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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sky Captain and the War Crimes of Tomorrow

The last time the Geneva Conventions breached the ocean of the War on Terra, they spouted a good blow about warfare against civilian populations.

Of particular interest is Article 3 in Part I:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Such a lovely article in such a fine Part. No wonder John Bolton hates those Swiss Frenchmen. No wonder Bu$hCo is working so hard to blur the line between civilian and soldier, between combatant and non-combatant.

In the War on Terra we not only ferry around Terra'ists on "civilian" owned transportation ("Aero Contractors Ltd.", "Pegasus Technologies", and "Tepper Aviation"), we develop arms that can only be used effectively against civilian populations. We also develop arms that we can place on civilian air carriers.

What am I talking about? There's a technology that hasn't been really useful in warfare since before World War I. It's Blimps.

The blimp is made to sound really far cooler and more high tech by saying ...that there would be "military utility" in putting blimps, balloons, and drones in near space -- between 65,000 and 350,000 above sea level. That means 'way high up there for you pedestrian Terra'ists. Up there, they could serve as cheap substitutes for satellites, relaying communications and snooping on foes. They might be able to carry equipment, effectively becoming giant U-Hauls in the sky. And this could be done, at least in the balloons' case, without "significantly strain[ing] existing infrastructure or requir[ing] large amounts of equipment or personnel to operate the balloons"...

People stopped using these ballons because, you know, they pop. Apparently the metals they use to contain the helium are good enough now that only a missile could penetrate. That is, only a seriously state-armed force with real guns could knock them down.

Which means they will probably be of more use in situations where the D.o'D. has to pacify relatively unarmed "insurgents".

They're made for UnWar. Like Iraq.

The other nifty Rumsfeldian (i.e., Strangelovian) idea is to put lasers on all civilian air carriers, presumbly to protect them from Terra'ist shouldler-fired missiles.

Not a serious threat unless you're Aero Contractor charter flight out of Baghdad, but hey, Rummy's buddies like Northrop Grumman think every civilian carrier should have them.

Frenchmen like the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing and the Air Transport Association of America are urging that more emphasis be placed on alternative defenses, like controlling areas around airports, limiting the international supply of missiles and making less expensive changes that would allow an airplane to fly even if its hydraulic system was lost.

So what happens when you place laser weapons aboard a civilian carrier? What happens when all of the American Civilian Air Fleet have laser weapons effective in a 50 mile radius around the airplane?

Do they cease to be noncombatants?

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Laughter of the Company

There's one less competitor for Halliburton to worry about.

French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution

Turning its back on half a century of European history, France decisively rejected a constitution for Europe on Sunday, plunging the country into political disarray and jeopardizing the cause of European unity....

The rejection could signal an abrupt halt to the expansion and unification of Europe, a process that has been met with growing disillusionment among the wealthier European Union members as needier countries like Bulgaria and Poland have negotiated their entry.

But the vote, which made France the first country to reject the treaty, has deeply wounded the French president. More than 50 years ago, France was a founding member of the six-country precursor to the current European Union. Mr. Chirac had assumed that through the constitution, a document similar in some ways to the Constitution that binds the United States, France could promote a stronger, more unified Europe that could project not only economic but also political power around the world. He repeatedly spoke of a "multipolar world" with Europe as one of the poles counter-balancing the United States...

The debate had been colored by fear of the mythical "Polish plumber," the worker from recent European Union members from the East who is increasingly free to move West and willing to work for lower pay than Frenchmen.

Proponents of the "no" fueled voters with fear of a more powerful European Union where France no longer has influence, and of an increasingly "Anglo-Saxon" and "ultraliberal" Europe where free-market capitalism runs wild...

The debate had been colored by fear of the mythical "Polish plumber," the worker from recent European Union members from the East who is increasingly free to move West and willing to work for lower pay than Frenchmen.

Proponents of the "no" fueled voters with fear of a more powerful European Union where France no longer has influence, and of an increasingly "Anglo-Saxon" and "ultraliberal" Europe where free-market capitalism runs wild.

A good analysis of the economic forces behind this vote can be found here.

I find it interesting that the same kind of xenophobic forces that appeal to TheoCons here also appeal to many in Europe. Note that these forces contribute to the Balkanization of people's common interests. They tend to represent those lower on the socio-economic ladder as a threat to those with more possessions and economic clout.

It's wonderful to use the Polish Plumber or the Mexican Maid but let them send their kids to your school? The horror!

A speculation: the drive for dissolution of the European Union may have the same roots as what happened in the Ukraine last fall.

Ukraine, traditionally passive in its politics, has been mobilised by the young democracy activists and will never be the same again.

But while the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.

That one failed. "There will be no Kostunica in Belarus," the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

The operation - engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience - is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people's elections.

The dissolution of the European Union and particularly the downfall of Chirac is clearly in the interests of a certain Private Investment Group who view them as a potential competitor for Empire.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Only the Facts Do

The New York Pravda has the anguished question on the front page of its Week in Rview section today:

Does Science Trump All?

It was a White House photo-op with a stern message: President Bush, surrounded by a passel of babies, warned last Tuesday against a Congressional bill that would increase federal spending on embryonic stem cell research. The legislation, which had threatened to veto, "would take us across a critical ethical line," he said.

Yet in some ways the president - and Congress, for that matter - had been upstaged only four days before. That's when South Korean biomedical researchers reported that they had developed an efficient method for obtaining human stem cells from embryos produced through cloning. Researchers hailed the work as a major breakthrough, one that eventually could make it simpler to get stem cells to study and potentially treat disorders, like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

The announcement also made plain for researchers an age-old truism: that the march of science and technology cannot be stopped. Slowed, maybe. Modified, probably. But halted completely? No way.

Yet President Bush and religious conservatives have staked much on the idea that they can stop cloning, even when it is undertaken for therapeutic purposes, as is the case with the Korean research.

And there's some evidence to suggest that they aren't just dreaming. While the history of science, and medicine in particular, is full of good ideas that met with opposition that was eventually overcome, there are other episodes where the opposition won out - often because those ideas were not good ones.

There has been much unsuccessful opposition to medical breakthroughs that are now almost universally recognized as beneficial, like vaccination, dissection and organ transplantation.

Blood transfusions, animal implants and in-vitro fertilization itself have all been met with religious objections. Most have been overcome. But there has been successful opposition to some boneheaded concepts like eugenics. Other bad ideas - the Tuskegee syphilis experiments and the vivisection of animals come to mind - have led to the overhaul of research practices and the development and refinement of ethical guidelines.

The debate over therapeutic cloning reflects this mixed history. For some people the research represents a treasure chest of potential therapies; for others it is a Pandora's box, the beginning of a slide toward a dystopian future where life is devalued...

Once again demonstrating their recent penchant for setting up straw men in their arguments and editorials.

Science is the study of the natural world using reason as a tool of analysis.

The philosphical basis behind rational science is to ask a question about the basis of a observable natural occurence. The next step is to come up for an explanation of the phenomenon and to test the explanation. The results are used to affirm the explanation, readjust the explanation, and search for new ways to test the hypothesis.

Eugenics wasn't and isn't science any more than John Bolton's rearranging and reinvention of the data on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was military intelligence.

Both are attempts to apply and selectively re-interpret facts to serve a political agenda.

Science doesn't trump all.

But sometimes, whether its eugenics in the hands of Nazis, or Lamarkian genetics in the hands of the Soviets, or "intelligence" in the hands of the NeoCons, misrepresentations confront real facts.

Usually with disasterous results for the people that manipulate the data to try to serve their own needs.

It'll Make You Go Blind

To add to the woes of the International Pharmaceutical wing of the Empire, reports are coming out now about blindness as a result of the use of impotence drugs.

The kinds of blindness caused are due to two different cellular mechanisms based on one common molecular mechanism at the level of the drug's receptor.

Despite what the TheoCons tell their kids, it's not related to orgasms at all.

Viagra and related compounds act on an enzyme known as a cyclic GMP phosphodiesterase (cGMP PDE). Viagra acts most effectively on smooth muscle cGMP PDE causing smooth muscle relaxation. The drug was developed to relax smooth muscle, in order to lower blood pressure and aid in congestive heart failure. For these uses, it is quite effective.

This enzyme breaks down a specialized ribonucleotide, cyclic GMP. The drug most effectively acts on the smooth muscle form of the enzyme, but has varying potency on other related cGMP-PDE gene products. In the eye, cyclic GMP acts to keep photoreceptors depolarized. So in some people Viagra causes blue/green color blindness, because it acts on these photoreceptor cells as well.

The other form of blindess, it's been linked to ischemic optic neuropathy in people with the following conditions:

* Diabetes
* Hypertension
* Hyperlipidemia: excess fat or lipids in the blood
* Hypercholesterolemia: elevated cholesterol

These people will already have problems with smooth muscle responses in their blood vessels because of their underlying metabolic disorders. In Ischemic optic neuropathy blood flow is disrupted to the photoreceptor cells, killing them. This is an irreversible condition.

One problem with the recreational prescription of these drugs is that men are using them in far greater doses for longer periods of time than they were ever intended.

As a result, their (ab)use could lead to real problems with the cardiovascular system, as the normal parasympathetic regulation is totally bypassed.

Sure enough, there are also anecdotal reports of platelet dysfunction, heart disease, stroke, and infertility now coming out with these drugs, although it's not possible to point to any concrete clinical data yet.

Possibly because nobody wants to fund these kinds of studies. Yet.

Use of these drugs for impotence, in my humble opinion, constitutes abuse.

I think they are valuble drugs for controlled use in cardio pulmonary hypertension. They should be used only with constant medical supervision for these purposes only. Their prescription for impotence or as a recreational or "lifestyle" drug constitues gross and unethical abuse.

And I don't blame the poor desperate people using the drugs. I blame the MBA-run drug companies looking for a quick profit that have created this problem. Pharmaceutical companies are well on their way to destroying biomedical science in this country. They've already wrecked countless lives. Prescription drugs should not be advertised to the general public.

A human life is more than a bouncing ball with a smiley face.

John Conyers Writes Letters

He invites you to sign on, too.

... There is an ongoing debate about whether this was the result of a "massive intelligence failure," in other words a mistake, or the result of intentional and deliberate manipulation of intelligence to justify the case for war. The memo appears to resolve that debate as well, quoting the head of British intelligence as indicating that in the United States "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

As a result of these concerns, we would ask that you respond to the following questions:
1)Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

These are the same questions 89 Members of Congress, led by Rep. John Conyers, Jr., submitted to you on May 5, 2005. As citizens and taxpayers, we believe it is imperative that our people be able to trust our government and our commander in chief when you make representations and statements regarding our nation engaging in war. As a result, we would ask that you publicly respond to these questions as promptly as possible...

Sign on here.

Note: link fixed June 9th.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Inflaming the Issue

From Moon of Alabama:

Malaysians burn U.S. flag to protest Koran issue
Lebanese Muslims Protest Over Alleged Desecration of Koran
Islamists rally on Koran issue in Pakistan
Egyptians protest against Koran abuse, government
Kashmir shuts down to protest Quran desecration reports
Muslims in Indonesia protest Quran report
Waves of Rage Against 'Insult to Quran' Hit Palestine
5,000 Bangladeshis rally against alleged desecration of Quran in Guantanamo

And on "our" side:

No worse enemy

It's nice to see Bu$hie's Dominionist owners and major shareholders the Saudis are getting the War on Terra they paid for.

Bernhard also brings up this point- "our" side can't even agree on insisting for an exit strategy from Iraq:

Representatives considered an amendment offered by Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) calling for an exit strategy from Iraq. Amendment No. 26 simply stated:

"It is the sense of Congress that the president should—
(1) develop a plan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act to provide for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq; and
(2) transmit to the congressional defense committees a report that contains the plan described in paragraph (1)."


In the end the amendment failed—by a vote of 300 to 128 with 5 not voting. Because Rep. Woolsey insisted on a roll call vote we now know who needs to be convinced. There were some disappointing votes including the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, as well as members generally seen as liberals, including Rep. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Stenny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) and Rep. Udall (D-CO).

As Atrios notes, the liberal hawks are basically strutting phonies:

One shouldn't underestimate the value of being a strutting phony, of a bit of macho swagger upping the Dem's ability to attract voters. But, one doesn't improve your party's chances by talking about how all those other non-strutting phonies are a bunch of wimps.

Go be tough guys Biden and Beinart (the latter, of course, could be very tough indeed by filling out an enlistment form). Fine by me. However, which serves our (assuming it's the same) cause more - talking about how Democrats are big wimps for being insufficiently enthusiastic about bombing whoever George Bush wants to bomb that day or pointing out that Iraq was a disaster and President "Bin Laden Was Determined to Strike memo not important" Bush was in fact asleep at the wheel on September 11 and hasn't bothered to wake up since?

The Democratic liberal hawks may not be on the same side as the rest of the progressive world, Duncan.

When Carlyle bankrolls both "sides" of the issue in Washington, you can be sure there is only one real interest being taken care of there.

Friday, May 27, 2005


With the release of the Downing Street memo, it came out in the open: Bu$hCo planned a war in Iraq from the moment they took the White House. What happened on 9-11 merely served as an excuse to do what was intended from the beginning.

Journalists like Seymour Hersch have been saying Iran is next. The facts of our inadequacy in Iraq are totally irrelevant to Cheney. Iran is going down, and forget everything but the oil.

Scott Ritter sent the following Valentine to the White House last February in a speech in Olympia, WA:

Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail yesterday in Washington State, dropped two shocking bombshells in a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia’s Capitol Theater. The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.


The principal theme of Scott Ritter's talk was Americans’ duty to protect the U.S. Constitution by taking action to bring an end to the illegal war in Iraq. But in passing, the former UNSCOM weapons inspector stunned his listeners with two pronouncements. Ritter said plans for a June attack on Iran have been submitted to President George W. Bush, and that the president has approved them. He also asserted that knowledgeable sources say U.S. officials "cooked" the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005.

Now we have evidence that such a mobilization is taking place, explaining the haste in which Bu$hCo seeks to send John Bolton to the United Nations

Bu$hCo behaves an awfully lot like they're working on a timetable.

The question remains: what is the timetable leading towards? In the short run, the planned chaos seems intended to lead to a consolidation of power for this administration. In the somewhat longer term, the chaos seems designed for a re-emergence of a very old power structure in American government.

Is it possible, given what is inevitable over the next century, that some are seeing even further? It is likely that they realize if they can not use energy to establish hegemony now, they never will be able to do so. Given the forces of economics, and human ingenuity, a steep rise in the costs of fossil fuels will certainly motivate people to find non-fossil substitutes for these fuels.

The development of non-fossil fuel sources will be the undoing of many multinational corporations and of the entire power structure struggle in the Middle East.

Another question might be, do the people at the front of the organization have the slightest clue where their agenda is leading them?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bu$hCo: Stupid Enough for Empire

I'm praying these power mad incompetents don't really think they can take on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria/Iran AND NK, but just when I think they've bottomed out on stupid, they find a whole new level of it.

The source? This post at Corrente.

It looks like Bu$hCo is mobilizing to hit both Syria/Iran and North Korea this summer.

Increasing Bu$hCo's Options

Exactly when do the Praetorian Guards step in? Or have they already?

...In a shocking innovation in American nuclear policy, recently disclosed in the Washington Post by military analyst William Arkin, the administration has created and placed on continuous high alert a force whereby the President can launch a pinpoint strike, including a nuclear strike, anywhere on earth with a few hours' notice. The senatorial "nuclear option" was covered extensively, but somehow this actual nuclear option -- a "full-spectrum" capability (in the words of the presidential order) with "precision kinetic (nuclear and conventional) and non-kinetic (elements of space and information operations)" -- was almost entirely ignored.

The order to enable the force, Arkin writes, was given by George W. Bush in January 2003. In July 2004, Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated to Adm. James Ellis Jr., then-commander of Stratcom, "the President charged you to 'be ready to strike at any moment's notice in any dark corner of the world' [and] that's exactly what you've done." And last fall, Lieut. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, stated, "We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes."

These actions make operational a revolution in US nuclear policy. It was foreshadowed by the Nuclear Posture Review Report of 2002, also widely ignored, which announced nuclear targeting of, among others, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. The review also recommended new facilities for the manufacture of nuclear bombs and the study of an array of new delivery vehicles, including a new ICBM in 2020, a new submarine-launched ballistic missile in 2029, and a new heavy bomber in 2040. The review, in turn, grew out of Bush's broader new military strategy of pre-emptive war, articulated in the 2002 White House document, the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, which states, "We cannot let our enemies strike first." The extraordinary ambition of the Bush policy is suggested by a comment made in a Senate hearing in April by Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, who explained that the Defense Secretary wanted "bunker buster" nuclear bombs because "it is unwise for there to be anything that's beyond the reach of US power."

The incorporation of nuclear weapons into the global strike option, casting a new shadow of nuclear danger over the entire planet, raises fundamental questions. Perhaps the most important is why the United States, which now possesses the strongest conventional military forces in the world, feels the need to add to them a new global nuclear threat. The mystery deepens when you reflect that nothing could be more calculated to goad other nations into nuclear proliferation. Could it be that the United States, now routinely called the greatest empire since Rome, simply feels the need to assert its dominance in the nuclear sphere?

History suggests a different explanation. In the past, reliance on nuclear arms has in fact varied inversely with reliance on conventional arms...

Today, though the Cold War is over, the riddle of the relationship between nuclear and conventional force still vexes official minds. Once again, the United States has assigned itself global ambitions. (Then it was containing Communism, now it is stopping "terrorism" and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.) Once again, the United States is fighting a limited war -- the war in Iraq -- and other limited wars are under discussion (against Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc.). And once again, nuclear arms appear to offer an all too tempting alternative. Arkin comments that a prime virtue of the global strike option in the eyes of the Pentagon is that it requires no "boots on the ground." And Everett Dolman, a professor at the Air Force School at Maxwell Air Force Base, recently commented to the San Francisco Chronicle that without space weaponry, "we'd face a Vietnam-style buildup if we wanted to remain a force in the world."

For just as in the 1950s, the boots on the ground are running low. The global New Rome turns out to have exhausted its conventional power holding down just one country, Iraq. But the 2000s are not the 1950s. Eisenhower's overall goal was mainly defensive. He wanted no war, nuclear or conventional, and never came close to ordering a nuclear strike. By contrast, Bush's policy of preventive war is inherently activist and aggressive: The global strike option is not only for deterrence; it is for use.

A clash between the triumphal rhetoric of global domination and the sordid reality of failure in practice lies ahead. The Senate, on the brink of its metaphorical Armageddon, backed down. Would the President, facing defeat of his policies somewhere in the world, do likewise? Or might he actually reach for his nuclear option?

Is Bu$hCo preparing to give someone the classic slaver's option: "Serve us, or die"?

Do they think if they seem big and bad enough the rest of the world will stand for it?

Extreme Rear Endition

Liberal Oasis has a good breakdown of the hypocrisy of American deals with our ally in the War on Terra, Uzbekistan.

You know, the place we've contracted to do our Rendition for us. A polite term for boiling your detainees alive so they can't say anything damaging to a Patriot. You know, a place where the cops just gunned down dozens of fleeing antiwar protesters.

George W. Bu$h's (and Enron's) kind of folks.

It's like Bob Herbert says:

Torturing prisoners, rather than making the U.S. safer, puts us all in greater danger. The abuses of detainees at places like Guantánamo and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have come to define the United States in the minds of many Muslims and others around the world. And the world has caught on that large percentages of the people swept up and incarcerated as terrorists by the U.S. were in fact innocent of wrongdoing and had no connection to terrorism at all.

Bitterness against the U.S. has increased exponentially since the initial disclosures about the abuse of detainees. What's the upside of policies that demean the U.S. in the eyes of the world while at the same time making us less rather than more secure?

The government, like an addict in denial, will not even admit that we have a problem.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

In CyberSpace, No One Can Hear You Scream

The Heretik notes the bombs keep dropping after the Great Compromise.

Some of us seemed to realize the potential for destruction with this "Deal" immediately.

Some of the bastions of the left in cyberspace still insist we had a victory with the Great Compromise- as Frist blusters and postures to take advantage of the blood rage of the Theocons, and the Great Compromisers hint at a vivisection of Social Security.

Denial is the first stage of grief at a great loss.

Ahistorical Administration

I.E., no history.

Bernhard spotted this gem:

U.S. Brochure Drops Arms-Control Deals
U.S. Quietly Drops Arms-Control Deals From Slick Brochure; Noise Follows

UNITED NATIONS May 25, 2005 — With a few keystrokes, an official U.S. brochure eliminated some historic arms-control deals, angered the champions of disarmament, and showed again that in the paper deluge of a global conference, what's left out can be as telling as what's put in.

In this case, the publication's "rewriting of history," as one critic put it, also illustrates in black and white a dispute that has helped bog down the 188-nation conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The month long conference entered its final three days on Wednesday with uncertain prospects for producing any major agreements to tighten controls on the spread of atomic arms, or to speed nuclear disarmament...

The brochure, slickly produced by the State Department and distributed to hundreds of delegates, lists milestones in arms control since the 1980s, while touting reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. But the timeline omits a pivotal agreement, the 1996 treaty to ban nuclear tests, a pact negotiated by the Clinton administration and ratified by 121 nations but now rejected under President Bush.

Further along, the brochure skips over the year 2000 entirely, a snub of the treaty review conference that year, when the United States and other nuclear-weapons states committed to "13 practical steps" to achieve nuclear disarmament including activating the test-ban treaty, negotiating a pact to ban production of bomb material, and "unequivocally undertaking" to totally eliminate their arsenals.

Bush administration officials now suggest the 2000 commitments are outdated. Other delegations reject that, however, demanding a reaffirmation of the goals in a final document at the current conference.

Few expect that, and they cite the blank spots in the brochure as another piece of evidence.

"Official disdain for these agreements seems to have turned into denial that they existed," said Joseph Cirincione, an arms-control specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who accused the State Department of rewriting history.

Stem Cell Republic

The House of Representatives defied George Bush last night and approved a bill loosening restrictions on stem cell research on human embryos, illustrating for the second time in as many days that the president is likely to face tough challenges from Congress during his second term.

Mr Bush called it a mistake and said he would exercise his presidential veto to block it...

If passed into law, yesterday's stem cell bill would lift Mr Bush's 2001 ban on federal funding for new research using stem cells from embryos that had not been destroyed before August 2001. The bill deals with embryonic stem cells, which are the building blocks for every tissue in the body. Attempting to harness those stem cells' regenerative powers is in very early research stages, but many scientists believe it has the potential to create breakthrough treatments.

Mr Bush claims the research destroys life because embryos are destroyed in the process. But supporters point out that there are embryos in fertility clinics that would be discarded and never used to create babies, but could be used for research purposes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Voices in the Night Between the Stars

The radio wave front of the bubble announcing our presence to the Universe is two light years wider in diameter now than it was in 2004.

It's something like 140 light years across now, a good gradient leading to the source. Us.

But it's not the only thing out there announcing our presence.

" Voyager has entered the final lap on its race to the edge of interstellar space, as it begins exploring the solar system's final frontier," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which built and operates Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2.

In November 2003, the Voyager team said data indicated the probe might have entered the termination shock region of the solar system. Some scientists thought it was only approaching that tumultuous layer, however.

In fact, scientists don't know where the edge is. They assume it moves, as changes in the speed and intensity of the solar wind force the boundary in and out.

"The consensus of the team now is that Voyager 1, at 8.7 billion miles from the Sun, has at last entered the heliosheath, the region beyond the termination shock," said MIT's John Richardson, principal investigator of the Voyager plasma science investigation.

When the solar wind meets interstellar gas, a teardrop-shaped shockwave develops as it is slowed dramatically from an average speed of up to 1.5 million mph (700 kilometers per second). The solar wind, made of charged particles constantly streaming from the Sun, becomes denser and hotter at that point.

Voyager 1 has sent back measurements of a stronger magnetic field at its current location. That indicates the solar wind speed has decreased, scientists said. The magnetic field does not gain overall strength, but it becomes more dense and so stronger at any given location. As a rough analogy, consider how cars huddle closer when highway traffic slows, researchers suggested.

The magnetic field in November 2003 had increased in strength 1.7 times compared to previous levels. In December 2004 it jumped another factor of 2.5 and has remained at this higher level until now.

"Voyager's observations over the past few years show that the termination shock is far more complicated than anyone thought," said NASA scientist Eric Christian.

The leading edge of the solar system, as it orbits the Milky Way, is called the bow shock. It resembles the ripples of water raised by the bow of a boat. Voyager 1 still has years to go before it crosses the bow shock.

The Voyager probes surveyed the outer planets as their primary mission. Each probe could operate through the year 2020, NASA said today in a statement.

The twin probes are on different paths out of the solar system. Voyager 2 is about 6.5 billion miles away...

Voyager I, moving at about 3.6 astronomical units a year, is about 8.7 billion miles from Earth, while Voyager II, moving at about 3.3 astronomical units a year, is about 6.96 billion miles away. An astronomical unit, equal to about 92.8 million miles, is the approximate distance from the Earth to the sun.

More Voyager data can be found here.

No Victory

A bipartisan group of 14 senators struck a last-second agreement on Monday that defused - at least for now - a potentially explosive parliamentary showdown over eliminating Senate filibusters against judicial nominees.

Under a compromise reached by an assortment of moderates, mavericks and senior statesmen just as the Senate was headed into a climactic overnight debate on the filibuster, three previously blocked appeals court nominees - Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla R. Owen - will get floor votes. No commitment was made on the fate of two others, William Myers and Henry Saad.

In addition, the seven Democrats in the deal vowed that they would filibuster future judicial nominees only under "extraordinary" circumstances. Their Republican counterparts promised to support no changes in Senate rules that would alter the filibuster rule, effectively denying the votes it would take to enact such a rules change.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was a chief architect of the deal, said the negotiators had been motivated by a mutual desire to prevent lasting damage to the Senate from a rules change. Mr. McCain said the pact was hammered out in the "finest traditions of the Senate."

"We have kept the Republic," said Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who had fought the rules change as an abuse of Senate traditions.

This was no win for the progressives, but merely a postponement of the battle while the Wrepublicans reorganize.

Bu$hCo got everything they wanted. All the judiciary is now theirs. The only possible exception might be the coming Supreme Court selections and reorganization.

Can you say Chief Justice Scalia?

All you Americans with too much liberty, watch out.

Frist ended up with pie on his face with this deal, but Bu$hCo wanted that too.

After all, he isn't part of the Kennebunkport Family.

He never put his capital into the Carlyle Group.

Bu$hCo won. The people who think Reid saved the filibuster are kidding themselves and not paying attention. This was a Lieberman deal for our side.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Flat Out Lying

"I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is - I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it.''

Unless those lives happen to be collateral damage of liberation or the research happens be for national security.

Here's my favorite: the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), something the Navy is quite skeptical about.

Questionable Utility

Given the proposed mission of using earth penetrating nuclear weapons (EPNW) to destroy hardened, deeply buried targets (HDBTs) at depths of 300 meters or greater in rock while largely containing the blast and fallout, RNEP does not represent a practical addition to our nuclear stockpile for the following reasons:

1. To be effective against HDBTs, RNEP must achieve penetration in excess of current capability. Tripling the penetration depth of a 1 kt to 10 kt EPNW to 10 meters in dry hard rock (the probable physical limit), only increases the depth of the damage zone by about 15 meters.
2. Because of the threat to civilian populations posed by the radioactive fallout of a shallow nuclear blast, the tactical flexibility and moral acceptability of RNEP as an instrument of preemptive warfare are limited.

These conclusions are not lost on the international community. The Russian Federation and the Chinese government are both capable of making an accurate technical assessment and are unlikely to consider RNEP to represent a meaningful change in the status of U.S. threat. However, as a symbol of the United States's recently declared preemptive doctrine, RNEP is eliciting a vociferous negative response. The Russians and the Chinese both feel threatened by the Bush administration's aggressive nuclear policies and evidence suggests that they are responding by investing resources to expand their nuclear deterrent capabilities.

It'll certainly make quite an impression. That is, it'll certainly make a big hole. But national security?

It'll improve national security about like extending our War on Terra into Iraq did.

More Like This Please

An updated link of Galloway's complete testimony last week to the Senate.

You may recall a shorter transcript here.

In the longer version- 47 minutes- he takes a 10 minute polemic from Coleman, and gives a devastating broadside of his own. Afterwards is about 30 minutes of hostile questioning from Coleman and Levin.

This is what American progressives ought to be: absolutely scrupulous in their dealings, and absolutely unapologetic for their positions.

This is what we need, a real opposition party, not just a pack of sanctimonious DINOcrat politicos whose self-righteousness stems from the fact they don't steal as much as the Wrepublicans.

Thanks to James Wolcott for the links.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Like They Planned It

Why is it that the best analysis of the Middle East I can find routinely comes from a Hong Kong News website? Aside from the superb Juan Cole, that is.

The US's gift to al-Qaeda
By Pepe Escobar

"Al-Qaeda and all the other components of the Salafi-jihadi (or Islamist) front are on the verge of scoring a major double blow. Unlike September 11, now their fight not only is being recognized by top Islamic scholars as legitimate, but they have also managed to capitalize on major blunders in the "war on terror" to strengthen the anti-imperialist, anti-US impulse among global, moderate Muslims. How did that happen?

"At the time of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri made two crucial mistakes. First, because of their isolation, they didn't notice that most Afghans had had enough of the Taliban...

"Second, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri overestimated the reaction of the Arab street. They didn't understand that the average Arab living in the Middle East - or in Western Europe - may indeed express a lot of grievances toward US foreign policy, but this did not translate into solid, political mobilization...

"The "war on terror" - the American response to al-Qaeda - was a meaningless metaphor in the first place because al-Qaeda essentially poses a security problem. It is not a strategic threat. At least it was not until its recent mutation - after Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq and the Abu Ghraib scandal.

"...When bin Laden and al-Zawahiri called for a worldwide jihad they failed. Movements of national liberation in Islam - like in Palestine and Chechnya - were the biggest losers. All over Islam there was heated discussion over al-Qaeda's strategy - if there was any. Should everyone revert to purveying dawah (propaganda, political proselytism) instead of jihad?

"But now Islamic scholars from Morocco to Malaysia are finally legitimizing al-Qaeda as a Muqadamul Jaish - a revolutionary vanguard. This Western concept was unheard of in Islam - well, at least until the symbolically-charged spring of 2003, when Baghdad was "liberated" by President George W Bush's Christian armies.

"As much as al-Qaeda is a Western concoction - once again, the concept of revolutionary vanguard simply does not exist in Islam - its internationalism is now merging with the only other global protest movement: the anti-globalization, anti-American imperialism brigade. Al-Qaeda and the Islamist front nevertheless still face a daunting task: if they want more Western allies, they have to abdicate from their Islamic platform. And if they want more allies in the Muslim world, they have to be much less radical. Even though al-Qaeda is configured as an heir to the extreme left and pro-Third World radical movements of the 1970s, al-Qaeda's latest success is undoubtedly in the Muslim world.

"Al-Qaeda's only strategic goal is trapping the US, but Washington helped al-Qaeda by trapping itself in Iraq, and in still another, dangerous form of hubris, Bush's Greater Middle East. Al-Qaeda's dream of mobilizing the ummah by way of jihad may have taken a backseat role, but who needs it when you have reports of Korans flushed down the toilet? The Newsweek controversy reveals to the fullest extent how al-Qaeda may be reaching its goal of politicizing the masses through other means. No wonder the White House, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice all reacted furiously - blaming the (media) messenger to obscure the evident message (Islamophobia).

"Al-Qaeda now also benefits from counter-propaganda. For example, this past weekend, al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers - supposed to be the denomination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group (if he is not just a cipher) - accused the Pentagon of fabricating the sectarian violence in Iraq. The document lists "dirty methods [the Americans] use for targeting jihad", like "attacking homes with mortar rounds to later put the blame on the mujahideen for such mindless attacks", or "setting up IEDs [improvised explosive devices] on the side of the road near a school or a hospital and then the American savior comes in shining armor to dismantle the device, witnessed by the people in the area as a hero risking himself for Muslims".

"As for the non-stop car bombings, the document says that "some [Americans] conceal a bomb in the trunk of a car while they search it in a check point and then detonate it at a distance in the right place and time, or they target certain cars by helicopter gunships so it would look like there was a person [bomber] who detonated a car bomb".

"Whether any of these claims are verifiable or true is beside the point. The point is that they are written and widely broadcast in Arabic, and they stick. Muslims, especially in the Sunni Arab world, but also all over Islam, tend to believe them in increasing numbers, considering the moral swamp the US put itself in after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the virtual leveling of Fallujah.

"So if al-Qaeda is winning Muslim hearts and minds, the Bush administration has only itself to blame. Considering all the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric and a "war on terror" bound to last indefinitely, as Vice President Dick Cheney himself said on the record, it may have been the original intent anyway."

People are starting to notice who profits from cashing the blank check for endless war.

Friday, May 20, 2005

We Are Now a Nation That Condones Torture

The whole topic of what Bu$hCo has decided to do to expedite its War on Terra disgusts me to no end.

My take is similar to Digby's, and to many others throughout the progressive blogsphere.

There is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and when a good day rolls around, the 43rd President, his Vice-President, his Secretary of State, and his Secretary of Defense will all go to the Hague, and hopefully to prison for the rest of their natural lives for what they've brought to this country and inflicted on the rest of the world.

Then there's the special case of what they ought to do to Black Spot himself, who has likely been central to making Iraq a bigger and deadlier version of what Central America was in the Reagan years- and will likely do here at home if he isn't stopped.

Watch Out What You Ask For- You Might Get It

My favorite Princeton economist does it again.

What happens if China listens to us and actually revalues the Yuan?

Over the last few years China, for its own reasons, has acted as an enabler both of U.S. fiscal irresponsibility and of a return to Nasdaq-style speculative mania, this time in the housing market. Now the U.S. government is finally admitting that there's a problem - but it's asserting that the problem is China's, not ours.

And there's no sign that anyone in the administration has faced up to an unpleasant reality: the U.S. economy has become dependent on low-interest loans from China and other foreign governments, and it's likely to have major problems when those loans are no longer forthcoming.

Here's how the U.S.-China economic relationship currently works:

Money is pouring into China, both because of its rapidly rising trade surplus and because of investments by Western and Japanese companies. Normally, this inflow of funds would be self-correcting: both China's trade surplus and the foreign investment pouring in would push up the value of the yuan, China's currency, making China's exports less competitive and shrinking its trade surplus.

But the Chinese government, unwilling to let that happen, has kept the yuan down by shipping the incoming funds right back out again, buying huge quantities of dollar assets - about $200 billion worth in 2004, and possibly as much as $300 billion worth this year. This is economically perverse: China, a poor country where capital is still scarce by Western standards, is lending vast sums at low interest rates to the United States.

Yet the U.S. has become dependent on this perverse behavior. Dollar purchases by China and other foreign governments have temporarily insulated the U.S. economy from the effects of huge budget deficits. This money flowing in from abroad has kept U.S. interest rates low despite the enormous government borrowing required to cover the budget deficit.

Low interest rates, in turn, have been crucial to America's housing boom. And soaring house prices don't just create construction jobs; they also support consumer spending because many homeowners have converted rising house values into cash by refinancing their mortgages.

So why is the U.S. government complaining? The Treasury report says nothing at all about how China's currency policy affects the United States - all it offers on the domestic side is the usual sycophantic praise for administration policy. Instead, it focuses on the disadvantages of Chinese policy for the Chinese themselves. Since when is that a major U.S. concern?

In reality, of course, the administration doesn't care about the Chinese economy. It's complaining about the yuan because of political pressure from U.S. manufacturers, which are angry about those Chinese trade surpluses. So it's all politics. And that's the problem: when policy decisions are made on purely political grounds, nobody thinks through their real-world consequences.

Here's what I think will happen if and when China changes its currency policy, and those cheap loans are no longer available. U.S. interest rates will rise; the housing bubble will probably burst; construction employment and consumer spending will both fall; falling home prices may lead to a wave of bankruptcies. And we'll suddenly wonder why anyone thought financing the budget deficit was easy.

It's unlikely at this point China will listen to us.

It is far more likely at this point they'll use their financial clout with us to keep us out of their way.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hot Stuff

Expect more reports like this at a power station near you:

A leak of highly radioactive nuclear fuel dissolved in concentrated nitric acid, enough to half fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, has forced the closure of Sellafield's Thorp reprocessing plant.

The highly dangerous mixture, containing about 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuel, has leaked through a fractured pipe into a huge stainless steel chamber which is so radioactive that it is impossible to enter.

Recovering the liquids and fixing the pipes will take months and may require special robots...

Although most of the material is uranium, the fuel contains about 200kg (440lb) of plutonium, enough to make 20 nuclear weapons, and must be recovered and accounted for to conform to international safeguards aimed at preventing nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands. The liquid will have to be siphoned off and stored until the works can be repaired, but a method of doing this has yet to be devised.

Nuclear power is dirty. It's principal advantage to our government is that it enriches the people who promote our politicians. Oh yeah, and nuclear weapons keep the uppity third world in line.

But not for much longer. Corporations like General Electric and ABB are simply too greedy. Even if they won't risk openly selling their technology to nations like North Korea, they find intermediates who will. As has been posted at this site before, men like Donald Rumsfeld are quite willing to make a tidy profit privately selling nuclear toys to the same nations they rattle their sabers at in public.

Industrial societies need power. I'm a technophile. Technology has a tremendous potential to liberate humanity.

I also recognize the main reason green technologies and alternative energy sources haven't been developed is that they don't have a tremendous profit margin for the energy corporations.

The other factor is this: any inexpensive alternative energy process makes it very difficult for any single nation to lord its superpower status over the rest of the world.

When everyone can make their own, where's the profit in trying to sell it?

Especially if you can't make a buck propagating Endless War at the same time.

"Badges? We Don' Need No Steenkin' Badges!"

Nor search warrants:

The Bush administration and Senate Republican leaders are pushing a plan that would significantly expand the F.B.I.'s power to demand business records in terror investigations without obtaining approval from a judge, officials said on Wednesday.

The proposal, which is likely to be considered next week in a closed session of the Senate intelligence committee, would allow federal investigators to subpoena records from businesses and other institutions without a judge's sign-off if they declared that the material was needed as part of a foreign intelligence investigation...

One provision of the law that has generated perhaps more criticism than any other is Section 215, derided by critics as the "library records" provision. It allows the F.B.I. to go to a secret intelligence court to demand access to material from businesses and other institutions as part of intelligence investigations...

Secret deliberations to create secret powers to create secret courts working with secret laws to no doubt produce secret arrests, secret trials, secret sentences, secret prisons, and secret executions.

Hello, Argentina!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Throwing Rods

I picked up on this over at the sandbox:

The Air Force, saying it must secure space to protect the nation from attack, is seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons, according to White House and Air Force officials.

The proposed change would be a substantial shift in American policy. It would almost certainly be opposed by many American allies and potential enemies, who have said it may create an arms race in space...

Any deployment of space weapons would face financial, technological, political and diplomatic hurdles, although no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction...

With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them...

Yet "there seems little doubt that space-basing of weapons is an accepted aspect of the Air Force" and its plans for the future, Capt. David C. Hardesty of the Naval War College faculty says in a new study...

A new Air Force strategy, Global Strike, calls for a military space plane carrying precision-guided weapons armed with a half-ton of munitions. General Lord told Congress last month that Global Strike would be "an incredible capability" to destroy command centers or missile bases "anywhere in the world."

Pentagon documents say the weapon, called the common aero vehicle, could strike from halfway around the world in 45 minutes. "This is the type of prompt Global Strike I have identified as a top priority for our space and missile force," General Lord said.

The Air Force's drive into space has been accelerated by the Pentagon's failure to build a missile defense on earth. After spending 22 years and nearly $100 billion, Pentagon officials say they cannot reliably detect and destroy a threat today.

"Are we out of the woods? No," Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, who directs the Missile Defense Agency, said in an interview. "We've got a long way to go, a lot of testing to do."

While the Missile Defense Agency struggles with new technology for a space-based laser, the Air Force already has a potential weapon in space.

In April, the Air Force launched the XSS-11, an experimental microsatellite with the technical ability to disrupt other nations' military reconnaissance and communications satellites.

Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan.

Star Wars?

Rumsfeld's basing the defense of the nation on secret weapons his posse cooked up after seeing Akira.

Of course, none of these are "weapons of mass destruction". We would never orbit anything like that. Being against international law and all.

Of course given the general level of competence of the TheoCons and their scientific expertise, they probably never will.

Addendum for Spocko: Unsurprisingly somebody in Rumsfeld's Lean Mean Air Force Machine forgot to do the math about the Hot Rods from God. According to Noah Shactman, to make them at all accurate, they have to launch them from low orbit, greatly decreasing the kinetic energy they can impart to the projectiles.

It works out to only a fraction of the energy of a conventional explosive per unit mass.

Your tax dollars at work- straight into the pockets of Northrop-Grumman and the Carlyle Group.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More Like Mr. Galloway, Please

Of course, if he was an American, they'd have slapped him with contempt of Congress and shipped him to Uzbekistan for questioning.

What did he say to the Senators who asked him about Oil-for-Food?

"...I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

"I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

"I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

"I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

“Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

“Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.”

“Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let’s be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had ‘many meetings’ with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

“I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as “many meetings” with Saddam Hussein.

“As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

“I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

“You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

“Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am ‘the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil’.

“Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that’s been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

“Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

“You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

“There were 270 names on that list originally. That’s somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

“You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I’ve never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he’s your prisoner, I believe he’s in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

“I’m not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

“And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

“Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where’s the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

“Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I’ll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don’t know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

“Whilst I’m on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don’t you think I have a right to know? Don’t you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

“Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

“You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph’s documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph’s documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

“And yet you’ve allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

“But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

“Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you’re such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

“In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there’s nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

“The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It’s a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

“Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life’s blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

“Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq’s wealth.

“Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq’s wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq’s money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

“Have a look at the oil that you didn’t even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

“Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government.”

Thanks to Moon of Alabama for the link.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Backpedals on Old News

Sorry, True Believers.

Newsweek really needs to retract its retraction.

Insulting muslims by trashing their religion and the Koran has been around since Gitmo. Since Abu Ghirab.

Evidence from multiple sources that actually follow events in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest the rioting started well before the Newsweek "revelation".

In fact, the whole "revelation"-retraction incident smells like a Rovian set-up, a media circus designed to keep the need for Good News on the TV screen and the Bu$hCo record off.

The Great Game by Any Other Name

...is still the Great Game.

(with apologies to proper Historians...)

The day after the bittersweet dialogue between Presidents Bush and Putin during the celebrations for the sixtieth anniversary of the fall of Berlin, the Russian autocrat made a discreet announcement. He is ready to negotiate with Beijing for the construction of an oil pipeline that would carry 30% of the energy resources which China imperatively needs to maintain its present rhythm of economic progress. One must remember that once the project is concluded, China will be more captive to Russian black gold than to that of any other producing country.
- Le Nationalisme Petrolier , Serge Truffaut, translation by Truthout

To Have a Plan Go Bad, First You Have to Have a Plan

Once again, Paul Krugman steps forward to speak the facts:

Staying What Course?

Is there any point, now that November's election is behind us, in revisiting the history of the Iraq war? Yes: any path out of the quagmire will be blocked by people who call their opponents weak on national security, and portray themselves as tough guys who will keep America safe. So it's important to understand how the tough guys made America weak.

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the "Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.

Here's a sample: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and W.M.D. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

(You can read the whole thing at www.downingstreetmemo.com.)

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?

At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable. Reports from the recent offensive near the Syrian border sound just like those from a 1960's search-and-destroy mission, body count and all. Stories filed by reporters actually with the troops suggest that the insurgents, forewarned, mostly melted away, accepting battle only where and when they chose.

Meanwhile, America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating.

Next year, reports Jane's Defense Industry, the United States will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the Pentagon now admits that our military is having severe trouble attracting recruits, and would have difficulty dealing with potential foes - those that, unlike Saddam's Iraq, might pose a real threat.

In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.

So what's the plan?

The people who sold us this war continue to insist that success is just around the corner, and that things would be fine if the media would just stop reporting bad news. But the administration has declared victory in Iraq at least four times. January's election, it seems, was yet another turning point that wasn't.

Yet it's very hard to discuss getting out. Even most of those who vehemently opposed the war say that we have to stay on in Iraq now that we're there.

In effect, America has been taken hostage. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the terrible scenes that will surely unfold if we leave (even though terrible scenes are unfolding while we're there). Nobody wants to tell the grieving parents of American soldiers that their children died in vain. And nobody wants to be accused, by an administration always ready to impugn other people's patriotism, of stabbing the troops in the back.

But the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger: what threats, exactly, can we make against the North Koreans? That John Bolton will yell at them? And every year that the war goes on, our military gets weaker.

So we need to get beyond the clichés - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout, but we have to tell the Iraqi government that our stay is time-limited, and that it has to find a way to take care of itself. The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.

The Bu$hCo people would be very pleased to have the DINOcrat Congress agitate for a draft right about now.

That would clinch Wrepublican control of Congress in 2006, wouldn't it?

Option"B", please. A way out of Iraq. Today.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Mystery

Why do the Iraqis hate democracy?

No Mystery

It's no democracy.

The mainstream media's ability to delude itself is reaching new heights, as it tries to perpetuate the illusion of our legitimacy in Iraq.

Take the front page of the Week in Review in The New York Pravda: The Mystery of the Insurgency.

In a disingenuous romp through the playland of the neocon, Bennet writes almost in disbelief

Rather than employing the classic rebel tactic of provoking the foreign forces to use clumsy and excessive force and kill civilians, they are cutting out the middleman and killing civilians indiscriminately themselves, in addition to more predictable targets like officials of the new government. Bombings have escalated in the last two weeks, and on Thursday a bomb went off in heavy traffic in Baghdad, killing 21 people.

This surge in the killing of civilians reflects how mysterious the long-term strategy remains - and how the rebels' seeming indifference to the past patterns of insurgency is not necessarily good news for anyone.

It is not surprising that reporters, and evidently American intelligence agents, have had great difficulty penetrating this insurgency. What is surprising is that the fighters have made so little effort to advertise unified goals.

Counter-insurgency experts are baffled, wondering if the world is seeing the birth of a new kind of insurgency; if, as in China in the 1930's or Vietnam in the 1940's, it is taking insurgents a few years to organize themselves; or if, as some suspect, there is a simpler explanation.

"Instead of saying, 'What's the logic here, we don't see it,' you could speculate, there is no logic here," said Anthony James Joes, a professor of political science at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and the author of several books on the history of guerrilla warfare. The attacks now look like "wanton violence," he continued. "And there's a name for these guys: Losers."

"The insurgents are doing everything wrong now," he said. "Or, anyway, I don't understand why they're doing what they're doing."

Bingo. Give the man a cigar. It's option "B".

You don't understand what they're doing, Professor.

The real irony of it is the author may well understand what they're doing, but he had to hide at the end of the article- only to immediately give it the official dismissal.

Among Iraq's insurgents, the jihadists are one group that has suggested a sweeping goal. They want to establish a new caliphate - a religious regime with expansive boundaries. For them, the destruction and chaos in Iraq may represent creative forces, means of heightening the contrasts among sects, religions and whole civilizations. Searching for parallels, several experts compared the insurgents in Iraq to the violent anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That movement took root among the alienated and uprooted who could find no place in modern society.

Yet it may prove to be one of history's humbling lessons that history itself fails to illuminate the conflict under way in Iraq. No one really knows what the insurgents are up to...

Only those who choose to forget the lessons of history themselves, Mr. Bennet.

Bernhard decodes it well.

...Bennet's piece is excellent. Yes, he had to code the original a bit to keep his pay check, but then, what do you expect from a mainstream journalists.

Just replace 'black' with 'white', 'insurgency' with 'occupation force' and the 'new caliphate' with the 'promised land' and you will see the real meaning. Apply this to your daily dose of newspaper reading, and you may even start to feel informed.

The comments are pointed, too:

Is that ever occurred to an American that Iraqis may not be unhappy just because of “poor electricity and water service and high unemployment” but because of not wanting to see their country and their oil occupied by American corporations and their bloody Army? I mean really it’s so bloody stupid to mention electricity and water as a cause of anger after you killed 2X 100000 Iraqis (who have relatives you know)

The Americans (US/UK) have nothing to propose and care nothing about stabilising, organising, ‘freeing’, Iraq. Or even making decent money by organising the oil industry...

There is no mystery here. Iraqis will either work for low pay for the Americans (the puppet Gvmt., American companies, sub contractors..) or they will not live. They will not be allowed to produce their own food, but will have to import, particularly, grain from Australia. They will not be permitted health care or clean water - that is wasteful expense. (Echoes of the US today...)

It is an experiment. Slow but steady. if it does not work out, well, too bad. There are other places, other times.

Meanwhile, Americans sit on the oil and won’t or can’t pump it. Iraqis queue for 10 liters of petrol. No one else can have it. That is all. Certainly not the Chinese...

Of course, they're experimenting on us, too.

Secretary of State Rice continues to show her talent for a bare faced lie, like "This war came to us, not the other way around."

Jesus the Barbarian loves the child who takes his own.

But sometimes, even the best schemes aren't totally water tight. This leaked out in the recent British re-$election:

...Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Lambert's produced a good summary - mixed with quite a bit of outrage- of how intelligence was manipulated for the election of 2004.

The aftermath? Consider the Dominion. A jihad by any other name serves just as well.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

'Til Death Do You Part

The U.S. military has the right to keep soldiers in service beyond their original contracted time by issuing so-called emergency stop-loss orders, a U.S. appeals court said on Friday.

The U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals said the military acted within its rights when it ordered Emiliano Santiago, an Army National Guard sergeant, to remain in the service beyond the time of his eight-year contract after his unit was ordered to active duty.

Thanks to BuzzFlash for the link.

The Yes Men

Monkey Warfare at its best. Disclaimer: Singularity in no way condones illegal action as a response to retaliate against an illegal and unethical subversion of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I would never suggest that.

identity theft
Small-time criminals impersonate honest people in order to steal their money. Targets are ordinary folks whose ID numbers fell into the wrong hands.

identity correction
Honest people impersonate big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.

Hilarious, if they can stay out of Gitmo.

Thanks to BuzzFlash for the link.

Feeding the Tiger Your Arm to Keep Him From Biting Your Head Off

Digby writes in Revival Hype about how pointless accomodation is in the struggle for freedom from a state religion.

Apparently, all religions that fall under the Judeo-Christian "umbrella" are non-sectarian, which I suppose is a form of progress. But you can't just let any old religion be officially recognized in public functions. Ones that aren't drawn from the old testament, anyway...

The danger is that the ones who are fighting on the principle that Christianity should be part of civic life are also the ones who are not giving any ground. And they won't. They are thinking long term -- patiently chipping away at the principle of separation of church and state, while the rest of us say "lighten up" to the ACLU, who is taking a principled stance on trivial issues so that we can make a consistent argument when it comes to fighting for the important ones. Like teaching creationism in the public schools...

And needless to say, as our ethnic make-up continues to change, in which Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians and others continue to immigrate and pass their belief systems to their children, we are going to see a continuance of the explosive growth in those religions and philosophies as we've seen in the last thirty years. There is a huge potential for strife in our future if we continue down this road of establishing the "Judeo-Christian" umbrella as a quasi official religion...

But that's the idea, isn't it? You can't have martial law if there's no civil unrest. Believe it, trying to establish a state religion will produce nothing but civil unrest.

Friday, May 13, 2005

This is Not a Victory

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent the nomination of John R. Bolton to the full Senate without a recommendation for its approval, after Republicans fell short of the solid support among their members necessary to endorse him as ambassador to the United Nations.

...Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement saying she was "pleased" by the committee vote and calling on the Senate to "now move quickly to confirm him so that he can begin his work at the United Nations."

Recommendation? They don't care about a recommendation. As long as he's on the Senate floor, he'll get the votes.

And with the votes, the Moustache of Sauron gets to go to the U.N. To trash all those humanitarian intitiatives. He's there to piss off all the developing world, to bewilder and enrage the Security Council.

This man is supposed to incite Armageddon. It doesn't matter that Bolton, the AEI, or the Theocons understand what they're doing. Bolton's a catalyst, and it's apparent he has no clue about anything but the surface consequences of his actions.

It's his job to be grating, arrogant, jingoistic, and stupid.

So the War Machine rolls on.

When You Believe in Things You Don't Understand, You Might Support Things You Don't Believe

Issues aren't always what they seem on the front lines of the culture wars. A lot of times battle lines are being drawn by players you might not expect. From The Poor Man

"...the battle between the Christian right and advocates of church/state separation is not necessarily a left/right ideological conflict. The conflict is, in fact, only one theatre in a worldwide battle between fundamentalism and the Enlightenment. In this context, the Dominionist wing of the Christian right probably has more in common with Hamas than they do with the staff of William Buckley’s National Review..."
-Max Blumenthal

One thing people could do is stop referring to this movement as “Christian” - it isn’t. And I don’t mean that like “they aren’t true to the spirit of Jesus’ message” or any of that crap - while the core of the movement is Christian Dominionists, they are more than willing to join forces with anyone with an anti-modern agenda, and that’s what makes them so dangerous...

As [Sun Myung] Moon owns the Washington Times, the flagship newspaper of “respectable” wingnuttery, Blumenthal is going to be waiting quite some time for National Review’s Kurtz or WSJ Editorial page’s Taranto to acknowledge that there’s something else going on here than decent American Christians just trying to practice their religion without being hassled by militant atheists.

But there isn’t any point in waiting. This is not a Christian movement - sure, there are Christians in it, but most Americans are nominally Christian, so that can hardly be considered a distinguishing feature. It is an anti-modern, theocratic, and radical right-wing movement. Calling it “Christian” movement is not only inaccurate, but it cedes the middle ground to this fringe freak show. This was obvious with Schaivo, it is obvious in Kansas, and it’s obvious to anyone who isn’t one with them or paid to do their PR...

Go read it all, and get a little Enlightenment.