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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Slaves for the Empire

...A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.

The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.

...A bill reauthorizing the nation's efforts against trafficking for the next two years was overwhelmingly passed by the House this month, but only after a provision creating a trafficking watchdog at the Pentagon was stripped from the measure at the insistence of defense-friendly lawmakers, according to congressional records and officials. The Senate passed the bill last week.

...Bush declared zero tolerance for involvement in human trafficking by federal employees and contractors in a National Security Presidential Directive he signed in December 2002 after media reports detailing the alleged involvement of DynCorp employees in buying women and girls as sex slaves in Bosnia during the U.S. military's deployment there in the late 1990s.

Ultimately, the company fired eight employees for their alleged involvement in sex trafficking and illegal arms deals.

In 2003, Smith followed Bush's decree with legislation ordering federal agencies to include anti-trafficking provisions in all contracts. The bill covered trafficking for forced prostitution and forced labor and applied to overseas contractors and their subcontractors.

But it wasn't until last summer that the Pentagon issued a proposed policy to enforce the 2003 law and Bush's December 2002 directive.

The proposal drew a strong response from five defense-contractor-lobbying groups within the umbrella Council of Defense and Space Industries Associations: the Contract Services Association, the Professional Services Council, the National Defense Industrial Association, the American Shipbuilding Association and the Electronic Industries Alliance.

The response's first target was a provision requiring contractors to police their overseas subcontractors for human trafficking.

In a two-part series published in October, the Tribune detailed how Middle Eastern firms working under American subcontracts in Iraq, and a chain of human brokers beneath them, engaged in the kind of abuses condemned elsewhere by the U.S. government as human trafficking. KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, relies on more than 200 subcontractors to carry out a multibillion-dollar U.S. Army contract for privatization of military support operations in the war zone.

...The Tribune retraced the journey of 12 Nepali men recruited from poor villages in one of the most remote and impoverished corners of the world and documented a trail of deceit, fraud and negligence stretching into Iraq. The men were kidnapped from an unprotected caravan and executed en route to jobs at an American military base in 2004.

At the time, Halliburton said it was not responsible for the recruitment or hiring practices of its subcontractors, and the U.S. Army, which oversees the privatization contract, said questions about alleged misconduct "by subcontractor firms should be addressed to those firms, as these are not Army issues."

...Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council who drafted the contractors' eight-page critique of the Pentagon proposal, said it was not realistic to expect foreign companies operating overseas to accept or act on U.S. foreign policy objectives.

"This is a clash between mission execution [of the contract] and policy execution," Chvotkin said. "So we're looking for a little flexibility."

Votes? We Don' Need No Steenkin' Votes...

In the fine Republican tradition that saw John Ashcroft installed as Attorney General after being defeated by a dead man in his run for the Senate, Chalabi after being trounced electorally has been named Iraq Oil Minister in an effort to placate Cheneyburton and decrease gasoline prices in Iraq.

The oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, had been outspoken in his opposition to the decision earlier this month to triple the price of the most common type of gasoline while raising prices for diesel ninefold. He said that while some increases were needed, such large ones would put far too heavy a burden on Iraqis.

But upon returning from vacation outside Iraq this week, Mr. Uloum learned that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had ordered him to give up his post for the next 30 days, according to an Oil Ministry spokesman.

"When he came back he was astonished to find that the prime minister issued a letter ordering Dr. Ibrahim to stay 30 more days on holiday because of his disagreement and his threats to resign from office," said the spokesman, Asim Jihad.

Mr. Uloum has been replaced by Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister and onetime White House favorite who served as interim oil minister earlier this year. An aide to Mr. Chalabi said it was not clear how long he would stay in the post or whether Mr. Uloum would return.

It seems Cheneyburton has closed down refineries due to threats of attack, but now Chalabi's got a job, they don't have to worry about protection from their own contractors anymore.

Friday, December 30, 2005

It isn't over until it's over, and this year, it won't end 'til midnight on New Year's Eve.

Tropical Storm Zeta forms in Eastern Atlantic
NBC2 News
Last updated on: 12/30/2005 12:34:27 PM

MIAMI— The 27th Tropical Storm of the year formed in the eastern Atlantic today. At 1 pm the center of Tropical Storm Zeta was located near latitude 25.0 north, longitude 36.9 west or about 1070 miles southwest of the Azores. The storm is 2,500 miles from Southwest Florida.

Zeta is moving toward the northwest near 8 mph. A turn to the west-northwest is expected during the next 24 hours.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher gusts. Although some strengthening is possible later today a weakening trend is expected to begin tomorrow.

Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 85 miles from the center.

More here.

Another record, another milestone on the road.

Five Pillars of Faith

For the Royal House of Saud

1) Mindless TheoCons are willing to throw their women and children in front of bullets as they shred their Constitution for a piece of the action.

2) Western corporate venality will always let us buy anything the TheoCons might not be willing to sell.

3) Development of real alternative sources of energy from biological processes that can be coupled to solar power must be suppressed because the middle east is only a sandfilled wasteland otherwise.

4) History, science, and education for rational thought are our undying enemies and will halt our march to global theocratic feudalism. Fundamentalism, whether Jewish, Christian, or Islamic should be encouraged because it is so easily manipulated.

5) Republicans, and especially the idiots in the Bush family, tend to stay bought with only a pittance of our money, because in any system based on honesty, personal talent, or ability they, like us, would be on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

You know they hate our BioWillie.

Just the facts

About Iraq on the Record
Presented by Rep. Henry A. Waxman
On March 19, 2003, U.S. forces began military operations in Iraq. Addressing the nation about the purpose of the war on the day the bombing began, President Bush stated: “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.” Two years later, many doubts have been raised regarding the Administration’s assertions about the threat posed by Iraq.

Prepared at the direction of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Iraq on the Record is a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq. It contains statements that were misleading based on what was known to the Administration at the time the statements were made. It does not include statements that appear mistaken only in hindsight. If a statement was an accurate reflection of U.S. intelligence at the time it was made, it was excluded even if it now appears erroneous. For more information on how the statements were selected, see the full methodology. The Iraq on the Record Report is a comprehensive examination of these statements...

Thanks to Lurch at Main and Central for the link.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

World Record Myopia

Nature 438, 1062 (22 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/4381062a
The heat was on in 2005
Robert Henson

As 2005 draws to a close, climate scientists are making their annual pronouncements on how its temperatures compare to historical records. And although this year is among the warmest ever recorded, small differences in the claims highlight the uncertainty of such rankings.

Depending on whom one believes, 2005 will end up just above or below 1998 as the hottest year on record. Most significant, climate scientists say, is that this year's readings occurred without the help of a major El Niño event. "In just seven years, the background global temperature has increased to a level equal to the peak in the 1997–98 El Niño," says James Hansen, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

That record-breaking El Niño slathered the tropical Pacific with anomalously warm sea water. There was no such event this year, but many other regions were notably warm — including the North Atlantic, where an unprecedented number of tropical cyclones formed.

Hansen says that NASA is likely to dub 2005 as the warmest year on record, but a team at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, is poised to rate it as number two, behind 1998. And a preliminary report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a photo finish between the two years, with 1998 ahead by a nose (see 'Sources of disagreement'). Final rankings will be released over the next few weeks.

This year's heat was not a total surprise — NASA predicted early in 2005 that it would be one of the warmest years on record. Over the past century, says NASA, Earth's average surface temperature has risen 0.8 °C, with three-quarters of that occurring since the 1970s. Nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.

Hansen, who compiles the annual rankings for NASA, says the recent warming is consistent with the increase in heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. "Climate change is real and should begin to be noticed by real people," he says.

Although differing rankings for 2005 might puzzle the public, it is less of an issue for the scientists who compile them. Most of the time, the ratings agree. "People sometimes make too much of whether a year is ranked warmest or second warmest," says Jay Lawrimore, who oversees month-to-month tracking for NOAA...

There is one crucial difference between 1998 and 2005.

In 1998, we were approaching the maximum peak of the 11 year solar activity cycle. In 2005, we should be near the minimum.

In other words, we are now having record or near record global temperature averages at a time when the earth should be the coolest in the solar cycle.

Shorter Dear Leader: Pass the Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cover Up by Washington Insiders

Via Atrios, the funniest thing I've read all day:

...Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions."

The hard-hitting spots are part of a recent public-relations barrage aimed at reversing a decline in public support for President Bush's handling of Iraq. But these advertisements aren't paid for by the Republican National Committee or other established White House allies. Instead, they are sponsored by Move America Forward, a media-savvy outside advocacy group that has become one of the loudest -- and most controversial -- voices in the Iraq debate...

Totally un connected with the republican party. A completely independent astroturf grassroots campaign. Of course.

Little detail: Washington is completely controlled by Bu$h's Wrepublican Party.

Ergo, the only people who could engage in the cover-up would be...

Talk about your one trick pony.

Quantum Fluff and the Rodham-Clintoris Uncertainty Principle

Nowhere is the "he-said-but-she-said" style of journalism more pretentious and annoying than in The New York Pravda.

Example #1: the Science Times' piece on "Quantum Trickery: Testing Einstein's Strangest Theory", where we are told that:

This fall scientists announced that they had put a half dozen beryllium atoms into a "cat state."

No, they were not sprawled along a sunny windowsill. To a physicist, a "cat state" is the condition of being two diametrically opposed conditions at once, like black and white, up and down, or dead and alive.

These atoms were each spinning clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time. Moreover, like miniature Rockettes they were all doing whatever it was they were doing together, in perfect synchrony. Should one of them realize, like the cartoon character who runs off a cliff and doesn't fall until he looks down, that it is in a metaphysically untenable situation and decide to spin only one way, the rest would instantly fall in line, whether they were across a test tube or across the galaxy...

Interesting. Now I realize there's a lot of math involved with quantum physics that greater than 99.999% of the Pravda's readers might not understand. But that's a pretty outrageous statement. For one thing, I didn't realize you could measure quantum spin state in a test tube, much less across the galaxy, and I work with test tubes every day.

The author follows this with a lot of name dropping from the Highest and therefore well-funded Coolest Cats in the world of quantum physics.

We are told they disagree about the ramifications of said experiment on things like Locality and the Structure of Reality, but damn me if I can figure from the writing exactly what their positional differences are or why in a general way these individuals think this way. Much less, the details of the experiment that lead the author- or the scientists- to believe an event of quantum teleportation has occurred. Nor is a single citation to the scientific literature given in the text, where we can look at the facts as they were presented, and possibly formulate our own ideas.

Science is presented as beliefs and not a set of rational conclusions.

You may have encountered my thoughts on that before.

Science- and rational humans- believe in nothing. We start with an observation; we formulate an idea to explain it and test it as we can; and we modify our ideas based on the results we obtain. There's no doctrine and no dogma.

There's just reality and a whole world to explore around us.

You can present explanations of it that the general public can understand.

Perhaps this is what they're referring to:

Science 13 May 2005:
Vol. 308. no. 5724, pp. 997 - 1000
DOI: 10.1126/science.1110335
Implementation of the Semiclassical Quantum Fourier Transform in a Scalable System
J. Chiaverini, J. Britton, D. Leibfried, E. Knill, M. D. Barrett, R. B. Blakestad, W. M. Itano, J. D. Jost, C. Langer, R. Ozeri, T. Schaetz, D. J. Wineland

or this...

Science 4 June 2004:
Vol. 304. no. 5676, pp. 1476 - 1478
DOI: 10.1126/science.1097576
Toward Heisenberg-Limited Spectroscopy with Multiparticle Entangled States
D. Leibfried, M. D. Barrett,T. Schaetz, J. Britton, J. Chiaverini, W. M. Itano, J. D. Jost, C. Langer, D. J. Wineland

The precision in spectroscopy of any quantum system is fundamentally limited by the Heisenberg uncertainty relation for energy and time. For N systems, this limit requires that they be in a quantum-mechanically entangled state. We describe a scalable method of spectroscopy that can potentially take full advantage of entanglement to reach the Heisenberg limit and has the practical advantage that the spectroscopic information is transferred to states with optimal protection against readout noise. We demonstrate our method experimentally with three beryllium ions. The spectroscopic sensitivity attained is 1.45(2) times as high as that of a perfect experiment with three non-entangled particles.

Using beryllium cationic particles accelerated and trapped in a magnetic field.

Basically we have to trust the math of this crew of scientists. And their assumptions. And their technique. There are no test tubes and there is no calibration of spatial parameters given. And across the galaxy? Not quite.

But damn me, Pravda's Science Times is a good read, ain't it?

Which brings us to another detailed analysis where The New York Pravda really shows what it's made of.

Frustration Over Iraq Vote Unlikely to Trouble Clinton, headed with a picture of Big Sister smiling down upon us.

We're informed:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's support for the war in Iraq has outraged many liberal activists in the Democratic Party, who are warning of retribution, including a primary challenge to her re-election campaign next year.

But the activists are in the same sort of political bind that liberals found themselves in a decade ago when Bill Clinton defied liberal orthodoxies: struggling to bring meaningful pressure to bear on a politician who is cherished by many traditional Democrats.

Excuse me- traditional Democrats hated Bill Clinton in '92. I know, I was there. But I know, who am I gonna believe, the Paper of Record, or my lyin' eyes?

...The frustration on the left toward Mrs. Clinton, the junior senator from New York, has been building for months, particularly as opinion has turned against the war and some Democrats in Congress have begun to pressure President Bush to begin a withdrawal of American troops.

Recently, the anger erupted into public view, with antiwar activists publicly protesting against the senator and, perhaps more significantly, an antiwar candidate emerging to challenge her in the Democratic primary next year.

That challenger, Jonathan Tasini, a longtime labor advocate, has the support of Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar protester who lost her son in the war and who camped for weeks outside Mr. Bush's Texas ranch, demanding to meet with him. Mrs. Sheehan has been critical of Mrs. Clinton. ..

Now, liberal critics of Mrs. Clinton appear to be running headlong into the same political reality: the immense support she has with the party faithful, despite having taken positions that infuriated the left. That loyalty among the rank and file may help explain why the senator's advisers do not appear to be very troubled by the protests erupting on the left, loud and persistent though they may be.

Polls tell much of the story. A recent poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that 88 percent of Democrats who were interviewed said they approved of Mrs. Clinton's job performance. That number would be remarkable under any circumstance. (By contrast, 71 percent of Democrats approved of the job that Charles E. Schumer, New York's senior senator, is doing.) But Mrs. Clinton's approval rating comes at the same time that 83 percent of Democrats in the sample told Quinnipiac pollsters that they regarded the war in Iraq as a mistake...

Statistics without detailed parametric methodology aren't statistics. They're "he-said-but-she-said" gossip. But Fair and Balanced, I'm sure.

We're told:

...Political analysts say Mrs. Clinton's standing within the party gives her greater room to maneuver politically.

"She has the left in her back pocket," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac institute. "She doesn't have to worry about catering to them. She has to worry about attracting centrist Democrats, the mainstream of the party."...

The "mainstream". An itty-bitty minority, but the richest doubtless. The best connected. But centrist, so why trouble with the numbers? They'll only make your head hurt and they certainly aren't good for the Business.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What happens when you shred your alliances? Business goes elsewhere.

Europe's space race with US begins
· GPS monopoly challenged by new satellite network
· China snubs America to be involved in project
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday December 27, 2005
The Guardian

At 3am tomorrow morning a Russian Soyuz rocket is set to streak into the skies over Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying a satellite that is purpose built to break one of the most ubiquitous monopolies on Earth.

If all goes according to plan, the rocket will soar to a height of 14,000 miles before releasing Giove-A, a wardrobe-sized box of electronics, into orbit. Once in position it will gently unfold its twin solar panels and begin to loop around the planet twice each day. In doing so, Europe's most expensive space project, a rival to the US military-run global positioning system GPS, will have taken its first step.

Giove-A is a test satellite that paves the way for a network of 30 more to be launched in 2006 and beyond. Together they will form Galileo, a £2.3bn global positioning system more reliable and accurate than GPS.

Galileo has been hailed in Europe as a means to make money. The highly accurate tracking system means road charging could be automated, air traffic monitored with unprecedented precision and goods tracked to people's doors. With mobile phones due to include satellite-positioning receivers, emergency calls will be traced to within a metre. If industry embraces Galileo, it could drive a multibillion euro market, say experts.

But Galileo is largely a political project, aimed at asserting Europe's independence. Although GPS is free and ubiquitous, it is optimised for America and the accuracy of the system can drift by more than 30ft. GPS is controlled by the US military which has the power to degrade or switch off the signal at will. Because Galileo will be a highly accurate civilian system run by a private consortium, supporters believe it will usher in a new range of safety-critical services, such as aircraft and emergency vehicle guidance systems.

Richard Peckham of EADS Astrium, a partner in the project, says that the Galileo network is being launched at a time of increasing dependence on satellite positioning systems. "Car satellite navigation systems seem to be this year's top selling Christmas gadget," he said. "It is becoming an intrinsic part of life."

With Galileo, services that can position goods, people and vehicles to within three feet will be possible. While ramblers might make do with the free signal, emergency services could use an encrypted, more accurate signal to guide ambulances, fire engines or police cars to their locations with unprecedented precision.

Mike Dillon of ESYS, an electronics company involved in the project, says that ultimately Galileo could be used for automatic road charging, and improving safety on Europe's roads by warning drivers of accident blackspots, junctions or curves in the roads. "Right now there are around 1.3bn accidents causing 40,000 fatalities each year," he said. "That's the equivalent of two jumbo jets full of passengers crashing every day."

Although the European Space Agency is forbidden to take part in military projects, officials accept that once the signals are being broadcast the defence industry will undoubtedly take advantage of them, and develop devices that can operate with both GPS and Galileo.

According to plans, the Galileo satellites will be launched into orbit eight at a time. There they will form three rings around the Earth, with the full cluster of 30 due to be in place and working by 2010.

Giove-A, which was built in a record two years and three months by Surrey Satellites, is crucial to Galileo's success. The satellite must be in orbit and transmitting useful positioning signals by July 2006 to meet a deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). If the deadline passes and no Galileo signals are being broadcast from space, the European Space Agency will lose permission to use the frequencies and the project will be knocked back to the drawing board. With more than €130m (£89m) invested, missing the deadline is an outcome the British government will not be keen to witness.

If the launch is successful, news that the satellite is working is likely to come from Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire early on Wednesday morning. Scientists at the observatory will use a 25m receiving dish to hunt the heavens for signals from Giove-A as evidence that it reached the right orbit and powered up.

A failed launch will not necessarily mean the end of Galileo. A back-up satellite, which carries more new technology than Giove-A is on standby for launch to meet the ITU deadline.

Since its inception the Galileo project has been marred by disputes over financial contributions within the EU and rows with the US over the frequencies Galileo satellites would broadcast on. Military officials in America initially raised strong objections to Galileo because one of its signals was on a frequency close to the encrypted military signal used by US forces.

Their objections centred on the argument that if the US wanted to deny satellite positioning services to other countries they were in conflict with, they would have to jam Galileo's signal, but in doing so risked jamming their own. Under intense pressure which nearly saw the Galileo project scrapped entirely, the EU backed down and moved the frequencies Galileo will broadcast on. The US also balked at China's signing of a multimillion pound contract to be part of the Galileo project...

Balk away, Bu$hCo.

There is now technology the Royal House of Saud does not control in orbit.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Cure it? Whatever for? Where's the profit in that?

Official: Drug Cos. Lack Vaccine Incentive
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer Sun Dec 25,12:38 PM ET

WASHINGTON - In an unusually candid admission, the federal chief of
AIDS research says he believes drug companies don't have an incentive to create a vaccine for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit from it after the government develops one.

And that means the government has had to spend more time focusing on the processes that drug companies ordinarily follow in developing new medicines and bringing them to market.

"We had to spend some time and energy paying attention to those aspects of development because the private side isn't picking it up," Dr. Edmund Tramont testified in a deposition in a recent employment lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.

Tramont is head of the AIDS research division of the
National Institutes of Health, and he predicted in his testimony that the government will eventually create a vaccine. He testified in July in the whistleblower case of Dr. Jonathan Fishbein.

"If we look at the vaccine, HIV vaccine, we're going to have an HIV vaccine. It's not going to be made by a company," Tramont said. "They're dropping out like flies because there's no real incentive for them to do it. We have to do it."

"They will eventually — if it works, they won't have to make that big investment. And they can make it and sell it and make a profit," he said...

Tramont said the HIV vaccine mirrors the history of other vaccines. "It is not just a HIV vaccine - it's all vaccines - that is why there was/is a shortage of flu vaccines," Tramont wrote.

Of course, drug companies disagree. But their actions belie them.

Some diseases, like genital warts and papilloma-induced cervical cancer are completely curable by vaccine already.

It's estimated 80% of people have been exposed to this virus.

But where's the vaccine?

The TheoCons of course are agin' the "immorality" a STD vaccine would elicit, which is enough excuse for the Corps to not bother with the R&D.

After all, they've got all the anti-virals that tackle the symptoms without curing the disease.

Curing instead of managing disease is for the birds. Just ask Darth Rumsfeld.

But is There a Speeding Statute of Limitations?

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

Hiding behind trees, overpasses, and billboards no longer, accountants of Britain's Department of Transportation will doubtless erase their national debt in no time at all.

Take that, terra'ists.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Farming out the data mining

U.S. Spying Is Much Wider, Some Suspect
By Josh Meyer and Joseph Menn, Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — President Bush has acknowledged that several hundred targeted Americans were wiretapped without warrants under the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, and now some U.S. officials and outside experts say they suspect that the government is engaged in a far broader U.S. surveillance operation.

Although these experts have no specific evidence, they say that the NSA has a vast array of satellites and other high-tech tools that it could be using to eavesdrop on a much larger cross-section of people in the United States without permission from a court.

The suspicion is quietly gaining currency among current and former U.S. intelligence officials and among outside experts familiar with how the NSA operates.

The NSA conducts such "wholesale" surveillance continuously almost everywhere else in the world. It does so by using a sprawling network of land-based satellite transponder stations and friendly foreign intelligence agencies and telecommunication companies to collect millions of phone calls, e-mails and other communications.

Powerful NSA supercomputers search this "sigint" — short for signals intelligence — for words that might suggest terrorist plots, such as "bomb," then pass the information to intelligence and law enforcement agencies...

But some officials and other experts believe the top-secret program may be doing more than that.

"It's really obvious to me that it's a look-at-everything type program," said cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, who has written several books about security.

Schneier and others suspect that the NSA may be turning its satellites toward the United States and gathering vast streams of raw data from many more people than disclosed — potentially including all e-mails and phone calls from the United States to certain other countries.

These experts were chiefly talking about satellite surveillance, but the NSA can use other means to eavesdrop. The New York Times reported Saturday that the NSA has collected large volumes of telephone and Internet communications since the Sept. 11 attacks by "tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries."

Leading telecommunication companies have been saving information on calling patterns and passing it along to the government, the newspaper said. The companies have also given the NSA access to electronic switches that connect U.S. and overseas communications networks, a "significant expansion" of NSA capabilities, it said.

Phone companies and others have cooperated with U.S. agencies including the NSA for years. In the early 1990s, AT&T agreed to use an NSA-designed chip to ensure that law enforcement had access to phone calls.

And AT&T has a database code-named Daytona that keeps track of phone numbers on both ends of calls as well as the duration of all land-line calls, according to a business executive who has been briefed on the system.

"This started as a way for phone companies to dig out fraud," the executive said Saturday. After Sept. 11, intelligence agencies began to view it as a potential investigative tool, and the NSA has had a direct hookup into the database, he said.

After such massive volumes of information are collected, they are searched for suspicious language. The administration could thus argue that only hundreds of people were monitored because those conversations were the ones that were flagged because they contained suspicious words, Schneier said.

"If a computer looks at all e-mail and says 'bing' once, is that monitoring one person or millions?" Schneier asked. "The Bush numbers are depending on that subterfuge."

One former senior Pentagon official who has overseen such "data mining" said he also believed the NSA was probably conducting such wholesale surveillance...

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court members have also demanded an explanation, saying they are concerned that warrantless surveillance is producing illegally gathered evidence that is then used to seek warrants. One member resigned, reportedly because of the domestic spying program.

For some, the program recalls John M. Poindexter's ill-fated Total Information Awareness program, which he was developing for the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks to use electronic transactions performed by millions of people daily to hunt for patterns and flag suspicious activity.

After being briefed on the domestic spying program in summer 2003, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) wrote to Vice President Dick Cheney: "As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the administration is moving with regard to security, technology and surveillance."

Total Information Awareness was essentially killed by Congress in February 2003 over privacy concerns. But parts of it were quietly moved elsewhere and continue to receive classified funding, according to Poindexter.

In the business world, where customer information and other records are used to look for unexpected patterns and trends in people's buying habits, data mining is not particularly controversial.

But in the hands of a powerful government, critics say, data mining raises serious concern about privacy and civil liberties, and the Bush administration has used the practice aggressively...

A likely solution: the NSA has farmed out TIA to private contractors, who now have access to your credit card numbers. Among other things.

Thanks to Lambert for the tip.


GP: In the War on Terror, however, how does one define victory against a tactic? You can't ever get there.

NC: There are metrics. For example, you can measure the number of terrorist attacks. Well, that's gone up sharply under the Bush administration, very sharply after the Iraq war. As expected -- it was anticipated by intelligence agencies that the Iraq war would increase the likelihood of terror. And the post-invasion estimates by the CIA, National Intelligence Council, and other intelligence agencies are exactly that. Yes, it increased terror. In fact, it even created something which never existed -- a new training ground for terrorists, much more sophisticated than Afghanistan, where they were training professional terrorists to go out to their own countries. So, yeah, that's a way to deal with the War on Terror, namely, increase terror. And the obvious metric, the number of terrorist attacks, yeah, they've succeeded in increasing terror.

The fact of the matter is that there is no War on Terror. It's a minor consideration. So invading Iraq and taking control of the world's energy resources was way more important than the threat of terror. And the same with other things. Take, say, nuclear terror. The American intelligence systems estimate that the likelihood of a "dirty bomb," a dirty nuclear bomb attack in the United States in the next ten years, is about 50 percent. Well, that's pretty high. Are they doing anything about it? Yeah. They're increasing the threat, by increasing nuclear proliferation, by compelling potential adversaries to take very dangerous measures to try to counter rising American threats.

This is even sometimes discussed. You can find it in the strategic analysis literature. Take, say, the invasion of Iraq again. We're told that they didn't find weapons of mass destruction. Well, that's not exactly correct. They did find weapons of mass destruction, namely, the ones that had been sent to Saddam by the United States, Britain, and others through the 1980s. A lot of them were still there. They were under control of U.N. inspectors and were being dismantled. But many were still there. When the U.S. invaded, the inspectors were kicked out, and Rumsfeld and Cheney didn't tell their troops to guard the sites. So the sites were left unguarded, and they were systematically looted. The U.N. inspectors did continue their work by satellite and they identified over 100 sites that were systematically looted, like, not somebody going in and stealing something, but carefully, systematically looted.

... It meant that they were taking the high-precision equipment that you can use for nuclear weapons and missiles, dangerous biotoxins, all sorts of stuff. Nobody knows where it went, but, you know, you hate to think about it. Well, that's increasing the threat of terror, substantially. Russia has sharply increased its offensive military capacity in reaction to Bush's programs, which is dangerous enough, but also to try to counter overwhelming U.S. dominance in offensive capacity. They are compelled to ship nuclear missiles all over their vast territory. And mostly unguarded. And the CIA is perfectly well aware that Chechen rebels have been casing Russian railway installations, probably with a plan to try to steal nuclear missiles. Well, yeah, that could be an apocalypse. But they're increasing that threat. Because they don't care that much.

Same with global warming. They're not stupid. They know that they're increasing the threat of a serious catastrophe. But that's a generation or two away. Who cares? There's basically two principles that define the Bush administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that. If you happen to blow up the world, well, you know, it's somebody else's business. Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said...

GP: How will the U.S. deal with China as a superpower?

NC: What's the problem with China?

GP: Well, competing for resources, for example.

NC: Well, if you believe in markets, the way we're supposed to, compete for resources through the market. So what's the problem? The problem is that the United States doesn't like the way it's coming out. Well, too bad. Who has ever liked the way it's coming out when you're not winning? China isn't any kind of threat. We can make it a threat. If you increase the military threats against China, then they will respond. And they're already doing it. They'll respond by building up their military forces, their offensive military capacity, and that's a threat. So, yeah, we can force them to become a threat.

Just what he likes.

Santa Brings Wright-thinking Democracy to Iraq. Again.

An Iraqi court has disqualified at least 90 candidates in the recent national elections from serving in parliament because of their ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

The ruling, which affects some Sunni Arab political leaders who would probably have won seats, will further inflame Sunnis who are faring poorly in early results, despite a large turnout at the ballot box on December 15...

Sunni leaders have accused the dominant Shiite political parties of widespread ballot-box stuffing and fraud and have called for new elections. Several thousand Sunni Arabs demonstrated in Baghdad on Friday, and on Saturday elections officials began examining ballot boxes from six polling sites in the capital that were subjects of fraud allegations.

They also disclosed that staff members of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq were among those accused in the complaints of vote tampering...

Clearly we need to further intervene to give the Iraqis the benefits of our Wrepublic.

War Is Over

If You Want It

More on this here.

Anderson was the last surviving old soldier known to have participated in what he would refer to in his later years as "a short peace in a terrible war."

That peace, which was initiated not by presidents or prime ministers, but by the soldiers themselves, serves to this day as a reminder that war is seldom so necessary -- nor so unstoppable -- as politicians would have us believe.

So it comes as no surprise that the Christmas Truce of 1914 is a bit of history that many in power have neglected over the past 90 years.

But Anderson's long survival, and his clear memory, made it impossible to write this chapter out of history.

On December 25, 1914, Anderson was an 18-year-old soldier serving with 5th Battalion, Black Watch, of the British Army, one of the first to engage in the bloody trench warfare that was the ugliest manifestation of a war that claimed 31 million lives. But on that day, there was no violence.

Rather, Anderson recalled in an interview on the 90th anniversary of the truce, "there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas,' even though nobody felt merry."

The calls of "Merry Christmas" from the Brits were answered by Germans singing: "Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht."

The Brits responded by singing "Silent Night" in English. Then, from the trenches opposite them, climbed a German soldier who held a small tree lit with candles and shouted in broken English, "Merry Christmas. We not shoot. You not shoot."

Thus, began the Christmas Truce. Soldiers of both armies -- more than a million in all -- climbed from the trenches along the Western Front to exchange cigarettes and military badges. They even played soccer, using the helmets they had taken off as goalposts. And they did not rush to again take up arms. Along some stretches of the Front, the truce lasted into January of 1915.

Finally, distant commanders forced the fighting to begin anew.

Thus, it has ever been with war. As George McGovern, the decorated World War II veteran who would become one of America's greatest champions of peace, "old men (are always) thinking up wars for young men to die in."

Friday, December 23, 2005

There's nothing like consistency.

TIA's been their consistent objective.

Warrants? We don't need no steenkin' warrants!

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

The government's collection and analysis of phone and Internet traffic have raised questions among some law enforcement and judicial officials familiar with the program. One issue of concern to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has reviewed some separate warrant applications growing out of the N.S.A.'s surveillance program, is whether the court has legal authority over calls outside the United States that happen to pass through American-based telephonic "switches," according to officials familiar with the matter...

Bush administration officials declined to comment on Friday on the technical aspects of the operation and the N.S.A.'s use of broad searches to look for clues on terrorists. Because the program is highly classified, many details of how the N.S.A. is conducting it remain unknown, and members of Congress who have pressed for a full Congressional inquiry say they are eager to learn more about the program's operational details, as well as its legality.

Officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program say the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.

This so-called "pattern analysis" on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties...

Several officials said that after President Bush's order authorizing the N.S.A. program, senior government officials arranged with officials of some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies to gain access to switches that act as gateways at the borders between the United States' communications networks and international networks. The identities of the corporations involved could not be determined.

The switches are some of the main arteries for moving voice and some Internet traffic into and out of the United States, and, with the globalization of the telecommunications industry in recent years, many international-to-international calls are also routed through such American switches.

One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the N.S.A. said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches.

The growth of that transit traffic had become a major issue for the intelligence community, officials say, because it had not been fully addressed by 1970's-era laws and regulations governing the N.S.A. Now that foreign calls were being routed through switches on American soil, some judges and law enforcement officials regarded eavesdropping on those calls as a possible violation of those decades-old restrictions, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court-approved warrants for domestic surveillance.

Historically, the American intelligence community has had close relationships with many communications and computer firms and related technical industries. But the N.S.A.'s backdoor access to major telecommunications switches on American soil with the cooperation of major corporations represents a significant expansion of the agency's operational capability, according to current and former government officials.

Phil Karn, a computer engineer and technology expert at a major West Coast telecommunications company, said access to such switches would be significant. "If the government is gaining access to the switches like this, what you're really talking about is the capability of an enormous vacuum operation to sweep up data," he said.

Nobody sucks like Dear Leader.

Treason for the Empire

Via Online Journal's Mike Mejia:

...According to Deliso's two sources, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, the outing of Valerie Plame may have severely damaged a CIA operation to monitor a nuclear black market faciliated by the shadowy but well-connected Washington lobby group, the American Turkish Council (ATC). (Those familiar with the Sibel Edmonds case will know the ATC is the very same organization that the former FBI translator heard on wiretaps in connection with various alleged illegal activities, some connected to 9/11.) From Edmonds, Deliso obtained the following admission: "Plame's undercover job involved the organizations [the FBI had been investigating], the ATC (American-Turkish Council) and the ATA (American-Turkish Association) . . . the Brewster Jennings network was very active in Turkey and with the Turkish community in the U.S. during the late 1990s, 2000, and 2001 . . . in places like Chicago, Boston, and Paterson, N.J."

Such a stunning statement by the former FBI contract linguist could be dismissed by those not familiar with the whistleblower's well-established credibility were it not for the fact that Edmonds is, at least in part, corroborated by Ambassador Joseph Wilson himself. In his book the Politics of Truth, Wilson recounts on page 240 that he first met Valerie Plame in 1997, at a reception at the home of the Turkish ambassador which Wilson attended to receive an award from -- you guessed it -- the American Turkish Council. Wilson, of course, never explains in his book what brought Valerie Plame to attend this ATC-sponsored event, but since it is public information that Plame was an undercover CIA operative at the time, the simplest explanation is the most likely one: she was there as part of her Brewster Jennings & Associates cover. Although U.S. law prohibits the CIA from conducting espionage operations against U.S. citizens on American soil, nothing would have prohibited Plame from attending such an event in Washington.

These revelations about Plame's surveillance of the American Turkish Council are significant because the ATC is connected to powerful neocons like Richard Perle and Douglas Feith (and, to be fair, to powerful anti-Iraq War activists like Brent Scowcroft and Joe Wilson.) And Edmonds implies that at least some on the ATC neocon side of this scandal are heavily involved in the nuclear black market: Feith and Perle, along with former Ambassador to Turkey Marc Grossman, are fingered by Edmonds as figures of interest.

One only has to recall that Perle and Feith are close allies of Scooter Libby, one of the original leakers of Plame's identity to the media, to conclude that Libby may have had more than one motive in seeing Plame's career and the whole Brewster Jennings operation destroyed...

A nuclear black market trail that leads to Cheneyburton himself.

Now that would set off Endless War, wouldn't it? A small black market nuke going off in an American city. An Endless Crusade against the ruthless Islamists would prove very profitable.

Or very short lived, as the pre-emptive strikers were pre-emptively nuked globally.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why Non Violence Should Be Our Watchword

In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.

Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders...

Back in the VietNam-Nixon era, it was not uncommon for the people publically advocating the most mad dog violent behavior to be what quaintly referred to as "narcs".

I know, because I saw it.

May I suggest there is now evidence they are back to their old J. Edgar Hoover-style tricks?

Illegal behavior plays into the scenario Dear Leader wants people to believe about his opposition.

So watch your step, people. They're planting mines. They want to set up whoever they can.

Let's make it both sides...

Top Sunni, Shiite groups call vote ‘fraudulent’
Bodies threaten to boycott Iraq parliament if complaints aren’t addressed

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened Thursday to boycott Iraq’s new legislature if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body.

A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as “fraudulent” and the elected lawmakers “illegitimate.”

A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week’s elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded...

So the only people showing up to the newly elected Iraqi parliment will be the NSA moles, probably.


The network architecture of treason.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Depleted Uranium Poisoning: the Gift that Keeps Giving

Via Uptown Ruler at Scrutiny Hooligans:

Bob Nichols reports "Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter charged Monday that the reason Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi stepped down earlier this month was the growing scandal surrounding the use of uranium munitions in the Iraq War.

Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, stated, “The real reason for Mr. Principi’s departure was really never given, however a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of the ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military.”

Bernklau continued, “This malady (from uranium munitions), that thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed.”

He added, “Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number of ‘Disabled Vets’ means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!” The disability rate for the wars of the last century was 5 percent; it was higher, 10 percent, in Viet Nam...

Believe it, they haven't seen anything yet.

Microwaving the Opposition

Developed by the Air Force, the so-called "Active Denial System" (ADS) fires out milimeter waves -- a sort of cousin of microwaves, in the 95 GHz range. The invisible beams penetrate just a 64th of inch beneath the skin. But that's deep enough to heat up the water inside a person. Which is enough to cause excruciating pain.

Seconds later, people have to run away. And that causes mobs to break up in a hurry. It's no wonder, then, why less-lethal weapon guru Charles "Sid" Heal calls the ray the "Holy Grail of crowd control."

Raytheon has been developing a Humvee-mountable ADS for the Pentagon over the last couple of years, as part of an ACTD, or "advanced concept technology demonstration."

...The system's "capabilities have, to date, been sufficiently demonstrated in the ACTD [advanced concept technology demonstration] to prove its value to the solider," Col. Robert Lovett notes in a memo, obtained by Inside the Army.

And the 18th Military Police Brigade has requested ADS "to help 'suppress' insurgent attacks and quell prison uprisings."

I'm sure our private contractors will find use for this.

The problem with the system that's kept it from being deployed so far is that the gain is hard to set. You go from a bad sunburn to broil very easily. And as anyone who's placed an aluminium pan in a microwave can testify, sometimes there are unintended secondary effects.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Real Problem with Wiretaps

...They are not afraid of liberal thought, but they are afraid of profits missed—when Bush extends wiretaps without even bothering with the easily obtained and legally necessary warrants, secure your wallet before you worry too much about your politics...

And probably the real reason Cheneyburton-Bu$hCo don’t want it revealed they were using the top-secret Echelon apparatus to evesdrop on their corPirate competitors everywhere else in the world.

Censure of Bush and Cheney as a Prelude to Impeachment

The Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff (.pdf document)

Congressman John Conyers has introduced three new pieces of legislation aimed at censuring President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and at creating a fact-finding committee that could be a first step toward impeachment.

Ask your Congress Member to support these efforts!


For more information on these bills, visit http://www.CensureBush.org

Excerpts from Conyers' press release here.

And don't worry about being on some one's "enemies" list. If you are reading this, you probably already are. Cozy, isn't it?

If They Told You, They'd Have to Kill You

And if you were told...

There have been many speculations as to why Dear Leader wanted to hide his domestic evesdropping capabilities: that he was monitoring journalists, or judges, or the Hillary Rodham Clenis her/himself. Among others.

But it's a sure bet the technology's part of it.

Let's just forget the stuff they give HomeLand Security.

That's doubtless a joke. An intentional joke, to allow the Company to skirt around the Vogons running the bureaucracy.

Doubtless they've been using Echelon to make their enemies list and they really don't want that to get out.

After all, Echelon officially doesn't exist.

But the real zinger behind it all is that everybody outside the United States knows it does. In fact, the European Union has complained to the United States Government that unspecified private contractors were using it to spy on their European competitors. Could we be talking about Cheneyburton spying on the perfidous French oil companies?

Using Echelon to spy on American citizens suddenly has a whole new meaning- especially when they might be Corporate citizens competing with the financial interest of members of a certain private equity firm.

Corporate citizens that until recently backed the Republican takeover of the government whole heartedly. They backed rampant corporatism until they figured their cut wasn't quite what Big Time Dick, Darth Rumsfeld, and the rest of Bu$hCo were taking to the bank. Thus the sudden change in the tide in Washington.

Who knows? Maybe if Black Spot sends his own after his business competitors first the rest of us will have time to cross the frozen river into Canada before the prison camps really open for business.

So Much for the Post-Election Accord

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Sunni Arabs on Tuesday challenged partial election results released a day earlier, calling them a "falsification of the will of the people" and saying evidence of fraud was abundant. A driver for Jordan's embassy was kidnapped by assailants.

Sunni Arab officials suggested that the country's security and stability were at stake if their complaints about last week's parliamentary vote were not addressed. Officials concentrated their protests on results from Baghdad province, the country's biggest electoral district.

Election officials said the United Iraqi Alliance — a Shiite party — took about 59 percent of the vote from 89 percent of ballot boxes counted in Baghdad province. The Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front received about 19 percent, and the Iraqi National List headed by Ayad Allawi, a secular-minded Shiite, got about 14 percent.

The Iraqi Accordance Front, a coalition of three major Sunni Arab groups, rejected those results, warning of "grave repercussions on security and political stability" if the mistakes were not corrected.

If no measures are taken, said Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the alliance, "we will demand that the elections be held again in Baghdad ... . If this demand is not met, then we will resort to other measures."

Quick, somebody call up Lincoln, we need to see Morning in America Baghdad.

Dear Leader can only call secular progressive liberals and the reality-based faction of the Company "traitors" so many times.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Weapons of Mass Delusion

Via Defense Tech:

The story starts over a year ago with a Marine blogger in Iraq. On June 2nd 2004 "The Green Side" - we’ll get back to the signficance of this source later - describes suicidal attacks by insurgents in Fallujah: “We could not understand why they kept coming but they did.” The reason, it turned out, was drugs: “…these ‘holy warriors’ are taking drugs to get high before attacks. It true, as we pushed into the town in April many Marines came across drug paraphernalia (mostly heroin). Recently, we have gotten evidence of them using another drug BZ that makes them high and very aggressive.”

BZ is not your typical substance of abuse. It’s a hallucinogenic chemical weapon. This weird concept originated in the 1950’s when “better living through chemistry” was a slogan to live by and warfare without blood was the goal. As the Washington Star noted in 1965:

New chemical weapons that win by creating confusion rather than death and destruction have proved so successful that they have been quietly added to the Army's arsenal. The latest and best, a gas called BZ by the Army, put a number of soldier guinea pigs out of action during field tests at a Utah Army base last November, and did it without harming a man.”

BZ or "Agent Buzz" is the military name for 3-quinuclidinyl benzillate, an extremely powerful hallucinogen. After experimenting with a whole stash of mind-altering substances including cocaine, heroin and LSD, the Pentagon selected BZ for weaponizing. Its major advantages are that it can easily delivered in an aerosol cloud, and it is very safe. With many substances, the effective dose can be dangerously close to the amount needed to kill - ask any anesthetist. With BZ, the tiny effective dose (maybe two milligrams) is around one-thousandth the lethal dose. It is also odorless and invisible, and there is currently no means of detecting it...

3-quinilidinl benzilate is a tropane, similar to the belladona alkaloids, very powerful anticholinergics (hence the dry mouth). Yes, you hallucinate, but a better term for this compound would be a deliriant: you have conversations with people who aren't there, feel you experience things you don't do. Auditory and sensory hallucinations are common. Very different from, say, LSD, where you know it is all drug induced- (reality was never like this)- with BZ you don't know reality from illusion.

With LSD or mescaline you have no inclination to do violence and often a hightened sense of spiritual awareness. With belladonna alkaloids there is no sense of this, only violent paranoia and fear. But fear elicits very unpredicitable responses in people. Some are quite willing to react to fear by trying to kill the source.

BZ is an incredibly stupid chemical weapon to use on a populace with a tendency for suicidal violence.

Did we use BZ on Iraqis in Fallujah, only to have it explode in our face?

Is this why we had to firebomb that city? Why we had to burn it out with white phosphorous? Because it was too violently insane to be left standing?

We All Must Have Work Permits from Dear Leader

The House is considering HR 4437, the "The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," which also includes HR 4312, the "Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2005." Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved the proposal on a party-line vote. The ACLU noted that, while HR 4312 has had some consideration by Congress, no substantive hearings have been held on the larger bill.

The legislation would create a sea-change in federal employment rules by requiring all workers in the country to obtain a federal agency’s permission to work. All employers would be required to participate in a national employment eligibility verification program in an expansion of the faulty but voluntary "Basic Pilot" program in current law. Like Basic Pilot, the new program would use an Internet-based system to check the names and social security numbers of all employees -- citizens and non-citizen alike -- against a Department of Homeland Security database.

The ACLU said that such a move would place a huge burden on both employers and workers. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported that conservative estimates of implementing such a system would cost at least $11.7 billion annually, a large share of which would be shouldered by businesses. Also, even assuming a near-perfect accuracy rate in the program, millions of legal, eligible American workers could still have their right to work seriously delayed or denied --fighting bureaucratic red tape to keep a job and pay bills. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have expressed strong reservations with the employment verification provisions.

You read it right.

You would have to have government authorization to hold a job even as a United States citizen and without that authorization you could be held indefinitely and processed without due process by the government.

Creating all kinds of entrepreneurial opportunities for contractors like CACI, Blackwater, and CSC/DynCorp, no doubt.

Ah, the blessings of free enterprise.

The Secret Government, Hiding in Plain Sight

Laura Rozen asked a really good question this weekend:

...There's no evidence of any court cases that have resulted from Bush's illegal unauthorized warrantless NSA spying on Americans. As I wrote earlier, presumably even the Bush administration hasn't figured out a way to use secretly, illegally obtained evidence against the accused in a court of law. Cases where it's tried to declare the accused has some extra legal judicial status have virtually all collapsed. No successful terrorism prosecutions, no al Qaeda cells wrapped up domestically. So what has it been used for?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mistakes Were Made- Not Likely

Hello Jane Smiley. What's a smart girl like you blogging on a site like this?

She makes some very good points:

...Let’s take a look at the “mistakes” the Bush administration is said to have made, and, instead, ask ourselves if they are actually realized intentions:

1. Hobbling the government with debt by combining an expensive, prolonged war with perennial rounds of tax cuts.

2. Destroying the bureaucracy by making it impossible for neutral, expert, or objective bureaucrats to keep their jobs, replacing them with incompetents.

3. Destroying the integrity of the election system, state by state, beginning with Florida and Ohio.

4: Defanging the media by paying fake reporters, co-opting members of the MSM (why did the New York Times refrain from publishing stories unfavorable to the Bush administration before the 2004 election?) and allowing (or encouraging) huge mergers and the buying up of independent media operations by known conservative media conglomerates.

5. Destroying the middle class by changing the bankruptcy laws and the tax laws.

6. Destroying the National Guard and the Army by deploying them over and over in a futile war, while at the same time failing to provide them with armor and equipment.

7. Precipitating Iraq into a civil war by invading it.

8. Accelerating the effects of global warming by putting roadblocks in the way of mitigating its effects.

9. Denying healthcare and prescription medication to an increasing number of Americans, most specifically by ramming the prescription drug legislation through Congress, but also by manipulating Medicare and Medicaid so that fewer and fewer citizens are covered.

10. Encouraging the people in the rest of the world to associate the US with torture, military incursion, and fear, by a preemptive attack on a sovereign nation, by vociferously maintaining the right of the US to do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and by refusing to accept international laws.

Or, to put it another way, the Bush administration apparently wishes for and is working toward a chaotic Iraq, a corrupt American election structure with openly corrupt influence-peddlers like Delay and Abramoff in charge of policy, a world in which people suffer and die from weather-related catastrophes, a two-tiered economic structure in the US (with most people in the lower tier), and the isolation of the US as a rogue state from the other nations of the world.

How else are we going to interpret the satisfaction the President continually expresses in the results of his policies so far?...

Go read it all. And thanks again to Lambert for the heads up.

It looks like the main$tream is starting to get a whiff of where the cattlecar is heading. Atrios points to this:

...The Bush administration is continuing its assault on Americans' privacy and freedom in the name of the war on terrorism.

First, in 2002, according to extensive reporting in The New York Times on Friday, it secretly authorized the National Security Agency to intercept and keep records of Americans' international phone and e-mail messages without benefit of a previously required court order. Second, it has permitted the Department of Defense to get away with not destroying after three months, as required, records of American Iraq war protesters in the Pentagon's Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, database.

Both practices mean that a government agency is maintaining information on Americans, reminiscent of the Johnson and Nixon administrations' approach to Vietnam War protesters. The existence of those records should be seen against a background of the Bush administration's response to criticism of the Iraq war by retired Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson. His wife's career at the CIA was ended in revenge for an article he wrote unmasking a dodgy piece of intelligence that President Bush had used in a State of the Union message to seek to support his decision to go to war.

It appears that the phone and e-mail messages of thousands of Americans and foreigners resident in America have been or are being monitored and recorded by the NSA. Such action is not supposed to be taken without an application to and an order approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Mr. Bush issued an executive order in 2002, months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, removing -- secretly -- that legal safeguard of Americans' privacy and civil rights.

The Pentagon's action as part of TALON will be put forward as an oversight, but the idea of the Department of Defense maintaining files on American war protesters, perhaps with easy cross-reference to the NSA's records based on the results of their monitoring of phone calls and e-mails of potentially those same protesters, makes possible a very serious violation of Americans' civil rights.

Without a serious leap of imagination, particularly with the list of those under surveillance not available to anyone outside the NSA and the Pentagon, it is also possible to project that political critics of the Bush administration could end up among those being tracked. The Nixon administration, a previous Republican administration beleaguered by war critics, maintained "enemies lists."

The White House needs to tell the Pentagon promptly to destroy the records of protesters as required, within three months. It also needs promptly to tell the NSA to return to following the rules, to get the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before monitoring Americans' communications. The idea that all of this is being done to us in the name of national security doesn't wash; that is the language of a police state. Those are the unacceptable actions of a police state.

Pretty strong reality-based stuff for a main$tream editorial from the heart of the rust belt.

Let's hope now they're off the Kool-Aid they stay off.

Buying Disinformation in the Free Press Marketplace

It's a funny thing how NIH sponsored research has to be marked as an "advertisement" when it's published in academic journals, but a column in Newsweek supporting a political agenda and purchased by a lobbyist doesn't have to say anything of the sort..

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again

Time to declare victory, again.

Moral Certitude

Who cares about whether the Patriot Act gets renewed? Want to abuse our civil liberties? Just do it.

Who cares about the Geneva Conventions. Want to torture prisoners? Just do it.

Who cares about rules concerning the identity of CIA agents. Want to reveal the name of a covert operative? Just do it.

Who cares about whether the intelligence concerning WMDS is accurate. Want to invade Iraq? Just do it.

Who cares about qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court. Want to nominate a personal friend with no qualifications? Just do it.

And the latest outrage, which I read about in "The New York Times" this morning, who cares about needing a court order to eavesdrop on American citizens. Want to wiretap their phone conversations? Just do it. What a joke. A very cruel, very sad joke.

But we know who's laughing.

You can hear it if you listen.

Thanks to Atrios & Crooks & Liars for the links.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Leak in the Company Wars Gets a "So What" from the Lotus Eaters

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
Published: December 16, 2005

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said...

Certainly the NSA- headed by Rice when this started- would be nonpartisan and only break the law to listen to legitimate United States citizens terra'ists without a wiretap.


Certainly Bu$hCo's core 30% seems to think so.

But you know, how else do you find out who supports Al Qaeda or votes Democratic unless you can monitor freely? It's a National Security issue.

So what if it's against the law, right?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Convergent Emergent Conspiracy Theory and the Plausible Deniability of the Boy in the Bubble

It's like Shystee says.

There's no Dr. Evil required for things to look a little freaky in the reality-based world. Still, there is an otherwise an interesting post by that cautious pessimist, Jeff Wells. It's a belated review of Naomi Klein's Baghdad Year Zero essay.

Jeff says:

She's very good when describing the neoconservatives "apocalyptic glee" at the destruction of a society to accomodate their extreme makeover -
"Iraq was to the neocons what Afghanistan was to the Taliban: the one place on Earth where they could force everyone to live by the most literal, unyielding interpretation of their sacred texts"
- but I think she falters when framing for the big picture, as do most left critics of the war, by not having a deeper field of vision. She doesn't see behind the neoconservatives, to clusters of elite power which owe no allegiance to nation-states, and whose purpose all along has been calamity and the ruin of America.

Klein writes:
"The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible. Bremer’s reforms unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could hope to control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded."

Well, yes; that particular hallucination of a Chicago School hot house on the Euphrates has been well dashed, having served it's purpose to rally Milton Friedman's infernal optimists to the Great Crusade. But like so many crusades, this one was sponsored by cynics for undisclosed ends. Iraq's kingdom of ghouls did not arise entirely by chance or surprise, and not without encouragement. Reconstruction remains impossible because the forces of occupation both inspire insurrection - that's about as far as Klein goes - and also impersonate it. (And shortly after the outrage at Basra who was found dead in the same city, a suspected suicide, but Captain Ken Masters, only the officer "responsible for the investigation of all in-theatre serious incidents.") British examples are good here, to remind us that the double game is international and Anglo-American, demonstrating a trans-national bond and common interest that goes deeper than simply bending to the will of a Donald Rumsfeld.

Iraq is viewed almost entirely as a neocon project, but the backstory to the war includes the purposeful bankrupting of America, which has weakened the state from the inside while the Iraq war has not only created more enemies, but left it more vulnerable to attack.

The neocons are the Lone Gunmen of Iraq. They're the patsies who'll eventually take the fall for its failure, which will actually mean success to the real players who've allowed them the liberty to play their hand. Like Oswald, these patsies aren't innocents, but neither should perfect blame be laid at their feet. And like Oswald, when their heads are offered to the public the public will be expected to sigh with relief that the beast has been slain and all is right again in the land.

But they're not up for the chop yet. A few more acts need to be played before they've unintentionally exhausted their use in the hastening of the collapse of American power. (Idealogues blinded by the beauty of their ideas are easily manipulated to the service of contrary ends.)...

This is a very powerful and effective statement, muddied by the gaggle of conspiracy theorists and professional disinformants that follow and troll Jeff's site, blaming everyone from the might Clenis to the Illumati to the Black Helicopter U.N. crowd as Jeff's Shadow Players behind the NeoCons.

But as I've said before, I'll say again: the search for the Real Culprits behind it All is a will o'the wisp.

It's not just "clusters of elite powers" that are throwing a wrench in the machinery of America the beautiful. It's not just people who sit up late at night, trying to take over the world. Don't get me wrong. There are people who do that.

It's just that even when they work together, they tend to Balkanize their efforts. If anything, the vast right-wing conspiracy, like the vast left-wing conspiracy, is a gang that couldn't shoot straight, because every minor player wants the prize. Don't get me wrong. There are Republicans, and Wrepublicans, just like there are Democrats, and DINOcrats, that possess incredible drive and organization to climb to the top of the pile and be the alpha primate. Or whatever.

It's just that all the Players are too busy Playing to co-ordinate amongst themselves, and like a great man once said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn professional.

Take this little gem, a tip from a friend:

Call it an educated guess, but veteran Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer figures that when Florida's new "Stand Your Ground" law takes effect next October the first self-defense claim he'll see will involve a road rage shooting.

"We already see many cases like that involving firearms. Now, they'll be more inclined to pull the trigger," Krischer said. Under Florida's existing law, what's known as the "castle doctrine" authorizes homeowners and residents to shoot intruders in their homes when they reasonably believe their safety is in jeopardy. The new law passed last month and, pushed by the National Rifle Association, expands that authorization to shoot at attackers "literally everywhere," Krischer said.

Gone will be "the duty to retreat" from potentially bloody confrontations that's now built into Florida's criminal justice statutes. Instead, the law will recognize that everyone has "the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force" if they reasonably believe it's necessary to avoid death or serious injury.

Under such circumstances, those who kill or wound will have immunity from both criminal prosecution and civil liability. The new law will give them a general legal presumption that they acted out of "reasonable fear." And they'll be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees, court costs and lost income incurred in defending any civil lawsuit filed by their victims...

"As [NRA] executive vice president Wayne LaPierre has said we are going to move across the nation from the red states to the blue states," Hammer said. "Other states have pieces of what we now have in Florida; this is a good, reasonable self-defense package."

Aside from making the streets of Detroit look like Baghdad on a bad day, that's going to make life awfully hard for Men in Black.

A product of the Bu$hCo bubble mentality, seeking to insulate itself from the world but only capturing itself again? A sublime piece of misdirection from the Lords of Chaos, whoever they may be? Or a Zeitgeist response to a tidal wave of repression building on the horizon?

Convergence, indeed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Required Reading

Tom at Correntwire links to this review of The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman, which turned out to be rather prophetic:

...Even more confusing for those who like their politics to consist of nicely pigeonholed leftwingers criticising rightwingers, and vice versa, will be the incendiary essay that introduces Krugman's new collection of columns, The Great Unravelling... In it, Krugman describes how, just as he was about to send his manuscript to the publishers, he chanced upon a passage in an old history book from the 1950s, about 19th-century diplomacy, that seemed to pinpoint, with eerie accuracy, what is happening in the US now. Eerie, but also perhaps a little embarrassing, really, given the identity of the author. Because it's Henry Kissinger.

"The first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine," Krugman writes of A World Restored, the 1957 tome by the man who would later become the unacceptable face of cynical realpolitik. Kissinger, using Napoleon as a case study - but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s - describes what happens when a stable political system is confronted with a "revolutionary power": a radical group that rejects the legitimacy of the system itself.

This, Krugman believes, is precisely the situation in the US today (though he is at pains to point out that he isn't comparing Bush to Hitler in moral terms). The "revolutionary power", in Kissinger's theory, rejects fundamental elements of the system it seeks to control, arguing that they are wrong in principle. For the Bush administration, according to Krugman, that includes social security; the idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions; and perhaps even the basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections - as opposed to, say, from God.

But worse still, Kissinger continued, nobody can quite bring themselves to believe that the revolutionary power really means to do what it claims. "Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent," he wrote, "they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework." Exactly, says Krugman, who recallss the response to his column about Tom DeLay, the anti-evolutionist Republican leader of the House of Representatives, who claimed, bafflingly, that "nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes".

"My liberal friends said, 'I'm not interested in what some crazy guy in Congress has to say'," Krugman recalls. "But this is not some crazy guy! This guy runs Congress! There's this fundamental unwillingness to acknowledge the radicalism of the threat we're facing." But those who point out what is happening, Kissinger had already noted long ago, "are considered alarmists; those who counsel adaptation to circumstance are considered balanced and sane." ("Those who take the hard-line rightists now in power at their word are usually accused of being 'shrill', of going over the top," Krugman writes, and he has become well used to such accusations.)

Which is how, as Krugman sees it, the Bush administration managed to sell tax cuts as a benefit to the poor when the result will really be to benefit the rich, and why they managed to rally support for war in Iraq with arguments for which they didn't have the evidence. Journalists "find it very hard to deal with blatantly false arguments," he argues. "By inclination and training, they always try to see two sides to an issue, and find it hard even to conceive that a major political figure is simply lying." ...