Total Drek

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Total Drek News Reporting...

There's just a little too much going on in the news today for me to pick just one thing to bitch about, so I'm going to heap on a smattering of everything.

U.S. List of Terror Targets Includes 'That one beach at the end of the street.'

It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.”

But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child’s play: all these “unusual or out-of-place” sites “whose criticality is not readily apparent” are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database.

The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

The database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year, including the program announced in May that cut money to New York City and Washington by 40 percent, while significantly increasing spending for cities including Louisville, Ky., and Omaha.

One can only wonder how long it will be until "Steve's house," appears on the list. What makes this even more remarkable is that, according to NPR [Sorry- can't find the story online] the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Empire State Building didn't make the list. Well, I guess Homeland Security has to overlook some things. They were just so busy listening to private phonecalls without a warrant, the Statue of Liberty slipped their minds.

White House Agrees to Dispense with Torture; Recognize Detainees as Potential Humans

The White House conceded on Tuesday for the first time that terror suspects held by the United States had a right under international law to basic human and legal protections under the Geneva Conventions.

The statement reverses a position the White House had held since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, and it represents a victory for those within the administration who argued that the United States’ refusal to extend Geneva protections to Qaeda prisoners was harming the country’s standing abroad.


Mr. Bush’s order of Feb. 7, 2002, issued shortly after American-led forces toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan, specifically said that critical aspects of the Geneva Conventions do “not apply to either Al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.”

In response to a question, the White House issued a statement late Tuesday, saying: “As a result of the Supreme Court decision, that portion of the order no longer applies. The Supreme Court has clarified what the law is, and the executive branch will comply.”

And thus, with the Bush Administration firmly at the helm, the United States steps boldly back into the early Twentieth Century.

Middle East caught in Temporal Vortex: History Appears to be Repeating Itself

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers and killed three more in a brazen raid this morning along Israel’s border with Lebanon. Israel immediately responded by sending an armored force into southern Lebanon for the first time since withdrawing six years ago.

The clashes dramatically escalated tensions at a time when Israel already is waging a military offensive in the Gaza Strip to seek the return of another soldier held by Palestinian militants for more than two weeks.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he held the Lebanese government responsible for the assault by Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group that participates in Lebanese politics but also continues to battle Israel.

“I want to make clear that the event this morning is not a terror act, but an act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason,” Mr. Olmert said. “The government of Lebanon, of which Hezbollah is a part, is trying to shake the stability of the region.”

I condemn the actions of Hezbollah in the strongest terms, but, seriously, invade Lebanon again? After all: it worked out so well the last time. What's next? The reanimated corpse of Yassar Arafat leading Zombie legions in the West Bank?

Jewish Israelis, Christian Israelis, and Muslim Israelis Show New Unity in their Common Hatred of Someone Else: Homosexuals

Christian leaders condemned it. Jewish radicals put a bounty on participants. Muslim clerics threatened to flood the streets with protesters. Jerusalem's conflicting religions have found rare common ground: opposition to an international gay pride parade next month.

"We consider this offensive and harmful to the religious integrity of the city," said Sheik Taissir Tamimi, head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"This group of homosexuals, we consider them impure," he said, calling on Palestinians to take to the streets to prevent marchers from entering east Jerusalem, where the holy sites are located. They "must not be allowed to enter Jerusalem."

The march is the centerpiece of the seven-day WorldPride festival, intended to bring people of different faiths and cultures to a strife-torn city in an example of peaceful coexistence, said Hagai Elad, executive director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which is organizing the event.

It also makes the statement that gays have as much right to the holy city's heritage as anyone else, he said.

"People on the one hand talk about the holiness of Jerusalem and at the same time are speaking in unacceptable ways against the dignity of other human beings," he added. "How that contributes to the holiness of Jerusalem is something that I don't understand."

Well, you win some and you lose some, I guess.

White House Reports: 'We're not as fucked as we expected!'

The Bush administration yesterday lowered its estimate of this year's federal budget deficit to $296 billion -- a figure that prompted the White House to claim vindication for its tax cuts, and Democrats to issue new denunciations of the nation's fiscal problems.

In its midyear report on the budget, the administration projected that tax revenue will increase 11 percent in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That is "much better than we had projected, and it's helping us cut the budget deficit," President Bush said in a White House ceremony to release the report, which is usually a low-key midsummer event. So instead of the substantial increase from last year's $318.3 billion deficit that the administration and other forecasters predicted a few months ago, the 2006 deficit will fall by 7 percent, according to the new projection.

"Tax relief is working. The economy's growing. Revenues are up. The deficit is down," Bush said.


"Only Washington Republicans would think a $300 billion deficit is good news," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a written statement.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group, said the new figures are "nothing to break open the champagne over."

"We have experienced a neck-wrenching swing from large surpluses to large deficits since the start of the decade," MacGuineas said.

Democrats also disputed Republican claims that the sharp increase in tax receipts over the past couple of years shows that tax cuts are working. Although they conceded that revenue has soared in 2005 and 2006 with the hefty boost in corporate profits and incomes of Americans at the top tax brackets, they noted that after adjusting for inflation and growth in population, tax revenue hasn't grown overall during Bush's presidency.

"In 2000, we had just over $2 trillion of revenue," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said at a news conference. "Then we had the big tax cuts in 2001. Revenue went down the next year. Revenue went down again the next year. We had more tax cuts in 2003. . . . Only in 2006 are we getting, in real terms, back to the revenue we had in 2000."

It's all about moving the target so you can't miss, you know?

Greed Running Rampant in Iraq; Prudent Decision Making in Short Supply

The United States has spent more than a quarter of a trillion dollars during its three years in Iraq, and more than $50 billion of it has gone to private contractors hired to guard bases, drive trucks, feed and shelter the troops and rebuild the country.

It is dangerous work, but much of the $50 billion, which is more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, has been handed out to companies in Iraq with little or no oversight.

Billions of dollars are unaccounted for, and there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering. As 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft first reported in February, only one case, the subject of a civil lawsuit, has been unsealed. It involves a company called Custer Battles, and provides a window into the chaos of those early days in Iraq.

A certain amount of war profiteering is inevitable, I suppose. Granted, several billion seems excessive, but it isn't like it was systematic or permitted at the highest levels...

Dick Cheney's Former Company to Lose Contract Amidst Allegations of Fraud

The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq.

The choice comes after several years of attacks from critics who saw the contract as a symbol of politically connected corporations profiteering on the war.

Under the deal, Halliburton had exclusive rights to provide the military with a wide range of work that included keeping soldiers around the world fed, sheltered and in communication with friends and family back home. Government audits turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs. Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water.

No relatation to the story preceding it, I'm sure.

And that's the way it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely off topic, Drek, but given your interest in all things space, I thought I might tip you off to this:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 8:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crap, that didn't work. Since I don't know your e-mail address, I'll send the link to your SG and ask her to forward it to you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 8:03:00 PM  

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