Can you say “DUH” in unison?
A senior State Department official, responding to critics of plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican, said criticism is based on “a series or myths.”…The embassy will be moved to a larger U.S. compound in Rome that houses the embassy to Italy and the U.S. Mission to the U.N. offices, Politico reported.
The move is to be completed by 2015, and is expected to save more than $1.4 million and increase security, the official…said during a conference call with reporters.
News of the move touched off a flurry of criticism in right-wing media, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush joined in, saying in a Twitter post: “Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee created a petition this week asserting, “President Obama plans to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican…”
“I think there are a series of myths that are running around out there,” the State Department official said.
He said no country has an embassy in Vatican City, as critics of the move assert, and he said there is no truth to claims that the move will include “changing the residence of the Ambassador to the Holy See. I have seen that as well. The Ambassador’s residence is not part of this at all.”
“The third [myth] is that this represents a downsizing of our presence when this happens,” he said. “That is not true as well. Our diplomatic presence will remain one of the largest missions accredited to the Holy See, and that there is no reduction in our diplomatic staff in this process.”
He said all diplomatic embassies are located in Rome, not Vatican City.
American religious nutballs probably qualify for world leadership in paranoia and lies about being oppressed. Given the amount of energy they dedicate to shutting down civil liberties, civil rights and freedom for every minority they can think of – no doubt they hold the record for hypocrisy as well.
$2 billion of your tax dollars – and it still doesn’t work
The National Security Agency’s new $2 billion Utah data center keeps suffering from costly meltdowns and government officials are not sure of the cause, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal reports.
Since August 2012, there have been 10 electrical surges that have prevented the NSA from using computers. One official described them as “a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box.”
Each meltdown caused as much as $100,000 in damage. The center requires about 65 megawatts of electricity to run, at a cost of more than $1 million a month, and the surges are probably connected to the electrical system’s inability to simultaneously run computers and keep them cool.
The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which is overseeing the data center’s construction, disagrees with contractors on a number of issues, noting that the causes of the meltdowns “are not yet sufficiently understood” despite contractors’ assertions the “root cause” had been uncovered.
In a report, an ACE team notes that the government has incomplete information about the design of the electrical system. It also found that regular quality controls in design and construction were bypassed in an effort to “fast track” the Utah project…
One…report said that the center has the potential to store as much as 5 zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 billion terabytes = 1 trillion gigabytes). With just 1 zettabyte (1024 exabytes) of space, the NSA can store a year’s worth of the global Internet traffic (which is estimated reached 966 exabytes per year in 2015).
Gorman notes that the agency currently “collects the phone records of nearly all Americans and has built a system with telecommunications companies that provides coverage of roughly 75% of Internet communications in the U.S.”
I’ve blogged about the construction of this spy center before. Interesting – but not surprising – to learn all the stupidity of the Bush administration has carried over from design to quality control in construction.
Useful standards for building data centers have been around since the first telephone/alarm system control centers. Skipping QC to keep the biggest snoop in the world ahead of the curve is the sort of foolishness we’ve come to know and love from the paranoid right-wing in America.
Betsy Ross had it right
The flag flying over the Capitol building on the Fourth of July might look like your typical Old Glory. But you probably won’t notice the fibers that make it special. It’s believed to be the first hemp flag to flutter over the dome since the government began outlawing marijuana’s less-recreational cousin back in the 1930s.
Colorado hemp advocate Michael Bowman is the man responsible for getting the flag, made from Colorado-raised hemp and screen-printed with the stars and stripes, up there.
He cooked up the idea while lobbying Congress this year to include pro-hemp measures in the farm bill. That legislation failed, of course, but the seed of the hemp flag had been planted.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) gave Bowman an assist with the details, which included working with the Capitol’s flag office. (The flag program allows people to buy flags flown over the Capitol, so they rotate in new Old Glories nearly every day.)
“It’s a powerful symbol,” Bowman says, adding that the red, white and blue flying over the Capitol is a reminder of the role that hemp played in the founding and early days of the country. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp, he notes, and Colonial settlers even paid their taxes in the crop — it was used for all kinds of goods, from rope to fabric to paper. Those Conestoga wagons heading west were covered in canvas fashioned from hemp fibers…
After its Capitol flight, the flag will make its way back to Colorado, where it will fly over the state capitol building in Denver. After that, Bowman is sending it out on a tour of state houses in states where there’s legislation pending that would legalize hemp. One of the first up: Vermont.
One more small step – albeit symbolic – for the legalization of hemp, hemp products, and their mellow cousins. Overdue, of course; but, it still takes a couple generations to lever a bit of truth past the dolts who play Let’s Pretend in Congress.
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
An Afghan policeman stands guard as he carries his weapon decorated with colourful stickers during a joint U.S.-Afghan military clearing operations in Nagahan district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan
Some officer would rip you a new one if an American showed up with his piece bearing stickers.
On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.
We see right out of the gate what is politically correct for Washington flunkies. Morsi has made it clear that he represents a broader constituency than his Muslim background – yet, the TIMES sticks to the War-on-Terror mantra calling him Islamist.
A former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi sought in a 90-minute interview with The New York Times to introduce himself to the American public and to revise the terms of relations between his country and the United States after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic but reliable ally.
He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.
If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.
And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
“We took our time” in responding to avoid an explosive backlash, he said, but then dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators.
“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees were never in danger…
Mr. Morsi…said the United States should not expect Egypt to live by its rules…“If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”
He suggested that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, but would not be as compliant as Mr. Mubarak either.
“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he said, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians…
A view of history shared by almost all of the educated world, Western or otherwise. Including those who think it should be so.
“The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop. Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.”
He added, “We are behaving according to the Egyptian people’s choice and will, nothing else — is it clear..?”
I’m not any more confident about Barack Obama adopting an objective world view or turning American foreign policy towards democracy and fairness – than I would be over Romney and the Kool Aid Party. Imperial greed and arrogance have been central to our foreign policy since we supported the last ditch efforts of British and French colonialism right after World War 2. We continued that criminal behavior from Iran and Guatemala through VietNam to Iraq. Neither of our political parties missed a beat. Nor do I expect them to do so until and unless our elected officials are qualitatively changed.
Christian evangelical groups in the US are attempting a “cultural colonisation” of Africa, opening offices in numerous countries to promote attacks on homosexuality and abortion, according to an investigation by a liberal thinktank…
“The religious right [in effect] claims that human rights activists are neocolonialists out to destroy Africa,” the report states…
Entitled Colonising African Values: How the US Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, the study analysed data from seven African countries and employed researchers for several months in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It identified three organisations it believes are aggressively targeting the continent: Pat Robertson’s ACLJ, the Catholic group Human Life International and Family Watch International, led by the Mormon activist Sharon Slater.
Each of these “frame their agendas as authentically African, in an effort to brand human rights advocacy as a new colonialism bent on destroying cultural traditions and values”, the report says.
In the past five years, the report alleges, all “have launched or expanded their work in Africa dedicated to promoting their Christian right worldview”. A loose network of rightwing charismatic Christians called the transformation movement joins them in fanning the flames of the culture wars over homosexuality and abortion by backing prominent African campaigners and political leaders…”
The report was welcomed by gay rights campaigners. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities in Uganda, said: “I’m grateful for the documentation in the report that confirms that it is homophobia (not homosexuality) that is exported from the west.
RTFA for the whole range of idjit ideology is being exported to Africa. The Christian Clown Show spends as much energy in opposing reproductive rights – including access to birth control and safe sex – as it dedicates to hatred and fearmongering homophobia.
As I noted last night, if mainstream Christians don’t get off their rusty dustys and fight for progressive freedoms, educated rights – they deserve to be tarred with the same brush.
The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago…
Suicides have increased even as the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq and stepped up efforts to provide mental health, drug and alcohol, and financial counseling services.
The military said Friday that there had been 154 suicides among active-duty troops through Thursday, a rate of nearly one each day this year…That number represents an 18 percent increase over the 130 active-duty military suicides for the same period in 2011. There were 123 suicides from January to early June in 2010, and 133 during that period in 2009, the Pentagon said.
By contrast, there were 124 American military fatalities in Afghanistan as of June 1 this year, according to the Pentagon…
In a letter to military commanders last month, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that “suicide prevention is a leadership responsibility,” and added, “Commanders and supervisors cannot tolerate any actions that belittle, haze, humiliate or ostracize any individual, especially those who require or are responsibly seeking professional services.”
But veterans’ groups said Friday that the Pentagon had not done enough to moderate the tremendous stress under which combat troops live, including coping with multiple deployments…
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, called suicides among active-duty military personnel “the tip of the iceberg.” He…attributed the rise in military suicides to too few qualified mental health professionals, aggravated by the stigma of receiving counseling and further compounded by family stresses and financial problems. The unemployment rate among military families is a particular problem, he said.
The best solution would be for our nation to walk away from “solving” every international question with death and destruction. Military hardware deployed around the world requires young men and women deployed around the world — doing the bidding of political chickenhawks and warlovers who think the best solution for any difficult question is war. Cripes, it’s not even the cheapest. For a nation that tries to resolve domestic questions with the lowest bidder – regardless of quality – you’d think stinginess alone would nudge our government to stop invading other countries every five or ten years.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a creepy opportunist like John McCain or a political intellectual like Barack Obama. Sticking with the robot response of American foreign policy for the last sixty years or so continues to escalate parallel patterns of self-destruction among our service personnel almost as rapidly as it exacerbates contempt for the United States among ordinary people in every other nation.
Alienation is still alienation. The results grow more deadly with the passage of time.
The heart of American foreign policy
The historian Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a brutally clear-eyed piece in The National Review, looking back at America’s different approaches to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan and how, sadly, none of them could be said to have worked yet.
“Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades,” Hanson wrote. “Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan. What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.”
And that is why it’s time to rethink everything we’re doing out there. What the Middle East needs most from America today are modern schools and hard truths, and we haven’t found a way to offer either. Because Hanson is right: What ails the Middle East today truly is a toxic mix of tribalism, Shiite-Sunni sectarianism, fundamentalism and oil — oil that constantly tempts us to intervene or to prop up dictators.
And Israel’s quest for lebensraum.
This cocktail erodes all the requirements of a forward-looking society — which are institutions that deliver decent government, consensual politics that provide for rotations in power, women’s rights and an ethic of pluralism that protects minorities and allows for modern education. The United Nations Arab Human Development Report published in 2002 by some brave Arab social scientists also said something similar: What ails the Arab world is a deficit of freedom, a deficit of modern education and a deficit of women’s empowerment.
So helping to overcome those deficits should be what U.S. policy is about, yet we seem unable to sustain that…