Archives for FUBAR

Guns don’t belong at town hall meetings

The armed men injecting themselves into the town hall meetings on universal health care remind me why it is important to tell the thugs to go home the way Carmelita did.

There's a reason to truncate that kind of serial intimidation, whether by a government or by unregulated militias. In his book "Ringside Seat to a Revolution," David Dorado Romo brings this to light.

His great-aunt Adela told him that back in 1917, she and other working-class Mexicans who crossed the border daily from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, were ordered off the trolley and forced by U.S. authorities to take a bath and then be sprayed with pesticides at the Santa Fe Bridge. Rumors circulated (later verified) that naked Mexican women were secretly photographed as they bathed.
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Which country do we want to take back?

Some of the people who have been appearing at town hall meetings lately say they want to take back their country. Me too.

However, I am left wondering what country they want to take back.

Because these folks are always ranting about socialism and government-run health care, I suppose if they succeed in taking back the country they will be true to their beliefs and do away with Medicare and the Veterans Affairs system, which are nothing if not government-run socialism (don't tell Granny or Pops).

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Big families: A threat to the environment?

With great fanfare the infamous Duggar family this week announced (on the "Today" show, no less) the upcoming birth of a 19th child.

Without engaging in histrionic gymnastics about the parents' Herculean appetite for children, I would like to use the Duggars' 19th child as a teaching moment about the environment.

The Duggars, if you haven't heard of them, are an Arkansas couple, Jim Bob and Michelle, whose ever-growing family is the subject of a cable TV series, and whose Web site gurgles with excitement about family size, and proselytizes and sells non-stop.

Among many other things (including the family's daily Biblical routine, how to buy a DVD for $19, etc.) it explains the parents' love of children thusly:

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Obama plays numbers game in Afghan war

President Barack Obama is planning a George Bush-style numbers game in the increasingly-unpopular war in Afghanistan -- adding 14,000 combat troops while replacing support troops with mercenaries to make it look like the U.S. is not increasing its military presence in that war-torn country.

The plan hatched by the Pentagon and approved by the White House would put more "trigger pullers" on the ground while using private security firms to provide support and logistrics. Under the plan, the ovreall troop American troop count would not increase even though more U.S. soldiers would be put in harm's way.

"It makes sense to get rid of the clerks and replace them with trigger-pullers," one military official told the Los Angeles Times.

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Blackwater’s contract extended in Iraq

The State Department is extending its Iraq war contract with the mercenary company Blackwater USA, now known as Xe, for an "indefinite" period that sources say could be for "weeks or months," ABC News is reporting.

Blackwater's contract, set to expire on Sept. 4, will continue until a replacement contractor, Dyncorp, can get up to speed.

Under the contract, a Blackwater subsidiary, Presidential Airways, provides air transport around Iraq for American embassy employees.

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The American right to invade privacy?

A disappointing feature of the Obama administration is its continuing support of the Bush administration's assertion of the federal government's unfettered right to snoop.

Last July, the Department of Homeland Security decreed that federal agents -- customs, immigration, border patrol -- could hold and search travelers' documents and electronic devices without a warrant or even a suspicion that something might be amiss.

This power is particularly sensitive with regard to the now omnipresent laptops that can contain immense volumes of personal information -- private e-mails, financial records, medical records, diaries, photos, addresses, proprietary business data, drafts of reports and articles.

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The doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’

As every school kid knows, Harry Truman instituted the doctrine of ultimate responsibility. The "buck stops here" became the symbol of strong leadership from an Oval Office where the phrase was prominently displayed on the presidential desk. Truman mainly held to that approach except now and then when he relied on something we've come to know as "plausible deniability," as had presidents before him.

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Another year, another mortgage crisis

Just as the economy is showing hopeful signs of life and the federal government is turning a profit on the early bailout money, the country may get blitzed by a second round of foreclosures -- this time on commercial property instead of homes.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a large and still-undetermined chunk of $700 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities, CMBS, is in trouble thanks to a massive downturn in the commercial real-estate market.

Like the mortgage bonds that caused such havoc when the housing market went south, commercial mortgages are packaged up and sold as bonds. Like homeowners betting that the value of their house would keep going up, investors in CMBS bet that the occupancy, rents and underlying value of commercial real estate -- hotels, malls, office buildings, etc. -- would keep rising.
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Tom Ridge changes his tune on terror threats

Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, under fire from former colleagues in the Bush administration for saying politics ruled terror threat levels during that administration's time in the White House, is backpedaling and saying that's not what he meant.

Ridge, in his first interview since allegations of manipulating threat levels for political gain surfaced last week, now says he didn't mean to suggest such a thing.

"I'm not second-guessing my colleagues," Ridge told USA Today in an interview.

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Some in CIA questioned hiring Blackwater

When the CIA revived a plan to kill or capture terrorists in 2004, the agency turned to the well-connected security company then known as Blackwater USA.

With Blackwater's lucrative government security work and contacts arrayed in hot spots around the world, company officials offered the services of foreigners supposedly skilled at tracking terrorists in lawless regions and countries where the CIA had no working relationships with the government.

Blackwater told the CIA that it "could put people on the ground to provide the surveillance and support — all of the things you need to conduct an operation," a former senior CIA official familiar with the secret program told The Associated Press.

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