Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Did AIPAC Write The GOP’s Treason Letter?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 10, 2015

Signs point to yes:

http://mjrosenberg.net/2015/03/09/how-we-know-aipac-wrote-the-treason-letter-to-iran/

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Theater of the disturbed

Posted by Charles II on March 10, 2015

Jo Tuckman, The Guardian:

A scathing UN report has sharply rebuked Mexico for its widespread problem with torture, which it said implicates all levels of the security apparatus in the context of the government’s efforts to combat crime.

“Torture and ill treatment during detention are generalized in Mexico, and occur in a context of impunity,” the UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, wrote in the report he presented on Monday before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The number of complaints of torture made to the National Human Rights Commission rose from an average of 320 a year before the offensive to 2,100 in 2012.

Needless to say, Mexico denies that torture is a general practice. It’s simply a serial practice by enthusiasts.

The Mexican government more and more resembles a theater of the disturbed.

Posted in Mexico, torture | Leave a Comment »

General Strangelove and the lovely war in Ukraine

Posted by Charles II on March 7, 2015

Matthias Gebauer, Christiane Hoffmann, Marc Hujer, Gordon Repinski, Matthias Schepp, Christoph Schult, Holger Stark and Klaus Wiegrefe, Der Spiegel:

… The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

The government in Berlin is concerned that Breedlove’s statements could harm the West’s credibility. The West can’t counter Russian propaganda with its own propaganda….
…Berlin sources also say that it has become conspicuous that Breedlove’s controversial statements are often made just as a step forward has been made in the difficult negotiations aimed at a political resolution.

Although President Obama has decided for the time being to give European diplomacy a chance, hawks like Breedlove or Victoria Nuland are doing what they can to pave the way for weapons deliveries. “We can fight against the Europeans, fight against them rhetorically,” Nuland said during a private meeting of American officials…

Nuland, who is seen as a possible secretary of state should the Republicans win back the White House in next year’s presidential election

So, we’re going to start World War III so Victoria Nuland can become the next Republican Secretary of State?

What is the Obama White House doing?

Posted in abuse of power, Russia, Ukraine | 2 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on March 6, 2015

Friday Cat Blogging

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

Google Strikes Blow For Truth, Lie-Peddlers Horrified

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 4, 2015

The biggest problem with the internet is that most well-heeled and/or well-organized purveyors of garbage can game search engines so that their sites are the first ones found in most internet searches on a topic.

It looks like Google has a solution — and if so, this is the best news I’ve heard so far this year:

Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team (arxiv.org/abs/1502.03519v1). The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score.

The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings.

In other words, no longer will well-funded denialist websites be the first things one sees when Googling for information on topics like climate change or vaccines.

This of course is a particularly powerful blow to conservative crapmeisters, which is of course why they are screaming over it like vampires in a holy-water shower:

Google: Custodians of Truth (TPC: Custodians of Craptastic Site Design)

Google and Obama to Decide All Truth Online (Because of course Google and Obama walk hand in hand, according to these mokes.)

Google Gives New Meaning to “Orwellian” (These guys give new meaning to “stupid”.)

Google: New Self-Righteous Source of Truth (This site really pushes the weird relativism conservatives have towards reality, which is hilarious considering how much they love to attack ‘moral relativism’.)

And just to be fair, a wacko libertarian-lefty commenter whining because he knows what a blow this is to the anti-vaccine grift.

Awwww. Dipwads won’t be able to pull the old trick of setting up websites that link to other crapmeister sites just to game the site rankings of most search engines.

Whine away, grifters. Your tears taste so sweet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

An addendum on Debaltsevo: it was a rout./Update on Russian involvement/a counterclaim

Posted by Charles II on March 4, 2015

Added 3/7/15, a counterclaim on the deaths in Debaltsevo from Oksana Grytsenko, Kiev Post:]

In Debaltseve alone, up to 7,000 soldiers escaped death in the encirclement.

Only when you read the story, about how traumatized those who escaped were, it doesn’t ring true.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I have been skeptical of rebel claims of a near-annihilation of the troops at Debaltsevo. But the Kiev Post published this account of a sergeant who was just outside of the combat area, in Popasna. Olena Goncharova:

Although Kostyantyn Zubov was not in Debaltseve when his fellow servicemen were leaving the town under enemy fire, he was just 18 kilometers away in Popasna, and saw the soldiers who had just left the trap on Feb. 18. They were headed to Artemivsk, some 46 kilometers away.

“This was not a planned exit. Crushed and shredded into pieces, they had seen how their comrades died,” this is how Zubov describes the soldiers who exited Debaltseve.

He said Ukrainian artillery gave them very little support, the flanks were not covered. “They (commandment) rounded up (thousands of) people in the trap. They were shot point blank. I don’t know if it was because of uselessness of the commandment and what sort of maps they have there, and in whose interest this all was,” Zubov says.

He says that despite President Petro Poroshenko’s claim that he had given the order for the army to exit Debaltseve, the order was actually not given from above. It was a decision taken by commanders in the field on the night of Feb. 17.

Zubov’s recollection is different, though: They lied. It was a defection as the soldiers have left everything – ammunition, their belongings, equipment.”

There is also a major communication problem in the army, he says. “There was a large group of (Russian) troops there in Debaltseve,” Zubov said. “And there was no proper interaction among our units, because of Russian electronic countermeasures. The defense wasn’t planned either.

The army is also very poorly equipped, the sergeant complains. “Supplies are at zero level. The uniforms are useless, poorly made, the die goes bad very quickly, it tears up and it’s cold. It’s has a semblance of a foreign uniform, but the quality is poor,” Zubov says.

This is consistent with the latest report from the pro-rebel site, Colonel Cassad:

The overall number of the junta’s KIA in the fighting for Debalcevo and the adjacent areas were up to 1500, 900-1100 more KIA the junta lost in the fighting near Logvinovo, Nizhnyaya Lozovaya, Sanzharkovka, Dolomitnoye, Mironovka, Krasnyi Pakhar, and Troitskoye. Overall, according to the preliminary data, the junta lost up to 2400-2600 KIA and MIA in the battle for the Debalcevo wedge (perhaps the number of KIA is somewhat lower, because some of them may still roam somewhere in the area of the former Debalcevo cauldron), about 4500 WIA, up to 650 POW.

I guess we can be grateful that 5,000 men were not killed [just wounded or captured. The rebel claim amounts to nearly a 100% casualty/capture rate, which is why I have been skeptical].

I guess we should be worried whether Sergeant Zubov is correct that these were primarily Russian troops that spearheaded the assault. If there are Russian troops in significant numbers, there will be long-term consequences, probably including the re-armament of Europe and the renewal of the Cold War.
_____________
Novaya Gazeta has an interview with a Russian soldier who participated in the fight at Debaltsevo. One can translate this. It sounds like he volunteered under pressure. The article doesn’t yet seem to be available in English (see here for Novaya Gazeta in English). I have seen enough of this sort of evidence so that, when added to the extraordinary effectiveness of the rebel troops, it seems likely that there is significant Russian involvement in Ukraine.

The reason that this is an important story is that, just as Russia cannot accept a NATO state on its border, the west probably cannot accept the seizure of a major country by military force. Mariupol is essential to the Ukrainian economy, accounting for an amazing proportion of its industrial output. If Russian troops advance on Mariupol, I could easily see NATO positioning troops–perhaps equipped with tactical nuclear weapons– in Ukraine. I can certainly see Germany and France deciding to re-arm. In other words, the calculus that Russia has used so far for creating a buffer zone in eastern Ukraine starts to turn the other way should the conquest start to look like the full annexation of Ukraine.

This is not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. The U.S. is clearly wrong for meddling in the Yanukovych situation. It wasn’t prepared to back the new (coup) government with the $100B or so that is needed to get it out of the woods. It wasn’t prepared to send in troops immediately to signal a determination not to allow Russia to meddle in Ukraine’s affairs. So, the best course would have been to let Ukraine stay under loose Russian control and let the Russians deal with its intractable debt. If they annexed it, they would be seen as the bad guys. Instead, we gave guns to extremists who then went and committed war crimes in the east. Sounds a lot like Iraq our response to the “Sunni rising.”

And Russia was wrong to send in troops. Even “volunteers.” Although several million Ukrainians do support Russian intervention, tens of millions find it frightening. Granted, they’re not frightened enough to clean up the corruption and put together an effective army, but this is normal. Probably a lot of Iraqis wish they had done something more before ISIS became such a problem. I hear reports that genuine terrorists have found the chaos of eastern Ukraine an ideal ground for weapons transfers, human smuggling, and other criminal activity. I don’t know if they are true, but that’s what happened in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan. What better place for criminal activity than a war zone?

Neither the Americans nor the Russians care enough about the Ukrainian people to make themselves their stewards. The Russians would have been wise to let the west fumble around in Ukraine until the Ukrainian people as a whole made a decision that they were safer allied with the Russians. The Americans would have been wise to let Russia continue to control the Ukrainian government until the mess collapsed of its own weight. But of course America has the same problem as Russia: it is run by unaccountable power, and that power has become corrupt as unaccountable power inevitably does.

All of these consequences–the re-arming of Europe, the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons into the confrontation, and the continued immiseration of all of Ukraine–do not depend on who is right and who is wrong, but emerge simply as the logical consequence of the interests and actions of the participants.

Posted in Russia, Ukraine | 2 Comments »

The Resurrection

Posted by Charles II on March 2, 2015

Amaryllis-3-2-15

We thought this amaryllis was dead. It was not.

Posted in Just for fun | 3 Comments »

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 | 1 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 »

 
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