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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Company's company gets a Poindexter upgrade

In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA, has hired Christopher Darby, a veteran executive with experience building companies and a background in Web security, as its new chief executive.

...Darby comes to the CIA position after several changes over the past year. Gilman Louie, who was very present here in Silicon Valley, left to launch his own venture capital firm here (we'll let you know when the firm opens its doors), and then Amit Yoran was in the In-Q-Tel spot for less than four months, replaced in April by interim CEO Scott Yancey....

This is not a Silicon Valley guy... He joins In-Q-Tel from Intel, but was only at Intel for a year, after Intel had acquired his Illinois company, Sarvega. He was CEO of Sarvega, which supplied "XML networking and security products." Before that, Darby was chairman and chief executive of Cambridge, Mass.' @stake, an Internet security consulting company acquired by Symantec. Before that, he was president and CEO of Interpath Communications...

In-Q-Tel used to be all Star Wars all the time, but the ex-CSC/ DynCorp CIA/ CEO rocket scientist who headed it in those days moved to head NASA at Darth Rumsfeld's bequest.

Now with the old Clinton-era elements largely purged, the Company seems to have decided to set up its own TIA in its private proxy.

Its primary job, of course, will likely be to spy on the NSA. Its secondary priority will be the DNC. When they aren't busy trying looking at your hardrive, anyway.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A New Kind of Fascism from the Same Old Cabal

Just to let some of my newer readers and commenters that haven't made the cut know: I am partisan- for the Constitution of the United States. This is a progressive liberal technocratic secular humanist blog. It's principal and unapologetic goal to educate people about what is going on in this world.

When Bill & HHHillary Clinton support the Iron Triangle, give them Hell. See here. Or here. Or here. Or here.

In short, when the Clintons come down on the side of Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton manipulation of the system, they don't get support here.

On the other hand, when they do the right thing, which they've done with far greater frequency than the current administration, I'm on their side. [Caveat: a lot of their good deeds may have been largely due to the influence of Al Gore.] They did quite a better job of protecting the country from terrorism than the Cheneyburton administration has.

If you find that evaluation partisan, maybe you shouldn't be here.

Another man who shouldn't be here- in fact, he belongs in prison for the crimes against the United State and humanity he's committed- is Donald Rumsfeld.

Yesterday, he suggested the majority of people in this country that opposed the NeoCon policy of Endless War, and in particular, the Iraqi War, were traitors, comparing us to Hitler appeasers.

Exactly who invaded whom in this war? Who struck first? Who profits from it? Mr. Rumsfeld's profiting, among others, including the Saudis who supported the action of Al Qaeda. If you want links for these statements, I suggest you read my blog. Or Google Bandar Bush, or Rumsfeld and Carlyle, or Bechtel, or General Dynamics, or ABB.

Today Keith Olbermann gave it to Mr. Rumsfeld with both barrels.

Please watch it all, then read the transcript carefully. It's a historic document, whatever comes afterwards. The Democrats are beginning to awaken. Mr. Rumsfeld, and his cabal of men and women that have usurped the rule of Law, can not afford to let their power go in an open elections.

Either this Republic's about to go the way it did in Imperial Rome or face a constitutional crisis to dwarf Watergate.

Bu$hie's turning up the heat for the War with Iran and calling his opposition seditious.

There's no profit in doing anything else for him.

He might decide to try to fill all those Halliburton camps yet.

Half a Billion for the Cru$ade

Via Lambert:

Yes, it seems that Bush has indeed wangled himself and Unka Karl $450 million smackeroos in a slush fund they can get their paws on right now and do anything they want with. Surprise! The story has a lot of detail, but the bottom line is simple: The terms of the Softwood Lumber Agreement with Canada will give Bush complete control of an escrow account with $450 million in it, controlled by a board that Bush appoints, and which can be used for any purpose whatever, with no Congressional oversight...

Link-rich and very detailed.

Good thing they moved the Office of Special Plans out of the Pentagon and into Rove's closet- and across the border, too.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Questioning Authority

The disinformation hangs thick around him, and he certainly wanders way off the trail, but sometimes he hits the mark. For your consideration, Jeff Wells with some links I've added:

...An appeal to authority is a strong attractor, even to many who profess to question it. The "9/11 Movement" has largely been lost to this crippling way of thought that perpetuates the myth of our own inadequacies. What we need, it's been said for years now, is someone on the inside to blow this wide open. And the Inside has happily obliged, providing a stream of dubious "whistleblowers" to muddy clear waters with sensational scoops and who soon vanish, leaving only confusion behind. The Inside has even gifted 9/11 with leadership: pied pipers who have shifted the focus towards the sexiest and least substantial arguments, and who are embraced and elevated according to the depths of their insider bona fides. Former Bush advisors, Republican bagmen and CIA operatives all speak with the seducing voice of authority, and when they say Nevermind that; look over here, too many of us look. (The rise to prominence of "Scholars for 9/11 Truth" is another example of our too-easily exploited deference to authority, even when the authority addresses issues unrelated to its field of expertise.)

And what do we mean by Inside? Many who push 9/11 as an "inside job" seem to want to push Osama right out of the picture, but bin Laden is himself inside the security-narcotics-terror nexus, composed of factions that interpenetrate one another, which sometimes compete and sometimes strike strategic alliances depending upon what advantages they believe they can gain and how best they can outplay the other. Look at al Qaeda, NATO's silent partner in Bosnia. Look at the ISI, al Qaeda's patron and the CIA's proxy. Look at the drug trafficking common to all, and double agents such as Omar Saeed Sheik. But the fact they're all inside to a certain degree doesn't mean they act as one, without self interest or competing agendas. Inside, there can be a convergence of interests, even at cross purposes.

The pull of authority holds for other subjects that have been pushed even farther to the margins, for which established authority does not even exist... So without authority to explain it, most choose not to see it.

But we don't need to get inside, and we shouldn't want to. Inside is a compartmentalized labyrinth that even insiders with the best of intentions would be unable to negotiate. Outside, and from a distance, is perspective. What we need is better Outside intel.

It's like Shystee says, any complex of human interaction develops characteristics of chaotic systems.

An observer can't help but interact with something being observed, but there are multiple levels of interaction, and some are far more interested in outcomes than others.

Certainly the Islamofascists are a real and present danger. But then, so are the TheoCons. And the narcotic/ human trafficking underworld. And the complacency of those who believe in a bipolar world.

The NeoCons might look like puppets of the Cheneyburton cabal. But you can't be sure who's manipulating whom. The lines of control and influence are nothing like linear.

Friend of the Family

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is a longtime and prominent member of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list, which notes his role as the suspected mastermind of the deadly U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa on Aug. 7, 1998.

But another more infamous date -- Sept. 11, 2001 -- is nowhere to be found on the same FBI notice.

The curious omission underscores the Justice Department's decision, so far, to not seek formal criminal charges against bin Laden for approving al-Qaeda's most notorious and successful terrorist attack...

Bin Laden was placed on the Ten Most Wanted list in June 1999 after being indicted for murder, conspiracy and other charges in connection with the embassy bombings, and a $5 million reward was put on his head at that time. The listing was updated after Sept. 11, 2001, to include a higher reward of $25 million, but no mention of the attacks was added...

So exactly who should we blame for 9/11 if not Osama? Why, that source of all evil, the Mighty Clenis.

Of course, this Rovian media blitz will have nothing to do with the facts:

Starting in 1995, Clinton took actions against terrorism that were unprecedented in American history. He poured billions and billions of dollars into counterterrorism activities across the entire spectrum of the intelligence community. He poured billions more into the protection of critical infrastructure. He ordered massive federal stockpiling of antidotes and vaccines to prepare for a possible bioterror attack. He order a reorganization of the intelligence community itself, ramming through reforms and new procedures to address the demonstrable threat. Within the National Security Council, "threat meetings" were held three times a week to assess looming conspiracies. His National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, prepared a voluminous dossier on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, actively tracking them across the planet. Clinton raised the issue of terrorism in virtually every important speech he gave in the last three years of his tenure. In 1996, Clinton delivered a major address to the United Nations on the matter of international terrorism, calling it "The enemy of our generation."

Behind the scenes, he leaned vigorously on the leaders of nations within the terrorist sphere. In particular, he pushed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assist him in dealing with the threat from neighboring Afghanistan and its favorite guest, Osama bin Laden. Before Sharif could be compelled to act, he was thrown out of office by his own army. His replacement, Pervez Musharraf, pointedly refused to do anything to assist Clinton in dealing with these threats. Despite these and other diplomatic setbacks, terrorist cell after terrorist cell were destroyed across the world, and bomb plots against American embassies were thwarted. Because of security concerns, these victories were never revealed to the American people until very recently.

In America, few people heard anything about this. Clinton's dire public warnings about the threat posed by terrorism, and the massive non-secret actions taken to thwart it, went completely unreported by the media, which was far more concerned with stained dresses and baseless Drudge Report rumors. When the administration did act militarily against bin Laden and his terrorist network, the actions were dismissed by partisans within the media and Congress as scandalous "wag the dog" tactics. The TV networks actually broadcast clips of the movie "Wag The Dog" to accentuate the idea that everything the administration was doing was contrived fakery.

The bombing of the Sundanese factory at al-Shifa, in particular, drew wide condemnation from these quarters, despite the fact that the CIA found and certified VX nerve agent precursor in the ground outside the factory, despite the fact that the factory was owned by Osama bin Laden's Military Industrial Corporation, and despite the fact that the manager of the factory lived in bin Laden's villa in Khartoum. The book "Age of Sacred Terror" quantifies the al-Shifa issue thusly: "The dismissal of the al-Shifa attack as a scandalous blunder had serious consequences, including the failure of the public to comprehend the nature of the al Qaeda threat."

In Congress, Clinton was thwarted by the reactionary conservative majority in virtually every attempt he made to pass legislation that would attack al Qaeda and terrorism. His 1996 omnibus terror bill, which included many of the anti-terror measures we now take for granted after September 11, was withered almost to the point of uselessness by attacks from the right; Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were openly dismissive of the threats Clinton spoke of.

Clinton wanted to attack the financial underpinnings of the al-Qaeda network by banning American companies and individuals from dealing with foreign banks and financial institutions that al Qaeda was using for its money-laundering operations. Texas Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee, killed Clinton's bill on this matter and called it "totalitarian." In fact, he was compelled to kill the bill because his most devoted patrons, the Enron Corporation and its criminal executives in Houston, were using those same terrorist financial networks to launder their own dirty money and rip off the Enron stockholders.

Just before departing office, Clinton managed to make a deal with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to have some twenty nations close tax havens used by al Qaeda. His term ended before the deal was sealed, and the incoming Bush administration acted immediately to destroy the agreement. According to Time magazine, in an article entitled "Banking on Secrecy" published in October of 2001, Bush economic advisors Larry Lindsey and R. Glenn Hubbard were urged by think tanks like the Center for Freedom and Prosperity to opt out of the coalition Clinton had formed. The conservative Heritage Foundation lobbied Bush's Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, to do the same. In the end, the lobbyists got what they wanted, and the Bush administration pulled America out of the plan. The Time article stated, "Without the world's financial superpower, the biggest effort in years to rid the world's financial system of dirty money was short-circuited."

This laundry list of partisan catastrophes goes on and on. Far from being inept on the matter of terrorism, Clinton was profoundly activist in his attempts to address terrorism. Much of his work was foiled by right-wing Congressional conservatives who, simply, refused to accept the fact that he was President. These men, paid to work for the public trust, spent eight years working diligently to paralyze any and all Clinton policies, including anti-terror initiatives that, if enacted, would have gone a long way towards thwarting the September 11 attacks. Beyond them lay the worthless television media, which ignored and spun the terrorist issue as it pursued salacious leaks from Ken Starr's office, leaving the American people drowning in a swamp of ignorance on a matter of deadly global importance...

Couple this with other facts about the Bush administration we now have in hand. The administration was warned about a massive terror plot in the months before September by the security services of several countries, including Israel, Egypt, Germany and Russia. CIA Director George Tenet delivered a specific briefing on the matter to the administration on August 8, 2001. The massive compendium of data on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda compiled by Sandy Berger, and delivered to Condoleezza Rice upon his departure, went completely and admittedly unread until the attacks took place. The attacks themselves managed, for over an hour, to pierce the most formidable air defense system in the history of the Earth without a single fighter aircraft taking wing until the catastrophe was concluded...

Had the Bush administration not continued this pattern of gross partisan ineptitude and heeded the blitz of domestic and international warnings, instead of trooping off to Texas for a month-long vacation, had Bush's National Security Advisor done one hour's worth of her homework, we probably would not be in the grotesque global mess that currently envelops us. Never forget that many of the activists who pushed throughout the 1990s for the annihilation of all things Clinton are now foursquare in charge of the country today.

Monday, August 28, 2006

E pur si muove!

The Man loads his guns against the 20th Century, Charles Darwin, and heliocentricism. Although not necessarily in that order.

Vatican City, Aug. 21--Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a new director of the Vatican Observatory, replacing the Rev. George Coyne, a long-serving Jesuit astronomer and a vocal opponent of "intelligent design" theory.

It was unclear if the replacement of Coyne, the observatory's director since 1978, reflected a sense of disapproval within the Vatican over his opposition to intelligent design -- the idea that the world is too complex to have been created by natural events alone.

Coyne has frequently attacked the theory as a "religious movement" lacking scientific merit. He could not be reached for comment...

In his staunch defense of evolution, Coyne, 73, has frequently crossed swords with Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, a former protégé and close adviser to Benedict whose support of intelligent design has been instrumental in introducing the theory into Catholic discourse.

The clash opened a divide between Vatican scientists who support Charles Darwin's theory and prominent theologians who believe evolution has been exaggerated to mount ideological attacks to disprove the existence of a creator-God...

In early September, Benedict will conduct a weekend seminar on the impact Darwin's theory has on the church's teaching of Creation. Schonborn, who has described evolution as "incompatible" with church teachings, will speak at the event, along with evolution advocate Peter Schuster, president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Other speakers at the event include the Rev. Paul Erbrich, emeritus professor of natural philosophy from the University of Munich, who has described evolution as a "fundamentally inadequate" explanation of the origins of life; and Robert Spaemann, a conservative German philosopher who has challenged "evolutionism," or the philosophical applications of Darwin's theory.

He also sez Gallileo deserved the Inquisition, which was "reasonable and just" in its actions towards him (Joseph Ratzinger, Corriere della Sera, March 30, 1990; 30 Dias, January 1993, p. 34) , too.

"...and yet, it moves," he was heard to say under his breath.

Oh, by the way, notice here ye Faithful:

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No Glasnost for You

Transparency bill subjected to secrecy
August 16, 2006
A bill to promote government transparency faces an uncertain future because of a far-from-transparent hold placed upon it in the Senate.
An unknown number of senators have blocked legislation to create a public, searchable Web site of all federal grants and contracts. Senate rules permit any senator to anonymously block consideration of a bill on the floor, effectively killing the measure.
“Hopefully the person or persons blocking it will realize it’s important to promote transparency and not secrecy in government,” said John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the bill’s sponsor.
Supporters of the measure had hoped to bring it to the Senate floor before lawmakers left Washington for the August recess. Hart noted that the bill has a bipartisan list of prominent co-sponsors including: Senate President Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and possible presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The bill was approved July 27 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee...

This story just keeps getting better. It turns out a coalition of conservative and liberal bloggers is working to try to figure out who's holding the Bill up.

Assuming, of course, the secret blockader would admit to not supporting it...

Who's trying to stop the government from telling its citizens where their tax dollars are being spent? Help find out.

Just before the August recess, the Senate was set to vote on a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would create a public, searchable database of all federal grants and contracts. Envisioned as a Google-like website, it would provide free, immediate access the information, which can be alarmingly difficult to obtain.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed the measure July 27th, and S.2590 seemed to be speeding on its way to full Senate passage when, in the dark of night, an unknown Senator placed a "secret hold" on the bill. According to Senate rules, the bill will never come to a vote as long as the hold continues.

So who's the culprit?

Since he/she is unlikely to fess up, bloggers from the left and right have united in the effort of eliminating suspects one by one. The only way to do this is to call your Senator's offices up and get an answer...

Good luck finding this Reptilican or DINOcrat, girls and boys, because it's not real likely they'll confess.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"What you don't know won't hurt them"

Leonard Pitts Jr. / Syndicated columnist
The Bush doctrine of ignorance

...Last week, The Washington Post ran a fascinating story based on a report from the National Security Archive, a research library at George Washington University. According to the report, the Bush administration has been blacking out previously public documents on the nation's strategic military capabilities. They are doing this, they say, in the name of national security. Got a question on the Minuteman missile? Tough. Curious about the Titan II? Too bad.

Now maybe you wonder what the problem is. This is sensitive information we're talking about, right? Can't have that falling into just anybody's hands, right?

The thing is, it's already in "anybody's" hands: it dates back half a century to the Cold War. We're talking about memos, charts and papers that have over the years been cited in open congressional hearings, reported in newspapers, used in history books. We're talking about information our government long ago deemed innocuous enough to provide even to its former enemy, the Soviet Union.

And now — "now!" — we're supposed to believe it's suddenly so sensitive it has to be classified Top Secret? Please.

This is a classic case of locking the barn after the horse has escaped — and died of old age. More to the point, it is a classic and absurd example of the present regime's mania for secrecy, its obsessive need to control what, when, how and why you and I learn about its activities.

Anyone who doesn't see a pattern here has not been paying attention. From its 18-hour blackout of news that the vice president had shot a man, to its paying a newspaper columnist to write favorable pieces, to its habit of putting out video press releases disguised as TV news, to its penchant for stamping top secret on anything that doesn't move fast enough, this administration has repeatedly shown contempt for the right of the people to know what's going on. At a time when information is more readily available than ever, this government is working like 1952 to enforce ignorance.

And the people, too many of them, shrug and say okey-dokey. As if we learned nothing from Abscam, Iran-contra, Vietnam and Watergate. As if it's OK for an arrogant and paternalistic government to decide for us what we get to know.

Well, it's not. An informed electorate is the lifeblood of democracy, the ultimate check on despotic ambitions.

One wonders if most people get this. One suspects that most people do not. How can you get it and not be outraged? How can you get it and not feel fear? Apparently, some of us don't understand the stakes here.

It's not just information they're trying to control.

DINOcrats by Any Other Name

Just because you should be aware of these "democratic" sources when they're quoted in Pravda:

The Top 10 Corporate Democrats-For-Hire
By Russ Baker, AlterNet
Posted on August 24, 2006, Printed on August 27, 2006

...While Lieberman is best known outside of Washington for his neocon views, he's famous in the capital for his undying support for corporate causes. There are countless examples: Remember Lieberman's role in blocking the reforms of stock option accounting that former SEC chair Arthur Levitt was trying to enact? This was a question of honest accounting that became part and parcel of the corporate corruption scandals of recent years, and Lieberman was a champion of the wrong side.

Beyond that, Lieberman happily has done the bidding of the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies and many others, thus establishing an unsavory underside to his more admirable record on environmental and other issues. And of course, his support of and continued rationalization of the Iraq invasion, like many of Lieberman's other stances, has served chiefly to benefit large corporations, in this case the "national security/homeland defense" industry that got a huge boost from Bush's reckless military adventurism. It's no great surprise to learn that Karl Rove called Lieberman the other day after his loss, and described him as a "friend."

Lieberman and his defenders have tried to portray his brand of politics as "centrism." But it has little to do with mainstream voters and much to do with the money culture of Washington of which many Democrats have become a part. And yet, Ralph Nader is wrong in his blanket condemnations of Democrats: You still are more likely to find someone willing to stand up to the big money boys among Democrats than Republicans. But the gap is narrowing. Voters sense it...

We scrutinized scores of Washington Dems and found many ensconced in firms working to advance corporate agendas that don't look that different from policy we see emanating from the Bush administration. To be sure, many of these people have redeeming qualities, represent some admirable causes as well, and may personally harbor inclinations for the greater good. Yet, in trying to earn a handsome living in Washington, they apparently do what a person's gotta do. Can political success and influence be attained without working for The Man? Let's defer that debate for another time and start with a few facts.

First, let's check in with Mike McCurry, President Clinton's former press secretary. He's a partner at the firm Public Strategies Washington, Inc., and serves as chairman of Hands Off the Internet -- an outfit created by telecom companies such as AT&T and BellSouth which, paradoxically, want to put their hands ON the internet by creating what amounts to internal tariffs on internet traffic for large downloads and such. The hands that are supposed to stay off are those of regulators or legislators who want to keep the internet free.

Want Clinton? Over at a "strategic communications" company founded in 2001, you've got enough Friends of Bubba to fill a VW bug. There's McCurry's successor as Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart, and Al Gore's top strategists Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman. There's Howard Wolfson, former spokesman for Hillary Clinton and executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And Joel Johnson, senior adviser for policy and communications to President Clinton.

When an election pops up, nearly the entire top brass rush to work on it. Lockhart and Wolfson, for example, took leaves in 2004 to work on the Kerry campaign and at the DNC. Johnson went from another firm to the Kerry campaign, then joined Glover Park.This mixture of politics and business seems to be working, because in 2005, the firm was ranked the fastest-growing private company in the District of Columbia.

What business, you ask? Even before Glover Park, Eskew, who has done media work for Sens. Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, and Tom Harkin, and is close to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, was criticized for his work providing media advice to the tobacco industry. This time around, Eskew has been working again for Lieberman.

Among Glover Park's clients: Rupert Murdoch, who paid Glover Park about $200,000 for work to block TV ratings changes that could harm ad revenues at his Fox Broadcasting (the attempt was unsuccessful). Glover also got a large retainer for PR work and organizing groups against the plan (including the Don't Count Us Out coalition, which initially gave the impression it was an independent group representing the interests of people of color but turns out to represent mostly one Australian media buccaneer by the initials R.M.) Is it a coincidence that Murdoch's New York Post went from gleefully pillorying Hillary to praising her and attacking her critics and opponents?

Other firm clients have included the government of Turkey; Think About It (another faux-grassroots outfit waging an unsuccessful campaign to allow casino gambling in Maine); Microsoft (handled media inquiries about Microsoft's ties to Jack Abramoff's lobbying team); the Pentagon; Asbestos Study Group (an industry coalition formed to fight for limits on asbestos-related lawsuits); the Coalition to Preserve DSHEA (wants to continue making health claims for food supplements without scientific backing; multilevel marketing firms love this, most health and consumer groups don't); and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), undoubtedly big fans of making prescription drugs more affordable...

Russ Baker goes on to name a whole DINOcratic hit list, people that have worked for everyone from Jimmy Carter to Al Gore to John Kerry, and all their tight affiliations with all those oil-and-war profiteers bound up with the Carlyle Group.

Without, of course, invoking the tinfoil that people put on when they hear the name of the Carlyle Group.

When Dear Leader Would Rather Provide for his Base

WASHINGTON — Michigan has been shaping up as one of the few bright spots for Republicans in the coming elections, with the GOP hoping to strip Democrats of the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat.

But in an unusual development, prominent Republicans there are complaining that President Bush needs to become more engaged in a top issue driving the election: the declining fortunes of the state's auto industry.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos lashed out at the White House this week for not having set up a long-promised meeting with executives of the Big Three automakers, which are being squeezed by high healthcare costs and shrinking market share.

"We're being ignored here in Michigan by the White House, and it has got to stop," DeVos, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, told reporters.

"It is wrong, and the behavior is inexcusable," DeVos said in a written statement Thursday. "The president needs to meet with the Big Three, and it must happen soon. Jobs are at stake."

An aide to Rep. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.) said her boss "strongly suggested" to Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, that the White House meet with Detroit automakers as soon as possible. State GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis said Friday that he delivered a similar message to Rove.

"We want to get the president and the White House engaged in addressing the unique issues that affect Michigan … and work with us to come up with some solutions," Anuzis said in an interview.

He said DeVos was "expressing some of the frustration that is being felt here in Michigan amongst all voters..."

...Bush himself made clear in January that he was not inclined to bail out troubled U.S. auto companies.

"I think it's very important for the market to function," he said, adding that companies needed to manufacture "a product that's relevant." His remarks, to the Wall Street Journal, provoked loud complaints from Michigan Democrats.

Why worry about voters when you've got Diebold?

Additionally, it seems that Carlyle Group affiliate and Saudi Royal minion, Citigroup, among other Carlyle sharks are circling affiliates are angling for a piece of Detroit action:

...Mr. Rubin, a director and chairman of the executive committee at Citigroup, said in a letter released Friday that he wanted to avoid any potential conflicts that could be raised by his presence on Ford’s board, which he joined six years ago.

It came as Ford’s chief executive, William Clay Ford Jr., is pondering a wide variety of steps that are aimed at reversing Ford’s losses, resizing the company and enabling it to withstand brutal industry competition.

Those steps could include finding buyers for luxury brands like Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. That task could fall to Citigroup as well as another financial adviser, Goldman Sachs, which like Citigroup has a longstanding association with Ford.

Last month, Mr. Ford hired Kenneth Leet, a former executive with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, as a strategic adviser to lead the company’s review and make recommendations on steps — like alliances with other auto companies and the sale of its units — that the company needed to take to restructure..

People briefed on Ford’s activities said the company’s future relationship with both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup could be more far-reaching than individual deals had been in the past.

Mr. Rubin’s resignation came in a letter Thursday to Mr. Ford. In it, he said Citigroup’s “multifaceted relationship with Ford could raise a question whether my relationship with Ford and Citigroup creates an appearance of conflict...”

He joined 6 years ago? About the time Ford decided to go all out for SUVs and trucks, despite the specter of energy problems on the horizon.

How convenient for the Company.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Space Strategery

Commander Codpiece's vision for space co-ordinates the same great balancing act going to the Moon, Mars, and the ethane oceans of Titan that we're used to seeing here at home.

...But the budget for space station research has been cut dramatically over the past year, and is due to be slashed even more deeply next year. Starting with Sunday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, NASA is turning its attention to flying up hardware rather than doing science.

Some observers say that NASA now sees the orbital outpost as a $100 billion white elephant to be finished, then quickly left behind in America's new push to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Those observers, who include scientists as well as policy experts, say NASA is acting as if the station was an obligation rather than an opportunity.

"It's almost as if the space station is an albatross," said Keith Cowing, who worked on the initial designs for the space station in the 1990s while at NASA and now monitors the agency through his Web site, NASA Watch. "It's almost like NASA has corporate attention-deficit disorder."

"The numbers show continuing decline for the research part of NASA," said Kei Koizumi, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "There's not much on the plus side for science."

Is the space station really worth all that money, and all that risk to astronauts' lives?

Even NASA admits that the station isn’t fully living up to the promise right now, due to cost overruns, construction delays and the repercussions of the 2003 Columbia tragedy. The agency has had to shift hundreds of millions of dollars from space station research to its new moon effort, initiated in 2004. And there are plenty of blank spaces in its plan to use the space station after 2010, when NASA is due to finish construction and retire the space shuttle fleet...

...The science that's due to be done in the years ahead will focus on how humans can handle the health effects of microgravity, radiation exposure and other aspects of the space environment.

For decades, researchers have known that astronauts tend to lose bone mass and muscle tone in space, that they don't sleep as well and that their immune systems may be compromised. Until scientists learn how to counter those effects, humans won't be able to take on the longer-duration missions envisioned in NASA's exploration blueprint. So NASA is shifting its research agenda to figure out what it will take for astronauts to travel safely to the moon and Mars.

"What we are doing is using an occupational health model, where we have standards that we have to maintain," Walz explained. "We have to maintain the health of the astronauts to these standards..."

Now, it seems more than a little bit oddball that while they're interested in occupational and environmental health in space, down here:

...The reactionary campaign against knowledge and information is reaching frightening new heights.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered by the White House to "shut down [its] libraries, end public access to research materials and box up unique collections on the assumption that Congress will not reverse President Bush’s proposed budget reductions." Fifteen states will lose library service immediately, the rest will follow, and the public is to be turned away as soon as possible.

Unsurprisingly, EPA scientists are protesting, saying that the lack of access to data will impair their research and scientific capabilities. The Administration says its plan is to "centralize" control of all data; EPA scientists say the real goal is to "suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics." The Administration is not yet burning books, but they are getting very close.

They're not much fonder of telling the truth -- the whole truth -- over at the Defense Department. The Department has refused to complete congressionally ordered studies of the potential security threat to radar systems from wind turbines. Until it finishes that study, Defense is blocking all new wind turbines that might help reduce our dependence on what the President calls our "addiction" to oil and natural gas "often from insecure places."

The Sierra Club sued and demanded that Defense finish the study. (Of course, if wind turbines actually were a threat to our air defense systems, you would think that the Department of Defense would be rushing to prove it and make us safer by dealing with the thousands that already exist.)

But Defense has refused to respond to the Club's motion. Now, Defense has informed us that it will miss the 60-day deadline for that response and will need an additional five weeks to answer the complaint. In other words, the Department claims that it needs more than three months to tell a Court why it cannot finish what was supposed to be a six-month study. This is giving stonewalling a whole new meaning.

Nor will the Department of Defense tell us how many wind projects it has stopped, even though it has issued "don't proceed" orders to each one, so the information is obviously available. According to media reports, at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest alone have already been shut down. The list of stalled projects includes one outside of Bloomington, Illinois, that would have been the nation's largest source of wind energy -- generating enough electricity to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area...

Billions to finish a space station that won't be used for science, except maybe to examine the effects of microgravity on human guinea pigs. Because astronauts going to Mars might be away for a couple of years and not so easy to examine. Now that fits with their desire to end environmental research and halt work on alternative energy sources perfectly!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Who is Susan Dudley, and Why Does Mordor Love Her?

...Susan Dudley was nominated by the president in July to head OIRA, an office in the White House with broad power over federal regulatory policy, yet Dudley spent her time at the Mercatus Center opposing health, safety and environmental regulations. She has opposed lowering the threshold for arsenic in drinking water and closing loopholes in the Davis Bacon Act, which requires employers to pay locally prevailing wages and benefits on public works projects.

Dudley has utilized cost-benefit analysis as a weapon to undermine or kill regulations that industry opposes. She even claims that cost-benefit studies demonstrate that OSHA regulations - many of which are widely recognized as protecting the lives and safety of countless workers - have not had a "substantial impact."

Dudley applies the same logic to the public's right to know about toxic chemicals. According to her public interest comments, while it may be an "intuitively desirable social goal" to provide information to the public, it costs money and may even "confuse, rather than inform" the public. The costs must be outweighed by the social goal, explains Dudley, and even when this is the case it does not suggest that more information available to the public is in order.

Were Dudley to be confirmed as the next regulatory czar, she would likely review an EPA proposal that would undermine the Toxics Release Inventory, the premier right-to-know program about chemical information.

Dudley's championing of industry at times comes across as frighteningly naive. Arguing against regulation requiring air bags in vehicles, which have clearly been shown to save the lives of drivers and passages, she writes that, "if air bags save lives and consumers demand them," then the auto industry would have installed them without federal regulations.

In addition to her pro-industry work at the Mercatus Center, Dudley also once worked for OIRA, reviewing environmental regulations, and was widely criticized by environmental groups for her decisions there.

A little more on Susan Dudley here.

Also, Public Citizen has some things to say:

The announcement last night of the White House’s intention to nominate Susan Dudley as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget represents another attack by the Bush administration on the government’s ability to hold industry accountable and keep Americans safe.

Although the OIRA is little known to the public, it has enormous power to weaken, delay and eliminate hard-won regulations designed to protect the public in the workplace, on our roads and in our homes. It reviews protections instituted by watchdog offices such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - everything from auto safety standards to limits on industrial chemicals and air and water pollutants. Under this administration, OIRA has weakened these already troubled agencies. If Dudley is confirmed by the Senate, she will further strip them of their ability to stand up to government secrecy, politicization and corporate interests.

Throughout her career, Dudley has consistently fought against government safeguards and advocated a radical, hands-off approach to regulating corporations. As director of regulatory studies at the industry-funded Mercatus Center, Dudley has sought to strike down countless environmental, health and safety rules and found willing allies in the administration. She has opposed such things as EPA’s attempts to keep arsenic out of our drinking water and to lower levels of disease-causing smog. She has questioned NHTSA’s life-saving airbag regulations and the Department of Transportation’s hours-of-service rules to keep sleep-deprived truck drivers off our roads. She has championed energy deregulation, which has led to skyrocketing prices and little consumer relief during record-setting heat waves. The list goes on and on...

This is one evil woman. I think the tarantula is probably being compared unfairly.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

All Over Again

Firedoglake's Christy Hardin Smith notes that Dafna Linzer notes the author of the Congressional Reptilican report complaining about the CIA's failure to unearth WMDs in Iran ...was Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer who had been a special assistant to John R. Bolton, the administration’s former point man on Iran at the State Department. Bolton had been highly influential in the crafting of a tough policy that rejected talks with Tehran.

We knew the fix was in.

Now we know it was the Head Polisher of the Moustache of Sauron hisself shining up the knob of the War Machine.

Christy goes on to say:

Look, it’s our buddy Fred Fleitz, now working for the House Intel Committee (read: now with his ass planted firmly there to keep an eagle eye on Pete Hoekstra for the Cheney/Addington faction) who was the person who wrote the report. Shocking. Shocking I tell you.

And sloppy reporting by the NYTimes to miss this element, given Fleitz’ heightened profile after the Valerie Plame Wilson outing and his former hatchet man status as John Bolton’s former number two when Bolton was at State. Especially given Fleitz record as a hardliner when it comes to Iran — and the questions of his involvement in some other odd moments in Bolton history.

But how much can we count on anything Fleitz says in the report after what, I’m sure, was an exhaustive investigation involving a gathering of all evidence and facts — because he’s not the sort of fellow who would ever cook the books to support an assertion and and outcome without the underlying facts, right?.:

"[The report’s] authors did not interview intelligence officials."

Oh yeah, no stone unturned. No assertion unchallenged. Every fact backed up in triplicate. Not so much. Jeebus, do these people learn nothing?


They learned they can generate endless cash by scapegoating an entire nation and that a fearful nation will roll over if they press all the right buttons.

They learned that the media loves mass murder, as long as it looks like fireworks and shark-sleek ordinance and a George Lucas production.

They learned that when they're about to loose their shirts, up the ante on the next bet, and the size of the pot will make all the other Washington players follow like zombies smelling fresh brains.

"...Maybe if we ignore them, they'll just go away."

Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List
Published: August 24, 2006

Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. “There is no explanation for it being left off the list,” Ms. McLane said. “It has always been an eligible major.”

Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.

If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were full-time students majoring in an eligible field.

“If a field is missing, that student would not even get into the process,” he said.

That the omission occurred at all is worrying scientists concerned about threats to the teaching of evolution...

...The grants are awarded under the National Smart Grant program, established this year by Congress. (Smart stands for Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent.)

The program provides $4,000 grants to third- or fourth-year, low-income students majoring in physical, life or computer sciences; mathematics; technology; engineering; or foreign languages deemed “critical” to national security.

The list of eligible majors (which is online at ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN0606A.pdf) is drawn from the Education Department’s “Classification of Instructional Programs,” or CIP (pronounced “sip”), a voluminous and detailed classification of courses of study, arranged in a numbered system of sections and subsections.

Part 26, biological and biomedical sciences, has a number of sections, each of which has one or more subsections. Subsection 13 is ecology, evolution, systematics and population biology. This subsection itself has 10 sub-subsections. One of them is 26.1303 — evolutionary biology, “the scientific study of the genetic, developmental, functional, and morphological patterns and processes, and theoretical principles; and the emergence and mutation of organisms over time.”

Though references to evolution appear in listings of other fields of biological study, the evolutionary biology sub-subsection is missing from a list of “fields of study” on the National Smart Grant list — there is an empty space between line 26.1302 (marine biology and biological oceanography) and line 26.1304 (aquatic biology/limnology).

Students cannot simply list something else on an application form, said Mr. Nassirian of the registrars’ association. “Your declared major maps to a CIP code,” he said...

Mr. Nassirian said people at the Education Department had described the omission as “a clerical mistake.” But it is “odd,” he said, because applying the subject codes “is a fairly mechanical task. It is not supposed to be the subject of any kind of deliberation.”

“I am not at all certain that the omission of this particular major is unintentional,” he added. “But I have to take them at their word.”

Scientists who knew about the omission also said they found the clerical explanation unconvincing, given the furor over challenges by the religious right to the teaching of evolution in public schools. “It’s just awfully coincidental,” said Steven W. Rissing, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University.

Jeremy Gunn, who directs the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that if the change was not immediately reversed “we will certainly pursue this.”

Dr. Rissing said removing evolutionary biology from the list of acceptable majors would discourage students who needed the grants from pursuing the field, at a time when studies of how genes act and evolve are producing valuable insights into human health.

“This is not just some kind of nicety,” he said. “We are doing a terrible disservice to our students if this is yet another example of making sure science doesn’t offend anyone.”

You might want to read what Pharyngula says about The Republican War on Science.

I know what this guy says.

Cooking Intelligence Dishes from the Same Stovepipe

This week we observed the spectacle of Dear Leader telling us like he told us before that Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda's attack on 9/11.

BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

Nobody except for Dear Leader, anyway.

Now we find the Grand Oil Party is getting a bit huffy nobody- especially the CIA- is taking their gauge of Iran's weapons of mass destruction very seriously either.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 — Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent attacks against Israel and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.

The criticisms reflect the views of some officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism, say officials with knowledge of the debate.

The dissonance is surfacing just as the intelligence agencies are overhauling their procedures to prevent a repeat of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate — the faulty assessment that in part set the United States on the path to war with Iraq.

The new report, from the House Intelligence Committee, led by Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, portrayed Iran as a growing threat and criticized American spy agencies for cautious assessments about Iran’s weapons programs. “Intelligence community managers and analysts must provide their best analytical judgments about Iranian W.M.D. programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments,” the report said…

Where would be be without Pravda?

Or Dick Cheney, ready to stovepipe the imaginary cause again directly with the CIA whether they believe it or not?

Let me suggest to those about to be burnt by this government of Harkonnens what Frank Herbert said:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ghoul Entrepreneurs Working the Free Market

WASHINGTON - A leading medical firm has quietly recalled hundreds of human tissue products destined for transplants around the nation that were supplied by a North Carolina body parts broker believed to have a tainted history.

The broker used an unsterile embalming room to carve up dozens of corpses to procure tissue, a Raleigh funeral home director said Tuesday. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration shut down the body broker on Friday, but refuses to say how many people may have received potentially risky tissue.

It is the second scandal in less than a year in the booming tissue transplant industry. Cadaver tissue is used in more than a million transplants each year in such routine operations as back surgery and knee repairs. While such donated tissue does tremendous good, it is also little regulated, a three-month Associated Press investigation found earlier this year.

Improperly processed or poorly tested tissue can lead to infections like hepatitis or AIDS or even death. Last year a scandal unfolded around Biomedical Tissue Services, a New Jersey company accused of using stolen bodies and of shipping nearly 20,000 potentially tainted body parts.

Federal authorities kept the North Carolina episode quiet until late last Friday, when the FDA shut down Donor Referral Services of Raleigh, N.C. The FDA said the company, run by Philip Guyett, had "serious deficiencies" in its processing, donor screening and record-keeping. The government accused him of altering records to overlook such problems as cancer or drug use by the deceased donor.

But on July 6, AlloSource of Centennial, Colo., began its own recall of about 300 Guyett-provided transplant parts that went to a company it had acquired, an AlloSource spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Guyett, 38, hung up on a reporter trying to reach him for comment on Friday.

The FDA won't say how many potentially tainted body parts might have made it to hospitals for transplant. But two companies doing business with Guyett told The Associated Press Tuesday that they know of at least 60 bodies cut up and at least 300 body parts that were recalled. And those firms were not the only business associates that Guyett had, they said...

My mother had ghouls calling her up when my father died trying to get "skin grafts for burn patients" from him even though he wasn't an organ donor and had, among other problems, malignant melanoma.

She hung up on the bastards after trying to explain to them he had skin cancer as well as emphysema and heart problems.

They still badgered her to sign over body parts, because she's old and (they thought) alone.

On the other hand, I enjoy hanging up on any ghouls or reptilicans.

Howard Dean Says It

Right here.

And it's about time somebody did.

Harbingers of the Change

A couple of weeks ago it was reported here that "dead zones" similar to the excessive eutrophication area in the Gulf of Mexico were starting to appear off of the Northwest Coast of the United States.

Eutrophication is normally observed in isolated bodies of freshwater that get too polluted with fertilizers and sewage to sustain normal life.

In the oceans, this started off the coast of Lousiana during the summers of the late 20th century. As the Mississippi washes nutrients into the Gulf, it creates planktonic blooms that deplete large areas offshore of oxygen and the lving things that require oxygen to survive. What takes over? Anaerobes and facultative anaerobes, bacteria that can survive quite nicely without oxygen.

Today in The New York Pravda we're treated with skepticism that this really matters.

… There is little dispute that the dead zone exists; the disagreement centers on whether it matters much. In a state where fishermen are already accustomed to strict regulation, fights with environmentalists and attention from academics, many of them are having none of the notion that there is a larger problem.

“They say it’s global warming and it’s Bush’s fault, and it just goes on and on and on,” said Bill Wechter, 53, a crabber who said he had been working here since 1978, had 500 traps stretching north from Newport and had suffered no losses. “Everybody’s guessing.”

This is the fifth straight year in which a dead zone has appeared here, but scientists say that this one is by far the biggest, covering as much as 1,200 square miles, and that the oxygen levels have been startlingly low in places.

Those low levels are caused by persistent northerly winds that push nutrient-rich water into shallow areas — a process known as upwelling — without being offset by southerly winds that typically flush out the water and effectively keep it from becoming overfertilized. Dead zones are common around the world, with the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Erie, Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound experiencing them on occasion. But most often they are caused by local pollution problems, including runoff containing fertilizer or sewage.

Adding the recent observations off Newport to findings that date from 2002, when a summertime dead zone was first documented here, some scientists say changes in wind patterns could indicate a growing disparity between rising land temperatures and cool ocean temperatures. Such a condition has long been predicted in some regional models on the effects of global warming, said John A. Barth, an Oregon State oceanographer who is among a group of scientists of various disciplines studying the Oregon coast.

But the fishermen say they know the ocean best: they spend their lives working it rather than writing research papers about it. Changes in ocean conditions simply require adjustment, they say, whether that means shortening lines or fishing closer in or farther out…

The multimillion dollar crabbing industry much prefers driving with its eyes closed, and propaganda fluff pieces like this keep the pesky civilians, scientists, and regulators away quite nicely.

While the oceans become a cesspool.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Make a computer smart enough and it'll do your thinking for you.

Of course, if your computer is a gun already, it might be smart enough to relieve you of your command.

Lockheed Martin has taken the wraps off studies of unmanned derivatives of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as it mounts a concerted campaign to establish itself in the unmanned systems market. Concepts studied by Lockheed's Skunk Works include both optionally piloted and dedicated unmanned versions of the JSF.

"Two to three years ago we started looking at what could be done with the F-35," says Frank Mauro, deputy director unmanned aeronautical systems. The Skunk Works has taken both the optionally piloted and dedicated unmanned JSFs through concept design, he says, and is waiting until all three manned variants have flown before pursuing the idea.

"We have put it on the side until the F-35 flies," says Mauro. "For now the customers' focus is on getting the three variants flying. We will bring it back out when we get enough customer interest." A JSF derivative could be a follow-on to the recently terminated Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) programme, he says.

It would be relatively easy to operate the F-35 unmanned, "as there is enough intelligence in the systems", says Mauro, but simply removing the cockpit "would not change the cost much". A fuel tank could replace the coc­kpit, extending range, but the cost of the propulsion, avionics and sensor systems "do not change from manned to unmanned", he says.

To reduce cost, Lockheed has developed a concept of operations in which four unmanned JSFs would be controlled by two manned F-35s, or F-22s, sharing sensor information via an airborne datalink. This would allow the sensors to be removed from the unmanned F-35s, which would be used as weapon carriers, reducing cost to about 72% that of the manned aircraft - "30-35% of the cost is in the sensors", Mauro says.

Lockheed proposed a similar concept based on the F-16 in the early stages of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstration programme that led to J-UCAS, but DARPA preferred a clean-sheet approach and awarded contracts to Boeing for the X-45 and Northrop Grumman for the X-47.

Boeing built and flew the X-45A UCAV demonstrator for DARPA, but the J-UCAS programme was terminated earlier this year before the X-45C and X-47B had flown.

In other words, Lockheed likely had a better propo$al even a Congre$$man could appreciate.

Thanks to DefenseTech for the link.

Don't forget: Skynet's already flying.

There are days when I wonder whether the combination of a neocortex and an opposable thumb is a viable evolutionary strategy for primates. The issue is whether there is enough neocortex in enough variants of our species to guarantee survival, propagation, and continued development in a changing world. Certainly not in Washington D.C.

The Great March Backwards

Tax Farmers, Mercenaries and Viceroys
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Published: August 21, 2006

Yesterday The New York Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service would outsource collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would receive a share of the proceeds.

It's an awful idea. Privatizing tax collection will cost far more than hiring additional I.R.S. agents, raise less revenue and pose obvious risks of abuse. But what's really amazing is the extent to which this plan is a retreat from modern principles of government. I used to say that conservatives want to take us back to the 1920's, but the Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century.

And privatized tax collection is only part of the great march backward.

In the bad old days, government was a haphazard affair. There was no bureaucracy to collect taxes, so the king subcontracted the job to private "tax farmers," who often engaged in extortion. There was no regular army, so the king hired mercenaries, who tended to wander off and pillage the nearest village. There was no regular system of administration, so the king assigned the task to favored courtiers, who tended to be corrupt, incompetent or both.

Modern governments solved these problems by creating a professional revenue department to collect taxes, a professional officer corps to enforce military discipline, and a professional civil service. But President Bush apparently doesn't like these innovations, preferring to govern as if he were King Louis XII.

So the tax farmers are coming back, and the mercenaries already have. There are about 20,000 armed "security contractors" in Iraq, and they have been assigned critical tasks, from guarding top officials to training the Iraqi Army.

Like the mercenaries of old, today's corporate mercenaries have discipline problems. "They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath," declared a U.S. officer last year.

And armed men operating outside the military chain of command have caused at least one catastrophe. Remember the four Americans hung from a bridge? They were security contractors from Blackwater USA who blundered into Falluja — bypassing a Marine checkpoint — while the Marines were trying to pursue a methodical strategy of pacifying the city. The killing of the four, and the knee-jerk reaction of the White House — which ordered an all-out assault, then called it off as casualties mounted — may have ended the last chance of containing the insurgency.

Yet Blackwater, whose chief executive is a major contributor to the Republican Party, continues to thrive. The Department of Homeland Security sent heavily armed Blackwater employees into New Orleans immediately after Katrina.

To whom are such contractors accountable? Last week a judge threw out a jury's $10 million verdict against Custer Battles, a private contractor that was hired, among other things, to provide security at Baghdad's airport. Custer Battles has become a symbol of the mix of cronyism, corruption and sheer amateurishness that doomed the Iraq adventure — and the judge didn't challenge the jury's finding that the company engaged in blatant fraud.

But he ruled that the civil fraud suit against the company lacked a legal basis, because as far as he could tell, the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, wasn't "an instrumentality of the U.S. government." It wasn't created by an act of Congress; it wasn't a branch of the State Department or any other established agency.

So what was it? Any premodern monarch would have recognized the arrangement: in effect, the authority was a personal fief run by a viceroy answering only to the ruler. And since the fief operated outside all the usual rules of government, the viceroy was free to hire a staff of political loyalists lacking any relevant qualifications for their jobs, and to hand out duffel bags filled with $100 bills to contractors with the right connections.

Tax farmers, mercenaries and viceroys: why does the Bush administration want to run a modern superpower as if it were a 16th-century monarchy? Maybe people who've spent their political careers denouncing government as the root of all evil can't grasp the idea of governing well. Or maybe it's cynical politics: privatization provides both an opportunity to evade accountability and a vast source of patronage.

But the price is enormous. This administration has thrown away centuries of lessons about how to make government work. No wonder it has failed at everything except fearmongering.


pessimist at the Left Coaster has as good a piece on Net Neutrality and what you're about to have wrung out of you as I've ever read.

Check it out. Thanks to Avedon for the link, too.

Monday, August 21, 2006

They Take It All Back

Cold War Missiles Target of Blackout
Documents Altered To Conceal Data

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 21, 2006; Page A01

The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.

The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are treating as national security secrets the historical totals of Minuteman, Titan II and other missiles, blacking out the information on previously public documents, according to a new report by the National Security Archive. The archive is a nonprofit research library housed at George Washington University.

"It would be difficult to find more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy than these decisions to classify the numbers of U.S. strategic weapons," wrote William Burr, a senior analyst at the archive who compiled the report. " . . . The Pentagon is now trying to keep secret numbers of strategic weapons that have never been classified before."

The report comes at a time when the Bush administration's penchant for government secrecy has troubled researchers and bred controversy over agency efforts to withhold even seemingly innocuous information. The National Archives was embroiled in scandal during the spring when it was disclosed that the agency had for years kept secret a reclassification program under which the CIA, the Air Force and other agencies removed thousands of records from public shelves...

The other Powers in the world know exactly what these numbers are; they've known for years. At one time this declassified information was freely given.

Why would this information remain secret?

When everyone else who has a nuclear missile knows it too?

I can still remember the uneasy look my father, a construction supervisor in the ******** [redacted at the request of my family] and veteran of the Korean War, had when he told me that as a result of the end of the cold war, hidden nuclear missile sites were being decomissioned, and that the local utility companies were inspecting them because they suddenly were responsible for them. Around *******. He'd seen them. Plural.

And that every city in America has them. Plural.

I wonder if some of those are reclassified now too? And I wonder what's in them?

But I know who they want to hide them from.

Eternal Sunshine and Golden Parachutes for the Spotless Mind

When people live together in societies, they need a medium of exchange. This evolved as the system we all know as capitalism, and it has the advantage of working more-or-less better than any other known economic system. Especially, as the Great Depression should have shown us, when it is regulated by the government.

Once again, the United States of Amnesia has done what it does best.

With apologies to the author for the condensation and clarification:

CEO President
Jane Smiley

In the late eighties, I wrote a novel called A Thousand Acres. Everyone thought it was about incest and "King Lear".

To me the theme concerned the transformation of the midwestern American landscape from a unique, diverse, and rather fragile natural ecosystem that supported methods of European animal and grain farming to a denuded and lifeless "food" factory in which money pushed every other consideration to the margins, or snuffed them out entirely.

My book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and made into a movie. American agriculture got worse.

In the early nineties, I wrote another novel about farming called Moo, a comic novel that took place on the campus of a land grant university. While researching Moo, I discovered BSE, which was only just then (1992) emerging in the UK as a relative of scrapie, a form of brain-wasting disease that occurs in sheep. As far as I know, the references to BSE in Moo were the first to appear in the US.

The characters in Moo discuss the practice of feeding cows, normally vegetarians, the animal byproducts of sheep farming. They are appalled. And it still seems like a no-brainer. If cows eat offal and then people eat cows, a certain proportion of people will become ill with sheep and cow diseases, and, voila, scrapie crossed two species barriers--to cows and to humans--because the agriculture corporations either didn't know what they were doing or didn't care. Nevertheless, American agriculture got worse.

After I left Iowa and started writing about other things, the ag companies… continued to perpetrate vicious idiocies, and to do so in a more and more aggressive manner, challenging the rights, and the abilities, of people in all parts of the world to have any say in the nature and composition of the food we put into our bodies. They have done so, as far as I can tell, solely for profit. They have exhibited greed that crosses over from mere selfish immoral criminality into actual insanity.

Here's an example. By the time I was writing A Thousand Acres, it had been apparent for some twenty-five or thirty years that insecticides and herbicides were contaminating the landscape and the water supply, killing off wildlife, destroying fertility in males and females of all species, and causing disease in the farmers themselves and their families. The common sense solution to this increasing problem would have been to acknowledge the destructive power of these unnatural chemicals, and to have shifted American agriculture away from their use. The ag companies, however, preferred to remake the ecosystem so that farmers would use more chemicals rather than fewer; they genetically modified seed to make it resistant to an herbicide, Round-up, that when applied would destroy every living plant around it except the proprietary seed plants also owned by the corporation that formulated Round-up…

…Here's what the big ag companies want to do--they want to own and contaminate the entire gene pool of all the world's food resources for their own profit and without the knowledge or input of anyone who will actually be eating the food or living in the world they create.

...The model, of course, is big tobacco. As was reaffirmed again this past week, big tobacco knew fifty years ago that there was nothing beneficial about their product. Tobacco is a bad plant, a bad industry, and a bad product. Faced with the truth, big tobacco changed their advertising , stonewalled, and lied in order to maintain profits. What big ag did not learn from the experiences of big tobacco was to first, do no harm. Rather, big ag learned to hide the harm it is doing and befuddle the lines of liability, as well as to force deregulation, to buy off the politicians and the researchers, and to present the world with a genetic fait accompli, a crime and a sin that cannot be undone. Sort of like the Iraq war.

Everyone knows at this point that Halliburton (that is, big war) and big oil were the prime movers in instigating the war in Iraq through their man Cheney and their poodle, Bush. And, of course, Halliburton and the other war industries and Exxon and the other oil companies have been the only ones to profit from the Iraq war. They have not sent members of their own families to fight; they have suffered no bombings of their own plants or their own homes. They thought they had a fool-proof plan for profits, and indeed, they did. We, the taxpayers, have paid for their adventure with money and lives. They have not gotten the Iraqi oil (let's say plan A), but they have driven up prices and profits (plan B). The president of Exxon is the happiest old man in the world, I am sure.

Big ag, big tobacco, big war, big oil, and their enablers on Wall Street always congratulate themselves on "wealth creation". This is what the "free market" does--it takes something that was supposedly worthless, like mountaintops in West Virginia or corn varieties in Mexico or oil deposits in Alaska, and gives them "value". But this is a fiction. The model here is big water. The earth abounds in rivers and lakes. Wealthy water companies (the water rights in my river are owned by a company in England that is now in trouble for mismanaging their own Thames) go to other countries and buy or take the water rights of those people and then sell them back to those very people at a price they can hardly afford. This is "wealth creation"--creating wealth for stockholders, even though they already have more wealth than they know what to do with, by stealing the resources of the poor and the powerless. The "free market" always talks about buying low and selling high, but it specializes in theft. And, as an alternative, if the "wealth creators" cannot use what you own, say a hardy seed that works well for your ecosystem, they will render it useless so that you will have to buy their seed just to live.

Given what these big corporations routinely do, we have to ask, are they filled and peopled from top to bottom by ruthless monsters who care nothing about others, and also nothing about the world that we live in? Are these CEOs and CFOs and COOs and managers and researchers and stockholders so beyond human that, let's say, the deaths in Iraq and the destitution of the farmers and the tumors and allergies and obesities of children, and the melting of the Greenland ice cap and the shifting of the Gulf Stream are, to them, just the cost of doing business? Or are they just beyond stupid and blind, so that they, alone among humans, have no understanding of the interconnectedness of all natural systems?

One thing you have to ask yourself, faced with American corporate culture, is, what is it about Americans, in particular, that makes them so indifferent to consequences, especially the consequence of doing harm to others, over and over and over? Why did those big tobacco folks persist, for fifty years, in poisoning their customers and attempting to get more customers?

When George Bush was elected, the big industries breathed a happy sigh. Finally, they had a "CEO president". The implication of that phrase was that Bush would know how to run the company, to reduce labor costs and outsource various services. The fact was that neither Bush nor Cheney had ever actually succeeded in business, but that was a detail. Failures though they were, they were steeped in corporate ways of thinking, and they owed a lot to big oil, big war, and big ag. They showed immediately that they knew how to do business in the corporate way by cheating in the 2000 election (let's call this "deregulating themselves and their governing behaviors"). This was the true mark of a "CEO President"--do what you can get away with, dare the others to stop you, act always as a predator rather than as a custodian of the common good, because according to theorists of the "free market", there is no common good. Thank you, Milton Friedman. And it doesn't matter how well or poorly they run the government. As they drive it into the ground, they are still acting as good CEOs in the American tradition, preparing their own golden parachutes, sticking it to the suckers (customers, suppliers, stockholders, citizens, soldiers), and treating the property of the corporation (for example the US Army) as their own private stock.

Deregulation has made this debacle.

…Is it the US that gives corporations a bad name, or corporations that give the US a bad name? In 1980, the Republicans invited the corporate elite to have it their way. The world we have now, violent and selfish and brutal, contaminated and in danger of environmental collapse, is the world they made, both by actually dismantling the regulatory environment and by letting powerful people get in the habit of thinking that doing whatever they felt like, no matter how grossly harmful, was their right and their privilege.

American corporations always defend their activities by pointing to how innovative they are. This is especially galling when the food companies and the ag companies do it, because they have no good innovations to offer and never have.

Since humans know how to feed themselves, the only thing that the ag companies can do is introduce deceptively marketed products and take for themselves money that might have gone to feeding someone. Oh, yeah, and they can irrevocably change the world so that all biodiversity is reduced and destroyed. Once again, you've got to ask, are they inhumanly evil or inhumanly short-sighted? Oh, well. They are always wrapping themselves in the flag, so it must be the American way.

And it is. American corporations are uniquely free to do business in an irresponsible manner because of what you might call a typo in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which uses the word "person" without defining it as a human being. Since then, corporations have repeatedly interpreted their personhood in their own favor--they get to have the rights that humans have, such as free political speech (bribing candidates with contributions), but none of the consequences (mortality, moral reciprocity, full liability for bad actions). The result is all around us and threatens to destroy us.

A hundred years ago, the rapaciousness of the business elite spawned a century of war and social conflict. The power of Socialism and Marxism was in the rage people feel when their means are stolen from them, when they are duped and fooled and used as cannon fodder by people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, when the world they live in grows more and more inhuman and self-evidently stupid.

That rage is growing now. Anarchists have been replaced by suicide bombers. Marxists have been replaced by Islamicists and lefty bloggers. But, of course Bush and Cheney and the capitalists have empowered their own opposition because the human pattern is the same. The war machine, as in Lebanon (epitomized by aerial destruction) is just as clumsy as it ever was. You cannot torment and injure and murder and disfigure people into liking or agreeing with you, only into going underground while they prepare their revenge. You cannot treat people, even people who don't speak your language or dress like you, as suckers and babies (as in, taking candy from a baby).

The average person knows this, but CEOs and CEO Presidents apparently do not. The fact is, the day Ronald Reagan was elected and the corporations decided to roll back the regulations that limited their power, greed, and egomania was the day they doomed themselves and all of us, because it was the day they began living the lie that there are no consequences to corporate activities. By deregulating themselves, they made sure only that the consequences of their misguided policies would be bigger--global climate change rather than higher gas prices, contaminated gene pools rather than lower profits from pesticides, global famine rather than localized corn blight, tens of thousands dead in Iraq rather than higher R and D costs, the death of the Ford motor company rather than a shift to less profitable, more fuel efficient cars.

The list is endless. And their defense of what they do gets harsher and more shrill. We are given to understand that if they don't have their way at this point, conflagration in the middle east--war with Iran, possibly nuclear--will result. What kind of person plans such a thing? Inhumanly callous or inhumanly stupid? We have our answer--a CEO President, someone who epitomises both qualities…

But how good are the golden parachutes when there is no place to land?

Where do they go, my little beotches?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

State of Nature

This ceasefire is beginning to look more like a reloading session.

Laura Rozen notes that:

Despite the ceasefire, Israel intends to kill Nasrallah. Israeli commander: “... In the long run, if we see Hezbollah rearming itself and running southern Lebanon, I believe the next round is coming.”

Larry Johnson:
Israel kidnaps elected official: The Palestinian's Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser Al Shaer was kidnapped by the Israeli army on Saturday, after hiding since the start of Israel’s Palestine offensive in June. He was seized in a raid at his home in the West Bank town on Ramallah.

Israel breaches ceasefire: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Israel’s latest attack on Lebanon a violation of the UN backed truce that ended the 34-day war. "The secretary-general is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701," a spokesman for Annan said in a statement posted on the United Nations Web site...

Israel had better stop listening to the NeoCons. Empire is no way to run a democracy, as people are increasingly concluding here. You've got to have the consent of the governed. If you don't, it's no Republic, and no Democracy either.

The discomfiture of the NeoCons and their contempt for democracy is showing both here and in the Middle East.

Far better for them a Corporate State, even when it's less efficient, as evidenced by the Reptilican idea to shift many duties of the Internal Revenue Service over to private collection agencies- even if it ends up costing the government a lot more money.

...Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers — each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes — to three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers.

The move, an initiative of the Bush administration, represents the first step in a broader plan to outsource the collection of smaller tax debts to private companies over time. Although I.R.S. officials acknowledge that this will be much more expensive than doing it internally, they say that Congress has forced their hand by refusing to let them hire more revenue officers, who could pull in a lot of easy-to-collect money.

The private debt collection program is expected to bring in $1.4 billion over 10 years, with the collection agencies keeping about $330 million of that, or 22 to 24 cents on the dollar.

By hiring more revenue officers, the I.R.S. could collect more than $9 billion each year and spend only $296 million — or about three cents on the dollar — to do so, Charles O. Rossotti, the computer systems entrepreneur who was commissioner from 1997 to 2002, told Congress four years ago...

David Sirota:

...Usually, the establishment hides its hatred for democracy in vague rhetoric. But now, scared for their relevance and angry that their elitist sensibilities are being offended by ordinary voters, their loathing is all out in the open. Pundits and politicians in Washington are publicly telling American voters that we do not matter, and that they believe we should not matter...

What's Law or Democracy compared to the Divine Right of Corporate Rule?

It's for our own good, we're told.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tomorrow Belongs to the United

Digby points to a greater disturbance in the force for the Sith Lords:

A federal judge's ruling that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping is unconstitutional set off a flurry of political responses yesterday, as Republicans tried to keep control of the national security debate amid signs that their own party's ranks may be breaking under the pressure of the Iraq war.

President Bush concluded a discussion on the economy with a challenge to Democrats, many of whom had hailed U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's ruling that the NSA's wiretapping efforts violate both the Bill of Rights and federal law.

"Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live," Bush said after meeting with his economic team at Camp David. "This country of ours is at war, and we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war."

He then said that "it would be interesting to see . . . how other policymakers react."

Minutes later, under the headline "Dems Rejoice," the Republican National Committee illuminated those reactions, releasing the statements of eight Democrats -- including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the 2004 presidential nominee -- all heralding the decision as a rebuke to the president...

"There is no consensus that Republicans are better on terrorism than the Democrats, as once was clearly the case," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

A Pew Research Center poll released Thursday found "no evidence that terrorism is weighing heavily on voters -- just 2 percent cite that as the issue they most want to hear candidates discuss, far fewer than the number mentioning education, gas prices, or health care." The center continued: "And while roughly a third of Americans (35 percent) say they are very concerned that if Democrats gain control of Congress, they will weaken terrorist defenses, even more (46 percent) express great concern that Republicans will involve the U.S. in too many overseas military missions if the GOP keeps its congressional majorities."

Republicans have done such a good job framing the invasion of Iraq as part of a "war on terror" that bad news from Baghdad is casting doubts on the anti-terrorism effort...

But that doesn't change the message for the third of us in lock step... or goose step:

..."It's an opportunity, as we see it, to highlight the fundamental choice between the two parties," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said, "between a party that understands the need for post-9/11 tools in a post-9/11 world and a party that questions giving law enforcement the tools they need to be successful."

That third of us, the uber-patriots , who seem determined to lead whether we want them to or not.

Determined enough to steal multiple elections. Determined enough to let their global business partners destroy American lives and property. Determined enough to start pre-emptive wars for profit. Determined enough to use religious fervor to attempt to bring us all into a third World War.

It's going to take an equal determination to stop the zombie third of the American public from bringing about a global conflict that promises to end the very Empire they're trying to create in blood.