

Maybe. But we should really think about the ramifications of that and debate it in public before we decide to waive an essential civil liberty for a free and just nation. Sadly, we didn't get to have that debate, Obama decided already and that Amendment is void. Maybe you like Obama and trust his judgement, but will you feel the same about the next president, or the one after that?


Fiscal Conservatism At Work (2001-2011)

How have the economic policies of the "Fiscal Conservatives" worked out for us?

Fiscal Conservatives compete for the flip-flop gold medal:
From The Weekly Standard in 2005
WHEN DICK CHENEY SAID, "Deficits don't matter," [...] it turns out there is a case to be made that Cheney was onto something.

On the deepest level, the vice president was echoing, in slightly exaggerated form, an idea put forward a few years ago by Irving Kristol, the Godfather of the neoconservatives who have had such a wide-ranging effect on Bush administration policy. Kristol wrote then, and still believes, that "We should figure out what we want before we calculate what we can afford, not the reverse."

On the political level, treating deficits as a non-issue also proved a successful strategy. After all, despite the torrent of red ink that splashed across the national budgets during his first term, George W. Bush was reelected by a substantial margin.

Which brings us to the economic level. The deficits that Bush ran up in the years in which the country was teetering on the verge of a serious recession had the beneficial effect of righting the economy. In that sense, deficits not only didn't matter, but were a force for economic good.
And The Weekly Standard's deficit view in 2011:
The country is reduced to rattling its begging bowl in China and elsewhere to pay for programs that become ever more costly as the president expands the reach of government.

And our current Republican Whip:
Rep. Eric Cantor (R), 2010:
"Government doesn't create jobs and build wealth; entrepreneurs, risk takers and private businesses do."

Rep. Eric Cantor (R), August, 2011:
"The most important thing we can do for somebody who's unemployed is to see if we can get them a job. I mean, that's what needs to be the focus."

This makes you wonder if they actually have any idea what they're talking about - are they just making this up as they go along? Or are they really the con-artists they accuse the poor and working class (i.e. welfare queens) of being? One thing is certainly clear, we do know who their policies are working for.


Carbon Emissions - Dangerous or Not?

The latest crazy person to claim carbon emissions aren't dangerous is Mitt Romney:
"I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies."
He continued to say "we can agree to disagree..."

Um, no, we can't.

I could waste time listing off every scientific study which shows the harmful effects on carbon emissions to our environment and how man-made pollutions is changing our earth's environment for the worse (something Romney used to agree with before today) but since many more reputable voices have already trumpeted this for years with little to no effect on much of our deluded Americans, I won't waste your time.

I do have one idea that may finally solve this problem though:

Find the nearest tailpipe and use it like a breathing tube for a few minutes. If after about five minutes you still think carbon emissions aren't harmful I'll let it rest and "agree to disagree".


Hot Commodity

I'm sure you're familiar with the food crisis going on in many parts of the world, the current rising oil prices here in the US, and the rise in gold prices. Hopefully you're aware that all these are primarily a result of commodities trading.
"The sheer amount of investor money flooding into commodities markets is overshadowing any supply and demand numbers."

Whether this is good or bad is a topic for another discussion. The topic here is the growing trend of privatizing our world's water supply and the future of our most precious and essential natural resource becoming a commodity which is traded on Wall Street.

First, the problem:

Everyone agrees that we are in the midst of a global freshwater crisis. Around the world, rivers, lakes, and aquifers are dwindling faster than Mother Nature can possibly replenish them; industrial and household chemicals are rapidly polluting what’s left. Meanwhile, global population is ticking skyward. Goldman Sachs estimates that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, and the United Nations expects demand to outstrip supply by more than 30 percent come 2040.

Yes, I made Goldman Sachs bold because I think it's important to highlight the fact an investment bank of is tracking these issues.

Now, the solution... if you want to call it that:

Proponents of privatization say markets are the best way to solve that problem: only the invisible hand can bring supply and demand into harmony, and only market pricing will drive water use down enough to make a dent in water scarcity. But the benefits of the market come at a price. By definition, a commodity is sold to the highest bidder, not the customer with the most compelling moral claim.

Who is buying up our water supply? You'll recognize these names I'm sure:
"Back in September 2010, J.P. Morgan purchased SouthWest Water, a large national water company. The Carlyle Group announced it plans to purchase the Park Water Company, which owns water systems in California and Missoula, Montana."

Yup, the most powerful companies on the planet are buying up our water supply and as the crisis worsens, these will be the companies deciding on prices and availability. Some things are worth more than money. To a moral human being this means it should not be a for-profit commodity. To a corporation, this means it's worth more than all the money in the world.

The reasons why our local governments are selling their water utilities are varied but much of it is due to immediate financial troubles being "fixed" by selling off these public utilities - just as we've seen with prisons, schools and about everything else. Why fix our budgets when we can just pawn off our resources? That works, right? Everyone knows people who pawn off their possessions are making sound financial decisions.

One thing to note is that this privatization does not result in better access or prices, it is often worse and much more expensive. Here's a few links to browse:

Under the plan, the combined monthly wastewater and water bill for the average residential user would climb from the current $63.29 to $117.67 in 2013

Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is about to make a killing by selling water he doesn’t own.

Aqua America - Strategies of a Water Profiteer


Selling Stability

Engagement in Libya is not about humanitarian concerns. If it was, why would we have been selling them and other abusive regimes weapons with the intent of securing these regimes?

While much has been made of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, and the brutal force used against these protesters and rebels, there has been only the passing reference to our role in propping up these regimes which we now find ourselves in the sticky situation of having to condemn. The "Made in U.S.A." label on tear gas canisters used against Egyptian protesters made headlines but little else in this regard has.

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The Bush administration approved the sale of $3 million of materials to Libya in 2006 and $5.3 million in 2007. In 2008, Libya was allowed to import $46 million in armaments from the U.S. The approved goods included nearly 400 shipments of explosive and incendiary materials, 25,000 aircraft parts, 56,000 military electronics components and nearly 1,000 items of optical targeting and other guidance equipment.

In the months before Libyans revolted the U.S. government was moving to do business with his regime on an increasing scale by quietly approving a $77 million dollar deal to deliver at least 50 refurbished armored troop carriers to the dictator's military. Congress balked, concerned the deal would improve Libyan army mobility and questioning the Obama administration's support for the agreement, which would have benefited British defense company BAE.

Saudi Arabia:
Obama administration intends to make biggest ever US arms deal with Saudis.

State department official Andrew Shapiro said "It will send a strong message to countries in the region that we are committed to support the security of our key partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and broader Middle East."

The Bush administration [made] an arms-sale package to Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf countries [United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman] that may total more than $20 billion. Included in the package are advanced satellite-guided bombs, fighter-aircraft upgrades and new naval vessels.

As for why we have gone into Libya while ignoring numerous other atrocities around the globe:
ExxonMobil signed a heads of agreement to execute an Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) with Libya's National Oil Corporation to initiate exploration activity offshore Libya in the Sirte Basin.

BP in February suspended its preparations for onshore drilling after violence broke out across the North African country. Since then, troops loyal to Col. Moammar Ghadhafi's regime have steadily rolled back the rebel advance and re-taken control of most of the country.

Why France and the UK led the way into Libya:
Libya possesses 1,800 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline. The country produces 2 percent of the world's oil, with 85 percent of exports going to Europe. Libyan nationals have been prominent jihadists in Iraq. Since the beginning of the Great Recession and the slump in global demand in 2008, Libya has allocated $200 billion toward new infrastructure spending.

None of this is about the protection of human life no matter how warm and fuzzy it may feel to think it is. One final note: Who is it we claim to be protecting anyway?
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered US allies in the fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60% of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to become suicide bombers or take part in other attacks, senior American military officials say.

Oh great. This won't come back to bite us in the ass.