Archive for April, 2009

300 photos, 100 days

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

When too much is never enough,

obama3d

Obamamania or overkill? President marks his first 100 days in office with THREE HUNDRED photos… all of him

But are they autographed?

Sarko: No more free lunch

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In contrast with his predecessor, whose food bills exceeded $700/day on average between 1988 and 1995, Sarko’s now saying adieu to the free lunch:

Sarkozy Takes Free Lunch Off Elysee Menu to Cut ‘Royal’ Costs

For the first time since French presidents moved into the mansion off Paris’s Champs Elysees in 1874, senior staff members have to pay for midday meals — 8 euros ($10.56) for a three- course repast delivered by white-jacketed waiters.

It’s part of an effort by the debt-laden government to rein in the president’s expenses. The Elysee has produced its first budget as the 54-year-old leader trims overhead. Sarkozy, who has sparked strikes for plans to reduce the civil service, says he hopes to set an example for a more frugal era of government.

Cheaper champagne, too:

Journalists on Sarkozy’s flights are now served a complimentary glass of Piper Heidseck champagne, which retails at 30 euros a bottle, instead of the 156 euro per bottle Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle.

If he included bloggers, we’d be happy with a bottle of Michelob Light.

Big Cocaine Gang Allied to Hezbollah Rounded up in the Caribbean

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Big Cocaine Gang Allied to Hezbollah Rounded up (h/t GoV; emphasis added)

THE HAGUE, 30/04/09 – In cooperation with various other countries, Dutch authorities have rounded up a big cocaine gang that had links with Hezbollah. Seventeen suspects were arrested on Curacao, the biggest island of the Netherlands Antilles, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) has revealed.

International cooperation between police and judicial services of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles, Belgium, Colombia, Venezuela and the US led to the arrest of the 17 suspects by the Curacao police. They are believed to be part of a drugs and money-laundering organisation with international branches, thought to be responsible for the import and export of at least 2,000 kilos of cocaine per year, according to the OM. “The organisation maintained international contacts with other criminal networks, which in the Middle East support Hezbollah financially”.

In this investigation, launched at the beginning of 2008, containers with cocaine were intercepted earlier in Rotterdam (300 kilos), the Spanish city of Valencia (20 kilos) and the Belgian city of Antwerp (140 kilos). Three Colombian suspects have for some time been in pre-trial custody for their involvement in the Rotterdam shipment, discovered in October 2008.

The 17 suspects now arrested are from Venezuela, Colombia, Lebanon and Cuba as well as Curacao. The organisation shipped containers with cocaine from Curacao to the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Jordan. From Venezuela, drugs containers went to West Africa and subsequently to the Netherlands, Lebanon and Spain. Couriers smuggled cocaine from Curacao and Aruba to the Netherlands as air passengers.

The suspects invested the drugs profits in property in Colombia, Venezuela, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic and in companies on Curacao. “Large sums of money from the drugs trade have become available in Lebanon via underground bankers. From Lebanon, orders are also placed for weapons, which had to be delivered by the drugs organisation from South America.”

Babalu also posted on this atticle from the Lebanon Daily Star, Police link 17 ‘drug traders’ in Curacao with Hizbullah

BEIRUT: Police from seven nations arrested 17 people in the island of Curacao Tuesday suspected of involvement in an international drug ring with links to Hizbullah, Dutch authorities said. “The organization had international contacts with other criminal networks that financially supported Hizbullah in the Middle East. Large sums of drug money flooded into Lebanon, from where orders were placed for weapons that were to have been delivered from South America,” the Dutch prosecution service said in a statement.

The proceeds were allegedly invested in several countries, said the statement, adding that the suspects were from Curacao, the largest of the Dutch Antilles islands, as well as from Venezuela, Colombia, Lebanon and Cuba.

Yet another instance of the connection of drugs, terrorism and the weapons trade.

What is surprising is that the American media has no reports on this.

UPDATE
Welcome, Jawa readers. Please visit often.

I guess this means Joe won’t be taking Amtrak?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Joe says you shouldn’t travel in confined spaces.

Did Matt Lauer call for closing the border, too?

Today’s podcast at 11AM: Courting Mr Chavez

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

SUMMIT/AMERICAS

In today’s podcast at 11AM, I’ll talk about today’s WaPo editorial, Courting Mr. Chávez
The Obama administration seeks to please a strongman by ignoring his crackdown on domestic opposition.
and other Venezuelan news.

Chat’s open at 10:45AM, and the podcasts are archived for your convenience. See you there!

Related links:
Venezuelan government cuts funds to opposition Caracas mayor
Opponents of Venezuela’s Chávez fight moves to sideline them
A former close collaborator of President Hugo Chávez turned ardent foe was arrested at gunpoint Thursday on corruption charges.

Anuncia una “cruzada” contra el libre comercio y la especulación
Additionally,
Deals Help China Expand Sway in Latin America

Flabberghastly?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Instead of watching the “100 Days Press Conference” last night I watched Lie To Me instead, which is essentially the same thing, only without the show’s motto, The truth is written all over our faces. After Lie To Me it was time for Mythbusters, so of course this morning I read the transcript of the press briefing.

Of course the interesting part is the question and answer session; The questions were,

  • Swine flu: “an extra $1.5 billion,” and “cover your mouth”
  • Chrysler bankruptcy: “to make sure that the federal government is providing as much assistance as we have to ensure”

More government spending in the works, folks.

  • Waterboarding: “it takes away a critical recruitment tool that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have used to try to demonize the United States and justify the killing of civilians”

Surely there were no al Qaeda jihadists before the US engaged in water torture?

  • Pakistan: “we have huge strategic interests” in making sure the [Taliban, which was mentioned by name only once] doesn’t get a hold of the nukes.
  • Violence in Iraq: aiming for ultimate power transfer.
  • Arlan Specter: “me reaching out to them [Republicans] has been genuine”

Except when proposing legislation to be voted on, unread?

Somehow that answer got diverted into health care, and Pres. Obama ended up with telling Republicans that “simply opposing our approach on every front is probably not a good political strategy.”

  • Abortion: Pro, reduce teen pregnancies, “the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the — the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.”

As the reporter pointed out, the Freedom of Choice Act would “would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion.” That includes live-birth and late term abortions.

And then came the enchanted question.

Good lord.

This morning the cable news played the reporter asking that question, and he actually asked with a straight face.

The Love Boat of the Ship of State, “the ship of state is an ocean liner,” which later mutated into a “this big battleship.”

Anyway, more questions on

  • Immigration: “Immigration reform”, secure borders.
  • Black unemployment: Extend unemployment insurance, community health centers, and “college affordability and job training; tax cuts for working families, as opposed to the wealthiest.”

This is a troubling reply. None of these measures does anything to directly create jobs in any sector of the economy at all. It implies either ignorance or indifference to basic economic principles, comparable to his prior gaffe on “profit-earnings ratios.”

  • State secrets: “the state secret doctrine should be modified”
  • Government as shareholder in private industry: Again a basic error in the reply by referring to the Dow as going “from 14 million (sic/thousand) down to 9 million (sic/thousand).”

Softball questions, softball answers.

Anyone think of any probing questions on say, why is the CRA still in the books, for instance? Or perhaps, the Dems role in the budget deficit?

Congress controls the purse strings, not the president, and it was under Democratic control for Obama’s last two years as Illinois senator. Obama supported the emergency bailout package in President George W. Bush’s final months — a package Democratic leaders wanted to make bigger.

To be sure, Obama opposed the Iraq war, a drain on federal coffers for six years before he became president. But with one major exception, he voted in support of Iraq war spending.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated his policy proposals would add a net $428 billion to the deficit over four years, even accounting for his spending reduction goals. Now, the deficit is nearly quadrupling to $1.75 trillion.

No questions on that.

In this morning’s WaPo, an adorational article by Tom Shales, Obama’s Enchanting Quizfest, whose downright fellational tone is either a. sincere, or b. camp:

Barack Obama is a truly flabbergasting president. And in a good way — not the way some of his predecessors were. He’s not flabberghastly.

It’ll be kind and say Shales was being camp,

He’s not the student who wears a button that says, “Smartest kid in class,” but clearly he is, at least when surrounded by the White House press corps.

One thing for sure, Shales will get invited to the cool kids’ parties. After all, there’s the time he called Obama president wonderful.

He won’t be joining the Mythbusters any time soon.

The TOTUS, on the other hand, looks at the new foundation.

UPDATE
Ace captured the enchanted moment,

Nice Deb immortalized the moment in a poster.

The Hospital Ward

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Via The Anchoress, a film by the very talented Joe Gleason,

You may remember Joe from the beautiful and moving The Dinner Guest,

The swine flu Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Yes, everybody is talking about the Mexican swine flu, and ironically I had to delay this Carnival since I was down with a cold.

No need to panic over this flu, but make sure to take any flu seriously.

LATIN AMERICA
Final declaration of the Summit of the Americas

No mas venas abiertas para America Latina

The war on mining: Fighting back

Obama goes south: An analysis of the Summit of the Americas

Alvaro Vargas Llosa: The Idiot’s Bible

Selenium Overdose Caused Deaths of Polo Horses

FARC guerrillas charged with conspiracy to aid foreign terrorists

BOLIVIA
Chabad House in Bolivia raided by police

Croatia: Morales murder plot suspect ‘wanted to form separatist army’

Biometric Voter Registration: the Ace Up the Sleeve of Evo Morales

BRAZIL
Ahmadinejad to Visit Latin America Next Month

Ahmadinejad no Brasil (link in Portuguese)

COLOMBIA
FARC guerrillas charged with conspiracy to aid foreign terrorists

Finnish connection found on computer of Colombian guerrillas

Kidnapping in Colombia How many hostages? More than the government claims

CUBA
The short night of the long knives

Venezuela names new envoy to Cuba

The Right Deal on Cuba

How Fidel Snookered Everyone: The summit exposed Castro’s peers in Latin America, not Obama, as the real innocents abroad. Jorge Castañeda is an idiot – Part 2

Mijail Capote Aranda, Cuban Political Prisoner of the Week, 4/26/09

Castro brothers’ power struggle may doom Obama’s overtures

ECUADOR
Ecuador president claims poll win

Ecuador’s election: Revolution! Please give generously. Rafael Correa has his country’s politics firmly under control, its economy much less so

JAMAICA
Strangeways here we come

MEXICO
Is that an anti-aircraft gun in your pocket?

Experts probe deadly Mexico flu

The flu and the festival

Swine flu started at Vera Cruz pork processor?

Plan Would Deploy Guard Near Mexico
$350 Million Effort Aimed at Drug War

NICARAGUA
Judge throws out Dole “bananeros” cases, citing fraud

PARAGUAY
Lugo pide perdón por escándalo de paternidad

Paraguay President asks for forgiveness over paternity claim scandal
Fernando Lugo, the President of Paraguay and a former Roman Catholic bishop, has asked for forgiveness over a scandal in which he is facing paternity claims.

La telenovela que desconcierta

Fernando Lugo pede perdão por escândalo

Le président du Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, confesse avoir eu un enfant quand il était ecclésiastique

Bayly on Lugo (in Spanish):

And then Fernando Lugo’s brother, Pompeyo, on the rumors about Fernando and the Argentinian chorus girl, plus Alan Garcia’s poncho:

PERU
Peru grants asylum to Venezuelan opposition leader

TRINIDAD
The Fifth Summit of the Americas – Ego vs Cuba vs Rhetoric

VENEZUELA
Venezuela – Iran Foreign Relations

In praise of Rosales

In Defense of Appeasement

Government shows its true colors now that Rosales has been neutralized

No 10′s Venezuelan ‘workie’ could write next Budget

Obama and the Pundits: Wrong on the handshake, wrong about Chavez

Surprise!… HuffPo Blogger Sean Penn Defends His Buddy Hugo Chavez

Interpol seeks arrest of opposition leader

Heroes

Red Notice for Rosales

Fist-bumping with despots

CULTURE
Poland ‘to ban’ Che Guevara image
The iconic image of Che Guevara found adorning students’ walls and t-shirts across the world could be banned in Poland under a government proposal to outlaw materials that incite “fascism and totalitarian systems”.

IMMIGRATION
Cyber Attacks and Our Southern Border

Special thanks to Ada, the Baron, Eneas, Irish Spy, Larwyn, Maggie and SamK.

UPDATE
Welcome, Dodgeblogium readers. Please visit often.

Priceless

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

UPDATED with VIDEO
Please scroll down

norad-14
1.8 hours of flying two F-16 jets over Manhattan: $28,178

af11
Three hours of flying Air Force 1: $300,658

large_law-flying-jersey-city
Scaring the crap out of thousands of New Yorkers on a Monday morning: priceless.

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s government.

UPDATE
Welcome, Memeorandum, Anchoress, Cafe Allegro. No Runny Eggs and Protein Wisdom readers. Please visit often.

Welcome, Ace O’Spades readers. Please visit often.

Video!

Voice and video by Steve

More
Welcome, Paragraph Farmer and Right Pundits readers. Please visit often.

UPDATE, Thursday 30 April
Welcome, Sundries Shack readers. Please visit often.

UPDATE, Friday 1 May
Political Housewif Doug Ross and Pax Parabellum readers. Please visit often.

“FAA Memo: Feds Knew NYC Flyover Would Cause Panic”

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Outrageous:
FAA Memo: Feds Knew NYC Flyover Would Cause Panic
Threatened Federal Sanctions Against NYPD, Secret Service, FBI & Mayor’s Office If Secret Ever Got Out

Federal officials knew that sending two fighter jets and Air Force One to buzz ground zero and Lady Liberty might set off nightmarish fears of a 9/11 replay, but they still ordered the photo-op kept secret from the public.

In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD the Federal Aviation Administration’s James Johnston said the agency was aware of “the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes” in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor’s office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out.

And how much did Monday’s stunt cost?

$328,835.

Yes, three hundred twenty eight thousand eight hundred thirty five dollars.

That includes $300,658 for the larger plane, which flew a three-hour mission, and about $28,178 for the F-16 jets, which flew 1.8 hours each, Stein said in an e-mailed statement.

The total includes fuel used in flight, fuel used to power ground equipment used to prepare the aircraft, and ground maintenance, Stein said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday’s flyover was “two training missions that became in the end a picture mission” and only Air Force personnel were aboard.

Well, at least you can’t say it was a cheap stunt.

UPDATE
AJ Strata’s commenter Ugly in LA believes that any mission by AF1 and its backup would need the highest clearance. Do any of my readers have any information on whether that is the case?

Priceless.