Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Whitewash for the White House

Bu$hie's whitewash commission absolves him of all intelligence manipulation in the Iraqi WMD farce.

Will Pitt remembers otherwise:
" Bush's hand-picked crew of whitewashers has put out a report blaming the entire Iraq debacle on the intelligence community. The report is a farce, a fraud, evidence that the White House has managed to win its little war with CIA by sticking Goss in there and silencing whistleblowers by way of Plame-like intimidation. The corporate news media, of course, has helped.

My immediate thought: If the intelligence was so bad, so wrong, why are we still there?

Beyond that, let's remember a few things here.

Bush: U.S. had 'darn good intelligence' on Iraq

'When I gave the speech, the line was relevant'

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Monday he had "darn good intelligence" on Iraq despite his disputed State of the Union claim that Baghdad sought to purchase uranium from Africa...

The report skipped that. It also failed to mention The Office of Special Plans, the Chalabi-affiliated group that circumvented and intimidated the intelligence community to deliver skewed Iraq threat data to the public.

It also failed to mention Colin Powell's catastrophically embarrassing UN appearance in February 2003, when he stood before that world body and used a report plagiarized from a grad student essay to prove the existence of WMD in Iraq.

Likewise, no mention is made of the page on the White House website which still claims that Hussein had 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons (which equals 1,000,000 lbs.) of sarin, mustard and VX, along with nearly 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuf, mobile biological weapons labs and uranium from Niger for use in their robust nuclear weapons program. All this data comes from Bush's remarks in the 2003 State of the Union address. If the intelligence was so bad, why is this page still on the White House servers?

And then there was this:

"How the United States should react if Iraq acquired WMD. The first line of defense...should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence--if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration."

- Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor
January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs

"We are greatly concerned about any possible linkup between terrorists and regimes that have or seek weapons of mass destruction...In the case of Saddam Hussein, we've got a dictator who is clearly pursuing and already possesses some of these weapons. A regime that hates America and everything we stand for must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction."

- Dick Cheney, Vice President
Detroit Fund-Raiser
and about 3 dozen other quotes.

Go read it.

Anybody else remember Valerie Plame?

Melanie Sloan does:
"Remember Valerie Plame? Ms. Plame was the CIA undercover operative who was outed by the White House in effort to punish her husband former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had publicly stated in a July 6, 2003 op-ed in the New York Times, that despite President Bush’s statements to the contrary, Iraq had not attempted to purchase yellow cake uranium from Niger. The existence of that uranium, you may recall, was presented to the public as "evidence" that Iraq had nuclear weapons which, in turn, was used to justify our unilateral attack on Iraq.

Ms. Plame, however, had nothing to do with any of that. Ms. Plame was an operative under deep cover -- the CIA had created an entire company just so that Ms. Plame could claim that she worked there. Yet once Joseph Wilson broke his silence and announced that the White House was lying, Karl Rove decided that Wilson needed to be punished and that his wife was "fair game." Two top government officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. But only the ever-ready apologist for the Republican Party, Robert Novak, took the bait. On July 14, 2003, Novak wrote a piece outing Ms. Plame as an operative.

Neither Karl Rove -- or whomever among the Bush senior staff leaked it -- nor Novak gave a moment’s consideration to the lives that they may have jeopardized by outing Ms. Plame. Never mind that anyone in another country who had so much as met Ms. Plame might now be suspected of spying. No thought was given to the fact that others, who were in fact spies, might be outed through their connection to Ms. Plame, and no thought was given to the fact that actual lives could be lost as a result of this odious act. Never mind that outing an undercover CIA operative is a federal crime.

A very serious matter, yet you would never know that from the White House’s response. When the revelation first hit the press in July, the White House first refused to comment and later, had White House press secretary Scott McClellan claim -- without so much as a question asked of White House staff -- "that is not the way this White House operates," and that "no one was certainly given any authority to do any of that nature, and I’ve seen no evidence to suggest there’s any truth to it." It’s hard to find evidence you are doing your very best to ignore..."

"Welcome to the desert of the Real"

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says...

· Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

· An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.

· Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers has doubled in the last 40 years. Humans now use between 40% and 50% of all available freshwater running off the land.

· At least a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested. In some areas, the catch is now less than a hundredth of that before industrial fishing.

· Since 1980, about 35% of mangroves have been lost, 20% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% badly degraded.

· Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new and so far unknown disease to emerge.

In 1997, a team of biologists and economists tried to put a value on the "business services" provided by nature - the free pollination of crops, the air conditioning provided by wild plants, the recycling of nutrients by the oceans. They came up with an estimate of $33 trillion, almost twice the global gross national product for that year. But after what today's report, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, calls "an unprecedented period of spending Earth's natural bounty" it was time to check the accounts.

It's the goal of the Wrepublican party to privatize all that free air.

Like drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. It won't really add anything significant to decreasing the price of oil, or even holding it down. They just want to do it-

Because they can.

Thanks to rorsach for the links.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Clone Wars.

You've possibly noticed a common theme in everything Bu$hCo does is DisInformation.

There are many examples. Consider the rabid Christian fundamentalism of a man who usually doesn't attend church. A war against terror that really is more designed to sow the seeds of terrorism. Fake questions at Presidential news conferences from male prostitutes posing as press agents. Fake news designed by the government to promote its modifications of Medicare, Social Security, and even its conduct of the war in Iraq. And a Star Wars-influenced NASA promotion of putting men on Mars while cutting the science needed for them to survive the trip.

Over the last couple of days, I've addressed some of the interesting items in the DARPA FY2006 budget recently submitted to Congress. DARPA is the engine behind the Future Combat initiative heavily touted by Donald Rumsfeld, the current brass at the Department of Defense, and the NeoTheoCon think tanks at the AEI. Like the disinformation listed above, the smokescreen is pretty thick around this budget, which is designed first to enrich the Carlyle Group Company, and secondarily to promote American security.

Like their fixation on a God without compassion, they seem to have a fixation on technology without the hardware to actually do the work.

Some sections of this budget are heavily padded to do things that are very ill-advised. For example, the initiatives on robotics spend much money in the attempt to develop a cybernetic Warfighter, with almost $100,000,000 to be spent on development of a self aware, indoctrinated artificial intelligence to be used in combat- while only spending a small amounts of money on the software to actually ensure it can walk.
That's nuts. Insane to make any machine indoctrinated and capable of ignoring direct orders in the field because of its own assessment of higher mission priority (remember HAL?)- and folly to develop sophisticated robots incapable of moving in the real world.
We're not talking Three Laws of Robotics that keep a robot from harming civilians.
We're talking programming in an attempt to make a self aware, situationally aware fighting machine with policy directives that would encourage a machine, for example, to destroy a village in order to save it.
We're talking the lion's share of a budget item to be spent on programming that's not directed to robotic function, but robotic AI, assessment, and control.

Last night I wrote about something in the budget that was of more straightforward use to the soldier and with more real world applicability outside the military frame of reference, the development of coherent electromagnetic energy technologies, useful in communications, in technological and engineering applications, and of course in combat.
Even with this, about half of the budget goes not to research and development, but to "software" development, "virtual" testing, and "training".

Finally, here I'd like to talk about an area of the DARPA budget for Future Combat that I have a little bit of expertise in.


Except... looking at the actual budget, there's very little really set aside for biodefense.

There is, however, lots for some really strange projects on living things, including soldiers I'm afraid...

The Biochemical Materials ($43.398 million) thrust examines how breakthroughs in the understanding of biochemistry can drastically improve the survivability of soldiers. For example, examining the biochemistry of the brain during sleep deprivation can lead to new approaches for maintaining the cognitive function of soldiers in the face of sleep deprivation. The application of biochemical principles can also lead to techniques to allow the principles of biological organisms that survive in extreme environments to be exploited for the preservation of tissue and cells of interest to DoD. Finally, understanding the biochemical behavior of organs and tissues, including the interaction of energy with biology, can lead to significant advances in the medical treatment of the soldier on the battlefield.

I'm sorry, this is beginning to sound like an X-Files episode.

Do I need to explain to anyone what a bad idea that is?

The Program Plans are even worse:

Program Plans:
- Demonstrate induced desiccation strategies for platelets and red blood cells that allow prolonged periods (> 24 months) of dry storage and recovery. Evaluate efficacy of the blood products in the battlefield environment.
- Develop self-care medical technology to enable the warfighter in the battlefield to accelerate wound healing, internal clotting and pain relief to increase a soldier’s survivability on the battlefield.
- Develop an understanding of the biochemical and physiological causes of decreased cognitive performance during sleep deprivation through studying animal model systems, synaptic function, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
- Demonstrate and validate approaches to develop biomaterials and other concepts that extend the cognitive performance capabilities of warfighters during extended periods of sleep deprivation and stress.
- Develop methods for maintaining functional and physiokinetic endurance by nutritional and physical methods that are rapidly inducible, reversible and minimize the need for caloric intake while maintaining both strength and endurance.
- Develop methods for regulating core body temperature and hydration to maintain physical performance and endurance when training.
- Demonstrate the capability to transfer biochemical processes chemically or physically to cells, tissues, organs, systems, and organisms lacking robust survival mechanisms.
- Develop an understanding of effect of non-lethal physical forces on biological responses, including traumatic brain injury.
- Demonstrate full 3-D visual image representation carried on electronic dog tag that can be used to predict likelihood of survival from potentially lethal battlefield wound. Extend 3-D imaging approaches to a virtual autopsy capable of a more rapid and accurate post mortem wound assessment.
- Define and demonstrate new operating room technologies for the battlefield that reduce the needs for operating personnel.
- Develop devices to locate bleeding and stimulate the clotting process using acoustic energy.
- Develop methods for selectively reducing metabolic requirements in a reversible manner following injury in order to extend the period of survival from injury to initiation of treatment.

These aims range from bad- (lyophilized blood isn't blood anymore!)- to poorly thought out- (you don't triage by just looking at dog tags, I don't give a damn how high tech they are- you look at the injured soldier)- to just plain appalling (transcranial magnetic stimulation??!!).

You get the gist of it. It's really does read like the D.o.D. hired some of the old writers for the X-files to dream up some doozies. Fortunately, there are some really good sites that monitor what's coming out of the Pentagon on a regular basis.

I'd advise you to get aware of them, citizen. Who knows when that Cyberdyne Series Warfighter will show up on a street near you? What will you do when Rumsfeld will actually orbits a Skynet satellite?

If you haven't examined the Defense Tech site, please do. It's where I found the link to the DARPA budget. Noah Shachtman is a patriotic progressive who does a great job of blogging on a daily basis about what's new in "technology, defense, politics, and geek culture".

Big Media Matt is Good, but More Germane Panelists, Please

This panel portends to discuss the meanings of the words "journalist" and "blogger" and whether the two are different things or one and the same. We note that this topic has once again been raised in light of the Gannon case, although the debate on blogs as journalism has been going on for years here in the so-called "blogosphere." As Gannon is not a blogger, we feel his inclusion means that the panel is largely about Gannon himself and what his specific case means in context of the discussion. We also note, as you must have, that Gannon's presence on the panel will allow him to once again air his side of the story. Who will air the other side?

While we commend your about face by extending an invitation to Matthew Yglesias to sit on this panel, it ignores the larger issue. We think highly of Yglesias' work publicizing the mission of bloggers and don't want to exclude him, or anyone, from the panel, but he was simply not a central player in regards to the Gannon story. A panel on the case of Jeff Gannon, especially one including Gannon himself, should have representation from someone who did heavy lifting there, someone intimately familiar with the process that brought Gannon's identity and his relationship with the White House Press Corps to the public eye. That voice must be a blogger who was a key player in the investigation of Gannon, his role in the media and his background.

Many people at various blogs, including SusanG at Daily Kos, Media Matters, World O Crap, Atrios, and AMERICAblog were at the fore of this investigation. Traditional media ignored the story until bloggers uncovered it. That's why you're having a panel on it. However, not one of the individuals who worked hard on the story was approached with an invitation to speak on the panel. Even outside the context of right versus left, this exclusion raises a serious issue of journalistic imbalance. This was not a careless oversight. The institutional press is giving the investigated his voice while not allowing the investigator to have its say.

Thus, we cannot recommend strongly enough the inclusion of AMERICAblog's John Aravosis on this panel. He has volunteered to be the representative of those who worked on the Gannon investigation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Death Ray Dreamin'

Here's more budgetary goodies for Future Combat from DARPA.

Tonight, let's talk particle beam weapons. Most of the light saber spending is listed under the general heading Advanced Tactical Technology. Again, the costs presented here are for one year of a five year plan, 2006.

Advanced Tactical Technology TT-06... FY 2006... $95.849 million

Mission Description:
This project focuses on three broad technology areas: (a) compact, efficient, frequency-agile, diode-pumped, solid-state lasers for infrared countermeasures, laser radar, holographic laser sensors, communications, and high-power laser applications; (b) high performance computational algorithms for signal processing, target recognition and tracking, electromagnetic propagation, and processing of advanced materials and microelectronics; (c) enabling technologies for advanced aerospace systems and emerging payload delivery concepts. Additionally, this project will develop new tactical systems for enhanced air vehicle survivability, precision optics, electronic warfare, advanced air breathing weapons and training superiority systems. Studies under this project examine innovative approaches to non-invasive weapons detection, the use of laser and fiber-optic technologies to increase the survivability and lethality of existing systems, and the development of miniaturized and technologically advanced sensors, algorithms, and devices for monitoring assets.

Sounds harmelss enough. Let's break it up some.

High Power Fiber Lasers $10.606 million
The High Power Fiber Lasers program will develop and demonstrate single mode, sin gle polarization fiber lasers with output powers greater than one kilowatt from a single aperture. Tens of kilowatts output power and capability to scale to greater than hundreds of kilowatts output power and beyond will be demonstrated through coherent combining of the output power from multiple fiber lasers. High power fiber lasers will provide a quantum leap in defense capabilities by simplifying the logistic train and providing a deep magazine, limited only by electric power, in a compact footprint. For theater/area defense and self-protection of combat platforms, they will provide speed of light engagement and flexible response against cruise missiles, reconnaissance unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), and rockets.

High Powered Femto Second Laser Diodes $4 million
The development of high power, reliable semiconductor laser diodes with tunable femtosecond pulse widths and highly scalable power levels, represents a technological advance of great potential utility to the Department of Defense. The successful demonstration of a compact, efficient, and powerful laser diode system could lead to incredible advances in micromachining, communications, ultra-short pulse spectroscopy, light detection and ranging (lidar), and directed energy applications.
- Model and evaluate concepts for ultra-short pulse, high irradiance laser diodes and select mode locked grating coupled surface emitting laser diodes (GCSEL) and semiconductor optical amplification using chirped pulse amplification and compression.
- Develop a series of GCSEL-based ultra-short pulse, ultra-high power lasers culminating in a 1 milliJoule/200 femtosecond per pulse laser system with a 10 kHz repetition rate that can fit into a shoebox. This represents a seven order of magnitude jump in the performance of semiconducting laser diodes.

Wow. 10.000,000x stronger than your average laser.
- Develop and demonstrate technology for portable (backpack and small vehicle -mounted), efficient high-peak power, ultra-short pulse laser systems, enabling a range of DoD applications requiring mobile, high power laser sources.

...and you can carry it with you...

Super High Efficiency Diode Sources (SHEDS) $4.288 million
The goal of the SHEDS program is to develop laser diodes that are 80% efficient in converting electrical power to optical power. These will be used for supplying the optical power to ytterbium (Yb) and neodymium (Nd) solid state lasers operating near 1060 nm. Such high efficiency laser pumps for these solid state lasers will lead to dramatic reductions in the size and weight of 100kW class diode pumped solid state lasers.

...or scale up for fighter-mounted laser cannon...

High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) $20 million
The goal of the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is to develop a high-energy laser weapon system (~150 kW) with an order of magnitude reduction in weight compared to existing laser systems. With a weight goal of less than 5 kg/kW, HELLADS will enable high-energy lasers (HELs) to be integrated onto tactical aircraft and UAVs and will significantly increase engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems. This program initiative will investigate and validate a revolutionary laser design that enables a lightweight HEL weapon system. HELLADS will design, fabricate and test a prototype laser. A laboratory demonstration of key performance parameters will be performed, followed by the fabrication and testing of a subscale HEL laser. Once key weapon system parameters have been demonstrated, a full-scale 150 kW HEL weapon system will be fabricated and demonstrated. Finally, the 150 kW HEL will be integrated into a surrogate aircraft and key performance parameters will be demonstrated.

Now, once upon a time, they had an idea of mounting these monstrosities on satellites to knock down missiles in the air (remember?)

The only problem is that coherent light weapons are notoriously inefficient in the air. They spend (waste) a lot of energy heating up the air they pass through. But they're still trying to figure out ways around this. Hence this item:
Laser Star $2.8 million
The Laser Star program will investigate technologies and techniques for improving laser guide star generation for adaptive optics atmospheric compensation of laser propagation. Current technology makes use of either stratospheric Rayleigh backscatter or mesospheric sodium resonance scattering. These techniques have been utilized to successfully demonstrate strategies for wavefront compensation, but suffer from practical restrictions limiting operational utility. Rayleigh guide stars can be effectively generated to altitudes of 15 – 20 km, beyond which decreasing air densities reduce the backscatter to the point where unrealistic laser powers are required for useful return signal. The altitude is insufficient to provide full atmospheric sampling and suffers from sensor/target signal cancellation. Sodium resonance scattering is available to 90 km, which is an essentially complete atmosphere sample, but the return is monochromatic and cannot provide information about turbulenceinduced absolute tilt. Laser Star technologies are being developed to overcome these shortfalls.

Too bad- so it looks like all this technology is being developed for naught- until you consider that a small hand-held, shoulder mounted, or a not so small vehicle mounted laser could prove terribly accurate and devastating weapon over a shorter range of, say, a few hundred yards...

So what's the rest of the budget for?

Coherent Communications, Imaging and Targeting $6..2 million
High Performance Algorithm Development/Virtual Electromagnetic Test Range $11.471 million
Integrated Sensing and Processing $5 million
Training Superiority $15.542 million
Language and Speech Exploitation of Resources Advanced Concept Technology Demo $132 thousand
Architecture for Diode High Energy Laser Systems $4 million
Rapid Checkpoint Screening $4.46 million

Software and training to use these marvels...

And almost as an afterthought
Air Laser $3.344 million
The Air Laser program will investigate the potential for a high energy laser (HEL) concept based on direct diode pumping of liquid oxygen. If successful, the Air Laser could provide a safe, efficient kilowatt-class HEL which combines the advantages of chemical and solid state lasers and minimizes the disadvantages: it operates in the eye-safe wavelength regime; it uses liquid air as the gain medium and as the diode array coolant, resulting in the reduction or elimination of a separate thermal control system; the use of efficient, high energy density diode pump sources, results in a compact device much smaller than either chemical or solid state lasers; and its pulse length is variable from continuous to subpicosecond, allowing flexibility in weapons effects.

I suppose if you're trying to claim your neat new weapons are for communications it pays to have one that's safe to use in the eye-safe wavelength range and not an x-ray, infra red, or a microwave... but that you can scale up to blast intensity, too...

This item isn't even a laser... it's a rail gun. And the name must've been dreamed up by a sick sense of humor

Slingatron $3 million
The Slingatron program will use modern engineering and physics concepts to accelerate masses to extremely high velocities. This mechanical mass acceleration concept, based on using centripetal body forces, is fundamentally different from electro-magnetic accelerators and hence avoids the limitations of those machines. Initial studies have demonstrated the fundamental feasibility of the Slingatron concept. This program will explore the concept’s bounding limits and seek to develop uses for the technology within those limits. Included in this program will be studies of the key technologies that will allow the accelerator to achieve very high projectile energies.

... and speaking of microwave...

Photonic High Power Microwave System $1 million
The goal of the Photonic High Power Microwave System program is to develop and demonstrate a highly compact high power microwave system capable of multiple waveforms and scaleable in power from the Gigawatt to Terawatt range. The enabling technology is the implementation of optically driven switches integrated directly into the radiating array structure. This technology will enable tactical air, land, and sea platforms to address directed energy missions ranging from electronic attack to anti-ship missile defeat.

All in all, these items produce weapons, alright, but weapons that are straight out, no nonsense get down and dirty weapons. You can't hide or fudge a laser: It either does what you want, or doesn't. Hardware's nice like that.

But like the robotics budget, there's a lot of this that isn't testable, you-get-bang-for-your-buck hardware. Of $95.849 million for FY2006, $46.805 goes for systems development, that is, "software," the better to target you with, my dear.

But of all the items I've scanned on this budget, the energy weapons seem the most honest.

If you can ever call killing machines honest.

Stacking the Deck

Members of The National Press Club,

We, the undersigned bloggers, are very concerned about how liberal political bloggers are being systematically under-represented and belittled in the mainstream media, academic settings and media forums. By being intentionally excluded away from these venues, we are effectively pushed out of the discourse of opinion-leaders. The result is that the conventional wisdom about blogging, politics and journalism, as it concerns liberal blogs, becomes a feedback loop framed by the Conservatives and their media allies.

They invited Karl Rove's boi toy to talk blogging?

Sort of but not exactly dangerous

As we are reassurred by Kenneth Chang today in The New York Times

... it's not even really a black hole...

The Brookhaven mini-black hole, if it existed, would have nothing to do with gravity. Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC (pronounced rick) for short, accelerates gold nuclei - atoms stripped of their surrounding clouds of electrons - to 99.995 percent of the speed of light and then slams them together, head-on.

The calculations of Dr. Horatiu Nastase, a professor of physics at Brown, suggest that in the trillion-degree fireball of a collision, the so-called "strong force" that holds protons and neutrons together, would briefly create a black-hole-like vortex that swallowed part of the gold.

"The reason it acts like a black hole is because it eats up stuff and it only gives out radiation," Dr. Nastase said.

He added that even if his supposition was correct, these black holes posed no danger to Brookhaven or the planet. "It would be very hard to create anything bigger," he said. That is because black holes do not last forever. Dr. Stephen W. Hawking of Cambridge University showed that they gradually burp out what they swallow. And a tiny black hole spews energy far faster than it swallows and will evaporate almost instantly into nothing.

In a normal black hole, the energy comes back out as photons, particles of light, what is called Hawking radiation. In a strong force mini-black hole, the radiation would come out as particles known as pions. Because of the differences between gravity and the strong force, a strong force black hole would inevitably fall apart, Dr. Nastase said...

Let me get this straight: "The collisions of gold nuclei produce matter as it existed shortly after the Big Bang. In the everyday universe, protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei are made of smaller particles known as quarks that are held together by the strong force, and because the strong force is so strong, it is ordinarily impossible to pull out a single quark.

But physicists expected that at ultrahot temperatures the bindings holding the quarks together would loosen and dissolve into a new state of matter, the quark-gluon plasma. (Gluons are the particles that carry the strong force, just as photons are the particles that carry the electromagnetic force.)

Five years later, however, physicists are still holding off from claiming they have made a quark-gluon plasma. That is in part because the result of the collisions looks more like a liquid than a gaseous plasma.

"It doesn't resemble what our naïve expectations for quark-gluon plasma were," said Dr. William A. Zajc, a professor of physics at Columbia and the spokesman for one of the detectors on the collider."

You set up conditions to produce a quark-gluon plasma, and instead you get something that behaves for a very short time like a black hole.

You don't understand it. You admit it.

Umm... so... maybe you should conduct these experiments a safe distance away from the only planet we have right now?

Before DARPA decides to make a weapon out of it?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Building the Better "Warfighter"

According to Tim Weiner in The New York Times with the release of the Defense budget for the new fiscal year, there come a few snags.

The Army's plan to transform itself into a futuristic high-technology force has become so expensive that some of the military's strongest supporters in Congress are questioning the program's costs and complexity.

Army officials said Saturday that the first phase of the program, called Future Combat Systems, could run to $145 billion. Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the "technological bridge to the future" would equip 15 brigades of roughly 3,000 soldiers, or about one-third of the force the Army plans to field, over a 20-year span.

That price tag, larger than past estimates publicly disclosed by the Army, does not include a projected $25 billion for the communications network needed to connect the future forces. Nor does it fully account for Army plans to provide Future Combat weapons and technologies to forces beyond those first 15 brigades...

Ah yes, Future Combat. Sounds like George Jetson on steroids. A preview of what's so pricey comes in the 2006 DARPA Budget Projection (warning: the D.o.D. takes note if you lift that unclassified link). Let's spend a few posts strolling down science geek lane, marveling at the futuristic ways to kill Donald Rumsfeld's darlings are dreaming up for us.

Things like software to drive killer robots...

The Foundational Learning Technology thrust seeks to develop advanced machine learning techniques that enable cognitive systems to continuously learn, adapt and respond to new situations by drawing inferences from past experience. The application of this technology will result in military systems that are more robust, self-sufficient, and require minimal or no platform-specific customization. Current projects will develop hybrid learning techniques to create cognitive systems capable of learning military strategy, leveraging large amounts of prior knowledge, incorporating external guidance and applying prior knowledge in real-time to the naturally changing environment, all without programmer intervention. The Foundational Learning Technology thrust comprises Real-World Learning, Bio-Inspired Cognition, and Learning Locomotion and Navigation.

· The Real-World Learning thrust will explore the integration and application of advanced machine learning techniques to enable cognitive computing systems that learn from experience and adapt to changing situations. The program will emphasize the ability to transfer knowledge and skills learned for specific situations to novel, unanticipated situations and perform appropriately and effectively the first time a novel situation is encountered. The program will drive the design and implementation of new hybrid learning technologies, such as large-scale transfer learning, multi-purpose extensible knowledge learning, learning with minimal direction and learning generalized task models. The program will stress technologies that combine statistical learning techniques with knowledge-based techniques that take into
account background knowledge and a priori experience.

Cognitive systems will a) learn and represent vast amounts of knowledge in forms that can be applied to unknown situations and domains; b) generalize learned knowledge and apply it to dynamic and unpredictable situations and c) reason about a situation or environment. Real-World Learning will enable systems to execute unanticipated tasks with minimal direction and will provide a much-needed military capability for coping with dangerous and unpredictable situations.

· The Bio-Inspired Cognition thrust (formerly Neuromorphic Learning Technology) will draw on continuing advances in neurophysiology and cognitive psychology to guide and augment traditional artificial intelligence (AI) approaches to learning, reasoning, memory, knowledge acquisition and organization, and executive functions. The work will focus on novel designs inspired by the function, representation and structure of the brain. This approach will expand traditional AI technologies from complex symbolic processing to new capabilities in memory, categorization, pattern recognition and fusion of perceptual/sensor information. Computational intelligence is in its infancy, whereas the human brain is the product of millions of years of evolutionary development. Thus, designing software inspired by the brain’s processing schemes can offer leap-ahead advances in cognitive systems. These systems will seek to emulate human performance in exploiting past experience in novel situations, learning in multiple ways, fusing multiple perceptual inputs in real-time, extracting concepts from specific experiences, forming hierarchies of associated memories and concepts, and directing attention through a complex executive process. This thrust will take a fresh look at the design and implementation of bio-inspired cognitive architectures modeled after human cognition that combine principles from neuroscience and cognitive psychology with traditional artificial intelligence based symbol processing and knowledge representation. Success will, in part, be measured by the ability of the systems developed to deal effectively with novel situations and respond appropriately in reasonable timeframes. This thrust has the potential to revolutionize a broad range of military applications through breakthrough performance of intelligent machines.

· The Learning Locomotion and Navigation thrust will develop learning and reasoning technologies that specifically address concerns in robotic systems. The resulting robotic systems will learn automatically to interpret sensor data and apply this knowledge to the control of their actuators, which will improve locomotive and navigational autonomy in complex environments. Approaches in reinforcement learning and technologies for learning from example will be explored. These technologies will open new horizons for unmanned military operations, surveillance and reconnaissance, and will dramatically advance the capabilities of autonomous vehicles. Tasks requiring higher-level computation, such as perception-based navigation, will also benefit. This thrust comprises two components: Learning Applied to Ground Robots (navigation) and Learning Locomotion...

The Knowledge-Based Technology thrust will develop enabling technologies, methodologies, ontologies and detailed knowledge bases to achieve the next generation of intelligent, knowledge-intensive systems. This work will focus on developing technology that spans the spectrum from large, strategic knowledge banks to small, individual knowledge-based systems. The Knowledge-Base Technology thrust comprises Knowledge-Based Systems and Bootstrapping Cognitive Systems with Implicit Semantic Knowledge.

· The Knowledge-Based Systems program will develop technologies to acquire, codify, link, integrate, and use complex and crossdisciplinary knowledge at varying scales. At a strategic level, this capability will provide DoD decision-makers with rapid, as-needed access to relevant background knowledge from a broad spectrum of sources. The knowledge will be expressed in formal knowledge representation languages that allow computers to reason with the knowledge, consider its implications, imagine possible future scenarios and query the warfighter for clarification. The significant challenges are centered on the fact that critical knowledge involves temporal
information, complex belief structures and uncertainty. Current representation technolo gy is inadequate to capture such information. This program will develop technology needed to enable the creation of individual knowledge-based systems that would incorporate into the reasoning process (in a computer-understandable form) knowledge of the warfighter’s responsibilities, approach, tasks and activities. Another goal of this program is to support the warfighter’s ability to understand the “big picture” for mission planning, monitoring and replanning.

By formalizing situation-model representations, automated support will be provided to commanders and analysts for prediction of unforeseen events and determination of relevance of isolated or partial events to the evolving situation. To achieve these objectives, this program will develop analogic al and case-based reasoning, languages and situation markup languages technologies, and formalized situation representations. An additional goal is the development of technologies for rich, high-fidelity simulation models of human learning, reasoning and behavior. The program will also explore some new ways for knowledge to be transferred efficiently to a knowledge base including by reading tutorial text intended to convey new concepts to a cognitive system.

· The Bootstrapping Cognitive Systems with Implicit Semantic Knowledge program will explore a new technique for creating cognitive systems that store knowledge about the choices the warfighter has made in the past, so when faced with a similar task, the system would select a performance method by referring back to previous decisions. Although not appropriate for all cognitive systems tasks, this action-centric technique should be effective for simple tasks, such as information gathering to support mission planning or intelligence analysis.

Most cognitive research is predicated on explicit representation (i.e., having models of the world) and reasoning about the way to achieve a specific goal or meet specific need. While this approach is effective, encoding the knowledge and reasoning procedures is labor intensive and expensive. This program will develop a new technique that eliminates the material investment required by traditional approaches. This approach will replace deep reasoning and deep semantics with implicit reasoning and semantics derived from actual warfighter performance and experience...

That little software bundle alone will cost you $56.739 million next year alone.

But that's only one installment on the 5-year plan.

Of course, we want to make our Warfighter friendly, so to help the soldier in the field we have this little software gem- only an additional $57.192 million next year alone, not including the cost of the 5-year plan:

The Integrated Cognitive Systems technology thrust will develop advanced technology to enable a new class of integrated, highly functional cognitive systems capable of greatly assisting military commanders and decision makers. This thrust will build upon prior DARPA programs that developed improved human-computer interaction capabilities and highly-responsive computing systems. Integrated cognitive systems will seamlessly fuse perceptual inputs and tie newly perceived data to prior knowledge and experience. They will be able to plan ahead and will understand the world well enough to plausibly anticipate future events. Most importantly, these systems will have embedded learning capabilities that will allow them to retain prior learned knowledge, apply this knowledge to new scenarios, and ultimately provide faster and more effective responses. Overall, the ability to learn will enable the performance of a cognitive system to improve over time. The Integrated Cognitive Systems thrust comprises the Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) and Cognitive Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (Cognitive C4ISR) programs.

· The Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program will develop integrated cognitive systems that act as personalized, executive-style assistants to military commanders and decision makers. This program will demonstrate cognitive systems that use basic knowledge and past experience to help them understand and seek input. Initially the program will strive to create assistant programs that display basic interaction competencies with people and other assistant programs in an operational environment. Some of these basic competencies include sending and receiving information in a natural manner; relating information and activities in various media; interacting with the assistant’s user and inferring preferences; executing procedures correctly; and accepting coaching and guidance expressed in natural language. In a unified multitasking, mixed-initiative architecture, these integrated cognitive systems will push the limits of technology for formal reasoning and learning. Methods for processing raw data will be learned in a way that optimizes performance of the entire system and enables the same purposeful perception that makes natural systems successful in dealing with huge amounts of input data and a constantly changing world. One of PAL’s goals is the development of advisable systems technology that yields systems that warfighters and other end-users can control in a natural and flexible manner, e.g., by exchanging advice and instructions, rather than via menus or programming. The term “advice” refers to a series of instructions that span a spectrum ranging from high-level policy and goals, to intermediate preferences and constraints on system behavior, to specific direction and contingency actions. The end-user will be able to engage in a natural dialogue with the system, and the advice will be translated to an executable form.

A killer robot with high level policy goals input from command control- or directly interpreted by the robot based on its experience...


If, you know, they could ever figure out how to program the thing to walk straight.

There's lots of fun things in this budget. That's over $100 million for next year in software I've covered on this post alone- about 4 pages out of 34.

Oil for Food

Now that Bolton's heading for the UN, and the Wrepublicans want to make everyone forget about their Social Security and Terri Schaivo debacles, the Wall Street Journal runs a Glenn Reynolds piece calling the UN a collection of kleptocrats over oil for food.

Speaking of kleptocrats...

When "oil for food" was supplying Saddam against the efforts of Bill Clinton and the overt policy of the UN, who was doing the oil side of the business?

Why Dick Cheney, in charge at Halliburton at the time, thank you.

When the Iraqi Survey Group released its long awaited report last week that said Iraq eliminated its weapons programs in the 1990s, George W. Bush quickly changed his stance on reasons he authorized an invasion of Iraq. While he campaigned for a second term in office, Bush justified the war by saying that that Saddam Hussein was manipulating the United Nation's oil-for-food program, siphoning off billions of dollars from the venture that he intended to use to fund a weapons program.

The report on Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, prepared by Charles Duelfer, a former U.N. weapons inspector and head of the Iraqi Survey Group, said Saddam Hussein used revenue from the oil-for-food program and "created a web of front companies and used shadowy deals with foreign governments, corporations, and officials to amass $11 billion in illicit revenue in the decade before the US-led invasion last year," reports The New York Times.

"Through secret government-to-government trade agreements, Saddam Hussein's government earned more than $7.5 billion," the report says. "At the same time, by demanding kickbacks from foreign companies that received oil or that supplied consumer goods, Iraq received at least $2 billion more to spend on weapons or on Saddam's extravagant palaces."
The oil-for-food program was supervised by the U.N. and ran from 1996 until the war started in Iraq last year. It was designed to alleviate the effects sanctions had on Iraqi citizens by allowing limited quantities of oil to be sold to buy food and medicine.

But the one company that helped Saddam exploit the oil-for-food program in the mid-1990s that wasn't identified in Duelfer's report was Halliburton, and the person at the helm of Halliburton at the time of the scheme was Dick Cheney. Halliburton and its subsidiaries were one of several American and foreign oil supply companies that helped Iraq increase its crude exports from $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000 by skirting U.S. laws and selling Iraq spare parts so it could repair its oil fields and pump more oil. Since the oil-for-food program began, Iraq has sold $40 billion worth of oil...

So by all, means, let's get rid of the corruption at the UN.

But first, let's deal with the corrupt politicians here.

Thanks to Riggsveda at Corrente for the link.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

DARPA's wish list for Santa Claws

Over at Defense Tech they recently posted the DARPA budget for FY2006.

Lots of cool stuff- I'll be posting from it off and on this week.

I went over to DoD.mil and downloaded the .pdf file. Hell, if Carnivore doesn't have tabs on me by now, I'd feel unwanted.

Of course it'd be a lot cooler if the guys in charge of the D.o.D. weren't working with the philosophical guidance of the AEI these days and trying to, you know, take over the world.

Or at least its oil.

Wherein Pharyngula loses patience...

...I know what some people are thinking: just don't call them "stupid" or a "moron", it distracts from the scientific argument. Of course it does; but one thing I've learned over the years is that this is not a scientific debate. The scientific part was settled a century ago, and evolution won, hands down. There is absolutely no legitimate, intelligent argument against evolutionary theory right now. This is not to say that we know everything or that the theory is complete or that we expect no major revisions; it means that evolution in a broad sense is an inarguable fact, and what we need to know now are details and mechanisms. The earth is billions of years old, species are all related to one another, and there has been a complex and ongoing pattern of change over the course of all of that time. All of that has been supported by multiple interlocking lines of evidence uncovered by the work of thousands of people, rechecked and verified by thousands more. That's just not going to be seriously challenged by anyone sensible, let alone some ranting guy who took a general science course in high school.

The big picture is done. The ships have sailed, they've discovered the coastline of the New World, they've established a few thriving colonies—and there's a huge, exciting continent to explore. Meanwhile, we have a few lunatics in the Old World who have clamped their eyelids shut and are screaming that they can't see it...

Seriously. If you went to a doctor, and he didn't know which end of the stethoscope to stick in his ears, would you let him go on to do open-heart surgery on you? Would you continue to call him "doctor", or should you leave the quack's office and look for someone who knows what they are doing? Why do we allow pseudoscientists and creationists to babble on, moving on from one lie to one distortion to one outright crazy assertion to another?

Slap 'em down. Anyone who tries to tell you that the world is 6000 years old or that evolutionary biology is a failure is an idiot. They don't deserve your patience.

Got that right.

Oxymorons like Military Intelligence or NeoCon Morality

The appointment of George Bush's leading hawk as head of the World Bank was heading for a crisis over his relationship with a senior British employee.

Influential members of staff at the international organisation have complained to its board that Paul Wolfowitz, a married father of three, is so besotted with Oxford-educated Shaha Riza he cannot be impartial.

Extraordinarily, they claim she played a key role in pushing the 61-year-old Pentagon official into the Iraq War. And the row comes amid claims that Wolfowitz's wife Clare once warned George Bush of the threat to national security any infidelity by her husband could cause.

A British citizen - at 51, eight years younger than Wolfowitz's wife - Ms Riza grew up in Saudi Arabia and was passionately committed to democratising the Middle East when she allegedly began to date Wolfowitz...

You know me- I'm not going to condemn anyone for who they're playing with, as long as they're playing nice.

And I'm sure democracy is a passion with these two...

Thanks to Steve Gillard for the link.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Booming Business in D.C.

A federal criminal investigation has uncovered evidence that the government of Pakistan made clandestine purchases of U.S. high-technology components for use in its nuclear weapons program in defiance of American law.

Federal authorities also say the highly specialized equipment at one point passed through the hands of Humayun Khan, an Islamabad businessman who they say has ties to Islamic militants...

U.S. law prohibits the sale of equipment that can be used in nuclear weapons programs to Pakistan and some other countries as part of the effort to curb nuclear proliferation. Officials accuse Humayun Khan and Karni of conspiring to break those laws by concealing the nature of the transactions. Humayun Khan has not been charged with any crime, but the Commerce Department on Jan. 31 banned him from doing business in the U.S...

...efforts by two U.S. agencies to send investigators to Pakistan to gather more evidence have hit a bottleneck in Washington, said officials knowledgeable about the case.

The impasse is part of a larger tug-of-war between federal agencies that enforce U.S. nonproliferation laws and policymakers who consider Pakistan too important to embarrass. The transactions under review began in early 2003, well after President Pervez Musharraf threw his support to the Bush administration's war on terrorism and the invasion of neighboring Afghanistan to oust Pakistan's former Taliban allies.

"This is the age-old problem with Pakistan and the U.S. Other priorities always trump the United States from coming down hard on Pakistan's nuclear proliferation. And it goes back 15 to 20 years," said David Albright, director of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, favors getting tougher with Pakistan.

U.S. and European officials involved in nonproliferation issues say they recently discovered evidence that Pakistan has begun a new push to acquire advanced nuclear components on the black market as it tries to upgrade its decades-old weapons program.

Current and former intelligence officials said the same elements of the Pakistani military that they suspected of orchestrating efforts to buy American-made products may also have worked with Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistani nuclear program who supplied weapons know-how and parts to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Humayun Khan are not related.

The scheme U.S. investigators are trying to unravel involves Humayun Khan and Asher Karni, a South African electronics salesman and former Israeli army major.

Aided by Karni, who pleaded guilty to violating export control laws and began cooperating with U.S. authorities shortly after his arrest 15 months ago, investigators have traced at least one shipment of oscilloscopes from Oregon to South Africa and on to Humayun Khan.

The trail did not end there, however. According to recently unsealed Commerce Department documents, agents followed the shipment to the Al Technique Corp. of Pakistan, which had not been listed on any of the shipping or purchasing documents.

Al Technique describes itself as a manufacturer of precision lasers and other military-related products. But for federal investigators, "it was a big red flag," one U.S. official said.

"It's definitely a front for nuclear weapons, for their WMD project," the official said. The company is on a U.S. list of firms banned from buying equipment such as the special oscilloscopes that can be used to test and manufacture nuclear weapons.

Like others interviewed for this report, the American official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the political sensitivity of the case, the records of which have been sealed by a federal judge. The judge also has imposed a gag order on all participants.

U.S. officials suspect that the Pakistani government was the customer behind another purchase they say Humayun Khan made from Karni: 200 U.S.-made precision electronic switches that can be used in detonating nuclear weapons.

U.S. law prohibits the sale of equipment that can be used in nuclear weapons programs to Pakistan and some other countries as part of the effort to curb nuclear proliferation. Officials accuse Humayun Khan and Karni of conspiring to break those laws by concealing the nature of the transactions. Humayun Khan has not been charged with any crime, but the Commerce Department on Jan. 31 banned him from doing business in the U.S. for 180 days.

Halting illegal transfers of nuclear weapons components is a cornerstone of the administration's Proliferation Security Initiative, and the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security moved quickly to pursue leads after Karni's arrest.

His cooperation has allowed U.S. officials to significantly expand their investigation. As many as several dozen suspects are under scrutiny in Pakistan, India, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, officials say.

Humayun Khan's involvement in the deal aroused concern because he has been linked to several militant groups, including the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, a Pakistani party that allegedly supports fighters in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Last year, federal prosecutors used Karni's ties to Humayun Khan to argue successfully against the South African being released on bail while awaiting trial.

"This case represents one of the most serious types of export violations imaginable," one prosecutor argued in a court filing.

U.S. agents began gearing up for an investigative trip to Pakistan in early 2004. They had recently completed a mission to South Africa that produced a wealth of evidence. They hoped to question Humayun Khan and others, locate missing components and pursue further leads.

But when the Commerce and Homeland Security departments asked the State Department to clear the investigators' trip, they did not get permission. Law enforcement officials complain that the delay has allowed the trail to grow cold...

Humayun Khan, in a telephone interview from Islamabad, denied any involvement with the recent shipments, saying that "someone else" ordered the oscilloscopes and the switches, had them shipped to his office, then snatched them somewhere along the way.

"It's very tragic," Humayun Khan said. "You don't know where these things are landing. They come through and they vanish."

He said Washington has allowed dozens of black market companies to flourish in Pakistan and elsewhere by selectively enforcing its nonproliferation laws.

"It's all about politics," Humayun Khan said. "If they don't want us to develop these things, they would do everything they can to stop it…. You [the American government] close one eye and open the other at particular times to these things that have been going on."

He said dozens of front companies throughout South Asia and the Middle East were procuring such components from U.S. firms for questionable purposes.

Humayun Khan said he had e-mailed detailed information to U.S. investigators about at least 10 Pakistani companies that he claimed routinely engaged in illicit schemes to buy goods from U.S. suppliers, including Tektronix Inc., the Oregon firm that allegedly sold him the oscilloscopes...

The Good, the Bad, and the Really Strange

When you bounce around in cyberspace for awhile, you notice, as it's often said, you can find somebody somewhere who's willing to spend large amounts of time and many words raving about just anything.

Now this gives the Wrepublicans some really good talking points.

Because, just like you find whackjobs on the Wright foaming at the mouth about racial purity and how much trouble Social Security is in, you find whackjobs on the left talking about CIA conspiracy theories and UFOs.

And time travel, and multiverses.

Of course, that's one reason why I linked to Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection kit.

It pays to remember how to reason, sometimes.

All of this, my friends, is a preamble to pointing towards some (to me) very interesting sites indeed over the next few posts.

One of my favorites- and often the scariest- is Jeff Wells' Rigorous Intuition.

Jeff's worldview starts with the very disturbing- and accurate- observation that after World War II, more than just rocket scientists escaped into the west from Nazi Germany. Jeff keeps returning, again and again, to evidence that the CIA and the Bu$hCo Company got a heavy dose of Nazi Intelligence.

He's done some heavy and detailed research and linking to some very important topics: 9/11, the Iraqi War, and the 2004 election. He's done a fantastic job linking the Wrepublicans to organized criminal activity: drug dealing and white slavery. Basically his work is some of the best and most complete I've seen.

Which is why I get really uneasy about where he goes with it.

Jeff is convinced that ever since Nazi Germany the Military-Industrial complex has been very interested and involved in the Occult.

DisInformation? Lies? Cover-ups? No doubt.

It's like the X-files just walked into your living room.

So if you're in the mood to parse, if you want to analyze, go over to his site and try to separate the shit from the shinola from the politics from the war profiteering from Dark Side of the Force.

Fascinating, it is.

Prescott Bu$h and the Nazis

Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty goes into great detail about the links between the Bu$h family and the Nazi war machine.

You can also find more about the Bu$h family Nazi investments here (thanks to Old Fashion Patriot )

"While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen's US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.


Bush was also on the board of at least one of the companies that formed part of a multinational network of front companies to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.

Thyssen owned the largest steel and coal company in Germany and grew rich from Hitler's efforts to re-arm between the two world wars. One of the pillars in Thyssen's international corporate web, UBC, worked exclusively for, and was owned by, a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands. More tantalising are Bush's links to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC), based in mineral rich Silesia on the German-Polish border. During the war, the company made use of Nazi slave labour from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The ownership of CSSC changed hands several times in the 1930s, but documents from the US National Archive declassified last year link Bush to CSSC, although it is not clear if he and UBC were still involved in the company when Thyssen's American assets were seized in 1942.

Three sets of archives spell out Prescott Bush's involvement. All three are readily available, thanks to the efficient US archive system and a helpful and dedicated staff at both the Library of Congress in Washington and the National Archives at the University of Maryland.

The first set of files, the Harriman papers in the Library of Congress, show that Prescott Bush was a director and shareholder of a number of companies involved with Thyssen.

The second set of papers, which are in the National Archives, are contained in vesting order number 248 which records the seizure of the company assets. What these files show is that on October 20 1942 the alien property custodian seized the assets of the UBC, of which Prescott Bush was a director. Having gone through the books of the bank, further seizures were made against two affiliates, the Holland-American Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. By November, the Silesian-American Company, another of Prescott Bush's ventures, had also been seized.

The third set of documents, also at the National Archives, are contained in the files on IG Farben, who was prosecuted for war crimes. "

But it gets better: there are even compilations of links to .pdf archive files.

Read the book if you can get your hands on it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

What's the good of losing heart now?

Billmon speaks of despair.

And its folly.

As an old patron of the Whiskey Bar, let me recommend this site and this post to you.

Using the Undead for Unthinkable Ambition

Dave Johnson points out that Congress pointedly wrote a Bill that wouldn't keep Terri Schaivo's heart beating.

From Talk Left:

Senate majority counsel Julian Epstein was on Larry King tonight. He said Congress didn't really want to save Terri Schiavo's life. He was faxed a draft of the legislation in advance and said he told Congress staffers that the law wouldn't work, but that there were options that could work. He said Congress could easily have assured the reinsertion of the feeding tube by writing an automatic stay into the law -- or by creating new evidentiary rules. Congress' refusal to do so, Julian says, means it knowingly passed a half-hearted law that wouldn't work.

Which all fits pretty well with DeLay's desire to can Medicaid, anyway.

Maybe one day all the Good Christians will wake up and see their leaders for the Elmer Gantry types they really are.

Don't bet on it.

My money's with Maureen Dowd on this one. The country's well on it's way to becoming a theocracy if the demagogues have their way with it.

Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated about not having any power, that they are willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?

The more dogma-driven activists, self-perpetuating pols and ratings-crazed broadcast media prattle about "faith," the less we honor the credo that a person's relationship with God should remain a private matter.

As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run.

Maybe President Bush should spend less time preaching about spreading democracy around the world and more time worrying about our deteriorating democracy.

Even some Republicans seemed appalled at this latest illustration of Nietzsche's observation that "morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Reality-Based Reconstruction

From Juan Cole:

Major Battle North of Samarra Leaves Dozens Dead
Or Does It?

...Iraqi gendarmes of the Interior Ministry, supported by American troops, discovered a guerrilla training camp on the shores of Lake Tharthar in central Iraq. In the subsequent engagement, they claim to have killed 85 guerrillas. Al-Zaman says that 12 Iraqi policemen were killed in the encounter, in return. This area, the district of Hilwah, lies between Samarra, Tikrit and Ramadi, and the lake area-- populated by fishermen-- has been used by guerrillas as a base and to transport weapons. It is a marshy area difficult of access for outsiders.

Agence France Presse, on the other hand, managed to get some independent journalists up to the lake, north of Samarra, and they found 40 guerrillas still there. The guerrillas denied that 85 of their fellows had been killed by the Iraqi army, but admitted that 11 had been killed by US aerial bombardment. (American news organizations such as CNN refuse to report news that is only carried by AFP, because they consider it to have inadequate journalistic quality-control. But reports like this one are not being done by US wire services in Iraq, and if we don't take AFP seriously, we essentially may as well just believe whatever Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib and the Pentagon claim.

Unfortunately, the US military is filtering our news from Iraq, and we only hear about a fraction of the violence that actually takes place there. What we do hear is often imbued by a kind of US boosterism (such as the recent faintly ridiculous claim that Fallujah is the safest city in Iraq-- as though it were still an inhabited city). Even if it were not exaggerated, this report about the Tharthar Camp would mean more in the context of all the violent incidents that occurred on Wednesday, but we don't have access to most of those. That such battles signal a "tipping point" in the counter-insurgency struggle strikes me as highly unlikely. Another question: Are these gung-ho gendarmes killing Sunni jihadis from a Shiite background? Are they getting intelligence via the Badr Corps?...

If there's difficulty evaluating the scorecard at this level, expect even more obfuscation regarding (thanks to Today in Iraq ) something bound to raise Big Time Dick's ire: Iraq's interim government is refusing to make payments on some contracts with foreign companies including Raytheon Co. and A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S because they overcharged or failed to deliver everything they promised...

What are these fine contractors going to do? Turn out the lights? Break some kneecaps? Withdraw their protection?

'The reconstruction of post-war Iraq is in danger of becoming "the biggest corruption scandal in history", Transparency International has warned...

Publishing its annual report, TI said there was evidence of "high levels" of corruption in post-war Iraq. ..

Foreign contractors should be bound by anti-corruption laws while the management of Iraq's oil revenues needed to be much more transparent and accountable, Transparency International said in its Global Corruption Report 2005...

Transparency International is a Berlin, Germany-based private organization dedicated to monitoring and exposing corruption in international business.

One of their most interesting facets- and tools- is their database for tracking dirty international business down.

So even if the FBI can't build a searchable database, and John Poindexter's TIA is more interested in how much money you make, it's good to know the Europeans have what they need to track criminals.

By the way, we did let him get away.

Government document says Osama bin Laden eluded U.S. forces in Tora Bora region

By ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer

(AP) - WASHINGTON-A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a commander for Osama bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document.

The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." It is the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden was at Tora Bora and evaded U.S. pursuers...

The events at Tora Bora were a point of contention during last year's presidential race, and President George W. Bush as well as Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was there when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked the area in December 2001.

Cheney said last Oct. 26 that Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had "stated repeatedly it was not at all certain that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. He might have been there or in Pakistan or even Kashmir," the Indian-controlled Himalayan region.

Franks, now retired, wrote in an opinion column in The New York Times last Oct. 19, "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001." He added that intelligence assessments of his location varied, but bin Laden was "never within our grasp."

On several occasions in the days following publication of that column, Bush cited it on the campaign trail as evidence that bin Laden could have been in any of several countries in December 2001. "That's what Tommy Franks, who knew what he's talking about, said," Bush said on Oct. 27...

The newly revealed statement is contained in a document the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" against one of 558 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It was provided to the AP this week.

The evidence was summarized last December 14 for a Guantanamo Bay hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an "enemy combatant."


Among documents stating the U.S. government's evidence against other detainees at Guantanamo Bay is a September 2004 assertion that an unidentified detainee, described as a member of al-Qaida, had traveled from the United States to Afghanistan in November 2001 - two months after the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The document does not elaborate on the detainee's U.S. connection, but says he arrived in Afghanistan via Bahrain and Iran. He was "present at Tora Bora," crossed the Afghan border into Pakistan in December 2001, and surrendered to Pakistani authorities, the document says.

The detainee also was arrested by Saudi authorities for questioning in the 1996 terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force, the document says.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Coincidence Does Not Imply Casualty

The Coincidence Theorist's Guide to 9/11

That governments have permitted terrorist acts against their own people, and have even themselves been perpetrators in order to find strategic advantage is quite likely true, but this is the United States we're talking about.

That intelligence agencies, financiers, terrorists and narco-criminals have a long history together is well established, but the Nugan Hand Bank, BCCI, Banco Ambrosiano, the P2 Lodge, the CIA/Mafia anti-Castro/Kennedy alliance, Iran/Contra and the rest were a long time ago, so there’s no need to rehash all that. That was then, this is now!

That Jonathan Bush’s Riggs Bank has been found guilty of laundering terrorist funds and fined a US-record $25 million must embarrass his nephew George, but it's still no justification for leaping to paranoid conclusions.

That George Bush's brother Marvin sat on the board of the Kuwaiti-owned company which provided electronic security to the World Trade Centre, Dulles Airport and United Airlines means nothing more than you must admit those Bush boys have done alright for themselves.

That George Bush found success as a businessman only after the investment of Osama’s brother Salem and reputed al Qaeda financier Khalid bin Mahfouz is just one of those things - one of those crazy things.

That Osama bin Laden is known to have been an asset of US foreign policy in no way implies he still is.

That al Qaeda was active in the Balkan conflict, fighting on the same side as the US as recently as 1999, while the US protected its cells, is merely one of history's little aberrations.

The claims of Michael Springman, State Department veteran of the Jeddah visa bureau, that the CIA ran the office and issued visas to al Qaeda members so they could receive training in the United States, sound like the sour grapes of someone who was fired for making such wild accusations.

That one of George Bush's first acts as President, in January 2001, was to end the two-year deployment of attack submarines which were positioned within striking distance of al Qaeda's Afghanistan camps, even as the group's guilt for the Cole bombing was established, proves that a transition from one administration to the next is never an easy task.

That so many influential figures in and close to the Bush White House had expressed, just a year before the attacks, the need for a "new Pearl Harbor" before their militarist ambitions could be fulfilled, demonstrates nothing more than the accidental virtue of being in the right place at the right time.

That the company PTECH, founded by a Saudi financier placed on America’s Terrorist Watch List in October 2001, had access to the FAA’s entire computer system for two years before the 9/11 attack, means he must not have been such a threat after all.

That whistleblower Indira Singh was told to keep her mouth shut and forget what she learned when she took her concerns about PTECH to her employers and federal authorities, suggests she lacked the big picture. And that the Chief Auditor for JP Morgan Chase told Singh repeatedly, as she answered questions about who supplied her with what information, that "that person should be killed," suggests he should take an anger management seminar.

That on May 8, 2001, Dick Cheney took upon himself the job of co-ordinating a response to domestic terror attacks even as he was crafting the administration’s energy policy which bore implications for America's military, circumventing the established infrastructure and ignoring the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman report, merely shows the VP to be someone who finds it hard to delegate.

That the standing order which covered the shooting down of hijacked aircraft was altered on June 1, 2001, taking discretion away from field commanders and placing it solely in the hands of the Secretary of Defense, is simply poor planning and unfortunate timing. Fortunately the error has been corrected, as the order was rescinded shortly after 9/11.

That in the weeks before 9/11, FBI agent Colleen Rowley found her investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui so perversely thwarted that her colleagues joked that bin Laden had a mole at the FBI, proves the stress-relieving virtue of humour in the workplace.

That Dave Frasca of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit received a promotion after quashing multiple, urgent requests for investigations into al Qaeda assets training at flight schools in the summer of 2001 does appear on the surface odd, but undoubtedly there's a good reason for it, quite possibly classified.

That FBI informant Randy Glass, working an undercover sting, was told by Pakistani intelligence operatives that the World Trade Center towers were coming down, and that his repeated warnings which continued until weeks before the attacks, including the mention of planes used as weapons, were ignored by federal authorities, is simply one of the many "What Ifs" of that tragic day.

That over the summer of 2001 Washington received many urgent, senior-level warnings from foreign intelligence agencies and governments - including those of Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Afghanistan and others - of impending terror attacks using hijacked aircraft and did nothing, demonstrates the pressing need for a new Intelligence Czar.

That John Ashcroft stopped flying commercial aircraft in July 2001 on account of security considerations had nothing to do with warnings regarding September 11, because he said so to the 9/11 Commission.

That former lead counsel for the House David Schippers says he’d taken to John Ashcroft’s office specific warnings he’d learned from FBI agents in New York of an impending attack – even naming the proposed dates, names of the hijackers and the targets – and that the investigations had been stymied and the agents threatened, proves nothing but David Schipper’s pathetic need for attention.

That Garth Nicolson received two warnings from contacts in the intelligence community and one from a North African head of state, which included specific site, date and source of the attacks, and passed the information to the Defense Department and the National Security Council to evidently no effect, clearly amounts to nothing, since virtually nobody has ever heard of him.

That in the months prior to September 11, self-described US intelligence operative Delmart Vreeland sought, from a Toronto jail cell, to get US and Canadian authorities to heed his warning of his accidental discovery of impending catastrophic attacks is worthless, since Vreeland was a dubious character, notwithstanding the fact that many of his claims have since been proven true.

That FBI Special Investigator Robert Wright claims that agents assigned to intelligence operations actually protect terrorists from investigation and prosecution, that the FBI shut down his probe into terrorist training camps, and that he was removed from a money-laundering case that had a direct link to terrorism, sounds like yet more sour grapes from a disgruntled employee.

That George Bush had plans to invade Afghanistan on his desk before 9/11 demonstrates only the value of being prepared.

The suggestion that securing a pipeline across Afghanistan figured into the White House’s calculations is as ludicrous as the assertion that oil played a part in determining war in Iraq.

That Afghanistan is once again the world’s principal heroin producer is an unfortunate reality, but to claim the CIA is still actively involved in the narcotics trade is to presume bad faith on the part of the agency.

Mahmood Ahmed, chief of Pakistan’s ISI, must not have authorized an al Qaeda payment of $100,000 to Mohammed Atta days before the attacks, and was not meeting with senior Washington officials over the week of 9/11, because I didn’t read anything about him in the official report.

That Porter Goss met with Ahmed the morning of September 11 in his capacity as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has no bearing whatsoever upon his recent selection by the White House to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

That Goss's congressional seat encompasses the 9/11 hijackers' Florida base of operation, including their flight schools, is precisely the kind of meaningless factoid a conspiracy theorist would bring up.

It's true that George HW Bush and Dick Cheney spent the evening of September 10 alone in the Oval Office, but what's wrong with old colleagues catching up? And it's true that George HW Bush and Shafig bin Laden, Osama's brother, spent the morning of September 11 together at a board meeting of the Carlyle Group, but the bin Ladens are a big family.

That FEMA arrived in New York on Sept 10 to prepare for a scheduled biowarfare drill, and had a triage centre ready to go that was larger and better equipped than the one that was lost in the collapse of WTC 7, was a lucky twist of fate.

Newsweek’s report that senior Pentagon officials cancelled flights on Sept 10 for the following day on account of security concerns is only newsworthy because of what happened the following morning.

That George Bush's telephone logs for September 11 do not exist should surprise no one, given the confusion of the day.

That Mohamed Atta attended the International Officer's School at Maxwell Air Force Base, that Abdulaziz Alomari attended Brooks Air Force Base Aerospace Medical School, that Saeed Alghamdi attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey merely shows it is a small world, after all.

That Lt Col Steve Butler, Vice Chancellor for student affairs of the Defense Language Institute during Alghamdi's terms, was disciplined, removed from his post and threatened with court martial when he wrote "Bush knew of the impending attacks on America. He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism. What is...contemptible is the President of the United States not telling the American people what he knows for political gain," is the least that should have happened for such disrespect shown his Commander in Chief.

That Mohammed Atta dressed like a Mafioso, had a stripper girlfriend, smuggled drugs, was already a licensed pilot when he entered the US, enjoyed pork chops, drank to excess and did cocaine, was closer to Europeans than Arabs in Florida, and included the names of defence contractors on his email list, proves how dangerous the radical fundamentalist Muslim can be.

That 43 lbs of heroin was found on board the Lear Jet owned by Wally Hilliard, the owner of Atta’s flight school, just three weeks after Atta enrolled – the biggest seizure ever in Central Florida – was just bad luck. That Hilliard was not charged shows how specious the claims for conspiracy truly are.

That Hilliard’s plane had made 30-round trips to Venezuela with the same passengers who always paid cash, that the plane had been supplied by a pair of drug smugglers who had also outfitted CIA drug runner Barry Seal, and that 9/11 commissioner Richard ben-Veniste had been Seal’s attorney before Seal’s murder, shows nothing but the lengths to which conspiracists will go to draw sinister conclusions.

Reports of insider trading on 9/11 are false, because the SEC investigated and found only respectable investors who will remain nameless involved, and no terrorists, so the windfall profit-taking was merely, as ever, coincidental.

That heightened security for the World Trade Centre was lifted immediately prior to the attacks illustrates that it always happens when you least expect it.

That Hani Hanjour, the pilot of Flight 77, was so incompetent he could not fly a Cessna in August, but in September managed to fly a 767 at excessive speed into a spiraling, 270-degree descent and a level impact of the first floor of the Pentagon, on the only side that was virtually empty and had been hardened to withstand a terrorist attack, merely demonstrates that people can do almost anything once they set their minds to it.

That none of the flight data recorders were said to be recoverable even though they were located in the tail sections, and that until 9/11, no solid-state recorder in a catastrophic crash had been unrecoverable, shows how there's a first time for everything.

That Mohammed Atta left a uniform, a will, a Koran, his driver's license and a "how to fly planes" video in his rental car at the airport means he had other things on his mind.

The mention of Israelis with links to military-intelligence having been arrested on Sept 11 videotaping and celebrating the attacks, of an Israeli espionage ring surveiling DEA and defense installations and trailing the hijackers, and of a warning of impending attacks delivered to the Israeli company Odigo two hours before the first plane hit, does not deserve a response. That the stories also appeared in publications such as Ha'aretz and Forward is a sad display of self-hatred among certain elements of the Israeli media.

That multiple military wargames and simulations were underway the morning of 9/11 – one simulating the crash of a plane into a building; another, a live-fly simulation of multiple hijackings – and took many interceptors away from the eastern seaboard and confused field commanders as to which was a real hijacked aircraft and which was a hoax, was a bizarre coincidence, but no less a coincidence.

That the National Military Command Center ops director asked a rookie substitute to stand his watch at 8:30 am on Sept. 11 is nothing more than bad timing.

That a recording made Sept 11 of air traffic controllers’ describing what they had witnessed, was destroyed by an FAA official who crushed it in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building, is something no doubt that overzealous official wishes he could undo.

That the FBI knew precisely which Florida flight schools to descend upon hours after the attacks should make every American feel safer knowing their federal agents are on the ball.

That a former flight school executive believes the hijackers were "double agents," and says about Atta and associates, "Early on I gleaned that these guys had government protection. They were let into this country for a specific purpose," and was visited by the FBI just four hours after the attacks to intimidate him into silence, proves he's an unreliable witness, for the simple reason there is no conspiracy.

That Jeb Bush was on board an aircraft that removed flight school records to Washington in the middle of the night on Sept 12th demonstrates how seriously the governor takes the issue of national security.

To insinuate evil motive from the mercy flights of bin Laden family members and Saudi royals after 9/11 shows the sickness of the conspiratorial mindset.

Le Figaro’s report in October 2001, known to have originated with French intelligence, that the CIA met Osama bin Laden in a Dubai hospital in July 2001, proves again the perfidy of the French.

That the tape in which bin Laden claims responsibility for the attacks was released by the State Department after having been found providentially by US forces in Afghanistan, and depicts a fattened Osama with a broader face and a flatter nose, proves Osama, and Osama alone, masterminded 9/11.

That at the battle of Tora Bora, where bin Laden was surrounded on three sides, Special Forces received no order to advance and capture him and were forced to stand and watch as two Russian-made helicopters flew into the area where bin Laden was believed hiding, loaded up passengers and returned to Pakistan, demonstrates how confusing the modern battlefield can be.

That upon returning to Fort Bragg from Tora Bora, the same Special Operations troops who had been stood down from capturing bin Laden, suffered a unusual spree of murder/suicides, is nothing more than a series of senseless tragedies.

Reports that bin Laden is currently receiving periodic dialysis treatment in a Pakistani medical hospital are simply too incredible to be true.

That the White House went on Cipro September 11 shows the foresightedness of America’s emergency response.

That the anthrax was mailed to perceived liberal media and the Democratic leadership demonstrates only the perversity of the terrorist psyche.

That the anthrax attacks appeared to silence opponents of the Patriot Act shows only that appearances can be deceiving.

That the Ames-strain anthrax was found to have originated at Fort Detrick, and was beyond the capability of all but a few labs to refine, underscores the importance of allowing the investigation to continue without the distraction of absurd conspiracy theories.

That Republican guru Grover Norquist has been found to have aided financiers and supporters of Islamic terror to gain access to the Bush White House, and is a founder of the Islamic Institute, which the Treasury Department believes to be a source of funding for al Qaeda, suggests Norquist is at worst, naive, and at best, needs a wider circle of friends.

That the Department of Justice consistently chooses to see accused 9/11 plotters go free rather than permit the courtroom testimony of al Qaeda leaders in American custody looks bad, but only because we don't have all the facts.

That the White House balked at any inquiry into the events of 9/11, then starved it of funds and stonewalled it, was unfortunate, but since the commission didn't find for conspiracy it's all a non issue anyway.

That the 9/11 commission's executive director and "gatekeeper," Philip Zelikow, was so closely involved in the events under investigation that he testified before the the commission as part of the inquiry, shows only an apparent conflict of interest.

That commission chair Thomas Kean is, like George Bush, a Texas oil executive who had business dealings with reputed al Qaeda financier Khalid bin Mafouz, suggests Texas is smaller than they say it is.

That co-chair Lee Hamilton has a history as a Bush family "fixer," including clearing Bush Sr of the claims arising from the 1980 "October Surprise", is of no concern, since only conspiracists believe there was such a thing as an October Surprise.

That FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds accuses the agency of intentionally fudging specific pre-9/11 warnings and harboring a foreign espionage ring in its translation department, and claims she witnessed evidence of the semi-official infrastructure of money-laundering and narcotics trade behind the attacks, is of no account, since John Ashcroft has gagged her with the rare invocation of "State Secrets Privilege," and retroactively classified her public testimony. For the sake of national security, let us speak no more of her.

That, when commenting on Edmond's case, Daniel Ellsberg remarked that Ashcroft could go to prison for his part in a cover-up, suggests Ellsberg is giving comfort to the terrorists, and could, if he doesn't wise up, find himself declared an enemy combatant.

Go to the original for the links.

And be warned: Jeff Wells makes me seem complacent.