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

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

This weekend, sometime, I'll be 50 years old.

The Northern Gold Coast calls. If Al Gore's right, I'd best see it again before the rush starts.

Don't make any bad choices in the mean time!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Straw Men

As mentioned below, the current diversionary hoopla streaming from Dear Leader concerns the traitorous act of the New York Pravda to remind us of what he'd already told us.

It's posted on the White House website.

The whole methodology behind it, including the use of the SWIFT database, is outlined in an unclassified report to the United Nations [.pdf format].

Nevertheless, Dear Leader is now making statements like this:

"Publications such as the Times, which act irresponsibly when given access to secrets on which national security depends, should have their access to government reduced. Their press credentials should be withdrawn...

Bu$hie'd brand 'em and burn 'em at the stake, too, if he could. If he wasn't a-skeered of fire. Anything for the spectacle for his base. Anything to push up his own polls.

Koppelman has it right:

Today, the Republicans will reportedly introduce a resolution condeming the New York Times for revealing the existence of a "secret" program to monitor international banking transactions. Sen. Jim Bunning is even calling for a grand jury to consider charges of treason. (Left out of the resolution and the call for indictment, of course, will be the reliably conservative Wall Street Journal, which published a story the same day as the Times -- consistency is not, after all, the hallmark of this attack. The narrative demands that the traitorous journalists must be effete atheistic Manhattan liberals who are, you know, in league with religious extremists who target Manhattan, and the Journal simply doesn't fit. )

The Republicans are following the siren call of their right-wing media base, who, like the National Review, are calling for sanctions against the Times. The cry is always the same: the Times (though again, not the Journal) has harmed our national security by the disclosure of this double super secret program.

Well, then. If that's their argument, let's use the word the mainstream press is so scared to apply: liars.

From now on, remember this: anyone who tries to claim that the Times exposed a secret program and helped the terrorists (I'd mention the Journal, but hey, they won't) is a liar.

From today's Boston Globe:

"A search of public records -- government documents posted on the Internet, congressional testimony, guidelines for bank examiners, and even an executive order President Bush signed in September 2001 -- describe how US authorities have openly sought new tools to track terrorist financing since 2001. That includes getting access to information about terrorist-linked wire transfers and other transactions, including those that travel through SWIFT.

'There have been public references to SWIFT before,' said Roger Cressey, a senior White House counterterrorism official until 2003. 'The White House is overreaching when they say [The New York Times committed] a crime against the war on terror. It has been in the public domain before.'

From Victor Comras, a counterterrorism expert formerly with the State Department and United Nations:

Reports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002. The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group , on which I served as the terrorism financing expert, learned of the practice during the course of our monitoring inquiries. The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website. Paragraph 31 of the report states:

'The settlement of international transactions is usually handled through correspondent banking relationships or large-value message and payment systems, such as the SWIFT, Fedwire or CHIPS systems in the United States of America. Such international clearance centres are critical to processing international banking transactions and are rich with payment information. The United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions. The Group recommends the adoption of similar mechanisms by other countries.'

This isn't about whether the Times (but, uh, not the Journal) violated national security, not really. It's about changing the subject, about diverting attention, once again, from an administration that has systematically been bending and breaking the law and the Constitution in order to assemble ever more information about all of us.

If the main$tream only had a brain, you might think they'd remember. But it's not a case of forgetfullness. It's not like no one remembers what they've already said.

It's denial, and lies, and manipulation of the data for the Faithful.

It's about their own justification for the draconian days ahead they're planning on.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bait and SWIFT

"Congress was briefed," Mr. Bush said. "And what we did was fully authorized under the law. And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America..."

In his remarks during a brief photo session in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Mr. Bush appeared irritated, at times leaning forward for emphasis, though he did not mention any newspaper by name.

Mr. Cheney, who had earlier said he was offended by news accounts of the financial tracking program, on Monday went a step further, singling out The Times for criticism in a separate appearance at a fundraising luncheon for a Republican candidate for Congress, Adrian Smith, in Grand Island, Neb.

The executive editor of The Times, Bill Keller, said in an e-mail statement on Monday evening that the decision to publish had been "a hard call." But Mr. Keller noted that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has "embarked on a number of broad, secret programs aimed at combating terrorism, often without seeking new legal authority or submitting to the usual oversight..."

Administration officials had argued strongly that in reporting on the financial tracking operation, The Times would endanger national security by prompting the Belgian banking consortium that maintains the financial data to withdraw from the program. On Sunday, Mr. Keller, the paper's executive editor, posted a letter on The New York Times Web site saying that the newspaper "found this argument puzzling," partly because the banking consortium is compelled by subpoena to comply...

On Capitol Hill, the financial-tracking program itself has not generated much criticism, even from Democrats, since its existence was disclosed. A spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Mr. Reid was briefed on the program several weeks ago and had concluded that "it does not appear to be based on the same shaky and discredited legal analysis the vice president and his allies invoked to underpin the N.S.A. domestic spying program."

An exception has been Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has made privacy a signature issue and who said in an interview Monday that the Bush administration was adopting a strategy of "shoot the messenger" in trying to avoid Congressional oversight of the financial tracking program.

"There are very serious constitutional and legal questions that have been raised," Mr. Markey said, "and they're being obscured by this almost ad hominem attack on The New York Times."

Administration officials have held classified briefings about the banking program for some members of Congress and the Sept. 11 commission, intelligence and law enforcement officials said, and more lawmakers were briefed after the administration learned that The Times was making inquiries for an article about the program.

It's no surprise Harry Reid doesn't want to rock the finance investigation boat. Neither of course does the D.L.C. Of course the Rethuglicans back their Dear Leader entirely on this, and now their echo chamber is fully engaged in accusations of treason.

So what's so special about the finance transactions discussed in The New York Pravda last week?

...The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database...

The program... is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

"The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous..."

Data from the Brussels-based banking consortium, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has allowed officials from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to examine "tens of thousands" of financial transactions...

While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said...

Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from American laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution...

Swift's database provides a rich hunting ground for government investigators. Swift is a crucial gatekeeper, providing electronic instructions on how to transfer money among 7,800 financial institutions worldwide. The cooperative is owned by more than 2,200 organizations, and virtually every major commercial bank, as well as brokerage houses, fund managers and stock exchanges, uses its services. Swift routes more than 11 million transactions each day, most of them across borders.

The cooperative's message traffic allows investigators, for example, to track money from the Saudi bank account of a suspected terrorist to a mosque in New York. Starting with tips from intelligence reports about specific targets, agents search the database in what one official described as a "24-7" operation. Customers' names, bank account numbers and other identifying information can be retrieved, the officials said...

Swift's 25-member board of directors, made up of representatives from financial institutions around the world, was previously told of the program. The Group of 10's central banks, in major industrialized countries, which oversee Swift, were also informed. It is not clear if other network participants know that American intelligence officials can examine their message traffic.

Because Swift is based overseas and has offices in the United States, it is governed by European and American laws. Several international regulations and policies impose privacy restrictions on companies that are generally regarded as more stringent than those in this country. United States law establishes some protections for the privacy of Americans' financial data, but they are not ironclad. A 1978 measure, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, has a limited scope and a number of exceptions, and its role in national security cases remains largely untested.

Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law and that a case could be made for restricting the government's access to the records on Fourth Amendment and statutory grounds. They also worried about the impact on Swift if the program were disclosed.

"There was always concern about this program," a former official said...

The idea for the Swift program, several officials recalled, grew out of a suggestion by a Wall Street executive, who told a senior Bush administration official about Swift's database. Few government officials knew much about the consortium, which is led by a Brooklyn native, Leonard H. Schrank, but they quickly discovered it offered unparalleled access to international transactions. Swift, a former government official said, was "the mother lode, the Rosetta stone" for financial data.

Intelligence officials were so eager to use the Swift data that they discussed having the C.I.A. covertly gain access to the system, several officials involved in the talks said. But Treasury officials resisted, the officials said, and favored going to Swift directly.

At the same time, lawyers in the Treasury Department and the Justice Department were considering possible legal obstacles to the arrangement, the officials said.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans had no constitutional right to privacy for their records held by banks or other financial institutions. In response, Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act two years later, restricting government access to Americans' banking records. In considering the Swift program, some government lawyers were particularly concerned about whether the law prohibited officials from gaining access to records without a warrant or subpoena based on some level of suspicion about each target...

If there are broad powers to abuse, this crowd will abuse them.

There are funny things happening to money associated with Al Qaeda and National Security and the War on Terra. Funny things happened to buildings associated with these fund transfers- buildings that went down even though they weren't hit by airliners. The extent of these funny transfers?

Enquiring minds want to know, because a lot of money moved on the day before 9/11/2001. The only problem is, when you look where it goes, you might be a little surprised.

Some of it- quite a lot of it on our government's end, just disappears.

Quite a lot of funny money has passed between the Bush family and the Saudi Royal family over the years.

Quite a few people know about it.

So much of it in fact that the whole classified SWIFT database search may be something of a red herring: Al Qaeda knew about it, because Dear Leader announced he was doing it years ago, and it may give the Administration the excuse it needs to abolish the story completely from the main$tream media.

If not the tools to abolish all anti-Administration reports from any main$tream news source anywhere.

Through a Scanner, Truthiness

Nature 441, 918-919 (22 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/441918a

Bioethicists and civil-rights activists are calling into question plans by two US companies to single out liars by sliding them into a brain scanner and searching their brains for give-away patterns of deception.

The two firms say that they will give the accused a chance to prove their innocence using a technique more accurate than the discredited polygraph. No Lie MRI will start offering services out of Philadelphia this summer. Those behind the second company, Cephos, based in Pepperell, Massachusetts, say they hope to launch their technology later this year. Likely clients include people facing criminal proceedings and US federal government agencies, some of which already use polygraphs for security screening.

Critics say that the science underlying the companies' technique is shaky and that the premature commercialization of the method raises ethical concerns about its eventual use in interrogation. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) entered the debate by organizing a 20 June briefing on the issues for scientists, the public, the press and policy-makers in Washington DC.

The field of lie detection is littered with dubious devices. The polygraph relies on the idea that lying is stressful, and so measures changes in heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. But because it can be duped by countermeasures and there is little hard evidence that it actually works, it is rarely admitted as evidence in court.

Rather than relying on indirect measures of anxiety, assessing brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) goes to the very source of the lie. In one of the earliest studies, a team led by Daniel Langleben of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and his colleagues offered students sealed envelopes containing a playing card and $20. The students were told they could keep the money if they could conceal which card they held when questioned in an MRI machine (D. D. Langleben et al. NeuroImage 15, 727–732; 2002).

These and other studies revealed that particular spots in the brain's prefrontal cortex become more active when a person is lying. Some of these areas are thought to be involved in detecting errors and inhibiting responses, backing the idea that suppressing the truth involves additional areas of the brain to telling it.

The early studies showed that it was possible to make out subtle changes in brain activity caused by deception using pooled data from a group of subjects. But to make a useful lie detector, researchers must be able to tell whether an individual is lying; when only one person is assessed it is much harder to tease out a signal from background noise. Langleben, who advises No Lie MRI, says he is now able to tell with 88% certainty whether individuals are lying (see Nature 437, 457; 2005). A group working with Cephos, led by Andrew Kozel, now at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, makes a similar claim.

Kozel and his colleagues asked 30 subjects to take either a watch or a ring, hide it in a locker and then fib about what they had hidden when they were questioned inside a scanner. Using the results of this study, the team devised a computer model that focuses on three regions of the brain and calculates whether the shift in brain activity indicates lying. When the model was tested on a second batch of 31 people, the team reported that it could pick up lies in 90% of cases (F. A. Kozel et al. Biol. Psychiatry 58, 605–613; 2005)

But critics of the technology urge restraint. "Until we sort out the scientific, technological and ethical issues, we need to proceed with extreme caution," says Judy Illes of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, California.

One problem is that there is no standard way to define what deception is or how to test it. Scientists also say that some of the statistical analyses used in the fMRI studies are questionable or give results that are perilously close to the thresholds of significance. "On individual scans it's really very difficult to judge who's lying and who's telling the truth," says Sean Spence of the University of Sheffield, UK, who was one of the first to publish on the use of MRI in the study of deception. "The studies might not stand up to scrutiny over the long term."

Another concern raised by scientists and bioethicists is that the contrived testing protocols used in the laboratory — in which subjects are told to lie — cannot necessarily be extrapolated to a real-life scenario in which imprisonment or even a death sentence could be at stake. They say there are no data about whether the technique could be beaten by countermeasures, and that data collected from healthy subjects reveal little about the mindset of someone who genuinely believes they are telling the truth or someone who is confused, delusional or a pathological liar.

"If I'm a jihadist who thinks that Americans are infidels I'll have a whole different state of mind," says Gregg Bloche, an expert in biomedical ethics and law at Georgetown University Law Center, Washington DC, and a member of the ACLU panel. "We don't know how those guys' brains are firing."

Because of these concerns, legal experts say that the technology is unlikely to pass the standards of scientific accuracy and acceptance required for it to be admissible in a US court. But even if it is not sufficiently accurate and reliable today, it may well be tomorrow, as more and more people are tested and techniques refined. That raises a second set of concerns that revolve around who should be allowed to use the technique and under what circumstances.

Bioethicists worry that fMRI lie detection could quickly pass from absolving the innocent to extracting information from the guilty — in police questioning, immigration control, insurance claims, employment screening and family disputes. Their concerns are fuelled by other emerging lie-detection technologies, such as those that measure the brain's electrical activity (see Nature 428, 692–694; 2004).

Particularly in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, they worry that fMRI and other devices might be misused in the hands of the military or intelligence agencies. "There's enormous pressure coming from the government for this," says bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe at the University of Pennsylvania. "There is reason to believe a lot of money and effort is going into creating these technologies."

On top of this, ethicists say there is something deeply intrusive about peering into someone's brain in search of the truth; some even liken it to mind-reading. In future, they say, a suspect might be betrayed by their prefrontal cortex before they even open their mouth — if, for example, the brain recognizes a particular photo or foreign word. "This is the first time that we have ever been able to get information directly from the brain. People find the idea extraordinarily frightening," Wolpe says...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Corporatism isn't Capitalism

For-profit government doesn't work, as Frank Rich points out:

...Mr. Safavian, a former lobbyist, had a hand in federal spending, first as chief of staff of the General Services Administration and then as the White House's chief procurement officer, overseeing a kitty of some $300 billion (plus $62 billion designated for Katrina relief). He arrived to help enforce a Bush management initiative called "competitive sourcing." Simply put, this was a plan to outsource as much of government as possible by forcing federal agencies to compete with private contractors and their K Street lobbyists for huge and lucrative assignments. The initiative's objective, as the C.E.O. administration officially put it, was to deliver "high-quality services to our citizens at the lowest cost."

The result was low-quality services at high cost: the creation of a shadow government of private companies rife with both incompetence and corruption. Last week Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who commissioned the first comprehensive study of Bush administration contracting, revealed that the federal procurement spending supervised for a time by Mr. Safavian had increased by $175 billion between 2000 and 2005. (Halliburton contracts alone, unsurprisingly, went up more than 600 percent.) Nearly 40 cents of every dollar in federal discretionary spending now goes to private companies.

In this favor-driven world of fat contracts awarded to the well-connected, Mr. Safavian was only an aspiring consigliere. He was not powerful enough or in government long enough to do much beyond petty reconnaissance for Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying clients. But the Bush brand of competitive sourcing, with its get-rich-quick schemes and do-little jobs for administration pals, spread like a cancer throughout the executive branch. It explains why tens of thousands of displaced victims of Katrina are still living in trailer shantytowns all these months later. It explains why New York City and Washington just lost 40 percent of their counterterrorism funds. It helps explain why American troops are more likely to be slaughtered than greeted with flowers more than three years after the American invasion of Iraq.

The Department of Homeland Security, in keeping with the Bush administration's original opposition to it, isn't really a government agency at all so much as an empty shell, a networking boot camp for future private contractors dreaming of big paydays. Thanks to an investigation by The Times's Eric Lipton, we know that some two-thirds of the top department executives, including Tom Ridge and his principal deputies, have cashed in on their often brief service by becoming executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that have received billions of dollars in government contracts. Even John Ashcroft, the first former attorney general in American history known to immediately register as a lobbyist, is selling his Homeland Security connections to interested bidders. "When you got it, flaunt it!" as they say in "The Producers."

To see the impact of such revolving-door cronyism, just look at the Homeland Security process that mandated those cutbacks for New York and Washington. The official in charge, the assistant secretary for grants and training, is Tracy Henke, an Ashcroft apparatchik from the Justice Department who was best known for trying to politicize the findings of its Bureau of Justice Statistics. (So much so that the White House installed her in Homeland Security with a recess appointment, to shield her from protracted Senate scrutiny.) Under Henke math, it follows that St. Louis, in her home state (and Mr. Ashcroft's), has seen its counterterrorism allotment rise by more than 30 percent while that for the cities actually attacked on 9/11 fell. And guess what: the private contractor hired by Homeland Security to consult on Ms. Henke's handiwork, Booz Allen Hamilton, now just happens to employ Greg Rothwell, who was the department's procurement chief until December. Booz Allen recently nailed a $250 million Homeland Security contract for technology consulting.

The continuing Katrina calamity is another fruit of outsourced government. As Alan Wolfe details in "Why Conservatives Can't Govern" in the current Washington Monthly, the die was cast long before the storm hit: the Bush cronies installed at FEMA, first Joe Allbaugh and then Michael Brown, had privatized so many of the agency's programs that there was little government left to manage the disaster even if more competent managers than Brownie had been in charge.

But the most lethal impact of competitive sourcing, as measured in human cost, is playing out in Iraq. In the standard narrative of American failure in the war, the pivotal early error was Donald Rumsfeld's decision to ignore the advice of Gen. Eric Shinseki and others, who warned that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to secure the country once we inherited it. But equally reckless, we can now see, was the administration's lax privatization of the country's reconstruction, often with pet companies and campaign contributors and without safeguards or accountability to guarantee results.

Washington's promises to rebuild Iraq were worth no more than its promises to rebuild New Orleans. The government that has stranded a multitude of Americans in flimsy "housing" on the gulf, where they remain prey for any new natural attacks the hurricane season will bring, is of a philosophical and operational piece with the government that has let down the Iraqi people. Even after we've thrown away some $2 billion of a budgeted $4 billion on improving electricity, many Iraqis have only a few hours of power a day, less than they did under Saddam. At his Rose Garden press conference of June 14, the first American president with an M.B.A. claimed that yet another new set of "benchmarks" would somehow bring progress even after all his previous benchmarks had failed to impede three years of reconstruction catastrophes.

Of the favored companies put in charge of our supposed good works in Iraq, Halliburton is the most notorious. But it is hardly unique. As The Los Angeles Times reported in April, it is the Parsons Corporation that is responsible for the "wholesale failure in two of the most crucial areas of the Iraq reconstruction - health and safety - which were supposed to win Iraqi good will and reduce the threat to American soldiers."

Parsons finished only 20 of 150 planned Iraq health clinics, somehow spending $60 million of the budgeted $186 million for its own management and administration. It failed to build walls around 7 of the 17 security forts it constructed to supposedly stop the flow of terrorists across the Iran border. Last week, reported James Glanz of The New York Times, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered Parsons to abandon construction on a hopeless $99.1 million prison that was two years behind schedule. By the calculation of Representative Waxman, some $30 billion in American taxpayers' money has been squandered on these and other Iraq boondoggles botched by a government adhering to the principle of competitive sourcing...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What Economic Problems?

None to speak of if you're in the top 10% of moneymakers who take home almost half of the money, and even less if you're in the top 0.1% of the economy who make almost one dollar out of every 10 in the economy.

No wonder the Dominionists want another Great Depression to return America to the right moral values- the values being those of the robber baron and plantation owner.

Sowing the Wind

More on Entrapped, from Empire Burlesque:

As usual, wise man Juan Cole has the skinny on the latest mendacious manipulation of America's carefully-stoked fears of terrorism: this time, a bunch of down-and-out, non-Muslim fringe cultists reduced to begging for water and boots, utterly incapable of carrying out any of the strikes they were allegedly planning -- dreams of violence which were encouraged and cultivated by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. Every law enforcement agency now says the group posed no real threat, had no weapons or material to make weapons -- unlike, say, the many white supremacists nabbed over the past few years with their bristling arsenals and ready-made bombs. So why was the raid on this minor collection of wretched, self-deluded chumps trumpeted to the skies by the Bush Regime? Do you really have to ask?

Cole also touches on a larger point. The relentless and savage class war waged by the American elite against the nation's poor (and, increasingly, the middle class) during the past 30 years is creating the kind of societal rot that breeds ignorance, extremism and violence. As Cole notes, the same resentments, the same oppression and hopelessness is beginning to link the slums of Cairo, Nairobi, Manila, Rio, Mexico City and elsewhere around the world to the ghettos of Miami and Los Angeles and the ruins of New Orleans. The fire building under these ash-heaps -- seething and subterranean for now -- is like the lava that swelled for years beneath Pompeii before it blew. When the inevitable explosion comes, it's not going to be pretty, or neatly contained; it's going to be a hard rain that falls on the just and unjust alike...

And it's going to fit right into their Operation Northwoods plans.

as the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh revealed last week, not only will U.S.-directed agents infiltrate existing terrorist groups and provoke them into action; the Pentagon itself will create its own terrorist groups and "death squads." After establishing their terrorist "credentials" through various atrocities and crimes, these American-run groups will then be able to ally with – and ultimately undermine – existing terrorist groups.

Top-level officials in the Pentagon, the U.S. intelligence services and the Bush administration confirmed to Hersh that the plan is going forward, under the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – just as we noted here in November 2002. Through a series of secret executive orders, George W. Bush has given Rumsfeld the authority to turn the entire world into "a global free-fire zone," a top Pentagon adviser says. These secret operations will be carried out with virtually no oversight; in many cases, even the top military commanders in the affected regions will not be told about them. The American people, of course, will never know what's being done in their name.

The covert units – including the Pentagon-funded terrorist groups and hit squads – will be operating outside all constraints of law and morality. "We're going to be riding with the bad boys," one insider told Hersh. Another likened it to the palmy days of the Reagan-Bush years: "Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador? We founded them and we financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about it." Indeed, we reported here last summer that Bush has already budgeted $500 million to fund local paramilitaries and guerrilla groups in the most volatile areas of the world, a measure guaranteed to produce needless bloodshed, destruction and suffering for innocent people already ravaged by conflict.

Incredibly, as Hersh notes, the Bushists are now openly citing a sinister role model for their campaign: Britain's brutal repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya during the 1950s, when British forces set up concentration camps, created their own terrorist groups and killed thousands of innocent civilians in putting down an "insurgency" against their colonial rule. And in fact, Rumsfeld and other Bush officials increasingly talk of combating not just terrorism but a "global insurgency" – as if the whole world is now an American colony, filled with recalcitrant "natives" rising up against their rightful masters...

They've done it to Iraq. They want to do it here. The only problem is that the fraction of the American public most prone to violence is their base, and while they might start a shooting war against yankees, brown folks, and "foreigners", they don't see the profit in shooting themselves.

A technicality Don Negroponte will resolve doubtless.

Left Behind- On Your Computer, That Is

It figures.

Watchers of right-wing Christian groups in the States say a new apocalyptic videogame released by cultish Revelations-based fiction series Left Behind is riddled with spyware.

Developers have incorporated software from an Israeli firm called Double Fusion. It incorporates video advertising and product placement into the game, and reportedly records players' behaviour, location, and other data to be uploaded to Left Behind's Bible-powered marketing machine...

With plans to distribute 1 million copies in evangelical "megachurches" nationwide pre-Christmas, Eternal Forces has attracted criticism from religious and secular commentators for its pushing of a violent brand of Christian supremacy. Christian anti-videogame violence campaigner Jack Thompson said: "It's absurd. You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn't hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away the Christians..."

Can you be the Dominionist snoop keeping tally of who's naughty or nice, too?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What Helen Says

Democrats need a new script


WASHINGTON -- When are the Democrats going to get their act together?

Surely, they are not going to let President Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, snooker them in the mid-term November election campaign as he did in the past two presidential elections.

What is he going to pull out of the hat? Soft on terrorism? Gay marriage? Flag burning? 9/11?

Are the Democrats going to be such easy prey again, neutralized by phony wedge issues and neglectful of the real issue, which is the administration's flagrant use of falsehoods to justify a war of choice?

It could happen again. The leaderless Democrats, speaking in a cacophony, are being outgunned by the conservatives and members of their own party representing the Democratic Leadership Council who are at heart "Republican lite."

There are a handful, including Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a Vietnam veteran who is calling for a speedy U.S. pullout from Iraq. He also took a swipe at Rove on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday for pushing the war while "sitting in his big air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside, saying 'Stay the course.' "

He was responding to Rove's speech in New Hampshire last week in which Rove attacked Democrats for what he called "that party's old pattern of cutting and running."

Rove -- who prides himself on being a history buff -- obviously did not remember when President Ford ordered U.S. troops out of Vietnam in April 1975. They departed -- some clinging by their fingertips to helicopters -- as North Vietnamese forces advanced on Saigon.

At that time Ford said at Tulane University: "We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina.

"But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America's leadership in the world."

Summing up, he added: "The fate of responsible men and women everywhere, (meaning the South Vietnamese) rests in their own hands, not in ours."


On the contrary, Helen, Rove remembers this quite well- and he's trusting that almost everyone else doesn't.

Thanks for the reminder.

Polls show that the American people -- including many Republicans -- are beginning to turn against the war.

In addition to an endless war for no known U.S. objective, there are a host of other issues that Democrats should embrace to hit home to every American

They could shout from the rooftops against the chipping away at the Bill of Rights and expansion of presidential power.

Bush has asserted the right to wiretap and eavesdrop on any American without a warrant in the name of fighting terrorism. He has asserted presidential power beyond stated constitutional rights and there is no Republican gutsy enough to call his hand.

The administration also has detained hundreds of suspected terrorists in limbo without charges or trials.

And then there are the shameful alleged secret prisons abroad where prisoners may be subjected to torture under interrogation.

The fact that millions of Americans lack health insurance is a theme Democrats should campaign on. The Democrats should support universal health care. When the administration lays down the law in the prescription drug program that drug prices are not negotiable, who is it working for?

Another rich target for Democrats: Bush and the Republican Congress cut taxes for the richest people in the country while fighting to keep the 10-year-old minimum wage at $5.15.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., said last week that the "divide between rich and poor in this country has reached outrageous proportions." He urged passage of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy's bill to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in three stages.

And how about the cuts in homeland security funding for vulnerable New York and Washington?

The Democrats also could hit upon our diminished image around the world and loss of credibility.

As Bush prepared to visit Europe this week, Die Zeit, a German weekly, declared that Americans have "lost their moral credibility in Iraq."

The newspaper also said "America's entire Iraq policy is out of control."

That's what the Democrats should be saying.

Let me add to that the Democrats should be shouting this from every website, camera, microphone, radio, newspaper and soapbox they can find:

Apparently rushing to lock in a long-sought goal before the fall elections, GOP congressional leaders may bring to a vote within weeks a proposal that could literally wipe out any federal program that protects public health or the environment--or for that matter civil rights, poverty programs, auto safety, education, affordable housing, Head Start, workplace safety or any other activity targeted by anti-regulatory forces...

And this:

... Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an estate-tax cut that is a repeal in everything but name. The so-called compromise would exempt more than 99.5 percent of estates from tax, slash the tax rates on the rest and cost at least $760 billion during its first full decade. Of that, $600 billion is the amount the government would have to borrow to make up for lost revenue from the cuts, which would benefit the heirs of America's wealthiest families, like the Marses of Mars bar and the Waltons of Wal-Mart Stores. The remaining $160 billion is the interest on that borrowing, which would be paid by all Americans.

No lawmaker who voted for the compromise gets any points for moderation. Like the earlier full repeal bill, this one is unfair and grounded in intellectual dishonesty. The goal is not to pass good legislation, but to get this top priority for big-shot constituents nailed into law before the November elections produce a legislature that's more responsible on fiscal matters.

In an attempt to rally support, House lawmakers have included in the bill another, totally unrelated, tax cut - for timber companies, worth $900 million over the next three years. The measure, based on the theory that American timber companies are at a disadvantage in the global marketplace, is essentially a special-interest giveaway that would encourage every business with international competitors to demand its own tax break. There is much to reform on the competitiveness front, but it should be done comprehensively, not on the basis of who has the senators best positioned to carve out a special deal.

The timber provision is a blatant attempt to extort "yes" votes out of four Democratic senators who have supported the timber industry in the past, but who have opposed estate-tax repeal: Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both of Washington, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana...

At the same time that Republicans are fighting to exempt the richest estates from taxes, they are blocking a raise for the nation's poorest workers.

Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully this week to raise the federal minimum wage, which stands at just $5.15 an hour. It has not been increased in nearly a decade, and at its current stingy level, the rate flies in the face of Americans' belief that those who work hard and play by the rules will be rewarded. A minimum-wage worker earns just $10,700 a year, nearly $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Since the minimum wage was first adopted, there has been a long tradition of bipartisan support for regular raises. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush all signed increases into law. Americans across the political spectrum strongly support the minimum wage, and believe it should be significantly higher. A recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 83 percent of Americans favored increasing the minimum wage by $2.

Nevertheless, since 1997 minimum-wage increases have regularly been blocked in Congress...

At the same time, Congress is doing this:

They get a raise.

Nobody else does, though.

It's not like we don't have issues.

It is like many of the people who should be raising the issues the loudest aren't.

Entrapped in Miami

Quite possibly.

They'll be more like this coming as we approach November.

If you've not blogged you wouldn't believe the kinds of suggestions, come-ons, and illegal/ immoral/ unethical propositions a liberal progressive gets from trolls in cyberspace.

Entrapment. You can bet your bottom dollar it happens.

Cheneyburton: They are hungry? Let them eat yellowcake...

...and drink Texas tea.

Polls, Pundits and Pols
You'd never know it from some of the reporting and bloviating on the debate over an Iraq withdrawal, but all major polls show that the public favors withdrawals, with strong support for a timeline or total pullout within a year.

By Greg Mitchell

(June 22, 2006) -- The new efforts by Republicans in Congress, and in the media, to use Iraq to their advantage by branding Democrats as favoring a "cut-and-run'" policy, has received wide coverage in the past week. Often pundits, and even reporters, have suggested that this is working, because Americans are not in favor of a "hasty" withdrawal. Democrats are in shambles, they report, as they fear that proposals for setting a timetable for withdrawal put forward by Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John Murtha will prove disastrous for the party in the November elections, due to the alleged unpopularity of this stance.

This conclusion, however, flies in the face of surveys by all major polling firms, as E&P has chronicled over the past two years.

It's one thing when polls are dismissed, ignored or twisted by political or media spinmeisters. But when journalists in their news stories do it, it is downright misleading.

Take Jim Rutenberg and Adam Nagourney in The New York Times today.

They produced a front-pager on the Republicans' unexpected confidence on this issue, and declared: "Some polls show a majority of Americans continue to think that entering Iraq was a mistake, and pollsters say independent voters are particularly open to the idea of setting some sort of timetable for withdrawal, the very policy Democrats have embraced and Republicans are now fighting."

The fact is, not "some" polls, but virtually every major poll shows that American have long declared that going to war against Iraq was a mistake.

And far more than "independent voters" are drawn to withdrawal. Every major poll reveals that a majority of Americans advocate withdrawals from Iraq, with large numbers wanting this to be quite speedy, and most wanting a full pullout in a year or so (Kerry's idea) or by the end of next year.

This is hardly a "some" position. A CNN poll, for example, conducted June 14-15 found that 53% favored a timetable for withdrawal, while 41% opposed it. Yet newspaper editorials, as usual, remain mute on this and the Senate today soundly trounced the Democrats' withdrawal pleas, even a wishy-washy one put forward by Sen. Carl Levin...

And how is this for a bottom line poll result? The CBS News poll taken less than two weeks ago asked if what has transpired in Iraq was "worth the loss of American life and other costs." The result: 62% said "no." ...

...a full printout of a detailed NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey completed 10 days ago... shows, among other things, that 57% of respondents support reducing troop levels now, with only 35% favoring current levels. The vast majority of those backing withdrawal favor setting a timellne. The same poll finds just 35% supporting the job President Bush is doing on Iraq.

But here's the key finding. The pollsters stated a series of positions, ranging from opposing gay marriage to repealing the estate tax, and asked if a candidate running for congress who embraced such a position was more or less likely to gain their vote. One position was: "Favors pulling all American troops out of Iraq within the next 12 months."

That couldn't be more simple and clear. The result? Some 54% said they would be "more likely" to vote for such a candidate and only 32% said "less likely..."

Polls? Elections? Or $elections and $elective Company policy? Who needs voters to maintain power when you've got Diebold?

Friday, June 23, 2006


With two posts, Chris Floyd has described what the Company has done and wants to do in Iraq.

In Mission Accomplished: The American Record in Iraq, we have a summary of the current situation in the quest for hearts and minds (and livers and spleens and other organs) in Iraq.

Which brings us to this post:

The Alchemists: Turning Blood Into Gold

This week an interesting story appeared in the Washington Post – buried on page 16, of course, lest anyone think it was of the slightest importance. It revealed that documentary proof has now emerged confirming the fact that in the spring of 2003, the Bush Regime – flush with its illusory "victory" in Iraq – spurned a wide-ranging peace feeler from Iran which offered "full cooperation" on every issue that the Bushists claim to be concerned about in regard to Tehran: "nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups..."

...The unprecedented initiative was approved by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then-President Mohammad Khatami – the moderate whose attempts at dialogue were mocked and undercut at every turn by the Bush Regime, helping to discredit the entire reformist movement in Iran and leading to Khatami's replacement by the militant hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In other words, everything that George W. Bush says he wants from the Iranians now, he could have had for the asking – three years ago. What then can we conclude from the rejection of this extraordinary initiative? The answer is obvious: that the Bush Faction is not really interested in curbing nuclear proliferation or defusing the powder keg of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the regional and global terror that it spawns...

What are they interested in? This answer too is obvious, to anyone who's been paying the slightest attention to the Faction's words and actions over the years: they are interested in loot and dominion. What they want from Iran is nothing less than its return to quasi-colonial control by the crony conquistadors of the West. And they're willing to play a (reasonably) long game to get it.

In the meantime, it serves their interests well for the entire Middle East to seethe and boil. War and rumors of war are engines of limitless profits for the crony-cons. It sends oil prices sky-high and keeps those pork-laden contracts for weapons and "military servicing" rolling in. And the terrorism that thrives in this deliberately created chaos is another massive money-maker, as vast armies of "security consultants" ply their political connections to gobble up tons of insider grease. Bush Regime minions have led the way in this alchemical transmutation of fear into gold: more than 90 officials from the Department of Homeland Security have stampeded through the revolving door from government service to lucrative private posts with companies seeking – and getting – fat deals from, er, the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Times reports.

Billions of dollars are being generated for the fortunate few by war and terror; why kill the golden goose of chaos by pursuing Middle East peace?

It's the Oil and Dominion for the Company or for Arioch, and sometimes in the multiverse there's a very thin line between them.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some things are just wrong.

LONDON (Reuters) - A musical version of "The Lord of the Rings" is to open in London next year but the production has been reworked and cut after its world premiere in Toronto received some damning reviews...


The Shadow, once defeated, always assumes a different shape and grows again.

Pot Meets Kettle and Calls It Dark

American kids are fed Big Time's dream machine's program, shipped to a killing field, and treated just like they're 'pozed to be according to the script.

So nobody here complains (much at least on cable prime time) when we do it too.

Other kidnappers wear police uniforms.

Which brings me to an old post archived here from this person:

Friday 03 March 2006

John Negroponte, the US National Intelligence Director, provided testimony on Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "global threats."

Negroponte, who was the US ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005, was immediately promoted to his current position after his presence in Iraq. Ironically, he warned the committee on Tuesday, "If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world."

Warning of the outcome of a possible civil war in Iraq, Negroponte said sectarian civil war in Iraq would be a "serious setback" to the global war on terror. Note - he did not say it would be a "serious setback" to the Iraqi people, over 1,400 of whom have been slaughtered in sectarian violence touched off by the bombing of the Golden Mosque last week in Samarra.

No, the violence and instability in Iraq would be a "serious setback" to the global "war on terror."

But it's interesting for him to continue, "The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic," whilst feigning his concern. Because generating catastrophic consequences for civilian populations just happens to be his specialty.

If we briefly review the political history of John Negroponte, we find a man who has had a career bent toward generating civilian death and widespread human rights abuses, and promoting sectarian and ethnic violence.

Remember when Negroponte was the US ambassador to Honduras, from 1981 to 1985? While there he earned the distinction of being accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights while he worked as "a tough cold warrior who enthusiastically carried out President Ronald Reagan's strategy," according to cables sent between Negroponte and Washington during his tenure there.

The human rights violations carried out by Negroponte were described as "systematic."

These violations Negroponte oversaw in Honduras were carried out by operatives trained by the CIA. Records document his "special intelligence units," better known as "death squads," comprised of CIA-trained Honduran armed units which kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people. Victims also included US missionaries (similar to Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq) who happened to witness many of the atrocities.

Negroponte had full knowledge of these activities, while he made sure US military aid to Honduras increased from $4 million to $77.4 million a year during his tenure, and the tiny country became so jammed with US soldiers it was dubbed the "USS Honduras."

It is also important to remember that Negroponte oversaw construction of the air base where Nicaraguan Contras were trained by the US. This air base, El Aguacate, was also used as a secret detention and torture center during his time in Honduras.

While Negroponte was the US ambassador to Honduras, civilian deaths sky-rocketed into the tens of thousands. During his first full year, the local newspapers carried no less than 318 stories of extra-judicial attacks by the military.

He has been described as an "old fashioned imperialist" and got his start during the Vietnam War in the CIA's Phoenix program, which assassinated some 40,000 Vietnamese "subversives."

Negroponte's death squads used electric shock and suffocation devices in interrogations, kept their prisoners naked, and when a prisoner was no longer useful he was brutally executed.

Outraged at the human rights abuses by the Reagan-Bush administration, in 1984 Nicaragua took its case to the World Court in The Hague. The decision of the court was for the Reagan-Bush administration to terminate its "unlawful use of force" in international terrorism and pay substantial reparations to the victims. The White House responded by brushing off the court's findings and vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions that affirmed the judgment that all states must observe international law.

In the middle of Negroponte's tenure in Iraq, the Pentagon (read Donald Rumsfeld) openly considered using assassination and kidnapping teams there, led by the Special Forces.

Referred to not-so-subtly as "the Salvador option," the January 2005 rhetoric from the Pentagon publicized a proposal that would send Special Forces teams to "advise, support and possibly train" Iraqi "squads." Members of these squads would be hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga militia and Shia Badr militiamen used to target Sunni resistance fighters and their sympathizers.

What better man to make this happen than John Negroponte? His experience made him the perfect guy for the job. What a nice coincidence that he just happened to be in Baghdad when the Pentagon/Rumsfeld were discussing "the Salvador option."

Fast forward to present day Iraq, which is a situation described by the Washington Post in this way: "Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday - blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound."

The Independent newspaper from London recently reports that hundreds of Iraqis each month are tortured to death or executed by death squads working out of the Shia-run Ministry of Interior.

During the aforementioned committee hearing, Negroponte said that the US is concerned about the purchasing of arms by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Negroponte accused Chavez of using funds generated from the sale of oil to purchase weaponry, saying, "It's clear that he is spending hundreds of millions, if not more, for his very extravagant foreign policy at the expense of the impoverished Venezuelan population."

Coincidentally, on the exact same day he said this, the US State Department announced that the only new rebuilding money in its latest budget request for Iraq is for prisons.

With no other big building projects scheduled for Iraq in the next year, the State Department coordinator for Iraq is asking Congress for $100 million for prisons, while the Iraqi people languish with 3.2 hours of electricity daily in the average home, staggering unemployment and horrendous security, with most still dependent upon a monthly food ration.

Meanwhile John Pace, the Human Rights Chief for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq until last month, recently stated that he believes the US has violated the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and is fueling the violence via raiding Iraqi homes and detaining thousands of innocent Iraqis. Pace estimates that between 80-90% of Iraqi detainees are innocent.

During an interview on Democracy Now!, when asked to described the role of the militias in Iraq, Pace said "they first started as a kind of militia, sort of organized armed groups, which were the military wing of various factions. And they have - they had a considerable role to play in the [security] vacuum that was created by the invasion."

He went on to describe their actions: "So you have these militias now with police gear and under police insignia basically carrying out an agenda which really is not in the interest of the country as a whole. They have roadblocks in Baghdad and other areas, they would kidnap other people. They have been very closely linked with numerous mass executions ..."

Pace, when asked if there were death squads in Iraq, replied, "I would say yes, there are death squads," and "my observations would confirm that at least at a certain point last year and in 2005, we saw numerous instances where the behavior of death squads was very similar, uncannily similar to that we had observed in other countries, including El Salvador."

What we're witnessing in Iraq now with these death squads and escalating sectarian violence is the product of policies implemented by Negroponte when he was the US Ambassador in Iraq.

But let us remove the covert operations factor for a moment.

For over a year now, Shia death squads have been killing Sunni en masse.

Thus, at first glance, the bombing of the Golden Mosque last week as Sunni retaliation makes sense.

However, what doesn't make sense is the immediate showing of solidarity between Shia and Sunni clerics following the bombing.

Let us now reinsert the covert operations factor into this equation.

Along with the showing of religious solidarity, there is widespread belief by Shiite religious clerics both in and outside Iraq, as well as belief in the Arab media, that US covert operations were behind the bombing:

* Shiite Cleric Muqtada Al Sadr blamed the United States occupation for the current violence. He recently stated, "My message to the Iraqi people is to stand united and bonded, and not to fall into the Western trap. The West is trying to divide the Iraqi people. As God is my witness, I hereby demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq."

* In another interview, Sadr stated, "We say that the occupiers are responsible for such crisis [Golden Mosque bombing] ... there is only one enemy. The occupier."

* Adel Abdul Mehdi, the Iraqi Vice President, held the American Ambassador [Zalmay Khalilzad] responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque, "especially since occupation forces did not comply with curfew orders imposed by the Iraqi government."

He added, "Evidence indicates that the occupation may be trying to undermine and weaken the Iraqi government."
* At a major demonstration in Beirut, prominent Lebanese Shiite cleric and Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said America and Israel are to blame for the sectarian divisions in Iraq, claiming that the violence will offer further justifications for maintaining the occupation of Iraq.

* According to the Saudi-based Arab News editorial, a civil-war scenario may serve the interests of the Bush administration: "This may in the end be what Washington wants, because if Iraq plunges into chaos, it could be the Bush ticket out of the Iraq debacle, albeit paid for in rivers of Iraqi blood as well the utter humiliation of the president's administration and its neo-con agenda."

* Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, urged Iraqi Shia not to seek revenge against Sunni Muslims, saying there were definite plots "to force the Shia to attack the mosques and other properties respected by the Sunni," and blamed the intelligence services of the US and Israel for being responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque.

* Hoseyn Shari'atmadarit wrote in the Keyhan newspaper of Iran on February 25 of several instances of documented covert operations carried out by occupation forces in Iraq, including: "In Shahrivar two British intelligence officers were arrested [in September 2005] at an inspection post while carrying a considerable amount of explosives, detonators and other equipment necessary to build a bomb. This event certainly shows the direct involvement of the English intelligence service in the bombings in Iraq ... The commander of the English military deployed in Basra [then] issued an order to attack the police centre and release two English saboteurs."

In the recent committee meeting, Negroponte told US senators he was seeing progress in Iraq. He said, "And if we continue to make that kind of progress, yes, we can win in Iraq."

Evidently the kind of progress John Negroponte sees in Iraq is not the kind that benefits the Iraqi people. Because the only progress in Iraq, apart from building prisons, is for the situation to continue growing progressively worse by deepening sectarian divides, despite the best efforts of religious leaders to create peace and unity.

Would civil war in Iraq be a "serious setback" for John Negroponte? Because the sectarian violence happening in Iraq right now is already a "serious setback" for the Iraqi people.

Thus, does Negroponte really care if there is civil war? Does he really concern himself with the wellbeing of the Iraqi people? Or is his main concern creating the catastrophe which keeps them divided?

Obviously no one's ever explained the Theory of Thaumic Imponderability to Negroponte, who clearly has the covert smirk of a great psychopath.

Yes, Don Negroponte. You will win. You always do. But do your Company masters realize exactly what prize you bring them?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


They get a raise.

Nobody else does, though.


Via Buzzflash, who really ought to know better:

Hoping to emulate conservative success, Dem young guns launch journal of ideas. DemocracyJournal.org debuts. 6/21

MoDo has it exactly right today.

Mr. Cherny and his fellow editor, Kenneth Baer, former Gore speechwriters, introduced their journal, Democracy — it's sort of like Foreign Affairs without the glitz — at a panel at the National Press Club with Francis Fukuyama and Bill Kristol. Mr. Fukuyama's big idea was The End of History. But a couple of little things like religion and nationalist ideology, not to mention history, got in the way.

Mr. Kristol was a key backer of the neocon push to knock out Saddam and create a model democracy in the Middle East. As he pointed out ruefully yesterday, big ideas cannot survive "contact with politicians, unbruised," and are sometimes "applied inappropriately." That was no doubt a veiled shot at Donald Rumsfeld, whom Mr. Kristol faults for the slide in Iraq.

"And since my relations with conservatives these days are so bad — with Rumsfeld and immigration and other things — I'd just as soon hang out with you guys," the Weekly Standard editor told the room of liberals, bloggers and journalists. "You're less mean."

You'd think that incorrectly predicting history is over would get you banished from the intelligentsia forever, but Mr. Fukuyama proffered another big idea, warning that the pendulum was not making its customary swing left because "values" voters were clutching it.

"There's a guy I buy my barbecue from who says, 'I think we're in a class war and my class is losing,' " he shared. (Is this The End of Barbecue?) In Europe, he said, such brisket purveyors would be voting for the left, but in America, "the values issues have been much more prominent, and so people who for economic reasons ought to be voting on the left are held still in the Republican column precisely because they don't trust the left on all the issues having to deal with family, and identity, and this sort of thing."

People on the left voting Reptilican? People on the left against social, economic, and scientific progress but pro-fundamentalism and pro-nationalism. Mr. Fukuyama seems to be a bit politically dyslexic, unable to tell his left from his right. He's either that, or a bald-faced liar.

With input from the likes of William Kristol and Francis Fukyama, this is more likely a source of disinformation and discord for progressives everywhere.

Of course, this also lets The New York Pravda continue with its own chaos disinformation campaign for the weak minded.

"Democrats who wished their nominee would take a firm stand in 2004 now oppose his call for a fixed date for the withdrawal of troops." Not unless they're supporters of the DLC. Not unless they're George Soros- who isn't really a Democrat at all, only a major shareholder of the DINOcrats.

Lords of Chaos, you win again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cops or Robbers?

Like the CIA has a soft spot for cocaine cartels, it seems the Feds have a soft spot for the spammers trying to hack your credit data.

WASHINGTON - Numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies have bypassed subpoenas and warrants designed to protect civil liberties and gathered Americans' personal telephone records from private-sector data brokers.

These brokers, many of whom advertise aggressively on the Internet, have gotten into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and even acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents gathered by congressional investigators and provided to The Associated Press.

The law enforcement agencies include offices in the
Homeland Security Department and Justice Department — including the
FBI and U.S. Marshal's Service — and municipal police departments in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Utah. Experts believe hundreds of other departments frequently use such services.

"We are requesting any and all information you have regarding the above cell phone account and the account holder ... including account activity and the account holder's address," Ana Bueno, a police investigator in Redwood City, Calif., wrote in October to PDJ Investigations of Granbury, Texas.

An agent in Denver for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Anna Wells, sent a similar request on March 31 on Homeland Security stationery: "I am looking for all available subscriber information for the following phone number," Wells wrote to a corporate alias used by PDJ.

Congressional investigators estimated the U.S. government spent $30 million last year buying personal data from private brokers. But that number likely understates the breadth of transactions, since brokers said they rarely charge law enforcement agencies any price.

PDJ said it always provided help to police for free. "Agencies from all across the country took advantage of it," said PDJ's lawyer, Larry Slade of Los Angeles...

For free. Sure. All the cops have to do is look the other way.

Coalition of the Willing

How nice of North Korea to co-operate with the Company and allow Darth Rumsfeld a Star Wars test opportunity.

...“It’s good to be ready,” the official told Reuters news agency. The step was first reported late Monday by NBC News and was reported in Tuesday's Washington Times newspaper.

U.S. officials say evidence such as satellite pictures suggests Pyongyang may have finished fueling a Taepodong-2 missile, which some experts said could reach the United States...

Now who needs that stale ol' World Cup?

Big Time and Bu$hCo have the real thing!

...As tensions grew, meanwhile, the U.S. staged war games in the western Pacific on Tuesday with 22,000 troops, 280 aircraft and three aircraft carriers.

U.S. officials have said the missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2, has a firing range of 9,300 miles and could reach as far as the U.S. West Coast. Most analysts, however, say North Korea is still a long way from perfecting technology that would make the missile accurate and capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

Oh well. Maybe better luck next time.

[Thanks to Leah for the heads-up!]

Fair Use

It's a good thing there are the disclaimers you see on the front page of this site, where they bring the progressive reporting out from behind Pravda's fire wall for everyone to see.

Since Singularity is primarily an educational site too let me repeat the legal invocation here:

Fair Use Notice: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, economic, democratic, and social justice issues, etc. Here at Singularity a major focus is also education about the natural world, too, so you're going to see a lot of science education too. Incidently, most of this science was funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It's important to have this tool to get around The New York Pravda's firewall. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to read reviews like this:

...So what's our bitter partisan divide really about? In two words: class warfare. That's the lesson of an important new book, "Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches," by Nolan McCarty of Princeton University, Keith Poole of the University of California, San Diego, and Howard Rosenthal of New York University.

"Polarized America" is a technical book written for political scientists. But it's essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what's happening to America.

What the book shows, using a sophisticated analysis of Congressional votes and other data, is that for the past century, political polarization and economic inequality have moved hand in hand. Politics during the Gilded Age, an era of huge income gaps, was a nasty business — as nasty as it is today. The era of bipartisanship, which lasted for roughly a generation after World War II, corresponded to the high tide of America's middle class. That high tide began receding in the late 1970's, as middle-class incomes grew slowly at best while incomes at the top soared; and as income gaps widened, a deep partisan divide re-emerged.

Both the decline of partisanship after World War II and its return in recent decades mainly reflected the changing position of the Republican Party on economic issues.

Before the 1940's, the Republican Party relied financially on the support of a wealthy elite, and most Republican politicians firmly defended that elite's privileges. But the rich became a lot poorer during and after World War II, while the middle class prospered. And many Republicans accommodated themselves to the new situation, accepting the legitimacy and desirability of institutions that helped limit economic inequality, such as a strongly progressive tax system. (The top rate during the Eisenhower years was 91 percent.)

When the elite once again pulled away from the middle class, however, Republicans turned their back on the legacy of Dwight Eisenhower and returned to a focus on the interests of the wealthy. Tax cuts at the top — including repeal of the estate tax — became the party's highest priority.

But if the real source of today's bitter partisanship is a Republican move to the right on economic issues, why have the last three elections been dominated by talk of terrorism, with a bit of religion on the side? Because a party whose economic policies favor a narrow elite needs to focus the public's attention elsewhere. And there's no better way to do that than accusing the other party of being unpatriotic and godless.

Thus in 2004, President Bush basically ran as America's defender against gay married terrorists. He waited until after the election to reveal that what he really wanted to do was privatize Social Security.

Pre-New Deal G.O.P. operatives followed the same strategy. Republican politicians won elections by "waving the bloody shirt" — invoking the memory of the Civil War — long after the G.O.P. had ceased to be the party of Lincoln and become the party of robber barons instead. Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic presidential candidate, was defeated in part by a smear campaign — burning crosses and all — that exploited the heartland's prejudice against Catholics...

Read it for your education only.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Noam Chomsky Speaks at West Point on Just War

Watch it here.

If your free QuickTime geeks, open it with the free version of RealPlayer, it's an hour, slow at the start. Noam speaks as always with massive but pointed prose. It's interesting that the educated military intelligensia feels an oxymoronic need for Just War.

One wonders whether the future Robert E. Lees and Ulysses S. Grants were comatose at the end of the hour.

Or felt the need for a stiff drink and a slow cigar afterwards.

For instant gratification, watch him show his hidden speed capability as he politely and thoroughly educates a cadet about Saddam's early support here.

Thanks to Red State Son for the link.


NASA is to launch the space shuttle Discovery on 1 July, despite warnings from senior safety officials and engineers that it is not safe to fly.

A meeting held to set the launch date was split on whether the problem of foam chunks breaking away - which brought down the Columbia - was fixed.

Safety officials said modifications carried out since the problem recurred a year ago were still not enough.

But managers decided to go ahead, insisting the crew was not at risk.

"There were very different viewpoints on the issue of whether we were ready to fly or not," US space agency (Nasa) administrator Michael Griffin told a news conference.

"I can't possibly accept every recommendation given to me by every member of my staff, especially when they all don't agree..."

Agree with what his CSC/DynCorp and In-Q-Tel clients want, anyway.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Corporatista TIA

Pravda speaks to all of you proles:

All good things must come to an end, including the chance to post lascivious photographs and diary entries on the Internet without repercussions. A generation that has come of age with blogging, Webcams and social networking sites is waking up to the fact that would-be employers are looking over their shoulders — and adjusting their job offers.

Alan Finder reported in The Times last week that companies have moved from putting applicants' names through Google to checking sites like Facebook and MySpace. There are ethical concerns about corporate officers snooping through registration-only sites designed for students. But the first order of business is for the indiscreet to think twice...

The Internet feels private in certain ways that it isn't. Sharing posts with friends, fellow hobbyists or potential dates, a user could be forgiven for overlooking the possibility that a human resources executive might be zeroing in as well. So much attention has been focused on sexual predators and swindlers that it's easy to forget that businesses and the government want to retain the right to peruse our correspondence as well.

A recent survey found that more than a third of large American companies read their employees' outbound e-mail, and just under a third fired someone as a result. We are only just beginning to wake up to the wider ramifications of the Internet on the personal and the confidential. In the meantime, don't leave a digital trail. That photograph from your friend's party could be more than just embarrassing. It might cost you your dream job.

And of course all of the dream jobs require you to be an upright citizen according to the moral norms of the Company.

Take it from one surviving in the belly of the beast: one person's dream is another's nightmare.

Just wait until these guys start subcontracting their systems to the most politically correct corporate bidders.

Protection Racket for Conflicted Interests

WASHINGTON, June 17 — Dozens of members of the Bush administration's domestic security team, assembled after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now collecting bigger paychecks in different roles: working on behalf of companies that sell domestic security products, many directly to the federal agencies the officials once helped run.

At least 90 officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House Office of Homeland Security — including the department's former secretary, Tom Ridge; the former deputy secretary, Adm. James M. Loy; and the former under secretary, Asa Hutchinson — are executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars' worth of domestic security business.

More than two-thirds of the department's most senior executives in its first years have moved through the revolving door. That pattern raises questions for some former officials...

Federal law prohibits senior executive branch officials from lobbying former government colleagues or subordinates for at least a year after leaving public service. But by exploiting loopholes in the law — including one provision drawn up by department executives to facilitate their entry into the business world — it is often easy for former officials to do just that.

Laws are obviously for the working classes only.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Timely Announcement

Now here's something you might not have heard before:

At least among those with a mind for such things, it's fairly well-remembered that on September 10, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld made the shocking announcement that the Pentagon "couldn't track" $2.3 trillion of its transactions. "Iroquois" observes, "What's interesting to me is that he made his press release on a Monday. In DC, I always see bad news given on a Friday, usually late in the afternoon on Friday. The exception, of course, would be when someone happens to know that there is a far bigger story coming out."

And we know that Flight 77, allegedly piloted by an incompetent, made an aerobatic, spiralling descent over Washington, effecting a 270-degree turn to strike the Pentagon from a western approach at ground level. The side struck was the only one with an exterior wall hardened against attack, and was relatively empty while renovation continued...

From The Pittsburg Post Gazette, December 20, 2001: "One Army office in the Pentagon lost 34 of its 65 employees in the attack. Most of those killed in the office, called Resource Services Washington, were civilian accountants, bookkeepers and budget analysts. They were at their desks when American Airlines Flight 77 struck."

The Arlington County After-Action Report noted that the "impact area included both the Navy operations center and the office complex of the National Guard and Army Reserve. It was also the end of the fiscal year and important budget information was in the damaged area." And Insight Magazine editorialized that "the Department of the Army, headed by former Enron executive Thomas White, had an excuse [for not making a full accounting]. In a shocking appeal to sentiment it says it didn't publish a "stand-alone" financial statement for 2001 because of "the loss of financial-management personnel sustained during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack..."

Everything changed, right?

First, Do No Harm

Drugs firm blocks cheap blindness cure

Company will only seek licence for medicine that costs 100 times more

Sarah Boseley, health editor
Saturday June 17, 2006
The Guardian

A major drug company is blocking access to a medicine that is cheaply and effectively saving thousands of people from going blind because it wants to launch a more expensive product on the market.

Ophthalmologists around the world, on their own initiative, are injecting tiny quantities of a colon cancer drug called Avastin into the eyes of patients with wet macular degeneration, a common condition of older age that can lead to severely impaired eyesight and blindness. They report remarkable success at very low cost because one phial can be split and used for dozens of patients.

But Genentech, the company that invented Avastin, does not want it used in this way. Instead it is applying to license a fragment of Avastin, called Lucentis, which is packaged in the tiny quantities suitable for eyes at a higher cost. Speculation in the US suggests it could cost £1,000 per dose instead of less than £10. The company says Lucentis is specifically designed for eyes, with modifications over Avastin, and has been through 10 years of testing to prove it is safe.

Unless Avastin is approved in the UK by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) it will not be universally available within the NHS. But because Genentech declines to apply for a licence for this use of Avastin, Nice cannot consider it. In spite of the growing drugs bill of the NHS, it will appraise, and probably approve, Lucentis next year.

Although Nice's role is to look at cost-effectiveness, it says it cannot appraise a drug and pass it for use in the NHS unless the drug is referred to it by the Department of Health. The department says its hands are tied.

"The drug company hasn't applied for it to be licensed for this use. It wouldn't be referred to Nice until they have made the first move," said a Department of Health spokeswoman. "They need to step up and get a licence. If they are not getting it licensed, why aren't they?"

Virtually every biotechnology product on the market has had most of its development costs paid for by the NIH. That's you and me, people. Don't give me any song and dance about how hard drug companies work to develop new drugs.

There's not a drug company that doesn't spend far more on advertising and merchandising than on research and development.

Friday, June 16, 2006

"... the most successful information campaign to date."

You had better read the whole thing.

But here's something you really ought to realize even if you can't:

Nicholas Berg... was remarkably unlucky. More of an idealist than a chest-thumping corporate predator like ex-CEOs Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, Berg, 26, had developed a method for helping underdeveloped areas build safe, affordable structures where steel is hard to come by, as Wikipedia reports. Progress, not profit, was his motivating force. He was also an idealist in another way: he believed in his government. The president said Iraq had been liberated – "mission accomplished" – and that American companies needed to help the Iraqi people rebuild their land. Berg didn't realize that the president was a liar. Iraq had not been liberated but delivered into a new hell. Mass deaths, house raids, airstrikes, societal collapse and torture had spawned a fierce armed resistance. Bush's invasion had also loosed the most brutal, ignorant religious extremists – like Zarqawi – to prey upon the land. Meanwhile, "reconstruction" was a sick joke: it was just a pipeline for Bush cronies to drain Iraq, and the U.S. Treasury, bone-dry.

Berg came alone: no bodyguard of bristling mercenaries, no Halliburton subcontracts, no Beltway cronies. Work was promised, but without that insider grease, fell through. He decided to go home. Six days before his scheduled departure, he was suddenly seized by Iraqi police and turned over to U.S. forces. For reasons still unclear, he was held for 13 days – during which time the Abu Ghraib revelations ignited the land, and the tinderbox of Fallujah exploded when four mercenaries were killed in retaliation for the American shooting of Iraqi protestors a few days before.

Berg was released into this heightened turmoil one day after his family filed a lawsuit against his illegal detention; he disappeared four days later. His remains were found one month later near a Baghdad highway; the gruesome video appeared three days after that. Abu Ghraib disappeared from the front pages; it was not an issue in the presidential election that year...

It was this video – which featured five surprisingly chubby terrorists, masked, one wearing a gold ring forbidden by extremist Islam, another reading in halting Arabic – that made Zarqawi the Pentagon poster boy for the insurgency...

Don't forget the white lawn chairs, identical to the ones in the Abu Ghraib pics.

Don't forget the paint on the walls, the same institutional green two-tone identical to the ones in the Abu Ghraib pics.

Most of all, don't forget, and don't believe: think.

Tipping Points

With the advent of "An Inconvenient Truth" comes an upsurge in paid trolling, a perpetual problem, across the progressive blogsphere. You can't resist the savory treat of of vaporizing such comments into the Blogger ether before they emerge to blight common discourse. Other perhaps more genuinely liberal hosts allow the trolls to have their say.

Which offers a perfect opportunity to refute them with facts and figures. This is something that has to be done again and again. If for no other reason, it's because Google and even Dogpile have gotten so they won't dig up links to previously posted but older data. This isn't just the entropic link decay of a constantly changing internet, because when crosschecked against my own files to directly assess the site, the original links will usually still be there.

Despite the drain on the expense accounts of the oil barons, despite their best attempts at green posturing, despite monkeying with search algorithms, reality and the perception of reality continues to belie them.

Nature 441, 802-805 (15 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/441802a

Climate change: The tipping point of the iceberg
Gabrielle Walker

...The idea that passing some hidden threshold will drastically worsen man-made climate change has been around for decades, normally couched in technical terms such as 'nonlinearity', 'positive feedback' and 'hysteresis'. Now it has gained new prominence under a new name. In 2004, 45 newspaper articles mentioned a 'tipping point' in connection with climate change; in the first five months of this year, 234 such articles were published. "Warming hits tipping point," one UK newspaper recently warned on its front page; "Climate nears point of no return," asserted another. The idea is spreading like a contagion...

A tipping point usually means the moment at which internal dynamics start to propel a change previously driven by external forces. The idea raises two questions. First, when will that moment be reached? Second, after it has been passed, is the system now destined to run its course regardless of what goes on elsewhere — is a tipping point a point of no return?

...Although there's no strong evidence that the climate as a whole has a point beyond which it switches neatly into a new pattern, individual parts of the system could be in danger of changing state quickly, and perhaps irretrievably. And perhaps the most striking of these vulnerable components are in the Arctic. Farthest north is the carapace of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean. South of that is the vast ice sheet that covers Greenland. And then there is the ocean conveyor belt, which originates in a small region of the Nordic seas and carries heat and salt around the world.
On thin ice

All three seem to have inbuilt danger zones that may deserve to be called tipping points. And the outside forces pushing them towards those points are gathering. "There is near-universal agreement that we are now seeing a greenhouse effect in the Arctic," says Mark Serreze from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado...

Serreze studies sea ice, the member of the arctic triumvirate that has had most recent attention. In the winter, sea ice more or less covers the Arctic Ocean basin. Summer sun nibbles at the pack ice, shrinking it at the edges and creating patches of open water within. Open water reflects much less sunlight than ice — it has what is known as a lower albedo — so the greater the area of dark open water, the more summer warmth the ocean stores. More stored heat means thinner ice in the next winter, which is more vulnerable to melting the next summer — meaning yet more warmth being stored in the open water in the following year, a cycle known as the 'ice–albedo feedback'. "Once you start melting and receding, you can't go back," says Serreze.

It seems that some of this process is under way. Serreze and his colleagues have found that the summer sea ice has shrunk by an average of 8% a decade over the past thirty years (Stroeve, J. C. et al. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L04501 (2005)). The past four years have seen record lows in the extent of September sea ice, and in 2005 there was 20% less ice cover than the 1979–2000 average, a loss of about 1.3 million square kilometres, which is more than the area of France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined. It was this finding that triggered a raft of alarming headlines.

The ice's volume, rather than its extent, would be a more useful figure, but this is hard to estimate. Radar measurements showing how proud the ice sits with respect to nearby water would help, but the European Cryosat mission intended to provide these data was lost on launch in October 2005. A reflight is planned, but at present the only way to determine the pack thickness is from below. In 2003 Andrew Rothrock and Jinlun Zhang of the University of Washington in Seattle analysed results from a series of submarine cruises from 1987–97 and concluded that the ice thinned by about one metre during that period (Rothrock, D. A. et al. J. Geophys. Res. 108, 3083 (2003))...

Compared with the overall scale of human-induced climate change, the additional warming expected if the ice–albedo feedback goes all the way would not be immense. The 4.5% of the Earth's surface above the Arctic Circle is simply too small to make a radical difference to the planet's energy balance. There are, however, some hints that the loss of sea ice may have more far-reaching effects beyond the simple number of watts absorbed per square metre. Tim Lenton, an Earth-systems scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, points out that our current, relatively stable pattern of winds, which is caused by three circulatory air systems in each hemisphere, depends in part on a white and cold North Pole.

Sinking air in the Arctic is an integral part of an air system called a Hadley cell; there is another Hadley cell over the tropics. Between these two cells are the fierce westerlies and the high-altitude jet streams that drive storms around the middle latitudes. "If any part of the current structure broke down, that would be profound," says Lenton. "If the system starts to switch seasonally between three cells and a less stable structure, you change the position of the jet streams, you change everything." Models of this possibility are scarce, but Jacob Sewall and Lisa Sloan of the University of California, Santa Cruz, have shown that an ice-free Arctic could shift winter storm tracks over North America, drying the American west (Sewall, J. O. & Sloan, L. C. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L06209 (2004)).

The local warming caused by less sea ice could also affect the second tipping point, the size of the Greenland ice sheet. Here the effects could be dramatic, although delayed by centuries; there is enough ice on Greenland to raise sea levels by seven metres. "After hurricane Katrina, the deepest water in New Orleans was six metres," says glaciologist Richard Alley from Penn State University. "Greenland is more than that for all the coasts of the world. Do you move cities, do you build seven-metre walls and hope they stay, or what?"

Until recently, nobody had painted a convincing portrait of how Greenland is responding to Arctic warming. A glacier here may recede while one over there grows; ice may be accumulating inland and eroding near the coast. But in the past couple of years, almost all of the indicators have started to point in the same direction. Greenland is melting.

Although satellite measurements of Greenland's interior suggest that snow has recently been accumulating there, the margins are receding (Johannessen, O. M. et al. Science 310, 1013–1016 (2005)). Laser measurements taken from planes suggest that this coastal melting is probably enough to outweigh the build-up of snow inland (Krabill, W. et al. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L24402 (2004)). Also, Greenland's glaciers seem to have been speeding up. A few months ago, Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Pannir Kanagaratnam of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, published satellite evidence that between 1996 and 2000, Greenland's more southerly glaciers had begun to accelerate, and that by 2005 the northerly ones had followed suit (Rignot, E. & Kanagaratnam, P. Science 311, 986–990 (2006)). They estimate that over the past decade this lurching has more than doubled Greenland's annual loss of ice, from 90 to 220 cubic kilometres per year.

"In the past decade there has been a lot of warming," says Alley. "There's plenty of room to argue whether that's a natural fluctuation or not, but there's a clear relation between Greenland getting warmer and Greenland getting smaller."

Modelling by Jonathan Gregory from the University of Reading and his colleagues suggests that it would require an average warming worldwide of 3.1 °C to drive this shrinking to its ultimate conclusion of an ice-free Greenland (Gregory, J. M. & Huybrechts, P. Phil Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A (in the press)). This climatic point of no return is around the middle of the range foreseen by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but is higher than a previous estimate made by the same group (Gregory, J. M. et al. Nature 428, 616 (2004)). Their revision is a measure of how quickly the field is changing. "It's not just Greenland that is going fast," says Alley. "The rate of publications, the rate of new papers, and the rate of disagreement have multiplied amazingly."

But these models do not take into account the dynamism of Greenland's glaciers. In 2002 Jay Zwally from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, found that as soon as summer meltwater appeared on the surface of west-central Greenland, the ice began to slip more quickly (Zwally, H. J. et al. Science 297, 218–222 (2002)). This is surprising, as slip rates should depend on processes at the base of the ice rather than at its surface. But Zwally points out that the great lakes of water produced by the melting could slip down conduits in the ice and be delivered directly to the bed.

This result doesn't necessarily make a big difference to the fate of Greenland, as the increase in the ice's speed was relatively small. But it points to a new way in which the ice sheet could react to climate change quicker than anyone had realized. "In places inland where the ice is frozen to its bedrock, if you warm the surface and wait for heat to get conducted to the bottom it takes 10,000 years," says Alley. "But if you send water down through a crack it takes maybe 10 minutes, maybe 10 seconds." If this process started to move inland, even the interior of Greenland's ice sheet could be vulnerable to warmer air. That could point to the sort of self-sustaining feedback that tipping points are made of...