Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on February 27, 2015

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 1 Comment »

O-I-L? No. G-A-S

Posted by Charles II on February 26, 2015

We used to say that the Iraq War was about O-I-L. Now it seems that the Palestine conflict may largely be about G-A-S.

Michael Schwartz, The Nation:

Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies.

Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza’s coastline. As a result, Israel agreed that the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area.

An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that “most” of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay “within Israeli territory.” In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus and the Palestinians.

We covered this story on April 21, 2010.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | Leave a Comment »

America’s black sites

Posted by Charles II on February 26, 2015

Most of our readers doubtless know that a police facility in Chicago has been designated as equivalent to a CIA black site. Suspects are disappeared to there and subjected to mild to moderate torture. The connection is police lieutenant Richard Zuley, who transferred his skills at harming human beings to Guantanamo. So, this post is mostly for the record. Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian:

The Guardian examined thousands of court documents from Chicago and interviewed two dozen people with experience at Guantánamo and in the Chicago criminal-justice system. The results of its investigation suggests a continuum between Guantánamo interrogation rooms and Chicago police precincts. Zuley’s detective work, particularly when visited on Chicago’s minority communities, contains a dark foreshadowing of the United States’ post-9/11 descent into torture.

When called up to active duty, Zuley, by his own telling, deployed for some attention-grabbing missions. He told a Chicago court in a mid-1990s murder case that he “took assignments with Naval intelligence” for four years after getting shot on the job in 1982: “I did counter terrorists work for them.”

A detective colleague, Ray Kaminski, testified in a 1997 murder trial that he understood Zuley was “somewhere in South America … working with the US Navy”.

Guantanamo was not optimized for gathering intelligence. Herrington bristled to see orange-jumpsuited detainees carried to wooden shacks by guards and shackled to the floor – techniques that reinforced the detainees’ anger at their confinement, undercutting the rapports Herrington advised would be critical for getting them to talk.

Guantánamo veterans said Zuley influenced and cultivated the patronage of Major General Geoffrey Miller, who later recommended that he wanted to ‘Gitmo-ize’ Abu Ghraib. Illustration: Nate Kitch for the Guardian

Into that dynamic stepped Zuley. Fallon remembered Zuley making an immediate impression on Major General Geoffrey Miller, who assumed command of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo in November 2002. Zuley had a reputation as “a big self-promoter,” Couch, the military prosecutor, recalled as well.

“From what I was told, General Miller thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Couch said. “Miller was amazed at the information he was getting. So apparently Zuley ratcheted up these techniques, with the backing of Miller, to go up the chain of command for approval.”

Chicago, in particular, has its own deep and infamous history with police torture, with black Chicagoans its primary victims.

The city’s police violence “was institutionalized,” said Tracy Siska, the executive director of the Chicago Justice Project – and continues, in different forms, to this day.

“Today’s interrogation rooms … the techniques are more sophisticated,” Siska told the Guardian. “It’s around sleep deprivation, around food deprivation, isolation, what you’d consider touchless torture, which is more effective and doesn’t leave any marks.”

Spencer Ackerman, Zach Stafford, Mark Guarino , and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian:

The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that police in Chicago detain suspects at Homan Square without booking them, thereby preventing their relatives and lawyers from knowing their whereabouts, reminiscent in the eyes of some lawyers and civil-rights activists of a CIA black site.

Posted in abuse of power | 3 Comments »

First, do no harm

Posted by Charles II on February 25, 2015

Gregg Levine, Al-Jazeera:

Perhaps it will not come as a big surprise to learn that the highly trafficked, for-profit medical information site WebMD keeps track of your search terms and then makes some of the information available to third-party vendors. It’s kind of like what the term “for profit” means. But how about one of the other top hits for health-related searches, the Centers for Disease Control? That’s a non-profit government agency — they don’t provide information to marketing interests, right?


Just the thing we want for people who have medical conditions which may endanger the rest of us– a reason to fear that their privacy will be compromised. What is wrong with the CDC (not to mention Mayo and other for-profit sites of institutions that pretend to be engaged in the practice of medicine)?

Posted in abuse of power, science and medicine | 1 Comment »

An estimate of captured materiel at Debaltsevo/updated

Posted by Charles II on February 25, 2015

This from rebel commander Aleksandr Zakharchenko (uploaded Feb. 23), so take it as one side of the story:

170 tanks captured in repairable condition.
50 artillery pieces captured
too many mortars captured to count
enough ammunition to fight a battle equivalent to Debaltsevo captured
the only American foreign weapons he mentions are the counter-mortar radar and radio jamming equipment, an M4 carbine, a machine guns, and shells (here he is very vague)
predicts a breakdown of the ceasefire at the end of March or in April
very roughly 3,000 dead Ukrainian soldiers and 300 still evading capture
Debaltsevo proper had 2,500-3,000 defenders (and others presumably in surrounding villages) vs. 1,000 rebels

There’s no confirmation of the presence of western mercenaries from Greystone-Akademi-Xe-Blackwater-whateverthehell that Der Spiegel reported on (it appeared in Bild am Sonntag; see here to see how unsure the report is).

I don’t know what is meant by repairable, but 170 tanks is a lot of armor. As of 2012, there were only about 700 tanks in the whole Ukrainian military–including the navy.

Some sources are reporting activity near Mariupol, including Russian tanks apparently crossing the border (the latter from a channel 4 reporter, Alex Thomson). And there are reports that rebels have taken some villages, but it sounds as if these are in a no-mans-land buffer zone.

The Kyiv Post is reporting that the UK will send military trainers. Washington Times and HuffPo say so as well. So, there’s the danger of escalation. As congressman Seth Moulton interviewed by Rachel Maddow pointed out, trainers often get caught up in combat and have to fight.

I really hope that Russia recognizes how dangerous the situation is becoming. Brinksmanship was a bad policy when the U.S. used it. It’s a bad policy if Russia uses it, too.

Update: Fortruss published a claim about losses by Kiev from Jan 12-Feb 20. This would include the garrison at Debaltsevo, forces involved in fighting on the access road to Debaltsevo, forces involved in fighting at Donetsk airport, and forces involved in skirmishes in Mariupol. However, by far the largest component would be Debaltsevo and environs. The claim is sourced to the Donetsk People’s Republic Ministry of Defense.

The personnel losses listed are:

6,830 wounded
4,110 killed
1,178 captured

This is about 1/3 of the strength of the regular army.

Claimed materiel destroyed or captured
299 tanks (this is nearly half the total number of tanks Ukraine had in 2012)
290 motor vehicles
24 Grad and 1 Smerch multiple rocket launcher
45 self-propelled howitzers
205 towed artillery
16 anti-aircraft guns

Let’s just say I am skeptical.

Posted in Russia | 2 Comments »

And, oh by the way, please send lots of weapons and money…

Posted by Charles II on February 23, 2015

As I commented below, reading the Kyiv Post is an experience. A recent Op-Ed by one of their former chief editors, Askold Krushelnycky, is truly a marvel:

the mealy-mouthed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and puny French President Francois Hollande

the toothless, yokel, poorly-trained thugs that form the “separatist” pro-Moscow fighters

with sickening hypocrisy Merkel

The despicable duo [Merkel and Hollande]

Conveniently for Merkel, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe can’t provide incontrovertible proof of Russian involvement because the Russians wouldn’t allow them to enter Debaltseve while it was being pummeled…[Also conveniently for Kiev, no independent reporters were present to document any of Kiev’s claims which, Krushelnycky admits, are probably unreliable when it comes to casualties].

Would you buy a used war from this man?

Doesn’t he understand that the entry of NATO into the conflict would require the approval of France and Germany?

Posted in Russia, Ukraine | 4 Comments »

An example of how bad the analysis Ukrainian rebels rely on can be

Posted by Charles II on February 22, 2015

I had to laugh when I read this post at Fortruss:

Dailykos’s Cover-Up of Obama’s Ukrainian Atrocities
Eric Zuesse

Here are typical examples of how this ‘liberal’ (or even some fools call it ‘progressive’) site, dailykos, has ‘reported’ on these events during the past year. (And, please consider that all of these articles were published after the U.S. President whom that site supports had already installed in Ukraine, via a violent coup, an outright exterminationist nazi regime; and, that this is supposed to be a ‘liberal,’ or even ‘progressive,’ ‘news’ site — this site that hides its hero’s nazism, is supposed to be taken as being instead liberal, or even progressive.)

On 13 November 2014, another said (and strongly disagreed with) “Henry Kissinger, that notorious Russian commie sympathizer, says that the West in effect caused the crisis in Ukraine (not, of course, that it’s OK for Russia to have, in response, intervened in Ukraine) because it failed to understand Russian strategic interests.”

If you haven’t guessed, the post that Zuesse links to is mine. In which I say that Kissinger is one of the saner voices of American foreign policy for objecting to US policy in Russia.

Now, I admit that some posters at Daily Kos are extremely hostile to Russia. But a post that highlights Kissinger saying that the West caused the crisis in Ukraine is not one of them. No, I’m not pro-rebel. I am an American– one who sees our national interest as best served by not toppling governments and starting unnecessary wars. And as a corollary, I think that armed conflict is generally a bad idea, especially when it turns your own territory into rubble and your own population into refugees, amputees, and corpses. That goes for Donetsk-Luhansk no less than for Kiev (though, of course, Kiev is operating in rebel territory, and therefore has a lot more control over what gets destroyed).

There are some things that shouldn’t require [snark] tags, like calling Kissinger a “Russian commie sympathizer.” Anyone who can’t figure that much out shouldn’t be calling himself an “investigative historian.” Strangely, everyone publishes Zuesse– Op-Ed News, Truthout, Huff Post, you name it. I hope whether they take the time to fact-check him.

Alas, that’s a problem with the rebel sites: lack of editorial oversight. And, in Zuesse’s case, a failure to provide an e-mail address for corrections.

Not that the pro-Kiev sites are better. Just that in this case, Fortruss printed one thing that is rather obviously false.
Added: Jo6pac points out that the e-mail of the editor of FortRuss, Joaquin Flores is posted on that website. If this were more than a tempest in a teapot, I’d complain to him.

Posted in Russia, Ukraine | 2 Comments »

Rolling Jubilee Well Into Third Year, Sky Hasn’t Fallen Yet

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 22, 2015

One of the more interesting things about the critics of Occupy offshoot Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee program is that they keep warning of Big Problems Lurking Just Around The Corner.

Well, it’s been over two years now since the Rolling Jubilee was started, and the insinuative warnings are still coming, even as there is no evidence that any of the Big Problems have ever come to pass.

And, yes, we would know very, very quickly if any Big Problem did come to pass, because all of the members of the right-wing, Occupy-hating corporate puke funnels that dictate America’s news diet (as well as creating the right-wing email smears that your nutty uncle sends to everyone in his mail contacts list and his Facebook friends list) would be all over this before you could say “gold bug”.

One thing the critics of the Rolling Jubilee like to do is to complain that the program doesn’t strike at the root of the debt crisis. One finds it surprising that all these super-smart and super-honest critics (well, maybe, um, not so much) are for some strange reason ignoring what the Rolling Jubilee’s creators have been saying about it all along, as in this November 27, 2012 article in The Nation (an article that’s linked to on the Rolling Jubilee homepage, by the way):

The Rolling Jubilee was not designed to be a feasible, long-term solution to the debt crisis in and of itself. Instead, it is a “bailout by the people, for the people,” a chance to offer others support and solidarity where the government has failed them. While critics like Yves Smith and Doug Henwood have focused on the limits of this tactic, what interests us are the possibilities this experiment opens up, the good will that is fostered, the conversations that it sparks and the new ideas and action plans that are percolating. Who knows where the jubilee will roll next or what its impact will be? Regardless, organizers are well aware that the result of debt cancellation, even on a mass scale, would be negligible unless it was coupled with a far deeper restructuring of our economic system. That is the prize our eyes are on, and that’s why Strike Debt chapters are now springing up in cities all across the country.

And in fact, the Rolling Jubilee stopped accepting donations as of December 31, 2013, so the program is being wound down in any event, having served its main purpose of bringing attention to America’s true debt crisis.

But even as Phase One (the Rolling Jubilee) is being wound down, Phase Two is about to be initiated:

Strike Debt is wrapping up the Rolling Jubilee project. [Strike Debt spokesman Thomas] Gokey estimates it has enough money left to buy two or three more debt portfolios before it exhausts its funds.

And then ….. the debt fairy morphs into a debt demon.

In what should make veins in the blue blood community run even colder, the group plans to move on to organizing “debt strikes” in which selected groups of debtors who share a common debt or creditor strategically stop payment in an effort to force creditors to renegotiate a yet-to-be defined “unjust” debt by, for example, reducing the principal or interest.

“It’s a waste of time to work through a political system bought and paid for by industries,” Gokey said. “We need to organize mass resistance.”

Whether trying to destablize the credit system is a good idea is debatable. And whether enough consumers would buy into the idea of a strike to make it effective, considering the huge risks involved to them personally, remains to be seen.

But it certainly should get people talking.

And getting people talking is indeed the whole point. Changing the terms of debate paves the way for eventual and long-lasting success; in fact, success — especially enduring success — is not possible unless the terms of debate are changed.

When Occupy first started in the fall of 2011, the debt being talked about the most was the debt or deficit the Federal government was running up, and the people doing the talking were all right-wingers and corporatist types who wanted to keep doing the main thing that created the debt, which was to cut taxes on rich people and big businesses. Occupy abruptly stopped that in its tracks, and the “deficit hawks” have never been able to regain control of the national dialogue since.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Rudy Giuliani: My Thug Felon Daddy Made Me Love America

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 21, 2015

Rudolph Giuliani, of course, knows no shame, or the man known as “Noun Verb 9/11” would have died of it long ago.

That being said, I am circulating this Wayne Barrett piece from the New York Daily News, in the hope that enough people see it to put paid to any further fantasies Giuliani might have about reviving his political career, not to mention his White House dreams:

Rudy Giuliani knows a lot about love.

Ask Regina Peruggi, the second cousin he grew up with and married, who was “offended” when Rudy later engineered an annulment from the priest who was his best man on the grounds, strangely enough, that she was his cousin. Or ask Donna Hanover, the mother of his two children, who found out he wanted a separation when he left Gracie Mansion one morning and announced it at a televised press conference.

Or ask Judi Nathan, his third wife, whom he started dating while still married to Hanover and New York mayor. In two SUVs, he and an entourage of six or seven cops traveled 11 times to Judi’s Hamptons getaway at a taxpayer cost of $3,000 a trip. That’s love.

Rudy knows so much about love that he declared the other day that President Obama “doesn’t love you” and “doesn’t love me” at a private party of GOP fat cats.

There’s more:

Giuliani went so far as to rebuke the President for not being “brought up the way you were and the way I was brought up through love of this country,” a bow no doubt to the parenting prowess of Harold Giuliani, who did time in Sing Sing for holding up a Harlem milkman and was the bat-wielding enforcer for the loan-sharking operation run out of a Brooklyn bar owned by Rudy’s uncle.

Though Rudy cited Harold throughout his public life as his model (without revealing any of his history), he and five Rudy uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II. Harold, whose robbery conviction was in the name of an alias, made sure the draft board knew he was a felon. On the other hand, Obama’s grandfather and uncle served. His uncle helped liberate Buchenwald, which apparently affected him so deeply he stayed in the family attic for six months when he returned home.

Again, if only Rudy Giuliani could feel shame.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on February 20, 2015

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 3 Comments »

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