Sunday, June 19, 2011

Last Call

Looks like the Obama administration is moving on bringing troops home from Afghanistan, but even McClatchy is warning that any drawdowns come with a metric crapton of caveats:

President Barack Obama is expected to unveil his U.S. troop reduction plan for Afghanistan next week, buoyed by assessments by senior defense officials that the U.S. war strategy is headed in the right direction and has weakened the Taliban-led insurgency.

But some U.S. officials in Washington and in Afghanistan are concerned that many of the gains aren't sustainable, and conditions are too fragile to allow for the "significant" troop drawdown that Obama is being pressured to begin next month by some top aides and growing numbers of lawmakers of both parties.

Violence is worse, many Taliban appear to have moved elsewhere rather than fight U.S. forces surged into the south, the Afghan government and security forces remain far from capable, and counter-insurgency cooperation with Pakistan is all but frozen, these U.S. officials said.

"The situation is terrible. Has there been a qualitative change that disadvantages the opposition and advantages the (U.S.-led) coalition? I don't buy it," said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly. "The Taliban remains a clever, adaptive enemy."

Not even "White House officials" or "Pentagon officials" but the all-purpose "US officials" which basically means "This is so far off the record that it smells like dead fish."   Somebody's hell-bent on raining on the "let's bring them home" parade, even with bin Laden dead.

It'll be interesting to see where this all shakes out.  This makes me question just how bi-partisan the effort by Republicans really is about bringing troops home, too.  In fact, this seems like a concerted effort to both minimize the success of bin Laden's death, and to pin the "continued failure in Afghanistan" on Obama, something right up the Republicans' alley for 2012.

I'm moderately surprised McClatchy is playing ball with this, but there you are.

Cain Unable

Herman Cain is still stuck in an endless loop pattern where he keeps telling the tea party that he would never appoint a dirty, filthy enemy Muslim to his Cabinet, and then tells the Village he was misconstrued and taken out of context.  He's done it before (several times in fact) and this weekend he tried it again.

At a press conference following his speech at the RightOnline conference here Saturday night, Cain expressed frustration that the quote he gave ThinkProgress about not appointing Muslims to his administration is still haunting him.

Cain said the first thing that came to his mind when he got the question was violent Muslims. Cain made it clear that he would treat applicants for his administration differently if they were from the Muslim faith, based on the fact that they could, in fact, be terrorists.

"I am not anti-Muslim," he said. "I am anti-terrorist. And so my statement has been misconstrued several times, I've even been called a bigot because I expressed a desire to be cautious if I were to consider a Muslim for my administration. That was the intent of [the answer to ThinkProgress]." 

Sorry Herman.   You believe all Muslims are potential terrorists who deserve extra scrutiny and must prove they are innocent because they are presumed guilty by default, ergo you are anti-Muslim.

"So, no, I'm not going to play nicey nice and say that I'm not going to take extra precautions in order to be able that make sure that we can do our job," Cain said.

Then, under questioning from TPM, he walked all of that back. TPM asked what the special precautions might be, specifically.

"If you're trying to make me lose my cool, you are succeeding," Cain said, his voice rising. "I never said I would use any special precautions!"

OK, then, TPM followed up: "So a Muslim applies to be in the administration, he gets in like anybody else?" 

"Yes," Cain said.

So he just contradicted himself in the space of the same conversation with TPM.  And this guy wants to be President?  In what universe, the one where we make Muslims wear neon signs?

Please.  If he spun any faster, we'd have to attach copper wires and a magnet to him just to see if he could power a city block or two.

Firing Up The Base

Remember when John McCain was the "non-crazy Republican"?  I kind of miss those days too, because the current iteration of Senator Angry is just as bad as some of his tea party fact he's worse, because he knows better than to make dangerous and irresponsible claims like this, he just once again chooses to lie to score points with the crazies.

U.S. Sen. John McCain is blaming illegal immigrants for starting some of the wildfires that have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in Arizona.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain, R-Arizona, said Saturday at a press conference. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

The Arizona senator, however, did not say what the evidence is, prompting a swift rebuke from Latino civil rights advocates.

"It's easier to fan the flames of intolerance, especially in Arizona," said Randy Parraz, a civil rights advocate who ran unsuccessfully against McCain as a Democratic candidate in 2010.

But that slander is out there, and now Arizonans will be gunning for Latinos in that state...possibly quite literally.  If he has the evidence, then let's see and hear it.  My guess is he has nothing but racist bullshit.

More from Capt. Fogg over at The Reaction.

Your Political Cartoon Of The Moment

Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courier:

But remember, the GOP has a jobs plan. Somewhere.

I'll Have The Fish, Thanks

Somehow this feels like a Vonnegut plotline: population boom equals food shortage. Solution? Synthesize food from human waste matter. Absurd yes, but Japanese scientists have actually discovered a way to create edible steaks from human feces.
Mitsuyuki Ikeda, a researcher from the Okayama Laboratory, has developed steaks based on proteins from human excrement. Tokyo Sewage approached the scientist because of an overabundance of sewage mud. They asked him to explore the possible uses of the sewage and Ikeda found that the mud contained a great deal of protein because of all the bacteria.
The researchers then extracted those proteins, combined them with a reaction enhancer and put it in an exploder which created the artificial steak. The “meat” is 63% proteins, 25% carbohydrates, 3% lipids and 9% minerals. The researchers color the poop meat red with food coloring and enhance the flavor with soy protein. Initial tests have people saying it even tastes like beef.
The Hamburger Helper punchlines are crowding out deeper analysis.  I'm really curious, what do you guys think about resorting to such levels to feed the people?  Don't get me wrong, I see the benefit in theory, but at that time I think the Ew factor would make me go vegan.

A Man And His Best Friend

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A community came together to grant a homeless man his last wish. That dying wish was to see his dog one more time. It was a simple request, but one that meant the world to him in his final days.

People involved with the man’s last wish describe it as something they’ll never forget. Now that he’s gone, they’ll always cherish the memories of the man and his best friend. 
It gets better.  Enjoy. 

Flying The Colors

Even Sen. Al Franken is saying President Obama needs to obtain a vote from Congress authorizing the use of force in Libya, and given the NY Times story that the DoJ and DoD advised the President to do just that but that he ignored their advice, I'm having serious trouble seeing how the President can go on with the status quo here.

"We're going to have to vote," Franken said shortly after his speech to the Netroots Nation crowd gathered here in his home state Saturday.

In an explosive article Friday, the New York Times reported that Obama overruled Justice Department advice that continuing the war in Libya without congressional authority was illegal. Asked about the story, Franken said he rejected the president's reported reasoning behind overruling his own legal team.

"I disagree with his take on it," Franken said. "I understand what his take is, which is that we don't have any troops on the ground, we are -- you know, whatever it is, I don't agree with it."

In the long term, Franken said, Congress must give Obama authorization to continue the war.

"The War Powers Act should be enforced," Franken said.

As if there wasn't enough on President Obama's plate right now, a healthy chunk of Congress, both left and right, feel like Obama is stepping all over their authority, and frankly he is.  The President's going to have to go hat in hand to Capitol Hill at some point very soon, or the House will make good on its threat to defund Libya at the very least.

Obama is on the wrong side of this one.

A Conference Of Dunces

News from the Republican Leadership Conference this weekend in New Orleans is pretty grim if you think reason and logic will prevail in the 2012 GOP nominee for the White House.  Via BooMan, we find as President, Michele Bachmann would basically take the Department of Education out of the picture, give states block grants and let them teach whatever they want, but she wants schools to teach intelligent design.

"I support intelligent design," Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. "What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don't think it's a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides."

Intelligent design suggests that the complexity of the universe cannot be explained by evolution alone, and must also be attributed to a creator or supernatural being.

"I would prefer that students have the ability to learn all aspects of an issue," Bachmann said. "And that's why I believe the federal government should not be involved in local education to the most minimal possible process."

So she wants minimal federal government involvement in schools, but wants to force schools to teach evolution and intelligent design because they're two "competing theories" and the government "shouldn't take sides" by saying evolution is OK.  That makes logical sense, right?  We should have the government make schools teach alternatives to other "unproven scientific theories" like gravity.

Meanwhile, this conference is where the GOP hired an Obama impersonator to tell some pretty offensive jokes.

Aren't Republicans great?
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