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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

From the Outer Darkness

No Excuses

Two blogs I don't link to enough are Skookum and the Carnival of Horror. For example, let me lift Spartacus' Pardon Me:

...we listened to Paul Thompson--author of The Terror Timeline--describe the enormous conflicts of interest by members of the 9/11 Commission, as well as recount selected anecdotes about how the commission's director (now Condoleeza Rice's aide) chose who they would interview, who they would not, and what questions they were allowed to ask. The term whitewash came up several times, as did sham, fraud, and coverup.

What did not come up within the limited timeframe of the radio program, however, was that for one distinguished member of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton--a leading Democrat--this wasn't the first time he'd kept a president of the United States from being impeached for proven high crimes. Not even the first time he'd kept a President Bush from being removed from office.

Lee Hamilton, as some may remember, was--along with Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye--head of the Congressional investigation into Iran-Contra, the criminal enterprise run out of the White House, with then Vice President Bush's participation, to ship advanced missile weaponry to the state of Iran, that was at the time holding American citizens hostage. On Wednesday of this week, house Democrats finally found a way to help house Republicans retroactively legalize President Bush's illegal wiretapping of US citizens opposed to his various criminal enterprises.

Some things seem destined to draw in the Sith like bats to a flame.

Republican Subversion All Over Again

Pirates of the Mediterranean

IN the autumn of 68 B.C. the world’s only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome’s port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped.

The incident, dramatic though it was, has not attracted much attention from modern historians. But history is mutable. An event that was merely a footnote five years ago has now, in our post-9/11 world, assumed a fresh and ominous significance. For in the panicky aftermath of the attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty. One cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself.

Consider the parallels. The perpetrators of this spectacular assault were not in the pay of any foreign power: no nation would have dared to attack Rome so provocatively. They were, rather, the disaffected of the earth: “The ruined men of all nations,” in the words of the great 19th-century German historian Theodor Mommsen, “a piratical state with a peculiar esprit de corps.”

Like Al Qaeda, these pirates were loosely organized, but able to spread a disproportionate amount of fear among citizens who had believed themselves immune from attack. To quote Mommsen again: “The Latin husbandman, the traveler on the Appian highway, the genteel bathing visitor at the terrestrial paradise of Baiae were no longer secure of their property or their life for a single moment.”

What was to be done? Over the preceding centuries, the Constitution of ancient Rome had developed an intricate series of checks and balances intended to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a single individual. The consulship, elected annually, was jointly held by two men. Military commands were of limited duration and subject to regular renewal. Ordinary citizens were accustomed to a remarkable degree of liberty: the cry of “Civis Romanus sum” — “I am a Roman citizen” — was a guarantee of safety throughout the world.

But such was the panic that ensued after Ostia that the people were willing to compromise these rights. The greatest soldier in Rome, the 38-year-old Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (better known to posterity as Pompey the Great) arranged for a lieutenant of his, the tribune Aulus Gabinius, to rise in the Roman Forum and propose an astonishing new law.

“Pompey was to be given not only the supreme naval command but what amounted in fact to an absolute authority and uncontrolled power over everyone,” the Greek historian Plutarch wrote. “There were not many places in the Roman world that were not included within these limits.”

Pompey eventually received almost the entire contents of the Roman Treasury — 144 million sesterces — to pay for his “war on terror,” which included building a fleet of 500 ships and raising an army of 120,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Such an accumulation of power was unprecedented, and there was literally a riot in the Senate when the bill was debated.

Nevertheless, at a tumultuous mass meeting in the center of Rome, Pompey’s opponents were cowed into submission, the Lex Gabinia passed (illegally), and he was given his power. In the end, once he put to sea, it took less than three months to sweep the pirates from the entire Mediterranean. Even allowing for Pompey’s genius as a military strategist, the suspicion arises that if the pirates could be defeated so swiftly, they could hardly have been such a grievous threat in the first place.

But it was too late to raise such questions. By the oldest trick in the political book — the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting voice could be dismissed as “soft” or even “traitorous” — powers had been ceded by the people that would never be returned. Pompey stayed in the Middle East for six years, establishing puppet regimes throughout the region, and turning himself into the richest man in the empire.

Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of “serious” physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant — all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.

An intelligent, skeptical American would no doubt scoff at the thought that what has happened since 9/11 could presage the destruction of a centuries-old constitution; but then, I suppose, an intelligent, skeptical Roman in 68 B.C. might well have done the same.

In truth, however, the Lex Gabinia was the beginning of the end of the Roman republic. It set a precedent. Less than a decade later, Julius Caesar — the only man, according to Plutarch, who spoke out in favor of Pompey’s special command during the Senate debate — was awarded similar, extended military sovereignty in Gaul. Previously, the state, through the Senate, largely had direction of its armed forces; now the armed forces began to assume direction of the state.

It also brought a flood of money into an electoral system that had been designed for a simpler, non-imperial era. Caesar, like Pompey, with all the resources of Gaul at his disposal, became immensely wealthy, and used his treasure to fund his own political faction. Henceforth, the result of elections was determined largely by which candidate had the most money to bribe the electorate. In 49 B.C., the system collapsed completely, Caesar crossed the Rubicon — and the rest, as they say, is ancient history.

It may be that the Roman republic was doomed in any case. But the disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened the process, weakening the restraints on military adventurism and corrupting the political process. It was to be more than 1,800 years before anything remotely comparable to Rome’s democracy — imperfect though it was — rose again.

The Lex Gabinia was a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences: it fatally subverted the institution it was supposed to protect. Let us hope that vote in the United States Senate does not have the same result.

Whistling past the graveyard, let's consider another example:

Ripping Off A Democracy Is As Old As Ancient Athens
by Mary Liz Thomson

Part of the American psyche likes to think that whatever the people at the top do to be successful must be good for everyone. This isn't always so. Getting rich can also lead to extraordinary abuses of power. Aristocratic tyranny might sound quaint, but nearly every generation of leaders have warned us of the dangers. From Madison to Jefferson, Lincoln and Eisenhower, in their own ways they told us that money power corrupts and that it could be the death of our republic.

Times of war are crucial moments for the survival of democracies. Giving up too much power to secretive leaders can end up doing more harm than the enemy. That's what happened to the first recorded democracy ever, in Ancient Athens. After flourishing for nearly 200 years, their democracy was taken over from within by its own most prominent civic leaders. Few of us know the story of Athens fall into tyranny and how eerily similar to our own current times. It is a potent reminder of how wartime fears can be used to con a free society into giving up everything.

(The dates of Athens democracy were roughly from the times of Solon in 600 BCE to the end of the Spartan war in 401 BCE. Athens was somewhat democratic until 346 BCE. )

Athenians saw themselves as invincible warriors for freedom when they went off to Syracuse in 413 BCE. They were shocked when victory did not come. The reasons for the war turned out to be a complete lie and the situation much more complex. In a stunning defeat, their entire Navy got trapped in the middle of a civil war and slaughtered. A few rich aristocratic families, the Tyrants, (as they were called) exploited this horrifying loss and convinced Athenians to change the constitution to give them power. Once in power, in the name of patriotism and security this small group of tyrants sold their people out to Sparta, looted the public treasury, and left Athens broke. The educated middle class was destroyed and over time the rule of kings returned.

Athenians made two big mistakes that we modern Americans can learn from. First, they believed that a decisive victory could restore their glory. … Second, they believed that the rich rulers who took power during wartime had the people's best interests at heart.

When Ancient Athenians voted to hand over the people's assembly to tyrants in 411 and 404 BCE, they had suffered many years of war with Sparta. A generation earlier, Athens had won a heroic war much like our WWII, against the brutal dictatorship of the Persians. They became a beacon for free thought across Greece and their army fought for other democratic city-states to establish themselves. It was said proudly of Athenians, "Of no man are they the slaves or subjects" (Aeschylus).

They built the Parthenon and fostered the first advanced system of courts where citizens were paid to be jurors. All the best poets, singers, and plays were from Athens and bohemians could travel Greece reciting Athenian writers for their fare. There were four words for "freedom of speech" in Ancient Greek, more than any other language. The city was known for being talkative, it was a cosmopolitan place where you could say and do what you wanted.

In this free climate there were also a few vocal philosophers that despised democracy and believed in authoritarian rule. Socrates was one of them. He once called the public assembly an audience of dunces and weaklings, and his followers openly promoted oligarchy. They believed only the very elite, "those who know" should be rulers, and many of them were directly involved in the overthrow of the democracy.

Certainly Athens was no utopian society. They did have the contradiction of slavery; although it was a form you could buy your way out of. Women played a large role in religion, yet they could not vote. Still, the ancient Greeks did believe in dignity for the common person and this sense of equity carried over into economics as well. Solon not only held the first elections, he also divided up the large aristocratic land holdings of the past and kept a check on monopoly. Over time though, as Athens power grew, this sense of social balance eroded.

When Athenians sent their fleet to Syracuse they had been fighting a long protracted war with Sparta and people were eager for some kind of heroic victory. Military generals advised against the plan. Still, the citizens seemed to be genuinely stirred by the idea (a lie) that they could once again come to the aid of a democracy asking for their help. They were told that their host would be able to pay for their ships. The truth was that both sides in the battle were actually somewhat democratic and the money was never there. More than anything it appears to have been a power struggle that merchants wanted to exploit to gain control of shipping routes.

After the loss of their entire fleet, the very real danger of more attacks from Sparta loomed over Athens. In this time of fear, Aristocrats argued that commoners had made a mess of the war. Supporters of tyranny started taking over allied city-states and overthrowing their democracies. In Athens they set up secret groups that plotted to overthrow the assembly, (known as Synomosiai, or conspiracies), and they started their own gangs of assassins. Prominent members of the opposition party began to disappear and as intimidation spread people became afraid to speak out.

Like today's leaders that fawn over Arab royalty, elite Athenians openly admired the disciplined Spartan society that was based on a structure of "noble lords". They found a bond of aristocracy and hoped to be Sparta's proxies after the war. In secret they also plotted with Spartan generals to help them attack Athens. There was even a shady port deal that didn't go through. They were trying to build a harbor wall that would have helped Spartan ships invade.

Eventually the tyrants became so brazen that they brought armed guards with them to the public assembly of 5000 Athenian citizens for the final showdown. The guards snapped whips at the Athenian delegates as the vote was taken. In fear and under duress, the ancient democratic assembly voted themselves out of power for a wartime dictatorship.

Unfortunately for Athenians, these tyrants did not win the war with Sparta and it is doubtful that they ever wanted to. Instead of dealing with the real crisis of holding off the Spartan Army and getting food supplies into Athens, what they did was redistribute the whole of the Athenian treasury into their own hands. When that wasn't enough, they took their mercenary guards directly to major Athenian businesses and demanded cash.

This totalitarian mafia-like movement was led by well known leaders of Athens; friends of Socrates, (Criteas), relatives of Plato (Charmides), famous philosophers and businessmen who wanted to take the power of government out of the hands of the common man. Historians of the time period such as Thucydides commented on how shocked Athenians were by the behavior of these elites once they were in power, and by stature of the people who joined them, "There were among them, men whom one would never have expected to change over and favor oligarchy".

It was the so-called "best men" of Athens, inside the assembly, who brought the democracy down. They acted patriotic, wore nice robes, went to the best schools, and gave money to the temples of Athena. All as they used their positions of power to spy on and murder their opponents, steal with impunity, and plot the death of democracy.

Athenian resisters went into exile and did return to fight back. In a stunning victory in the streets, women and elder civilians came out to support them and ended the battle with the tyrants. A much weaker form of democracy was restored, but so much damage had been done that it didn't survive long. The tyrants had stolen so much money that the social structure of Athens changed and the middle class was gone. Over the next thirty years the nobility controlled a much smaller assembly. Without the base of an educated middle class, the strength of the opposition to dictatorship eroded, and the democratic dream of Athens faded into the old style of totalitarian kings.

What happened in Ancient Athens illustrates the danger of letting a small group of people take too much financial control of society through the government. In I.F. Stone's fascinating book The Trial of Socrates, he says, "In 411 and 404 democracy was not overthrown by popular revulsion, but a handful of conspirators. They had to use violence and deceit and to work hand in glove with the Spartan enemy because they had so little support at home". According to Thucydides the tyrants numbers were few, but people became afraid to speak out, fearing that the conspiracy was much larger than it was.

Our current society stands at a crossroads where we could chose to create new paths to environmentally sustainable prosperity, freedom, and security or let our collective wealth become so consolidated into a few elite hands that we no longer have any real voice. Under the Bush administration one might say we've seen the work of thieves masquerading as conservatives. Through their outrageous corruption and graft in government spending, tax cuts to the rich, and huge rises in corporate executive pay they've managed to transfer billions of dollars out of the middle class and into a few key industry leader's hands. Census statistics tell us that the average person has seen little gain in real wages in thirty years, while defense contactors and oil industry executives have enjoyed record profits since 9/11 .

We live at a time when the health of the planet and human survival depends on investing in new sources of non-carbon energy. For oils companies there's a huge incentive to block progress on alternatives. There may have been a past era when Americans sat back and let the grand industrialists lay the foundations of our financial system and direct our wars. Today, we need to make sure that they serve the broader interests of the public. Lets stop pretending that corporate leaders aren't already using the government to control the economy ("Free Trade" agreements often have over 9000 pages of special deals), and get more involved in the debate over who benefits from our money and our military.

In this process lets also re-embrace the value of integrating different points of views together in order to solve our problems. In doing so perhaps we can find the mutuality of respect for our neighbor again (red, green, pink, or blue), and reject the kind of unquestioning consolidation of power in a "king like" executive presidency that the Bush administration has pushed for. The stakes are high. The Ancient Greeks developed an incredible democratic culture but in the end their willingness to fight for freedom was twisted into a tool for the very elite. Let us be watchful for the secretive authoritarians that could be our own modern tyrants.

Mourning in 'Murika

Thursday September 28, 2006 dawned like any other morning for Those Who Sleep.

But this day was Special.

The strange Stars were finally aligning correctly.

John Negroponte knew it would be his kind of day.

The Old Ones were not quite sure what to think of their new acolytes, but it was evident the franchise opportunities were Endless.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pax 'Murikana

Take it from someone who's seen it before, we are now officially living in a dictatorship.

The people who think they're in charge also think it's an Empire [apologies to the Romulans- who know they're an Empire].

In order to survive the next decade, much less change it back to a Republic, we had all better realize these facts and appreciate the analogies.


What's the source of the Rovian lie that Clinton didn't do enough to try to capture Osama bin-Laden?

Could it be the usual Bu$hCo stategery of accusing your opponent of what you've already done?

...Thus, tonight a special investigation. Mr. Clinton is not in office, Mr. Bush is. His policies determine how the U.S. fights al Qaeda, so it is important that we understand how he has done so in the past. Comparing the two presidents is valid, necessary, to illuminate the capacities of the office. Mr. Clinton said it plainly, he failed to get bin Laden. Mr. Bush has acknowledged no such failure.

But while it has become conventional wisdom, although debunked by the 9/11 report, that Mr. Clinton dropped an offer from Sudan to hand over bin Laden, it is rare to hear anyone discuss whether similar but real feelers were ever extended to Mr. Bush. And it is, we suspect, even more rare to see this tape of the Bush White House addressing reports of such feelers in February 2001, after the government knew al Qaeda had attacked the U.S.S. Cole.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, February 27, 2001)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban in Afghanistan, they have offered that they are ready to hand over Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia if the United States drops its sanctions, and the—they have a kind of deal that they want to make with the United States. Do you have any comments (INAUDIBLE)?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me take that and get back to you on that.


OLBERMANN: There is no record of any subsequent discussion on that matter.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, of course, responded to President Clinton by defending the Bush record. “We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” she said.

Our goal in this report is to rise to Mr. Clinton’s challenge and assess the record of Mr. Bush‘s efforts against al Qaeda in his first eight months in office.

We begin with Rice’s claim that Clinton left no strategy to fight al Qaeda.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 20, 2001)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): On January 25, 2001, five days after Mr. Bush took office, counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke sent Rice a memo, attaching to it a document entitled “Strategy for Eliminating the Threat of al Qaeda.” It was, Clarke, wrote, “developed by the last administration to give to you, incorporating diplomatic, economic, military, public diplomacy, and intelligence tools.”

Clarke’s memo requested a follow-up cabinet-level meeting to address time-sensitive questions about al Qaeda. But President Bush had downgraded counterterrorism from a cabinet-level job, so Clarke now dealt instead with deputy secretaries.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM CZAR: It slowed it down enormously, by months. First of all, the deputies’ committee didn’t meet urgently in January or February.

OLBERMANN: Why the delay? Rice later tried to explain.

RICE: America’s al Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working, and our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. We recognized that America’s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies, and to our overall foreign policy.

OLBERMANN: That, although Clarke’s January 25 memo specifically warned, “Al Qaeda is not some narrow little terrorist issue that needs to be included in broader regional policy. By proceeding with separate policy reviews on Central Asia, etc., we would deal inadequately with the need for a comprehensive multiregional policy on al Qaeda.”

Clarke’s deputies’ meeting came in April, when, he says, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted the real terrorism threat was not al Qaeda, but Iraq.

By July 16, the deputies had a proposal for dealing with al Qaeda, a proposal, Clarke says, was essentially the same plan he gave Rice five months earlier, and it still had to go to the principals, the cabinet secretaries.

CLARKE: But the principals’ calendar was full, and then they went on vacation, many of them, in August, so we couldn’t meet in August. And therefore the principals met in September.

OLBERMANN: Although the principals had already met on other issues, their first meeting on al Qaeda was not until after Labor Day, on September 4, 2001.

But what were Mr. Bush and his top advisers doing during this time? Mr. Bush was personally briefed about al Qaeda even before the election, in November 2000. During the transition, President Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, say they told Bush and his team of the urgency of getting al Qaeda.

Three days before President Bush took office Berger spoke at a passing-the-baton event, which Rice attended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 17, 2001)

SANDY BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: With survivors of the U.S.S. Cole reinforced the reality that America is in a deadly struggle with a new breed of anti-Western jihadists. Nothing less than a war, I think, is fair to describe this.

OLBERMANN: Eight days later, Clarke sent Rice the strategy Clinton had developed for retaliating in the event that al Qaeda was found to have been behind the previous October’s attack on the U.S.S. Cole. The next day, the FBI conclusively pinned the Cole attack on al Qaeda.

Mr. Bush ordered no military strike, no escalation of existing Clinton measures. Instead, he repeated Clinton’s previous diplomatic efforts, writing a letter to Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in February and another on August 4.

Until September 11, even when Mr. Bush was asked about the Cole, an attack carried out on water by men in a boat, he offered a consistent prescription for keeping America safe, one he reiterated upon taking office.


BUSH: To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses.


OLBERMANN: Democrats, who controlled the Senate, warned that his focus was misplaced.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D): I’m also concerned that we may not be putting enough emphasis on countering the most likely threats to our national security and to the security of our forces deployed around the world, those asymmetric threats, like terrorist attacks on the U.S.S. Cole on our barracks and our embassies around the world, on the World Trade Center.


OLBERMANN: He was not alone. The executive director of the Hart-Rudmann Commission’s request to brief Bush and Cheney on the terror threats they had studied was denied.

On February 26, 2001, Paul Bremer said of the administration, quote, “What they will do is stagger along until there’s a major incident, and then suddenly say, Oh, my God, shouldn’t we be organized to deal with this?”

According to the 9/11 Commission report, even bin Laden expected Bush to respond militarily to the Cole bombing. Quote, “In February 2001, according to a source, bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not, he would launch something bigger.”

The most famous warning came in the August 6 presidential daily briefing, reporting “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”

According to the 9/11 report, “Bush did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the attorney general, or whether Rice had done so. We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. Tenet does not recall any discussions with the president of the domestic threat during this period. Domestic agencies did not know what to do, and no one gave them direction. The borders were not hardened, transportation systems were not fortified, electronic surveillance was not targeted against the domestic threat, state and local law enforcement were not marshaled to augment the FBI‘s efforts. The public was not warned.”

Explanations after the fact suggested a lack of familiarity with the recent history of terrorism.


RICE: I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There wasn’t any way then we could have anticipated what was about to happen, of course, in—on 9/11.

(Subtitle: 1995, Philippines uncovers plot to fly planes into Pentagon and World Trade Center.)

(Subtitle: September 1999, U.S. study: Al Qaeda might crash planes into Pentagon.)

(Subtitle: Spring 2001, New York City trial testimony: Bin Laden sending agents to acquire planes.)

BUSH: These terrorists had burrowed in our country for over two years. They were well organized. They were well planned. They struck in a way that was unimaginable.

(Subtitle: July 2001, FBI told of Zacarias Moussaoui‘s interest in flying jumbo jets.)

(Subtitle: September 2001, FBI memo: Moussaoui could fly something into the World Trade Center.)


OLBERMANN: On September 10, 2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California requested a meeting with Vice President Cheney to press the case for aggressive counterterrorism measures. She is told Mr. Cheney will need some time to prepare first, six months.

That same day, the NSA intercepted a communique from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, stating, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” That communique was only translated into English on September 12.


OLBERMANN: It appears now that the operative word in the phrase “We could not have anticipated” was the word “we.”

Check out the video on Olbermann's site.

Apparently Bob Woodward says so too:

The CIA'S top counterterrorism officials felt they could have killed Osama Bin Laden in the months before 9/11, but got the "brushoff" when they went to the Bush White House seeking the money and authorization.

CIA Director George Tenet and his counterterrorism head Cofer Black sought an urgent meeting with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001, writes Bob Woodward in his new book "State of Denial."

They went over top-secret intelligence pointing to an impending attack and "sounded the loudest warning" to the White House of a likely attack on the U.S. by Bin Laden.

Woodward writes that Rice was polite, but, "They felt the brushoff."

Tenet and Black were both frustrated.

Black later calculated that all he needed was $500 million of covert action funds and reasonable authorization from President Bush to go kill Bin Laden and "he might be able to bring Bin Laden's head back in a box," Woodward writes.

Black claims the CIA had about "100 sources and subsources" in Afghanistan who could have helped carry out the hit.

The details of the incident are emerging just days after Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton sparred with Rice over whether the Bush administration had tried to get Bin Laden before the terror attacks.

Woodward claims the intelligence Tenet and Black shared with Rice included communication intercepts indicating the likelihood of an Al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil.

Tenet said he had hoped the meeting would shock Rice into encouraging the President to take immediate action against Al Qaeda.

Black, looking back at the July 10, 2001, meeting with Rice, concludes, "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her [Rice's] head."

Woodward says that Tenet described the meeting as a "tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the 9/11 attacks."

Tenet also claims that his alarm over Bin Laden was downplayed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who asked, "Could all this be a grand deception?"

The question is, who's fooling who?

More on Woodward's new book here.

Francisco Franco is NOT dead, although Ronald Reagan still is.

The farmer salutes the Kowtow 12.

Pale Blue Dot Where The Natives Torture Each Other

You might want to avoid it if you can.

What's that pale blue dot in this image taken from Saturn? Earth. The robotic Cassini spacecraft looked back toward its old home world earlier this month as it orbited Saturn. Using Saturn itself to block the bright Sun, Cassini imaged a faint dot on the right of the above photograph. That dot is expanded on the image inset, where a slight elongation in the direction of Earth's Moon is visible. Vast water oceans make Earth's reflection of sunlight somewhat blue. Earth is home to over six billion humans and over one octillion Prochlorococcus.

But whatever you do, don't take their arguments seriously even if the natives act like they do.

It was a done deal regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nobody Expects the Terra Inquisition

Somebody at Pravda seems to have realized even competitors on the Company Board might become a target.

Rushing Off a Cliff
Published: September 28, 2006
New York Times

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

But in Christ's name.


Tristero adds this comment on what the Democrats are really afraid of:

The truth is that the United States government is presently holding, torturing, and even murdering countless numbers of people who have no chance in hell of obtaining a lawyer, let alone anything resembling a trial. The government is doing this under the direct orders of George W. Bush. There is no law, no bill, and no legislature who can stop him. If Congress were to pass a law unequivocably banning torture and send it to him, he'd use it for toilet paper. If the Supreme Court were to rule against Bush in the harshest and bluntest language, he'd yawn.

The truth is that there is a rogue presidency and there has been, since January, 2001 (earlier, if you count the stolen election). Certainly, everyone in Washington knows it, but no one dares to admit it. The bill legalizing torture merely enables Congress to pretend they still have some influence over an executive that from day one was governing, not as if they had a mandate, but as if Bush were a dictator. If, for some miracle, the bill didn't pass, every congress-critter knows Bush would keep on torturing.

Better to vote to pass and preserve the appearance of a working American government, the thinking goes. For the very thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged. If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of doomsday novels...

And this brings up the dilemma of a post Nov. 7 world. Apparently, one if not both houses of Congress may be controlled by Democrats. Now what? You think Bush is gonna get impeached? Put on trial for war crimes? Forget it...

If, for some reason, Congress does decide to move against Bush in some substantive way, there will be hell to pay...

Since the day after the 2000 election, Bush and his goons have been playing chicken with the very structure of the United States Government, double-daring anyone to try and stop them. If Congress does try - and I'm not talking little things like wrecking Social Security, that'll happen and a dictator can afford to let things like that wait a while, I'm talking atomic bang bang and thumbscrews - he will force the private Constitutional crisis into the open. And there is no guarantee that Bush will lose.

And that is the truth. The Congress has been given an awful choice: Vote to approve torture and the suspension of habeas or show the world that yes, you really do have no genuine power to check Bush.

Of course, all of Congress should vote against the bill anyway. But they won't. And to themselves, they will justify the vote as saying they made a hard choice but made the best one they could for their country...

The time truly is long overdue where there simply is no choice but to say "enough." It should have been enough over the stolen election, or the neglect that led to 9/11, or Schiavo, or the filibuster. But voting to permit the US government to sidestep Geneva? To suspend habeas? What the fuck is Congress thinking, for crissakes??? Has fascism moved so slowly that only a few bloggers can perceive the inevitable progression? I don't think so.

There's no question about it. Any person in Congress who votes for this - listening, Hillary? - will never get my vote again. Ever, not even for dogcatcher, let alone president. If there is going to be a public Constitutional crisis over Bush's rogue presidency - and there will be sooner or later, guaranteed - bring it on now.

While we have a chance, and somebody remembers what the Constitution was.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bigger Bucks Than Hollywood

And doubtless far better lobbyists.

Our Chinese connection runs a piece by Tom Englehardt.

...Abu Ghraib prison is the place where Saddam's functionaries tortured (and sometimes killed) many enemies of his regime, and where Bush's functionaries, as a series of notorious digital photos revealed, committed what the US press still likes to refer to as "prisoner abuse"....

Of course its prisoners, who remained generally uncharged and without access to Iraqi courts, weren't just released to the winds. Quite the opposite: more than 3,000 of them were redistributed to two other US prisons, Camp Bucca in Iraq's south and Camp Cropper at the huge US base adjoining Baghdad International Airport...

...Camp Cropper, which started out as a bunch of tents, has now become a US$60 million "state-of-the-art" prison. The upgrade, on the drawing boards since 2004, was just completed and hardly a word has been written about it. We really have no idea what it consists of or what it looks like, even though it's in one of the few places in Iraq that an American reporter could safely visit, being on a vast US military base constructed, like the prison, with taxpayer dollars.

Had anyone paid the slightest attention - other than the Pentagon, the Bush administration, and whatever company or companies had the contract to construct the facility - it would still have been taken for granted that Camp Cropper wasn't the business of ordinary Americans (or even their representatives in Congress) - despite the fact that the $60 million, which made the camp "state of the art", was surely Americans', no one in the United States debated or discussed the upgrade and there was no serious consideration of it in Congress before the money was anted up, any more than Congress or the American people are in any way involved in the constant upgrading of US military bases in Iraq.

Camp Bucca is a story you can't read anywhere in the United States - and yet it may, in a sense, be the most important American story in Iraq right now...

First we had those huge military bases that officials were careful never to label "permanent". (For a while, they were given the charming name of "enduring camps" by the Pentagon.) Just about no one in the mainstream bothered to write about them for a couple of years as quite literally billions of dollars were poured into them and they morphed into the size of US towns with their own bus routes, sports facilities, Pizza Huts, Subways, Burger Kings, and mini-golf courses. Huge as they now are, elaborate as they now are, they are still continually being upgraded. Now, it seems that on one of them we have $60 million worth of the first "permanent US prison" in Iraq. Meanwhile, in the heart of Baghdad, the Bush administration is building what's probably the largest, best-fortified "embassy" in the solar system, with its own elaborate apartment complexes and entertainment facilities, meant for a staff of 3,500.

If, for a moment, Americans stop listening to the arguments about, or even the news about, Iraq here at home and just concentrate on the ignored reality of those facts-on-the-ground, you're likely to assess our world somewhat differently...

Whatever arguments may be going on in Washington over which "tools" or "interrogation techniques" the CIA is to be allowed to use or over exactly how the 14 al-Qaeda detainees just transferred to Guantanamo will be tried, this set of facts-on-the-ground adds up to America's own global Bermuda Triangle of Injustice into which untold numbers of human beings can simply disappear. The "crown jewel" of America's mini-gulag is, of course, Guantanamo. And again, whatever the fierce arguments in the US may be about Guantanamo "methods" or what kinds of commissions or tribunals (if any) may finally be chosen for the run-of-the-mill prisoners there, one fact-on-the-ground points us toward the actual lay of the land. A little-publicized $30 million maximum-security wing at Guantanamo is now being completed by the US Navy, just as at the US prison at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, there has been an upgrade...

And don't imagine that this is an anomaly, applicable only to imprisonment abroad. Almost anywhere you look, the facts on the ground tell a story at odds with what's important, what's real as we Americans imagine it.

Let's take, for instance, what's now referred to as the Intelligence Community (IC), a collection of at least 16 agencies, ranging from the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Consider then just one recent piece about the IC by Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times, headlined "Spy agencies outsourcing to fill key jobs".

As Miller points out, the overall intelligence budget has gone up about $10 billion a year in recent years and for that we've got an upgrading (or at least upsizing) of almost every one of those 16 agencies plus a whole new, sprawling layer of intelligence bureaucracy headed by John Negroponte, the intelligence tsar, who runs the new Office of the Director of National Intelligence (not even included in the count above). Miller reports another interesting fact-on-the-ground as well: enormous numbers of private contractors are flooding into the IC.

"At the National Counterterrorism Center - the agency created two years ago to prevent another attack like [that of] September 11 [2001] - more than half of the employees are not US government analysts or terrorism experts. Instead, they are outside contractors. At CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, senior officials say it is routine for career officers to look around the table during meetings on secret operations and be surrounded by so-called green-badgers - non-agency employees who carry special-colored IDs."

At some clandestine CIA overseas posts such as Islamabad and Baghdad, Miller reports, private contractors can make up as many as three-quarters of the employees, while at home private contractors at the CIA now also outnumber its estimated 17,500 employees. He concludes: "Senior US intelligence officials said that the reliance on contractors was so deep that agencies couldn't function without them. ‘If you took away the contractor support, they'd have to put yellow tape around the building and close it down,' said a former senior CIA official who was responsible for overseeing contracts before leaving the agency earlier this year."

The same could, of course, be said of the US military, which is quite literally incapable of existing today without its private contractors such as Halliburton's KBR, nor could its wars be carried on without the proliferation of hired guns - mercenaries - who are now a given in any such situation. This transformation of the military into first an all-volunteer, then an increasingly privatized as well as outsourced, and now an increasingly mercenary institution is another fact-on-the-ground, another building block to America's future...

This is a reality that no future US administration, nor any better-empowered Congress, would be likely to reverse, no less erase, any time soon. No matter how the details of the argument about NSA spying turn out, for example, it's in essence a given that the National Security Agency will continue to grow and make itself ever more available in ever more ingenious ways, trolling ever more extensively in communications of every sort. These are the facts being established on the ground, while in Washington they argue over the (sometimes significant) details and the media focus their main attention on all of this as the essence of the news of the day.

Take for example the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), yet another sprawling, ill-organized, inefficient bureaucracy established after September 11 and not likely to do anything but grow in our lifetimes. Around it has sprung into existence an anti-terrorism homeland-security industry (thank you, Osama bin Laden!) of staggering proportions. "Seven years ago," writes Paul Harris of The Guardian, "there were nine companies with federal homeland-security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890."

Think about that. They are there to divide a terrorism/security pie that has, since 2000, resulted in about $130 billion in contracts and now, according to USA Today, is a $59 billion a year business globally - one based on that surefire best-seller, fear, whose single major customer is, of course, the DHS.

Not surprisingly, around those 33,000 companies has sprung up a whole network of Washington-based lobbyists (including the lobbying firm of John Ashcroft, the previous attorney general, the Ashcroft Group), a plethora of security conferences and trade magazines; in short, the full panoply of a thriving business world. Already at least 90 officials have left the Homeland Security Department to become lobbyists or consultants in the business that surrounds it, including Tom Ridge, the first head of the department. After only five years, the homeland-security business, according to USA Today, has already eclipsed "mature enterprises like movie-making and the music industry in annual revenue"...

An industry tracker, Homeland Security Research, points the way to one possible future on which Americans are never likely to vote. "A major attack in the United States, Europe or Japan could increase the global market in 2015 to $730 billion, more than a twelvefold increase."

Or consider the Pentagon's Northcom - United States Northern Command, now responsible for "the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles", including the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. Before October 1, 2002, there was no Northern Command. Less than four short years later, it's not only up and running but has multiple missions. It's preparing for the next hurricane (since we already know the Federal Emergency Management Agency can't do the job), deploying forces to battle wildfires in the west, and getting ready for an avian-flu pandemic. And don't think for a moment that where an institution springs up (especially one with a budget like the Pentagon's behind it), a world of on-the-ground realities doesn't arise as well. Just as it will when, in the near future, the Pentagon redivides its imperial domains by creating a new Africacom (United States Africa Command), supposedly to "anchor US forces on the African continent" - a decision that will be sold around town based on "terrorism security threats", but will in essence be about energy flows and oil (see America's Africa Corps, September 21). Each new structure like this, each decision, will result in new facts on the ground, new flows of money, and new sets of private contractors...

These are increasingly the crucial realities of our world - and it's not the world of a republic. It's not a world of checks and balances. It's not a world where even a change of ownership in one or both houses of the US Congress in November would prove a determining factor. It's not a world where people out there are just "starting to question whether we're following our own high standards". It's distinctly not the world as we Americans like to imagine it, but it is the world we are, regrettably enough, lost in. It's the world created not just by a commander-in-chief presidency, but by a Pentagon-in-chief-dominated government, and by a corporation-in-chief style of imperial rule...

That's a 500 lb gorilla you'll never hear about in the main$tream media.

Think Darth Rumsfeld's quitting anytime soon? Guess again. He's got too many shareholders to be invited onward, and even if the War fails, as long as his investors take home a bundle, he remains the Sith Executive Officer of Bu$hCo- Cheneyburton.

White Hats, Black Hats, or All Hat?

TheoCons are all in a flutter about Clinton realigning Wallace's wheels, and all aflame with anger at his wife largely, as far as can be told, because she's stuck by him and occasionally had a liberal idea.

Seems like the Clintons are the Great Satan of the TheoConfederacy, so much so they'll rally the Crusade for Dear Leader and his War on Terra.

There are so many levels of subterfuge in that juxtaposition of players I can't begin to address it.

But I will stand with Duncan and Digby and several hundred others in this today: for anyone professing moral clarity or rectitude to beotch about the morality of the progressive movement while condoning torture and the suspension of habeus corpus is rank hypocrisy.

It is itself an immoral act.

One thing the TheoConfederacy might be smelling these days, though, isn't the brimstone. There's a far greater disturbance in the Force, one that happens about every 11 years or so.

Why is sunspot 905 backwards? Perhaps it is a key marker for the beginning of a new magnetic cycle on our Sun. Every 11 years, our Sun goes through a magnetic cycle, at the end of which its overall magnetic orientation is reversed. An 11-year solar cycle has been observed for hundreds of years by noting peaks and valleys in the average number of sunspots. Just now, the Sun is near Solar Minimum, and likely to start a long progression toward the most active time, called Solar Maximum, in about 5.5 years. An indicator that the sun's magnetic field is reversing is the appearance of sunspots with the reverse magnetic polarity than normal. A few weeks ago, one small candidate reverse sunspot was sighted but faded quickly. Now, however, a larger sunspot with negative polarity is being tracked. This sunspot, numbered 905, appears as the unusual white spot in the above magnetic image of the Sun taken with the SOHO spacecraft a few days ago. In the past few days, Sunspot 905 has actually begun to break apart and might also become the source of coronal mass ejections and explosive solar flares. Solar astronomers predict that the coming Solar Maximum will be unusually active.

You've got that right. Some of the hottest years in human history, one of the worst hurricane years on record, happened while the sun was bottoming out in its 11 year cycle of activity.

Now we're heading back up again.

Keep your cool, TheoCons. While you're watching for terra'ists, invest in sunscreen and lifejackets, you're gonna need them in Bu$h country.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Only Game in Town

WASHINGTON -- There is no mystery or manipulation behind the recent fall in gasoline prices, analysts say. Try telling that to many U.S. motorists.

Almost half of all Americans believe the November elections have more influence than market forces. For them, the plunge at the pump is about politics, not economics...

According to a new Gallup poll, 42 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." Fifty-three percent of those surveyed did not believe in this conspiracy theory, while 5 percent said they had no opinion.

Almost two-thirds of those who suspect President Bush intervened to bring down energy prices before Election Day are registered Democrats, according to Gallup.

Tony Snow addressed the issue Monday, telling reporters that "the one thing I have been amused by is the attempt by some people to say that the president has been rigging gas prices, which would give him the kind of magisterial clout unknown to any other human being.

"It also raises the question, if we're dropping gas prices now, why on earth did we raise them to $3.50 before?" Snow said.

I dunno. Maybe it has to do with lining the pockets of your cronies with cash?

...The plunge in prices, Halff said, is the result of growing domestic inventories of fuel, slowing economic growth and toned-down rhetoric between Iran and the United States, which has been critical of Tehran's uranium enrichment program.

At the start of summer, oil analysts were worried about rising demand, the threat of hurricanes and the nuclear standoff between the West and Iran, OPEC's second-largest producer. But by summer's end, these fears had largely dissipated.

On Monday, November crude futures settled at $61.45 a barrel...

That, and most price speculators are Republican, and realize what kind of damage a Democratic Congress might do to their monopoly on energy.

Lowering energy prices, keeping a lid on the interest rate hikes, these are the kind of things designed to take the wind out of the sails of a lot of DINOcrats who don't have the desire to tell the Reptilicans off to their face, because they get their money from pretty much the same sort of corporate donors.

We can't all be a Clinton... okay, so Clinton kept his mouth shut for 6 years about Bu$hCo tactics in the War on Terra, until it became obvious the Bu$hCo minions were looking to scapegoat him for their own failures. Still, he finally seems to be taking a stand whatever his motivations.

We can't all be an Olberman, who's really put himself on the line at MS-GOP opposing the Party line.

Of course, the fact that the drop in energy prices seems to have bankrupted certain hedge funds and created easy pickings for certain private equity groups might have something to do with the phenomenon, too.

Funny how networked these boys are, how well positioned they are to profit on so many fronts when there's a change in the weather.

Of course, they burned Martha Stewart for that, but she left records and didn't own the watchdogs...

Still, some things are just a little too coincidental to be totally unrelated.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Enemy of My Enemy is Not Neccessarily My Friend

The Hawk's Hawks are going after Darth Rumsfeld, tooth and talon:

...John R.S. Batiste

Major General, U.S. Army (Retired)

September 25, 2006

My name is John Batiste. I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform. I am a West Point graduate, the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers, a two-time combat veteran with extensive service in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, and a life-long Republican...

... This is all about accountability and setting our nation on the path to victory. There is no substitute for victory and I believe we must complete what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except "how to win." He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build "his plan," which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace, and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today...

I am reminded of the myth of Sisyphus. This is no way to fight a counter-insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld's plan did not set our military up for success.

Secretary Rumsfeld's dismal strategic decisions resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American servicemen and women, our allies, and the good people of Iraq. He was responsible for America and her allies going to war with the wrong plan and a strategy that did not address the realities of fighting an insurgency. He violated fundamental principles of war, dismissed deliberate military planning, ignored the hard work to build the peace after the fall of Saddam Hussein, set the conditions for Abu Ghraib and other atrocities that further ignited the insurgency, disbanded Iraqi security force institutions when we needed them most, constrained our commanders with an overly restrictive de-Ba'athification policy, and failed to seriously resource the training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces as our main effort. He does not comprehend the human dimension of warfare. The mission in Iraq is all about breaking the cycle of violence and the hard work to change attitudes and give the Iraqi people alternatives to the insurgency. You cannot do this with precision bombs from 30,000 feet. This is tough, dangerous, and very personal work. Numbers of boots on the ground and hard-won relationships matter. What should have been a deliberate victory is now an uncertain and protracted challenge.

Secretary Rumsfeld built his team by systematically removing dissension. America went to war with "his plan" and to say that he listens to his generals is disingenuous. We are fighting with his strategy. He reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war, and caused delays in the approval of troop requirements and the deployment process, which tied the hands of commanders while our troops were in contact with the enemy. At critical junctures, commanders were forced to focus on managing shortages rather than leading, planning, and anticipating opportunity. Through all of this, our Congressional oversight committees were all but silent and not asking the tough questions, as was done routinely during both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Our Congress shares responsibility for what is and is not happening in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Batiste, and the other Generals that testified today, are typically lifelong Republican military paleocons, disturbed that the political revolution they helped unleash in this country has taken such a unsettling turn.

But you know, honored Sirs, this is not a simple a case of a horse that escaped the harness. You wanted Empire, and a government with the right Military Priorities. Now you have Endless War, and realize your armies are pawns on Someone's chessboard.

Yet you hit the nail on the head: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Negroponte, Gonzales, and dozens if not hundreds of their minions do not understand the human dimensions of the world around them.

There's lots more to read and see, and you really do need to read it and watch videos on what happened in Congress today. More here.

Note the passage:

...First, the American people need to take charge through their elected officials. Secretary Rumsfeld and the Administration are fighting a war in secret that threatens our democratic values. This needs to stop right now, today.

When you look at the Bu$hCo/ Cheneyburton beast, there's one question you really need to ask yourselves about this criminal cabal, Generals:

Move Along, These Aren't the 'Droids You're Looking For

The Ministry of Defence went to extraordinary lengths to cover up its true involvement in investigating UFOs, according to secret documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The files show that officials attempted to expunge information from documents released to the Public Records Office under the "30-year rule" that would have revealed the extent of the MoD's interest in UFO sightings.

In particular, the ministry wanted to cover up the operation of a secret unit dedicated to UFO investigations within the Defence Intelligence Staff. UFO conspiracy theorists have likened the unit, called DI55, to a sort of "Men in Black" agency for defending the Earth against invasion but the released documents show this is far from the truth. One 1995 memo from DI55 to the MoD's public "UFO desk" said: "I have several books at home that describe our supposed role of 'defender of the Earth against the alien menace' - it is light years from the truth!"

The files were made public following FOI requests by David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and his colleague Andy Roberts.

"These documents don't tell us anything about UFOs but they do show how desperate the MoD have been to conceal the interest which the intelligence services had in the subject," said Dr Clarke.

The trail begins with a request, in 1976, from a UFO enthusiast called Julian Hennessy for access to the MoD's records on UFO sightings. A note from the UFO desk to the MoD's head of security on March 23 shows that officials intended to refuse him access on the grounds that the files contain confidential information and "very little of value to a serious scientific investigator".

But the note continues: "This is not to say that the investigation is not taken seriously. The branches have their own methods - and [the public UFO desk] has no 'need to know' about them - but we are aware that DI55 for example sometimes makes extensive inquiries.

"It is undesirable that even a hint of this should become public and we are currently consulting the [Air Historical Branch] on ways of expurgating the official records against the time when they qualify for disclosure [at the Public Records Office]."

Hearing of the background to his fob off 30 years ago Mr Hennessy, who is a local magistrate, was not surprised. "Everything led me to believe there was a major cover up going on," he said."They didn't want to let the public know just how interested they were in these phenomena."

Attempts to alter the public record went on into the 90s. In a note dated April 28 1993 from DI55 to the public UFO desk the unnamed author argued the unit's involvement should be excised from records due to be released under the 30-year rule. But the cat was already out of the bag. A clerical error in 1983 had meant that the distribution list was incorrectly left on a publicly released UFO-related document, so UFO enthusiasts were already asking questions.

"Since then they have obviously been bombarded by people saying who is this DI55, what do they do, what is the extent of their involvement," said Dr Clarke.

Eventually, DI55 decided to allow its involvement to be made public. A note from DI55 to the public UFO desk on 5July 1995 said: "I see no reason for continuing to deny that the [Defence Intelligence Service] has an interest in UFOs. However, if the association is formally made public then the MoD will no doubt be pressured to state what the intelligence role/interest is. This could lead to disbelief and embarrassment since few people are likely to believe the truth that lack of funds and higher priorities have prevented any study of the thousands of reports received."

At this point someone, presumably from the public UFO desk, has scribbled "ouch!" in the margin.

"The lengths they went to to remove any mention of the Defence Intelligence Staff's central role in investigating sightings suggests they had something to hide," said Dr Clarke. "But what they were hiding was not evidence of ET visits but embarrassment at the fact they were never allowed to spend public money on investigating the subject in any depth." The full extent of DI55's involvement has subsequently been made clear by a report released to Dr Clarke in May and reported in the Guardian. That threw up a 500-page document which brought together everything the unit knew about UFOs, or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) as the MoD prefers, including more than 10,000 sightings. It said the existence of UAPs was "indisputable", but blamed the most vexing sighting on airborne "plasmas" formed during "more than one set of weather and electrically charged conditions", or during meteor showers...

The main problem the Brits have is they're looking for aliens in all the wrong places.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Find the Messengers and Shoot Them

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official...

Obviously these anonymous intelligence officials will be rooted out and made an example of.

Meanwhile, the news has spread, to the last place Dear Leader's poodle would want it:

An authoritative US intelligence report pooling the views of 16 government agencies concludes America's campaign in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism.

The National Intelligence Estimate was completed in April but not made public. Its conclusions, which were first reported by the New York Times, contradict assertions made by President George Bush and White House officials during the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

"It's a very candid assessment," said one official who has seen the report. "It's stating the obvious."

The report, Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States, points out the "centrality" of the US invasion of Iraq in fomenting terrorist cells and attacks. One section of the 30-page report, Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement, describes how the American presence in Iraq has helped spread radical Islam by providing a focal point for anti-Americanism.

While arguing that there has been success in dismantling the leadership of al-Qaida and its ability to plan major operations, the report says that radical cells have moved to more than 5,000 websites to organise and spread their message.

The report's tone contradicts recent optimistic assertions by the US administration. It also furthers the divisions between the military and politicians in their assessment of the impact of US policy in Iraq...

Floating in the Kool-Aid

Jane Hamsher points to a piece of idiocy uttered by Senator Harry Reid (D-MGM Grand Casino) my (alas) Senator, Carl Levin (D-Misguided Mercenaries, Automotive, and Private Equity) regarding the Blob legistlation, a.k.a. the We Always Wear White Hats on our Dorsal Pseudopods Law:

"A handful of principled Republican Senators have forced the White House to back down from the worst elements of its extreme proposal for new interrogation rules,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. . . .

And Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised Senators Warner, McCain and Graham as “standing up to the administration” and producing a bill that, “while it has a number of problems, is a substantial improvement over the language proposed by the administration.”

It seems it's deja vu all over Ground Hog Day again.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Toy Story

The amazing telescopic view, recorded on September 17, captures shuttle orbiter Atlantis and the International Space Station in orbit over planet Earth. At a range of 550 kilometers from the observing site near Mamers, Normandy, France, Atlantis (left) has just undocked and moved about 200 meters away from the space station.

We can do marvelous and beautiful things with our toys.

Or otherwise.

The choice is ours to make.

Slight Slippage Acceleration

Relative to 2004, the ice mass of Greenland is losing weight.

Nature 443, 329-331(21 September 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05168; Received 21 June 2006; Accepted 14 August 2006
Acceleration of Greenland ice mass loss in spring 2004

Isabella Velicogna1, and John Wahr


In 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected the contribution to sea level rise from the Greenland ice sheet to be between -0.02 and +0.09 m from 1990 to 2100 (ref. 1). However, recent work (2, 3, 4) has suggested that the ice sheet responds more quickly to climate perturbations than previously thought, particularly near the coast. Here we use a satellite gravity survey by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) conducted from April 2002 to April 2006 to provide an independent estimate of the contribution of Greenland ice mass loss to sea level change. We detect an ice mass loss of 248 plusminus 36 km3 yr-1, equivalent to a global sea level rise of 0.5 plusminus 0.1 mm yr-1. The rate of ice loss increased by 250 per cent between the periods April 2002 to April 2004 and May 2004 to April 2006, almost entirely due to accelerated rates of ice loss in southern Greenland; the rate of mass loss in north Greenland was almost constant. Continued monitoring will be needed to identify any future changes in the rate of ice loss in Greenland.

1. Church, J. A. et al. in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (eds Houghton, J. T. et al.) 639–693 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2001)
2. Rignot, E. & Kanagaratnam, P. Changes in the velocity structure of the Greenland ice sheet. Science 311, 986–990 (2006)
3. Howat, I. , Joughin, I. , Tulaczyk, S. & Gogineni, S. Rapid retreat and acceleration of Helheim Glacier, east Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L22502, doi:10.1029/2005GL024737 (2005)
4. Luckman, A. , Murray, T. , de Lange, R. & Hanna, E. Rapid and synchronous ice-dynamic changes in East Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L03503, doi:10.1029/2005GL025428 (2006)

Conspiracy Fact

Who is Mahmood Ahmed? And why is Richard Armitage taken seriously by anyone? He looks like a bad 007 villian.

What Sam Said

On "Our Country, Right or Wrong".

On Crusadin'.

Sam got it right, just about every time.

Somebody else thought so too at the time, or we wouldn't be remembering what he said today.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Amoebic Compromise

What the Rude One says today:

The fact that anyone thought for two seconds that we were watching honorable men confront the evil wrought by a president from their own party is a pathetic statement on just how debased politics has become in this country. If there can be actual celebratory jubilation over the brief stand taken by the Gutless Trio, then no one's been paying attention. For if John McCain actually gave a rat's ass about torture, then he would not have voted to confirm Alberto Gonzales or Samuel Alito. If Lindsey Graham gave a happy monkey fuck about the rights of detainees, then he wouldn't have authored an amendment limiting their rights of appeal. And Warner, despite his reputation as a moderate in some of his statements, almost always goes along with the herd, so, you know, fuck him, too. A real, genuine confrontation with the White House would have been to open hearings on the treatment of detainees, with subpoenas and possibly arrests. This was just legalistic wrangling over language.

And as for Democrats? Did they not realize that when they face the Republican party now that they are facing the Blob? And if part of the Blob is blown away or cut off from the rest of the Blob, that doesn't mean the Blob part is dead. No, no, see, once you turn your back, that blobby segment is just gonna find a way to ooze back to the main Blob and just fuckin' devour you with its acidic blobularity. The thing is that some of us out here in the audience are screamin' at the Democrats, "Turn around; it's not dead." Too late, just too late. (Was gonna go with the Terminator here, but the Blob is from the 1950s, which the Republicans wish it still was.) Democrats got handed their asses again by once more putting faith in the alleged independence of John McCain, hiding behind his gimpy skirts, thinking that he was gonna take one for the team. One imagines that after the "negotiations" were done and the "compromise" was reached, Bush called McCain up and said, "You've covered your ass now."

In the final analysis, the compromise says that Bush gets to decide what is a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions, a government prosecutor gets to say what evidence a detainee and/or his attorney can see at trial, and the lights get turned back on at some godforsaken CIA dungeon in a remote area of Uzbekistan. Thank Christ we can finally get back to the goodly work of arresting people without charge, sending them to Syria, and looking away while they're kept in a coffin-sized space and beaten with metal cable.

But, really, and, c'mon, this was all a pretty dance for the cameras and the folks back home because of the inevitable signing statement that'll accompany the bill...

Of course, Digby and here too, Lambert, and a host of others in the progressive blogsphere have been right about this facade all along. Opposition among Reptilicans? The Big Lizard in the pond eats all opposition. It's that simple.

Torture doesn't work. You can torture anyone into saying anything, and you win undying hatred. Torture is totally unacceptable, and only Evil uses it. You do not "compromise" about torture.

You have to hand it to Bu$hCo. The pre-election kabuki grows in fractal reiterations of the same dance, incorporating elements of time honored Company strategems like Mockingbird and Chaos. Maybe even another Northwoods is in the works. The excitment is killing me. Among others.

Welcome to the perogative state.

And, of course, it's official: “There will be no more torture. There will be no more mistreatment of prisoners that would violate standards of conduct we would expect of people who work for the United States of America.”

As Dear Leader would say, we did not do it then, and even if we does, we doesn't.

It's a known unknown, you see.

The M.B.A. Preznitcy

MBA students are the biggest cheats of all graduate students, with 56 per cent admitting to misdemeanours such as using crib notes in exams, plagiarism and downloading essays from the web.

The statistic comes from a survey of graduate students to be published in the Academy of Management Learning and Education journal. The report is based on data from about 5,300 survey respondents at 54 colleges and universities in the US and Canada, including 623 students in 32 graduate business programmes.

The report will be unpleasant reading to US business schools, many of which are still smarting from the involvement of their alumni in the corporate scandals of recent years: Jeffrey Skilling, former chief executive of Enron, received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1979, for example...

It's the entrepreneural form of government, with a thousand points of light, aimed right into your face while it's picking your pocket, or sifting through your files when you're at work.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


BAGHDAD — On a recent Sunday, I was buying groceries in my beloved Amariya neighborhood in western Baghdad when I heard the sound of an AK-47 for about three seconds. It was close but not very close, so I continued shopping.

As I took a right turn on Munadhama Street, I saw a man lying on the ground in a small pool of blood. He wasn't dead.

The idea of stopping to help or to take him to a hospital crossed my mind, but I didn't dare. Cars passed without stopping. Pedestrians and shop owners kept doing what they were doing, pretending nothing had happened.

I was still looking at the wounded man and blaming myself for not stopping to help. Other shoppers peered at him from a distance, sorrowful and compassionate, but did nothing.

I went on to another grocery store, staying for about five minutes while shopping for tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. During that time, the man managed to sit up and wave to passing cars. No one stopped. Then, a white Volkswagen pulled up. A passenger stepped out with a gun, walked steadily to the wounded man and shot him three times. The car took off down a side road and vanished.

No one did anything. No one lifted a finger. The only reaction came from a woman in the grocery store. In a low voice, she said, "My God, bless his soul."

I went home and didn't dare tell my wife. I did not want to frighten her.

---thanks to Billmon for the link.

And this one, too:

Torture in Iraq is reportedly worse now than it was under deposed president Saddam Hussein, the United Nations' chief anti-torture expert said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak described a situation where militias, insurgent groups, government forces and others disregard rules on the humane treatment of prisoners.

"What most people tell you is that the situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand," said Nowak, the global body's special investigator on torture. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."

This one, too [a .pdf file]:

...When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense -- that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The "making sense" filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran.---Colonel Sam Gardiner

What filter do we use, then, to predict the illogical?

It's quite simple, really, if you understand the root of all evil. What action do they think stands to make them the most money?

Back to the Iron Age with Equal Opportunity Oppression

There's something to be said for consistency:

...John Paul II made some dramatic gestures to rally world religious leaders, the most famous being a gathering in Assisi of every world faith, even African animists, to pray for world peace. He felt keenly the terrible history of Catholic-Jewish relations, and having fought with the Polish resistance to save Jews in the second world war, John Paul II made unprecedented efforts to begin to heal centuries of hostility and indifference on the part of the Catholic church to Europe's Jews. John Paul II also addressed himself to the ancient enmity between Muslims and Catholics; he apologised for the Crusades and was the first Pope to visit a mosque during a visit to Syria in 2001.

In contrast, Pope Benedict has managed to antagonise two major world faiths within a few months. The current anger of Muslims is comparable to the anger and disappointment felt by Jews after his visit to Auschwitz in May. He gave a long address at the site of the former concentration camp and failed to mention anti-semitism, and offered no apology - whether on behalf of his own country, Germany, or on behalf of the Catholic Church. He acknowledged he was a "son of the German people" ... "but not guilty on that account"; he then launched into a highly controversial claim that a "ring of criminals" were responsible for nazism and that the German people were as much their victims as anyone else...

Even worse, in his Auschwitz address, he managed to argue in a long theological exposition that the real victims of the Holocaust were God and Christianity. As one commentator put it, he managed to claim that Jews were the "themselves bit players - bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one." This theological treatise bears the same characteristics as last week's Regensburg lecture; put at its most charitable, they are too clever by half. More plainly speaking, they indicate a deep arrogance rooted in a blinkered Catholic triumphalism which is utterly out of place in the 21st century...

Like John-Paul said, it was utterly out of place in the 12th century, too.

...The Catholic church has to make a dramatic break with its triumphalist, bigoted past if it is to contribute in any constructive way to chart this new course. John Paul II made some dramatic steps in this direction; but the fear now is that Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of following suit, and that he has another direction altogether in mind.

More from Pope Benedict...

On Buddhism
"Auto-erotic spirituality."

The ordination of women
On the excommunication of seven women who called themselves priests: "... the penalty imposed is not only just, but also necessary, in order to protect true doctrine, to safeguard the communion and unity of the church, and to guide consciences of the faithful."

On same-sex marriage
"Call[s] into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make[s] homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality."

On rock music
"[A] vehicle of anti-religion"; "the complete antithesis of the Christian faith in the redemption."

Der Panzerpapen seems to want to clear the way for post-industrial feudalism once the petrocarbon's all gone.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Breakup in the North

Arctic summer ice anomaly shocks scientists
19 September 2006

Satellite images acquired from 23 to 25 August 2006 have shown for the first time dramatic openings – over a geographic extent larger than the size of the British Isles – in the Arctic’s perennial sea ice pack north of Svalbard, and extending into the Russian Arctic all the way to the North Pole.

Observing data from Envisat’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument and the AMSR-E instrument aboard the EOS Aqua satellite, scientists were able to determine that around 5-10 percent of the Arctic’s perennial sea ice, which had survived the summer melt season, has been fragmented by late summer storms. The area between Spitzbergen, the North Pole and Severnaya Zemlya is confirmed by AMSR-E to have had much lower ice concentrations than witnessed during earlier years.

Mark Drinkwater of ESA’s Oceans/Ice Unit said: “This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low ice seasons. It is highly imaginable that a ship could have passed from Spitzbergen or Northern Siberia through what is normally pack ice to reach the North Pole without difficulty.

"If this anomaly trend continues, the North-East Passage or ‘Northern Sea Route’ between Europe and Asia will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10-20 years."