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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

All Terra All the Time


[thanks to maru for the pic]


Now does it strike anyone else as noteworthy that Britain gets fed up with Ian Blair and his Iraqi chimp-and-poodle routine, $elects a new Prime Minister in Gordon Brown, and the terra boys start getting all rowdy there again?

Like Larry Johnson sez, not particularly bright terra boys at that. But scary enuff for Faux, MSGOP, and CNN to show the same pics, oh, what at least 120 times an hour all day and night.

Boy howdy that sure got Dear Leader's ass kicking on the Immigration "issue-you-a-number-and-a-microchip" legistlation and Scooter's new digs off the air, didn't it?

Now I'd be the last to suggest the Company directly controls chumps like this.

What the Company does control is likely to be their bankroll, through more layers of proxies than even David Addington can keep track of. Need-to-know and plausible deniability and all that. When the Boss sez go, it's jihad-time.

Even if the trainees feel a curious need to bail out instead of immolate themselves for Allah, being insufficiently indoctrinated because they got the order to go now from Somebody with Authoriteh.

It slices with Occam's razor- because all these chumps managed to do is get themselves badly burned and arrested.

And likely a one way trip to a secret prison. Where they will spill exactly the best beans those in the know deem neccessary to keep the Endless War rockin' on a roll.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Shadow Reich


Darth Cheney considers energy pricing before the 2008 $elections



It's your basic Invisible Empire, and it's quite profitable.



Even the people busy trying to shoot it down can't believe how powerful it's become. It's like Krugman said back in 2003. There's been a revolution, and the old guard is still fighting the last campaign, unable to accept the opposition is doing the unthinkable.

Like Joe Bageant points out, the real Invisible Empire makes use of its hand puppets and gives them useful positions to defend:

... For instance, according to the famous Morris Dees, whose Southern Poverty Law Center pulls in some $40 million a year mainly from the hate crime industry, my home state of Virginia has 31 organized hate groups. Now as much as I have criticized Republican Virginia in print as one of the stupidest and cruelest damned places in America, and though the ANSWP commander Bill White lives in Roanoke, Virginia, even I don't believe there are anywhere near 31 organized hate groups here, and certainly none that are beating people in some unseen alley. Hell, ANSWP by its own count, presently has 227 members nationwide, and picks up maybe 30 more virtual members monthly via the Internet. Not too many people get beaten up in alleys by Internet Nazi wannabes who think Swastika bling is cool looking stuff.

But when it comes to beating folks up, this country has nearly a million people legally authorized to beat, kidnap at gunpoint (arrest) and kill if deemed necessary, a large portion of which exercise the first two of these rights thousands of times daily. At last count in 2002 America had 14,254 law enforcement agencies employing 675,734 sworn officers and 294,854 civilians. With the "war on terror," heaven only knows how many have been added.

Public protest usually provides a glimpse into this force, and every year we see more smuggled videotapes that somehow seldom make the news. Jumpy footage of ordinary folks beaten with wooden clubs, shocked with Tasers, and riddled with rubber bullets, even while on their knees praying. Elderly protesters of Miami's free trade zone were Maced in the face and dragged across the ground in handcuffs and a female reporter testified she was forced to strip before male cops. People who bother to find and watch these videos on the Internet keep saying the same thing over and over again: "This is not America." Unfortunately, it is...

Four-fifths of the American Nazi's platform is attractive to white working Americans (the other 20%, anti-Semitism and racist, come with the package and conveniently offer someone to blame). American Nazis promote bringing all foreign jobs back to America, the nationalization of Wal-Mart, reestablishing small farms and the supremacy of working class whites. Be thankful working class Americans are not yet exposed to it in significant numbers. But as push comes to shove, and working mooks discover that the bottom has completely dropped out of all their presumed security and civil liberties, they will be ripe for the kind of change not being offered by either major party in this country.


Not offered by either major party, perhaps, but look at the security for sale to the Discriminating bidder.

Liberation Biology



What your oil company really hates about 21st century biology.

Scientists at the institute directed by J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, are reporting that they have successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another, an achievement they see as a major step toward creating synthetic forms of life...

His goal is to make cells that might take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and produce methane, used as a feedstock for other fuels. Such an achievement might reduce dependency on fossil fuels and strike a blow at global warming...


As you all know (all of you that know me anyway), I'm just a simple biomedical research faculty at the University of Michigan given to whims and vapors and ideas that keep me employed but often upset the tenured faculty around me. This idea of Venter's is something I've been advocating ever since the Enron-Cheneyburton presidency stole the $election in 2000. The basic ideas are here, here, and here.

So this is a good thing. You can not run worldwide economies and take care of billions of people, much less move into the greater multiverse, without an economically viable source of renewable energy. Without destroying the forests.

Back to Venter:

...Biologists have long been able to move useful genes into bacteria and other organisms in a process called genetic engineering. The idea of synthetic biology is to carry out genetic engineering in a more extensive and systematic way.

Synthetic biologists, who held their third annual meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, this week, hope to create biochemical processes and then choose the gene sequences that will direct these processes and build the DNA from scratch. The scientists’ goal is to select and reorder the genetic machinery developed by evolution just as an engineer might assemble an efficient circuit board from existing components.

Dr. Venter hopes to lay the basis for a new approach to synthetic biology by first synthesizing whole genomes in the laboratory and then making them take control of, or “boot up,” a living cell. His new report accomplishes the second of the two steps, at least in Mycoplasma. His team, which includes a distinguished biologist, Hamilton Smith, purified the full DNA from one kind of Mycoplasma and showed that it could take control of another, making the host cell switch over to producing proteins specified by the inserted DNA. Dr. Smith said he was not sure whether the inserted genome destroyed the host genome or just made the cell divide, assigning the two genomes to different daughter cells.

Booting up cells with new genomes is a major limitation in synthetic biology, Dr. Venter said. With that hurdle now crossed, it will be possible to “design cells in future to manufacture new types of fuel and break our dependency on oil and do something about carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere...”

Dr. Venter is more colorful and less publicity shy than most academic biologists. But he has many solid achievements to his credit. They have so far been in sequencing, or decoding, genomes.

He pioneered methods for sequencing the first bacterium, Haemophilus influenzae, and raced the government to a draw in sequencing a draft version of the human genome in June 2000. Though unable to produce a complete version because he was forced out of Celera, the company he headed, Dr. Venter devised a better method than his government-supported rivals, one that has become the standard way to sequence genomes.

Dr. Venter has always sought academic credit by publishing his results in scientific journals and now directs a nonprofit research laboratory in Rockville, Md., the J. Craig Venter Institute. But he has another foot firmly planted in the commercial world. He has set up, and the Venter Institute largely owns, Synthetic Genomics, whose goal is to make alternative fuels to oil and coal. He has also applied for far-reaching patents on the uses of synthetic life forms.

The report today may be less significant if his research team is unable to repeat the success in more useful organisms than the Mycoplasma bacterium. Dr. Church said a quite similar experiment with Escherichia coli, a standard laboratory organism, was accomplished in 1958 by two French scientists, Fran├žois Jacob and E. L. Wollman...


In truth, the technology has been around awhile. But with someone as visible as Venter espousing the use of biotechnology to overcome the dependency on fossil fuels, one can only hope it's a matter of time.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Fourth Reich of Government

Big Time Dick has finally hit it. Last week he made prime time when he dissed the Congressional Oversight Committee and the National Archives in the same breath.

He can't move behind the scenes any more so easily from his secret undisclosed location, because face it, he's everwhere, and he can't hide it all.

Steve Clemmons points to the official litany of the Cheneyburton sins against the nation in The Washington Pravda.

So the DC cocktail weenie circuit is getting increasingly shrill. They've known for a long time the game isn't played by the rulebook. But whether it's Abu Gonzo trying to build and improve the Incredible Caging Machine or Big Time himself, the players increasingly can't hide their agenda and their lack of respect for outdated notions like the Constitution or the rule of Law.

Not that the cocktail weenie pundits care much for that rule of Law stuff either, laws being what the Man uses to keep the rabble in line, and of course not applicable to the Right Sort of People.

Look a how the insiders responded to Scooter Libby facing the slammer... but the $ystem, curiously, sent him there anyway. Hopefully to learn how to sing, but you never know. Abrams never did, and the Company repaid him quite nicely.

What makes the Party elite posture against the Endless War that's going to continue to enrich them no matter who's Codpiece in Chief? What bothers the Rethuglicans in Congress enough to buck the Company in its efforts to legalize corporate slavery? My bad, the Immigration Compromise hammered out between Bu$hCo and the DINOcrats.

Why, it's the realization of the Congresscritters in Bu$hie's own Party that they're all not Skull & Bones boys, that they don't all have a pappy like Poppy, and that if democracy is totally dead the way Shooter and the Company Board want, even in its forms, they're going to be stuck with their own little piece of the pie. They're going to be sent home and told to eat their cake just like the little people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Intentions



[with thanks to the master of the dismal science, the Dark Wraith]

The Dark Wraith leads me to wonder if Elliot Abrams has some good friends in Afghanistan who can help the Cheneyburton administration with their creative financing of the fourth branch of government, too.

Those of you who MUST think...

...will doubtless be relieved to know corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of money in an election year to tell you what to think.

As long as they don't, you know, mention a candidate specifically.



Aren't you glad the DINOcrats in Congress united for the good of the country to allow the installation $election appointment of the two droids liver flukes men on the left?

For the rest of you who can't be bothered with that "thinking"- after all, it only hurts when you do it- Paris Hilton's been released from jail again!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Making Afghanistan Safer for Opium

Again.

VIENNA, Austria - Afghanistan produced dramatically more opium in 2006, increasing its yield by nearly 50 percent from a year earlier and pushing global opium production to a new record high, a U.N. report said Tuesday.

The annual report also found that the estimated level of global drug use has remained more or less unchanged for the third year, although cannabis use continues to decline in North America.

Afghanistan's opium production increased from about 4,500 tons in 2005 to 6,700 tons in 2006, according to the 2007 World Drug Report released by the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Opium is the main ingredient for heroin...


That's a record almost every year since we made Afghanistan safer for Unocal.

It seemed at one time this was an error in the strategery.



But with every day it becomes clearer Chaos is the plan.

It's Purely a $ymbiotic Relationship



Someone who didn't know better might think Somebody was starting to worry:

Shortly after 9/11, Senator Bob Graham, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for “a symbiotic relationship between the intelligence community and the private sector.” They say you should be careful what you wish for.

In the intervening years a huge espionage-industrial complex has developed, as government spymasters outsourced everything from designing surveillance technology to managing case officers overseas. Today less than half of the staff at the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington are actual government employees, The Los Angeles Times reports; at the C.I.A. station in Islamabad, Pakistan, contractors sometimes outnumber employees by three to one.



So just how much of the intelligence budget goes to private contracts? Because that budget is highly classified, and many intelligence contracts are allocated without oversight or competitive bidding, it seemed we would never know. Until last month, that is: a procurement executive from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence gave a PowerPoint presentation at a conference in Colorado and let slip a staggering statistic — private contracts now account for 70 percent of the intelligence budget...




So again we should ask: why is the Paper of Record a month behind the people who really know what's really going on? R. J. Hillhouse caught this when it happened, and gave a link to the original Powerpoint presentation this Bu$hCo idiot posted on the web. Notice: that's a .mil site that will get you noticed if you actually go there.

Of course, you're probably already noticed. You're looking at this site, aren't you?



Back to the baby food in Pravda:

...As it happened, the dot-com bubble had burst shortly before 9/11, cutting loose a generation of technology entrepreneurs who, when the government came calling, were only too happy to start developing new data-mining algorithms and biometric identification programs. New startups began sprouting in the suburbs around Washington. The number of “contractor facilities” cleared by the National Security Agency grew from 41 in 2002 to 1,265 in 2006. It was a gold rush, a national security bubble.



Seeing this emerging market, the traditional Beltway Bandits — military-industrial giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — established intelligence and homeland security divisions. At Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm one former C.I.A. official called “the shadow intelligence community,” revenue has doubled since 2000.



...one (very big) contractor, and one (very big) contract. In 2002, Science Applications International Corporation, a San Diego behemoth with more than 40,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue, received a $280 million contract from the National Security Agency to modernize its systems for sifting through the vast flows of information it intercepts. The project was called Trailblazer. By 2005, costs had ballooned to over $1 billion and the system had still not gotten off the ground. One C.I.A. veteran familiar with the program has declared it “a complete and abject failure.”

Trailblazer was a notorious boondoggle, but it wasn’t the biggest. That prize goes to the Future Imagery Architecture, a contract Boeing won before 9/11, in 1999, to develop a new generation of spy satellites that could photograph targets from space.

Inexperienced at building satellites with optical lenses, Boeing started missing deadlines and exceeding cost estimates almost immediately. By the time the Pentagon took the program away from Boeing in 2005, it was five years behind schedule and had cost $10 billion, including $4 billion in cost overruns. For contractors, this sort of failure is seldom punished — it’s often rewarded. Many contracts are “cost plus,” meaning there will be no penalty if a contractor wildly exceeds the initial projection. Better still, a contractor can break something, then bid for the job of putting it back together. When the N.S.A. wanted to create another program, ExecuteLocus, to replace Science Applications International’s failed Trailblazer, it needed a contractor to build it. Who got the job? Science Applications.



The orthodoxy of privatization — that it’s the government that’s mired by inefficiency and a lack of competition — has been turned on its head in the intelligence industry. However patriotic, contractors must ultimately answer to their shareholders and the bottom line. There’s more than one way to read Lockheed Martin’s recent advertising slogan: “We never forget who we’re working for.”

It’s not just the money that flows out the door, either: it’s also the people, as the companies offer hefty raises to government employees who join their ranks. A recent report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that “contractors recruit our own employees, already cleared and trained at government expense, and then ‘lease’ them back to us at considerably greater expense.”



This process — called “bidding back” — has created a brain drain. Two-thirds of the Department of Homeland Security’s senior officials and experts have departed for private industry. Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, worries that his agency has become “a farm team for these contractors.”

The revolving door helps firms score more contracts. Federal law prohibits executive branch officials from lobbying former colleagues after leaving public office — but just for the first year. Can a government acquisitions officer who might someday like a job at a contractor really evaluate the contractor’s bid objectively?



William Black Jr. left the National Security Agency in 1997, after a 38-year career, to become a vice president at Science Applications. He returned to the agency as deputy director in 2000, and shortly thereafter the Trailblazer contract was awarded to his former employer. Nothing illegal here, but is there not at least the appearance of a conflict of interest? The good news is that Congress seems to have finally caught on to the scale of the problem. The intelligence authorization bill that passed the House last month included an amendment that would require the director of national intelligence to submit a report on the functions performed by contractors, the ways contracts are vetted, and the savings associated with outsourcing. The Senate Intelligence Committee explicitly chided the spy agencies earlier this month for “increasing reliance on contractors.” In response, the C.I.A. announced that it would pare the number of contractors by 10 percent...




Now that's the funniest thing I've heard all day.

Bu$hCo has thrown open the door of the most intelligent and devious people the government employs to the profit incentive. What the old Soviet bloc Spy vs Spy had to offer the enterprising spook is nothing like what the corporate empire of 'Merika can offer.

Of course, I am sure the CIA will do exactly what it says it will do.

They, of course, have the best interests of 'Merika in mind.

The War Against Liberation Biology

Avedon points towards Johann Hari's post on the ability of religious fundamentalists to halt liberation biology's drive to improve humanity's well being worldwide.



In the black gloop of down-beat news on global warming and Iraq, we sometimes forget that, in at least one respect, we are living through a shimmering moment of progress that should fill us with awe. The twenty-first century is - as the science writer Ronald Bailey puts it - an era of Liberation Biology. Every week now, scientists are steadily defusing the diseases that have cut human life short for millennia, and stolen from us the grandparents we never knew or the lovers who died too soon. They are setting us free.

Only yesterday, it was revealed by Yale University scientists that they have been able to make it possible for primates with severe Parkinson's disease to walk, move and eat unaided, by injecting them with human neural stem cells. The implications for further research into humans are obvious - and dazzling.

Even those of us who are not privileged to be scientists can get the gist of what is happening. In 1998, researchers were first able to isolate embryonic stem cells - immature cells taken from human embyros that are no bigger than a speck of dust. These cells matter because they have the potential to develop into many different types of tissue. Scientists are now slowly trying to discover which molecular signals make them develop in different ways.

If they can unlock this code - if they can make the cells grow into whatever we need - they will be able to transplant nerve cells into broken spines, making the lame walk. They will be able to inject insulin-producing cells into diabetics. They will be able to generate motor neurone cells to treat Parkinson's. And on the list goes, each one freeing millions of humans from misery.

But - incredibly - there is a large slice of humanity who stubbornly refuses to see any of this as progress. Instead, they see it as a massacre.

The religious backlash against Liberation Biology has been viciously successful, holding back scientific progress in almost every part of the world. In Nigeria, Islamic Mullahs have this year successfully prevented the World Health Organisation from finally eradicating polio from the human condition, by claiming the vaccine is part of an "anti-Islamic plot" and ordering their congregations to refuse it...


And we all know about the christianist crusade agin' evolution and stem cells in 'Merika.

...In the US, President Bush again pledged this week to veto legislation sent to him by Congress that would permit federal funds to be used for stem-cell research. And - lest we Europeans get smug - Britain is about to introduce new laws restricting the development of 'hybrid embryos' that will slowly strangle life-saving research.

This is all part of an old story: the conflict between science and religion. For all the prattling by bishops that there is "no incompatibility here", in reality they are based on fundamentally contrasting ways of understanding the world. Science is based on strict empirical observation of the world, and deductions based on reason from it. Faith is based on divine revelation (that is, hallucination), or following the words of men who claim to have experienced it.

This battle has been playing out every since modern science developed. The religious damned vaccinations, autopsies, IVF, and even the introduction of pasturised milk. Today, they are trying to halt the latest wave of Liberation Biology because they claim that blastocysts - hollow spheres of cells almost invisible to the naked eye - are "human beings," and therefore cannot be harvested for life-saving stem cells.

What fact or reason can they point to, to make this point? There are none. We can see through empirical observation that blastocysts have no brains, no thoughts, no capacity to feel pain. So the religious ignore empirical fact. Instead, they say that an invisible, intangible thing called "the soul" magically appears at the moment of conception. How do they know? They just do. Okay?

These beliefs have animated the hardcore evangelical base in the US to fight to retard and supress research - and they have won. If they can delay research in America - which is the world's laboratory, due to its pro-science Enlightenment constitution - they can do it anywhere...


Back in 2004 Stirling Newberry wrote an essay on the fusion of the chrisitianists with the aristocrat wanna-bee families here in 'Merika.

Those who would rule us are using religion and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels to make a whole lot of money in the short-term, consolidate their version of reality in the weak-minded to the point of blind obedience, and in the long term send most of the world into a post-industrial preliterate neofeudal state over the next few generations.

Liberation biology is a great term, and exact description of the greatest danger to the plans of the hegemons in the world today.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, and the next Democrat for President are All Al-Qaeda

Glen Greenwald on the latest propaganda being catapulted by Bu$hCo and whole heartedly being embraced by the Pentagram Pentagon.

...That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term "Al Qaeda" to designate "anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq" is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as "Al Qaeda."

But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. I don't think the New York Times has published a story about Iraq in the last two weeks without stating that we are killing "Al Qaeda fighters," capturing "Al Qaeda leaders," and every new operation is against "Al Qaeda."

The Times -- typically in the form of the gullible and always-government-trusting "reporting" of Michael Gordon, though not only -- makes this claim over and over, as prominently as possible, often without the slightest questioning, qualification, or doubt. If your only news about Iraq came from The New York Times, you would think that the war in Iraq is now indistinguishable from the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan -- that we are there fighting against the people who hijacked those planes and flew them into our buildings: "Al Qaeda."

What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."

But after his 2004 re-election was secure, even the President acknowledged that "Al Qaeda" was the smallest component of the "enemies" we are fighting in Iraq:

"A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. . . .

"The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. . . .

"The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda."

And note that even for the "smallest" group among those we are fighting in Iraq, the president described them not as "Al Qaeda," but as those "affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda." Claiming that our enemy in Iraq was comprised primarily or largely of "Al Qaeda" was too patently false even for the President to invoke in defense of his war.

But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda." This strategy was first unveiled by Joe Lieberman when he went on Meet the Press in January and claimed that the U.S. was "attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we're fighting in Iraq today". Though Lieberman was widely mocked at the time for his incomparable willingness to spew even the most patent falsehoods to justify the occupation, our intrepid political press corps now dutifully follows right along...


Joe Lieberman, the Good DINOcrat, who obviously isn't Al Qaeda. He's Likud.

Greenwald goes on to chronicle the events of last week as reported in Pravda, with the surge against the Al Qaeda in Baghdad and the North, who mysteriously disappeared among the population. Because, of course, most insurgents are the population, and chances are they're using weapons against us we gave them two weeks ago. Oh: and they're also using them against the real Al Qaeda, 'cause they don't like Wahhabists.

...Making matters much worse, this tactic was exposed long, long ago. From the Christian Science Monitor in September, 2005:

"The US and Iraqi governments have vastly overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, and most of them don't come from Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). According to a piece in The Guardian, this means the US and Iraq "feed the myth" that foreign fighters are the backbone of the insurgency. While the foreign fighters may stoke the insurgency flames, they make up only about 4 to 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgents."

And in January of this year, the Cato Institute published a detailed analysis -- entitled "The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq" -- by Ted Galen Carpenter, its vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, documenting that claims of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is "a canard that the perpetrators of the current catastrophe use to frighten people into supporting a fatally flawed, and seemingly endless, nation-building debacle."

What is always most striking about this is how uncritically our press passes on government claims...


Well, only surprising if you don't take into account that most our press is owned by the same corporations that are making money hand over fist on the Endless War on Terra.

“Far too many people know far too much.”

...but, comfortingly for the Killer Klown Kommander seem prepared to do far too little.

White House of Mirrors

President Bush has turned the executive branch into a two-way mirror. They get to see everything Americans do: our telephone calls, e-mail, and all manner of personal information. And we get to see nothing about what they do.

Everyone knows this administration has disdained openness and accountability since its first days. That is about the only thing it does not hide. But recent weeks have produced disturbing disclosures about just how far Mr. Bush’s team is willing to go to keep lawmakers and the public in the dark.

That applies to big issues — like the C.I.A.’s secret prisons — and to things that would seem too small-bore to order up a cover-up.

Vice President Dick Cheney sets the gold standard, placing himself not just above Congress and the courts but above Mr. Bush himself. For the last four years, he has been defying a presidential order requiring executive branch agencies to account for the classified information they handle. When the agency that enforces this rule tried to do its job, Mr. Cheney proposed abolishing the agency.

Mr. Cheney, who has been at the heart of the administration’s darkest episodes, has bizarre reasons for doing that. The Times reported that the vice president does not consider himself a mere member of the executive branch. No, he decided the vice president is also a lawmaker — because he is titular president of the Senate — and does not have to answer to the executive branch. That is absurd, but if that’s how he wants it, we presume Mr. Cheney will stop claiming executive privilege to withhold information from his fellow congressmen.

Since the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Bush has tried to excuse his administration’s obsession with secrecy by saying that dangerous times require greater discretion. He rammed the Patriot Act through Congress with a promise that national security agencies would make sure the new powers were not abused.

But on June 14, The Washington Post reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation potentially broke the law or its own rules several thousand times over the past five years when it used the Patriot Act to snoop on domestic phone calls, e-mail and financial transactions of ordinary Americans.

We knew that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was not protecting anybody’s rights or America’s reputation. It turns out that John Rizzo, the man charged with safeguarding the Constitution at the Central Intelligence Agency, isn’t either. After serving as the C.I.A.’s deputy general counsel or acting general counsel for the entire Bush administration, he was nominated as general counsel more than a year ago. But the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, would not schedule even a pro forma confirmation hearing because the Democrats wanted documents that the C.I.A. wanted to keep, well, secret.

Last week, the committee held that hearing under Democratic leadership, and Mr. Rizzo kept insisting that he shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t give away any secrets. But he was still illuminating — in a scary way.

When he was asked his view of the administration’s infamous decision to define torture so narrowly that it allowed widespread abuse of prisoners, he merely said the policy was “overbroad” for the circumstances, raising the troubling question of when he thinks it would not be overbroad to torture prisoners. Mr. Rizzo also refused to say whether the United States had ever sent a prisoner to another country knowing he would be tortured. He made it sound like he was safeguarding secrets, but we suspect the real reason was that the answer is “yes.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Rizzo, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and the rest of the administration are still stonewalling about the existence of C.I.A. prisons. Earlier this month, the Council of Europe, a 46-nation human rights group, provided new, persuasive evidence of secret American prisons in Eastern Europe where prisoners were kept naked in cramped cells, subjected to hot or freezing blasts of air and subjected to water-boarding, or simulated drowning. American rights groups released a list of 39 men they say disappeared into secret prisons.

Incredibly, the lies and secrecy shrouding this administration are not enough for Mr. Rizzo. Sounding an awful lot like Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, he told the senators, “Far too many people know far too much.”

Governments have to keep secrets. But this administration has grossly abused that trust, routinely using claims of national security to hide policies that are immoral and almost certainly illegal, to avoid embarrassment, and to pursue Mr. Bush’s dreams of an imperial presidency.


It's always nice to see the editorial board of a major newspaper wake up and smell the coffee, even if the brew is seven years old, bone dry and moldy.

It would be a little more comforting if the press was a little more proactive.

It would be a little more comforting if this didn't have the appearance of a group of politicos primarily disturbed that even with a 25% approval rating the Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton bureaucracy is setting itself up to do in 2008 what it did in 2004 and 2000.

It would be a little more comforting if all the insiders in the opposition party didn't seem to want all the powers the Imperial preznit has claimed for his very own.

Frank Rich notices this curious inertia and sees part of the scenery behind the two mirror:

...Last weekend the latest custodians of the fiasco, our new commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and our new ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, took to the Sunday shows with two messages we'd be wise to heed.

The first was a confirmation of recent White House hints that the long-promised September pivot point for judging the success of the "surge" was inoperative. That deadline had been asserted as recently as April 24 by President Bush, who told Charlie Rose that September was when we'd have "a pretty good feel" whether his policy "made sense." On Sunday General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker each downgraded September to merely a "snapshot" of progress in Iraq. "Snapshot," of course, means "Never mind!"

The second message was more encoded and more ominous. Again using similar language, the two men said that in September they would explain what Mr. Crocker called "the consequences" and General Petraeus "the implications" of any alternative "courses of action" to their own course in Iraq. What this means in English is that when the September "snapshot" of the surge shows little change in the overall picture, the White House will say that "the consequences" of winding down the war would be even more disastrous: surrender, defeat, apocalypse now. So we must stay the surge. Like the war's rollout in 2002, the new propaganda offensive to extend and escalate the war will be exquisitely timed to both the anniversary of 9/11 and a high-stakes Congressional vote (the Pentagon appropriations bill).

General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker wouldn't be sounding like the Bobbsey Twins and laying out this coordinated rhetorical groundwork were they not already anticipating the surge's failure...


The reality is that success never was an option. Success tends to finalize things. This is supposed to go on and on and on, the Energizer Bunny of the war machine:

...Precipitous withdrawal is also a chimera, since American manpower, materiel and bases, not to mention our new Vatican City-sized embassy, can't be drawn down overnight. The only real choice, as everyone knows, is an orderly plan for withdrawal that will best serve American interests. The real debate must be over what that plan is. That debate can't happen as long as the White House gets away with falsifying reality, sliming its opponents and sowing hyped fears of Armageddon. The threat that terrorists in civil-war-torn Iraq will follow us home if we leave is as bogus as Saddam's mushroom clouds. The Qaeda that actually attacked us on 9/11 still remains under the tacit protection of our ally, Pakistan...


It is obvious the problem is far too many people knowing far too much, for our government is far too public and far too obviously far too corrupt to halt the far too profitable war machine.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Conspiracy Theory Rock

Check out videos like this compiled here at Brave New Films.

[thanks to Mike Finnigan at Crooks and Liars]

Friday, June 22, 2007

Terra Futures

The farsighted investor will doubtless know where the real money will be:

Darfur conflict heralds era of wars triggered by climate change, UN report warns

· Drought and advancing desert blamed for tensions
· Chad and southern Africa also at risk from warming

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Saturday June 23, 2007
The Guardian

The conflict in Darfur has been driven by climate change and environmental degradation , which threaten to trigger a succession of new wars across Africa unless more is done to contain the damage, according to a UN report published yesterday.

"Darfur ... holds grim lessons for other countries at risk," an 18-month study of Sudan by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) concludes.

With rainfall down by up to 30% over 40 years and the Sahara advancing by well over a mile every year, tensions between farmers and herders over disappearing pasture and evaporating water holes threaten to reignite the half-century war between north and south Sudan, held at bay by a precarious 2005 peace accord.



The southern Nuba tribe, for example, have warned they could "restart the war" because Arab nomads - pushed southwards into their territory by drought - are cutting down trees to feed their camels.

The UNEP investigation into links between climate and conflict in Sudan predicts that the impact of climate change on stability is likely to go far beyond its borders. It found there could be a drop of up to 70% in crop yields in the most vulnerable areas of the Sahel, an ecologically fragile belt stretching from Senegal to Sudan. "It illustrates and demonstrates what is increasingly becoming a global concern," said Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director. "It doesn't take a genius to work out that as the desert moves southwards there is a physical limit to what [ecological] systems can sustain, and so you get one group displacing another."

He also pointed to incipient conflicts in Chad "at least in part associated with environmental changes", and to growing tensions in southern Africa fuelled by droughts and flooding.

Estimates of the dead from the Darfur conflict, which broke out in 2003, range from 200,000 to 500,000. The immediate cause was a regional rebellion, to which Khartoum responded by recruiting Arab militias, the janjaweed, to wage a campaign of ethnic cleansing against African civilians. The UNEP study suggests the true genesis of the conflict pre-dates 2003 and is to be found in failing rains and creeping desertification. It found that:

· The desert in northern Sudan has advanced southwards by 60 miles over the past 40 years;

· Rainfall has dropped by 16%-30%;

· Climate models for the region suggest a rise of between 0.5C and 1.5C between 2030 and 2060;

· Yields in the local staple, sorghum, could drop by 70%.

In the Washington Post, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, argued: "Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand - an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change."



In turn, the Darfur conflict has exacerbated Sudan's environmental degradation, forcing more than two million people into refugee camps. Deforestation has been accelerated while underground aquifers are being drained.

A peace deal signed last year by rebels and the Khartoum government broke down, but this month President Omar al-Bashir said he would accept the deployment of a joint UN and African Union force. He has reneged on similar pledges, but UN diplomats are hopeful this one will stick. However, the UNEP report warns that no peace will last without sustained investment in containing environmental damage and adapting to climate change. Mr Steiner said: "Simply to return people to the situation there were in before is a high-risk strategy."

The G8 summit ended in Germany with consensus over the severity of the climate change problem but no agreement on how it should be contained. A common approach is supposed to be negotiated under UN auspices at the end of the year.


Alas, you can not negotiate rainfall, or halt the advance of the sand, or the entrepreneurial and profitable sale of weapons to people that want to use them all over the world.

The only water that will flow is the blood of those who think violence will solve the deterioration of their world.

Violence is sold as a solution by those profiting from the sale.

In a world of Endless War, the sure money's on that which the fighting's all about.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Solstice



If you could turn off the atmosphere's ability to scatter overwhelming sunlight, today's daytime sky might look something like this ... with the Sun surrounded by the stars of the constellations Taurus and Gemini. Of course, today is the Solstice. Traveling along the ecliptic plane, the Sun is at its northernmost position in planet Earth's sky, marking the astronomical beginning of summer in the north. Accurate for the exact time of today's Solstice, this composite image also shows the Sun at the proper scale (about the angular size of the Full Moon). Open star cluster M35 is to the Sun's left, and the other two bright stars in view are Mu and Eta Geminorum. Digitally superimposed on a nighttime image of the stars, the Sun itself is a composite of a picture taken through a solar filter and a series of images of the solar corona recorded during the solar eclipse of February 26, 1998 by Andreas Gada.


Leave it to NASA to be the only source on the web with this shot:



Every other web shot I can find gets the sunrise to one side of the altarstone or the other. This was the only one with the sun in the 'right' place. The astronomer writing the caption simply called it "one of Stonehenge's massive standing stones".

Some how this does not surprise me.

The Fair Folk would laugh at this erudite ignorance.

Crossing the Beams



What else do you expect but total protonic reversal?



Pravda-on-the-Hudson:

...All wanted to avoid a fire sale in the troubled mortgage-securities market, but at the same time, not get stuck with an exploding liability that could result in steep losses. The day ended with deals that appeared to have forestalled a meltdown. But questions remained about how successful they were and whether they had merely delayed the inevitable.

As the morning unfolded, lenders to two hedge funds at a unit of Bear Stearns, the investment bank, tried to ascertain what they could expect if they auctioned off mortgage securities with a face value of up to $2 billion. The solicitations were hastily withdrawn when investors reacted with little enthusiasm. But by the end of the day, some of the less-risky securities did change hands.

At the same time, several lenders, including JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, reached deals with Bear Stearns that forestalled a need to sell securities in the open market. It appeared that some lenders pulled back over concerns about the effect that a large liquidation would have on bond prices and investor confidence. While the securities involved represent a fraction of the market, a liquidation could have forced a bigger sell-off while setting a lower price...

He said it would take time — perhaps several days — for potential buyers to drill down into some of the more complex securities in order to value them before any bids could be prepared. From 33 to 45 percent of the $2 billion in C.D.O.’s on offer by the funds early yesterday were investments in other C.D.O.’s, according to officials who have seen the bid lists.

One worry about the possible unwinding of the Bear funds is that it will cascade into larger liquidations by other investors who hold similar securities at far higher prices. Accounting rules require investment banks to mark the value of the investments to the price of similar assets trading in the market. Many mortgage-related securities, and C.D.O.’s in particular, do not trade frequently, making them hard to value.

“I think people are nervous and trying to figure out what the best course of action is here,” said Jeffrey Gundlach, chief investment officer at the TCW Group, an investment management company with $85 billion in mortgage- and asset-backed securities. “Do you want to be the first one out and perhaps cause the lows to be hit in the market, or do you want to wait and see how this all plays out?”

In fact, rather than aggressively selling the assets it has seized, Merrill is quietly showing it to a small group of potential buyers, according to a person briefed on the process.

Such an approach helps to keep the pricing of the securities under wraps, allowing Wall Street firms to avoid marking down their own stakes. Keeping the sales price quiet also means that the firms may not have to add collateral immediately to shore up their portfolios...




Excuse me... but does this smell like some kind of inverted insider trading? Keeping the price of some critical holdings private so you don't loose your shirt, pants, and Lexus? Perhaps, but it's either that or the whole Ponzi scheme crashes and burns.

The Pravda article ends with some serious whistling past the graveyard:

“Yes, there was too much leverage in the market. Yes, there was too much appetite for risk and yes, that risk was underpriced,” said Mark Adelson, a senior analyst at Nomura Securities in New York. “But there has not been a lick of spillover of this situation in the corporate bond market or stock markets so I don’t think people need to start hoarding food, water and ammunition because the end is coming.”


Nah. Just gold and guns. The other stuff goes bad.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On the Irrational Fear of Hippies

What Digby said.

Just don't go all main$tream on us now, Digby, that the Big Boys know where you live!

If by some miracle the Democrats win in 2008, we'll need people like you to speak Truth Fact to Power the progressive faction of the Carlyle Group more than ever!

A Dirty 4-Letter Word Beginning with the Letter "E"

Every once in a while the hookers at The New York Pravda get tired of the bullshit of their high rolling Johns and actually tell them what they need to hear:

China and the Chest Thumpers

The latest blame China bill, unveiled last week in the Senate, is not as bad as earlier proposals...

The senators behind the bill — Democrats Max Baucus and Charles Schumer and Republicans Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham — bristle at being labeled protectionist, in part because they generally agree that free trade is superior to trade constraints...


Disclaimer: these are still the call girls and boys of the Establishment, and it's their corner.

...There’s also no telling how China would react to mounting protectionism. Weak Asian demand at a recent auction of Treasury debt is one of the reasons behind the latest increase in American interest rates. Rates could rise even more if China retaliated against pressure from the United States by further curtailing its demand for dollar-based assets.

American policy makers are betting that China won’t shun the dollar because doing so would induce losses in its vast dollar-denominated reserves. But when protectionist skirmishing starts, economic logic often breaks down. That’s why it’s better not to make threats in the first place.

It would be better if Congress focused on the problems from globalization that it could actually solve rather than blaming China for America’s economic ills. The problem of American business competitiveness — and Americans’ economic anxiety — would be best addressed by health care reform. The problem of growing income inequality could be ameliorated with a more progressive tax code.

It would also be more constructive if the United States took responsibility for its part in international imbalances. An undervalued yuan is only one aspect, allowing China to sell its goods cheaply and amass huge savings in the process. Another is the United States’ federal budget deficits — which result in large part from serial tax cuts — requiring America to borrow from China and other foreign lenders.

To help restore balance, China should change its currency practices and the United States should change its tax policy. Talks between the two nations need to acknowledge those twin imperatives. That would be a lot wiser than legislation that is based on the false notion of America as an innocent victim, unable to shoulder responsibility for its own problems.


You can bet there is Somebody from Chuckie's office trying to spank Someone for being too pouty in public. But the Pravda boys and girls can't help it. They've got a sweet racket too, and economic wars have this nasty habit of morphing into shooting wars. That would be really bad for business- if it was in their streets or mushrooming over their heads at a million degrees Centigrade.

Still, Chuckie and pals may not be worried much at all about this. Health care reform? No, there is no chance the medical profession is going to allow real health care reform to take place if it cuts their profits. After all, the system works much better if only the Right People go to medical school, and if they graduate with staggering debt, working virtually every waking hour not to heal people, but to pay off the debt and live the good life their social peers expect.

Then there's the other suggestion, that might effect the corpulent felines playing the United Mice of Amerika. Go as far as removing all the tax breaks that ensure the cats at the top stay on top of the food chain, and nothing like a real meritocracy evolves here? Ah, the Gray Lady makes a joke.

Who ever said there was no humor on the Editiorial pages?

Easy solutions. Some people just like to talk dirty, and others just get off on hearing it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

But Do They Know They Have Their Freedom® Now?

Via Think Progress:

70 percent:



Number of Americans who believe that the economy is getting worse, according to a new Gallup poll, “the most negative reading in nearly six years.”





And all this besides record highs in the stock market, record CEO salaries, record profits for the oil companies, and no-bid contracts for The War on Terra.



It's like tristero says: There Lie Monsters.



It's also like they say over at the Gallup Poll:

...The last time Americans held such negative views was in early September 2001, just before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11...


One does smell the change in the air again these days, but perhaps it's simply the tang of carbonic acid.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sign Us Up Next

The BBC, via Nicole Belle:


So will Iraq be Blair's epitaph?
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

...What he had always done - and this is what it may all boil down to in the end, he once again suggested - was what he believed was the right thing...

there was that single word that has hung over everything Mr Blair has done or tried to do since 2003.

It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Tory MP Edward Leigh who gave the most brutal assessment of exactly what Iraq had meant for the prime minister who, he confessed, had been "brilliant" in some areas of his leadership.

Only that one word would be written on Tony Blair's political tombstone, and the prime minister was in denial about it, he suggested.

Did he never allow a smidgeon of doubt to cross his mind that it may have been a mistake, was he ever haunted by the dead or was he too full of self belief to allow any of that, asked Mr Leigh.

Clearly stung, the prime minister said, of course he felt the weight of the responsibility, he was a human being. But he had done what he believed was the right thing.

Then he delivered what has been his default defence of that war.

It is rubbish to suggest the ordinary Arab did not want the democracy they had been given.

"Of course they want it. What country has ever chosen not to be a democracy, it's just nonsense, it's what oppressive people do to justify their oppression, they say democracy and freedom are western values. It's just rubbish, they're universal values of the human spirit and they always will be," he said...


Democracy?

It might have been what they would have wanted, but we never really had any intention of giving it to them.

One wonders who Tony Blair thinks he's fooling. By all appearances, he seems to be fooling himself in public at least. Anyone familiar with his post-Ministry plans might think otherwise:

... Tony Blair is expected to join one of the most exclusive groups of businessmen in the world after he leaves Downing Street.

The PM is being lined up for a highly lucrative position with the Carlyle Group - an American-based investment giant with strong links to the White House and the defense industry.

The firm has been nicknamed "The Ex-Presidents Club" because it has had a host of former world leaders on its books including George Bush Senior, his former secretary of state James Baker and former British PM John Major. There a also a large number of former US Army top brass.

Mr. Blair has been keeping quiet about his plans after his departure from Number 10...

But sources in the City have revealed that he is "seriously considering" a high-profile role with Carlyle - which manages $30billion (£20billion) of investments worldwide.

The job could net Mr. Blair up to £500,000 a year for only a few days work a month giving speeches and making "networking" trips on behalf of the company.


Ah yes, Gandhi's old observation. Western Civilization. What a great idea.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spam and Circuses



p.m. carpenter on Electile Dysfunction:

In 2006 Democratic pols raced around their little fiefdoms or would-be fiefdoms pulling the updated equivalent of the president's rhetorical 9/11-Saddam scam. Just as he never explicitly linked the two, they never quite said, if installed in the majority, they would end this farce of a war in Iraq. But they implied it. They dangled "change" and "new directions" and all manner of muscular confrontations with the executive warmonger.

Then they surprised themselves by winning, which only complicated things. Oh Jesus, what now? They had the wolf by the ears, yet no better idea of what to do then when they were merely promising -- well, sort of promising -- they would do something.

So they proceeded to do what all majoritarian charlatans do when the governmental going gets tough: they engaged battle with resolutions and non-binding pronunciamentoes and blustered and bluffed. They made much noise, accompanied by some merriment and hope in the land. There was an uptick in Congress' approval rating.

Then they broke off from battle, pleading there really wasn't much they could do. They had read the legislative rules and U.S. Constitution, it seems, and discovered a slim majority was no better, really, than a sizable minority, and that the president had this thing called veto power. They would have to back-burner the war issue and move on to domestic matters. So as reported yesterday, "It has been nearly three weeks since Democrats have held a formal Iraq debate or voted on an Iraq proposal in the House or Senate. Not since they assumed the majority in January has there been such a lull."

And lordy lord guess what? "During the three weeks, Congressional approval ratings have fallen." So now they're back, full of bombast again, and this time going whole hog with ... nasty letters. "The American people cannot and should not have to wait until later this year for changes in your flawed Iraq policy," wrote the speaker and Senate majority leader to the president with an insincerity that staggers.

But that bluster is only the half of it. Let's consider their intervening bluster -- that of pausing all that problematic war stuff so they could roll up their sleeves and advance much-needed domestic legislation.

Really? Damn, guys, that's a helluva trick. Somehow, suddenly and miraculously, the presidential veto no longer applied? Somehow a slim majority was now more powerful against a reactionary minority than it was yesterday? Somehow progressive domestic legislation was doable, although antiwar legislation wasn't?

And let us not forget that as long as this country spends two-billion dollars a week on someone else's civil war, any domestic advances, no matter how politically attractive, are simply, absolutely, undeniably unaffordable. The circus barkers know that, meaning they knew their domestic diversion was as impotent as their antiwar bluster.

For six months the "progressive community" has been scammed, fleeced and insulted by the "progressive" powers that be. At least the halfwitted Republican Congress first presented itself to voters in all its halfwitted glory, and, true to its word, proceeded to advance halfwitted domestic legislation and halfwitted wars. Republican pols may have hoodwinked and bamboozled voters as to the wisdom of their priorities, but they said what they were going to do and they did it.

The Republican Congress proved the power of democratic stupidity. The Democratic Congress is merely proving the impotence of democratic fraud...


But it gets richer. The Rethuglican party, it seems, is not to be outdone in the fraud department on its own popular base. On the other hand after last week's Immigration legistlation debacle, with the Company DINOcrats in bed with Dear Leader as the Rethuglicans caved in to their electorate in flyover country, the funding ba$e called in Commander Codpiece to show the Congress who's really boss.

The response was predictable. Digby notes:

...Trent Lott said yesterday, “talk radio is running America." Well, it may not be running America, but it is competing with the big money boyz to run the Republican party and having some success. The big money boyz are coming to regret the monster they created...

...Trent Lott is railing at the out of control rightwing talk radio hosts and Timmeh himself said this on Tucker yesterday:

RUSSERT: Traditionally, Hispanic voters in the 50s and 60s, smaller number obviously, were Republican. Strong family values. Now it`s trending more and more Democratic. The new registrants are overwhelmingly Democratic. And what the political advisers of the president are saying, we cannot afford to have another block like African-Americans, and Hispanic Americans. If we have Hispanics and blacks voting ten to one Democratic, we are in trouble.


Like many progressives, Digby views the myopic behavior of the populist conservative base with the myopia of the populist liberal base. Digby is absolutely right that the main reason most conservatives oppose the Immigration amnesty bill is racist xenophobia.

What many honest Democrats do not realize is that the Kennedy-Bu$h Immigration package codifies a corporate neo-slavery, where corporations will have a mechanism to bring vast numbers of underpaid overworked people with no real chance of gaining citizenship rights in the arcane and expensive process the bill codifies, regardless of the assurances of the law.

What many honest Republicans do not realize is that their own party leaders exist to serve a corporate imperial machine that has destroyed the economic base of much of the world, and whose aggregate greed longs to do at home what they've done for years in the sweatshops abroad.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Great White Meme Returns



Moby Weapons breeches again!

Once again The New York Pravda is giving us the fair and balanced story of the virtuous virtuoso diplomat Kindasleezy Rice doin' her bestest to advocate a non-violent solution to the evildoers in Iraq. But her bestest best still somehow can't face the facts our loveable pirate of a Vice-President and his loyal office crew present: them terra'ist Iraqnis are cooking nukular no-nos in their galley, and if we don't turn and give 'em a salvo soon they'll board us!

Let's look at the lead disinformation of the morning served up for those of you who feel you must think and don't want to read about how Paris Hilton's toenails are chipping in the cooler.

Iran Strategy Stirs Debate at White House
By HELENE COOPER and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: June 16, 2007

WASHINGTON, June 15 — A year after President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a new strategy toward Iran, a behind-the-scenes debate has broken out within the administration over whether the approach has any hope of reining in Iran’s nuclear program, according to senior administration officials.

The debate has pitted Ms. Rice and her deputies, who appear to be winning so far, against the few remaining hawks inside the administration, especially those in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office who, according to some people familiar with the discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

In the year since Ms. Rice announced the new strategy for the United States to join forces with Europe, Russia and China to press Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, Iran has installed more than a thousand centrifuges to enrich uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that 8,000 or so could be spinning by the end of the year, if Iran surmounts its technical problems.

Those hard numbers are at the core of the debate within the administration over whether Mr. Bush should warn Iran’s leaders that he will not allow them to get beyond some yet-undefined milestones, leaving the implication that a military strike on the country’s facilities is still an option.

Even beyond its nuclear program, Iran is emerging as an increasing source of trouble for the Bush administration by inflaming the insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and in Gaza, where it has provided military and financial support to the militant Islamic group Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.

Even so, friends and associates of Ms. Rice who have talked with her recently say she has increasingly moved toward the European position that the diplomatic path she has laid out is the only real option for Mr. Bush, even though it has so far failed to deter Iran from enriching uranium, and that a military strike would be disastrous...


See? We're tryin' to be nice. They just won't let us. And 8,000 gas centrifuges! By the end of the year! An' see? Kindasleezy's tryin' to be a reelist about our conventional capabilities! So if we're gonna be conventional and all she sez we have to side with those chocolate-making surrender monkeys!

It does not matter that this is not an official IAEA report to the UN or letter to Iran, but another anonymous leak. It does not matter that

* The IAEA has condemned the US over a report written by a congressional committee on the nuclear situation in Iran. The leaked report was called erroneous and misleading in a letter sent to Peter Hoekstra. Allegations in the report of why an inspector was dismissed were branded outrageous and dishonest. One unnamed western diplomat called it deja vu of the false reports made by the US administration to justify the invasion of Iraq.

* IAEA officials complain that most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency about Iran's nuclear programme proved to be inaccurate, and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

* On 10 May 2007, Agence France-Presse, quoting un-named diplomats, reported that Iran had blocked IAEA inspectors when they sought access to the Iran's enrichment facility. Both Iran and the IAEA vehemently denied the report. On 11 March, 2007, Reuters quoted International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire, "We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks. Normally we do not comment on such reports but this time we felt we had to clarify the matter...If we had a problem like that we would have to report to the (35-nation IAEA governing) board ... That has not happened because this alleged event did not take place."




It does not matter that the head of the IAEA describes the people who want to go to war with Iran on this issue as "crazies". And it doesn't help that the general level of maturity about this in the Iranian government matches the best Dear Leader brings to bear on the issue here at home.

None of these facts really matter, because, ya know, they just don't match the Truthiness that those Al Qaeda Irani SunniShiites wanna nuke us the first chance they get, so the only possible solution is to make Islamic atomic by nukin' 'em first!



But I get ahead of the yarn. Back to the Great White Whale Watch at Pravda-on-the-Hudson:

...The accounts were provided by officials at the State Department, White House and the Pentagon who are on both sides of the debate, as well as people who have spoken with members of Mr. Cheney’s staff and with Ms. Rice. The officials said they were willing to explain the thinking behind their positions, but would do so only on condition of anonymity...


There's nothing nothing like a good bisexual bipartisan party, with an equal courage of convictions or lack thereof on all sides of a sham argument.

... The issue was raised at a closed-door White House meeting recently when the departing deputy national security adviser, J. D. Crouch, told senior officials that President Bush needed an assessment of how the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program was likely to play out over the next 18 months, said officials briefed on the meeting.

In response, R. Nicholas Burns, an under secretary of state who is the chief American strategist on Iran, told the group that negotiations with Tehran could still be going on when Mr. Bush leaves office in January 2009. The hawks in the room reported later that they were deeply unhappy — but not surprised — by Mr. Burns’s assessment, which they interpreted as a tacit acknowledgment that the Bush administration had no “red line” beyond which Iran would not be permitted to step.

But conservatives inside the administration have continued in private to press for a tougher line, making arguments that their allies outside government are voicing publicly. “Regime change or the use of force are the only available options to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability, if they want it,” said John R. Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations.

Only a few weeks ago, one of Mr. Cheney’s top aides, David Wurmser, told conservative research groups and consulting firms in Washington that Mr. Cheney believed that Ms. Rice’s diplomatic strategy was failing, and that by next spring Mr. Bush might have to decide whether to take military action.

The vice president’s office has declined to talk about Mr. Wurmser’s statements, and says Mr. Cheney is fully on board with the president’s strategy...


Ah, the loyal opposition. Really, why is there need for an opposition party or even a Legistlative or Judiciary branch, when all bogus sides of a bogus issue are so thoroughly bogusly considered by the Bogarts involved?

Of course, the ultimate truthiness that cuts through all the masterdebators is presented a beacon of Wisdom from the NeoCons:

...In a June 1 article for Commentary magazine, the neoconservative editor Norman Podhoretz laid out what a headline described as “The Case for Bombing Iran.”



“In short, the plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force — any more than there was an alternative to force if Hitler was to be stopped in 1938,” Mr. Podhoretz wrote.

...Iran is far behind the North Koreans; it is believed to be three to eight years away from its first weapon, American intelligence officials have told Congress. Conservatives argue that if the administration fails to establish a line over which Iran must not step, the enrichment of uranium will go ahead, eventually giving the Iranians fuel that, with additional enrichment out of the sight of inspectors, it could use for weapons.

To date, however, the administration has been hesitant about saying that it will not permit Iran to produce more than a given amount of fuel, out of concern that Iran’s hard-liners would simply see that figure as a goal.

In the year since the United States made its last offer to Iran, the Iranians have gone from having a few dozen centrifuges in operation to building a facility that at last count, a month ago, had more than 1,300...


Yes, who needs what's actually been said? Heresay, leaked reports and letters from anonymous sources that the real watchdogs vehemently deny, all the rumors and vapors of a storm building at sea. Ahab beckons, and who among a loyal crew would deny him?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Burning at Both Ends



Michael Klare at TomDispatch discusses one of the fringe benefits of the War on Terra for the oil barons: the acceleration of oil depletion.

Parts of this are reproduced here:

Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption.

Such numbers cannot do full justice to the extraordinary gas-guzzling expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, for every soldier stationed "in theater," there are two more in transit, in training, or otherwise in line for eventual deployment to the war zone -- soldiers who also consume enormous amounts of oil, even if less than their compatriots overseas. Moreover, to sustain an "expeditionary" army located halfway around the world, the Department of Defense must move millions of tons of arms, ammunition, food, fuel, and equipment every year by plane or ship, consuming additional tanker-loads of petroleum. Add this to the tally and the Pentagon's war-related oil budget jumps appreciably, though exactly how much we have no real way of knowing.

And foreign wars, sad to say, account for but a small fraction of the Pentagon's total petroleum consumption. Possessing the world's largest fleet of modern aircraft, helicopters, ships, tanks, armored vehicles, and support systems -- virtually all powered by oil -- the Department of Defense (DoD) is, in fact, the world's leading consumer of petroleum. It can be difficult to obtain precise details on the DoD's daily oil hit, but an April 2007 report by a defense contractor, LMI Government Consulting, suggests that the Pentagon might consume as much as 340,000 barrels (14 million gallons) every day. This is greater than the total national consumption of Sweden or Switzerland...

...To ensure itself a "reliable" source of oil in perpetuity, the Pentagon will increase its efforts to maintain control over foreign sources of supply, notably oil fields and refineries in the Persian Gulf region, especially in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This would help explain the recent talk of U.S. plans to retain "enduring" bases in Iraq, along with its already impressive and elaborate basing infrastructure in these other countries.

The U.S. military first began procuring petroleum products from Persian Gulf suppliers to sustain combat operations in the Middle East and Asia during World War II, and has been doing so ever since. It was, in part, to protect this vital source of petroleum for military purposes that, in 1945, President Roosevelt first proposed the deployment of an American military presence in the Persian Gulf region. Later, the protection of Persian Gulf oil became more important for the economic well-being of the United States, as articulated in President Jimmy Carter's "Carter Doctrine" speech of January 23, 1980 as well as in President George H. W. Bush's August 1990 decision to stop Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, which led to the first Gulf War -- and, many would argue, the decision of the younger Bush to invade Iraq over a decade later.

Along the way, the American military has been transformed into a "global oil-protection service" for the benefit of U.S. corporations and consumers, fighting overseas battles and establishing its bases to ensure that we get our daily fuel fix. It would be both sad and ironic, if the military now began fighting wars mainly so that it could be guaranteed the fuel to run its own planes, ships, and tanks -- consuming hundreds of billions of dollars a year that could instead be spent on the development of petroleum alternatives.


Mr. Klare, it's not a bug, it's a feature of the long-term Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton plan with the Royal House of Saud.

Idiocy is in the Mind of the Beholder



Laura Flanders at The Nation via Common Dreams:

When will Democratic leaders stop dissing their base? David Obey is making a habit of it.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin veteran, who heads up the House Appropriations Committee called anti-war workers, “idiot liberals” for calling for a cut off in funds for Bush’s Iraq disaster. This week, Obey told advocates for youth to grow up and stop complaining about the millions of dollars his committee intends to shovel to deadly, discredited abstinence-only programs.

House Democrats will likely vote today to increase abstinence-only miseducation programs to $140 million, a larger increase than any put forward in the last three years of the Republican Congress. Obey told NPR it’s all about pragmatism: the Appropriations Bill faces a veto threat from the President, and House Democrats need all the support they can get from Republicans. And there are quid pro quos: to secure a proposed $27 million increase for the family planning program Title X anti-choicers need to be bought off with $27 million for deadly abstinence.

“It’s about people acting like adults and realizing that you can’t just hold your breath until you get your own way,” Obey told Morning Edition June 14th.

But that $27 million increase represents just a ten percent growth in the budget for Title X; it’s a 30 percent increase for abstinence only. Besides, most sane Americans were expecting the purportedly pro-choice Democratic majority to cut off funding for this boondoggle not increase it.

Anyone who read Michael Reynolds’ excellent piece on the Abstinence Gluttons knows the myriad ways in which these censorship programs stink. As a congressionally mandated report recently concluded, they’re bad health policy, bad fiscal policy, and should be ended. As Reynolds’ documented in depth, federal funding of “abstinence” also gifts billions of dollars to GOP partisans who not only mess with young minds but also campaign against Democrats and progressive priorities.



As James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth told the Air Americans last week, the GOP gravy train was bad enough. “Now it’s switched tracks and became a Democratic train. Obey can now stand tall and say that he is now one of the biggest funders of the Radical Right in America.”

It’d be bad enough if it were just Obey, but progressive caucus members including Nita Lowey and Barbara Lee who sit on both the Appropriations and the Health and Human Services subcommittee (also chaired by Obey) that put forward this proposal are complicit. Democrats enjoy a 37:29 majority on Appropriations. What they push moves. The battle goes to the Senate next, where the 15:14 split on appropriations is much tighter. Speaking of senators, Hillary Clinton is talking up a storm on the campaign trail about her support for Title X. So far she’s remained mum about millions more for sex-miseducation.

“We are not your pawns,” youth activists told House Democrats on the eve of the Committee’s vote. Wagoner has some glum young progressive organizers in his office to explain the Democratic majority to. Said Wagoner “as an activist you expect to fight this in a conservative republican congress, but I can’t tell you how infuriated, how angry I feel, having witnessed Democratic allies sell us out.”

Thus Wagoner and his team join the anti-war activists. Bravo Democrats you’re swelling the ranks of pissed-off, enraged, “liberal idiots.”


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rise of the Undead



WASHINGTON, June 14 — Senate leaders announced an agreement this evening to put a comprehensive immigration bill back on track for further debate and possible passage.

Senators Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader from Kentucky, agreed on a timetable for the bill and for a limited number of amendments to be offered.

The agreement, coming after President Bush’s pledge earlier today to provide $4.4 billion for border security, revives a bill that had stalled in the Senate and was all but given up for dead...

The measure would tighten border security, put many of the 12 million or so illegal immigrants in the country on a path to eventual legal status and create a guest-worker program.

The additional money for border security is intended to assuage Republicans who have strongly criticized the plan as amnesty for illegal immigrants...


Check it out! Instead of a blanket amnesty for immigrants, everyone gets a internal revenue passport National ID! Maybe even a microchip implant if the Bill gets killed by the grassroots again!

I can't wait, can you? In fact, I'm not waiting. Everyone in my family's getting a new old-style passport, so we can use our new IDs to leave this madhouse of viral memes. The undead denizens keep getting hungrier. And their bad ideas get back up and walk- or run- again lots faster.

Good News!

We have not yet begun to surge!



And this was totally unrelated to the arms we've given Sunni groups to fight Al Qaeda!

Jon Stewart handles this far better than I can, via John Amato at Crooks and Liars. Watch the video, and follow John's reasoning...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Iranifghanistan All Over Again

Now that Dear Leader's winged his way back from the cheering Undead in Transylvania, it's time to get his War on Terra back on again.

The meth helps Commander Codpiece feels back into clean-limbed fighting trim (if a somewhat hungover one after his latest liason with the Iron Frau).

But back in the U.S. of A., it's once more Mars, Beotches!. Remember General Pace, the (former) head of the Joint Chiefs who said he'd resign before we went to war in Iran? He's history, but you had to be paying attention to get the context. Attytood catches the drift:

...The official explanation for why Pace would not be asked to serve another term were patently ridiculous. Here is how Defense Secretary Robert Gates explained the move to replace Pace with Admiral Michael Mullen:

``I think that the events of the last several months have simply created an environment in which I think there would be a confirmation process that would not be in the best interests of the country,'' Gates said. ``I wish it were not necessary to make a decision like this. But I think it's a realistic appraisal of where we are.''

This is an administration that is currently holding onto an attorney general who just received a "no confidence" vote from a majority of the U.S. Senate, including six Republicans
[not- Bu$hCo won that one today], and has sent that very same Alberto Gonzales to Capitol Hill to testify under these brutal conditions. So, can anyone believe they really care about a few tough questions for Peter Pace?

It's getting harder to believe that Pace's dismissal was about anything else other than the Cheney administration's agenda for war with Iran. It's been increasingly acknowledged that the Joint Chiefs, with Pace at the helm, had been a leader in steering Bush away from half-baked Iran attack schemes.

In April 2006, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker:

[A] Pentagon adviser on the war on terror…confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the {Iran] issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran.

This March, Pace embarassed the Bush White House by knocking down an administration claim about Iranian weapons shipments into Iraq:

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said today he has no evidence the Iranian government has been sending military equipment and personnel into neighboring Iraq.

That came just a couple of weeks after award-winning journalist Robert Parry reported this on his Web site:

"One intelligence source told me that Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Peter Pace, has explored the possibility of resigning if Bush presses forward with air attacks against Iran..."

Now Pace doesn't have to resign... he's out, unexpectly, in a move that was announced at an hour that was guaranteed to receive as little media scrutiny as possible...
[thanks to Nicole Belle for the link]

Even though the wonks are all convinced we couldn't possibly be planning to nuke Iran, because it would make no sense, I'm with the Onion and Arianna on this.

If the DINOcrats keep devoluting into invertebrates, the Reptilicans will rule the earth. Again.