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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Senator McCaskill (D-MO) Shows Us One Scandal, Hides Another

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has announced that she convinced her husband to "sell the damn plane" after it was revealed that former auditor McCaskill and her husband failed to pay $287,000 in property taxes on the plane. She is also accused of falsely charging for use of the plane during official business. She has apologized and written a check to pay the taxes. Problem solved. All is okay again.

As a side note, Presidential candidate Barack Obama used McCaskill's plane during his 2008 run for office. Obama hasn't been implicated in any way, but his campaign was billed $3938.16 on at least one occasion.

But I think the plane scandal is just a ruse to take attention away from a far more complicated matter. A union matter that once again shows a Democrat lawmaker and the leaders of a union kleptocracy in bed together.

Senator McCaskill was active in an election involving union officers at American Airlines without disclosing that she was close personal friends with an executive appointee to the incumbent union administration. Senator McCaskill was instrumental in brokering a deal with the airline that granted unprecedented voting rights to approximately 410 flight attendants with a recall extension given to 800 more. Those 1,200 flight attendants were then encouraged by the incumbents to withhold their votes during the primary election, in effect giving their tacit support to the incumbents during the runoff.

American Airlines executives who were involved in the union election central to this latest scandal contributed heavily to Senator McCaskill's successful 2008 Senate campaign.

McCaskill is no stranger to airline operation having worked with American Airlines to help re-instate laid-off TWA flight attendants in 2006.

Senator Clair McCaskill is either a very a bad operator who has now been exposed on several different fronts, or she is an extremely shrewd political operative who is playing the general public by admitting to one fraud while dancing around another.

The good folks in the "Show Me State" should make their politicians show them exactly who they are before electing them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why We Are Ignoring the Earthquake & Obsessing On the Nuke Problem

The death toll in the Japan earthquake disaster will probably exceed 60,000 by the time this is all done. Mayors of towns north of Sendai have reported entire populations of 9,000 or more are missing. Japan is a country that has at this moment in time been brought to its knees by a natural disaster.

But the general media is consumed with the nuclear situation. No one has died from the problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor site, yet. I don't mean to minimize this disaster as the final death toll from radiation cannot yet be calculated, but the scope of human suffering is eclipsed, and will likely continue to be eclipsed, by the damage brought on by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

So why is it that all we seem to care about is the nuke problem?

Certainly politics plays a role. Dopey politicians have come running to the nearest microphone to be the first to announce their opposition to nuclear power. It makes their Coexist constituency feel fuzzy and warm. However, this is like having a fight with your wife over whether dirty clothes should go on the floor or on the chair next to the hamper and calling a divorce attorney while you're still angry. Maybe you should wait until you convince her that the hamper is too hard to use before you give up all the good stuff that comes along with the marriage.

There's also a darker force at play here too. Human beings are really not all that smart. Have you ever spoken to anyone about anything? See my point? Not a lot of smart out there. I like to call it the Dark Ages Effect. Most knowledge of nuclear power people in this country have comes from two movies, The China Syndrome and Godzilla. People in Michigan are ordering more iodide pills than people in Oregon for crying out loud. Michael Moore is from Michigan.

People are also small-minded. The size and scope of the natural disaster in Japan is just too great to get our collective heads around. So it's easier to focus on something we feel we are responsible for. Anyone born prior to 1965 has a deep-seated fear of nuclear annihilation ingrained in their psyches, so just the words "nuclear disaster" brings us back to a dark place we'd all rather pretend we never lived. Luckily we've passed this irrational fear on to our children, so now they're mindlessly afraid without the experience.

And let's not forget God. He took a big hit in the days immediately following the earthquake before we all knew we were going to die from radiation in our cheese. I witnessed multiple people claiming that God was angry so He waved His Hand and practically wiped out a country. Some thought it was Divine Retribution for Pearl Harbor, and some really didn't want to venture a guess why God was so pissed. Frankly, leave God out of this.

So here it is kids. Bad things happen and they happen on a regular basis. As intelligent grown humans we are tasked with processing the bad and learning from it. In Obama's America today nothing bad is supposed to happen, and when it does our knee-jerk mindset is to eliminate the bad. Oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? Ban drilling. People are fat? Ban bad food. Nuclear disaster caused by a 10,000 year earthquake and tsunami in Japan? Ban nukes. Don't learn, just ban. Don't strive to improve. Just ban. Bullies picking on little Jeremy in school? Why, they're oughta be a law.

The problem is, banning bad things doesn't make them go away, it just makes us less prepared for the other bad things that are waiting around the corner to bite us in the ass. Sorry kids, the world is an ugly place.

So let's get through this disaster and then use what little intellect we have left to improve our chances against the next bad thing. That's what got us this far.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Revolution, Social Media & Me

Since the middle of January I have been intently following events in the Middle East. Being a minarchist, whenever a dictator, theocracy, kleptocracy or union buffoon gets their comeuppance, I'm in. Things really took off during the Egyptian revolution, and by the time Libya was in full swing I was actually ahead of most of the general media in terms of knowing what was going on. It was exhilarating and exhausting.

I started up this blog again on February 13 after a one year sabbatical so I would have a place to post all of the information I was receiving. Since then I have received about 150 hits a day from over 20 countries. Needless to say my head is having a hard time wrapping itself around all of this.

People complained about and thanked me for my obsessive relaying of information via my social networking accounts.

On Twitter, I argued with a fellow at the Brooking Institute in the UAE about democracy and how you can't have it without equality for women (my point), and how I have no right to talk about democracy with the US's history regarding minorities (his point). I won that battle by simply pointing out how we have eradicated institutional democracy after we both agreed you cannot change the hearts of people.

On Facebook, I saw a picture of a man in Yemen who was shot in the head get defiled by a silly caption about a boxing match. The poster probably thought he was being funny, because after all, those people who aren't Americans aren't well, people I guess. Unfortunately its a mindset around these parts.

I forced myself to read the opinions of people who hated America as well as the opinions of people who didn't. I got aggravated, consumed and educated. I found myself distracted 24/7 by events in the Middle East simply because I was able to digitally take part. This was a completely new experience.

I actually got to the point where I had to take a break and remove myself just to recover some semblance of a good mood.

Through it all, and in the midst of it still, I have come to a couple of conclusions:
Once again it has been proven that revolution and freedom come from the ground up, not from some existing political entity.
Ignorance about other people is not a particularly American problem, but a lot of Americans are okay with suffering from it.
It is time for the US to become independent from as much foreign oil as possible by immediately opening up all avenues of oil extraction available to us in this country. It is we who are slaves to the unrest there.
It is time for the US and the West to stop meddling in the affairs of the Arab world and to let things come to their natural conclusions. Meddling only causes further problems. All troops home as soon as reasonably possible.
The American people are respected across the world for their love of freedom and dedication to liberty, but our government is not.

I truly believe that popular music changed the world, albeit in a smaller way than we all hoped, and I truly believe that social networking has the potential to ignite freedom and democracy in every corner of the world. That's a good thing, and we should all take part.

Now I have to get back to my Twitter account...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Newslinks: March 8 International Women's Day in Egypt

Today is Internation Women's Day (IWD). The day was marked by a gathering, or protest depending on POV, in Tahrir Square in Egypt. Reports are that the situation got very tense when men in the crowd begain harassing and attacking the women who were taking part in an otherwise peaceful march.

Here are some Tweets from the march this evening, they are in reverse chronological order (oldest last):

"If anything one of the few decent men who rose in our defense had a long beard. Looked Salafi. The hostile men looked like thugs." - via Pakinam Alem

"Don't label things as religious simply because some ignorant idiots harass in the name of religion. This is a social problem." - via Sahar Hafez

"Army had to fire shot in air to break up mob running after group of women." - Hadeel Al Salchi

"Dear egyptian muslims, ur religion is being used as justification for secterianism & misogyny. This is ur battle. Fight it. I know its not fair to be judged by anyone speaking in ur name, but life aint (fair). Step up now." - Mahmoud Salem

"Egypt women being harassed by men in Tahrir during iwd demonstration. Told they were foreign conspirators." - Hadeel Al-Salchi

"Just to clear this out: These harassers and hostile men were NOT Islamists. Most looked uneducated, seya3, thug-like." - via Pakinam Amer

"I'm not usually paranoid, but I suspect this attack is to prove former regime claim that they protected women's right against 'islamism'" - via Sarah El Sirgany

"In an amazing pro-extinction move, apparently some people are chanting 'Down With Women' in Tahrir right now." via Sherief Farouk.

"Sexism and inequality sadly remain wide spread in Egypt, Jan25 can NEVER be a success if women remained 2nd class citizens." - via Ananeemana

"Women are more emotional than men. Arab women are more emotional than European women so they can't run for president," said guy in #Tahrir - via Aya el Batrawy

"Some men verbally attacked the female protesters, telling them to go cook and to stay home. Many left due to fights." - via Mahmoud Salem

"I'm getting more convinced that there is deliberate spreading of chaos in Egypt. Why would a woman's march get attacked?" - via Sarah El Sirgany

"On another note, friend is deeper into the crowds called us and said some men are "attacking" a woman. Not sure what he means." - via Pakinam Amer

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coptic Christians Attacked Near Cairo Egypt

The following contains information reported by Mary Abdelmassih (Assyrian News Agency (AINA)):

This incident took place March 7.

An incident that was sparked after a relationship between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman came to light in the village of Soul, 30 km from Cairo. AINA reported the Muslim woman's father was killed by his cousin after the father refused to kill his daughter to preserve the family's honor. This led to the woman's brother avenging the death of their father by killing the cousin. Muslims in the village blamed the Christians for the killing. A curfew was then imposed on the 12,000 Christians in the village.

A mob of nearly 4,000 Muslims then began attacking Coptic homes, and torched the Coptic churches of St. Mina and St. George. The mob prevented the fire department from entering the village to fight the fires.

The mob tore down the cross and domes in one of the churches then hurled six gas cylinders inside, burning it to the ground. The whereabouts of the pastor and three deacons are unknown at this time. Some witnesses have claimed they died in the fire while others have stated they are being held captive by members of the mob.

"Terrorized Copts have fled and some hid in homes of Muslim neighbors," Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told AINA.

The Egyptian army which is now in control of the country and had units stationed 7km away, initially refused to enter the village. When they eventually ordered three tanks to the area, the tanks were turned away by Muslim elders who told them that everything was in order.

After a meeting between Muslim elders and high-ranking Muslim and Copt families, it was decided that the man originally involved with the Muslim woman, Ashraf Iskander, 40, would be forced to leave the village. His house had been torched by the mob.

Subsequent to writing this I received messages from Muslim activists in the area who have vowed to rebuild the churches and protect the Coptic population from further violence.

Newslinks: March 7

Click link to read copy of letter presented to US Embassy in Bahrain today from the anti-Monarchy protesters there.

Receiving reports from Egypt that Coptic Christians are facing some violence and are afraid to leave their houses. Some reports that Coptic churches have been burned. Received this message via Tiwtter: "A message to who target Christians: Muslims will rebuild their churches, will protect their houses, and will always have their backs!!" via Sara Hesham Zayed.

White House has just released $15 million to aid refugee relief in Libya and another $12.6 million for refugee relief in Cote D'Ivoire.

Gulf Arab states are now calling for a No Fly Zone over Libya.

The city of Az Zawiya, 25 km west of Tripoli, has bee subject of varying reports today. Some reporting the city has been completely wiped out (which has been called state propaganda) and some reporting sporadic fighting but that the revolutionaries still are in control of the city.

Reports of large scale fighting, including air strikes, with many casualties in the port city of Ras Lanouf.

Relief personnel are concerned about a massive drop in refugees crossing from Libya into Tunisia. Estimates run from a high last week of 15-20,000 to less than 2,000 today. Drop may be caused by a simple end to the refugee flow to state sponsored violence and imprisonment of refugees. A source in Misurata claims African refugees are being rounded up and put on boats headed for Europe to start a "refugee crisis" there.

A Suggestion: Stop Oil From Driving Our Foreign Policy

In July 2008, oil traded at $145 / barrel - the record to date. In August of that year, President Bush lifted a moratorium on drilling which among other factors (including a pipeline deal between Russia and Ukraine and an incredibly deep world-wide recession) helped drop the trading price of oil. By January 2009, the month President Obama took office, oil was trading as low as $37.00 / barrel. The lift on the moratorium was not the only factor in dropping the price of oil but it was a factor.

In 2001, Congress, which was controlled by Democrats, refused to lift drilling bans in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the western US using the logic that it would take "ten years or more to bring the oil to market." Gas at the pump was $1.59 / gallon. For the next ten years US energy policy mumbled on like a drunken college student about green and alternative energy. Gas is now selling at the pump for $3.59 / gallon, so all we got from Congress' myopic decision was higher food prices as we diverted food stock corn into automobile fuel, high unemployment, and higher fuel prices. Fuel prices are also being driven today by futures traders who are scared to death of what is happening in the Middle East. Economics 101: Money likes stability.

The Middle East is in the midst of turmoil brought on in part by the short-sighted and xenophobic policies of the West since the end of World War II. And as a result, the US is now judged solely on our oil policy and it's our own fault. Unfortunately, all the current Administration is able to get its head around is green and alternative energies, even though they don't exist on a broad scale yet. I won't accuse the Administration of living in a pipe-dream, but you probably should.

My suggestion is we absolutely begin to use alternative energy to free ourselves from the economic slavery we have willingly entered in to.

The alternative? American oil.

I know it sounds so simple its stupid, and I guess that's my whole point here. If we have the intelligence and backbone to follow them, just three simple points would free us from the shackles of our ignorant foreign policy and at the same time release more capital than needed to develop green and alternative energies. We just have to decide to be adults about it and get it done.
1. Lift the moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico
2. Release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stabilize prices thereby helping us avoid nose-diving into a deeper recession
3. Allow drilling in Federal lands in Alaska (ANWR) and other western states
Mr. President, do not squander more blood and treasure on a fight that is not ours. Support the people who are fighting dictators in the Middle East, but do it from the position of strength that is uniquely American: our success with freedom and liberty. Don't enjoin a No Fly Zone, don't enter into backroom deals with dictators. Put America first and make us independent again, thereby freeing America to regain a position to really help. Your legacy awaits.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Interview With A Bahraini Revolutionary

One of my sources for information from the revolution in Bahrain agreed to sit down for an interview via email last night. For security I'll use only her first name and a small bit of biographical information. I know for a fact that some of the updates I have posted in the last week have been monitored by authorities in Libya, so I can only assume that the digital web spreads elsewhere.

I hope that Zainab's insights will help people outside of Bahrain understand a little better the hopes and fears of a young woman in the midst of revolution.

JS: If you could give just a small bit of background. I understand if you feel it is best to remain as anonymous as possible and I respect that, but if you could possibly tell us what field you may work in, etc. Just so my readers can identify with you better.

Zainab: "Hi Jack, I'm happy to answer your questions. My name's is Zainab. I am not working at the moment because I have a one year old daughter and I have decided to be a full time mum for a couple of yrs :) Although to be honest since the revolution I'm only a half time mum.

JS: What is your biggest fear for the future of your country and the region?

Zainab: "My biggest fear for the future of my country and region is for outside forces to intervene and support dictators who have no right to rule. I am confident that our people are strong and patient enough to overthrow these corrupt and ruthless governments, but if countries like America decide to intervene on behalf of the dictators they will make our journey to freedom so much harder and we will have to sacrifice so much more. So I hope they will let us determine our future ourselves."

JS: What message do you think the people in the US need to hear that they may not be hearing from the general media?

Zainab: "The American people need to know that we admire their love of freedom and democracy, and we want the same in our countries. Our problem is with American foreign policy which puts US interests in the region above freedom and democracy. The US administration is willing to support a dictator who tortures and kills his people as long as it's in their best interest. That has been the problem all along: Arab peoples feeling trapped because they can't fight an oppressor who is backed by the most powerful country in the world."

JS: How do you see the revolution in Bahrain affecting the lives of women going forward into the future?

Zainab: "So far in the revolution I have been very impressed. The women are very strong and well spoken. They are chanting alongside the men, they are speaking on the stage, and they are writing poetry. There are women who are also living on the roundabout [Ed. Note: Pearl Roundabout]. I also see men admiring the Bahraini women’s strength, and saying they cannot win this revolution without the women. These two things side by side make me certain that if we do get our freedom, we will all be equals. I don’t think these strong women will let anyone oppress them."

JS: Is this purely a "people's revolution" or are there established anti-government groups involved?

Zainab: "There are established anti-government groups of course, but they did not start this revolution. As we got attacked they were not there, however after our victory of taking martyrs square the second time, they have shown up. Some are rightfully saying this is the people's revolution and the people will decide its outcome, while others are trying to take over the revolution, and to start negotiating with the regime, going against the people's chants of overthrowing the monarchy. I hope these political societies back down and let the people who started this revolution make the decisions."

JS: Are you in fear for your own personal safety or the safety of your family if the revolution fails to make a significant change?

Zainab: "Yes. Me and other young activists are always saying, that if this revolution did not succeed we will be the first to go. We laugh about it, but inside we are afraid because we know its true. In 2001 there were negotiations between the people and King Hamad, we believed things would get better, but then the arrests and torture started again. Our regime never forgets a face. They know the opposition well, and they always take revenge. If we don't overthrow this regime, we should either live in fear or leave our beloved country, both very horrible choices."

Ed. Note: Bahrain's current government is defined as a Constitutional Monarchy, headed by King Hamad, but in reality the King wields complete power over the State. The ruling class in Bahrain comes from the Sunni minority, while Shi'ites make up the majority in the country.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Updated Battle Reports From Libya

Bloomberg news reports that Hugo Chavez is urging regional supprort for Gaddafi. This will show how much sway he has in northern South America.

A pro-Gaddafi helicopter gunship has been downed outside of Ras Lanouf. Ras Lanouf is a major oil terminal on the Mediterranean, and as such will be valuable to both sides.

The city of Ras Lanouf is now solidly in the control of the revolutionaries. Confirmed by multiple sources in last hour. We were able to report this earlier today.

An arms depot 20km outside of Benghazi has been hit by what is presumably a pro-Gaddafi air strike.

Interesting fact we have not been told: Libya is also home to 150,000 cubic kilometers of water, which in the region is likely more strategic than oil.

Tweet from Sultan AlQassami (Egypt): The Libyans aren't in an Intifada (uprising), it is a total war of liberation. The battalions are joining the revolutionaries.

Newslinks: March 4 (Reports from Libya)

The following report was just posted by Iyad El-Baghdadi who has private, non-media contacts in various parts of Libya: "We reported early (first or second day of the revolution) that Gaddafi distributed weapons in Sirt, saying "you'll need them soon". We also reported that elements of the Furjan tribe have joined the revolution, esp. in Tarhuna. For a little background, the Furjan tribe have a presence in Tarhuna, Sirt, and Ajdabia. It seems that today in Ras Lanuf's action, some Furjan soldiers under Gaddafi refused to comply. When revolutionaries entered the Ras Lanuf army camp, they found 20+ bodies of soldiers with their hands tied behind their back. It appears now that these were soldiers who refused to comply, many of them Furjan. It's also revealed that in Sirt, Gaddafi did not in fact distribute weapons to the entire population, not even to his entire tribe. It appears he only distributed weapons to his own branch of the Gaddafi's, showing he doesn't even trust his own tribe entirely. Now it appears that Sirt has been ready for revolt, but the presence of the Saadi brigade prevented that. With [the] Furjan soldiers slaying, a significant population of Sirt appears ready to join the revolution as it approaches. The humiliating defeat of the Saadi brigade today in Ras Lanuf also helps increase probability of uprising in Sirt." Note: Sirt is a port city between Misurata and Benghazi.

The report continues: "Previously, there were voices calling to completely avoid attacking Sirt, afraid that a bloody tribal battle will ensue. But with these new revelations, it seems that an approach by revolutionary forces towards Sirt may tip the city over to the uprising. This is significant because revolutionary forces are reported to be within 150 kms from Sirt right now. If Sirt would join the revolution, it would be a game changer, allowing free movement from the east to the west, esp. Misurata."

El-Baghdadi also offers an explanation of what is meant by "tribe" in relation to the Arab world. "I need to explain something about the tribal makeup of Libyan society. I must make it clear that all consider themselves one nation. A "tribe" here is simply a unit of social organization, not a "nation within a nation" diverting allegiance away from Libya. Hence in much of the Arab world, you belong to a family, which belongs to a clan, to a tribe, to a nation."

Multiple sources confirm that the important oil terminal and city at Ras Lanouf now in revolutionary hands.

Reports in general media are the the town of Az Zawiya, 25 km west of Tripoli, is no back in pro-Gaddafi hands after a bloody battle in the street. Reports I am getting from non-media sources in the area dispute this and call it government propaganda. Situation is still very fluid and unlcear.

Reports are coming in of extreme violence against protesters in areas of Tripoli as night fell. The Tajoura neighborhood in Tripoli has been sealed off and it is possible pro-Gaddafi forces are battling protesters there. Location is so far unconfirmed.

This is a compendium of reports from non-journalists inside Libya.

As of 5 PM local time, no reports have been received from contacts inside Tripoli proper for at least 24 hours.

All reports filed within last 45 minutes (10:00 AM EST as of writing), courtesy Iyad El-Baghdadi:

Kidnappings being reported in western city of Zawyatdahmani.

Revolutionaries have taken control of Gharyan within last 15 minutes. Gharyan is just south of Tripoli.

Revolutionaries are now completely in control of Ras Lanouf, on the coast east of Tripoli, halfway to Benghazi from Tripoli. Pro-Gaddafi forces currently performing airstrikes on Ras Lanouf. This tactic has become common after pro-Gaddafi forces lose control of a city.

Battles in Az Zawiya (on coast west of Tripoli) being fought with heavy artillery, tanks and anti-aircraft batteries.

Foreign journalists were kept with minders today who brought them through the streets of Tripoli where all pictures broadcast showed a calm return to normalcy. These reports are from eyewitnesses on the ground who are sympathizers of the Revolutionaries.

Newslink posts are updated periodically throughout the day as updates are received.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Newslinks: March 3 - Updates On Proposed No Fly Zone in Libya

U.S Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out the logistic roadblocks to imposing a No Fly Zone (NFZ) over Libya in speeches yesterday and today. The Defense Department appeared extremely reticent to commit to taking part in a NFZ. On Monday, U.S. officials called British Prime Minister Cameron's call for a NFZ "pre-mature." Libyan leader Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, speaking about Cameron, was quoted as saying, "Everybody wants to be a hero, to be important in history."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and British Foreign Secretary William Hague both stated they were in favor of imposing the NFZ. Juppe also rejected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's proposal to help form an international peace commission to instantiate mediation between Gaddafi and "pro rebel forces" in Libya.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerville came out in opposition to the NFZ as did Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavro called the NFZ "superfluous" and urged international interests to focus on U.N. sanctions. Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said in Brussels Tuesday, "If someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya, it is a serious mistake because any use of force outside the NATO responsibility zone and will be considered a violation of international law." He further stated that the NFZ would constitute a serious interference in the internal affairs of another country and that it would at least require a resolution from the U.N. Security Council.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Hannover, Germany, on Monday that NATO intervention in Libya was "nonsense." "What does NATO have to do with Libya? NATO's intervention in Libya is out of the question. We are against such a thing," he continued. Turkey is a voting member of NATO and was also against the 2003 NFZ over Iraq.

The Arab League seemed to hint that it was in favor of a NFZ, but that it should be handled by Arab League members and African Union states. A statement released Tuesday said in part, "The Arab League cannot remain with their arms folded when the blood of brotherly Libyan people is being shed. The ministers have decided to pursue talks on the best way to protect Libya's citizens, including the imposition of an aerial exclusion zone and coordination between the Arab League and the African Union."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Report From Libya - March 2

Evan Hill, Aljazeera English producer narrowly missed being hit by bomb dropped from a pro-Gaddafi aircraft earlier today near Benghazi. Click for picture. Courtesy Evan Hill.

Gaddafi's forces on the ground were defeated in the town of Azintan today. Click for video showing captured mercenaries. Mercenary ground forces are generally being recruited from Chad and Nigeria. Courtesy Iyad El-Baghdadi.

Rebel forces have taken control of the eastern city of Brega. Click for raw picture feed. Brega has the second largest oil terminal in Libya.

A battle is currently raging in Gharya, which was until recently a Gaddafi stronghold.

Estimates are running as high as 6,000 casualties (unconfirmed) in Libya since February 17.

Bush or Obama - There Is No Difference

During the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions (for lack of a better word) I found very little in the way of anti-American sentiment - in fact, America was left out of the dialogue. That has changed - dramatically - over the past few days.

With warships steaming toward Libya and the Obama Administration once again acting like a squirrel in the middle of the road, anti-American sentiment is now part of the conversation.

Obama is after Libyan oil. The linked cartoon shows the typical response of people throughout the world to anything the US does. Believe it or not, this type of thought is not just reserved for the petulant American Left.

"Libya goes to show that people still look to the US for moral leadership and support. Too bad they don't usually find it" said Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brooking Doha Center today. Moral leadership. President Obama seems unable to clearly communicate moral leadership when it is not inherently political, and George W. Bush allowed his moral clarity to become obfuscated by his inability to defend his positions.

The reality is the US doesn't invade countries for oil. In Iraq, even though we rebuilt their oil infrastructure we buy Iraqi oil at or above market prices. And certainly, Afghan oil is still as non-existent as ever. But why let facts get in the way of a good hissy fit?

Self-proclaimed human rights activist and Lebanese blogger Sarah Abdallah Tweeted the following yesterday: "The US government's definition of 'humanitarian intervention' is invading another country and plundering its natural resources."

The US has the largest economy in the world and is pretty chock full of its own natural resources, because we're too politically lazy to exploit them fully. But even though there is no record of the US intervening in a foreign land on the pretense of humanitarian aid and then loading up the Dodge Ram with booty and high-tailing it back home, it's still what people think. Not just the professional haters in our own country, but world-wide.

All of this has completely frozen President Obama in place while it has sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into a Charlie Sheen-like manic episode of saying things a normal person would regret later.

So my advice is this: If there are American lives at stake, say in Libya, then we are compelled and entitled to use whatever force necessary to safely extricate those US citizens who want to be extricated. We shouldn't be involved in the internal affairs of any country, and when we are invited or dragged in, then only with a clear-cut end-game and exit strategy. We should protect ourselves from the inside by tightening immigration and through the sheer size of our economy and not through mis-guided attempts to help people do what we think is good for them.

There is still more oil being produced than can be consumed, even with the new thirst in China, but China can only buy so much oil. Let the unseen hand of the market dictate the price of oil, instead of the feeble hand of the politician. Countries that depend on oil income need to sell oil, so let's act like a consumer and not the world's dad. We should cease to buy any product from any country who does not act in good faith with us. We have oil and we should exploit it. Drill in Alaska and lift the asinine and ill-informed moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.

Then, make sure our foreign policy jibes with our national belief system. In spite of our political leaders and the assertions of the mass media in this country, we are a moral lot who care about lives and liberty and peace. We need to project our power, militarily and financially, in ways that coincide with the still strong foundations of our country. The haters around the world will hate no matter what we do, but we shouldn't be interested in what the haters think. The United States needs re-dedicate itself to what matters - life, liberty and prosperity.

That may seem Pollyanna-ish to many of you, but if you strip away the non-sense it's a point that's hard to disagree with.

Newslinks: March 2

Map of liberated and Gaddafi-controlled towns in Western Libya. Courtesy Iyad El-Baghdadi.

Reports are that men are being kidnapped from their homes in Misurata, Libya today. Report came from inside Tripoli and has not been substantiated or otherwise detailed.

Breaking: Reuters: Shots fired at bus carrying US soldiers at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Two reported casualties.

City of Brega, near Benghazi was bombed this morning, apparently after a ground assault failed. Early reports are that Brega has been retaken by pro-Gaddafi forces who are now offering aid and drinks to refugees. The flag of the Gaddafi-state is now flying of Brega.

Cartoon from Carlos Latuff (Rio De Janiero Brazil) Worldwide perception of American policy transcends the person occupying the White House.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Point-Counter Point On Military Intervention in Libya

Two Tweets that posted almost back-to-back but were not in response to each other:

"Rebel leaders in Benghazi say they are losing hope that an uprising can topple Gaddafi and are inclined to ask for foreign air strikes." - Al Arabiya English New Service.


"I will NOT respect any Libyan & will doubt their patriotism who asks 4 foreign military intervention Libyans don't sell your country" - Private citizen who goes by name OneLibya.

Just in case anyone thought this was going to be easy.

The Man Who Freed Benghazi

Amazing story of Mehdi Mohammed Zeyo who took down the walls of the military base in Benghazi allowing protesters to overtake the pro-Gaddafi forces there.

Click link for Washington Post article.

Further Report From Near Tripoli - March 1.

More reports from near Tripoli via sources who are texting to Iyad El-Baghdadi in Doha.

"Confirmed heavy mercenary activity in Sabha. The city is pretty much surrounded. They're flying them into Tripoli.

"News that people in Benghazi renamed 'Chavez Stadium' to 'Feb17 Martyrs Stadium' due to the former's support of Gaddafi.

"It also seems that those who attacked Misurata came by helicopter and were Libyan (Khamis) troops, not mercenaries.Attack on Misurata of course failed and Gaddafi's men ran away leaving behind their weapons."

Report From Inside Libya: March 1

The following is a synposis of reports from a contact inside Libya who has been communicating with a blogger in Doha. This report was filed around 7 PM local time Tuesday.

WESTERN LIBYA:

"Eyewitness went from Tripoli towards Azawiya and described the military build up by Gaddafi forces. He's (Gaddafi) gone beyond tanks & infantry, he's brought in Grad rocket launchers. There are over 20 checkpoints between Swanni and Azzarah and the forces are concentrated in Azzarah. Checkpoints are manned by Khamis Brigade, soldiers are on edge and ready to shoot at the slightest provocation. That being said, Azawiya people are alert and ready for an attack. They know it's coming and their morale is sky high. At the same time, Gaddafi's troops despite all the build up are in low spirits. Very low."

"Confirmed that Gaddafi called a notable person in the city (Azawiya)and threatened airstrikes, and offered to negotiate. Also confirmed that people completely refuse negotiations and even the prospect of negotiations."

EASTERN LIBYA:

"Starting with the east, confirmed that yesterday's airstrike on arms depots in Adjabia missed. Interestingly, it seems like an intentional miss, it's basically a series of 10 bunkers. Can't be missed except on purpose.

"Also confirmed that Gaddafi forces have retaken Ras Lanouf, and all the coast up to at least Bishr. Not clear yet whether Marsa Barayqa is with Gaddafi or liberated. There are military preparations in Ajdabia, I can't reveal them. But there are real fears it is the next target for a ground assault. Fears are that Ajdabia is not as well defended as Benghazi. Defenders have very high morale but they also need guns and training. That being said, all attacks by Gaddafi on major cities to date have failed miserably. That's kinda comforting by itself."

Click for map of current military situation in Libya.

All information was compiled by and is courtesy of Iyad El-Baghdadi.

Newslinks: March 1

Tweet from Iran, 11:30 AM EST: Lot of ppl on the streets, but regime using new cars & weapons are out to kill. Residents on the streets help protesters by opening their doors & giving them refuge from these savages

President Reagan was more concerned about saving American lives than he was about saving his own reputation. A leadership style George W. Bush ignored and Barack Obama is currently ignoring - the Libertarian take on troop removal in the Middle East. Click for article.

Excellent column by Imrad Garda in Aljazeera today pointing out the position Hugo Chavez has found himself in after being a friend to Gaddafi. Click here.

Telegraph (London): US Resists Prosecuting Foreign Mercenaries in Libya.