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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. .."

Now here's a Republican worth listening to. He's got it half right:

Leaving Iraq, Honorably
By Chuck Hagel
Sunday, November 26, 2006; Page B07

There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.

It may take many years before there is a cohesive political center in Iraq. America's options on this point have always been limited..."

This entire column is worth reading, if a bit unrealistically sanguine for the future of the Middle East. As long as the Middle East- or the Middle West- remains under the control of fundamentalist zealots and greedy men posing as fundamentalist zealots, the dragon's teeth of war are sown into the soil. There will be violence if we stay or leave.

There will be less for us if we leave immediately. When we do leave, Iraq will seethe like a cauldron of blood. But that's what it's doing now anyway. When the cauldron subsides, a new strong man will arise promising to do God's work, and the violence will continue.

It has to do with too many people using too few resources, and the value of the sand beneath their feet.

You may think it trite: but take away the value of what's underneath the sand, and bring water to the desert, and the violence will subside.

It all boils down to renewable energy and resource management. It would help if people could leave their bloody God and superstition behind them. But without endless war, where would the blank check be?

Corporate Terrorism

Three British 747s down due to polonium contamination; possibly 33,000 people have been exposed.

Putin and the KGB may have been involved; but broadly accusing the Kremlin for a crime of Putin's is a little like broadly accusing the Pentagon for a crime of Dick Cheney's.

Like Cheney, Putin may have done this for Company reasons. [thanks to Laura Rozen]

There's even a Russian private security firm involved. [thanks again!]

Talk about embracing capitalist values. No wonder Dear Leader loves his Pootie-Pute.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Offer They Cannot Refuse

More good observations from Bernhard:

A mouthpiece for the Saudi leadership, Nawaf Obaid, has placed an unofficial announcement of official Saudi intervention in Iraq in the Washington Post - and the Saudi 800 pound gorilla offers a deal: Stepping Into Iraq...

Now the Saudis fear the U.S. will leave Iraq and in effect deliver it to Iranian influence. They will not sit still over this and warn against any withdrawal at all. The warning is not primarily directed at Bush (see the intro paragraph above). But it is definitly intended to impress especially Democrats who are supporting the voters demand of a phased withdrawal.

"Just a few months ago it was unthinkable that President Bush would prematurely withdraw a significant number of American troops from Iraq. But it seems possible today, and therefore the Saudi leadership is preparing to substantially revise its Iraq policy. Options now include providing Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance -- funding, arms and logistical support -- that Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups for years."

The ongoing civil war in Iraq would escalate into Saudi/Iranian proxy war.

Next there is this paragraph which I first thought to be a bit weird:

"Another possibility includes the establishment of new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias. Finally, Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere."

Can one threaten the U.S. with lower oil prices?

Definitely not - so this paragraph is the carrot for keeping the U.S. troops in harms way. Saudi financed Sunni brigades could take over Anbar, relief the U.S. there and defend Sunni Iraqis. Meanwhile the U.S. troops shall buffer and fight against Iran influenced Shia Iraqi. The U.S. would be payed for this with lower prices at the pump (that is - if the Saudis really can pump that much.)

That is the offer, and now again the threat:

"There is reason to believe that the Bush administration, despite domestic pressure, will heed Saudi Arabia's advice. [...] But if a phased troop withdrawal does begin, the violence will escalate dramatically.

"In this case, remaining on the sidelines would be unacceptable to Saudi Arabia. To turn a blind eye to the massacre of Iraqi Sunnis would be to abandon the principles upon which the kingdom was founded. It would undermine Saudi Arabia's credibility in the Sunni world and would be a capitulation to Iran's militarist actions in the region.

"To be sure, Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks -- it could spark a regional war. So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse."

The Saudis do have a lot of expensive modern military equipment, but their manpower lacks and their performance in the field is dubious. A serious engagement with Iran would have uncertain results for them. Their own eastern Shia minority would probably try to have a violent say in this too, endangering the oil production.

The threat for a regional war might thereby be a bit of bluster. But the spice must flow and even an uncertain threat of a bigger regional war that would endanger that flow should be enough to get Wall Street thinking...

Do read it all. Bernhard goes into the NeoCon motivations that may lead them to turn on the Saudis. And as always at the Moon the comments are on target.

Or not. Cheney is uncertain whom to attack, yet the Royals hold many of his markers. They know where the bodies are buried, and they are willing to put a few more there.

His, for one.

Innovation Ends Where Idiocy Begins

More disinformation and delusion from Pravda:

Maybe Malthus was on to something, after all.

First, some background: Twenty-six years ago, in one of the most famous wagers in the history of science, Paul Ehrlich, John Harte and John P. Holdren bet Julian Simon that the prices of five key metals would rise in the next decade. Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues, all environmental scientists, believed that humankind’s growing population and appetite for natural resources would eventually drive the metals’ costs up. Simon, a professor of business administration, thought that human innovation would drive costs down.

Ten years later, Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues sent Simon a check for $576.07 — an amount representing the decline in the metals’ prices after accounting for inflation. To many, the bet’s outcome refuted Malthusian arguments that human population growth and resource consumption — and economic growth more generally — would run headlong into the limits of a finite planet. Human inventiveness, stimulated by modern markets, would always trump scarcity.

Indeed, the 1990s seemed to confirm this wisdom. Energy and commodity prices collapsed; ideas (not physical capital or material resources) were the new source of wealth, and local air and water got cleaner — at least in rich countries...

Maybe Malthus was on to something, but what he was on to seems to have eluded this author completely.

Notice the key disinformation statement: "Human inventiveness, stimulated by modern markets, would always trump scarcity."

Having experienced the heady explosion of innovation that was Seattle in the late '80s and early '90s first hand, with a few patents under my belt even, let me assure you, if anything, the modern market system squelched any innovation it might have accidently generated.

Innovation was caused my hundreds- nationwide, hundreds of thousands, of small independent lab competing but also co-operating in a spirit of exploration.

Yes, money was made. And as soon as big business smelled that, the hundreds of thousands of independent laboratories began to be gobbled up as government deregulated industry. Now, the advertising budgets of most companies who made their initial bucks off of research and development are larger than the research and development budgets.

As a result there a fewer, and less every day, new drugs or inventions being created. Or marketed.

...But today, it seems, Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues may have the last (grim) laugh. The debate about limits to growth is coming back with a vengeance. The world’s supply of cheap energy is tightening, and humankind’s enormous output of greenhouse gases is disrupting the earth’s climate. Together, these two constraints could eventually hobble global economic growth and cap the size of the global economy.

The most important resource to consider in this situation is energy, because it is our economy’s “master resource” — the one ingredient essential for every economic activity. Sure, the price of a barrel of oil has dropped sharply from its peak of $78 last summer, but that’s probably just a fluctuation in a longer upward trend in the cost of oil — and of energy more generally. In any case, the day-to-day price of oil isn’t a particularly good indicator of changes in energy’s underlying cost, because it’s influenced by everything from Middle East politics to fears of hurricanes...

This basic trend can be seen around the globe with many energy sources. We’ve most likely already found and tapped the biggest, most accessible and highest-E.R.O.I. oil and gas fields, just as we’ve already exploited the best rivers for hydropower. Now, as we’re extracting new oil and gas in more extreme environments — in deep water far offshore, for example — and as we’re turning to energy alternatives like nuclear power and converting tar sands to gasoline, we’re spending steadily more energy to get energy.

For example, the tar sands of Alberta, likely to be a prime energy source for the United States in the future, have an E.R.O.I.
[“energy return on investment”] of around 4 to 1, because a huge amount of energy (mainly from natural gas) is needed to convert the sands’ raw bitumen into useable oil.

Having to search farther and longer for our resources isn’t the only new hurdle we face. Climate change could also constrain growth. A steady stream of evidence now indicates that the planet is warming quickly and that the economic impact on agriculture, our built environment, ecosystems and human health could, in time, be very large. For instance, a report prepared for the British government by Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank, calculated that without restraints on greenhouse gas emissions, by 2100 the annual worldwide costs of damage from climate change could reach 20 percent of global economic output.

Humankind’s energy and climate problems are intimately connected. Petroleum’s falling energy return on investment will encourage many economies to burn more coal (which in many parts of the world still has a relatively good E.R.O.I.), but coal emits far more greenhouse-inducing carbon dioxide for every unit of useful energy obtained than other energy sources. Also, many potential solutions to climate change — like moving water to newly arid regions or building dikes and relocating communities along vulnerable coastlines — will require huge amounts of energy.

Without a doubt, mankind can find ways to push back these constraints on global growth with market-driven innovation on energy supply, efficient use of energy and pollution cleanup. But we probably can’t push them back indefinitely, because our species’ capacity to innovate, and to deliver the fruits of that innovation when and where they’re needed, isn’t infinite...

What total, utter nonsense. Where to begin to deflate it? Let's keep it simple.

As long as the sun shines in the sky, there is an endless- in human terms- source of energy.

In fact, all of our energy and economic base derives ultimately from the sun.

We're only at the beginning of our ability to harvest it. Sooner or later someone will decide to use the tools of molecular genetics to make tailored microbes capable of synthesizing methane, alkanes, and hydrogen from direct or indirect solar-coupled reactions.

Think higher hydrocarbons are far-fetched from a microbe? They can make benezene in yeast, so the sky's the limit. Only a lack of corporate-sponsored innovation is holding it back. But who am I kidding? Over the last 100 years the government has funded most innovative research, not the private sector.

Just something else for the Theocrats to drown in a bathtub I suppose.

But right now, there are still trillions of dollars worth of oil in the ground, and the people who would rule us won't allow a cheap and endless source of energy to be developed.

The ability of any individual to innovate is finite. But the innovative ability of the human race doesn't have to be so. The stars are ours, because we are made of the stars.

However, infinite innovation can't co-exist with an economic system, or a class of rulers, that would ride a dwindling oil supply curve downward over the next century as men who would be king fight wars for dominion of their small little world.

It's quite possible the human race can't exist ruled by such men either.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Command Performance

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 25 — Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Saturday to discuss regional security issues with King Abdullah.

Mr. Cheney was met in Riyadh by the king’s brother, Crown Prince Sultan, and government ministers and leaders of the Saudi armed forces, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting at the king’s palace, which lasted for a few hours, ended at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a spokeswoman with the United States Embassy in Riyadh said.

The meeting touched on “the whole range of events and developments on the regional and international scenes,” according to the Saudi Press Agency, particularly “the Palestinian issue and the situation in Iraq...”

This seems to have been a Royal command performance.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — As President Bush and his top diplomats try to halt the downward spiral in Iraq and Lebanon, they seem intent on their strategy of talking only to Arab friends, despite increasing calls inside and outside the administration for them to reach out to Iran and Syria as well...

Specifically, the United States wants Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to work to drive a wedge between the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army has been behind many of the Shiite reprisal attacks in Iraq, a senior administration official said. That would require getting the predominantly Sunni Arab nations to work to get moderate Sunni Iraqis to support Mr. Maliki, a Shiite. That would theoretically give Mr. Maliki the political strength necessary to take on Mr. Sadr’s Shiite militias.

“There’s been some discussion about whether you just try to deal first with the Sunni insurgency, but that would mean being seen to be taking just one side of the fight, which would not be acceptable,” the administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic practice.

But getting Sunni Arab nations to urge Iraqi Sunnis to back Mr. Maliki in the hopes of peeling him away from Mr. Sadr is a tall order under any circumstances...

RIGA, Latvia, Nov. 28 — On the eve of a high-profile trip to Jordan to meet Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq, President Bush on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that Iraq has descended into civil war, blamed Al Qaeda for the latest wave of sectarian violence and vowed not to withdraw troops “until the mission is complete...”

Let's get this straight: Dear Leader will not deign to talk to Shiites... except for his puppet Maliki. Or Cheneyburton's toad Chalabi, who also works for Iran. He wants to talk only to his Arab lienholders. But, he's also convinced Iraq's problems are Al Qaeda's fault. Al Qaeda being owned by his Arab creditors, of course.

Juan Cole thinks Bu$hCo is out to discard Chalabi's old advice and rehabilitate the Ba'athists into the government, which he regards as highly unlikely:

...Al-Dhari, a wanted man, is calling on the Arab League to turn against the al-Maliki government. Though Jordanian King Abdullah II is said by al-Hayat to be conducting a furious round of meetings with expatriate Iraqis in Jordan, including al-Dhari, in preparation for Bush's summit on Wednesday. [Link below in Arabic].

And Nuri al-Maliki, head of the al-Da`wa al-Islamiyah Party (Islamic Call [Shiite]) will make all those concessions to the Baathists over his own dead body. (Remember he is already being stoned when he goes to Sadr City; what do you think the Shiite masses will do to him if he kisses and makes up with the remnants of the Baath officer corps?)

Bernhard finds this Divide and Conquer (v.2) strategery unlikely, too:

Divide and conquer is the method tried so far by the U.S. administration to get a permanent grip on Iraq. To this means the Coalition Provisional Authority did distribute seats to the Iraqi Interim Government differentiated by religious and ethnic lines. It enforced a tripartition into Kurd, Sunni and Shia groups.

This strategy did allow for exessive U.S. influence until the Shia did win the election Sistani had demanded. The government under Maliki turned out to be depending on al-Sadr's vote and therefore a bit too independent from U.S. influence and at the same time too powerless to control the country. But to replace it through a strongman coup would have ripped apart the Bush propaganda tale of democracy, so a democratic way had to be found.

Now, a new variant of divide and conquer is in the making. According to the NYT's Helen Cooper the kernel of the current diplomatic rush is this:

* Achieve a split within the Shia part of the Iraqi society, specifically between al-Sadr and the SCIRI/Dawa parts of the government.
* Through regional friends press the Sunni (Baathist) parties to ally with the SCIRI/Dawa block and to give Maliki a more tame parlimentary majority...

For the following reasons I find it very unlikely that this desired realignment is achievable.

* The practical leverage Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have over the Iraqi Sunnis is overrated.
* As condition to use that little leverage these countries demanded a new initiative in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. This condition has been met in recent days, when the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, pressed by his hero, made a sudden 180 degree turn from hawk to dove versus the Palestinians. But it is obvious that this is not a genuine Israeli move but one that will be reversed as soon as pressure from Washington decreases again or some forces in Israel or the U.S. want to spoil any real steps to peace.
* The Sunnis as well as al-Sadr's movement have been the ones upholding the national stance against partitioning Iraq. The SCIRI/Dawa fractions voted for partitioning the country. Can there ever be a compromise in such opposite positions?
* SCIRI/Dawa are much more under Iranian influence than al-Sadr is. Any U.S. success in Iraq is not in Teheran's interest. The Iranians can easily be a spoiler in this scheme and Bush has no intention to talk with them or the Syrians.
* The Sunni political forces are Baathist - SCIRI/Dawa hate Baathists.
* The Baathist think they are winning - why should they change their strategy?

Rice advisor Zelikow has resigned yesterday and it may well be that envisioning the inevitable failure of this new devide and conquer variant that made him take this step.

Also the Saudis being Waahabist Muslim hate the more secular Sunni Ba'athists. Al Qaeda may be a player- but they want Saddam's balls, too. They always did, which made Dear Leader's assertion of their alliance a transparent lie- or a fatal blunder- from the beginning.

Is it possible? Dear Leader and his Mayberry Machiavellis act like they still don't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. I'm sure Osama says "Mission Accomplished" from his family palace in Riyadh.

Disinformation on Child Health

Behold, the Mysterious Black Box

An Epidemic No One Understands

Well, that's not precisely correct, although more work is definitely needed on it.

Let's look at the epidemiologic facts presented as the disinformation fluff from the Pravda is examined.

Pravda says:

..."People frequently blame air pollution for causing asthma, but its role is not entirely clear. Pollution does makes asthma worse in people who already have the disease, but it’s not known whether pollution also makes asthma develop in the first place. And in any case, air pollution in the United States has decreased in the last few decades. Living in a place with high vehicle exhaust may make asthma worse, but the evidence is “relatively weak,” the researchers report..."

These are doubtless related in funding sources to the same experts who doubt global warming.

On the other hand, there are some really well understood predictors.

Many are in fact associated with urban, especially lower income urban life.

While respiratory infection, allergies, and genetics are contributiong factors, among professionals there is no doubt. Crap in your lungs doesn't help. Bad air makes asthma the big problem it is, whether it's from smoking or air pollution or both.

Monday, November 27, 2006

On Secret Societies, Freedom of the Press, and What the Experts Say

Some people didn't like them, as outlined by this paranoid here. I guess even paranoids have real enemies sometimes, no? Thanks, Buzzflash.

Oh: and incidently, some opinionated people are on the record as dissonant and dissident here on the mainline storyline. But as we've said before, sorting the facts from the disinformation is a full time job. Thanks, Lambert.

May I suggest the good Dr. Sagan's advice?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Making Murder a Statement

If substantial amounts of polonium 210 were used to poison Alexander V. Litvinenko, whoever did it presumably had access to a high-level nuclear laboratory and put himself at some risk carrying out the assassination, experts said yesterday.

Polonium 210 is highly radioactive and very toxic. By weight, it is about 250 million times as toxic as cyanide, so a particle smaller than a dust mote could be fatal. It would also, presumably, be too small to taste.

There is no antidote, and handling it in a laboratory requires special equipment. But to be fatal it must be swallowed, breathed in or injected; the alpha particles it produces cannot penetrate the skin. So it could theoretically be carried safely in a glass vial or paper envelope and sprinkled into food or drink by a killer willing to take the chance that he did not accidentally breathe it in or swallow it.

“This is wild,” said Dr. F. Lee Cantrell, a toxicologist and director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System. “To my knowledge, it’s never been employed as a poison before. And it’s such an obscure thing. It’s not easy to get. That’s going to be something like the K.G.B. would have in some secret facility or something.”

In a quick search of medical journals, he could find only one article describing the deliberate use of a radioactive poison to kill. It was from 1994, he said, published in Russian...

Polonium will be undetectable by conventional chemistry. You'd need mass spectrometry of a highly purified sample. Or implication by scintillation counter spectra.

Yes indeed, that's another thing we can thank Darth Rumsfeld for.

Welcome to the new Cold War. It's so chill I bet you never felt it coming. And many more players are in than v.1. Any country with a nuclear breeder can get in.

Just think what a suicide operative and a crop duster could do...

Of course, the CIA or DIA would have easy access to this poison, too. Or the Saudis, the Chinese, the Paks, the Brits, the French, even the Aussies. But they'd never do anything like this. Right?

And the recriminations are starting to look like a house of mirrors:

...It promises to be one of the most bewildering and diplomatically challenging investigations in the force's history. Little more than two days since Litvinenko died after becoming the first human to have been killed with the rare, powerfully toxic radioactive material polonium 210, inquiries have shifted thousands of miles east to the vast interior of the Russian steppes, in particular the rusting relics of the Soviet nuclear trade and its burgeoning black market in radioactive materials.

The sheer difficulty of acquiring polonium 210 has though, for now, shifted the spotlight on to state-sponsored scientists working in Russian research laboratories and the country's massive nuclear reprocessing plants. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), obtaining the material would require a level of access unthinkable only the most well-connected of individuals - just possibly with state backing.

A United Nations expert in the trade of nuclear materials said the sophistication required to harness polonium's poison as a murder weapon meant it could not have been executed by a 'lone assassin', a madman with a grudge to take out. Such is the difficulty of obtaining radioactive material, it would have to be someone with skill and powerful connections.

And, whoever they are, they collected enough extremely rare radioactive material to ensure doctors discovered a 'major dose' in the frail, sallow body of Litvinenko...

The UN is expected to begin investigating which of the nuclear reprocessing plants the polonium 210 that destroyed the internal organs of the Russian exile may have come from.

First up, will be the principal plant in Krasnoyarsk, 600km east of Tomsk, a massive, remote structure notorious for the radioactive contamination of Siberia's major rivers. Although UN officials remain sceptical the material may have been procured on the black market, British police are though to be liaising with the IAEA on whether the rare isotope may have originated on Russia's flourishing underground trade in nuclear and radioactive sources.

After all, on several occasions in the past 15 years, Russian police have intercepted smugglers trying to carry the alpha-radiation emitting substance out of the former Soviet Union. In 1999 an army officer was caught trying to cross from Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan clutching a glass capsule marked 'RA 23-54' and a metal canister covered with lead foil. Under interrogation, he admitted it contained a radioactive mixture of polonium and beryllium, used in Russia to trigger nuclear chain reactions. He had stolen the material from the Baikonur cosmodrome, where he worked, and intended to sell it in Uzbekistan. Other cases involve the theft of several canisters of polonium 210 from a secretive research centre in the city of Sarov called the All Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, a sprawling complex known as Russia's Los Alamos.

Beyond rows of barbed wire and troop patrols, experts have admitted polonium isotopes are still produced there. Disturbing reports of thefts from the site continue to surface. In 1993 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported that 10kg of polonium had gone missing from the plant. Two years ago the IAEA established that Iran has been conducting experiments with polonium 210 as part of its nuclear programme, possibly using material obtained from Russia.

Meanwhile, the National Threat Initiative in Washington warns that Russia's porous borders present little obstacle to smugglers carrying radioactive substances out of the country and that concern over Russia's huge stockpile of nuclear and radioactive materials slipping on to the international black market remained undimmed. Yesterday Vladimir Slivyak of the Eco-Defence organisation in Moscow, warned that radioactive substances are often poorly guarded and vulnerable to theft. Even so, IAEA sources say they have never confirmed a single case of polonium 210 being smuggled on the black market, indirectly giving weight to allegations that Litvinenko's death was a state- sponsored assassination.

But Litvinenko's death holds even greater resonance; claims that a terrorist organisation managed to acquired a rare, powerful radioactive material which was smuggled into Britain where it was targeted with deadly effect have caused much concern among UK security services. Officials are concerned that next time the target might be greater than the internal organs of a single human.

Intelligence sources said they had recently confirmed al-Qaeda is intensifying efforts to obtain a radioactive device amid new figures revealing that the black market of radioactive material is prospering. Smugglers have been caught trying to traffic nuclear material more than 300 times in the past four years, a doubling of such seizures.

It is little surprise that the man charged with investigating Litvinenko's death is Peter Clarke, Scotland Yard's deputy assistant commissioner who has taken the lead in protecting Britain from Islamic terrorists. He is understood to believe that tracking down the polonium 210 found in Litvinenko could unlock the key to his death, the toxic material's very rarity the factor that guides British police to those responsible.

Officials from the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston and Porton Down, the government Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, will today continue studying samples of the radioactive material extracted from the tablecloth of the sushi restaurant where Litvinenko ate the day he died.

Experts maintain that the sample will yield its own 'fingerprint' which can be used to track down where the polonium came from. So far, all they can say with reasonable surety is that the polonium 210 looks likely to have come from Russia and must have been smuggled into Britain relatively recently; it has a half-life (the length of time during which is radioactivity declines by 50 per cent) of just 138 days. Whoever is responsible knew what they were doing, appreciating the ease and safety with which the material could be transported in, say, a glass jar without detection or risk to its carrier.

'For anybody looking to kill an individual using nuclear material, polonium- 210 would be the radioactive isotope of choice,' said a IAEA source. A perpetrator may have entered Britain shortly before 1 November, the date Litvinenko is thought to have been poisoned, and one line of inquiry is that they a may have fled London after administering the deadly dose, safe in the knowledge that as the first alpha rays entered Litvineko's body, he was good as finished.

No on disputes that Litvinenko had mustered his fair share of enemies. Some were dangerous, others less so, yet whether light can ever pierce the fog of claim, counter-claim and smoke and mirrors that characterise this case is hard to predict. Litvineko's dissident friends blame the Kremlin. The Kremlin blames Litvineko's dissident friends. Rogue Russian agents have been named, but still no central suspect has emerged.

Scotland Yard is thought to have sought the first tentative help from the Kremlin via Foreign Office officials. Officers too are examining four sheets of A4 thrust before Litvinenko by Italian lawyer Mario Scarmella on the day it is presumed he was poisoned. They reveal how Russia's security services 'had decided to use force' against Litvinenko for 'incessant anti-Russian activities'. But, in keeping with such a case, it is impossible to determine whether the documents are a hoax or genuine. The more outlandish theories speculate that Litvinenko's own allies could have been the culprits. Even by the Machiavellian standards of Russian politics, such a plot would mark something of a new nadir.

Moscow's elite has been stunned at the British response to the scandal amid suspicion that the whole affair was some elaborate lie designed to discredit a post-soviet Russia. Vladimir Kuznetsov, former chief of Russia's state atomic control agency, even came out to describe Litvinenko's death by polonium 210 as mere 'journalistic invention'.

They also point at the police's response to the death, which veered from an investigation into a 'suspicious poisoning' to 'how this man became ill'. Officially Scotland Yard has yet to launch a murder inquiry, claiming they still do not have enough evidence to rule out Litvinenko's death as an accident or suicide...

Certainly, Litvinenko's profile has never been greater. Even his most incendiary allegations against the Kremlin had played to little effect in Russia. Yet his deathbed description of Putin as a 'barbaric and ruthless' president played to millions worldwide. And, regardless of which direction the case twists next, the inquest and accompanying attacks on Putin from dissidents promise fresh embarrassment for the president.

The involvement of Russia's intelligence service also remains a matter of scorn in the Kremlin. Sergei Ivanov, spokesman for the SVR, one of the organisations that replaced the KGB, said accusations of an assassination plot organised by his service, were 'some kind of science fiction'. Sergei Markov, an analyst and Kremlin consultant, pointed the finger at renegade elements within the security services, still vengeful over his claims of corruption and murder among Russia's intelligence agencies. He added that suggesting the Kremlin arranged the poisoning was absurd: 'That is just a symptom of Russophobia, one of the main prejudices now active in Europe.'

Police will also examine the so-called Chechen connection, in particular alliance with the Chechen separatist envoy, Akhmed Zakayerebel Akhmed Zakayev, who lives on the same Muswell Hill street as Litvinenko and is rumoured to be on a hit list after the Russian parliament passed a law approving use of hit squads to eliminate terrorists abroad. Yet one nagging issue torments those looking into the case; Litvinenko was small-fry, an exile whose anti-Kremlin criticisms were largely ignored in his homeland. In London, only his closest friends would recognise him. 'Litvinenko just wasn't worth it. He didn't pose a threat,' one FSB veteran told The Observer

We may never know how damaged Litvinenko's insides were by the polonium, his body remaining so contaminated it may be deemed simply too toxic to touch. As his friend Alex Goldfarb said: 'It is like being exposed to Chernobyl but not from outside but within.'

This week police will begin questioning witnesses. Kovtun is likely to be among those to be notified to ascertain precisely what, if anything of interest, may have arisen in the Millennium Hotel. So too his business partner, Andrei Lugovoi who also met Litvinenko on 1 November. Yesterday Kovtun said the fact traces of polonium 210 were found at several different locations across London supported his claim that he was not involved with Litvinenko's illness.

The former KGB officer, told The Observer that he met Litvinenko that day principally to discuss a simple business deal. 'It's quite clear that we had nothing to do with it,' he said...


Meanwhile, leave it to a master conspiracy theorist like Jeff Wells to dig this up:

...And then there's the likely radiological poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB/FSB counter-terrorist officer and author of Blowing Up Russia, an important account of 1999's false flag apartment bombing campaign that anchored authority for the as-yet unelected Vladimir Putin. A statement from the FSB implies that Litvinenko is not important enough to bother killing, adding "The man got sick. I would like to wish him early recovery."

Though I wonder whether something Litvinenko wrote a few months ago, after Putin impulsively kissed a boy on his belly, might have raised his Kremlin profile as a "person of interest."

From last July 5 (and thanks to a reader for the link, which is found now only in cache):

The Kremlin Pedophile
By Alexander Litvinenko

A few days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin walked from the Big Kremlin Palace to his Residence. At one of the Kremlin squares, the president stopped to chat with the tourists. Among them was a boy aged 4 or 5.

'What is your name?' Putin asked.

'Nikita,' the boy replied.

Putin kneed, lifted the boy's T-shirt and kissed his stomach.

The world public is shocked. Nobody can understand why the Russian president did such a strange thing as kissing the stomach of an unfamiliar small boy.

The explanation may be found if we look carefully at the so-called "blank spots" in Putin's biography..."

Read it all. I won't go into the details here. But consider: Russian Intelligence may be telling the absolute truth about this and other Russian dissident deaths occurring recently. Anyone remember Anna Politkovskaya?

For Russian leaders, as well as Dear Leaders of other superpowers, it may be neater and easier to avoid entanglements to have private contractors doing pest control.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Brainstorm for Darkstorm

At the Snowmass workshop, it was clear that putting a "sudden stop" to climate-warming emissions would require something more than investing in wind turbines. In one presentation, Jae Edmonds, chief scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, suggested that the only way you could radically cut emissions without shutting down the economy would be to replace coal and oil with genetically engineered biofuels, which would not only cut pollution but would suck up carbon dioxide as they grow. But making such a switch would require a massive expansion of agriculture, sweeping changes to the world's energy infrastructure, bold political leadership and trillions of dollars.

Then Lowell Wood approached the podium. At sixty-five, Wood is a big, rumpled guy, tall and broad as a missile silo, with a full red beard and pale blue eyes that burn with a thermonuclear glow. In scientific circles, Wood is a dark star, the protege of Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb and architect of the Reagan-era Star Wars missile-defense system. As a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California for more than four decades, Wood has long been one of the Pentagon's top weaponeers, the agency's go-to guru for threat assessment and weapons development. Wood is infamous for championing fringe science, from X-ray lasers to cold-fusion nuclear reactors, as well as for his long affiliation with the Hoover Institution, a right-wing think tank on the Stanford campus. Everyone at Snowmass knew Wood's reputation. To some, he was a brilliant outside-the-box thinker; to others, he was the embodiment of Big Science gone awry.

Wood hooked up his laptop, threw his first slide onto the screen and got down to business: What if all the conventional thinking about how to deal with global warming was wrong? What if you could do an end run around carbon-trading schemes and international treaties and political gridlock and actually solve the problem? And what if the cost to get started was not trillions of dollars but $100 million a year -- less than the cost of a good-size wind farm?

Wood's proposal was not technologically complex. It's based on the idea, well-proven by atmospheric scientists, that volcano eruptions alter the climate for months by loading the skies with tiny particles that act as mini-reflectors, shading out sunlight and cooling the Earth. Why not apply the same principles to saving the Arctic? Getting the particles into the stratosphere wouldn't be a problem -- you could generate them easily enough by burning sulfur, then dumping the particles out of high-flying 747s, spraying them into the sky with long hoses or even shooting them up there with naval artillery. They'd be invisible to the naked eye, Wood argued, and harmless to the environment. Depending on the number of particles you injected, you could not only stabilize Greenland's polar ice -- you could actually grow it. Results would be quick: If you started spraying particles into the stratosphere tomorrow, you'd see changes in the ice within a few months. And if it worked over the Arctic, it would be simple enough to expand the program to encompass the rest of the planet. In effect, you could create a global thermostat, one that people could dial up or down to suit their needs (or the needs of polar bears).

Reaction to Wood's proposal was fast and furious. Some scientists in the room, including Richard Tol, a climate modeler with the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland, found Wood's ideas worthy of further research. Others, however, were outraged by the unscientific, speculative, downright arrogant proposal of this . . . this weaponeer. The Earth's climate, one scientist argued, is a chaotic system -- shooting particles into the stratosphere could have unforeseen consequences, such as enlarging the ozone hole, that we might only discover after the damage was done. What if the particles had an effect on cloud formation, leading to unexpected droughts over northern Europe? Bill Nordhaus, a Yale economist, worried about political implications: Wasn't this simply a way of enabling more fossil-fuel use, like giving methadone to a heroin addict? If people believe there is a solution to global warming that does not require hard choices, how can we ever make the case that they need to change their lives and cut emissions?

...Global warming, as Al Gore put it recently, "is the only crisis we've ever faced that has the capacity to end civilization." The ultimate solution is no mystery: Among climate scientists, a consensus has developed that we must cut projected global emissions at least in half by the year 2050. But a few leading scientists have begun to suggest that reducing pollution simply can't be done fast enough to prevent a planetwide meltdown. "This is not a goal that can be achieved with current energy technology," says Marty Hoffert, a physicist at New York University. "I think we need to admit that and start thinking bigger."

According to Hoffert, the 850 coal-fired plants projected to be built worldwide in the next decade or so will emit five times more carbon dioxide than will be reduced under the Kyoto treaty on global warming. Add in 100 million newly rich Chinese road-tripping in their SUVs, and you can see why a growing number of scientists believe we are approaching a climate catastrophe faster than we think. Paul Crutzen, a respected atmospheric chemist who won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on ozone depletion, recently suggested that it is time to consider "last resort" options -- including the idea championed by Wood and others to shoot sulfate particles into the stratosphere.

To his colleagues, Crutzen's willingness to consider deliberate intervention with the planet's climate is a sign that the debate over global warming has changed. "Here is a guy who knows more about the Earth's atmosphere than anyone else alive, and he's telling us that the situation is so dire we need to think about intervening with the atmosphere on a planetary scale," one climate scientist told me. "That's frightening, of course -- but from a purely scientific point of view, it's also very interesting."

That's not science from any perspective I'd recognize, nor from the EPA's or the NOAA's perspective either- at least before Dear Leader started muzzling them.

You know, it is interesting in the way intentionally making the air unbreathable always is. I have some words for some consequences from this for people living in a world whose climate is modulated in this fashion. Words like asthma. Or how about Congestive obstructive pulmonary disease. Maybe emphysema or lung cancer are better words.

What is it with these highly paid, highly educated, and highly connected idiots? They're Always trying to save the world from the very excesses their own payroll sources created. They're Always coming up with Solutions that will somehow continue to enrich the sources of their payrolls.

...Until recently, discussion of geoengineering -- intentional, large-scale manipulation of the Earth's climate -- has been taboo among scientists. [Flash news: it still is. Among real scientists, as opposed to industry shills, anyway.] The pursuit is widely seen as not only a dangerous distraction from the serious business of figuring out how to cut emissions but also as borderline immoral. Lester Brown, one of the godfathers of the environmental movement and president of the Earth Policy Institute, sees geoengineering as "another step down the road of actively managing the planet -- something we've already proven we're not terribly good at. The whole idea of geoengineering is based on an assumption that we know how this all works, when in truth we haven't a clue." Burton Richter, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, also dismisses the idea, arguing that "piling one un-understood problem on top of another un-understood problem is not very smart." The point was driven home a few months ago when Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and a supporter of geoengineering, attended a meeting with Al Gore and suggested erecting a giant sun shade in outer space to cool the planet.

That's only somewhat worse than Brand's idea to whole-heartedly embrace nuclear energy to halt global warming.

In last week Correntewire's chicago dyke touched on solar obliteration by Dark Storm as an environmental Solution.

Brand's Bright Idea also could have some pretty devastating consequences:

In Green Mars, a large highly reflective solar diffraction satellite is robotically assembled in orbit around Mars and used primarily to increase the surface temperature into the livable range by focusing sunlight.

Until a corporate consortium with a fundamentalist christian puppet gets control. Because the locals decide life is more than mining for a company, the government decides to show who’s boss and accelerate the global change. With the right focus angle, anything that could focus (or block) enough sunlight to change the temperature of a continent-sized area by ten or twenty degrees could raise the temperature of a city-sized area several hundred or even thousand degrees…

Science is a set of tools anyone can use to explore the universe.

It is very powerful and effective set of tools, and the things it reveals are facts not Truths.

Once you use science a lot, you lose all respect for Truths, because they’re usually delusions.

Corporatism is a very different matter than science, although Big Science is now Company property. Unfortunately corporatists now control all private and public money for science. They set the standards. They, alas, are the people professionals have to deal with.

They usually want a job done. Corporate tasking isn’t science, it’s engineering at best, and at worst, salesmanship. The dead worst is when a suit wants a result from a method they don’t understand with consequences they can’t begin to comprehend.

Something to be thankful for

The Bu$h administration is trying as hard as it ever has to keep us all safe:

US interference 'allowed terror gang to escape'
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
Published: 25 November 2006

A team of suspected terrorists involved in an alleged UK plot to blow up trans-atlantic airliners escaped capture because of interference by the United States, The Independent has been told by counter-terrorism sources.

An investigation by MI5 and Scotland Yard into an alleged plan to smuggle explosive devices on up to 10 passenger jets was jeopardised in August, when the US put pressure on authorities in Pakistan to arrest a suspect allegedly linked to the airliner plot.

As a direct result of the surprise detention of the suspect, British police and MI5 were forced to rush forward plans to arrest an alleged UK gang accused of plotting to destroy the airliners. But a second group of suspected terrorists allegedly linked to the first evaded capture and is still at large, according to security sources.

The escape of the second group is said to be the reason why the UK was kept at its highest level - "critical" - for three days before it was decided that the plotters no longer posed an imminent threat...

Who exactly was the Decider for that decision?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Really Bad Idea: Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right

Charlie Rangel is angry about the Iraq war, the one that Henry Kissinger has told us we can't win. Thanks, Henry, but most Americans figured that out before you did. Rangel saw combat in Korea. Kissinger has only seen combat on TV. That might have something to do with why Kissinger thinks our troops should stay in Iraq even though we can't win. Kissinger says that if we leave now, all hell will break loose and Iraq will never achieve stability. Never mind that all hell has already broken loose. Never mind that Kissinger said the same thing would happen if we left Vietnam--all hell would break loose and Vietnam would never achieve stability. Vietnam has become so stable that Presidents Clinton and Bush, both combat cowards during the Vietnam war, have made well publicized, utterly safe visits to the country Kissinger used to think didn't have a chance without us.

In my one conversation with Kissinger, which occurred on TV, I asked him if he knew anyone who got killed in Vietnam. He was completely thrown. He doesn't go on TV to be asked such small-minded questions, he goes on TV to pontificate and TV interviewers are happy to let him do it. Kissinger sputtered and ran away from the question, leaving the distinct impression that he did not know anyone who was killed in the war he managed. His memoir of the period does not mention a single casualty. If you have ever stood at the Vietnam Memorial and run your hand over the name of a relative on the wall, as my mother and I did last month, you can get as angry as Charlie Rangel does about people like Kissinger deciding how long our soldiers should be exposed to enemy fire in a war we know we can't win.

Rangel announced on Sunday that he wants to reinstate the draft. He said the same thing a few years ago but quickly let on that he wasn't serious. He's playing it straight this time and has already introduced a bill. Local New York TV news has given Rangel saturation coverage. You can see his anger and frustration building each time he answers another reporter's question about the draft. The point he keeps repeating is: "There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way..."

Here's the deal, Charlie, from someone who's as pissed about this war as you are.

The kids of Congress, the kids of their campaign donors, aren't going to be drafted even if you make all kinds of legistlation to force it, and ensure its equality.

Why not? Because the $ystem is rigged, Charlie. Poor people, middle class, or even not-so-rich people will fill the ranks of any draft force, or any forced national service, but the likes of Jenna and Babs Bu$h won't.

The kids of the wealthy won't.

And any legistlation you write will be shot full of loopholes to ensure they won't.

A fair, equitable draft is not going to happen. Ever. Drafts create slave armies, and you know who the wanna-be Masters wanna cast in the role of slaves? Here's a hint: they make less than a million dollars a year, baby.

However, a draft will create the kind of civil unrest and class warfare this nation hasn't seen since the 1960s. Which will play right into the hands of John Negroponte and the Cheneyburton Corporation's Homeland Security anti-terra'ist goons. Civil unrest will allow them to invoke the martial law they've been waiting for.

Let's end this war. Let's start pulling out troops today. That's the only way it's going to end. By ending involvement, not by creating the tools that would divide the children of the haves and the have-nots even deeper.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mercenary Mouthpiece

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 — Senator Joseph I. Lieberman announced Tuesday that he had hired a new spokesman, which is not in itself that noteworthy, except that the said spokesman, Marshall Wittmann, is one of the great career vagabonds, ideological contortionists and political pontificators ever to inflict himself on a city full of them.

To say that Mr. Wittmann defies classification is like saying Paris Hilton defies modesty. But in his peripatetic soul, he is a Washington Original, a man without a political country going to work for a senator without a political party.

Mr. Lieberman, a longtime Democrat of Connecticut who was re-elected as an independent and calls himself an “Independent Democrat,” has not ruled out becoming a Republican.

Mr. Wittmann, meanwhile, is a Trotskyite turned Zionist turned Reaganite turned bipartisan irritant turned pretty much everything in between — including chief lobbyist for the Christian Coalition, the only Jew who has ever held that position.

“Jewish mothers do not raise their Jewish sons to work for the Christian Coalition,” said Mr. Wittmann, offering one of many explanations for why that job was not an ideal fit.

“I think I’m the only person who has worked for both Cesar Chavez and Linda Chavez,” Mr. Wittmann said of the union pioneer who inspired him in the 1970s and the conservative Republican whose Senate campaign in Maryland he joined in the 1980s.

“I think I’m the only person who’s worked for both Ralph Reed and Bruce Reed,” Mr. Wittmann added, referring to the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and the top lieutenant to former President Bill Clinton...

Totally in character: a souless mouthpiece for a souless Senator. He's absolutely symptomatic of everything wrong with our national government, and very self-satisfied about it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Holy Missing the Point

Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book “The God Delusion” is a national best-seller.

Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects — testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

She was not entirely kidding. “We should let the success of the religious formula guide us,” Dr. Porco said. “Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know...”

Dr. Porco misses the point, but apparently The New York Pravda is more than happy to broadcast her opinions- they fit in nicely with the Company's need to rouse their shock troops.

Let's look at the definition of the word evangelize:

Main Entry: evan·ge·lize
Pronunciation: i-'van-j&-"lIz
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -lized; -liz·ing
transitive verb
1 : to preach the gospel to
2 : to convert to Christianity
intransitive verb : to preach the gospel
- evan·ge·li·za·tion /-"van-j&-l&-'zA-sh&n/ noun

Science has no gospel. Science has no Truth. Science is a tool you use with logic to describe facts.

Science is a tool you use to describe the universe. But since the observable universe, and well as the observer's place in the universe, constantly changes, science is not set in stone. The scientific method, like any other logic construct, works regardless, but is not Truth any more than the associative and distributive properties of simple mathematical statements are Truth.

Let's not be silly.

Please, yes, deflate the grandoise delusions and the shambling horrors of the ancient religions. Science, and logic, are ideal tools to do this. The world, as Dr. Dawkins says, has suffered too long under the delusions of its God mythos. But don't set up "Science" in place of God.

Because when you do, it's no longer Science, or even science.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Iranian Stovepipe Spin

Moving and manipulating the barrage of data we're confronted with into a useful form depends on the recognition of useful data. Recognition is one of the real problems of information analysis. Since the consequences of action on the incoming data make someone money- often quite a lot of it, we're confronted with many different inconsistent information sources that compete for our attention.

But it's always fun to watch the spin .

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House dismissed a classified CIA draft assessment that found no conclusive evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program, the New Yorker reported.

The article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said the CIA's analysis was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites and on other evidence like measurements of the radioactivity of water samples.

"The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency," according to the article.

"A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it," it said...
[thanks truthout]

Hersch says:

...In late 1982, Edward P. Boland, a Democratic representative, introduced the first in a series of “Boland amendments,” which limited the Reagan Administration’s ability to support the Contras, who were working to overthrow Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government. The Boland restrictions led White House officials to orchestrate illegal fund-raising activities for the Contras, including the sale of American weapons, via Israel, to Iran. The result was the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-eighties. Cheney’s story, according to the source, was his way of saying that, whatever a Democratic Congress might do next year to limit the President’s authority, the Administration would find a way to work around it. (In response to a request for comment, the Vice-President’s office said that it had no record of the discussion.)...

Once Gates is installed at the Pentagon, he will have to contend with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Rumsfeld legacy—and Dick Cheney. A former senior Bush Administration official, who has also worked with Gates, told me that Gates was well aware of the difficulties of his new job. He added that Gates would not simply endorse the Administration’s policies and say, “with a flag waving, ‘Go, go’ ”—especially at the cost of his own reputation. “He does not want to see thirty-five years of government service go out the window,” the former official said. However, on the question of whether Gates would actively stand up to Cheney, the former official said, after a pause, “I don’t know.”

Another critical issue for Gates will be the Pentagon’s expanding effort to conduct clandestine and covert intelligence missions overseas. Such activity has traditionally been the C.I.A.’s responsibility, but, as the result of a systematic push by Rumsfeld, military covert actions have been substantially increased. In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (The Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime’s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group “equipment and training.” The group has also been given “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” (An Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel was involved.)

Such activities, if they are considered military rather than intelligence operations, do not require congressional briefings...

The Administration’s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)

The C.I.A.’s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found...

Lambert discussess this in more detail here.

I wonder if this report by Hersch, asserting there's been no plutonium production, coming out last weekend, is at all related to this in The New York Pravda Monday morning?

At a place called Arak in the desert southwest of Tehran, behind barbed wire and antiaircraft guns, Iran is building a heavy-water nuclear reactor. The government says it will produce radioactive isotopes for medical treatments. As an unavoidable byproduct, it will also make plutonium, one of the primary fuels for atom bombs...

Or maybe it's the reason for this:

International Atomic Energy experts have found unexplained plutonium and highly enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in Iran and have asked Tehran for an explanation, an IAEA report said Tuesday.

The report, prepared for next week's meeting of the 35-nation IAEA, also faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the agency's attempts to investigate suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear program that have lead to fears it might be interested in developing nuclear arms...

Strange that as of this writing, the report hasn't appeared on the IAEA's website. Although, if you Google it you find it everywhere else. Just in time to get Cheney's next war on, too.

...and away we go!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


...Science or superstition, the result is the same: The source of the Yellow River, itself the water source for 140 million people in a country of about 1.3 billion, is in crisis, as scientists warn that the glaciers and underground water system feeding the river are gravely threatened. For the rest of China, where the economy has evolved beyond trading rings for sheep, it is the latest burden for a river saturated with pollution and sucked dry by factories, growing cities and farming — with still more growth planned.

For centuries, the Yellow River symbolized the greatness and sorrows of China’s ancient civilization, as emperors equated controlling the river and taming its catastrophic floods with controlling China. Now, the river is a very different symbol — of the dire state of China’s limited resources at a time when the country’s soaring economic growth needs more of everything.

“The Yellow River flows through all these densely populated parts of northern China,” said Liu Shiyin, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Without water in northern China, people can’t survive. And the economic development that has been going on cannot continue.”

China’s dynamic economic engine, still roaring at record levels, is at a corrosive crossroads. Pollution is widespread, and a nationwide construction spree, tainted by corruption, is threatening to overheat the economy. China’s leaders, worried about the unbridled growth, are trying to emphasize “sustainable development” even as questions remain about whether the party’s rank and file can carry out priorities like curbing pollution and conserving energy.

The Yellow River, curving through regions only intermittently touched by the country’s boom, offers a tour of the pressures and contradictions bearing down on China, and of the government’s efforts to address them. The river’s twisting 3,400-mile path from the Qinghai grasslands to the Bohai Sea seems to encompass not just thousands of miles but thousands of years — from nomads like Tsende sleeping under tents made of animal hair to urbanites like Peng Guihang, a homemaker living in a new high-rise building in the city of Zhengzhou.

In between, in the ancient, irrigated oasis in the tiny region of Ningxia, farmers plant rice in the desert and treat the Yellow River like a bottomless well. In a pebbled, alien expanse along the river in Inner Mongolia, an enormous industrial region has arisen in only a few years, spewing out so much pollution that a shopkeeper surrounded by factories scoffs at government promises to clean up China.

Most astonishing, cities beside the river like Yinchuan, Luoyang and Zhengzhou — places few Americans have ever heard of — are racing to become China’s next new regional urban center with almost hallucinatory building booms. Yinchuan, a modest, ancient capital, is building an entire city district for a vast government complex and is adding 20 million square feet of construction every year through 2011. Luoyang, once the capital of the Zhou dynasty, has built a cluster of futuristic sports stadiums that look like a grounded armada of metallic, alien spaceships.

From one bend of the river to the next, and the next, an evolutionary chain emerges: nomad to farmer, farm to factory and factory to city. It is the kind of change that other countries have navigated over centuries. In China, it is happening all at the same time...

Gyaring Lake and its twin, Ngoring Lake, are considered the source of the Yellow River. Scientists began studying the region after drought took hold in the 1980s. Grasslands were turning to desert, raising fears that the river’s source could be endangered. Eventually, overgrazing was deemed to be the root of the problem, and local governments began moving nomads off the land.

More recently, though, Chinese scientists have examined the region and concluded that the pressures from herding are only one part of a much broader problem. Mr. Liu, the hydrologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other scientists discovered that the complicated water system feeding the lakes was in crisis. Underground water levels were sinking and chains of smaller feeder lakes were receding or drying up altogether. Air temperatures were slowly rising, while the old pattern of two rainy seasons per year was down to one...

Researchers found that the glaciers feeding the river had shrunk 17 percent in 30 years. Earlier this year, the official New China News Agency reported that glaciers across the entire Qinghai-Tibet plateau, which includes the Yellow River source region, are now melting at a rate of 7 percent a year because of global warming. The report also said average temperatures in Tibet had risen by 2 degrees since the 1980s, according to China’s national weather bureau.

At the source of the Yellow River, Mr. Liu said the combination of less rainfall and warming temperatures had thawed the surface layer of active permafrost and disrupted the underground water channels. Moisture is being absorbed deeper into the warmer ground, and less water is funneling into the Yellow River.

The warming trend has literally moved the ground. Some sections of Highway 214, the two-lane provincial highway, now gently undulate because of melting permafrost. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the technological marvel that recently opened as the world’s highest railroad, has already reported track problems from the warming ground surface...

China ranks behind only the United States in carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists consider the raw ingredient of global warming, though that is tricky to explain to a nomad who has never seen a factory. Instead, nomads remember the Han Chinese gold prospectors and fishermen who arrived in the 1980s...

The Yellow River has allowed Ningxia to defy reality for centuries: rice paddies soak in the desert; sunflowers stare up at skies that almost never rain. Today, farmers repeat a phrase handed down for generations, “Tian Xia Huang He Fu Ningxia,” or “The Yellow River Is a Great Gift for Ningxia.”

But is Ningxia a great gift for the rest of China?

Water shortages are at crisis level in many regions. About 400 of China’s 600 cities lack an adequate supply for future growth , and many are now making do by draining underground aquifers to dangerously low levels. Some coastal cities are building desalination plants to turn seawater into drinking water. Over all, China has one of the lowest per capita water supplies in the world and one of the most uneven distributions of water. Northern China is home to 43 percent of the population but only 14 percent of the country’s water supply.

To address that imbalance, the government has begun work on a grandiose, and controversial, “South-to-North” transfer project, which would pump water along channels from the Yangtze River in southern China to replenish the country’s thirsty north, including the Yellow River.

Officials say they believe the plan, potentially the most expensive public works project ever in China, is the best hope for maintaining economic growth in the north, but critics point to practical and environmental concerns, and are fighting to block plans for a channel through Qinghai.

Ningxia, while far too small to blame for the country’s water travails, typifies the challenges China will face as it weighs logic against history in parceling out water...

Dikes and irrigation in Ningxia trace to the beginning of dynastic rule, when the Qin rulers who unified China in 221 B.C. built irrigation for soldiers garrisoned on some of the earliest sections of the Great Wall. Farmers still plant rice on the same paddies tilled roughly 2,000 years ago.

Throughout history the Yellow River has spawned floods, and emperors who could not protect the people were said to have lost heaven’s mandate to rule. The Communist Party has built more dams than any dynasty, and the river is now a top-to-bottom plumbing project that many environmentalists fear is being plumbed to death.

For several years during the 1990s, the river ran so low that it failed to reach the sea. For the moment, engineers have corrected that problem, but the dams and dikes have accentuated a different one: the river is rising into the sky. The huge amount of sediment washing downstream is now pinched by so many dikes and interrupted by so many dams that it is pushing the bed of the river upward, which means as the river goes up, so must the height of dams to prevent floods.

In Ningxia, generations of farmers in villages like Yingpantan have paid no attention to how much water they drained from the river. Their work fulfilled a national priority still evident today, as some Chinese officials sometimes voice fears of China being unable to feed itself...

Down a potholed street leading into an industrial park, a brick building that was once part of a forced labor camp is now another sort of prison: the small sundries shop where Zhang Yueqing lives amid the choking pollution of one of China’s newest industrial corridors...

The industrial park sits along the river in the region that joins Ningxia and Inner Mongolia, part of an industrial colossus built in less than six years on the arid, water-starved land surrounding the city of Wuhai.

“The kind of development that is happening is abnormal,” said Chen Anping, an advocate for restoring grasslands in Inner Mongolia. “There’s no way this can be sustained. There are not enough resources.”

With one important exception: coal. The northernmost route of the Yellow River courses through the center of China’s coal country. Under the planned economy in 1958, the central government founded Wuhai in the rocky terrain as the coal supplier for the state-owned steel maker, Baotou Steel.

But the collapse of the planned economy almost meant the collapse of Wuhai. By the early 1990s, local officials were debating how to save the city and built three coal-fired power plants to provide electricity to the east. But the city still needed jobs. So officials recruited investors to build the energy-intensive, heavy polluting industries that other regions no longer wanted...

The strategy worked. Before 1998, Wuhai had four factories. Now, it has more than 400. Wuhai became an industrial model for nearby cities like Shizuishan. In June, the New China News Agency reported that more than $50 billion in industrial development was planned for the 500-mile stretch of the river in Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. Experts estimated that industrial demands for water would quintuple by 2010.

Many investors had arrived in Wuhai with a frontier spirit, heeding the government’s call to develop the west while enticed by the prospect of big profits...

Decades of strip mining had already transformed some parts of coal country into vast tracts of denuded wasteland. Rapid industrialization made Wuhai a pollution nightmare. The Yellow River itself was already one of the most polluted rivers in the world. But suddenly clouds of polluted air were drifting hundreds of miles east to Beijing...

This spring, the severity of the pollution problem finally forced official action. The State Environmental Protection Administration closed scores of smaller, dirtier coke factories. Local regulators demanded that other factories install better pollution equipment or face closing.

Some investors felt betrayed...
[, but] ...a new consumer class ...must grow and prosper for China to keep rising...

The end of the Yellow River is still a few hundred miles downstream, but this is the destination China is trying to reach — a nation of peasant farmers transformed into a modern, urban country. And yet so many cities are expanding so quickly, at the same time, and often following much the same blueprint, that China’s urbanization rush has alarmed national leaders and raised fears of overheating. One recent gathering of city planners found that more than 100 cities aspire to become major international cities, while more than 30 cities have requisitioned millions of acres of land to build central business districts.

Along the Yellow River, major cities, and many smaller ones, are in the throes of construction booms, competing to emerge as dominant cities. In Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia, officials are spending about $1.2 billion a year to build a government complex across hundreds of acres. It includes a huge provincial legislature, provincial ministry buildings, a government-owned five-star hotel, a residential compound for foreign entrepreneurs and an outdoor People’s Plaza that can accommodate 30,000 people.

This is a common development blueprint in second-tier Chinese cities: use government money to build government districts in hopes that they will become the equivalent of anchor tenants to attract private real estate development...

Rapid urbanization is already transforming the Yellow River region. Population in the region has nearly tripled since the 1950s. Government statistics show that roughly four billion gallons of wastewater are dumped into the river every year, double the amount from two decades ago. Every growing city, each trying to lure people and industry, is scouring for water. Some are building reservoirs; others are draining so much water from underground aquifers that several cities have reported serious land subsidence...

Indeed, so many large construction projects are so infused with corruption that urbanization has become a get-rich scheme for many officials. In the first six months of this year, Chinese prosecutors secured convictions in 1,608 major bribery cases, in which officials accepted kickbacks to facilitate construction projects. A senior official in Beijing was sentenced to death, and then given a reprieve, for embezzling state highway construction funds. In June, a Beijing vice mayor in charge of Olympic construction was removed for embezzlement and kickbacks related to non-Olympic projects...

This messy, chaotic process is ultimately supposed to help China reach its goal of becoming a “well-off society” by 2040...

Affluence, the lure of the dragon.

Sometimes surreality is the only human reality.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Slavery is an acceptable economic option for the WTO

Woops, my bad.

This is satire.

But not by much!

Thanks to everyone that caught it!

Incorporate What You Can't Eliminate

After years of denial that our presence in Iraq is creating a civil war, the Company's instructed its currently favored pet Generals at the D.o'D. to take a new line to counter the Democratic insurgency here in America:

We obviously can't leave Iraq, because, you know it'd make the Civil War there worse.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — In the fall of 2005, the generals running the Iraq war told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a gradual withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was imperative.

The American troop presence, Gen. John P. Abizaid and Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said at the time, was stoking the insurgency, fostering dependency among the Iraqi security forces and proving counterproductive for what General Abizaid has called “The Long War” against Islamic radicalism.

This week, General Abizaid, chief of the United States Central Command, told the same committee that American forces may be all that is preventing full-scale civil war in Iraq, so a phased troop withdrawal would be a mistake...

That first gradual withdrawal routine was planned to put the control of what (they thought) was a pacified Iraq into the hands of private security contractors for Cheneyburton, and free up soldiers to fire their lovely weapons at Iran and/or Syria or whoever else the Saudi Royals were troubled by (generating more bucks for United Defense Industries et al.).

But you have to adjust to new Realities. The newest Reality is that to keep the control of the Senate out of Darth Cheney's hands, the Democrats have to listen to Joe Lieberman, the biggest DINOcrat in America since the Viet Nam War.

Hey, if they move enough red-state kids into Iraq, they can have their little party with Iran, too!

That'll work to save our way of life, alright...

There's Right, and then there's right, and never the twain shall meet.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Invasion of the Consensus Snatchers

They're back, and it's not just the likes of Carville promoting Harold Ford either.

Smiles like crocodiles. Except for Murtha, who's looking like the only one there who sees beyond blind ambition. Yes, trolls, I know about Abscam. I also know he turned down the bribe offer at the sting.

Nobody's perfect, and Murtha's calling the shots straighter than Hoyer ever has.

Sirota's take is a good one:

...It seems that the "Yay Iraq War! Oops, Let's Now Pretend We Were Always Against the War" wing of the Democratic Party is trying to nationalize Lieberman's Nixonian model and apply it elsewhere. To understand what I mean, just take a quick look at what's going on in the race for House Majority Leader between anti-Iraq-War leader Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) and recently-reconstructed pro-war mouthpiece Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

In the last few days, both the Democratic Leadership Council and Hoyer's own allies on Capitol Hill have mimicked Lieberman's tactics in an effort to reposition Hoyer as one of the longtime leaders of the global anti-war movement. The DLC's vice president, for instance, proclaims on his website that "It's not as though Steny has done anything to undermine House Democrats in their criticism of Bush Iraq policies." Similarly, Hoyer ally Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) appeared on MSNBC last night to claim Hoyer has "been very supportive in the last two years for a phased redeployment" from Iraq and that "I don't see any difference certainly on Iraq" between Hoyer or Murtha.

Ah yes, haven't you seen those pictures of Hoyer wearing the tie-died t-shirt with the peace symbol on it, two fingers extended, stomping around Capitol Hill whipping votes to bring the Iraq War to an end? Didn't you hear those impassioned speeches Hoyer gave from the floor of the House saying it is time to change course in Iraq? Didn't you see Hoyer standing right behind Murtha when Murtha courageously changed the entire national debate on Iraq last year? No, you didn't. You actually saw Hoyer slithering around on the floor like a snake, spitting venom at Murtha and others who were working to get Democrats to take a tough position on Iraq.

Apparently, the DLC, Tauscher and Hoyer himself believe that the Members of Congress who will be voting in the Majority Leader race are very, very stupid people who have no access to the Internet and have never heard of Google or Yahoo. They must believe this, because it takes about, oh, 10 seconds online to figure out that, in fact, Hoyer led the charge against Democrats taking a strong position on Iraq, publicly attacking the House Democratic leadership for having the guts to follow Murtha's lead and get up the guts to challenge Bush on the war.

All of this is happening at the same time Hoyer is trying to position himself as the ethics candidate in the race. Granted, Murtha is no saint - but Steny "I Have My Own K Street Project" Hoyer now billing himself as Congress's new Bill Proxmire is as credible as Mark Foley chairing Congress's Exploited Children Caucus. Oops, I forgot - that actually happened, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised after all that this kind of up-in-your-face chutzpah is very much alive and well in a congressional leadership race...

The DLC, along with that tool of the Cheneyburton Corporation, Joe Lieberman, move to limit the damage to the Company's move to hegemony.

The logical next move of the Company is to step aside and allow- or maybe even encourage- the kind of terror that should make the gullible get back in line. The kind of thing that happened here in Detroit yesterday may indicate movement in the dark. As usual, Jeff Wells is seeing shadows, and though a lot of it is disinformation some of them may even be real.

...The disheveled kook is suddenly the most credible person in the room.

We've had more than a few of those moments this century, when a story breaks and bridges the disconnect between the world as we know it and the world as most presume it. A privileged gay hooker in the White House, for instance. British Special Forces in Basra, dressed as Arabs, shooting up a police station. A naturalized American waging a false-flag bombing campaign in the Philippines, escorted to US sanctury by federal authorities. The death of David Kelly. Sibel Edmonds' gag order, and the WTF? conditions upon George Bush's testimony before the 9/11 commission. Usually the news is quickly changed, ignored or papered-over. Sometimes, as with Michael Meiring, it's met with blanket silence by American media, and the silence itself becomes a kind of confirmation.

Daniel Hopsicker may be having one of those moments.

As anyone who's followed his investigation of Florida's 9/11 crime scene will know, he's researched Mohamed Atta's connections to a protected international network of drugs, guns and money-laundering. Atta's "brothers" were German cocaine playboys mixed up with Russian mafia, not Saudi fundamentalists. One German of whom Hopsicker has written is Wolfgang Bohringer...

Can you spot the disinformation there in that passage? Oh, Atta may have also had ties to the criminal underworld. That's what being a spook is all about.

The disinformation is in the term ..."not Saudi fundamentalists".

Prince Bandar say the Wahhabi are perfectly good world citizens.

Don't you believe him?

The most zealous of us constantly get derailed by their obsessions. Some of us are derailed in our quest by money. Or power. Or sex.

Or by the shadows on the wall.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

With that kind of pocket change, he has a job

It's good to see the Bush economy has produced yet another entrepreneurial spirit:

DETROIT - A man was arrested at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after officials say they found him carrying more than $78,000 in cash and a laptop computer containing information about nuclear materials and cyanide.

Sisayehiticha Dinssa, an unemployed U.S. citizen, was arrested Tuesday after a dog caught the scent of narcotics on cash he was carrying, according to an affidavit filed in court.

When agents asked him if he had any cash to declare, he said he had $18,000, authorities said. But when agents checked his luggage, they found an additional $59,000. When they scrolled through his laptop, they said they found the mysterious files...

Dinssa, who is from Dallas, arrived in Detroit from Nigeria by way of Amsterdam and was headed for Phoenix...

Coming into the country.

"Meet the New Boss...

same as the old boss"- William Rivers Pitt:

...Carlyle manages more than $44 billion in 42 different investment funds, which is an interesting fact in and of itself: Carlyle could lay claim to only a meager $12 billion in funds in December of 2001. Thanks to their ownership of United Defense Industries, a major military contractor that sells a whole galaxy of weapons systems to the Pentagon, Carlyle's profits skyrocketed after the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Some notable present and former employees of Carlyle include former president George H.W. Bush, who resigned in 2003; James Baker III, Bush Sr.'s secretary of state and king fixer; and George W. Bush, who served on Carlyle's board of directors until his run for the Texas governorship. One notable former client of Carlyle was the Saudi BinLaden Group, which sold its investment back to the firm a month after the September 11 attacks. Until the October 2001 sellout, Osama bin Laden himself had a financial interest in the same firm that employed the two presidents Bush.

...There is much more to this than Big George simply trying to shove Little George in a different direction, because Big George never travels alone. All of a sudden, two of the elder's main men - James Baker III and Robert Gates - are back in the saddle. Baker has spent the last weeks riding herd over the Iraq Study Group, a collection of old foreign policy hands tasked to come up with a solution to the Iraq debacle. Gates was a member of this group until he was tapped to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. The Iraq Study Group is slated to produce some tablets of wisdom come December.

A third member of the Iraq Study Group, former congressman Lee Hamilton, is the rope that ties this curious historical package together. During the Reagan days, Hamilton was chairman of the committee investigating the Iran/Contra scandal that nearly submarined Reagan's presidency and haunted Bush Sr. until his defeat in 1992. In essence, Hamilton took Reagan's people at their word when they assured the chairman that neither Reagan nor Bush were "in the loop" regarding the arms-for-hostages deal.

History and investigation have proven this to be quite separate from the truth... It is worthwhile to note that the man who brought the most pressure upon Hamilton within Congress to be "bipartisan" and avoid a protracted investigation was then-Wyoming representative Dick Cheney.

One of the men spared prosecution in the Iran/Contra scandal, thanks in no small part to the gentility of Mr. Hamilton, was Robert Gates. Gates, then a senior official within the CIA, was widely believed to have been neck-deep in the plot. During the investigation into the scandal, Gates parroted Reagan and claimed not to remember when he knew what he knew about everything that was happening down in Ollie North's office. In 1991, he was nominated and eventually appointed to be the head of CIA by Bush Sr. During his confirmation hearings, according to the New York Times, it was revealed that "Mr. Gates [had] distorted intelligence reports so they would conform to the political beliefs of his superiors."

That sounds familiar.

Gates's nomination to the post of secretary of defense was field-generaled behind the scenes by James Baker III, who has suddenly taken on a muscular role within the Bush White House since the spectacular Republican wipeout during the midterm elections last Tuesday. Baker's return, along with the new prominence of Bush Sr., has been hailed in the mainstream press as a healthy step toward stability and sanity.

One is forced to wonder, however, which masters Mr. Baker is actually serving. Baker's Carlyle Group has profited wildly from the conflict in Iraq, which begs the question: will the bottom line, augmented by Carlyle's defense contracts, trump any attempts to establish a just and lasting peace? It must also be noted that Baker's law firm, Baker Botts, is currently serving as defense counsel for Saudi Arabia against a suit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. The connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royals have been discussed ad nauseam, and Mr. Baker is so closely entwined with the Bush clan that he might as well be a blood relative.

The weakening of George W. Bush, in short, has opened the door for an alumnus of the Iran/Contra scandal, Robert Gates, to gain control of the Pentagon - his nomination, as yet, has met with little Congressional resistance. This process was managed by James Baker, whose Carlyle Group made billions off the Iraq occupation and whose fealty to the American people has all too often taken a back seat to the needs and desires of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. These two, along with Hamilton, have been instrumental in crafting, by way of the Iraq Study Group, what by all accounts will soon be America's foreign policy lynchpin in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.

Behind it all is George H.W. Bush, former employee of Carlyle, who has somehow managed to refashion his reputation into that of a grandfatherly, level-headed, steady hand, a foreign policy "realist" whose mere presence will soothe and calm the troubled waters we sail in. Unfortunately, his "realism" is a significant reason the United States finds itself in its current mess - until the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was a boon confederate of both the Reagan and Bush administrations in their fight against Iran - and the team of experts he has brought with him have done more to undermine the national security of the country than any other three people one could name.

The winner in all this, of course, is the Carlyle Group. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.