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Cyber Pressure on Iran

An explosion of a nuclear bomb during a test in New Mexico

By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyberwarfare correspondent

Eight years of failed negotiations with Iran. Four rounds of ineffective UN sanctions against Ahmadinejad’s regime. Now all of a sudden the Iranian leadership has said they want to negotiate.

What brought this on?

Last week at a cyber warfare conference, the notion that the Stuxnet attack may have been an instrument of foreign policy came up in multiple conversations. At the same time, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called for discussions of cyber weapons and cyber warfare in the same framework as during the cold war, which was one of the longest and most costly foreign policy initiatives in history.

This situation is so different from that of the Cold War, one has to question the effectiveness of putting cyber weapons and conflict in the same context as the cold war. Just think about the difference between weapons of mass destruction — specifically nuclear weapons, which were a high priority and top focus of the cold war — and the more vague issues of cyber weapons.

Was the Stuxnet cyber assault an instrument of foreign policy by some country?  If so, was it what got Iran back to the table to negotiate?  It seems that former Secretary of DHS Chertoff is right – because during the cold war we focused on two areas, out-spending Russia and pressuring them to negotiate.

The big difference is, during the cold war, the United States arguably had the financial capabilities to do this.

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

John Moore October 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Please dont show this to your savior Obama as we can't aford a spending war. Well not after he paid off his pals at the banks with our 700 billion nice investment there!

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jhm October 19, 2010 at 12:25 am

um even if u hate the bailout if he hadnt kept the biz running captialism wouldve ended. think about it, if one guy doesnt pay the other guy, then that guy wont pay the other guy and so on. If those banks failed completely money(in billions and billionsa dn billions) would have vanished and be no more. Havent u taken econ???

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Thunder350 October 19, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Capitalism has been dead. Corporatism has replaced it. The bailout was a mistake. We NEED to go back to a free market. (One with regulations to prevent those banks from acting stupid with OUR money in the first place). But as long as we keep reelecting the same failed congressman, and keep on electing someone dumber as president each time (if we keep following that trend Sarah Palin is gonna be our next prez *god help us*).. were pretty much screwed.

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jhm October 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm

um hello, free market means no restrictions!!!! without some government restrictions, the another great depression or worse will occur. monopolies would be rampant driving up prices since the gov cant regulate them in a true free market. also WE were stupid in trusting those banks and were smarter in terms of savings and loans our economy would be better off then now. dont just blame the banks, but also the millions of idiots who didnt understand how economics worked and screwed everyone else over. Their ignorance is what is hurting my chances to collage and that isnt making me a happy camper.

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Thunder350 October 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Its the banks faults for allowing people who clearly couldn't afford the loan in the first place, to take that loan out. Just so the banks could make that quick extra buck.. or in this case a quick extra billion or so..

Infidel4LIFE October 20, 2010 at 1:18 pm

oh wat a cluster f*ck that would be..hey Tina Fey will be an American icon if [GOD HELP US] that happened.

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Infidel4LIFE October 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Yo my man, ur talking about ur "SAVIOR" GW BUSH> It was HIM!! If ur talking about loans to car co''s etc, those loans MADE MONEY. Finally they pushed thru a bill giving 500 million in loans to small banks and bizness. The party of NO. How UNAMERICAN can these people be? We got sold out, look at all that $$ rolling in for the GOP from "who knows where?" China is a good guesss..

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William C. October 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm

You mean that nonexistent foreign money the Democrats (who often get foreign money) claim the GOP was getting? UnAmerican? Look in the mirror. It's your party selling out this country and gutting what we stand for.

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Infidel4LIFE October 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Bill, you don't a f-ing leg to stand on. Thats ur "defense?" Oh, you did it first..you really are hitting that tea pot a bit much. You gotta lot of ballz LOOK at the MESS ur hero Dubya left BHO. The party of NO. Yeah, extend those tax cuts 4 the rich, we will NEVER come out of it. The GOP takes MILLIONS from the Chi-coms. You a commie also? Ur watching too much Fox news, ur brain is fried. LOL!!!!!!

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William C. October 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Except that there was no foreign money donated unlike what the Democrats are saying in a desperate lie to keep power! And people like you fall for it! The party of NO? Fine by me, because we need to say HELL NO to so much of what the government is doing these days.

Oh yes the big bad Fox News, how dare anybody not subscribe to politically correct leftist viewpoints! These Democrats you want to keep in power put the interests of every leftist nutjob cause before the average American. Republicans have their problems for sure, but I'll be damned if I ever vote Democrat while they behave like they have been doing for the last two decades.

Mark October 18, 2010 at 12:36 pm

John, it was "your savior" George W. Bush who implemented the TARP bailout. Obama merely inherited it. Not a very good troll attempt since that theme is already well worn out. Keep trying though.

"The Troubled Asset Relief Program, commonly referred to as TARP, is a program of the United States government to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen its financial sector which was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008."

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A different Mark October 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

At the end of his last term It was Clinton who pressured banks to give the loans to people who could not pay causing the financial mess we are in today.

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Alos October 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Right, the poor people wrecked the world economy, that sounds plausible.

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Pride October 19, 2010 at 10:26 am

Actually, it was the poor people who took out huge loans they could not afford than started us down the slippery slope. When the time came to pay the money back there was none, so the banks had to cover the loans themselves. Clinton was wone of the worst economic presidents ever. The "surplus" was not real money, it popped when the Internet-bubble burst.

Thanks to Slick Willy the recession started, GW looked the other way while it happened, and Obummer pushed the accelerator just a little bit more.

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William C. October 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Exactly. And now we are stuck paying for all of these people's houses. I am sick and tired of the government paying people's mortgages, huge sums of people's credit card debt, and so on. The responsible suffer for the sake of those who bought what they knew they couldn't afford.

@Earlydawn October 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm

TARP belongs to Bush, do doubt, but then why did Obama practically quadruple-down on government spending through the stimulus if you're implicitly conceding it as a bad idea?

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bobbymike October 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

But guess which entities are sucking more and more taxpayer money with no end in site, Why its our friendly neighbors Freddie and Fannie, $350 billion and counting.

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Marvel October 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm

First, the 700 billion investment is being paid back, slowly but steadily. Second, the Stuxnet virus was almost certainly written by a nation-state. Individuals could not have found the exploits in the Siemens software without the massive resources of a government. The question is whether the Russian technicians who inadvertently introduced the virus into Iranian infrastructure via USB knew they were contaminating Iranian systems. Is it possible that the Israelis and Russians were cooperating? This is all speculation, of course. But it seems clear that this virus was a tool of foreign policy. As to whether it got Iran back to the negotiating table, I think the erosion of Russian support for Iran is the more likely reason.

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Duh October 18, 2010 at 1:55 pm

"Individuals could not have found the exploits in the Siemens software without the massive resources of a government."

Really? People hack stuff like that all the time. Just take a look at any issue of 2600. http://www.2600.com/

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jhm October 19, 2010 at 12:27 am

um yeah they can. If you want to see real hacking look at what happened the f35 program theat got hacked or simply go on those chinese hacking team sites. they are like hacking armies man wish we could simply shoot them

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Marvel October 19, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Hacking teams that are directly supported by the resources of a state.

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jhm October 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm

not all but some. however, most of the hacking teams were individuals who impressed the chinese gov't and later got hired. but while they were free lancers they were unrestricted and notorious criminals

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Mark M October 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm

If you followed this issue more closely, you would know that Iran has always been willing to negotiate. It negotiated with Western partners that did not negotiate in good faith in 2003, it has offered to open up its enrichment to a consortium involving Western powers, it has agreed to the nuclear fuel swap with the 2010 Tehran Declaration. All this and more.

But it will not compromise its right to the nuclear fuel cycle, a right under the NPT. That's a red line. Once you understand that, and all the compromise offers Iran has put forward during the past seven years, you realize that some internet worm (which affected Indonesia and India worse) isn't going to affect Iran's negotiations with the West one way or another.

BTW, how about the fact that Iran was invited to high-level talks on Afghanistan? Using your4 logic, is this a product of Ahmadinejad's rapturous reception in Lebanon?

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Jacob October 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Iran has threatened Israel and is sponsoring terrorist groups that launch attacks against it; it is an actively hostile state that does not play by the rules of the international community. Iran is one of the last countries on this planet that we should allow to have nuclear weapons. It's true they technically have the right to a civilian nuclear program, but a civilian program can easily be weaponized and through their behavior they show that they are not trustworthy.

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bla October 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm

We should have nuked them when they took the hostages. Enough said

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Oblat October 18, 2010 at 1:47 pm

>If you followed this issue more closely,
.
Kevin doesn't following anything closely - this is just another one of his dreadful grade school marketing pitches:
.
1) Pick some random news item associate it with our product
2) conflate it with nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction
3) write the pitch as questions so we can claim we are just claiming nothing
4) move on quickly because any investigation into the claims will show that the whole thing is trumped up.
.
When is Defense tech going to get someone who actually knows something about network security - are they really that clueless ?

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AT4 October 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm

And yet, here you are are, day after day. If it really is that bad, why is it worth your time?

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Philo October 18, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Cause Oblong has a Man-Crush on Coleman, that's why.

Hey Oblat, just proclaim your undying love for the man and get it over with….

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david October 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm

What? Iran does this every other month. Say they want to talk and then nothing happens. Saying that a computer virus/worm made them give in a pretty "out there."

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Moondog October 18, 2010 at 4:41 pm

The U.S. infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to cyber attack.. Given the current economy, a serious and successful cyber attack, on say our electrical grid, would probably put us past the tipping point.

I don't believe that Iran is a poor misunderstood country, with enormous oil and gas reserves, that needs a nuke plant so it can generate electricty. I take the leaders of Iran at their stated word. In short, the U.S. is the great satan and they want to either bury or enslave us. Iran is also at war with the West.

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jhm October 19, 2010 at 12:33 am

dude the electrical grid is heavily defended electronically and physically. If the US is the satan, what is Iran who funds organizations that strap bombs on children to kill others??? do they get virgins. teh US has done nasty things but all countries int eh world have done something horrifying before. dont lay it all on the west, only dull minded retards who cant clearly identify their problems do that. stop being a greedy beat up whimp accusing greater powers. Im so sick of this. If iran went to war with west… this is a repeat of the Iraqi wars… good luck home dog

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Philo October 18, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Another stalling move by Iranistan. Nothing new here apart from the cyber angle…

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Mark M October 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Stalling? Like the Europeans did following the 2003 Paris Agreement? You remember: they said if the Iranians adhered to the AP, they would negotiate in good faith? They didn't.

Then there have been all the compromises offered by the Iranians:
- Multinational fuel bank in Iran.
- Adoption of the AP, given it's NPT right to enrichment is respected.
- Transfer of specified enriched Uranium to Kish Island.
- Transfer of " " to Turkey.
- The 2010 Tehran Declaration.
- And more.

But how does the West respond? By always moving the goal posts.

Iran has always been willing to negotiate. But the West continues to either stall of move the goal posts. The reaction to the 2010 Tehran Declaration should remove all doubt that this is truth of the matter.

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jhm October 19, 2010 at 12:37 am

shoving themselves in others business is how america looks after themselves. in history certain nations were left alone( nazi germany cough cough) and werent immediately opposed. then a huge calamity occured. this world is connected one way or another and people got to be on teh look out since it cant handle another pol pot or kimjungill or mr. holocaust never happened.

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Mike October 19, 2010 at 4:18 am

" Now all of a sudden the Iranian leadership has said they want to negotiate."

Errr, you do realise it's yet another stalling tactic… And considering how dumb the west is it will no doubt work.

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Dave M October 19, 2010 at 8:36 am

Who is to say the latest round of sanctions didn't bring this on? Or nothing in particular at all? This whole article is speculation based off an event which might not have anything to do with it.

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crackedlenses October 19, 2010 at 10:09 am

Considering how much damage Stuxnet did to their nuclear program, and this latest sneak attack on their missle silos, I'm not surprised….
http://www.debka.com/article/9087/

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Oblat October 19, 2010 at 11:27 am

You just gotta love how Kevin astroturfs his own blog

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USAS1 October 19, 2010 at 10:31 am

The Iran once was a good friend with us, we can't because of at present of the some benefits let us break the word to forget righteousness, on the contrary we want help Iran development pit technique to replace not explicit the technique of influence act for the United States at Iran of ever position thus change the United States but isn't the explicit of the justice business of oneself which match many country in the world, let the Iran start belong to our camps, let we future valid of maintenance Middle East and suppress North Europe influence excessively radiation, the United States ever of justice and fair just at drive a part a part of the soil collapse to break up,

The Soviets dismisses but is to be getting stronger on a certain meaning, in other words just too strong it of the advantage real strenght turn to make conceal of economy conceal of politics conceal of the military arrange with invisible and having material form in the middle, world the integral whole turn already we the United States make of burned, now we do of choice direct relation go to our nation at future of the world become Garden of Eden perhaps paradise lost.

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Maxtrue October 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm

anger from Arabs that is…..sorry for the typo

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Kayaker October 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm

No-bama is just a plain, unqualified idiot not to mention a modern day Marxist. He was never qualified to sit in the oval office, much less be a US Senator. His day is coming and we will be rid of that worthless idiot named No-bama. This bum is far worse than Jimmy Carter or old Cigar Boy Bill Clinton ever was.

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Dom October 20, 2010 at 5:09 am

You made a typo his name's Obama.
Thanks

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Skysoldier173 October 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

You sir, are a HORSES AZZ…

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Peter October 20, 2010 at 3:36 am

Iran will oneday sink a carrier and the US will be helpless to retaliate because Iran will say "we didn't do it - where's your proof" and the world and the UN will side with them saying "yes there is no proof you're warmongering. "

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elgatoso October 20, 2010 at 6:30 am

You really think somebody can sink a US aircraft carrier???

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blight October 20, 2010 at 8:42 am

Yes, "somebody can". It's been done before.

More accurately, has a carrier ANYWHERE in the globe since WW2 been put into immediate peril even remotely close to sinking. Perhaps the British in Falklands, since coalition forces beating Iraq into a pulp wasn't an exercise dangerous for carriers either occasion, nor is keeping the peace around the world.

We're basically back in the 1930's, where carrier sinking was a hypothetical, Douhet's aphorism "the bomber will always get through" was in direct competition with "battleships are awesome…"

Maybe in about a decade or two we'll have our answers, but preferably not.

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William C. October 20, 2010 at 2:02 pm

So we launch a few stealthy nuclear cruise missiles their way and say "Where's your proof it was us. It must of been that nuclear program you guys said you didn't have."

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blight October 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm

ACM's are low observeable, not sure if that is explicitly "stealthy nuclear cruise missiles".

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Maxtrue October 20, 2010 at 10:24 am

I don't know how this thread ended up on sinking carriers, but the British prefer sinking their own: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politi...

As for Iran getting hold of S-300, we have their word on that: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=89072...

Is that good enough for Defense Tech?

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blight October 21, 2010 at 2:17 pm

They should probably sell that carrier to the highest bidder. Maybe Japan or India ideally…

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PERCY October 21, 2010 at 4:30 am

This is one of the few times, we cannot afford t be wrong. Both Bush and Obama work for the same "foreign interests" in this country. Bush is a decendant of the Queen of England, Obama was born in Kenya AT THE TIME THAT IT WAS A BRITISH COLONY, which made Obama automatically a dual citizen of Britian. Notice a pattern developing here?

Then Obama's grandfather on his mothers side is a Dual Israeli Citizen. That passes on to Obama's mother who then passes it onto Obama who is a dual Israeli citizen. Why do you think he has 32 dual israeli citizens on his white house staff when Jewish people constitute only 2% of our population? ITS NO ACCIDENT. They are leading us to a world war in collusion with both sides leaders who are working with the international bankers to form a fascist global government. I wish it were not true but both parties are complicit and Nancy Pelosi is the Queen of Israel in this country, so this place is locked up. BOTH PARTIES ARE OWNED BY FOREIGN INTERESTS.

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longshadow October 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I’m surprised they didn’t mention the Wikileaks report that documented a serious, recent, nuclear accident at Natanz (Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility). The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (Gholam Reza Aghazadeh) also resigned under mysterious circumstances. A German security firm (GSMK) confirmed that the number of operating centrifuges in Natanz shrank ‘significantly’ around the time the accident mentioned by Wikileaks was supposed to have happened.

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longshadow October 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Nobody is talking about this but Iran also owns and operates a copy of Nokia Siemens ‘Intelligence Platform’ (Intelligence Solutions tools). The tool provides Iran with mobile phone monitoring, eavesdropping, filtering, and tracking capabilities. The human surveillance system has two main components; the Monitoring Center (for deep packet inspection) and the Intelligence Platform (provides real-time data mining intelligence).

Stuxnet was supposed to erase itself from the host computer after 21 days (it didn’t because of a programming error) so there is some speculation that the worm was just meant to temporarily disrupt Iran’s phone surveillance capabilities and then erase itself after the op was over. The nuclear and manufacturing impact of the worm may have just been a nice public decoy.

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Infidel4LIFE October 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Oh come on Percy..enough already. You make 250K a year? NO? Ur taxes will go down. You people are mad coz he's half black right? You guys think Sarah Palin is qaulified to be POTUS? God damn thats good Kool-Aid…

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Real October 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

And at no time did the multi-billion dollar war have any effect on the economy…

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William C. October 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm

And is the war supposed to make me care about some fool who bought a house hoping to sell it in a few months for a higher price? If your investment failed, live with it. The responsible taxpayer should not be bailing out these people.

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Greg October 21, 2010 at 11:23 am

No, but what his comment is supposed to make you realize is to stop blaming all our problems on one person or entity. The 10 trillion or so that we spent on the wars is going up in smoke already. Look at how Maliki is groveling to Iran now. So no the wars aren't suppoed to make you feel bad about the guy who has a loan who he couldn't pay, more so then to make you take an OBJECTIVE instead of subjective look at the situation and think that maybe multiple factors are contributing to the situation. The one you mentioned is a big one, but a 10 trillion dollar war while cutting taxes wasn't so bright either.

Oh and by the way we keep "liberally" throwing around that the poor took on more loans then they can. Let's be real here the poor can't even get a loan. It was the middle class who got us here. It was the middle class taking second and third mortgages out on houses. It is middle class nurses who feel they need to live in upper class doctors houses. It's the middle class guy who works at verizon or whatever yet drives a bens or an range rover through those extra loans he took out on his house. The poor getting a loan, well that's just a joke. Please stop let people misinform you.

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Greg October 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Bill, although I hate Infidel's name I have to admit he is 100% correct. As many lies, halve truths, and acts of desperation have the GOP also stated, or done in a desperate attempt to stay in power?

How selective your memory is. Remember those guys trying to deny Kerry was even in Vietnam, while our commander and thief dodged the draft? What about the whole Florida fiasco which casts in doubt whether GDubBya was even elected?

The party of no comment is an insult not a compliment, because the party of no is so unwilling to simply compromise on the simplest of things. I'll give you some examples so that you know how every day Americans are looking at the situation. Maybe you can stop being so biased and right and slight slightly to the center.
1. It is one thing to fight health care based on cost, it is entirely another thing however to campaign for having limits on people with mal practice suites. Now not everyone may be honest granted, but if we look at everyone as criminals where are we as a country. When is enough enough when the doctor kills someone negligently. How is it okay to protect the doctor but turn your back to the victim? Also what is wrong with providing healthcare to children, I mean are we still human or what. The kids have no say in finances, and to hold any children's healthcare hostage for an agenda is just plain old selfish and evil. Also haven't you noticed that it costs more when people are dieing rather then when they are healthy?

2. The GOP says no no no to rolling back the taxes for the rich. I mean really? Really? What's the excuse for that? Why should the middle class and lower foot the lions share of the bill while the majority of the country is OWNED by the top 10%? I'll give you an analogy so you understand why it is so hard for us hard working middle class to understand. That in my opinion is equivalent of making my 7 year old son responsible for paying my property taxes as I looked for loop holes around paying them all together. The policy makes no sense.

3. Why was the GOP so against extending the unemployment benefits to the millions of Americans unemployed? How were these congressman serving there people? I understand there is a deficit, but do we solve it by creating another great depression and let millions starve and go homeless?

4. The party of no was against even attempting to talk to Iran. Not that the talking has been perfect, but come on do we just keep invading countries and not at least attempt to work out our differences? What does not talking get you besides a fight.

5. The party of no is against spending any money on the transportation projects that the administration passed? It was to create jobs for those said unemployed americans in the short term for one. For 2 our roads are abysmal at best. So many pot holes, bridges falling down, ect, ect. I spent 2 hours in traffic on a ride that just last year took 40 minutes. We need a decent transportation system. It needs to be much more efficient, many more trains ect. We can pave the roads, build bridges, and actually plan instead of doing everything reactively. Reactive costs lives. Who is against giving americans jobs to improve our American infrastructure? It makes no sense what so ever. If we canspend 10 trillion on Iraq and Afghanistan, why not spend a trillion on our infrastructure. How many jobs could we create? How much more efficient and clean could we make America if we actually invested in it?

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Greg October 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Bill, although I hate Infidel's name I have to admit he is 100% correct. As many lies, halve truths, and acts of desperation have the GOP also stated, or done in a desperate attempt to stay in power?

How selective your memory is. Remember those guys trying to deny Kerry was even in Vietnam, while our commander and thief dodged the draft? What about the whole Florida fiasco which casts in doubt whether GDubBya was even elected?

The party of no comment is an insult not a compliment, because the party of no is so unwilling to simply compromise on the simplest of things. I'll give you some examples so that you know how every day Americans are looking at the situation. Maybe you can stop being so biased and right and slight slightly to the center.
1. It is one thing to fight health care based on cost, it is entirely another thing however to campaign for having limits on people with mal practice suites. Now not everyone may be honest granted, but if we look at everyone as criminals where are we as a country. When is enough enough when the doctor kills someone negligently. How is it okay to protect the doctor but turn your back to the victim? Also what is wrong with providing healthcare to children, I mean are we still human or what. The kids have no say in finances, and to hold any children's healthcare hostage for an agenda is just plain old selfish and evil. Also haven't you noticed that it costs more when people are dieing rather then when they are healthy?

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