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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Black Spot Gets His Posse On

Bush to Create New Unit in F.B.I. for Intelligence

President Bush on Wednesday ordered changes intended to break down old walls between foreign and domestic intelligence activities by creating a new national security division within the Federal Bureau of Investigation that will fall under the overall direction of John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence...

The White House announced the step as it accepted nearly all of the dozens of recommendations made three months ago by a nine-member presidential commission, headed by Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, that reviewed the law that created Mr. Negroponte's post.

The law left Mr. Negroponte with clear control over the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies that operate abroad, but the commission warned in a report in March that the legislation left his influence over the F.B.I. "troublingly vague," hampering effective oversight of the nation's intelligence operations.

Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said the changes would allow Mr. Negroponte to wield influence and seek information down to the level of each of the F.B.I.'s field offices...

...the changes would "ensure that the F.B.I.'s intelligence elements are responsive" to Mr. Negroponte. It said that the new security division, the National Security Service, to be headed by a senior F.B.I. official, would include the bureau's counterterrorism and counterintelligence divisions, as well as its intelligence directorate, and that all would be "subject to the coordination and budget powers" of the new intelligence chief.

The change ordered by Mr. Bush will create a new, semi-autonomous service within a service, headed by a chief who will report both to Mr. Negroponte and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller...

One wonders where he's going to find his staff; possibly the same places he found help in the Honduras or Iraq..

Keep an eye out for Homeland Security outsourcing to these corporations:

* Aegis Defence Services
* AirScan Inc.
* AKE Limited
* Anteon International Corp.
* ArmorGroup
* Blackwater USA
* CACI International
* Cochise Consultancy Inc.
* Control Risks Group
* Cubic Corporation
* Custer Battles
* Defence Systems Limited
* Defense Security Training Service Corporation
* Diligence, LLC
* DynCorp
* Erinys International Ltd.
* Executive Outcomes
* Genric, Ltd.
* Global Marine Security Systems Company
* Global Options, Inc.
* Global Risk Strategies
* Golan Group
* Group 4 Securicor
* Hart Group
* Hill and Associates
* International Charter Incorporated of Oregon
* ISEC Corporate Security, Ltd.
* Janusian Security Risk Management Ltd.
* Keenie Meenie Services
* Kellogg Brown and Root
* Kroll, Inc.
* Levdan, Ltd.
* Management and Training Corporation
* Meteoric Tactical Solutions
* Meyer and Associates
* Military Professional Resources Inc.
* Northbridge Services Group, Ltd.
* Pistris, Inc.
* Olive Security
* Pacific Architects and Engineers, Inc.
* Rubicon International Services, Ltd.
* Saladin Security
* Sandline International
* Science Applications International Corporation
* Silver Shadow
* Southern Cross Security
* Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group
* Special Ops Associates
* Steele Foundation
* THULE Global Security International
* Titan Corporation
* Triple Canopy Inc.
* Vinnell Corporation
* Vinnell Brown and Root (VBR)
* WVC3 Group, Inc.

These are all corporations who've worked to make a business of what used to be against international law.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ideas from Old F(r)iends

The United Nations says it has learned of serious allegations that the US is secretly detaining terrorism suspects, notably on American military ships.

This was a real popular thing to do back when Pinochet ruled Chile.

There's another Company player. A Nixon favorite. Wonderful how the best gifts just keep giving and giving.

Like We Never Guessed

Peter Phillips says

A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests. The following are but a few of the corporate board interlocks for the big ten media giants in the US:

* New York Times: Caryle Group, Eli Lilly, Ford, Johnson and Johnson, Hallmark, Lehman Brothers, Staples, Pepsi

* Washington Post: Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola, Dun & Bradstreet, Gillette, G.E. Investments, J.P. Morgan, Moody's

* Knight-Ridder: Adobe Systems, Echelon, H&R Block, Kimberly-Clark, Starwood Hotels

* The Tribune (Chicago & LA Times): 3M, Allstate, Caterpillar, Conoco Phillips, Kraft, McDonalds, Pepsi, Quaker Oats, Shering Plough, Wells Fargo

* News Corp (Fox): British Airways, Rothschild Investments

* GE (NBC): Anheuser-Busch, Avon, Bechtel, Chevron/Texaco, Coca-Cola, Dell, GM, Home Depot, Kellogg, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Motorola, Procter & Gamble

* Disney (ABC): Boeing, Northwest Airlines, Clorox, Estee Lauder, FedEx, Gillette, Halliburton, Kmart, McKesson, Staples, Yahoo

* Viacom (CBS): American Express, Consolidated Edison, Oracle, Lafarge North America

* Gannett: AP, Lockheed-Martin, Continental Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, Target, Pepsi

* AOL-Time Warner (CNN): Citigroup, Estee Lauder, Colgate-Palmolive, Hilton

Can we trust the news editors at the Washington Post to be fair and objective regarding news stories about Lockheed-Martin defense contract over-runs? Or can we assuredly believe that ABC will conduct critical investigative reporting on Halliburton's sole-source contracts in Iraq? If we believe the corporate media give us the full un-censored truth about key issues inside the special interests of American capitalism, then we might feel that they are meeting the democratic needs of mainstream America. However if we believe - as increasingly more Americans do- that corporate media serves its own self-interests instead of those of the people, than we can no longer call it mainstream or refer to it as plural. Instead we need to say that corporate media is corporate America, and that we the mainstream people need to be looking at alternative independent sources for our news and information.

Now go back and count how many, like Citigroup, are affiliated with the Carlyle Group and individuals like Al-Waleed bin Talal.

Thanks to the nattering nabob at Eschaton.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


From a scant six months ago,
What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing."

...the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras. There is no evidence, however, that Negroponte knew anything about the Salvadoran death squads or the Iran-Contra scandal at the time. The Iraq ambassador, in a phone call to NEWSWEEK on Jan. 10, said he was not involved in military strategy in Iraq. He called the insertion of his name into this report "utterly gratuitous.")

He knew nothing about it, because he wasn't there at the planning, and even if he was, it didn't happen, because it's classified.

But the home boys were called in last year.

If Jose Miguel Pizarro has his way, he will recruit 30,000 Chileans as mercenaries to protect American companies under Pentagon contract to rebuild Iraq. And undoubtedly, within those ranks will be former members of death squads that tortured and murdered civilians when dictatorships ruled in Latin America.

"There is no comparison with what they can earn in the active military or working in civilian jobs, and what we offer," Jose Miguel Pizarro, Chile's leading recruiter for international security firms, says. "This is an opportunity that few in Chile can afford to pass up."

Pizarro's firm, Servicios Integrales, was contracted by Blackwater USA to recruit the first batch of Chileans in November 2003. By May 2004 he had placed 5,200 men who, after one week of training in Santiago, head to North Carolina for orientation with Blackwater, the private security firm that made headlines when four of its employees where killed in Falluja, their bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge. After training, Blackwater flies the men to Kuwait City to await their assignments in Iraq...

They're finding dozens of fresh bodies at a time frequently now, although you don't hear much about it in the main$tream media. We're much more worried about the Runaway Bride. Or is that too last week?

It's not even clear who's killing them. Maybe every faction there is involved at this point: Sunni, Shiite, Baathist, Blackwater, DynCorp, Special Forces, Wahhabi Jihadist, Al Qaeda, CIA. They're killing whoever is in the wrong place at the wrong time or says the wrong thing to the wrong person or maybe is just in the way.

Hearts and minds. Bu$hCo is doing it's usual job keeping them.

The president's preference for friendly audiences is well established, demonstrated by Bush's repeated appearances before invitation-only "town hall" crowds to promote his Social Security plan. It's a pattern he followed in his 2004 re-election campaign.

Few audiences are as predictably friendly as military ones, duty-bound to show respect for their commander in chief, often bursting into raucous whoops.

Bush's audience Tuesday evening was unusually quiet while the president spoke, however, applauding in unison after one key passage, as if on cue, and then at the end.

They're the toughest people we have, but applauding the man who throws their lives away to enrich himself, his minions, and his owners?

That's one job I don't envy them.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay Real Strange

Looks like it's more of the shell game from the people that gave you Dick Nixon and secret wars in Cambodia and Colombia.

The White House has decided to reject classified recommendations by a presidential commission that would have given the Pentagon greater authority to conduct covert action, senior government officials said Monday.

The decision is a victory for the Central Intelligence Agency, which has long been the principal architect and instrument of the secretive operations. The agency has been struggling to retain its authority in the power structure headed by John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, especially as the Pentagon has pressed for a greater role in intelligence operations.

The White House will also designate the C.I.A. as the main manager of the government's human spying operations, even those conducted by the Pentagon and the F.B.I., the officials said...

The decision marks the second time in a year that the White House has rejected a high-level recommendation to transfer some C.I.A. powers to the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 commission recommended that the agency's special paramilitary unit be transferred to the Pentagon, but the White House decided in November to maintain that capacity at the C.I.A., while also moving to strengthen the Pentagon's paramilitary capacities.

Under Mr. Negroponte, who took office in April as part of the biggest intelligence overhaul in four decades, the C.I.A. no longer has the pre-eminence it commanded for decades. The director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, no longer regularly attends either the daily morning briefings for President Bush or regular meetings of Mr. Bush's principal foreign policy advisers.

But in addressing the commission's recommendations, the White House appears to have decided to maintain the C.I.A.'s predominance in both covert action and human spying, the areas in which the agency has most rigorously defended its turf.

Under law, covert actions may be carried out only with presidential authorization and Congressional notification, and those operations are devised so that American government involvement is disguised and meant never to be acknowledged.

Poor Porter Goss, shut out of a tedious morning meeting with the Clueless-in-Chief.

Porter Goss, veteran of the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy assasinations, the Congressional support of Reagan's secret wars, and the NeoCon takeover of Congress.

The man who overtly left the CIA agency for Congress, claiming it was "too gun shy".

Sounds more like a blank check and plausible deniability to me.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Orwell Would Understand

The Rude Pundit observes well:

...We also know that what we see at Disney World is but a small, small glimmer of the truth of the place. Below Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are tunnels, vast mazes of tunnels, where the workers move between rides and spaces in the parks so they can magically appear. Once you fall from grace, like losing belief in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and Uncle Sam, and you see the calculated, sweaty machine beneath Main Street, U.S.A., you can never be innocent again.

Not to belabor the point, but the Bush administration is the Disney World front of geopolitics. What were the appearances of Donald Rumsfeld on various and sundry Sunday morning gabfests but attempts to continue the illusions about Iraq. And what was the joint mini-press conference between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Jafaari but the mad charade of equivalence. Of course Cinderella really lives in the castle. Of course Jafaari is a sovereign leader.

Little actually needs to be said about the events themselves. (And the transcripts of the Meet the Press and Fox “News” Sunday interviews are tediously, frighteningly the same.) For little was spoken that was actually news. Yeah, yeah, Rumsfeld said the insurgency could go on for a dozen years. And he would not admit a single mistake or misstep or miscalculation or misstatement or missed opportunity or a motherfuckin’ thing about troop strength, “last throes,” pre-war plans, or Karl Rove’s belches of hate, other than that he didn’t know, he’s not “political,” and history will judge him. Rumsfeld sounded like nothing so much as a man who knows that history is going to drag him into a sodomy pit and fuck him ruthlessly, repeatedly, as one should be if one is dragged into a sodomy pit.

And as for that sham press conference where you couldn’t figure out where one lie ended and another one started? Well, no muss, no fuss, no dismembered corpses in Fantasyland. All teacups and submarines, and, for certain, it’s a small world after all...

Billmon also had a word or two to say this weekend about errors of perception :

...the media's probes, while timid, have revealed the administration's defenses. These consist of minimizing the importance of the contacts, denying that they're news ("hell, we've been negotiating with terrorists for years!") or trying to fob responsibility off on the Iraqi government. Rumsfeld apparently opted for the shotgun approach, scattering all three rationalizations at once.

This was predictable, but not nearly as amusing -- in the by-now creepily familiar Orwellian way -- as Rummy's attempt to create a fresh linguistic distinction between the Sunni insurgents and the foreign terrorists:

"They [contacts] go on all the time,” he added. “Second, the Iraqis have a sovereign government. They will decide what their relationships with various elements of insurgents will be. We facilitate those [relationships] from time to time."

But Mr. Rumsfeld said no negotiations are taking place with hardened terrorist elements belonging to al-Qaida or those, as he put it, "with blood on their hands." (emphasis added)

I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more about this crucial difference in the weeks and months ahead. Hell, before you know it -- depending on how the talks go -- Rummy may be referring to them as Sunni "freedom fighters."

But such abrupt shifts in the party line are always jarring -- as in Orwell's famous description of Big Brother's security agents frantically ripping down propaganda posters that suddenly had the name of the wrong enemy on them. It wasn't too long ago (four months, to be exact) that our Cheerleader-in-Chief was lumping all "anti-Iraqi" forces together in the same Islamofascist stew:

"Terrorists and insurgents are violently opposed to democracy, and will continue to attack it. Yet the terrorists' most powerful myth is being destroyed. The whole world is seeing that the car bombers and assassins are not only fighting coalition forces, they are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis, expressed in free elections.

And the whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people."

This, of course, was the party line for many moons. It was not, however, the original line. In the good old days -- back when Bush was still posing in his flight suit -- the insurgents were usually painted as a motley crew of "former regime elements" and "Baathist dead enders," reinforced by "criminals and thugs" released from Saddam's jails. Foreign terrorists, when they were mentioned at all, were a distinctly secondary propaganda element.

All this changed in the spring of last year, when the insurgency exploded into full view of the folks back home. The tidal wave of bad news -- Americans burned alive in Fallujah, the revolt of Moqtada Sadr's Shi'a militia, Abu Ghraib, the failure of the WMD snipe hunt -- apparently convinced the White House spin doctors that the war in Iraq had to be tied much more closely to the war against Al Qaeda.

The result was a sudden, obsessive focus on the evil al-Zarqawi and his jihadi legions -- as when Dan Senor, the GOP campaign mouthpiece turned coalition spokesman, tried to blame Zarqawi for the entire Fallujah debacle:

The problem here is not with the Fallujans, the problem here is not with the coalition. The problem here is with foreign fighters, international terrorists, people like Zarqawi, who we believe to be in Fallujah or nearby.

Here's Rummy, banging on the same propaganda drum back at the Pentagon:

"The terrorists, assassins are threatened by the Iraqi's people's progress toward self-government, because they know that they will have no future in a free Iraq. They know, as al Qaeda associate Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi put it in his letter recently, that we intercepted: 'Democracy is coming.' "

From that point forward, administration officials usually made a special point of referring to the Iraqi resistance as "the terrorists" -- and even launched a mini-campaign to pressure the media into using either that word or the newly invented phrase "anti-Iraq forces" instead of the more neutral "insurgents" or "insurgency."

But now the whole world (or at least, that part which reads the newspapers) knows that "terrorists" and "assassins" are the administration's new negotiating partners. Since Bush has a rock-hard policy of never negotiating with such people, the only solution is a rhetorical one. The line must be changed again. New labels must be invented and applied to those insurgents who "don't have blood on their hands." (Roughly the gazillionth oxymoron created by the administration in this war. But whose counting?)

It's definitely going to be an Orwellian challenge. Even if Rummy and the gang drop the "terrorist" and "assassin" lingo and go back to "former regime elements," or "Baathist diehards," they still will have to explain the morality of negotiating with butchers who gas their own people and then bury them in mass graves (that is, when they aren't relaxing in their rape rooms.) Such is the problem with wartime atrocity propaganda: In a rapidly shifting situation, it may have too long a shelf life.

An Orwellian challenge, but one I'm sure the Cheney administration is up to meeting -- especially since the corporate media and a sizable fraction of the American people now seem to carry portable memory holes around in their own heads.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Let the Jingoism Begin

When the Chinese offered to out bid one of the Carlyle Group's better performers for a smaller but highly profitable Central Asian oil-and-gas company also based in California it not only threw down the economic gauntlet to the capitalist free traders of the West, it must have stoked the fires of dissent on the board of the Group.

Today in The New York Pravda the NeoLiberal Nicholas D. Kristof leaves off his usual praise of Dear Leader's Wisdom.

"The biggest risk we Americans face to our way of life and our place in the world probably doesn't come from Al Qaeda or the Iraq war.

Rather, the biggest risk may come from this administration's fiscal recklessness and the way this is putting us in hock to China..."

Wrong on more counts than even Kristof realizes, he violates the Hitchhiker's First Rule.

He panics, big time.

Al Qaeda and the Iraq war may be genuine threats to America, but certainly not in any way Kristof has ever written about. Al Qaeda has been doing a stunningly effective job of turning America into an oligarchic theocracy. Iraq never threatened us for a moment until we decided to de-secularize its Arabic culture by invasion.

Even now, both of these threats could be ended in the length of time it would take the Cheney Administration to pack up their bags and leave Washington.

Many others firmly think as I do that China is no threat to America, but I will agree, as I have since Bill Clinton's Presidency, that one of Bu$hCo's talents has been to utterly wreck any budget they're put in charge of mismanaging.

From the panic reaction I'd say the Company, never impressed with the abilities of Poppy's errant son, has decided to get serious with the sloppiness of the War faction. Although this move by China is predictable. The Company seemed pretty happy for their Bank of America minions to get a $3 billion chunk of China Construction Bank or with their Citigroup deal for Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and a lien on Chinese credit.

No wonder Big Time Dick checked in to the hospital with a little shortness of breath last week.

But don't worry, the Soros faction minions might be gulping Maalox, but he checked out fine, he spent the weekend in South Dakota, huntin' an' fishin' and thinkin' 'bout his next moves for Global Domination.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Aghast and Adrift: a Change in the Current

Not neccessarily in the order the Editors would have liked.

...lawmakers stressed caution. "We must be thoughtful in our actions and get it right," said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Finance Committee. "We can't afford to act rashly, and get it wrong."

Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, complained that the administration had made little progress in prodding China over its trade and currency policies. "They've kind of told us to take a hike," Mr. Bunning said.

"What the administration wants to do is avoid putting all these issues together into what some would want to call a single 'coherent' China policy,' " he said. "A 'coherent' policy would probably be one that sees China as an emerging adversary."

No it wouldn't, but that's what Karl Rove, John Bolton, and Dick Cheney would like you to think is the only kind of coherence America has.

The problem?

...the political debate about China is lagging behind events on the ground. The $18 billion bid for Unocal by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation ( CNOOC), China's third-largest oil company, was merely the latest and by far the biggest move by a Chinese company to buy a formidable American company.

The move represents an evolution for China from being a major exporter, using its earnings to acquire Treasury securities, to becoming a significant foreign investor in hard assets as well.

...For months, many lawmakers in both parties have become almost frantic about China's soaring trade surplus and its impact on American manufacturers. Anxiety is so high that Republican lawmakers from industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania are loath to vote for anything that sounds like a free-trade agreement.

But anxiety is at least as great about a disruption of American business ties to China.

"I think there is a reluctance to confront China," said Representative Phil English, a Republican from Pennsylvania and the leader of the Congressional steel caucus. "The problem is that many companies are depending on Chinese inputs and on imported goods to sell at retailers."

China is also a leading creditor of the United States; it acquired more than $200 billion of Treasury securities over the last year.

Moreover, China is already home to a growing number of American-owned factories, many of them exporting to the United States, and a large number of factories that are suppliers to American companies...

The negative trade balance is something the robber barons could care less about as long as they own the factories and exploit the cheap- often prison labor. The fat cats' problem is nicely summarized here. Unocal, the Company subsidiary of the Carlyle Group we gave Afghanistan to after 9-11, is basically an Asian company in China's back yard.

So they would like it themselves. They're being polite: they're offering more for it than Chevron did. Of course, if Chevron took over, it's still in the family.

That's the essence of the problem. The Chinese government directly backs all of its corporations, unlike the United States, where the corporations secretly control the government. So the Chinese government's been nibbling: "the committee permitted the $1.75 billion sale of I.B.M.'s personal computer business to Lenovo of China." Now Team Xinhua's starting to take big bites of the pie owned by the owners of Bu$hCo.

And if we piss them off, why, they simply cash in all their Treasury bonds.

Cleaning out the Treasury, and the cash cow the Carlyle Group depends on.

The Saudis are likely pissing blood right now and wondering about their hot date.

John Bolton is, too.

The rest of the world? If the United States insists on letting a crowd of oligarchs take it over, and the World has to choose between Chinese oligarchs and Bu$hCo 'Murikan oligarchs, it seems Team Xinhua wins the popularity contest in many circles.


It's something to do with the fact China doesn't start pre-emptive wars against other nations. Nor has it ever dropped an nuke on anyone. Things like that get you talked about.

Factoids From the Factbook

Facts from the CIA Factbook :

For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight...

total: 9,596,960 sq km
land: 9,326,410 sq km
water: 270,550 sq km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than the US
Land boundaries:
total: 22,117 km
border countries: Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Mongolia 4,677 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia (northwest) 40 km, Tajikistan 414 km, Vietnam 1,281 km
regional borders: Hong Kong 30 km, Macau 0.34 km
1,306,313,812 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 21.4% (male 148,134,928/female 131,045,415)
15-64 years: 71% (male 477,182,072/female 450,664,933)
65 years and over: 7.6% (male 47,400,282/female 51,886,182) (2005 est.)
Median age:
total: 32.26 years
male: 31.87 years
female: 32.67 years (2005 est.)
221 BC (unification under the Qin or Ch'in Dynasty); 1 January 1912 (Manchu Dynasty replaced by a Republic); 1 October 1949 (People's Republic established)

Economy - overview:
In late 1978 the Chinese leadership began moving the economy from a sluggish, inefficient, Soviet-style centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented system. Whereas the system operates within a political framework of strict Communist control, the economic influence of non-state organizations and individual citizens has been steadily increasing. The authorities switched to a system of household and village responsibility in agriculture in place of the old collectivization, increased the authority of local officials and plant managers in industry, permitted a wide variety of small-scale enterprises in services and light manufacturing, and opened the economy to increased foreign trade and investment.

The result has been a quadrupling of GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2004 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US, although in per capita terms the country is still poor. Agriculture and industry have posted major gains especially in coastal areas near Hong Kong and opposite Taiwan and in Shanghai, where foreign investment has helped spur output of both domestic and export goods.

The leadership, however, often has experienced - as a result of its hybrid system - the worst results of socialism (bureaucracy and lassitude) and of capitalism (growing income disparities and rising unemployment). China thus has periodically backtracked, retightening central controls at intervals.
The government has struggled to (a) sustain adequate jobs growth for tens of millions of workers laid off from state-owned enterprises, migrants, and new entrants to the work force; (b) reduce corruption and other economic crimes; and (c) keep afloat the large state-owned enterprises, many of which had been shielded from competition by subsidies and had been losing the ability to pay full wages and pensions.

From 100 to 150 million surplus rural workers are adrift between the villages and the cities, many subsisting through part-time, low-paying jobs. Popular resistance, changes in central policy, and loss of authority by rural cadres have weakened China's population control program, which is essential to maintaining long-term growth in living standards. At the same time, one demographic consequence of the "one child" policy is that China is now one of the most rapidly aging countries in the world.

Another long-term threat to growth is the deterioration in the environment - notably air pollution, soil erosion, and the steady fall of the water table especially in the north. China continues to lose arable land because of erosion and economic development.

As part of its effort to gradually slow the rapid economic growth seen in 2004, Beijing says it will reduce somewhat its spending on infrastructure in 2005, while continuing to focus on poverty relief and through rural tax reform. Accession to the World Trade Organization helps strengthen its ability to maintain strong growth rates but at the same time puts additional pressure on the hybrid system of strong political controls and growing market influences. China has benefited from a huge expansion in computer Internet use, with 94 million users at the end of 2004.

Foreign investment remains a strong element in China's remarkable economic growth. Shortages of electric power and raw materials may affect industrial output in 2005. More power generating capacity is scheduled to come on line in 2006. In its rivalry with India as an economic power, China has a lead in the absorption of technology, the rising prominence in world trade, and the alleviation of poverty; India has one important advantage in its relative mastery of the English language, but the number of competent Chinese English-speakers is growing rapidly.
Military branches:
People's Liberation Army (PLA): Ground Forces, Navy (including marines and naval aviation), Air Force (including Airborne Forces), and II Artillery Corps (strategic missile force); People's Armed Police Force (internal security troops considered to be an adjunct to the PLA); Militia (2003)
Military manpower - military age and obligation:
18-22 years of age for compulsory military service, with 24-month service obligation; no minimum age for voluntary service; 17 years of age for women who meet requirements for specific military jobs (2004)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 18-49: 342,956,265 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 281,240,272 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 13,186,433 (2005 est.)

Their available military manpower is far greater than the total population of the United States of America.

Think about that one, John Bolton.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Why Did We Go to Iraq?

William Rivers Pitt has it nailed.

...We need wars.

Without wars, the economy flakes and falls apart. Without wars, the trillions of dollars spent on weapons systems, military preparedness and a planetary army would dry up, dealing a death blow to the economy as currently constituted. Without wars or the threat of wars, the populace is not so easily controlled and manipulated.

Let us be clear, however. When I say "we," I do not refer to your average working man and woman on the street. The man running the shoe store or the woman managing the bar does not need war to remain economically viable. The "we" I speak of is that overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful few who have wired their fortunes into the manufacture of weapons, the plumbing of oil, and the collection of spoils through political largesse.

These are the people who need war. They need it to pile up the contracts from the Pentagon, to enrich the banking institutions that protect them, to pay the lawyers who defend them, to pay the lobbyists who sustain them, to purchase the politicians who champion them, and to buy up the media that hides them from sight.

Yet though this group is small in number, they are "we," for they are our leaders and our myth-makers. They have convinced the majority of this population that war is a necessity. They create the premises for combat and invasion, they convince and cajole and, when necessary, frighten us into line. All too often, almost every time, we buy into the fictions they manufacture, thus sustaining the "permanent crisis" mentality and the need for war after war after war.

The economic need for war creates the required excuses for war. The "permanent crisis" of the Cold War motivated the United States to support the Shah in Iran, a decision that led to the Islamic Revolution and the establishment of Iran as a permanent enemy. The Cold War motivated us to support Saddam Hussein financially and militarily as a bulwark against Iran. The Cold War motivated us to establish the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia to ensure a steady supply of oil. The Cold War motivated us to support Osama bin Laden and the so-called "Jihadists" in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet invaders.

Now, we prepare to invade Iran. We have invaded Iraq for the second time in 15 years. We will never invade Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that this nation's vast wealth and Wahabbist extremists make it the birthing bed of international terrorism. We lost two towers in New York City at the hands of a group that we created in the 1980s to fight the Soviets. Put plainly, the "permanent crisis" of the Cold War created a cycle of military self-justification. We build enemies with arms and money, and then we destroy them with arms and money, thus keeping our wartime economy afloat.

The Cold War ended more than ten years ago, but we still need war, and we need that "permanent crisis" to continue the cycle of military self-justification. If a legitimate war is not available, we will create one because we have to. We have our new "permanent crisis," which we call the War on Terror, another turn of the cycle created by an attack that our foreign policy and war-justifications of the last 50 years made almost inevitable.

We need wars. That's why we are in Iraq. This invasion and occupation of that nation has given our economy the war it needs, and has also created the justification for future wars by creating legions of enemies in the Mideast and around the world. Our wartime economy will tolerate no less.

Talking about Bush's lies regarding weapons of mass destruction, or about bringing democracy to the region, or about the dollar-to-Euro transfer, or about the midterm elections, is window-dressing. We invaded Iraq because we had to. This is the elephant in the room, the foreign policy reality nobody talks about.

If you want peace, work to change the underpinnings of our economy. Until that change is made, there will always be wars, invasions, and lies to brings such things about. It is what it is.

Develop an alternative for fossil fuel, and the cycle of endless wars to enrich the rich begun in the late 19th century will end.

It's quite possible.

It is so easily done with modern biotechnology and chemical engineering and a bit of re-tooling that the now falling fossil oil supply neccessitated the rush to oligarchy by that military-industrial machine known as the Carlyle Group.

If they don't grab power now, in 10-20 years there may be no need for the Princes of the desert and their mercer cadre of Western aristocrats.

You Only Thought Paying the Mortgage Meant It Was Yours

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

And, incidently, enrich whichever local politicians the developers own.

After all, this is what Bu$hCo really means by an ownership society.

Profile Them Young, Profile Them Often

The farmer notices the Department of Defense has enlisted a private contractor to keep an eye on your children.

"The new database will include an array of personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying."

...According to the Federal Register notice, the data will be open to "those who require the records in the performance of their official duties." It said the data would be protected by passwords.

The system also gives the Pentagon the right, without notifying citizens, to share the data for numerous uses outside the military, including with law enforcement, state tax authorities and Congress.

Some see the program as part of a growing encroachment of government into private lives, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It's just typical of how voracious government is when it comes to personal information," said James W. Harper, a privacy expert with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "Defense is an area where government has a legitimate responsibility . . . but there are a lot of data fields they don't need and shouldn't be keeping. Ethnicity strikes me as particularly inappropriate."

Ethnicity? If you're a liberal progressive it's bound to get you the night patrol in Baghdad as your public service. Or a military prison, run by private contractors. Whichever you choose.

It's a free country, you know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Takeover Bid

A Chinese state-controlled oil company made a $18.5 billion unsolicited bid for Unocal today, igniting the first-ever takeover battle between corporations in China and the United States.

The bold bid by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, may be a watershed in Chinese corporate behavior and demonstrates the increasing influence of Wall Street's bare-knuckled tactics in Asia. The offer also illustrates how crucial oil and gas resources are to China given its huge growth.

CNOOC's bid, which comes two months after Unocal agreed to be sold to the American energy giant Chevron for $16.8 billion, is expected to provoke a fierce debate in Washington about the nation's trade policies with China and the role of the two governments in the growing trend of deal making between companies in both countries...

That explains why Bolton and the AEI keep foaming at the mouth about China. Their Carlyle bosses don't like it when people not part of their club play their game. Especially when their competitors own all their markers.

Thanks to Scout Prime for the heads up.

Training Exercises

It's nice to know we're accomplishing something in the world.

WASHINGTON, June 21 - A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Congressional and intelligence officials who described the assessment called it a thorough examination that included extensive discussion of the areas that might be particularly prone to infiltration by combatants from Iraq, either Iraqis or foreigners.

They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980's and 1990's, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

The officials said the report spelled out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980's. It was during that conflict, primarily rural and conventional, that the United States provided arms to Osama bin Laden and other militants, who later formed Al Qaeda...

But don't think it's all one sided.

Iraq is a fine training gound for the best private security contractors in the world.

The Pentagon is falling short on efforts to keep elite special forces units at full strength and now is fighting back dollar by dollar, offering up to $150,000 bonuses to commandos to keep high-paying private security firms from cherry-picking the teams.

Special operations units such as the Green Berets and Navy SEALs are running slightly below their authorized strength, in part because private firms are luring away those troops for work in Iraq and elsewhere by tripling or quadrupling their pay, military officials said...

Military officials seeing a drop in special-forces retention say they have little choice but to compete in the marketplace with companies like Blackwater Security Consulting and Halliburton, who advertise on their Web sites to recruit employees with U.S. special forces training...

Blackwater, based in North Carolina, and Halliburton, based in Texas, don't disguise their desire to lure the highly trained special-forces graduates for security work. Blackwater is a private security company that provides protection for dignitaries, among other duties. Halliburton provides services to U.S. military personnel in Iraq and is not a security company per se, but officials there say the company hires security personnel to consult on safety measures.

Halliburton spokeswoman Jennifer Dellinger said about one-third of Halliburton's employees in Iraq are former military personnel but could not provide figures on how many were former U.S. special forces members. Halliburton's workers in Iraq can make two to three times more than for comparable positions in the United States, she said...

The Company, indeed.

And, what goes around, comes around.

IRAQ: Private Contractors Train Much of the Fledging Police Force

At her confirmation hearing on Jan. 17, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the task of training Iraq's security forces -- its army, police, national guard, and smaller units -- falls to many partners: the U.S. military, NATO, Iraq, Jordan, and other nations. But neither Rice nor Administration officials has yet to mention the significant role being played by private contractors.

Just over 700 contractors -- more than previously disclosed -- are now training in excess of half the Iraqi Police Service, BusinessWeek has learned. In April, 2003, DynCorp announced it had won a $50 million contract to help train "civilian law enforcement, judicial, and correctional agencies." Now, Science Applications International and the United States Investigative Services [USIS] also are playing significant roles in training Iraqi police...

Iraq is a veritable hotbed of education.

To complete this circle of folly, the unthinkable and unspeakable possibility that the main$tream media buried almost as soon as anyone noticed:

Iraqi insurgents and their informants have been infiltrating US and coalition organizations, Iraqi security units, and political parties in growing numbers, posing a daunting challenge to efforts to defeat the guerrillas and create a stable Iraqi state, according to US military officials, Iraq specialists, and a new study of Iraqi security forces.

...and in many cases, they appear to be gathering better intelligence on US military movements and the activities of the new Iraqi government than coalition forces are gathering on guerrilla plans.

''Penetration of Iraqi security and military forces may be the rule, not the exception," according to a draft version of a study of Iraqi security forces by a senior Pentagon consultant.

Military analysts concur that such infiltration is a worsening threat that is undermining US and Iraqi efforts to stand up viable security forces and to protect coalition troops from increasingly deadly attacks.

It's doubtless because they're so well trained.

Remember: they don't get the Blank Check without the Endless War.

First Argue Validly

Skeptico deconstructs Kennedy's expose of the use of thimersol in vaccines I covered here.

He has some good points: sins of omission by Kennedy concerning the fact the CDC did eventually release the data.

Skeptico comes down on the there's no good proof side of the argument.

Sorry, although that's right. But then I'm less impressed with the impartiality of science and scientists, having worked in science for the last 25 years of my life. That's also a bias.

Still, I have a healthy respect for the toxicity of organmercurials. They're also impossible (or difficult) to elimnate from the body and tend to accumulate. They're also extremely dangerous in the young.

So there's no solid data on the danger of this traditional antiseptic as it is currently used.

So what?

It's toxic as hell, and unneccessary. Why use it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Protecting Bu$hCo's Interests ... Whatever They Cost.

Porter Goss feigns nonchalance.

WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN? That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE? I have an excellent idea of where he is. What's the next question?

Yes, those weak links, and those sanctuaries in sovereign states that don't happen to be Iran or Syria, but we'd like you to think Pakistan, although it's really the family qasbah in Riyadh.

What's good for Dear Leader is good for America, right?

Ex-FBI translator Sibel Edmonds has some issues with that...

Over four years ago, more than four months prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, in April 2001, a long-term FBI informant/asset who had been providing the bureau with information since 1990, provided two FBI agents and a translator with specific information regarding a terrorist attack being planned by Osama Bin Laden. This asset/informant was previously a high- level intelligence officer in Iran in charge of intelligence from Afghanistan. Through his contacts in Afghanistan he received information that:

1) Osama Bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack in the United States targeting 4-5 major cities,

2) the attack was going to involve airplanes,

3) some of the individuals in charge of carrying out this attack were already in place in the United States,

4) the attack was going to be carried out soon, in a few months.

The agents who received this information reported it to their superior, Special Agent in Charge of Counterterrorism, Thomas Frields, at the FBI Washington Field Office, by filing “302” forms, and the translator, Mr. Behrooz Sarshar, translated and documented this information. No action was taken by the Special Agent in Charge, Thomas Frields, and after 9/11 the agents and the translators were told to ‘keep quiet’ regarding this issue. The translator who was present during the session with the FBI informant, Mr. Behrooz Sarshar, reported this incident to Director Mueller in writing, and later to the Department of Justice Inspector General. The press reported this incident, and in fact the report in the Chicago Tribune on July 21, 2004 stated that FBI officials had confirmed that this information was received in April 2001...

Read it all. This is from a woman who has seen the bowels of the beast. And thanks to Truthout for the link.

There we go again, as St. Ronald Rambo Reagan would say, basing our opinions on reality instead of taking account the sensitivities of our allies.

When you have a War on Terra you're trying to stoke into a real World War, you find allies and enemas in the strangest places.

Sorry for the scatological pun, but no shit, it's getting strange out there and the weird are definitely turning professional.

For example, the Chinese propaganda organ that I most often agree with really wants us to think Osama's right and tight in Pakistan. They don't leave it at that, either. They go into hairy detail about the Jihad Pakistan is packaging and exporting to all us infidels, too.

I certainly don't blame China for a little unease.

But they've got more problems coming down the pipeline than a little Holy War on their borders.

There's a genuine psychopath about to get appointed to the United Nations regardless of what the Congress says who foams at the mouth about China. Among other things.

But who knows, there may be peace yet in Asia, particularly if the Carlyle Group gets a piece of the action.

Agents of Another Flag

American Prospect raises the possibility that there is a reason the TheoCons are unwittingly dismantling the security of the United States.

They're being used.

Much of the funding for loudly and stupidly "Patriotic" organizations like the Wrepublican party and the American Enterprise Institute comes from multimillion-dollar donors like Sun Myung Moon.

Moon, in turn, has high connections in both Koreas.

"...on September 9, 1994, an unnamed DIA field analyst discussed the possibility that The Washington Times was serving the purposes of the North Korean government:


DIA cables also noted certain explosive accusations that had made a big noise in the Japanese press. The respected Tokyo newspaper Weekly Asahi had reported that four men who had married into Moon’s True Family were possibly operating on the evangelist’s behalf when, in 1994, they emerged as the agents behind the controversial sale of decrepit Russian submarines to the North -- supposedly as scrap metal..."

Bu$hie is an inbred child of priviledge, surrounded by the corrupt and the disingenuous.

It is likely that he has no idea of the real consequences of any of his actions, and neither do his venal criminal cohort. They make lucrative deals with people they demonize. Once again, their actions seemed designed to keep the endless war alive and the blank checks being written.

Rumsfeld has profited from nuclear reactor sales to North Korea.

"The type of reactors involved in the ABB deal produce plutonium which needs refining before it can be weaponised. One US congressman and critic of the North Korean regime described the reactors as "nuclear bomb factories".'

Monday, June 20, 2005

Let the Good Times Roll

The Dark Wraith speaks:

...The following technical summaries are drawn from the income statements and balance sheets of Halliburton Holding Co.

Halliburton revenue from fiscal year 2002 to fiscal year 2004 rose from $12.498 billion to $20.466 billion, representing an annualized growth rate of 27.97 percent.

Gross profit (revenues less cost of revenues) for the same period rose from $119 million to $1.143 billion, for an annualized growth rate of gross profit of 209.92 percent.

Operating income (gross profit less operating expenses) rose from —$186 million to $837 million.

Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose from —$115 million to $880 million, and net income from continuing operations for the period climbed from —$346 million to $385 million.

The Company took charges against net income from continuing operations in 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively, of $652 million, $1.151 billion, and $1.364 billion to report net income available for common stock for the three years, again respectively, of —$998 million, —$820 million, and —$979 million.

The Company's total assets rose from $12.844 billion to $15.796 billion, for an annualized growth rate of 10.90 percent; however, the current component of those assets grew from $5.560 billion to $9.962 billion, for an annualized growth rate of current assets of 33.86 percent, more than triple the growth rate of the Company's overall asset base.

Halliburton's liability structure largely mirrors the Company's shift toward a more liquid configuration, with current liabilities rising from $3.272 billion at year end 2002 to $7.064 billion at year end 2004 and total liabilities rising in the same time frame from $9.286 billion to $11.864 billion, meaning that current liabilities over the period grew on an annualized basis by 46.93 percent—again, better than three times the annualized growth rate through the same period of total liabilities, which grew on an annualized basis by only 13.03 percent...

You don't get the blank check unless you get the endless war.

The Dark Wraith usually has some interesting things to say at his own site here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Creative Quotations

Spotted at Think Progress, yet another attempt to rewrite history.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if “the Bush administration fairly [can] be criticized for failing to level with the American people about how long and difficult this commitment will be?” Rice responded:

[T]he administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq.

That’s not true. To build support for the war the administration told the American people that the conflict in Iraq will be short and affordable.

Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03:

[M]y belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly. . . (in) weeks rather than months

Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03:

It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

Former Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 3/28/03:

The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid…

Bu$hie was caught rewriting his story yet again:

President Bush In His Radio Address Today: “We went to war because we were attacked” [6/18/05]

President Bush In 2003: “We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th [attacks].” [9/17/03]

More on Bringing Good Things to Life with Prickly Heat

Awhile back there was a post here on the use of napalm in the Iraq war.

The main$stream media, among the French Englishmen anyway, has picked up on the fact that Bu$hCo lied about this to the British government.

American officials lied to British ministers over the use of "internationally reviled" napalm-type firebombs in Iraq.

Yesterday's disclosure led to calls by MPs for a full statement to the Commons and opened ministers to allegations that they held back the facts until after the general election.

Despite persistent rumours of injuries among Iraqis consistent with the use of incendiary weapons such as napalm, Adam Ingram, the Defence minister, assured Labour MPs in January that US forces had not used a new generation of incendiary weapons, codenamed MK77, in Iraq.

But Mr Ingram admitted to the Labour MP Harry Cohen in a private letter obtained by The Independent that he had inadvertently misled Parliament because he had been misinformed by the US. "The US confirmed to my officials that they had not used MK77s in Iraq at any time and this was the basis of my response to you," he told Mr Cohen. "I regret to say that I have since discovered that this is not the case and must now correct the position."

Mr Ingram said 30 MK77 firebombs were used by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the invasion of Iraq between 31 March and 2 April 2003. They were used against military targets "away from civilian targets", he said. This avoids breaching the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which permits their use only against military targets...

Hope that link works; they've changed it once since it first came out.

More on their use in the war here.

More on the difference between the MK-77 and the original napalm here.

The orignal napalm was kerosene and polystyrene; the new improved stuff is benzene, gasoline, and polystyrene.

Thanks again to Melissa McEwan for the heads up.

Not Even Through the Service Entrance

The White House shows it has no use for Congress People who won't clean up for it.

And you thought American citizens had the right to petition.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Welcome to the Machine

Paul Krugman deconstructs what's wrong with Ohio and the nation.

The Toledo Blade's reports on Coingate - the unfolding tale of how Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation misused funds - deserve much more national attention than they have received so far. For one thing, it's an entertaining story that seems to get weirder by the week. More important, it's an object lesson in what happens when you have one-party rule untrammeled by any quaint notions of independent oversight.

In April, The Blade reported that the bureau, which provides financial support for workers injured on the job, had invested $50 million in Capital Coin, a rare-coin trading operation run by Tom Noe, an influential Republican fund-raiser.

At first, state officials angrily insisted that this unusual use of state funds was a good investment that had nothing to do with Mr. Noe's political connections. An accounting investigation revealed, however, that Mr. Noe's claims to be running a profitable business were fictitious: he had lost millions, and 121 valuable coins were missing.

On June 3, police raided the Colorado home of Michael Storeim, Mr. Noe's business associate, and seized hundreds of rare coins. After changing the locks, they left 3,500 bottles of wine, valued at several hundred thousand dollars, in the home's basement.

On Monday, Mr. Storeim told police that someone had broken into his house over the weekend and stolen much of the wine, along with artwork, guns, jewelry and cars. As I said, this story keeps getting weirder.

Meanwhile, The Blade uncovered an even bigger story: the Bureau of Workers' Compensation invested $225 million in a hedge fund managed by MDL Capital, whose chairman had strong political connections. When this investment started to go sour, the bureau's chief financial officer told another top agency official that he had been told to "give MDL a break."

By October 2004, state officials knew that MDL had lost almost the entire investment, but they kept the loss hidden until this month.

How could such things happen? The answer, it has become clear, lies in a web of financial connections between state officials and the businessmen who got to play with state funds...

Now, politicians and businessmen are always in a position to do each other lucrative favors. Government is relatively clean when politicians are sufficiently afraid of scandal to resist temptation. But when a political machine controls all branches of government, and those officials charged with oversight are also reliably partisan, politicians feel safe from investigation. Their inhibitions dissolve, and they take full advantage of their position, until the scandals become too big to hide.

In other words, Ohio's state government today is a lot like Boss Tweed's New York. Unfortunately, a lot of other state governments look similar - and so does Washington.

Since their 1994 takeover of Congress, and even more so since the 2000 election, Republican leaders have sought to make their political dominance permanent. They redistricted Texas to lock in their control of the House. Through the "K Street Project" they have put lobbying firms under partisan control, starving the Democrats of campaign funds. And they are, of course, trying to pack the courts with partisan loyalists.

In effect, they're trying to turn America into a giant version of the elder Richard Daley's Chicago.

These efforts have already created an environment in which politicians from the right party and businessmen with the right connections believe, with good reason, that they have immunity.

And politicians who feel that they can exploit their position tend to do just that. It's a likely bet that the scandals we already know about, from Coingate to Tom DeLay's dealings with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are just the tip of the iceberg.

The message from Ohio is that long-term dominance by a political machine leads to corruption, regardless of the policies that machine follows or the ideology it claims to represent.

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Check out BlogPulse and the Trend Tool.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Calvinball with the Columns

Truthout quotes verbatum a Washington Post article of Harry Reid asking if John Bolton was part of the manipulation of Intelligence leading to Iraq- but the Post changes the article.

Link drift is a normal part of life on the Internet, but this kind of drift is all too common on the New York Times and the Washington Post: a Manager decides that what's been written is too much for corporate policy, and changes the story completely after it's passed the editorial staff and been published on the Internet.

In this instance, content of about half the column's gone, and the gist of the story completely changes.

The title remains the same, but instead of being lifted from a Reuters story authored by Vicki Allen, they substitute an AP story from a nameless source.

The part omitted in the new improved version?

...Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid demanded a full accounting of whether Bolton exaggerated assessments of several countries' weapons programs, a key issue in the long-stalled nomination.

"All over the news the last few days has been concerns about weapons of mass destruction by virtue of the memo that was discovered," the Nevada Democrat said, referring to the so-called "Downing Street memo."

The July 2002 memo, prepared for Prime Minister Tony Blair, said President Bush had already decided to invade Iraq and intelligence was being made to fit that policy.

"Concerns about this administration hyping intelligence and Great Britain hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly," Reid said, adding that it "is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence."

Bush and his aides, including Bolton, justified the invasion by saying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the United States, but no such weapons have been found.

Bolton, the top U.S. diplomat for arms control and a fierce critic of the United Nations, is a favorite of conservatives and failure to get him confirmed would be a setback for Bush.

Procedural Vote

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "some of the Democratic leaders who have already voted against John Bolton are not interested in a reasonable compromise. They are simply interested in continuing with stall tactics."

Republicans would need to pick up two more Democrats in the 100-seat chamber to get the 60 votes required to end debate on Bolton and go to a confirmation vote, if they kept all of the senators they had in a previous vote.

If they can get beyond the procedural hurdle, Republicans, who hold a 55-45 Senate majority, are confident they will have the simple majority needed to confirm Bolton.

Bush could appoint Bolton during Congress' July 4th holiday recess if the Senate remains deadlocked. That appointment would last through the end of this Senate session in 2006.

But a recess appointment would be viewed as a political retreat. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a key Bolton backer, said he had not heard that suggested by administration officials.

In a bid to get more support, Senate Republicans tried to act as intermediaries to get some information on Bolton that Democrats are demanding, but the administration has refused to turn it over.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said on Wednesday he confirmed with U.S. Intelligence Director John Negroponte that key officials known to have had confrontations with Bolton over intelligence assessments were not mentioned in classified National Security Agency intercepts Bolton had sought.

Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said that should answer Democrats' questions on whether Bolton sought the intercepts to spy on or punish bureaucratic rivals. Critics have accused Bolton of bullying subordinates.

But Democrats said they still did not have internal e-mails and memos leading up to testimony Bolton gave on Syria's weapons, and the information on the intercepts was inadequate.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Some in Congress Find Their Vertebrae

Once again, I like Billmon's take on it:

...I did a double take when I saw what Sen. Durbin of Illinois said on the Senate floor yesterday:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners. (link courtesy of Talk Left)

I don't know much about Dick Durbin -- he's a solid, dependable Democrat, but definitely not one of the Senate's show horses. I also don't recall him playing the role of human rights champion before. So God help me, when I read what he said I immediately began to wonder what kind of political advantage he hoped to gain from such extravagant use of the truth.

(You know you're a cynic when you automatically suspect a politician is telling the truth for dishonest reasons.)

But as far as I can tell, Durbin had absolutely nothing to gain from this, other than the predictable smears from the GOP propaganda machine and the cave dwellers of the Neanderthal right. (Actually, in Limbaugh's case, I think even homo erectus would be ashamed to have to claim such an ape as a distant cousin.)

I have no idea what motivated Durbin to let it all hang out, except perhaps personal moral outrage and a clear understanding of the practical risks raised by the Bush regime's debasement of the American military.

The quote former Vietnam POW Pete Peterson that Durbin included in his floor speech said just about everything that needs to be said about the latter:

"From my 6 1/2 years of captivity in Vietnam, I know what life in a foreign prison is like. To a large degree, I credit the Geneva Conventions for my survival . . . This is one reason the United States has led the world in upholding treaties governing the status and care of enemy prisoners: because these standards also protect us . . . We need absolute clarity that America will continue to set the gold standard in the treatment of prisoners in wartime."

As for morality . . . Well, if you can't see the evil in locking prisoners of war -- some of them held by mistake, others only foot soldiers in the Taliban's army -- in 100 plus degree rooms for 24 hours without food or water, until they shit or piss all over themselves -- then you're truly beyond redemption. Once you've reached that point, you can probably justify anything, up to and including murder....

But if Durbin had wanted to be completely honest, he would have skipped the rhetorical flourish about the Soviets, the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, and instead pointed out that if we didn't know better, we might think today's horror stories out of Guantanamo and Abu Graib and Baghram were tales told about prisons in El Salvador, Honduras and Argentina thirty years ago -- or South Vietnam, forty years ago.

And if he really wanted to get reckless with the truth, he could have explained the reasons for that resemblance.

But that's probably more truth than even Dick Durbin can afford.

Does the name Black Spot ring a bell?

Predictably, Dick Durbin is already getting threats.

Biomedical Coverup

First, do no harm

Tom Tomorrow points to a fine piece of investigative reporting by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the government rushed to conceal the data -- and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic.

June 16, 2005 | In June 2000, a group of top government scientists and health officials gathered for a meeting at the isolated Simpsonwood conference center in Norcross, Ga. Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session -- only private invitations to 52 attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva, and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly "embargoed." There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left.

The federal officials and industry representatives had assembled to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children. According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines -- thimerosal -- appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children. "I was actually stunned by what I saw," Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants -- in one case, within hours of birth -- the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.

Even for scientists and doctors accustomed to confronting issues of life and death, the findings were frightening. "You can play with this all you want," Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the group. The results "are statistically significant." Dr. Richard Johnston...

But instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line.

"We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits," said Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. "This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country." Dr. Bob Chen, head of vaccine safety for the CDC, expressed relief that "given the sensitivity of the information, we have been able to keep it out of the hands of, let's say, less responsible hands." Dr. John Clements, vaccines advisor at the World Health Organization, declared flatly that the study "should not have been done at all" and warned that the results "will be taken by others and will be used in ways beyond the control of this group. The research results have to be handled."

In fact, the government has proved to be far more adept at handling the damage than at protecting children's health. The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" the chemical's link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten's findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been "lost" and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers. By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism...

You need to read it all.

You know, people knew about this problem 15 years ago, but getting anyone to listen was impossible.

Tom Tommorrow has some things to say about Bill Frist, too:

...So Doctor Frist doesn't believe that states should even have the ability to warn people of the potential dangers of vaccines. And as we now know, his diagnosis-by-video of Terri Schiavo simply couldn't have been more wrong. In both instances, Doctor Frist is putting politics, ideology and campaign cash ahead of his basic duties as a medical professional. So when does this son of a bitch get called out on the carpet by his fellow doctors?

Probably about the same time his fellow doctors get the Big Pharma monkey off their backs, Tom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Everybody Wants the Latest!

At Defense Tech today...

It's bad enough that Israel is selling weapons to China. But France? Quel horreur!

"A French company plans to display a tactical drone armed with advanced Israeli air-to-ground missiles at the 2005 Paris Air Show, in a bid to make France a leader in unmanned combat aircraft," Defense News reports.

"The Sperwer B, designed for battlefield reconnaissance, has been fitted with two Spike long-range, precision-strike missiles...

"Israeli government-owned Rafael Armament Development Authority makes the Spike ER (extended range) guided weapon. The missile carries an advanced electro-optic system with a combined daytime camera and infrared seeker and fiber-optic data link. The 33-kilogram Spike ER is designed for precision strikes against small, moving ground targets at ranges of up to eight kilometers...

"The Franco-Israeli cooperation on the drone marks a political turn for Paris, Jean-Paul Hébert, of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes et Sciences Sociales, said. France sold Israel Dassault Mirage fighters used with devastating effect in the 1967 Six-Day War, but has not sold much military equipment to Israel since then."

France, already pushing ahead on several killer drone projects, isn't the only European country developing armed robots to roam the skies. According to Aviation Week, England's BAE Systems is working on a "classified low-radar-observable UCAV [unmanned combat aerial vehicle] project, dubbed Nightjar, for the British Defense Ministry."

The program, suggest industry sources, has a twofold purpose. The first is to ensure the technology base for the development of a low-observable UCAV; the second is to provide leverage should the U.K. decide to participate in any comparable U.S. effort...

Earlier this year the British Defense Ministry joined the Pentagon's Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems program. Work from Nightjar will inevitably inform the U.K. participation. While the ministry remains publicly noncommittal as to whether it will pursue a European or a U.S. path... all indications are that U.S. route is far more likely.

The joint work will conclude with "live and virtual manned and unmanned assets from both nations operating in a networked coalition warfare scenario." It's possible that a Nightjar UCAV could take part in [U.S. drone test flights] in 2009.

So sorry, Dr. Oberg, but this isn't paranoia. Maybe you'd be best off just not reading the newspapers or the internet(s), like a lot of other Wrepublicans. Watch your Faux News, and consume mass product quantities like the ads command.

It's state of the art.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Don't Worry, Be Happy

To keep Mom and Pop Wrepublican happy with their Xanax...

"Now come the newest stories that echo down the interconnected corridors of the American mainstream media, about “killer satellites” and “death stars” and “Rods from God” bombardment systems — as if the Hollywoodized terminology wasn't a clue that most of the subject matter was equally imaginary.

"Take the opening paragraph of a recent Christian Science Monitor editorial that denounced what it portrayed as “the possible first-ever overt deployment of weapons where heretofore only satellites and astronauts have gone.” But history reveals an entirely different reality.

"Weapons have occasionally been deployed in space for decades, without sparking mass arms races or hair-trigger tensions. These are not just systems that send warheads through space, such as intercontinental missiles or the proposed global bomber. These are systems that put the weapons into stable orbits, circling Earth, based in space. And these systems were all Russian ones, by the way, most of them predating President Reagan's “Strategic Defense Initiative” to develop an anti-missile system..."

Really"? Name one, please. Before Ronald Reagan. Take your time. I don't think so.

"But it's not the equipment that's important (that's why the United States never responded to earlier Russian space weapons); it's the offensive capabilities the hardware is supposed to deliver. That's what must be considered foremost before considering the likelihood of responses.

"So scary tales about U.S. “death stars” hovering over target countries promising swift strikes from space rely merely on readers not understanding the basics of orbital motion in space. A satellite circles Earth in an ever-shifting path that passes near any particular target only a few times every 24 hours, not every 10 minutes. It's quicker and cheaper to strike ground targets with missiles launched from the ground.

"Nor is a space rendezvous robot, such as those under development by half a dozen nations and commercial consortia, a “space weapon” — despite media claims that one of them, the Air Force's XSS-11 satellite, could perform as a weapon. Plenty of productive peaceful rationales for these vehicles exist, from refueling to repair to resupply, and they are going to be deployed in large numbers in coming years.

"Raising unjustified fears about them and other so-far-totally-conceptual space vehicles may be politically or ideologically satisfying to some, but in the big picture, feeding foreign prejudices and stoking the insecurities of some naturally paranoid cultures is a dangerous game."

On the other hand, stoking the paranoid tendencies of our culture is perfectly acceptable.

The problem with lying about weapons of mass destruction in space before Ronald Reagan is that somebody might remember to ask who had the technology to put them there.

It's tough trying to rewrite the history books.

This being a multiverse, of course, there's another problem with the rose-colored It's All Good don't-worry-about-it-if-it's-not-your-problem attitude.

Even if we can't get Star Wars off the ground, even if they want to avoid actually testing all their wonderful toys because, you know, the failures make them look bad, they're still spending hundreds of billions of dollars on their technological nightmares, whether they're Rods from God, Death Stars, Akira-style space-based x-ray lasers, or Cylon fighter drones.

The money's being spent.

Whether it works or is real or even rational. The money's being spent. And my grandchildren will be paying for Rumsfeld's fantasies long after he and I and you are all dead.

So don't give me a lot of Patriotic Jingoist silliness about how people shouldn't speculate about the ramifications of DARPA's latest wet dreams, or worry about the cost, because it's giving aid and comfort to some hypothetical and likely mythological enemy.

Because in the post 9-11 world, USA Today, the only real enemies I see to America are friends of Bu$hCo. The 9-11 attack was planned by a CIA-trained family friend of George W. Bush. The companies that tried to arm Iraq after the Gulf War and sold nuclear reactors to the North Koreans are all controlled by men named Cheney or Rumsfeld.

People like me don't have to stoke the paranoid tendencies of other cultures.

John Bolton and the American Enterprise Institute do that quite well all by themselves, thank you.

Then there's the other issue: if DARPA and Rumsfeld go to press conferences and brag about all this technology, if Congress critters appropriate and paper pushers spend hundreds of billions on this stuff, technologically saavy folks from other cultures just as paranoid as ours might try to make a suitcase nuke. Or a neutron bomb. Or a working hand-held laser or a working civilian aircraft mounted laser that can take out a target 50 miles away.

Because, you know, the press releases say we have it, too.

The Premeditated Road to War

The complete timeline for Iraq is here.

Thanks to Melissa McEwan for the tip.

Elsewhere, shades of Chalabi, Lauren Rozen notes Bu$hCo's developed an anonymous source warning us of all the plotting going on in Iran to Terra'ize us.

Operation Northwoods worked once, didn't it?

Elsewhere Wolcott quotes Chris Hedges here:

...""This myth, the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy. We shun introspection and self-criticism. We ignore truth, to embrace the strange, disquieting certitude and hubris offered by the radical Christian Right. These radical Christians draw almost exclusively from the book of Revelations, the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, peddling a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers. They rarely speak about Christ's message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They relish the cataclysmic destruction that will befall unbelievers, including those such as myself, who they dismiss as 'nominal Christians.' They divide the world between good and evil, between those anointed to act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan. The cult of masculinity and esthetic of violence pervades their ideology. Feminism and homosexuality are forces, believers are told, that have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian Right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Anti-Christ, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. The language is one not only of exclusion, hatred and fear, but a call for apocalyptic violence, in short the language of war."