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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Protecting hearts and minds and big pharm wallets

It's not just Global Warming that Dear Leader wants people to keep quiet about.

Bush Aide Blocked Report
Global Health Draft In 2006 Rejected for Not Being Political

By Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page A01

A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the "Call to Action on Global Health" while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration's frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist. At a July 10 House committee hearing, Carmona did not cite Steiger by name or detail the report's contents and its implications for American public health.

Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was "called in and again admonished . . . via a senior official who said, 'You don't get it.' " He said a senior official told him that "this will be a political document, or it will not be released."

After a long struggle that pitted top scientific and medical experts inside and outside the government against Steiger and his political bosses, Carmona refused to make the requested changes, according to the officials. Carmona engaged in similar fights over other public health reports, including an unpublished report on prison health. A few days before the end of his term as the nation's senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed...

The original draft Henry Waxman had archived for posterity here.

Steiger's bullshit censored report is archived here.

Mr. Waxman did his best to tear the HHS Secretary a new one in the letter described here.

"...A comparison of the two drafts reveals striking differences. Dr. Carmona’s draft includes extended discussions of the impacts of women’s rights, poverty, climate change, tobacco, and obesity on global health. Mr. Steiger’s draft omits or barely mentions these topics. Dr. Carmona’s draft describes a U.N. declaration that establishes health as a human right. Mr. Steiger’s draft omits this language. Dr. Carmona’s draft contains references to condoms. Mr. Steiger’s draft does not mention condoms.

"Mr. Steiger’s draft is considerably shorter than Dr. Carmona’s draft: 11,400 words compared to 17,000. Despite the shorter length of Mr. Steiger’s draft, it contains many more references to President Bush (ten references) than does Dr. Carmona’s draft (two references). Mr. Steiger’s draft also contains extended discussions of U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Carmona’s draft does not.

"In yesterday’s Washington Post, Mr. Steiger asserted that Surgeon General Carmona’s report was blocked because it was “often inaccurate or out-of-date” and contained “sloppy work, poor analysis, and lack of scientific rigor.” A comparison of the drafts does not support these assertions. Dr. Carmona’s draft thoughtfully covers a wide range of global health topics. Mr. Steiger’s draft ignores or glosses over serious global health problems and emphasizes the achievements and policies of the Bush Administration..."

Of course, that would assume the member of the Cabinet actually bothers to read letters from Congress. That is something I sincerely doubt. But, unless Steiger is as cozy with Bu$hie as Harriet Meiers, it does look like he will have to appear in front of Mr. Waxman personally and talk about his actions.

Of course, that's become a status symbol among the True Believers who get to demonstrate their unwavering Faith and support .

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ship of State Meets Iceberg

...and insists that it will keep making its own reality, while the rest of us in the reality-based community react to the oncoming collision.

Kaleem Omar in Common Dreams:

Two issues are being debated concurrently in the United States these days. On the one hand, critics of the Bush administration say that, from the look of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military rule in the US, such that at this point, in the words of one critic, “it really only lacks the pretext to trigger a suspension of Constitutional government.” In an article published by CommonDreams.org on July 27, 2007, Dave Lindorff, author of the book “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), says that Bush and Cheney “have done this with the support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting was done by the last Republican-led Congress.”

On the other hand, talk of impeachment is getting louder. In an article published by the Seattle Post Intelligencer on July 27, 2007, Hubert G. Locke, former dean of the Daniel J. Evans Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, says that “on the eve of a congressionally mandated assessment of the unending madness in Iraq, strange and ominous signs are beginning to appear in all sorts of odd and curious quarters that this nation (the US) should not have to endure another 18 months of the George W. Bush administration and that, if we do, it might well be at the nation’s peril.”

As Locke notes, “Much of the current dismay swirls around Vice-President Dick Cheney, who is busily ignoring rules of government he doesn’t like and declaring his office to be beyond the purview of anyone’s scrutiny, while actively setting about to demolish any government agency that has the impertinence to suggest otherwise.”

Locke says, “Cheney’s advocacy of interrogation techniques for ‘enemy combatants’ that many think tantamount to torture, of monitoring phone calls and e-mails without bothering about (court) warrants, and of ignoring the niceties of the Geneva Convention when dealing with terrorists has put him out of favour even with a growing number of conservatives. Some want to jettison him as a hopeless drag on the Republican Party’s electoral prospects next year; others are beginning to join the throng that is convinced Cheney is out of control and needs to be dispatched for the health and safety of the republic itself.”

Arguing that the threat of martial law in the US is real, Lindorff says, “The first step, of course, was the first Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed in September 2001, which the president has subsequently used to claim improperly (but so what?) that the whole world, including the US is a battlefield in a so-called ‘War’ on Terror, and that he has extra-Constitutional unitary executive powers to ignore laws passed by Congress.”

As constitutional scholar and former Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observes, that one claim, that the US itself is a battlefield, is enough to allow Bush or some future president to declare martial law, “since you can always declare martial law on a battlefield. All he would need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack inside the US.”

The AUMF was followed by the PATRIOT Act, passed in October 2001, which undermined much of the US Bill of Rights. The PATRIOT Act is an assault on constitutional protections so atrocious that legislators in several US states and local officials in more than 200 cities, towns and counties across the land have passed resolutions or ordinances condemning and rejecting its abuse of civil liberties.

More than 25 million Americans live in states or communities that have officially declared that they oppose those parts of the PATRIOT Act and the even more draconian Homeland Security Act of January 2002 that trample on their freedoms. Yet the Bush administration has continued to ignore such protests and has continued to press ahead with an agenda that has had the effect of turning America more and more into a police state.

Even libraries in America are under siege. Under the PATRIOT Act, which was enacted by Congress with hardly any debate, the FBI has the right to obtain a court order to access any records that American libraries have of books borrowed by customers. Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows law enforcement agencies to peer into Americans’ reading habits and Internet activity, not only at the nation’s libraries but in bookstores as well.

Around the same time that the PATRIOT Act was passed in October 2001, President Bush began a campaign of massive spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA), conducted without any court warrants or other judicial review. As Lindorff notes, the campaign “was and remains a programme that is clearly aimed at American dissidents and the administration’s political opponents, since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA) would never have raised objections to spying on potential terrorists.”

This, and other government spying programmes, have resulted in the Bush administration having a list now of some 325,000 “suspected terrorists”!

In October 2006, Bush and Cheney, with the help of a compliant Republican-controlled Congress (as it then was, before the November 2006 mid-term congressional elections in which the Democratic Party won control of both the Senate and House of Representatives), put in place some key elements needed for a military putsch.

As Lindorff notes, “There was the overturning of the venerable Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which barred the use of active duty military inside the United States for police-type functions, and the revision of the Insurrection Act, so as to empower the president to take control of National Guard units in the 50 states even over the objections of the governors of those states.”

Put this together, says Lindorff, “with the wholly secret construction now under way - courtesy of a $ 385-million grant by the US Army Corps of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc - of detention camps reportedly capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret, which declares there to be a developing ‘insurgency’ within the US, and which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the United States.”

It is no coincidence that the contract for the building of detention camps in the US has been awarded to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the construction subsidiary of Houston-based oil services giant Halliburton Corporation. Before Dick Cheney became George W. Bush’s running mate in the 2000 presidential campaign, he was Halliburton’s CEO for five years (1995-2000). When Cheney left Halliburton, he was given a $ 37 million severance package by Halliburton and continues to receive $ 100,000 a year from the company under a deferred payment arrangement. He also has stock options worth $ 18 million in Halliburton. The company’s share price has shot up over the last four years as the result of the huge profits it has earned from well over $ 12 billion worth of reconstruction, supply and services contracts it has been awarded in Iraq by the Bush administration through a manifestly non-transparent no-bid process. If Cheney were to cash in his stock option today, he would earn a windfall profit of more than $ 49 million.

Says Lindorff, “As we (Americans) go about our daily lives - our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organising - we need to be aware there is a real risk it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.”

Former Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein is not an alarmist. He says he doesn’t see martial law in the US coming tomorrow. But he is also realistic. He says, “This is all sitting around like a loaded gun waiting to go off. I think the risk of martial law is trivial right now, but the minute there is a terrorist attack, then it is real. And it stays with us after Bush and Cheney are gone, because terrorism stays with us forever.”

Bush claims that the 2001 AUMF makes him commander-in-chief of a “borderless, endless war on terror.” It may be significant that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation of the 2002 AUMF against Iraq, but not for the revocation of the 2001 AUMF.

As Locke notes in his article in The Seattle Post Intelligencer, the US “media are also speaking these days of a looming constitutional crisis as committee chairs in the House and Senate confront a White House refusal to provide requested documents regarding the firings of US attorneys by the Justice Department.”

One curious thing I find is the assertion that the military will protect us from Cheneyburton declaring martial law. Let's repeat that: many people think the military will protect us from a military takeover of the United States. Which is kind of like thinking John Negroponte will save us from the takeover of the CIA by the Company, or the Iraq Study Group and Poppy will save us all from Cheneyburton and Junior.

Got your lifejacket and/or lifeboat ready?

A Crude Awakening

Read the review on Crooks and Liars then check out the movie when you can.

The issue isn't so much whether there are renewable energy sources that could translate solar energy into hydrocarbon or electricity. There are. The issue is whether that wealthiest 0.1% of our society, the people who control our ability to finance the development of these resources, are willing to see the research and development needed to turn them into commercially viable enterprises.

The big money doesn't want it. Perhaps the largest part is apathy, but there's more to it. There are major corporate families that realize controlling the decline of the world into a post-industrial Iron Age state will place them firmly in control. After all, if all the gasoline and electricity and guns and people who have the guns belong to a few, that few become aristocracy, and the many become chattels for the new feudal order of things.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Avoiding the Center

A fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, gigantic glowing gas clouds, and imposing dark dust lanes surrounds the central region of the active galaxy Centaurus A. This mosaic of Hubble Space Telescope images taken in blue, green, and red light has been processed to present a natural color picture of this cosmic maelstrom. Infrared images from the Hubble have also shown that hidden at the center of this activity are what seem to be disks of matter spiraling into a black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun! Centaurus A itself is apparently the result of a collision of two galaxies and the left over debris is steadily being consumed by the black hole. Astronomers believe that such black hole central engines generate the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A and other active galaxies. But for an active galaxy Centaurus A is close, a mere 10 million light-years away...

You know, it's no wonder the TheoCons hate that Hubble telescope.

Mining Instead of Plumbing

Lambert takes note of The New York Pravda's front page tip that hey, Abu Gonzo is up to something funny with this data mining for Terra biz.

What's the bottom line? The surveillance- keeping records of every electron sent in cyberspace- is incredibly inefficient. Trying to sift through it all for real information about terrorism is impossible. Ask engineering or computer science experts. The size alone presents difficulties, not to mention the cryptic problems of tracking information of any one or group who really wanted their plans to take over the world secret.

On the other hand, if you wanted to merely keep tabs on your political rivals, or opposition engaged in totally legitimate activities, the electronic surveillance capabilites of the NSA is your cup of tea.

Or, if you were a private contractor- most of the email interception is carried out by paid spooks- and you wanted to make sure your Congressional overseers stayed bought, keeping track of your Representative's secret love life affords all kinds of lucrative potential.

Who need Plumbers to keep track of an Enemies List, when you've got Miners?

More Paleocon Outrage

Even the mercenary are starting to get uneasy with the New World Feudalism. Ben Stein:

LET’S start with the obvious. Hedge funds have created a terribly wealthy new class. Although the data is overwhelming that the mass of hedge funds have not been outperforming the market after fees, money still pours into them. This has often made their proprietors terribly rich.

Somehow, by some alchemy of brilliant tax lawyers, these people are paying long-term capital gains rates of 15 percent on their compensation (even though much of their pay is tied to trades with holding periods that last seconds). Doctors and lawyers and writers and actors pay about two times that amount.

Then there are the private equity people. They buy and sell companies, usually with other people’s money. They put up a tiny slice of their own capital and multiply it with investments from pension funds, very wealthy families and foreign government investment authorities, and they buy companies. They shake the companies up, cut spending, cut reserves and then resell them to us patsies in the public markets for huge profits. “Rip, strip and flip,” as they say. I am not saying all of them do, but some do.

The private equity people get an immense interest in the profits, vastly outstripping whatever capital they had on the line. This “carried interest,” as they call it, is then taxed at low capital-gains rates. If the private equity companies play their cards right, they use yet another loophole involving amortization of good will to eliminate any tax at all if and when they go public.

Now, all of the above appears to be legal, in that it conforms to laws made by Congress and regulations adopted by the Internal Revenue Service.

So what? The fact that the law is such and such as of July 2007 does not mean that it has to be that way in July 2008 or even in September 2007. The laws of taxation, like all laws, are political...

The law can be changed. Laws are changed all of the time in the tax arena. The oil companies used to get immense tax allowances that they don’t get any more because of political pressures. The tax rate on the last dollars of high-income people used to be above 90 percent. It’s not like that any longer. Why? Political change. It applies to the tax code as well as to all other laws.

Now, let’s think about what’s going on in America right now. We are in a war. We are apparently not winning the war. The military is desperately shy of funds, to the point where our fighting men and women are being shortchanged in training and equipment.

We also need more money for our soldiers’ pay, so their families do not have to live like church mice while their spouses are deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In these circumstances, is it fitting and morally right for the richest of the rich to be paying either very low taxes or no tax at all?

Is it right or even admissible in the human conscience that while teachers, emergency room technicians, police and firefighters are taxed at full earned-income rates — and often underpaid — that the highest-earning people in this country should pay at either very low tax rates or none at all?

Or, put it like this: do we dare send our men and women to fight for an America in which the very rich are so favored by the government that it amounts almost to an aristocracy?

Long ago, I had a European history teacher named Mrs. Enright. She explained to me that one of the causes of the French Revolution was the sad truth that the aristocracy was not taxed at all, while the workers and burghers were taxed highly. Is this our future?

...please, let’s not haul out that old chestnut about having tax incentives to encourage entrepreneurship. We already have enough people who want to be rich (which is another phrase for “entrepreneurship”). What we are lacking is oil and gas. Maybe we should give the oil exploration people lower taxes. What we are lacking is people willing to fight the war on terror.

Why don’t we just have a tax holiday for people who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for five years after they get back? This would be the tax code addressing real shortages, not an imaginary shortage of money mania (oops, I mean “entrepreneurship”).

Let’s keep it real: Congress can take notice of a mammoth inequity in taxation during wartime and make the tax on private equity and hedge funds approximate the treatment of other highly paid people — or it can continue down the road to the Bastille.

Welcome to the reality-based community, Mr. Stein.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Feeling Chipper Today?

You obviously need an upgrade.

Bill Gates will love this one:

Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) have developed chips which someday might be inserted in the brains of people affected by epilepsy or who have lost a limb. These neuroprosthetic chips ‘can interpret signals in the brain and stimulate neurons to perform correctly.’ ... the researchers are currently studying these chips with rats and hope to have a prototype ready within 4 years that could be tested on humans.

...“The chip UF researchers are seeking to develop would be implanted directly into the brain tissue, where it could gather data from signals, decode them and stimulate the brain in a self-contained package without wires. In the interim, UF researchers are studying implantable devices in rats and are evaluating an intermediate form of the technology — placing electrodes on the surface of the brain — in people.”

The researchers add that they “have developed new techniques using surface electrodes to access signals almost as precisely as they could with sensors implanted in the brain. Developing these techniques is a big step forward in understanding how to best decode a patient’s intent from their brain waves and should have broad implications for delivering therapy, Sanchez said...

Certainly a laudable goal if there weren't so many extremely powerful people who would like to be able to control your software with implanted hardware.

The Bursting Bubble of the Hollow Men

...It was the worst week for the American stock market in nearly five years, with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropping nearly 5 percent, after a sharp sell-off in the last half-hour of trading. The Dow fell 208.10 points yesterday after dropping 311.50 points on Thursday; it declined 4.23 percent for the week.

Investors took little comfort from a government report released yesterday that showed the economy grew at a strong pace in the second quarter, which Bush administration officials cited in an effort to assuage the public after the rout in the market on Thursday.

The stock market has become increasingly volatile in the last several months as the slumping housing market and problems in the debt markets are taxing the American economy. At the same time, stronger growth is China, India and Europe have kept the global economy humming.

“The economy is still strong, job growth is still healthy, the unemployment rate is low, and the global economy is booming,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at the brokerage firm Charles Schwab. “But there are cracks here and those cracks seem to be gaining more of the market’s attention than the stronger components. We’ll have to see which one takes hold.”

Early yesterday, President Bush and four of his top economic and financial officials went on the airwaves to try and dispel worries about the economy. They cited a Commerce Department report that showed that the economy rebounded in the three months that ended in June; it grew 3.4 percent, which was up from a pace of 0.6 percent in the first quarter.

“And so I want the American people to take a good look at this economy of ours,” Mr. Bush said. “The world is strong — the world economy is strong. I happen to believe one of the main reasons why is because we remain strong.”

While markets did bounce up briefly early in the day, investors found little solace in the latest economic report or the soothing words from Washington...

Darth Cheneyburton should tell Commander Bunnypants to put a cork in it. Nothing panics Ma and Pa these days more than the Idiot $on telling them their money is working as well as the War on Terra. And the neighbors are noticing the problem.

...Mr Paulson said the world's biggest economy was moving to a sustainable pace of growth after official figures released in Washington showed a stronger trade performance and inventory-building by companies helped the US to grow at an annual rate of 3.4% in the second quarter.

After meeting his economic team at the White House, Mr Bush said: "The world economy is strong and I happen to believe one of the main reasons why is because we remain strong."

Markets were unimpressed, with some analysts warning that the high-profile intervention may do more harm than good. "By appearing on television in an unprecedented group interview, the White House is validating concern about the credit markets," said Tony Crescenzi, chief bond market strategist with Miller, Tabak and Co.

Other analysts said there were reasons to fear that worse was to come, with warnings that the tightening of credit conditions meant the bubble had burst for private equity. "When there is uncertainty about financing, then private equity is not so quick to make deals. It would take out one of the props for the market," said Elliot Spar, market strategist with Ryan Beck & Co.

Julian Jessop, international economist at Capital Economics, said markets were being complacent in believing confidence would quickly return once the US housing market recovered. "For a start, the US housing market will not bottom out any time soon. Second, a much broader reassessment of risk appetite may only just have begun. Third, other factors might drive markets down further even if there is no more bad news from the US. Top of the list is the prospect of a disorderly unwinding of the yen carry trades..."

The Dark Wraith goes into gory detail about why the markets are so unstable and why you're still broke.

Lambert quotes a modest summary of the situation by Jerome à Paris here:

...the current boom was the cause of much of the increasing inequality in recent years, and has been the source of many extravagant fortunes. As the bubble unwinds (or pops), it is essential to make it clear that it should not be workers, or taxpayers, that end up paying for the recklessness of the financiers, and that those that gorged on the good times should bear the pain of the new, leaner times.

The dismantling of all the barriers between commercial banking and investment banking unsurprisingly took place near the beginning of the great Greenspan Bubble, it might be necessary to reconsider it. Taxes on capital gains, and on income on capital, have been lowered in the past; maybe it’s time to change that again. The crushing of labor, and the erosion of labor rights, has made ever-increasing profits a reality and has fuelled the ever-more optimistic expectations of the financial markets. That should also be reconsidered.

The focus on financial profits over industrial ones, unable to provide the same instant returns, has skewed the economy ever more towards financial services rather than other “real” activities...

Altogether, the politics of individual greed over those of a collective future need to be blamed...

Not likely. With the most powerful members of our country the most involved with the manipulation of money, it is more likely they will place the burden of their errors on the backs of the majority who actually produce things and services for a living, since they view us as servants and simple beasts of burden.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A "fat Barney Fife without the twitch."

You have to be as stupid as a Mayberry Machiavelli to unleash forces like this to try to take over the world.

Along these lines, let me suggest two great posts from The Dark Wraith:

The Prime Minister of the United States of America.


History of the Future.

It's a good thing the Teacher of the Dismal Science is cheerful, I think.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Pravda Cycle

Tom Tomorrow has a firm grasp on how things are done.

The Dark Horse of the Shadow Government

NEW YORK Ira Stoll admits that his paper's pushing for Vice President Cheney to run for president several months ago was widely mocked. And he admits that a Washington Post pollster has pointed out that with a favorable rating of only 18%, Cheney is less popular than Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson -- after their trials. Yet he is standing by his man, and re-iterates today in the New York Sun that he hopes the Veep takes a look at the current GOP field and throws his hat in the ring.

Stoll, managing editor at the New York daily, uses a review of the new Stephen Hayes biography of Cheney to make this plea, claiming that the positive virtues revealed in the book proves his case.

"The book quotes Senator McCain as saying, 'Dick doesn't like campaigning.' Nothing in the Hayes book suggests that Mr. Cheney is about to do it — except for that the vice president spent nearly 30 hours cooperating with the author and apparently gave the okay for many of his friends and colleagues to grant similar access," Stoll observes. "The Richard Cheney described in this book isn't vain enough to do that simply for his reputation in history. My own guess — okay, hope — is that Mr. Cheney has taken a look at the Republican presidential field and sees an opening. If Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans start receiving copies of 'Cheney' in their mailboxes, Mr. Cheney's popularity may yet begin to climb..."

Much depends on whether Congress can summon enough courage to face the Constitutional crisis the Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton administration presents, with its open mocking of Congressional power, its endless war, and its embrace of the fourth branch of government.

Cheney will likely wait until the last possible moment to bother campaigning, reminiscent of his self-appointment as Vice-Presidential candidate at the last possible moment for Bu$h.

It really makes no difference if his approval ratings are down even to the single digits. He will merely growl there is no balance among traitors and claim that the polls are run by treasonous enablers of the enemy. He will walk in and simply be handed the Rethuglican nomination, because his competition will be broke- or broken.

He won't bother to campaign either, except in carefully selected venues and debates run by Faux News and his own secret police.

And on election day? Despite exit polls predicting a landslide victory of his opponent, Cheney will win handily.

Night will only grow deeper as his shadow falls upon us.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Knowledge and Curiousity in a World of Muggles and Death Eaters

Like everyone else with teenagers now, my kids have learned to read with the Harry Potter series.

Rowling's work certainly meets my approval. In the last three books, what started off as a groundswell against a government and a system of tyranny has turned into a tidal wave against the unfairness of power for power's sake and its inevitable blind self-destruction. As I've pointed out, the Dominionists hate it, and so will the Rethuglicans, as soon as someone will explain it to them. Slowly.

For someone used to reading several papers on molecular biology a day just to figure out his next step in the lab, they're a cakewalk and a pleasure to read.

Something that stands out though, is the oddity of a world of magic totally devoid of curiosity about the magic.

Even the most learned, bright, and curious individuals in the series look upon knowledge of the world as a way to do things. The operative term is "power". Nobody asks about why the wands do what they do, or where and how a whole world of mystical beasts came to be, or its relation to the muggle world, which coexists right along side of it.

Nobody tries to explain what time and space are doing in those pocket universes where Hermione stores her stash or where, exactly, Dumbledore's army trains.

No one in Harry's world even thinks about it.

Nobody much has more than a high school education, or seems to see the need for more, either.

No one cares about the forces that keep a broom, or a dragon, in flight, against all the rules of muggle physics.

No one thinks about the genes that make you a muggle. Or a wizard. Or a werewolf virus.

In this, the inhabitants of the muggle world, whether in Rowling's books or our own bubble of the multiverse have much in common.

It certainly makes it easier for the aspiring Dark Lords among us.

Underestimating the Opposition

The Editorials of The New York Pravda continue to express the views of the Soros faction of the Company about five years too late:

Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War
Published: July 23, 2007
The nation is heading toward a constitutional showdown over the Iraq war. Congress is moving closer to passing a bill to limit or end the war, but President Bush insists Congress doesn’t have the power to do it. “I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” he said at a recent press conference. “I think they ought to be funding the troops.” He added magnanimously: “I’m certainly interested in their opinion.”

The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification. But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith...

On the other hand, many critics of the Iraq war know for a fact it was a scam from the beginning. Does the name Valerie Plame mean anything to you? Or Joe Wilson? How about the Downing Street Memo? Or the 1992 Master's Thesis on the Gulf War Colin Powell took to the UN as "evidence" Saddam had WMD in 2003?

.. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.

The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.”

As opinion turns more decisively against the war, the administration is becoming ever more dismissive of Congress’s role. Last week, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman brusquely turned away Senator Hillary Clinton’s questions about how the Pentagon intended to plan for withdrawal from Iraq. "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq,” he wrote. Mr. Edelman’s response showed contempt not merely for Congress, but for the system of government the founders carefully created.

The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.

A king? George W. Bu$hie? Kings are far too constrained, and far too tied to the welfare of their kingdoms. This intellectual orc is the foam on the beer.

George W. Bu$hie is a C-average cheerleader from Yale. He's a Death Eater, all right, just like all the rest of the crew in Washington. But he's no Dark Lord.

He's just clearing the way for one who will follow , taking the Kingdom from this little prince of shadow and turning it into a slaughterhouse, just like Bu$hie himself has taken the Republic and turned it into an Imperial playhouse for his Ba$e.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Where Congress Realizes it is Officially a Paper Tiger

Last Friday, in Pravda on the Potomac:

By Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 20, 2007

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege...

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."

Yesterday, a House Judiciary subcommittee voted to lay the groundwork for contempt proceedings against White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, following a similar decision last week against former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers.

The administration has not directly informed Congress of its view. A spokeswoman for Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the Judiciary Committee's chairman, declined to comment . But other leading Democrats attacked the argument.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called it "an outrageous abuse of executive privilege" and said: "The White House must stop stonewalling and start being accountable to Congress and the American people. No one, including the president, is above the law."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said the administration is "hastening a constitutional crisis," and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said the position "makes a mockery of the ideal that no one is above the law."

Waxman added: "I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department."

Well, no, there will always be a need for a Justice Department in the New World Order. Just like Dear Leader's Armies are Peacekeepers, and War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

What happens next, Mr. Waxman? I really hope no one has to explain it to you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Retrospective Rationale

I ran into this interesting synopsis of the Civil War on a comment thread in an unlikely place. Taken aside from the context, I thought my brother and all the other sons and daughters of Nathan Bedford Forrest in cyberspace might find it interesting.

Any discussion of the Civil War must begin with a discussion of slavery. What were the origins of slavery? What accounts for the unprecedented brutality and pathological hatreds that arose from it?

Slavery arose as a labor system because there was no other reliable source of labor. It arose first as a system of indentured servitude and matured as a racially justified system of chattel slavery.

Slavery and the slave trade became not only the foundation of the economy of the US, it was the foundation upon which arose Europe's capitalist system. Its great naval and shipping fleets, its universities and industry was directly connected to the maintenance and expansion of slavery.

The slave system in the United States was a hybrid system. The slaves were slaves in the worst sense of the word. Their masters were bourgeois. This combination condemned the slave to the unregulated exploitation for profit on the international market rather than previously tolerable slave systems confined to providing for the immediate wants of the master.

Because of slavery, the United States and all its institutions developed as a southern country. The Presidency, the Supreme Court and Congress were firmly in the hands of the slave owning elite. Naturally, these institutions strengthened and protected the productive relationship between slave and master. The nature of the state militia, the police patrols, the nature of the of institutions from the army to the church had but one central purpose - the defense and propagation of slavery.

As a result, the North developed as a manufacturing and shipping adjunct that serviced slavery. As long as it played this economic role, it was a staunch and militant defender of the slave system. The free black in the South had more "rights" than the free black in the North.

Massachusetts became wealthy because it dominated the slave trade. She built the ships and carried on the commerce. Small wonder that Massachusetts along with South Carolina (the largest slave holding state) held out against the abolition of slavery at the Continental Congress and made the Civil War inevitable.

The point is that so long as the central means of production was the plow and the hoe, the nation was united to defend the productive relations of slavery. The double acting steam engine was perfected and widely applied to industry by about 1832. It was an event of historic proportions. Suddenly, the manufactures were handed the stable source of power they needed to utilize all the gears and other instruments of industrial equipment that was already perfected. As manufacturing declined and industry developed, production expanded very rapidly. Soon the productive capacity of the North out ran the consuming power of the South. At that point political antagonism began to replace the former contradictions. The Southern elite imported its luxury goods from England, and much of their foodstuffs and farm implements from the North. Tariffs between England and the United States were practically unknown. Fledging Northern industry needed protection from advanced British production in order to get on its feet. Every proposal for tariffs was blocked by the South. The North needed a government-sponsored infrastructure such as harbors and railroads. The South blocked the funding.

The turning point came with the explosive growth of the Northwest (Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota). What caused that growth and why did it tip the balance against what had become known as the "Slave power?"

A look at the map will show that large-scale migration and commerce between the east and west was almost impossible. The Allegheny Mountains were an insurmountable barrier. Therefore, all trade and migration was between north and south. Consequently, the Northwest was sparsely settled by Southerners. Since the rivers in the US run north to south, their trade was with the South. This combination made the Northwest a political reserve for the slave owners.

The construction of the Erie Canal changed all that. Suddenly the markets of New York were open to the rich farmlands of the area. Democratic-minded immigrants flooded into the Northwest. There was more money to be made trading with the east than with south. The area needed more canals, more roads and a railroad. The Southern dominated Congress, understanding the potential political danger refused to grant funds. On this basis the Northwest became a hotbed of anti-Southern and finally anti-slavery sentiment. Just as important, the rich farmlands of the Northwest wrecked the commercial farming of the Northeast. With farming and commercial slavery abolished, the Northeast turned to industry. They need expanded harbors and a tariff to assist them. Again the South, sensing the danger of an economically and hence politically independent North refused to allocate funds. Suddenly Massachusetts went from the most pro-slave to the most anti-slave state in the Union.

The economic antagonism set the stage for the introduction of new ideas. This came about with the murder of Rev. Elijah Lovejoy to stop his anti-slave propaganda. Propagandists planted the seeds in fertile soil -- the slave power is destroying the right of free speech and intends to take away the liberties of a free people. This was the actual beginning of the war.

What, then, was the Civil War? It was a struggle for political power between two antagonistic wings of the bourgeoisie. The aim of the new financial industrial oligarchy of the North was to reduce the South to a reserve of industry. The aim of the Southern elite was to transform the entire country and eventually the hemisphere into a slave empire.

Neither side intended to abolish slavery since cotton was indispensable and there was no productive force to take the place of the slave. The slaves themselves made the abolition of slavery a military, political and moral necessity. With emancipation, the war became revolutionary and it was won.

The war ended with a pro-slavery president in office, and with all the Southern legislators who had resigned their seats showing up to legally claim them. What the South had lost on the battlefield they were about to win politically. The radical wing of the Republicans looked frantically for a way to outvote the Southern elite. They came to the conclusion that they must enfranchise the freedmen. Thus reconstruction was born.

The aim of reconstruction was, on the one hand, to politically crush the Southern elite, and, on the other hand, to contain the revolutionary forces that would be unleashed by this process.

By 1875 this was accomplished and Reconstruction came to an end. Between 1875 and 1890, the political scene was re mapped. The interests of the Southern elite merged with the financial industrial oligarchy. This was the foundation for the emergence of modern American imperialism.

Northern industry was dependent upon cotton. There was no more productive energy to take the place of the slave, so the "freedmen", along with an equal number of destitute whites were driven back to the cotton fields. Real emancipation came with the invention of a more productive way to pick cotton. This came about with the perfection of the cotton-picking machine. With the economic base in place, the modern Freedom Movement was born. The social struggle for liberation broke out, ending with the de jure equality of the Civil Rights Act.

The big money gamed us into the Civil War as a struggle for primacy among competing factions of money, with centuries of bloody strife before and a century and a half of oppression, repression, and delusion after. The same kind of wealthy players and often the families struggle for primacy today, and the world reels with the inequities and bloodshed they view as the natural order of things.

Bear that in mind, cousins, as they use your fear and stoke your wrath for their own purposes in the days to come.

The Difference Between Leaders and Cheerleaders from Yale

Olbermann on scapegoats for Bu$hCo, with video

It is one of the great, dark, evil lessons, of history.

A country - a government - a military machine - can screw up a war seven ways to Sunday. It can get thousands of its people killed. It can risk the safety of its citizens. It can destroy the fabric of its nation.

But as long as it can identify a scapegoat, it can regain or even gain power.

The Bush administration has opened this Pandora's Box about Iraq. It has found its scapegoats: Hillary Clinton and us.

The lies and terror tactics with which it deluded this country into war - they had nothing to do with the abomination that Iraq has become. It isn't Mr. Bush's fault.

The selection of the wrong war, in the wrong time, in the wrong place - the most disastrous geopolitical tactic since Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914 and destroyed itself in the process - that had nothing to do with the overwhelming crisis Iraq has become. It isn't Mr. Bush's fault.

The criminal lack of planning for the war - the total "jump-off-a-bridge-and-hope-you-can-fly" tone to the failure to anticipate what would follow the deposing of Saddam Hussein - that had nothing to do with the chaos in which Iraq has been enveloped. It isn't Mr. Bush's fault.

The utter, blinkered idiocy of "staying the course," of sending Americans to Iraq and sending them a second time, and a third and a fourth, until they get killed or maimed - the utter de-prioritization of human life, simply so a politician can avoid having to admit a mistake - that had nothing to do with the tens of thousand individual tragedies darkening the lives of American families, forever. It isn't Mr. Bush's fault.

The continuing, relentless, remorseless, corrupt and cynical insistence that this conflict somehow is defeating or containing or just engaging the people who attacked us on 9/11, the total "Alice Through the Looking Glass" quality that ignores that in Iraq, we have made the world safer for al-Qaida - it isn't Mr. Bush's fault!

The fault, brought down, as if a sermon from this mount of hypocrisy and slaughter by a nearly anonymous undersecretary of defense, has tonight been laid on the doorstep of... Sen. Hillary Clinton and, by extension, at the doorstep of every American - the now-vast majority of us - who have dared to criticize this war or protest it or merely ask questions about it or simply, plaintively, innocently, honestly, plead, "Don't take my son; don't take my daughter."

Sen. Clinton has been sent - and someone has leaked to The Associated Press - a letter, sent in reply to hers asking if there exists an actual plan for evacuating U.S. troops from Iraq.

This extraordinary document was written by an undersecretary of defense named Eric Edelman.

"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq," Edelman writes, "reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia."

Edelman adds: "Such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."

A spokesman for the senator says Mr. Edelman's remarks are "at once both outrageous and dangerous." Those terms are entirely appropriate and may, in fact, understate the risk the Edelman letter poses to our way of life and all that our fighting men and women are risking, have risked, and have lost, in Iraq.

After the South was defeated in our Civil War, the scapegoat was Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the ideas of the "Lost Cause" and "Jim Crow" were born.

After the French were beaten by the Prussians in 1870 and 1871, it was the imaginary "Jewish influence" in the French Army general staff, and there was born 30 years of self-destructive anti-Semitism, culminating in the horrific Dreyfus case.

After the Germans lost the First World War, it was the "back-stabbers and profiteers" at home, on whose lives the National Socialists rose to prominence in the succeeding decades and whose accused membership eventually wound up in torture chambers and death camps.

And after the generation before ours, and leaders of both political parties, escalated and re-escalated and carpet-bombed and re-carpet-bombed Vietnam, it was the protest movement and Jane Fonda and - as late as just three years ago - Sen. John Kerry who were assigned the kind of blame with which no rational human being could concur, and yet which still, across vast sections of our political landscape, resonates unchallenged and accepted.

And now Mr. Bush, you have picked out your own Jefferson Davis, your own Dreyfus, your own "profiteer" - your own scapegoat.

Not for the sake of this country.

Not for the sake of Iraq.

Not even for the sake of your own political party.

But for the sake of your own personal place in history.

But in reaching for that place, you have guaranteed yourself tonight not honor, but infamy.

In fact, you have condemned yourself to a place among that remarkably small group of Americans whom Americans cannot forgive: those who have sold this country out and who have willingly declared their enmity to the people at whose pleasure they supposedly serve.

A scapegoat, sir, might be forgivable, if you hadn't just happened to choose a prospective presidential nominee of the opposition party.

And the accusation of spreading "enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia" might be some day atoned for, if we all didn't know - you included, and your generals and the Iraqis - that we are leaving Iraq, and sooner rather than later, and we are doing it even if to do so requires, first, that you must be impeached and removed as president of the United States, sooner rather than later.

You have set this government at war against its own people and then blamed those very people when they say, "Enough."

And thus it crystallizes, Mr. Bush.

When Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside ordered a disastrous attack on Fredericksburg in which 12,000 of his men were killed, he had to be physically restrained from leading the next charge himself.

After the First Lord of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill, authored and enabled the disastrous Gallipoli campaign that saw a quarter-million Allied soldiers cut down in the First World War, Churchill resigned his office and took a commission as a front-line officer in the trenches of France.

Those are your new role models, Mr. Bush.

Let your minions try to spread the blame to the real patriots here, who have sought only to undo the horrors you have wrought since 2002.

Let them try it, until the end of time.

Though the words might be erased from a million books and a billion memories, though the world be covered knee-deep in your lies, the truth shall prevail.

This, sir, is your war.

Sen. Clinton has reinforced enemy propaganda? Made it impossible for you to get your ego-driven, blood-steeped win in Iraq?

Then take it into your own hands, Mr. Bush.

Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.

Go there and fight, your war. Yourself.

Keith is a little behind the times. Bu$hie's new signing statement allows him to scapegoat anyone he wants, and take all their money, too, if he wants. At this point, he's just setting the stage. To implement the plan, he'll require an act of Terra to scapegoat as well.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

PaleoCon Warnings

And it ain't about Al Qaeda, baby.

Thom Hartmann began his program on Thursday by reading from a new Executive Order which allows the government to seize the assets of anyone who interferes with its Iraq policies.

He then introduced old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts -- a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq War -- by quoting the "strong words" which open Roberts' latest column: "Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran."

"I don't actually think they're very strong," said Roberts of his words. "I get a lot of flak that they're understated and the situation is worse than I say. ... When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order] ... there's no check to it. It doesn't have to be ratified by Congress. The people who bear the brunt of these dictatorial police state actions have no recourse to the judiciary. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule. ... The American people don't really understand the danger that they face."

Roberts said that because of Bush's unpopularity, the Republicans face a total wipeout in 2008, and this may be why "the Democrats have not brought a halt to Bush's follies or the war, because they expect his unpopular policies to provide them with a landslide victory in next year's election."

However, Roberts emphasized, "the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that Cheney and Rove and the Republicans are ignorant of these facts, or it assumes that they are content for the Republican Party to be destroyed after Bush has his fling." Roberts believes instead that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the War on Terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party. "Something's in the works," he said, adding that the Executive Orders need to create a police state are already in place.

"The administration figures themselves and prominent Republican propagandists ... are preparing us for another 9/11 event or series of events," Roberts continued. "Chertoff has predicted them. ... The National Intelligence Estimate is saying that al Qaeda has regrouped. ... You have to count on the fact that if al Qaeda's not going to do it, it's going to be orchestrated. ... The Republicans are praying for another 9/11."

Hartmann asked what we as the people can do if impeachment isn't about to happen. "If enough people were suspicious and alert, it would be harder for the administration to get away with it," Roberts replied. However, he added, "I don't think these wake-up calls are likely to be effective," pointing out the dominance of the mainstream media.

"Americans think their danger is terrorists," said Roberts. "They don't understand the terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. ... The terrorists are not anything like the threat that we face to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution from our own government in the name of fighting terrorism. Americans just aren't able to perceive that."

Roberts pointed out that it's old-line Republicans like himself, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein, and Pat Buchanan who are the diehards in warning of the danger. "It's so obvious to people like us who have long been associated in the corridors of power," he said. "There's no belief in the people or anything like that. They have agendas. The people are in the way. The Constitution is in the way. ... Americans need to comprehend and look at how ruthless Cheney is. ... A person like that would do anything."

Roberts final suggestion was that, in the absence of a massive popular outcry, "the only constraints on what's going to happen will come from the federal bureaucracy and perhaps the military. They may have had enough. They may not go along with it."

The full audio of Thom Hartmann's interview with Paul Craig Roberts can be found here.

Only Traitors Read the Fine Print

Traitors like those pinkos like Robert Parry at Consortium News just read a lot faster than David Addington can classify it for Darth Cheney:

Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged as much on July 17 in releasing a summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that represented the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community.

The report, entitled “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” described a resurgent al-Qaeda that has regrouped in remote sections of Pakistan while exploiting Muslim anger over the war in Iraq to increase its operational strength internationally and to take aim at American targets, again.

“We assess that al-Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the [U.S.] homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups,” the NIE said. “Of note, we assess that al-Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI], its most visible and capable affiliate and only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the [U.S.] homeland.

“In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qaeda to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for [U.S.] homeland attacks.”

In other words, Bush’s repeated warnings that the United States must fight Islamic extremists in Iraq so “we don’t have to fight them here” or so "they won't follow us home" turn out to be the opposite of the truth: because U.S. forces are occupying Iraq, al-Qaeda has more resources and more recruits determined to bring the war to the United States...

What's not to like? It's good business for the Company, and what's good for the Company is good for 'Merika!

HHHillary Strikes Back. Or Complains to a Don of the ISG, Anyway.

WASHINGTON, July 20 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly criticized the Pentagon on Friday, calling it “offensive and totally inappropriate” for a Defense Department official to suggest that information she requested about departmental plans for withdrawing troops in Iraq would help enemy propaganda.

Joined by Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Mrs. Clinton said they would introduce legislation to require the department to prepare reports and brief Congress on proposals for a phased withdrawal of American troops...

Late Friday afternoon, Mr. Gates issued a short statement, saying he would look into the issues raised by Mrs. Clinton and respond more fully next week. “I have long been a staunch advocate of Congressional oversight, first at the C.I.A. and now at the Defense Department,” he said. “I have said on several occasions in recent months that I believe that Congressional debate on Iraq has been constructive and appropriate...”

As long as said oversight is fully in line with what Poppy and the Consigliere want done anyway: withdraw from Iraqi civilian centers to the bases controlling the oil, fomenting anarchy along the way to destroy any popular resistance.

This is by no means what Cheneyburton wants to see. They would like for the ethnic strife to come to a furious boil, and use it all to expand their base of operations into Iran. But there is a whole spectrum of Company opinion on how to handle this: Evil, Really Evil, Sauron, and Dick Cheney.

Meanwhile, Dear Leader signs another Writ that gives Abu Gonzales the final say over the Geneva Conventions silliness:

Now doesn't government run much more smoothly now that Congress has been taken out of the loop and Commander Bunnypants can do things cuz he Sez So? One can only imagine what Cheneyburton will accomplish in his couple of hours at the helm of State...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Trooping the Support

Bu$hie signs a writ saying that if you diss War on Terra, you are a traitor, and Abu Gonzo can sign you up for a trip to Gitmo, or Siberia, or whereever they want to play waterboarding with you. More on this from Sara at Orcinus.

Commander Bunnypants also sez so what if Congress slaps contempt charges on his gf Harriet about the D.o'J. takeover, nobody's gonna press charges, 'cause all the cops are his. The New York Pravda reports this a couple of days later...

Finally, Dear Leader slimes his old Texas base. Literally, with Kennebunkport Corleone style.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inappropriate Behavior

You've got to hand it to HHHillary. For a shill trying to tow the Company line, she sure is a lightning rod for the ire of the Faithful.

Next comes treason charges, one supposes:

On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces...”

Clinton said she conveyed similar concerns in a private meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, and has publicly warned the administration that redeployment is “complicated” and “If they’re not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way.”

On Monday, Clinton received a “biting reply” from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, who told Clinton that "public discussion” of withdrawal is inappropriate... [and] "reinforces enemy propaganda"

Well shut my mouth and pack me off to Gitmo. Which enemy are they talking about? The Democrats, Al Qaeda, or Poppy's Iraq Study Group?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Right out of the Karl Rove playbook, and on Faux News, of course:

Fox News on Tuesday interviewed veteran Pentagon reporter Rowan Scarborough about his "startling allegation" that "elements within the CIA are sabotaging our own War on Terror." Scarborough, a former columnist for the Reverend Sun Myung Moon-owned Washington Times, is the author of Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA, which claims that "CIA bureaucrats are undermining President Bush and the War on Terror through disinformation, incompetence, and outright sabotage."

"The CIA ... is the only agency I know that has a retired group of officers who formed together for the sole purpose of attacking Bush," said Scarborough. "The head of the organization goes around the country giving speeches about how the government did 9/11."

This was apparently a reference to Ray McGovern of Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, who has criticized the 9/11 Commission Report by saying that "to say that no one could prevent 9/11 was a bold-faced lie. It basically let the president and everyone responsible off the hook."

"That, I think, gives you a little peak inside to the bureaucracy at Langley and how anti-Bush it is, and how they will do things like leak the existence of programs or leak false allegations against Vice-President Cheney or John Bolton," Scarborough added...

You can't make this up. In fact, you don't have to. Rowan Scarborough, on orders from He Who Must Not Be Named will do it for you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Probabilities and Likelihood of Exigent Circumstances

Given enough time, a monkey might type a line of Shakespeare, and even a neocon apologist like John Tierney sees a glint of reality, though he'll doubtless muddle it up if he thinks about it too much:

In 1993, J. Richard Gott III computed with scientific certainty that humanity would survive at least 5,100 more years. At the time, I took that as reason to relax, but Dr. Gott has now convinced me I was wrong. He has issued a wake-up call: To ensure our long-term survival, we need to get a colony up and running on Mars within 46 years.

If you’re not awakened yet, I understand. It’s only prudent to be skeptical of people who make scientific forecasts about the end of humanity. Dr. Gott, a professor of astrophysics at Princeton, got plenty of grief after he made his original prediction in 1993. But in the ensuing 14 years, his prophetic credentials have strengthened, and not merely because humanity is still around.

Dr. Gott has used his technique to successfully forecast the longevity of Broadway plays, newspapers, dogs and, most recently, the tenure in office of hundreds of political leaders around the world. He bases predictions on just one bit of data, how long something has lasted already; and on one assumption, that there is nothing special about the particular moment that you’re observing this phenomenon. This assumption is called the Copernican Principle, after the astronomer who assumed he wasn’t seeing the universe from a special spot in the center.

Suppose you want to forecast the political longevity of the leader of a foreign country, and you know nothing about her country except that she has just finished her 39th week in power. What are the odds that she’ll leave office in her 40th week? According to the Copernican Principle, there’s nothing special about this week, so there’s only a 1-in-40 chance, or 2.5 percent, that she’s now in the final week of her tenure.

It’s equally unlikely that she’s still at the very beginning of her tenure. If she were just completing the first 2.5 percent of her time in power, that would mean her remaining time would be 39 times as long as the period she’s already served — 1,521 more weeks (a little more than 29 years).

So you can now confidently forecast that she will stay in power at least one more week but not as long as 1,521 weeks. The odds of your being wrong are 2.5 percent on the short end and 2.5 percent on the long end — a total of just 5 percent, which means that your forecast has an expected accuracy of 95 percent, the scientific standard for statistical significance.

And you can apply this Copernican formula to lots of other phenomena by assuming they’re neither in the first 2.5 percent nor the final 2.5 percent of their life spans.

Now, that range is so broad it may not seem terribly useful to you, and Dr. Gott readily concedes that his Copernican formula often is not the ideal method. The best the formula could do regarding Bill Clinton, who had been president for 127 days when the 1993 paper in Nature was published, was predict he would serve at least three more days but not more than 13.6 more years. You could have gotten a narrower range by using other information, like actuarial data from previous presidencies, or factoring in the unlikelihood that the Constitution would be changed so he could serve more than two terms.

But the beauty of the Copernican formula is that it allows you to make predictions when you don’t have any other information, which is how Dr. Gott managed to predict the tenure of virtually every other nation’s leader that day in 1993 — a total of 313 leaders. If none of those still in power stays in office beyond age 100, Dr. Gott’s accuracy rate will turn out to be almost exactly 95 percent...

The Copernican formula predicts, based solely on our 200,000-year track record, that the human race is likely to survive at least 5,100 more years but not longer than 7.8 million — roughly the same prediction you’d make based on the longevity of past mammals on Earth, Dr. Gott says...

After all, if colonization is common and there’s nothing special about our civilization, why haven’t we already colonized other worlds? Why aren’t we colonists ourselves from a civilization somewhere else?

If you think of yourself as a randomly chosen individual among all the intelligent beings who ever lived in the universe, then the odds are you’re living in one of the larger and older civilizations — simply because a lot more people have lived in those than in small, short-lived civilizations.

“The sobering facts,” Dr. Gott says, “are that in a 13.7 billion-year-old universe, we’ve only been around 200,000 years, and we’re only on one tiny planet. The Copernican answer to Enrico Fermi’s famous question — Where are the extraterrestrials? — is that a significant fraction must be sitting on their home planets.”

It might seem hard to imagine that humans would invent rockets and then never use them to settle other worlds, but Dr. Gott notes that past civilizations, notably China, abandoned exploration. He also notes that humans have been going into space for only 46 years — a worrisomely low number when using Copernican logic to forecast the human spaceflight program’s longevity.

Since there’s a 50 percent chance that we’re already in the second half of the space program’s total lifespan, Dr. Gott figures there is a 50 percent chance it will not last more than another 46 years. Maybe the reason civilizations don’t get around to colonizing other planets is that there’s a narrow window when they have the tools, population and will to do so, and the window usually closes on them. “In 1970 everyone figured we’d have humans on Mars by now, but we haven’t taken the opportunity,” Dr. Gott says. “We should it do soon, because colonizing other worlds is our best chance to hedge our bets and improve the survival prospects of our species. Sooner or later something will get us if we stay on one planet. By the time we’re in trouble and wish we had that colony on Mars, it may be too late...”

...If it’s true that civilizations normally go extinct because they get stuck on their home planets, then the odds are against us, but there’s nothing inevitable about the Copernican Principle. Earthlings could make themselves the statistical anomaly. When extinction is the norm, you may as well try to be special.

There's actually something interesting when you look at that 46 year guesstimate.

Towards the end of it, relatively inexpensive fossil fuels will be gone.

Inexpensive energy for an industrial base for interplanetary exploration and travel needn't come from fossil fuels. It's just an awfully handy source. But they're other forces at work that keep the E.T.'s at home and may just keep us closer to the 5000 year range, too.

Jeff Wells has another post up at Rigorous Intuition that's worth reading, and quoting here:

Post-war covert history has largely been one of de-legitimizing and destroying leftist and even moderate governments and opposition groups. We've seen the assassinations, the coups and wars; the economic arm-twisting; the corruption and blackmail. Since the murder of Rabin, "Israeli society, despairing of peace, has undergone a rightward radicalization." In the Arab world the process has been compounded by the elimination of even secular options, creating conditions in which the only effective vehicle for change is aligned with individuals, ideologies and finances indebted to international fascism.

This shouldn't be news to anyone here. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has spawned most "Jihadist" groups, was founded by Hassan al-Banna, an admirer of Hitler, and became a wartime Nazi intelligence asset. Post-war, like many such assets, it was rolled into the Western intelligence matrix. Swiss Nazi Ahmed Huber established the Al Taqwa Bank, which dispersed to bin Laden and others CIA monies seeded in the financial proxy of international terror and intelligence, BCCI.

Now where does antisemitism, and legitimate critique of Israel, fit in this complex picture?

There are at least two levels at play here for us. First to consider is politics and activism. The second is conspiracy theory.

Unapologetically I'm on the left, and I expect, to some degree or another and regardless of whether you even acknowledge it, you are as well. Broadly, or perhaps rather, ideally, taking the left implies an identification with the oppressed, the poor and the workers against the concentration of power and capital in the hands of an exploiting few. Israeli politics have taken a sharp right turn in the past 40 years, and the policies and consequences of occupation have been tragic and criminal. Perversely, and I believe intentionally for the right, the perpetuation of misery and exacerbation of tension has driven large numbers of both Palestinians and Israelis to rightward extremes. And it has carried many in the left along with it, unconsciously and uncritically, because the progressive options have already been eliminated by the fascists who play both sides...

Then there's conspiracy theory. It was 9/11 that caused many on the left to immerse themselves in it for the first time. There we found a thriving subculture, welcoming us with literature and semi-familiar jargon, telling us that "left" and "right" were fictions that divided us from together fighting the "real enemy." They too believed 9/11 was an "inside job," so even though we didn't start out from the same place, we were now on the same side - weren't we? We could learn much from them, even from the "former insiders" and veterans of the CIA and MI6 who were happy to help us find our footing, even if we weren't always sure what they meant by "international bankers" and "New World Order" - right?

...There is a subtle campaign of co-option within the subculture of conspiracy to lead nearly every issue of suppressed history and high crime back to a Jewish root. This is why the operational Arab element of the international fascist Mafia has, for many, been totally eradicated from the equation of "9/11 Truth," and the "smoking gun" has become a case of "insurance fraud" for a grasping New York Jew. If it's successful, the left option will again have been eliminated, and the only effective opposition to fascist power will be a fascist populism.

Antisemitism is as objectionable as any hate directed towards any people for simply being. But antisemitism has a special pedigree, not because Jews are special, but because they are the historic and still-favoured scapegoats of fascists. (Some of whom, of course, are themselves Jewish, but whose allegiance is rather to criminal power.) And sometimes, when we don't reflect on the pedigree of our own influences, we're unconsciously doing their bidding. And I'd rather do nothing, and it would be better if I did, than do that.

That needed to be said in a really serious way.

As usual, there are some real pearls in Jeff's comment section. Caveat: there are also a lot of monkeys flinging their own feces around at each other. Jeff, after all, uses the conspiracy theory schtick to make a living. It can get really torrid.

But then there are gems like the iridescent cuttlefish:

...Now, I'm with Jeff and the Hemperor so far, 'cuz who wouldn't be? Who would sign up for "mean-spirited" and "fascist"? Well, okay; that was kind of Jeff's point here--the CT industry is yet another front in the War On Liberals. But then we have that notion I metioned at the top about life not being fair...why isn't it, exactly?

Because we don't have enough food to feed the poor? (Not true...)

Because there are limits to growth and if we share the resources equally Malthus's rat-humans will just exponentially multiply, eating us out of house & home? (No, Malthus never lived to see what happens when an impovershed country's standard of living is sufficiently raised--the birth rate falls, along with crime and violence of every sort. Except in America, of course, but that's another story altogether.)

No, none of these answers work (don't bother with Hobbes, either, since he was writing for the newly restored Crown and didn't know man's state of nature from a Dickensian textile mill.)

The answer is the other sort of conspiracy theory--the liberal version. Toss out the magic; forget the rituals and the bloodlines (just for conversation's sake). Concentrate instead on the very obvious.

When GM was on trial for conspiring to destroy public transportation and replace it with individually owned internal combustion cars, Charles E. Wilson, CEO of GM for eleven years (including WWII) was asked whether it ever occurred to him that destroying public transport would be against the interest of the citizenry. Wilson scratched his head and (famously) said:

"What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General Motors is good for the country."

GM was found guilty in the end, given a $1000 fine and told to keep on protecting America's interests because Wilson's remark opened too wide a chasm for the good Americans to leap: that this was not indeed the case. That scarcity and conspiracy (another quick definition: "operations and decisions undertaken in secrecy") were not in anyone's interests except those who profit from them...

When our most basic assumptions are false, we are not motivated to change them, but instead to continue down the path we're on in order to justify having taken that path in the first place.

The real conspiracy is too vast & deep to even see anymore. It's in the belief that life isn't fair and we can't afford to help the poor. It's the belief that freedom means freedom from social responsibility, freedom to make a buck...

It's the freedom of the right sorts of people to get their dues, freedom of the entrepreneurial to try to shrink governmental oversight to the point it can be strangled in the bathtub, freedom to hear only the right things being said by the serious people on T.V., freedom to know who Paris Hilton's boffing this week, the freedom of the wealthy patron to have the Visigoth private contractors man the walls of Rome to keep the other barbarians in their place.

That's what keeps the E.T.'s at home, and likely us, too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Quantum Cheneyverse

[with thanks to Tom Tomorrow posting at Working for Change]

It looks like Darth Cheneyburton's super powers of Indeterminacy are going to be tested Big Time.

The globe may be warming, but things are definitely getting chillier with Pootie:

Russia Suspends Arms Agreement Over U.S. Shield

Published: July 15, 2007

MOSCOW, July 14 — President Vladimir V. Putin, angered by American plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe, formally notified NATO governments on Saturday that Russia will suspend its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, a key cold war-era arms limitation agreement.

The decision ratcheted up tensions over the missile shield plan, but also reflected a trend of rising anti-Americanism and deep suspicion toward the West here as Russia’s March presidential elections approach.

Russia’s suspension will take effect in 150 days, according to a copy of the president’s decree posted on a Kremlin Web site. That delay leaves open the possibility of further negotiation on the 1990 treaty, which resulted in a huge wave of disarmament along the former East-West divide in Europe...

...spinning somewhere between dimensions, a particle when not a wave, shifting worldlines...

LONDON, July 16 — Britain’s relations with Russia deteriorated further today as the British government announced that it would expel four Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russia’s refusal to extradite the key suspect in the deadly poisoning of a former K.G.B. agent, Alexander V. Litvinenko, in London last year...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. missile-defense system will be built in Poland despite Russia's anger over the plans, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said on Monday after a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Kaczynski expressed confidence over the proposed system, although Poland has held off a formal agreement to host it and pressed for concessions on issues including related military contracts.

"The matter of the shield is largely a foregone conclusion," Kaczynski said at a news conference following the meeting.

"The shield will exist because for Poland this will be a very good thing," he said...

Then there's the Agnostic's viewpoint.

Why worry about something that can't be tested?

Indeed. The status and extent of the Fourth Branch of Government need not impinge upon our bubble of the multiverse at all. Better minds than ours are concerned about these things. Move along; nothing to see here, just this quantum black hole we've made in the National Interest.

Just Not Getting It While Being Had

Digby, bless her Wes Clark-supporting soul, just doesn't get why the DINOcrats in Congress are coming out in favor of expanding the War on Terra with Iran.

There are 102 (at last count) comments in her comment thread telling her exactly why the DINOcrats are letting Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton precipitate World War III.

Follow the money. Follow the money. Follow the money.

The answer is revealed.

Of course, if World War III actually kicks off in earnest, that cash really will be nothing but trash. But the 0.01% who own everything, including the 'Merikan government, mostly seem to ignore that. Ignoring that does not mean they're ignorant of the possibilities. It's just when class war here shifts into World War, they figure they still have most of the gold and most of the bullets.

Let's add what's been said at Correntewire:

The government of Israel has always been the hand puppet of the Corporate State of ’Merika.

Oh, sure, the Israelis have their own fronts with strings that lead to the gullible and easily bought here in the CS’M, they have their Mossad, they take extreme offense if you suggest they’re totally dependent on Uncle Sugar, but basically it’s a dog and pony show.

It always has been. Appearances are cosmetic. They always will be. After all, there is oil under all that sand to the East and the South and the North of Israel, which itself is a lovely base of Company operations with an easily controlled paramilitary population.

Plant this into your database: the Company owns the Congress. We are going to expand the War on Terra into Iran. Chaos is the plan.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cowboy (except he's scared of horses) Diplomacy

Hold on to your Stetsons after Bu$hie comes back from vacation:

Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran
· Military solution back in favour as Rice loses out
· President 'not prepared to leave conflict unresolved'

Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Julian Borger
Monday July 16, 2007
The Guardian

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

Now be sure to get this straight. Al Qaeda is resurging and training in Afghanistan and plans to attack us this summer. We're in deep trouble in Iraq. But Bu$hie's focussed on Iran.

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week...

The balance has tilted indeed. Iran has let in IAEA inspectors and is negotiating. If Cheneyburton doesn't act fast it will never get a chance to seize those oilfields.

Back to the Guardian:

...The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively...

Almost half of the US's 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time...

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said that there are signs of Iran slowing down work on the enrichment plant it is building in Natanz. Negotiations took place in Tehran last week between Iranian officials and the IAEA, which is seeking a full accounting of Iran's nuclear activities before Tehran disclosed its enrichment programme in 2003. The agency's deputy director general, Olli Heinonen, said two days of talks had produced "good results" and would continue...

A peaceful solution? No way Dear Leader would trust that! Where's the profit?