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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
Number of posts: 60,364

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Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere


Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, right, speaks with French President Francois Hollande during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013. Increasingly vocal in its frustration over United States policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.

Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
The Associated Press
December 29, 2013 Updated 8 minutes ago

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.

It may find a solution in France, whose president is ending the year with 24 hours of high-level meetings with the Saudi leadership in a visit intended to showcase commercial and diplomatic strength.

With an entourage of French executives from the lucrative defense and energy sectors, President Francois Hollande arrived Sunday in Riyadh for a flurry of accords and contracts that have been in the works for months. The two countries also find themselves unexpectedly aligned in resistance, if not outright opposition, to U.S. policy on Syria's civil war and Iran's nuclear program.

Hollande highlighted both aspects of the relationship during the visit, underscoring for reporters the number of diplomatic issues that the two countries agree on and noting that trade between the two had doubled in the past 10 years to 8 billion euros ($11 billion) in 2013.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 08:53 AM (1 replies)

(WA state) Oil tanker traffic likely to increase


Oil tanker traffic likely to increase
The Associated Press
December 29, 2013

The number of oil tankers in Washington state waters could increase almost sevenfold under a proposal by a Canadian pipeline company to expand the amount of crude oil it sends to the Pacific Coast.

Kinder Morgan Canada filed a formal application with Canadian regulators earlier this month to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline that carries crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the Vancouver, B.C. area.

Under the proposal, up to 34 tankers a month would be loaded with oil at a terminal outside Vancouver, then generally travel through Haro Strait east of San Juan Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca for export to markets in Asia and the U.S. That’s up from about five tankers a month.

The $5.4 billion expansion project would nearly triple pipeline capacity from about 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of crude oil a day to meet customer demand. Much of that future cargo will likely be diluted bitumen from Canada’s oil sands.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 08:49 AM (1 replies)

New legs, new goals for Olympia soldier


Sgt. Luke Cifka spends time with his son Wyatt. After suffering critical injuries during a patrol in Afghanistan on May 31, he’s receiving care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

New legs, new goals for Olympia soldier
December 29, 2013


The memory came back to him this fall when he began learning to walk again. This time, he’s recovering from a blast in Afghanistan that claimed his legs above the knees.

Last month, Cifka, 26, took his first steps with prosthetic limbs, walking without toes, calves or knees.

“All the muscles are different,” he said. “It takes a minute to get used to it, but it’s all incredible.”

The soldier from Olympia is almost seven months into his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. The Olympian first told his story in June, eight days after the May 31 blast that changed his life.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 08:40 AM (0 replies)

Republicans: Cynical Paralysis


Republicans: Cynical Paralysis
Le Figaro, France
By Jean-Sébastien Stehli
Translated By Kim Wang
23 December 2013
Edited by Gillian Palmer

The Republicans’ strategy for winning the U.S. midterm election next November is simple: Pose small questions and do nothing. It is difficult to make an error when one's political philosophy is inaction. A Republican leader recently confided to Time Magazine, “Ideally, we'd freeze things the way they are in amber until November.” Eloquent. In 2014, Congress could be even less productive than in 2013 — too bad for American citizens.

With a bit of luck, the next session in Congress could be the least productive in nearly a half-century. During its last session, less than 60 bills were passed, which almost sets a record.

Republicans, who were seven points behind after the two weeks of government shutdown (47-40 percent), are now ahead (44-41 percent). Political commentators had already started to bet that John Boehner, the House Speaker, would lose his majority this November. Today, however, the situation has been reversed. The GOP has been greatly assisted in its comeback by the disastrous launch of Obamacare.

However, good economic data, notably a 4.1 percent growth in the last trimester, could still allow the Democrats to pull ahead.

unhappycamper comment: A word or two on Obamacare.

1. The 'Obamacare' health care plan was written by the Heritage organization. (Insurance companies love it.)

2. Mitt the Shit implemented the Heritage's health care plan in Mass.

3. What we really need is a single-payer heath care system.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 08:27 AM (0 replies)

Assange warns of Information Apartheid & Encompassing State: “This is the Last Free Generation”


Assange warns of Information Apartheid & Encompassing State: “This is the Last Free Generation”
By Juan Cole | Dec. 30, 2013

“This is the last free generation… The coming together of the systems of government and the information apartheid is such that none of us will be able to escape it in just a decade.” . . . “We are all becoming part of this state whether we like it or not . . . Our only hope is to help determine what kind of state we will be a part of.”

Assange called on systems administrators to attempt to foil government spying and to volunteer to penetrate security agencies and out their covert practices.


In the interview, Assange argues that powerful media are inextricably intertwined with government power, on which they profess to report critically. They are constrained from doing so however, since they require access to power in order to report.

He further outlined a generational struggle now being fought out in cyberspace between the 15-35-year-olds, for whom government intrusion is unacceptable, and the baby boomers and their elders, who for the most part acquiesce in this government power and information-grab.

Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 08:08 AM (0 replies)

The Long, Expensive History of Defense Rip-Offs


A timeline of more than 230 years of military waste, from gouging George Washington to ditching $7 billion worth of stuff Afghanistan.

The Long, Expensive History of Defense Rip-Offs
—By Eric Wuestewald | Wed Dec. 18, 2013 3:00 AM GMT


2010: The Government Accountability Office finds that the Defense Logistics Agency is sitting on $7.1 billion worth of excess spare parts.

2010:An anonymous congressional earmark sets aside $2.5 billion for 10 C-17 aircraft the Air Force says it does not need.

2011:Boeing charges the Army $1,678 apiece for rubber cargo-loading rollers that actually cost $7 each.


2013: The Pentagon plans to scrap more than 85,000 tons of equipment in Afghanistan, part of $7 billion worth of gear being left behind as the troops come home.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 07:20 AM (1 replies)

We Wouldn't Discuss American Deaths With Headlines Like "Bride and Boom!"


American media's tasteless coverage of wedding drone strikes in the Arab world.

We Wouldn't Discuss American Deaths With Headlines Like "Bride and Boom!"
—By Tom Engelhardt | Fri Dec. 20, 2013 2:37 PM GMT

The headline–"Bride and Boom!"–was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half. Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The reference was to a caravan of vehicles on its way to or from a wedding in Yemen that was eviscerated, evidently by a US drone via one of those "surgical" strikes of which Washington is so proud. As one report put it, "Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road."

It goes without saying that such a headline could only be applied to assumedly dangerous foreigners–"terror" or "al-Qaeda suspects"–in distant lands whose deaths carry a certain quotient of weirdness and even amusement with them. Try to imagine the equivalent for the Newtown massacre the day after Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and began killing children and teachers. Since even the New York Post wouldn't do such a thing, let's posit that the Yemen Post did, that playing off the phrase "head of the class," their headline was: "Dead of the Class!" (with that same giant exclamation point). It would be sacrilege. The media would descend. The tastelessness of Arabs would be denounced all the way up to the White House. You'd hear about the callousness of foreigners for days.

And were a wedding party to be obliterated on a highway anywhere in America on the way to, say, a rehearsal dinner, whatever the cause, it would be a 24/7 tragedy. Our lives would be filled with news of it. Count on that.


After all, by the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country–six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen. And in all those years, reporters covering these "incidents" never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously. Sometimes whole wedding parties were slaughtered, sometimes just the bride or groom's parties were hit. Estimated total dead from the eight incidents: almost 300 Afghans, Iraqis, and Yemenis. And keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven't been the only rites hit. US air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 07:09 AM (5 replies)

Let's Roll: Unraveling the Pentagon's Toilet Paper Budget


Let's Roll: Unraveling the Pentagon's Toilet Paper Budget
—By Dave Gilson | Thu Dec. 19, 2013 3:00 AM GMT

They say that an army marches on its stomach, but another measure of a military's power may be how it protects its rear. The prospect of running out of government-issued TP has become a talking point against trimming defense spending. Former Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work cautioned that if sequestration was allowed to continue, "we will go back to 1975 where I'm buying toilet paper for my Marines." Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) warned of the bad old days before 9/11 when "we did not have enough money to get toilet paper for some of our soldiers." So far, budget austerity does not appear to have seriously affected strategic toilet paper reserves, though the Air Force Academy went into a temporary holding pattern when its tissue procurer was furloughed.

Just how much TP the military goes through is a bureaucratic enigma. (Grunts in Vietnam were reportedly issued 19 squares a day.) According to contracting data, the Pentagon bought an average of $2 million worth of "toiletry paper products" annually between 2000 and 2010. Yet that figure jumped to $130 million in 2012. A closer look at the numbers reveals about $58 million of paper products you might conceivably wipe with, plus a ton of padding—including $2.7 million of lightbulbs and $9.6 million of canning supplies. Let's just chalk up those to the Pentagon's infamously sloppy accounting system.

So who is getting flush on the military's bathroom budget? In 2012, the Pentagon's—and the government's—biggest vendor of toiletry paper products was Georgia-Pacific, a.k.a. Koch Industries.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 06:39 AM (1 replies)

Pentagon's 2014 Military Budget: Can't Touch This


Until Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rode to the rescue this week, Pentagon brass and their allies had been issuing dire warnings about the nation's military readiness: The armed services were being decimated, they said, by sequestration—the automatic budget cuts that were set to trim $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade. "It's one thing for the Pentagon to go on a diet. It's another for the Pentagon to wear a straitjacket while dieting," grumbled Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.). The message got through: The House overwhelmingly approved the Ryan-Murray plan just two days after it was introduced.

But now, the Pentagon has once more gotten a reprieve from the budget ax: Under Murray and Ryan's congressional budget deal, the Pentagon will get an additional $32 billion, or 4.4 percent, in 2014, leaving its base budget at a higher level than in 2005 and 2006. (The Department of Defense expects its total 2014 budget, including supplemental war funding, to be more than $600 billion.)


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $1.5 trillion, about twice the cost of the Vietnam War when adjusted for inflation. Those funds came entirely from borrowing, contributing nearly 20 percent to the national debt accrued between 2001 and 2012. And that's just the "supplemental" military spending passed by Congress for the wars—the regular Pentagon budget also grew nearly 45 percent between 2001 and 2010.

No wonder, perhaps, that defense watchdogs found the Pentagon's wailing about the sequester less than convincing. "These 'terrible' cuts would return us to historically high levels of spending," snapped Winslow Wheeler of the Project on Government Oversight. According to Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the Pentagon could reduce its budget by $100 billion a year without undermining its readiness. The sequestration cuts for 2013 amounted to $37 billion.

This camper maintains that the F-35 costs around $247,000,000 or 76 million cupcakes.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 06:33 AM (7 replies)

From Eggs to Explosives: The Pentagon's Long Shopping List


The military handed out $361 billion to contractors in 2012. Here's what it bought.

From Eggs to Explosives: The Pentagon's Long Shopping List
—By Dave Gilson | Mon Dec. 23, 2013 3:00 AM GMT

Running the massively big, most powerful military in the world requires a lot of stuff, from tanks to toilet paper. The Pentagon handed out $361 billion to contractors in 2012. Some of the items on its long shopping list:

Note that is for 2012 only.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 06:21 AM (0 replies)
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