Friday, February 13, 2009

Jan. 4th wasn't a female bomber, Helen Pidd

With the election of President Obama, some officials, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), have called for lifting the ban. Obama said he is waiting for a Pentagon review of the ban, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that he is open to changing the policy.
Gates should lift the ban, while trying to be as sensitive as possible to the wishes of families. It's not an easy call, and not all military families feel the same way about the issue.
Some relatives believe it's an invasion of privacy, or an exploitation of their loss to foment antiwar sentiment. Other families feel that allowing photographs is a way to honor the military dead, and that banning photographs amounts to the government hiding their loss.
Still others believe that the soldiers' sacrifices, and the war itself, tend to be forgotten by the public unless photographs are permitted.
That's why Rep. Walter Jones (R., N.C.), who voted in favor of using military force in Iraq, also favors allowing the media to photograph the returning caskets.

The above, noted by Jonathan, is from "Editorial: Photos and Coffins" (Philadelphia Inquirer) which we'll note. Others? We're not noting. One gets 'honored' at Third this weekend because it's so fact-free. Writing an editorial does not allow you to change what happened at a public event. Writing an editorial does not give you permission to lie about the facts. The Philadelphia Inquirer got their facts right. Others struggle.

Meanwhile, Alan Gomez (USA Today) reports Maj Gen Michael Oates declaring he has no idea why US troops are in southern Iraq and "that he believes recent security gains there are permanent -- and that some of his troops are openly wondering why they're still there, even though he believes their presence remains crucial." Oatest acknowledges problems in Mosul but appears to think that's it. This as Iraq's rocked with the worst bombing of the year this morning. Iskandariya is south of Baghdad but it is considered to be "central Iraq" and not "southern Iraq." Wisam Mohammed, Sami al-Jumaili, Waleed Ibrahim, Khalid al-Ansary, Mohammed Abbas and Michael Christie (Reuters) report 32 dead and eighty-four wounded and note, "The attacks occurred despite heavy security on the pilgrimage route. The ranks of troops and police patrolling Kerbala were boosted by 5,000 to 30,000, a city official said. The Arbain rite, which culminates early on Monday, is difficult to secure. Many pilgrims walk all the way to Kerbala, and are easy targets as they cover hundreds of miles clutching religious banners." Helen Pidd (Guardian) notes the death toll has now risen to 35 and then she pimps the following, "Today's bombing is at least the second attack by a female suicide bomber this year in Iraq: on 4 January a woman blew herself up among a crowd of pilgrims worshipping at the Imam Musa al-Kazim shrine in northern Baghdad, killing 38 people and wounding 72. Though the overall number of suicide attacks has dropped off in recent months, attacks by women are becoming more common." Actually, Helen, the January 4th bomber was a MAN. See the January 6th snapshot, see the January 14th snapshot (at this point al-Maliki's government is admitting the Jan. 4th bomber was a man). Second of all, 30 female bombers in all of 2008 is not "more common" but how nice of you to play the alarmist. How about you tell your readers how many bombers there have been and then explain to them what a tiny percentage of that female bombers actually are? Oh, that wouldn't allow you to play the alarmist. The UNINFORMED alarmist. The scariest thing may be that Pidd is paid to write. The Feb. 2nd Khanaqin bombing is said to be a male suicide bomber or a female suicide bomber. And the gender there was actually worth following up on since al-Maliki's government was pimping the alleged confession of the woman they claimed was the 'Mother of all Bombers' (no, that's not the translation, that's what they were saying -- remember, she recruited, she had them raped, remember all those completely unverifiable claims?). If Mommy of all was indeed captured, who was overseeing these female bombers!!!! Daddy of all Bombers? Aunt of all? Who? Who????? Helen Pidd, please, please, wrap your limited capabilities around that story.

Collaborators with occupiers pay a high price -- that's a common thread throughout history and today isn't any different. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "Iraqi interpreters working with the U.S. military in Baghdad are again allowed to hide their identity during certain missions, after a Pentagon decision to grant battalion commanders the discretion to disregard an earlier policy banning interpreters from wearing masks. . . . More than 300 interpreters working with U.S. troops have been killed since 2003, and some have been tortured by extremists who see them as traitors." And tensions continue on the border between Iraq and Turkey. Xinhua reports that Turkey's latest air strike resulted in 13 deaths, supposedly all PKK which the US, Turkey and the European Union have labeled a terrorist organization.

Turning to the US economy, Zach notes Michael Hudson's "Obama's Awful Financial Recovery Plan" (CounterPunch):

The first question to ask about any Recovery Program is, “Recovery for whom?” The answer given on Tuesday is, “For the people who design the Program and their constituency” – in this case, the bank lobby. The second question is, “Just what is it they want to ‘recover’?” The answer is, the Bubble Economy. For the financial sector it was a golden age. Having enjoyed the Greenspan Bubble that made them so rich, its managers would love to create yet more wealth for themselves by indebting the “real” economy yet further while inflating prices all over again to make new capital gains.
The problem for today’s financial elites is that it is not possible to inflate another bubble from today’s debt levels, widespread negative equity, and still-high level of real estate, stock and bond prices. No amount of new capital will induce banks to provide credit to real estate already over-mortgaged or to individuals and corporations already over-indebted. Moody’s and other leading professional observers have forecast property prices to keep on plunging for at least the next year, which is as far as the eye can see in today’s unstable conditions. So the smartest money is still waiting like vultures in the wings – waiting for government guarantees that toxic loans will pay off. Another no-risk private profit to be subsidized by public-sector losses.
While the Obama administration’s financial planners wring their hands in public and say “We feel your pain” to debtors at large, they know that the past ten years have been a golden age for the banking system and the rest of Wall Street. Like feudal lords claiming the economic surplus for themselves while administering austerity for the population at large, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population has raised their appropriation of the nationwide returns to wealth – dividends, interest, rent and capital gains – from 37 per cent of the total ten years ago to 57 per cent five years ago and it seems nearly 70 per cent today. This is the highest proportion since records have been kept. We are approaching Russian kleptocratic levels.
The officials drawn from Wall Street who now control of the Treasury and Federal Reserve repeat the right-wing Big Lie: Poor “subprime families” have brought the system down, exploiting the rich by trying to ape their betters and live beyond their means. Taking out subprime loans and not revealing their actual ability to pay, the NINJA poor (no income, no job, no audit) signed up to obtain “liars’ loans” as no-documentation Alt-A loans are called in the financial junk-paper trade.

And you can pair that with Left Business Observer's Doug Henwood's "Obama to coddle bankers" (LBO News from Doug Henwood):

And it looks like the Treasury and the Fed will pump up some $250-500 billion to help hedge funds buy bad assets - with the FDIC guaranteeing the buyers against losses.

At this point, the only thing that makes any sense is to nationalize the weakest banks, kick out management, wipe out the shareholders, clear the decks, and start over with a tightly regulated system. This isn't even all that radical a position anymore - and it may be inevitable, if these sick and devious "public-private partnership" schemes don’t work out, which seems likely. There is a radical nationalization position - take the banks over and convert them to public institutions - but I know that’s completely out of the question with this gang. But they’re doing absolutely everything they can to avoid even an orthodox nationalization. This is looking more and more like Japan’s disastrous indulgence of their "zombie banks" in the 1990s than Sweden’s successful bailout, the model for the “nationalize them and clear the decks” approach. Instead of a few rough years, we’re likely to get a miserable decade.

They've botched the stimulus, and they're botching the financial rescue. They're worse than I expected, and I wasn't expecting much in the first place (see: Obamamania, a febrile disease).

Public TV notes, NOW on PBS offers:

President Obama's stimulus money is nearly out the door and on its way to the states, but will it be spent in the way it is intended?
One alarming example: Mass transit. Cities and states, strapped for money, are cutting back on mass transit even as it becomes more popular with Americans. Meanwhile, President Obama is calling for increased mass transit as a necessary step toward energy independence. Will the government's investment dramatically revitalize our national travel infrastructure, or will states spend the money according to 'business as usual'?
This week NOW travels to North Carolina to see what the future holds for mass transit in these troubling financial times. Our investigation is part of a PBS-wide series on the country's infrastructure called "Blueprint America."

And online, last week NOW dealt with the Housing Crisis and Manish Thakor ("financial guru") replies to questions viewers asked. NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations tonight, check your local listings. Washington Week also begins airing on many PBS stations tonight and Gwen's roundtable gasbags this week include Gloria Borger (CNN, US News & World Reports), John Maggs (National Journal), John Dickerson (Slate) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:

Coming Up On 60 Minutes:
Buy American
The economic stimulus package includes a "buy American" clause that the steel and other U.S. industries lobbied hard for. However, American businesses that export overseas now worry foreign governments will retaliate and keep U.S. products out of their market, hurting their business. Lesley Stahl reports.
World Of Trouble
Three years before the housing market crash, Paul Bishop says he warned his superiors at World Savings - the nation's second largest savings and loan company - that many of the mortgages they were granting were misleading and predatory. Scott Pelley reports.
War In Pakistan
Steve Kroft reports from Pakistan, where Islamic insurgents are trying to take over the country and he interviews its new president, Asif Ali Zardari.
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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