Monday, June 7, 2010

The War in Afghanistan Reaches New Milestone: Longest War in U.S. History, Surpasses the Vietnam War

As the Afghanistan War replaces the Vietnam War as the longest war in U.S. history, Brave New Foundation and TrueMajority today called on President Obama and Congress to ensure a responsible troop withdrawal from Afghanistan complete no later than December 2011. Brave New Foundation and TrueMajority released a new video marking the milestone featuring leading experts, including: former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, Malou Innocent of the CATO Institute, author Tom Hayden and historian Christian Appy speaking to the Vietnamization of Afghanistan and to the staggering cost to Americans totaling almost $300 billion and over 1,000 American lives.

As of Monday, June 7, 2010, the U.S. will have been in Afghanistan for 104 months, more than eight-and-a half years, surpassing the war in Vietnam. In his December 2009 West Point speech, President Obama announced a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin in July 2011. However, he set no end date, leaving open the possibility that U.S. combat troops could remain there indefinitely.

The call for a firm withdrawal end-date comes as Congress debates spending another $33 billion on troop escalation in Afghanistan.

It is a real tragedy that Afghanistan has now become the longest war in American history. This war has gone on long enough, and it’s time to end it. We have already spent almost $300 billion dollars on Afghanistan and have lost over 1,000 American lives, all for a war that is not making us safer.” Director, Robert Greenwald, Brave New Foundation

“I think of this war as Vietnamistan. It’s essentially the same form of war: fighting people who are mainly motivated by the determination to expel foreign invaders from their country.” Daniel Ellsberg, Former US Military Analyst, RAND Corp

“[President Obama] has not promised or pledged how many troops he promises to take out or leave behind, so it’s very ambiguous. I wouldn’t be surprised if we are in this region for the foreseeable future.” Malou Innocent,
Foreign Policy Analyst, Cato Institute

“Afghanistan becoming the longest war in our history forces us to ask: Just how long is long enough? How much money is too much? How many more lives is this worth? The answer is that the war in Afghanistan has already cost us too much – and it’s up to Congress to bring home the troops and refocus our priorities.” Matt Holland, Online Director TrueMajority/USAction

The Boston Celtics Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 103-94 in Game 2 of NBA Finals: Ray Allen Shoots a Home Court Advantage Gift

Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson Kiss at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards

Sandra Bullock made her triumphant return to the spotlight at last night's 2010 MTV Movie Awards. Sandra looked amazing in her short mini-dress. Twerk! And Scarlett Johansson looked beautiful.

Chemistry? Hot? Not so much. 'It's Britney b*tch!' knows how to pull off a hot girl on girl kiss.

Sandra came out on stage and gave another awesome, memorable speech. She also kissed her former co-star Ryan Reynolds' wife, ScarJo. Sandra obviously hasn't been dating or boinking anyone since her sudden split from Jesse James. Her heart was clearly much more into the kiss than Scarlett's was.

Jump in for the video.

Scarlett Johansson

FBI Investigates Shooting, Dragging of Black Man

TRAIL OF MAYHEM: A truck drives by a blood trail on South Carolina Highway 176 in Newberry on Friday.

The shooting death of an African American whose body was dragged for several km is being investigated as a possible hate crime after the arrest of a white man he worked with, said South Carolina's state police chief.

Gregory Collins (19), is charged with murder and made his first court appearance on Friday.

No bond was set and he did not yet have an attorney, said Newberry County Magistrate Ron Halfacre.

The FBI was in Newberry County in central South Carolina on Thursday assisting in the investigation of the shooting death of Anthony Hill (30), State Law Enforcement Division director Reggie Lloyd told The State newspaper.

“We don't yet have a definitive motive for all this,” said Mr. Lloyd.

Mr. Hill's body was found around 0430 am on Thursday on US Highway 176 and Newberry County sheriff's deputies followed a trail of blood to the home of Collins.

For several hours, Collins refused to come out and police agents fired tear gas into the home, prompting him to surrender, said Mr. Lloyd.

Jermaine's Ex-Wife Ready for Legal Battle with Katherine Jackson

A few months ago TMZ reported that Jackson family matriarch Katherine had asked her ex daughter-in-law Alejandra and four children to move out of the Jackson family compound.
TMZ claimed that the former Mrs. Jermaine Jackson had been required to vacate the premises due to an incident involving her son Jaafar who had been accused of purchasing a stun gun and using it to shock Michael's 8-year-old son Blanket. Case workers with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services were notified and investigated the incident. Reportedly the incident was the last straw for Katherine, who asked Alejandra to move soon thereafter.

It is being reported that Alejandra is miffed about having to leave the comfy quarters with her brood and has now sought the services of powerhouse legal firm Trope & Trope.
Katherine has not thrown her grandkids and their mom out on the curb, however. Instead, she is providing a condo for them to move into. Meanwhile, Alejandra (pictured below), who has two children by Jermaine and two by Randy Jackson, is rolling up her sleeves and getting ready to do battle with her former mother-in-law. In addition to the new digs, she also allegedly wants some financial security for herself and her children and may negotiate a separation package which would cover them all in the event of a move.

Nigerian federation: "No choice of venue."

JOHANNESBURG — The Nigeria soccer federation says it had no choice over the venue for its exhibition warmup match against North Korea, at which a stampede left 15 people injured, because "FIFA had taken control of all the stadia."

One policeman was seriously hurt Sunday during two separate fan rushes at the Makhulong Stadium outside Johannesburg.

Taiwo Ogunjobi, the Nigerian federation's technical committee chairman, told website that "we had no choice" because "that was the only venue available to us."
Nigeria media officer Idah Peterside said that FIFA and World Cup organizers were not responsible, adding the match "was organized by the two FAs."

Ahead of the Bell: Apple Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs is expected to show off the next version of the iPhone Monday when he takes the stage to kick off the company's annual conference for software developers.

Apple hasn't confirmed its plans, but in the last two years the company has used the San Francisco conference to unveil new generations of iPhone.

Every major Apple event prompts a wave of speculation about what the company might announce. This time, analysts and Apple-watchers are armed with more reliable advance information than usual. An Apple engineer left an iPhone prototype in a Silicon Valley bar; the person who found it sold it to the prominent technology blog Gizmodo for $5,000.

Gizmodo posted details and photos online that point to an iPhone with more squared-off sides, a clearer screen, a front-facing camera and a bigger battery.

Apple won't say what it plans to reveal Monday or whether the prototype is similar to the next generation of its smart phone.

For Republicans, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure on Oil Spill

On May 7, 2001, press secretary Ari Fleischer uttered the four words that came to define the Bush administration's approach to the U.S. addiction to oil. Asked if Americans needed to "correct their lifestyles" to address the nation's energy vulnerability, Fleischer snapped, "That's a big no." And so, a government of the oil men, by the oil men and for the oil men pushed through the secret Cheney energy plan, virtually gave away U.S. oil leases, loosened regulations on offshore drilling and perverted the federal agency overseeing it, all while breaking Bush's promise to "jawbone" OPEC into lowering prices.

And now that the Gulf of Mexico is being killed by an almost inevitable oil disaster, the party of "Drill, Baby Drill" and its media echo chamber tell us, it's pretty much all Barack Obama's fault.

The polls suggest BP's carnage in the Gulf is taking a similar toll on President Obama's standing. A DailyKos/Research 2000 survey found that Obama's favorability rating has taken a beating, dropping a net six points from 54%-41% to 51%-44%. A CBS News poll released Friday provided more bad news for the administration:

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said the Obama administration should be doing more in response to the spill, while 28 percent believe the government is doing all it can. BP scored slightly worse - 70 percent feel the company should be doing more while 24 percent believe it's doing everything possible to contain the crisis...

Forty-four percent of respondents disapprove of the White House's handling of the spill, with 38 percent satisfied with the government's response.

Republican glee hardly ends with those numbers. Even as their pet industry dumped nearly 50 million gallons of crude into American waters, the media has faithfully regurgitated the GOP talking point that an emotionless Barack Obama neither comforted the nation nor led it in rising up in righteous indignation. While early on AP documented President Obama's rapid reaction to the unfolding disaster destined to disfigure the Gulf for decades, commentators like Maureen Dowd branded him "President Spock."

And that label, like the oil on Gulf Coast beaches, is starting to stick. As Howard Kurtz summed up the soon-to-be unshakable narrative on CNN:

"We have heard this refrain in the media before that Barack Obama is too passive, too passionless, too much the uninspiring technocrat. But with concern over the BP oil spill rising by the day - and I've lost track of the company's botched attempts to stop this leak - this was the week when the President's allies in the press really turned on him."

And helped turn reality on its head.

In Congress, Darrell Issa (R-CA), a long-time proponent on drilling off the California coast, emerged as a critic of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) gutted and corrupted under Bush and Cheney. On Sunday, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who previously compared being smothered in oil to being covered in toothpaste, announced "the Coast is clear, come on down!" as he joined Bobby Jindal (R-LA), John Conryn (R-TX) and David Vitter (R-LA) in calling for an end to the drilling moratorium now.

Some erstwhile Obama allies are now suggesting that after 8 years of Republican oil gluttony and malfeasance, the President should have corrected the cozy relationship and culture of collision in 15 months. "Deepwater Horizon was preventable," Tim Fernholz wrote in the left-leaning American Prospect, adding, "Obama should take the heat."

The real failure here was in prevention. It was clear when Obama took office in 2009 that the Mineral Management Service, which regulates offshore oil drilling, was in desperate need of reform.

Of course, many of President Obama's wounds have been self-inflicted. In March, he endorsed a partial end to the moratorium on offshore drilling, ominously claiming just 18 days before that "oil rigs today generally don't cause spills...They are technologically very advanced." Until very recently, Obama has tried to walk a tightrope, hoping to pin responsibility on BP while deferring the solution to the same company which, as Fernholz noted, "told the government in 2008 that it could handle a spill 10 times larger than the current spill, a claim that was most certainly wrong and was alarmingly lacking in details about responding to a deep-water spill." (On Friday, New released an internal BP document from June 2009 detailing the damage - and PR campaign - a Gulf Coast oil spill could unleash.) As the calamity unfolded in April and May, the government soon learned that between BP and Transocean, no one was in charge of the Deepwater Horizon. It's no wonder Frank Rich counseled Obama Sunday, "Don't get mad, Mr. President; get even."

Now, Barack Obama finds himself up to his neck in it. Sadly, the BP catastrophe should have capped a perfect storm for regulatory reform of the Republican predator state. After all, the month of April alone highlighted unbridled Wall Street greed, corporate mismanagement of a devastating oil spill, corruption and death in the nation's coal mines, and the cruel practice of rescission by health insurers dropping patients with conditions including AIDS and breast cancer.

Instead, as the presidential popularity and pre-election polls seem to suggest, the party which aided and abetted these wrongs will likely be the beneficiary of them. As summed up by "Getting Away with Murder: How the GOP Killed Trust in Government":

"The Republican Party whose anti-government rhetoric and incompetence in office helped kill trust in government may now be rewarded for it."

Or as Thomas Frank described the Republican governing philosophy in The Wrecking Crew:

"The chief consequence of the conservatives' unrelenting faith in the badness of government is...bad government...

...And remember. None of it is accidental. These are the fruits of the free market theory of government."

Nevertheless, the emerging conventional wisdom is that it's all Barack Obama's fault. Put another way, for Republicans, nothing succeeds like failure.

BP chief Tony Hayward sold shares weeks before oil spill

The chief executive of BP sold £1.4 million of his shares in the fuel giant weeks before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused its value to collapse.

Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one month before a well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental disaster.

Mr Hayward, whose pay package is 4million a year, then paid off the mortgage on his family’s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be valued at more than 1.2million.

Is no suggestion that he acted improperly or had prior knowledge that the company was to face the biggest setback in its history.

His decision, however, means he avoided losing more than £423,000 when BP’s share price plunged after the oil spill began six weeks ago. Since he disposed of 223,288 shares on March 17, the company’s share price has fallen by 30 per cent.

About £40 billion has been wiped off its total value. The fall has caused pain not just for BP shareholders, but also for millions of company pension funds and small investors who have money held in tracker funds.

The spill, which has still not been stemmed, has caused a serious environmental crisis and is estimated to cost BP up to £40 billion to clean up.

There was growing confidence yesterday that a new cap placed over the well was stemming the oil flow. An estimated three million litres a day had been pouring into the sea off the coast of Louisiana since the April 20 explosion, damaging marine life.

The crisis has enraged US politicians, with President Obama yesterday forced to cancel a trip to Indonesia amid a row over the White House’s response.

Mr Hayward, whose position is thought to be under threat, risked further fury by continuing plans to pay out a dividend to investors next month.

Little media reaction to Helen Thomas anti-Semitic statement

Longtime White House press correspondent Helen Thomas has offered an opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian situation that is, well, deeply offensive. Thomas was recently asked at a White House Jewish Heritage Celebration what her thoughts were on Israel. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” said the near-90-year-old as she laughed. “Remember, these people are occupied. It’s not (Israel’s) land.” Asked by a rabbi what the Jews should do, Thomas said “[Go] home. Poland. Germany.” “Home,” of course, being where six million Jews were murdered. The B’nai B’rith issued a statement saying Thomas “demonstrates an outrageous and complete lack of understanding of history.”

Helen Thomas works for Hearst Newspapers A Hearst spokesman emailed ABC on Saturday with a halfhearted “We deeply regret Helen Thomas’ remarks, which in no way reflect the views of Hearst Newspapers or its employees.” Put aside where you stand on the conflict in Israel for a moment and wonder: Were she have to told any other minority to “go home,” would the reaction have been the same? It’s hard to find this story in the MSM – although Fox News did devote some time to it. Bloggers are doing a decent job spreading the word. Thomas did apologize, sort of, writing on her blog that she regretted her comments.

Here’s Helen Thomas, in her own words.

Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House Press Secretary, has called for Thomas to be fired. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling,” Fleischer said in an email to the Huffington Post. “How can Hearst stand by her?” Fleischer asked. “If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.” Former Clinton spokesman Lanny Davis issued a statement calling for Thomas to be suspended from the White House press room and suspended from Hearst.

UPDATE: Politico reports that the speakers’ agency that represents Thomas, Nine Speakers, has dropped her. From the company’s statement: “Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East.”